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Wild and Weary

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Richie Tozier is going to die.

He knows it the second he sees the claw burst through Eddie's chest. Eddie has always been the best and bravest of them: Richie knew that even when no one else did, even when Eddie himself didn't know. Without Eddie, they don't stand a chance of killing It. They are going to lose.

Which is fine by Richie. Because the alternative would be surviving without Eddie, and yeah, no, we're not doing that.

So he’s out. The fight is over. He surrenders. Goodbye, world, we had a… well, a pretty bad run actually. At least Richie himself will be dead, he thinks, before the pain of this loss has a chance to sink in.

The others are still fighting, Bill and Bev and Mikey and Ben He can hear them struggling, shouting. That's good. That feels right to Richie, even though it's hopeless. They are heroes, his friends, and they should go down fighting.

But he, Richie Tozier, is not a hero. Eddie is dying right here and now and Richie never even had the stones to admit that he loved him.

Eddie's eyes closed after he said "I fucked your mom," but he's still breathing shallowly. Richie doesn't know whether he's conscious. He squeezes Eddie's hand but Eddie doesn't squeeze back.

"Oh, fuck it," Richie says out loud. It's too late for both of them, but why not say it, just once? "Eds, I need to be honest with you. I…" He chokes on the words. Ease into it, Trashmouth, he thinks. "I never fucked your mom."

He feels Eddie's fingers move in his hand. Maybe he's still listening after all. "I mean, she begged me to," Richie adds, "but I told her no every time. I just couldn't get it up for her. 'Cause I love you too much."

Eddie's eyelids flutter, and he coughs. Somewhere a million miles away, Bill screams. Eddie keeps coughing, and after a second Richie realizes that coughing is dying-Eddie for laughter.

"Love you too," mutters Eddie, blood on his teeth. "Dick."

“Not like that, you asshole,” he says before he can help himself. Oh, this is going great. Beep beep, Richie tells himself. But no, now that he has started this, he needs to finish if he can. He needs to die knowing that Eddie understood.

"Not like that," he says again. "I don't love you the way you love me. I love you like… you know, the shit Bowers and everyone used to say about me." His glasses are tear-smudged and he can't really see Eddie's face, can't tell if any of this is landing, but he keeps going. "It was all true," he says. "And it was always you. You were my best friend and that should have been enough for me, but it never… God, Eds, you're so special, I always…"

"Jesus Christ, Richie, I don't mean to rush you but I'm dying here," Eddie says, barely a whisper. "Can you shut up and fucking kiss me?"

Richie’s mind goes absolutely blank. He very badly wants to make a joke, but he can't think of a single goddamn thing to say. So, maybe for the first time ever, he does what Eddie says. He shuts up and kisses him.

It's not a good kiss. It's timid and awkward and tastes like blood and Eddie winces in pain and Richie's mouth is horribly dry and running through it all is the sound of their friends killing a fucking monster sewer clown. On the Eddie Kaspbrak Kiss Scale Richie has established over decades of rigorous fantasizing, this is barely a four out of ten.

It's the best kiss of Richie's life.

When their lips part, Eddie murmurs, "I never fucked your mom either." Richie laughs and sobs. "I love you, Rich," Eddie says. "I wish -"

Then he's coughing again, and this time it’s not laughter, his whole body is convulsing and Richie can tell it hurts, but he just waits, holding Eddie in his arms, until Eddie catches his breath enough to finish his sentence. "Wish we had more time."

Richie would give anything in the world to make Eddie's wish come true.

Then he thinks, Well, shit, mine just did.

The impossible thing he has wanted since forever is real. Eddie in his arms, Eddie kissing him back. Eddie - did he really say it? - loving him.

Nightmares come true. Richie has known that since they were kids. But what about wishes?

The rules are different down here. They beat a monster once because they believed they could. Eddie threw that spear and injured It because he believed he could. They got chased by a fucking mutant Pomeranian from hell - okay, not a great example, but still.

He remembers the last time they were down here, 27 years ago. When Ben called Beverly back from that awful place - the one Richie glimpsed, just briefly, before Eddie saved him - with a kiss.

Because Ben believed he could.

That thing was inside Richie’s eyes, inside his head, inside his soul. He felt It, can still feel It in some far-off but insistent way, like a door left open at the other end of a very long hallway. The connection isn’t active right now, but it’s still open.

He can feel that Its attention is not on him. It is no longer a predator toying with its prey. The other Losers are giving It a fair fight. It’s distracted--maybe distracted enough that Richie can get away with something.

Magic is real. Most of the magic Richie has seen in his life has been horrible, ugly, devouring and destroying, but he’s seen enough of the good stuff to know that’s real too. If a giant spider clown from outer space can kill Eddie Kaspbrak, then he, Richie, can fucking well bring him back to life.

Richie slides his arm under Eddie and lifts him gently, until he can wrap his arms all the way around him. Eddie's eyelids are fluttering again, but he meets Richie's eyes, and Richie believes with every muscle in his body and every scrap of his soul that this won't be the last time. He can’t think too much about what he’s trying to do, the actual mechanics of it, or it will all fall apart, but somewhere inside him he reaches for that open door, for the impossible light on the other side of it, and he pulls.

He kisses Eddie again.

This time Richie is gentle but sure. He doesn't rush. He brings his mouth to Eddie's like an offering and their lips move against each other, so warm and real, and Eddie breathes into Richie's mouth and Richie believes they are going to live. He has something, some bright and dangerous burning inside him--this is Its power, but the light itself isn’t terrible, only very strong. Good or evil lies in the entity that wields it, and Richie uses it to believe.

It’s working. He can feel that it’s working.

They kiss slowly, exploring each other's mouths, wordless questions and answers. Okay, this is more like a nine out of ten. Eddie's whole body is limp in Richie's arms at first, like all the strength he has left is going into the kiss. Then one of his hands comes up, his fingers grazing Richie's jaw. It's so exquisitely tender Richie feels more tears rising to his eyes.

Richie's glasses are in the way, so he takes them off, still not breaking the kiss for more than an instant. His heart is thundering. Eddie's hand moves to cup his cheek. His other hand rests on Richie's back, and the weakness of his grasp is painful, but Richie keeps believing. Eddie will get strong again. Eddie will live.

Richie feels Eddie's tongue grazing his lower lip, tentative, and he meets it with his own. Eddie gasps, and for a moment Richie is afraid he's in pain, but then the gasp becomes a sigh, a low sound of satisfaction that sends vibrations through Richie's whole body, and his tongue pushes deeper into Richie's mouth. Richie moans in reply. The Eddie Kaspbrak Kiss Scale doesn't go this high. He will have to recalibrate.

The hallway in Richie’s mind is getting longer, stretching and growing strange like the corridors in the house on Neibolt Street, somewhere far above them. It is getting farther away, or maybe just getting smaller. He can’t reach the deadlights anymore, but it doesn’t matter because the magic has done what he needed it to do. He can feel every deep, shuddering breath Eddie takes. Eddie is not coughing anymore. Eddie is not dying anymore. Eddie is practically buzzing in his arms, he’s so fervent and hot and alive.

It occurs to him that the others are no longer screaming. Maybe we won, he thinks, and he smiles, still kissing Eddie, and feels Eddie smile too. Now Eddie has a hand in Richie's hair, tangled in his curls, pulling Richie in as though there's any way they could be closer together. The kiss stopped being gentle a long time back. It's hungry and deep, and Richie's fingers are digging into Eddie's back and he can feel Eddie's heartbeat, rumbling through his bones, shaking him.

No, that's not just Eddie. Everything is shaking. The ground beneath him, the walls around him. The ringing in his ears isn't just excitement. It occurs to Richie that he's got to be the only person alive who could fail to notice the beginning of a fucking earthquake because he was distracted by being horny.

"Richie!" It's Ben screaming, and Richie finally, reluctantly, pulls his mouth away from Eddie. He hears Eddie's hiss of disappointment crescendo into a cry of alarm as he, too, belatedly realizes that the earth isn't just moving for them. Richie gropes for his glasses and puts them on, not that it does much good, cracked and smeared as they are.

"We're over here!" he yells back to Ben. They need to run, he knows that, but Eddie is still clinging to him and Richie doesn't want to let go, doesn't want to lose the warmth of their bodies pressed together, the reassurance of Eddie's breathing, which is strong and steady now. He hears splashing as the others come closer.

"Richie, we gotta go now," says Bill urgently. "I'm sorry about Eddie, I'm so fucking sorry, but we can't -"

"I'm sorry about your face, asshole," says Eddie, and even through his fucked-up glasses Richie sees Bill's jaw drop.

"Eds is fine," says Richie conversationally. "I saved him with the kiss of true love."

Everyone stares at him for a moment, and then Bev yells "Fucking run!" so they do.

Richie doesn't let go of Eddie's hand, not while they're running, not while they're climbing, not when they claw their way back to the solid ground of Neibolt Street and stand in shocked silence, watching the house collapse into rubble. He doesn't let go for hours.

Chapter Text

They stagger back to the hotel through the absolutely empty streets, and yet again, Richie wonders, where is everyone?

Maybe the whole town is actually gone, he muses. Maybe no one has lived here in years. He always thought anyone with any sense would get the fuck out of Derry the instant they were able. Maybe they really did. Maybe the Losers have been wandering alone through a ghost town, the last few days, just the six of them and one monster with a hundred different faces.

He hopes that idea seems stupid a few hours or days from now. At the moment it feels horribly possible.

As they walk, Richie steals glances at Eddie. Their hands are still entwined, though Eddie hasn’t said a word since they emerged into the sunlight of Neibolt Street. No one has. Eddie is unsteady on his feet, but no more so than the rest of him. His shirt is ripped and blood-soaked, and Richie is covered in Eddie’s blood too, but Eddie doesn’t walk like he’s wounded. Through his slashed shirt Richie catches glimpses of Eddie’s skin. As far as he can tell, it’s not even scratched.

It’s also really fucking lickable. But Richie will think about that later.

Ahead of him, Ben stumbles a little, and Beverly moves closer to him, lifting his arm over her shoulders so she can help him stand. Richie sees the way they move together, the way she's not just holding him up, but holding him, and he thinks, Shit, good for Haystack.

He remembers now how bad Ben had it for Bev when they were kids. Had it been obvious to the others? Richie has no idea. It wasn't like he could say "Hey Mikey, you notice how Ben is always staring at Beverly and taking a second too long to laugh at her jokes, because he's so obsessed with watching her lips that he can't follow what she's actually saying? Weird, huh?" Because then Mike might say "You mean exactly how you are with Eddie?" and nope, no chance, better to be clown food.

Richie glances down at his fingers where they lace through Eddie's. Maybe we all get happy endings, he thinks.

But then he looks up at Eddie's face. His jaw is tight and his eyes are unfocused. It's not a happy expression.

They made it out. They're alive and they're together and that's more than Richie ever dared hope for, but--they're alive. And that means this isn't the end of the story. They are going to have to figure out what to do next.

Bill, the man with the plan, always one step ahead, goes straight for the hotel bar. He reaches up to a high shelf for a bottle of tequila and Richie could absolutely kiss him, why the fuck not, he's pretty much as out as can be now. Bill brings Eddie a very full shot glass, sloshing onto the wood of the bar as he slams it down. The rest of them pass the bottle around, taking long pulls straight from the neck. Ben rests his forehead against Beverly's hair. Mikey, apart from reaching for the bottle when Bev hands it to him, slumps on his stool absolutely motionless. Richie refills Eddie's shot glass for him three times. They still have not let go of each other's hands.

Finally, because it's been so long since anyone said anything, Richie says, "Do you guys want to go see a movie tomorrow, or…?"

It's a weak joke, but the Losers all explode into laughter. Eddie's thousand-yard stare breaks for a moment and he grins at Richie, and God, it's always felt good to make people laugh, but he forgot how much better it is to make people laugh whom he loves.

Sometime later he will think about how good it feels to kiss someone he loves. He had never done that in his life, until today.

The tension is gone now, at least some of it, and they start to talk again. "I guess I'll get some sleep and then fly home tomorrow," Bill says. "See if I still have a job. Or a wife."

"I can't go home," says Bev unexpectedly. "I mean, I won't go home. My husband…" She shakes her head, and they all see how Ben winces. "It's no good," Bev says. "It was never good. I don't know where I'll go, but not back there."

"I have a guest house," Ben says quietly, and Richie assumes they're all on the same page that Ben definitely built that guest house himself with his bare hands, thinking only of Beverly all the while.

"Will your husband try to find you?" asks Bill.

"He might try," she says. Ben's eyes narrow in a way that makes Richie think about what else he could do with his bare hands. Not that he feels much sympathy for Beverly's shitty husband.

"We can help," he offers. "We're getting pretty good at killing shit."

"We?" That's the first verbal reaction anyone's gotten out of Mike. He scowls at Richie, but it's mostly affectionate. "Am I forgetting the part where your ass stopped crying over Eddie and actually helped us out down there, lover boy?"

Eddie doesn't pull his hand away from Richie's, give him credit for that, but the way his fingers tense let Richie know he wants to. It kills him, goes right through his chest like he saw that thing's claw go through Eddie's. Fuck. Eddie is embarrassed. Ashamed of what they did, of what Richie did. Ashamed of Richie.

His fingers numb, Richie lets go of Eddie's hand. Thank God he's had so much practice smothering his emotions in a frantic stream of stupid jokes.

"Strategy and tactics, my good man," he says in a posh British Voice. "Distracting the beastly thing with titillation so that you could -" He stops because they're all groaning and throwing napkins at him. All except Eddie, who is quiet, looking down at his empty shot glass.

"No, but fuck you guys, I did help," Richie adds in his normal voice. "I got in Its head the way It got in mine, and I stole some of Its power to save Eddie. So It was weaker and you could kill It, so you're fucking welcome," and he scoops up a crumpled napkin and wings it back at Mike, and amid laughter and jeering they move on to something else, and Richie doesn't reach for Eddie's hand again.

Instead, he gets drunk. Full-on, ugly, messy, crying drunk, enough tequila to kill a lesser man, until he has to excuse himself to puke on the front steps of the hotel.

It's getting dark out and Richie realizes he's been awake since yesterday morning. His eyes hurt. His back hurts. His fucking heart hurts. For a few minutes, he thought maybe he and Eddie were going to leave Derry together, but he saw the way Eddie's face relaxed when Richie let go of his hand. He saw his relief when they stopped touching. Whatever happened between them down in the sewer, Eddie isn't looking to build a future on it.

He wipes his mouth on the back of his hand, looking up and down the silent street. Again, he thinks how creepily empty Derry is, like the set of a show after closing night, about to be torn down.

Richie needs to get out of here. He can process all this later, in the comfort of his own liquor cabinet. Right now, right fucking now, he has to put some distance between himself and Derry. Between himself and the face Eddie Kaspbrak made when Richie let go of his hand. He really hopes that clown is gone for real this time, because if it ever comes back it's going to appear to Richie as Eddie's traitorous, relieved, hateful, beautiful fucking face.

He's not swaying when he walks back inside. He knows he hasn't really sobered up, it's just the temporary clarity that comes after ralphing, but fuck it. There's no one else on the road in Derry. He'll shower and throw some shit in a bag and be in his car before anyone knows he's gone.

It's shitty to run out on them--his five best friends in the world, including the one he's in love with and also kind of hates right now--but he's just drunk enough not to care. He'll apologize later. Or not. Mike sees him walk by from where he's still sitting at the bar, and calls out "Gonna sleep it off, Trashmouth?" Richie mumbles something that hopefully sounds affirmative without being an outright lie, and keeps going, straight up to his room.

Where Eddie Kaspbrak is sitting on his bed.

There is nothing, absolutely nothing in the universe Richie expected less, there's no reason in the fucking world for Eddie to be here in his room at this moment, and so for a horrible second he thinks, It's the clown.

His mouth widens to call for the others, and Eddie must see the dread in his eyes because he's on his feet immediately, hands out, reassuring.

"No, it's me, Richie, it's me, it's really me," he says over and over, his voice like someone trying desperately to calm a dog that might bite them.

"How do I know?" His hands are shaking.

Eddie folds his arms. "After all the times I could have fucked your mom and didn't, you still don't trust me?"

Okay. It's really Eddie, which still isn't great, because he's pretty pissed off at Eddie right now and also wants to kiss him again so bad it makes his teeth hurt.

"I just puked, dude," Richie says instead of apologizing. "Can it wait till morning?" By which point, of course, he intends to be in a different state.

"Go brush your teeth," Eddie says. "I can wait."

Richie does as he's told. Second time today, hot damn, you're dick whipped and you haven't even seen him naked, he tells himself scornfully. Never will, either. He doesn't want to hear whatever letting-him-down-easy speech Eddie has prepared. For a second, he thinks about sticking his toothbrush down his throat and making himself throw up again; no way Eddie would hang around after that.

But instead he brushes, spits, rinses his mouth, and even runs his fingers through his hair, as though he stands a chance of maintaining his dignity through whatever is coming.

"It's okay, Eds," he's saying as he comes out of the bathroom. Maybe if he just doesn't let Eddie get a word in edgewise, he won't have a chance to break his stupid heart. "You don't have to explain. You were dying. No one has to mean what they say when they're dying. There's a whole loophole."

"Beep beep, Richie," Eddie says. "Maybe let me tell you how I feel before you start telling me how I feel?"

Richie stops, staring, beginning to think about the possibility of considering maybe hoping the tiniest bit.

Eddie, bless his annoying perfect heart that Richie would die for a thousand times, doesn't keep him waiting. "I meant what I said," he says, his eyes steady on Richie's. "I'm crazy about you. I was back then and I am now. Did you mean it too?"

Richie lets out a slow sigh. "Of course I did, dude," he says.

"Okay," says Eddie, nodding, and Richie thinks maybe this would be a good time to kiss him again, but he doesn't move and Eddie doesn't either. "Okay," Eddie says again after a moment. "That's good. I'm… I'm glad. But."

"Nope," says Richie. "I am too fucking tired for you to say 'but' to me right now. The emotional roller coaster has to end, Eds. Hit the emergency brake." Eddie smiles a little. "Look, I'll call you tomorrow and we can talk about it then, okay?"

Eddie's nose wrinkles adorably. "You'll call me?"

Shit, Richie realizes he's slipped. "Yeah, you know, I'll come calling in my Sunday best, and we'll--Jesus, what fucking day is it again?" But he stops, because Eddie's not distracted, Eddie is scowling at him.

"You were gonna leave?"

Richie sighs. "I am gonna leave, Eds."

"Because of…?" He gestures to Richie, then to himself, summing up nearly three decades of all-consuming emotion with a wave of his hand.

"I mean, yeah, running away from my feelings is definitely part of it," Richie says. "But I also just need to get the fuck out of Derry and never come back. I don't think I can sleep in this town."

Eddie stares at him. "You're not driving like this, asshole," he says.

"I would literally rather die in a car crash than spend another night in Derry," Richie says, desperate enough to be honest.

No one can put as much exasperation into the word "Dude" as Eddie can. He rubs his hand over his face, sighs deeply, and finally shrugs.

"Okay," Eddie says. "We can take my car."

Chapter Text

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.

Chapter Text

Richie wakes up to sunshine and the feeling that he's been dead for three days. He's hungover, he had his ass kicked by a demon clown, and then he sat in the car for about a thousand hours talking about his fucking feelings, so yeah, he's sore in places he never even knew he had. Also, Jesus Christ, that smell is coming from him.

Opening his eyes sucks, but after a few seconds the pain has settled down to a level just below unbearable. Eddie isn't here, but he obviously has been, because Richie could swear the room is cleaner than when they checked in.

He checks his phone, which is almost dead because he hasn't charged it since Derry. It's one in the afternoon. Going to get some food, Eddie texted about fifteen minutes ago. There's a damp towel folded neatly on a chair, meaning Eddie has already gotten cleaned up--probably before he went to sleep last night.

Okay. Richie can at least be a little less of a blood-crusted swamp-stinking hell beast when Eddie gets back. He takes a quick shower, brushes his teeth, then realizes he still smells and gets back in the shower.

Under the hottest water he can stand, he soaps himself up again and again, imagining that with every swirl of suds down the drain, a layer of trauma is rinsing away. Surrounded by steam and without his glasses, Richie might as well be drifting inside a cloud. If he doesn't think too much about… well, anything, he feels incredibly peaceful.

There's a knock on the door. "Hey, I brought back a pizza," Eddie yells. "You hungry?"

"Only for your luscious little body," Richie calls back automatically, because this is who he is, he makes dumb jokes and no one thinks anything of it. He figures Eddie will roll his eyes or maybe insult him; he is not at all prepared for Eddie to come into the bathroom and, from the sound of it, start taking off his clothes.

"What are you doing?" Richie starts to say, as Eddie steps into the shower, presses the full length of his naked body against Richie's, and kisses him.

It's the first time they've kissed standing up, and Richie has to bend to meet Eddie's lips. Eddie wraps his arms around Richie's neck and pulls himself up on tiptoe, pushing his tongue into Richie's mouth. Richie loves feeling like he towers over Eddie, like he could envelop him.

Also, he loves how aggressive Eddie is being. He sucks Richie's lower lip into his mouth, catching it between his teeth for a moment, making a sound that's almost a growl. Richie realizes with a pang of almost painful excitement that Eddie's cock is pressing into his thigh, furiously hard and hot. Richie himself was actually not thinking about sex until Eddie climbed in with him, so he's not quite as hard as Eddie right now, but he's catching up quickly.

"Think you can pick me up?" Eddie murmurs, lifting one leg to wrap it around Richie's, and yeah, that does it, he could bludgeon someone to death with this erection. Or do something a lot more useful with it.

It's an amazing mental image, Eddie with his legs around Richie's waist, back pressed up against the shower wall--and how badly must Eddie want him, Richie thinks, to be suggesting something like this in a hotel bathroom? The thought of being the object of that kind of desire makes his head spin. But… "I want to so bad, Eds, but my back is trashed," he admits. Richie is tall, but he's not in great shape. If he tries to pick up Eddie, sore as he already is, he's going to injure one or both of them.

"No worries." Eddie slides his leg back down Richie's in a thousand exquisite moments of friction and hot water and skin slipping against skin that add up perfectly, inevitably, to Jesus fuck, never stop doing that. "I have plenty of other ideas." He drops down to his flat feet and kisses Richie's neck, his collarbone, his chest, Eddie's lips and tongue so terribly gentle, so that when he reaches Richie's nipple and sucks it into his mouth, hard, the shock and thrill brings a groan all the way up from the soles of Richie's feet.

"Eddie, Eddie, Eddie," Richie whispers, like it's an obscenity as well as a prayer. "Do you know what you're doing to me?"

"You're dropping some hints," says Eddie, and then with no more preamble his whole hand wraps around Richie's cock.

The noise Richie makes sounds, in his own head, like a thunderclap that could split the world in two. God, for a short guy Eddie has huge hands. And strong. And fucking merciless. Richie can barely stand. "You done this before, Eds?" he manages to croak.

Eddie smiles up at him, water running down his face, his hand still moving, slow and sure. "It's been a while, but I have a good memory," he says.

Richie goes blank, suddenly much too hot, too sensitive, totally disoriented. Have they done this already, somewhere in the blur of youth? Could he possibly have forgotten? The idea is horrifying, unfair. To have known this, and then had it erased-- "Eddie, did we…?"

Eddie's looking at him with confusion, understanding that Richie's mood has shifted but not knowing why. "No," he says carefully. "I've lost track of a lot, but I know I'd remember that." He palms water off his face. "I just meant it's been a long time since I've been with a guy."

"You've been with guys before?" Why is this a shock? Did he think Eddie had been pining away, saving himself for Richie, all these years?

Yes, apparently some part of him did think that, and now some part of him is confused and dismayed, and by "some part" he means his dick, which is gracelessly bowing out of the action. Eddie steps back. God damn it, Richie thinks, why doesn't anyone say "beep beep" when I actually need them to?

"Yeah, I have," says Eddie in that same careful voice, the one that is the polar opposite of biting Richie's lip and growling into his mouth. "I didn't realize that would be a problem for you."

"Shit." Richie shakes his head, tears suddenly flooding his eyes. "I didn't either. I mean, I didn't think--I don't fucking know…" God, he's an asshole. "I'm so fucking sorry, Eddie, I can't believe I fucked this up already," except of course he can believe it, this is what he does, he is Richie Tozier and he fucks things up.

Eddie grabs his hands. "Look at me, dumbass," he says. Reluctantly, Richie does. "You didn't fuck anything up, okay? Let's just get out and eat our pizza and, like, talk."

Hating himself, Richie follows Eddie out of the shower, towels off in silence, and gets dressed. Eddie came in ready to climb him like a tree, he thinks. He didn't even realize tightly-wound Eddie Kaspbrak could get that horny. He could be having the best sex of his life right now if he wasn't such an idiot.

"Pepperoni and olive," says Eddie. "I hope that's still your favorite, because it's fucking gross and I'm not eating it." Eddie hasn't put any clothes on. He's just leaning against the dresser with a towel around his hips. His abs are unfair enough, but the trail of dark hair leading down from them to disappear under the towel has to be considered cruel and unusual punishment. That towel is Richie's enemy, he decides. He must defeat it and take its place.

"I'm not hungry," he mutters.

"Eat your fucking pizza before I slap you in the face with it," Eddie says, so Richie does.

After a while, Eddie starts to say something, but Richie interrupts him.

"I think I had it in my head that you'd been, like, locked in the closet and repressing your shit all this time, and I was going to be the one to take your hand and rescue you, right? And then I'd be your knight in shining homo, and you'd love me forever." And also, he adds silently, I was hoping you'd have no basis for comparison and you'd never realize how much better you could do than me.

"Well, that's about as dumb as I expected," says Eddie. "Did you ever think I might just love you because you're you?"

Richie looks at him blankly. "No," he says.

Eddie laughs ruefully and comes to sit on the bed beside Richie, despite the pizza crumbs. "Is this what jealousy looks like on you?"

"I guess so," Richie admits. "I don't like thinking about you with someone else. With your wife, I can make it okay because you weren't out and you didn't really love her."

"You've been with other guys," Eddie says.

"Doesn't count. No one counts but you."

"Okay, here's the deal," says Eddie. "I'm bisexual. I've been with men and women and on one very memorable occasion with both at once. And you, Richie Tozier, do not have to worry about a single one of them, because you are the love of my fucking life."

"Both at once?" Richie asks.

Eddie smiles like he knows what Richie's thinking. "If you want a play-by-play of my slutty college years, all you have to do is ask," he says, his voice low. He's leaning toward Richie now, and the towel is starting to slide off his lap. Richie rejoices to see his nemesis on the run.

"But then… I don't know, what happened?" Richie asks, because the person who walked into the Jade of the Orient three days ago was definitely not Eddie Kaspbrak, Slutty Bisexual.

"I overcorrected, I guess," Eddie says. "As soon as I got a thousand miles away from my mother, I went completely wild, did everything I ever thought about doing but was scared to. I was so done with missing out."

"I really wish I could picture that," Richie says. "I can't imagine you without your fanny pack."

Eddie elbows him. "Fuck you, I still had my fanny pack," he says. "It just had more condoms in it then. And flavored lube."

"Hang on, I'll make a shopping list," Richie says. He's starting to get jealous for a different reason. All he ever experimented with in college was smoking pot and wearing pajama pants to class.

"But I guess I decided I'd gotten it all out of my system and it was time to settle down," Eddie goes on. "I mean, I haven't been in the closet. Myra knows I've dated guys. I just got to a point where I wanted something stable, you know? Something familiar."

Richie, who has gone 27 years without anything stable or familiar in his life and has never admitted to anyone that he yearns for it, leans his head on Eddie's shoulder. The angle gives him a good look under Eddie's towel, which is nice, but it's almost nicer to just sit like this, to be close. "I know what you mean," he says.

Chapter Text

They sit that way for a long time, until Richie falls asleep again. Slowly, Eddie eases him down from his shoulder to the bed, until Richie is lying on his back, legs dangling. Eddie brushes his still-damp hair off his forehead and gives him a chaste kiss on the cheek.

Well. Mostly chaste. Eddie thinks of how Richie felt wrapped around him in the shower, before it went sideways, and groans under his breath. He was really looking forward to that--was, in fact, hoping desperately that a good sweaty shower fuck would wear them both out enough to fall asleep together, because Eddie barely closed his eyes last night. Instead he sat up in the uncomfortable hotel armchair, terrified to look away from Richie.

Eddie should be dead. Not just because of the way that clown motherfucker skewered him, how he felt his organs slashed and bones cracked as it opened a hole in his torso--pain so much bigger than a broken arm, or even a knife to the face, it barely belongs under the same word. More than that: he should be dead because he gave up. When it hurt too much, he just lay down and waited to die.

But Richie didn't give up on him.

People think of Eddie as the weak one. They always have. No matter how many protein shakes he drinks or how much he can bench, somehow he still gives off an aura of "Victorian invalid needing to be nursed back to health."

Richie, though--Eddie can still feel Richie's hand on his shoulder when he said "You're braver than you think," and it felt more intimate and scary and real than any "I love you" ever had. That was when Eddie knew what he'd been trying not to know for days: the torch he's carried for Richie since childhood never went out. And it never, ever will.

Something else, too, something that wasn't quite knowing but was more than hoping. In that moment, when the flame in Eddie's heart leapt for Richie, he saw an answering fire in his best friend's eyes.

And then he was dying, and then Richie was calling him with that fire, being strong for Eddie, demanding that Eddie be strong for him.

And now he's here, breathing, Richie beside him, so still and beautiful as he sleeps, and Eddie doesn't know how much longer he can be strong.

His head is spinning. It's part exhaustion and a little bit the memory of Richie in the shower, so big and so gentle, but mostly it's just the wildness of being alive. Eddie knows his heart never stopped beating entirely, he was never technically dead, but still. His death was an absolute certainty until Richie brought him back with that kiss. Eddie's previous life ended, and this is a new one, and he doesn't know what the fuck he's going to do with it.

Except give it all to Richie, every minute of it, every single breath he has left.

Richie stirs in his sleep, gasping a little. It sounds almost like the way he gasped when Eddie pressed up against him in the shower earlier, and Eddie wonders briefly how Richie would feel about waking up with his cock in Eddie's mouth. Maybe he should be more embarrassed about how much he wants Richie, but shit, they could both have been dead by now. He's not wasting any more time.

Then he realizes the sound Richie's making isn't desire, it's distress. Christ, Eddie, keep your towel on, he chides himself. Richie is having a bad dream.

"Hey," Eddie says gently, touching Richie's cheek. "Hey, Richie." He wants to call him something else, something tender like baby, but he can't quite. The closest he's come to giving Richie a pet name before now is all the times he's called him "dickhead."

Richie makes a choked sound, and somehow Eddie knows that in his dream, he's screaming.

"Richie!" Eddie takes him by the shoulders and shakes him gently, and thank Christ, Richie's eyes open.

"Eds?" he says, the confusion in his eyes subsiding into relief, and Eddie isn't sure who kisses who first, only that Richie clings to Eddie as though the frantic dance of their lips and tongues is all that's holding him together.

After a moment, though, Richie pulls away. "Eds, the others," he says, tears in his eyes. "Where are they? Are they okay? I saw… it was bad."

"They're not here," Eddie reminds him. "We left them in Derry."

Richie sits up abruptly. "They need to get out of there. We have to call them. They need to leave right now."

"Why?" Eddie says, but he's already reaching for his phone.

There's a breaking news notification on his lock screen: GEOLOGICAL EVENT IN RURAL MAINE DESTROYS… Eddie's heart is racing as he opens the story, knowing perfectly well what it's going to say. DESTROYS DERRY.

An aerial photograph shows something incomprehensible: a crater in the earth where Eddie's hometown should be. Sinkhole, he reads, and unanticipated, and devastation, and ongoing search for survivors.

"Bev isn't picking up," Richie says through tears.

Eddie calls Bill, but it goes straight to voicemail. "God fucking damnit, Bill, I'll kill you if you're dead," he roars, vaguely aware that doesn't make sense but far beyond caring. They knew. He and Richie felt it yesterday, that it wasn't safe to stay in Derry, and instead of dragging the others out with them, they just ran. They left their best friends behind.

"Mike? Mikey!" Richie yells into his phone. He grabs Eddie's hand. "It's Mikey, he picked up, he's okay." Richie's hands are shaking, so Eddie is the one to take his phone and put Mike on speaker.

"Mike, where are you? Where is everyone?"

There's a lot of background noise on Mike's end, but Richie and Eddie both make out the word "gone."

"No," Richie says voicelessly.

"Who's gone?" Eddie whispers.

This time Mike's voice comes through clearer. "Are you guys seeing this shit on the news? The whole fucking town is gone."

"Fuck Derry," Eddie says. "Where the fuck are you guys? Did you make it out?"

"I'm at the airport in Bangor," Mike says, and relief rushes through Eddie the way heat spreads after a shot of whiskey. "Everyone else's flights took off already. We're okay, Eddie. Are you two?"

It's Richie who answers. "Yeah, we're long gone," he says, still crying. "Jesus, Mikey, we should have brought you all with us." It's exactly what Eddie's been thinking, but when Richie says it, Eddie's heart constricts. Same old Richie, he thinks, believing it's his job to save everyone.

"We all got out," Mike says quietly. "That's what matters."

"When's your flight?" Eddie asks, trying to sound like he's calming down and not picturing all the people he loves crushed in the detritus that used to be Derry.

Mike coughs. "That's, uh, a good question," he says.

"Wait, where are you going?" says Richie.

Mike doesn't answer for a moment, and then Eddie gets it. "Mike, have you actually bought a plane ticket yet?"

"To be honest, no, I haven't." Eddie can hear that Mike is embarrassed. "Bev went home with Ben, and Bill went home to Audra, and I, well… I've never lived anywhere but Derry," Mike says. "I don't know where to go."

"Well shit, Mikey, I have a guest room," says Richie, sounding irritated. "Can you afford a ticket to LA?" Eddie raises his eyebrows and shakes his head. "Never mind, I'll buy it for you. Check your email in a few minutes. The spare key is under the welcome mat--"

Eddie rolls his eyes. "Do you want to be robbed?"

"And I'll send the address in the email. I'm not sure when we'll get there, so just get comfortable. We have to go to Boston first so Eddie can leave his wife."

There's a long pause. Then Mike says, "I just saw you two yesterday, but I think we have a lot of catching up to do."

"No shit," Eddie agrees.

"Thank you, Richie," Mike adds. "I wasn't sure what… well, thank you."

"You're welcome, and fuck you," says Richie.

"For what?" Mike sounds more amused than annoyed.

"For thinking you had nowhere to go, you loser," says Richie. "You have us." Eddie loves him so much he could cry.

"See you soon," Mike says, sounding tearful himself.

Eddie waits until he's sure Mike is off the phone before he falls the fuck apart.

"Oh, Eds," Richie says, pulling Eddie's head onto his shoulder as he trembles with sobs. Everything comes pouring out: the terror, the pain, the helplessness of watching Richie float in the deadlights. The rage at realizing he forgot about his best friends, his first love. Stan, oh God, sweet brilliant Stan and how alone he must have felt. All the time with Richie he's missed out on. The relief that the rest of their friends are safe.

And Derry. The worst place in the world, but still the place he was born and raised, the place he met Richie. He decided yesterday that he would never set foot in that town again, but now it's gone. No more Barrens, no more Aladdin, no more Neibolt Street. The house he grew up in. The kissing bridge. All of it just wreckage now, deep in the earth.

Richie holds him while he collapses. Richie is there, solid and right, reminding him to breathe, Eds, I'm here, just breathe.

Finally, Eddie struggles back to something like composure. He wipes his tear-ravaged face with his towel, which has long since stopped providing even an attempt at modesty. Not that it matters; this breakdown has probably obliterated any desire Richie ever had to look at Eddie's dick.

"I'm sorry, Richie," he says, sniffling.

"Hey, hey." Richie kisses him gently on the lips. "Sorry for what?"

Eddie gives a weak smile. "I wanted to be brave for you, but…"

"Eds, no," says Richie. "You think crying means you're not brave? Are you kidding me?"

Eddie shrugs. If he tries to talk he's going to cry again.

"I think that was the bravest I've ever seen you be," Richie says, and Eddie can tell he means it. Stupid, earnest, wonderful Richie.

Eddie pulls him in for another kiss. It starts out soft, but then something happens and he's sucking Richie's tongue into his mouth, trying to push Richie onto his back and rip his shirt off and straddle him all at the same time.

"Eddie," Richie groans, as Eddie yanks his t-shirt up around his shoulders.

"Please don't say anything stupid right now, Richie," Eddie warns. "I've had a really long day and I just need us to fuck each other's brains out, okay? Can you not make it weird?" He gives another tug and the shirt comes off, letting Richie fall back into the bed with a gentle thump. The way he's looking up at Eddie is nothing short of awestruck.

"I love you, Eds," he says. "I really don't give a shit if that makes it weird. I love you so much."

Eddie's eyes fill with tears again, an odd counterpoint to the way his cock is filling with blood as he gazes at Richie: shirtless, hair mussed, tenting the front of his soft gray sweatpants. "I love you too, dickhead," he says. "Now take your fucking pants off."

Chapter Text

It's extremely gratifying how fast Richie has his pants off. It's extremely Richie that, as soon as he does, he twirls them around his head like a lasso and then throws them onto the TV. And it's been an extremely long time--whole seconds--since Eddie was on top of Richie.

But he's not going to jump on him, now. He's going to take his time.

Eddie straddles Richie's thighs. Richie is propped on his elbows, staring at Eddie in a way that's somehow absolutely filthy and so, so pure. Eddie leans back to make sure Richie has a good view, and then, keeping his eyes on Richie's face, he starts to stroke his own cock.

"Richie," he says softly, from low in his throat, and feels Richie's hips buck in response. "Do you know how many times I've done this and thought about you?"

"Fuck." Richie lets out a shocked laugh, drops his head back. "Eds, I swear to God, you're incredible. I gotta--" He reaches out, but Eddie stops his hand.

"Don't you fucking dare," Eddie says. His voice is gentle. "You made me wait, earlier, when I was dying for you. This time I get to say when."

Richie grabs a pillow and presses it over his face, moaning into it theatrically. Eddie laughs. It's been ages since he's laughed during sex. Still smiling, he leans forward, pushing the pillow aside and resting his hands on either side of Richie's face, that sweet, open, vulnerable face. His chest on Richie's chest, his teeth on Richie's neck, the glorious dumb friction of their cocks pulsing against each other. Eddie kisses Richie and grinds his hips at the same time, swallowing Richie's groans. Richie drags his fingernails down Eddie's back.

He remembers what Richie said earlier: No one counts but you. Eddie knows what he meant. Everything feels new with Richie, more real than what he's had before. It's like there's always been a molecule-thin barrier between Eddie and whoever he was with, and Richie is the first person to push the barrier aside and touch his skin.

There is so much to touch and it all feels so goddamn good.

Eddie reaches behind his back to catch one of Richie's hands and raise it to his lips. He breathes open-mouthed into Richie's palm, then tongues his scar. Richie's cock jumps when he does that, so Eddie does it again, and then Richie starts whispering "please" and it's the most wonderful sound Eddie has ever heard.

"Do you have any fucking idea how beautiful you are?" he asks Richie, who stares at him and bites his lip and doesn't say anything. That's fine. Eddie knows the answer is no, but he has no problem being the one to remind Richie, as often as needed. Verbally and nonverbally.

He shifts his weight, slipping one of his thighs between Richie's and rocking his hips gently. Then he starts kissing his way down Richie's neck to his chest, stopping briefly to pay some attention to Richie's nipples, which he's quickly realizing are extremely sensitive. As he slides down Richie's body, the skin of his stomach brushes against Richie's cock. Richie sucks in a hard breath, but doesn't say anything.

"I wish I'd known it would be this easy to shut you up, Trashmouth," Eddie says. He's kneeling on the floor between Richie's legs now.

"Dude." Richie's voice is high and breathless. "What the fuck are words?"

Eddie rubs his thumbs over Richie's bony hips, then grips his thighs, anchoring Richie to the bed. He takes a moment to enjoy the effect he's having on Richie, on Richie's straining cock, which is long and pink and--Eddie thinks, even though he knows it's a strange word in this context--kind of graceful.

Eddie kisses it gently. He licks a pearl of liquid from the tip. Then, in one slow movement, he takes as much of Richie's cock as he can fit in his mouth.

The sound Richie makes is unspellable, unrepeatable, but Eddie burns it into his memory and vows to treasure it forever. That's Richie, Richie fucking Tozier, the first boy Eddie thought about Like That and the last man Eddie will ever love, The One That Got Away, the hole in Eddie's heart that didn't heal for 27 years, the sweetest dream Eddie never thought would come true--that Richie Tozier is outright whimpering while Eddie swallows his cock. Eddie never saw the light at the end of the tunnel when he had his near-death experience, but he might have to start believing in God, just the same.

"Eddie Eddie Eddie, oh Jesus, Eddie," Richie is chanting, pushing his hips up against Eddie's hands. He gives a little sob of disappointment as Eddie pulls away and wipes his mouth.

"You don't have any condoms, do you?" Eddie asks.

Richie shakes his head. "I packed for fighting a demon clown," he says, still sounding out of breath. "I had no idea this trip was going to get so horny. Sorry."

"Damn." Eddie looks down at Richie, so hard and wanting, and bites his lip wistfully. "Because you look so fucking good, but I know you'd look even better with me inside you. Tomorrow we'll stop and grab some, okay?"

He's expecting another litany of oh-Jesus and please-please-please, so he's surprised when Richie scrunches up his face and looks away. "Oh," Eddie says, "if you're not into that--"

Richie takes a shaky breath and looks back at him. "I'm into anything and everything you want to do with me, Eds. I'm yours. On a silver platter, if you want me to go find a fuckin' silver platter. I just… I haven't, uh. Done that."

His face is pink, and Eddie is kind of delighted to see Richie Tozier getting flustered. "You've never bottomed?" he says.

"No," says Richie, and then Eddie realizes that he isn't just flustered, he's embarrassed. "I'm sorry. I'm… ugh, why am I so bad at this?" He's almost in tears.

Eddie scrambles back up the length of Richie's gangly body and wraps him in his arms, dropping the teasing voice, forgetting about his own erection or anything other than comforting Richie. "You're amazing," he says, "and we don't have to do anything you don't want to."

Richie buries his head in Eddie's shoulder so he's not looking him in the eyes when he says, "I do want to. I've just never… I guess I've never trusted anyone enough."

Eddie twists a lock of Richie's hair around his finger. "Do you trust me enough?"

"Oh my God, yes."

Eddie could cry at the longing in Richie's voice. He understands, suddenly, a little bit of how Richie felt in the shower earlier, because this feeling right now is its perfect opposite. After all these years, he is still going to be Richie Tozier's first. It's a gift he never expected, and he flushes with joy and desire.

"Tomorrow, then, baby," Eddie says, and he loves how easily the word "baby" comes to his tongue, and how Richie squirms happily when he says it. "Tomorrow I'm gonna take care of you." He reaches down and wraps his hand around Richie's cock, stroking in pace with his words, steady and slow. "I'm going to make you feel so fucking good, Richie. I'm going to go so slow for you until you're as full as you can stand. I'm going to make it so good for you, baby." Eddie keeps talking as Richie gasps and arches against him, licking and biting his neck, thrusting into his hand. Eddie refuses to speed up even as Richie clings to him, begging, shamelessly needing, even as Eddie's own cock is desperate to be touched, Eddie makes them both wait, panting into each other's mouths, until all Richie's half-formed words dissolve into a groan and he sinks his teeth into Eddie's shoulder, hard, and comes.

"Hey Eds?" Richie says a long time later.

"Yeah?"

"I liked it when you called me baby."

Eddie smiles, tracing Richie's lips with his thumb. "I could tell, baby," he says, cherishing the softness in Richie's eyes. "I'll make sure to do it again."

"What can I call you?"

Eddie takes a deep breath. Richie has shared a secret, he remembers, has offered up part of himself, red and unguarded. He doesn't deserve Richie if he can't do the same.

Looking his newfound, lifelong love straight in the eyes, he says, "I love it when you call me Eds."

Richie actually screams with delight. Then he laughs so hard for so long he starts to have trouble breathing, and Eddie scrambles to grab his inhaler. But Richie's waving his hand and shaking his head no, sputtering "it's okay, I'm okay, come back," until Eddie lies down beside him again, crimson and glaring.

"Oh Eds, my Eds," says Richie when he's finally calm again. "I knew it. Why didn't you say so before?"

"Because you're a fucking prick," Eddie snaps, "and me hating something was basically a guarantee you would do it."

"That's true," Richie says. "But only because I didn't realize you loving things I did was an option."

"I love everything you do," Eddie says, and Richie kisses him, one of those deep searching kisses that Eddie would come back from the dead for again and again.

"My Eds," Richie says in wonder. Then he grins. "My cute little Eds."

"There's a line, dickhead," Eddie says. "Don't call me little."

"That's fair," Richie agrees. "Especially since you're--" his hand slides down to gently cup Eddie's dick, and how did this turn from sweet to sleazy so fucking fast?--"definitely not little where it matters."

It's the worst line, absolutely terrible and embarrassing, and there's no way it would make Eddie insanely hard except for the fact that he's been desperate to fuck Richie for literal hours and also he recently almost died, which he's heard can be a turn-on. That's the only explanation for the way Eddie tips his head back and cries out as Richie tightens his grip.

"Tell me what you want, my darling Eds," says Richie.

"I want to know what that mouth can do besides talk endless shit," Eddie says, and he could swear Richie's eyes actually turn into cartoon hearts in the brief moment before he lowers his head.

Eddie has thought a lot about Richie's mouth over the years: how fucking annoying it is, and how pretty it is, and what it would taste like, and yes, he's imagined in great detail what it would be like to watch his own cock disappear into that gorgeous mouth, but this… this is so much better. It's the joy in Richie's eyes as he looks up at Eddie; it's the bone-deep knowledge that this is both of their dreams coming true.

Richie is making wet little moaning sounds and Eddie clenches his teeth, digging a hand into Richie's hair, knowing this isn't going to take long.

Deliriously, Eddie flashes on being fifteen and seeing "RICHIE TOZIER SUCKS FLAMER COCK" scrawled on a bathroom wall. He remembers swelling with indignation--that's his best friend--and curiosity--did he really?--and a huge question that he didn't dare put into words.

Now he thinks, that wall is gone. Their high school is gone. The person who wrote the graffiti is probably gone too. Derry is a crater, and he and Richie are still here, fucking each other, in love and alive. The thought makes his heart race with a ferocious joy, and he gasps "Baby, I've got to, can I--?" Richie hums an affirmation and Eddie is gone, falling to pieces, sobbing Richie's name.

A little while after that, for the first time since he left a town that doesn't exist anymore, Eddie Kaspbrak falls deeply asleep in the arms of the man he loves.

Chapter Text

Richie thinks of Derry, Maine, may it rot in hell, as being about a million miles removed from anywhere real people live, but it turns out the drive from Derry to Boston is only about four hours and they've already covered most of it. Eddie suggests they take time for a sit-down breakfast before the last leg of the trip, but Richie's too antsy.

"We'll get omelettes after you're divorced," he says. "And condoms. Probably not from the same place."

"You know that even if all she says is 'cool, fuck you,' I won't actually be divorced today, right?"

Richie fakes a gasp. "You expect me to keep living in sin with you?"

"Yeah, well." Eddie suddenly looks nervous. "We haven't really talked about, you know, logistics."

"Oh, right. So." Richie shrugs. "I only have one guest bed and I already offered it to Mike, so we're gonna have to share a room."

"Really?"

"I mean, you want the sofa? It doesn't fold out or anything. It's from Ikea. You know, official furniture sponsor of sad old closet cases who don't give a shit what their place looks like because nobody's coming over. It's a little early in our relationship to go couch shopping, but--"

"Calm down," Eddie says gently, which is not at all the "Shut up, dickhead" that Richie expected, and maybe that's why it works. "Richie. I would love to stay with you, but I don't want you to feel obligated. I'm not sure how this is going to play out financially, with Myra, but I can afford a place of my own for a while."

Richie feels stupid for assuming. "Right, yeah," he says, as though the thought of sleeping alone, with Eddie far away in a whole different building--what the fuck, maybe a different city--doesn't tie his guts into knots. "No reason to rush into anything."

Eddie gives him a long look and seems about to say something, then shrugs. "We don't have to decide now, anyway. Should we get drive through and hit the road?"

Richie wants the drive to last a thousand years, the car a tiny universe where only the two of them exist. Eddie looks so calm while he's driving, so focused and in control, now that they're not leaving Derry like bats out of hell. He doesn't talk much, but Richie feels his presence, knows Eddie's here with him, listening as Richie spouts stupid jokes and snatches of whatever song pops into his head. At one point Eddie reaches over and squeezes Richie's hand, and it feels like breathing after being underwater.

They're in Boston too soon. "What do you want to do?" Eddie asks.

"See the sights," Richie says. "Historical landmarks, all that shit."

Eddie looks surprised, but he nods. "Okay, well, should we plan to meet up--"

"I'm joking, dude," says Richie. "I'm not gonna go be a tourist while you're leaving your wife."

"What do you want to do? Wait in the car?"

Yes, Richie thinks desperately, but doesn't say. He wants to spend as little time as humanly possible not looking at Eddie. He wants to be there, in case something goes wrong, in case Myra won't let him leave, in case Eddie needs to be rescued again.

Instead, he says a resigned "No." Then he adds, "Can you just drop me at a coffee shop or something?" Eddie isn't even out of his sight yet and Richie already knows he won't breathe right until they're in the same place again.

After watching out the window until Eddie's car turns the corner and disappears, Richie orders an Americano and sits on a couch. He pulls out his phone, which he hasn't looked at since yesterday. That's pretty much a first, now that he thinks about it. Who knew all he needed to cure his Twitter addiction was to almost die, almost watch Eddie Kaspbrak die, confess his love, see his hometown reduced to rubble, and have ridiculous sex?

He skips all the texts and emails from his agent, publicist, and various angry venue reps, and instead calls Beverly. Richie pitches his voice low when he says "So how's Ben's dick?"

"Oh my God, you dumbass," she laughs. "Don't worry. You're still the biggest dick I know."

"No, but this is a serious question," he insists. "Did all that body mass just disappear or did it get, like, redistributed?"

"Don't think I won't hang up on you," Bev says.

"Please don't," says Richie quickly. "I need the distraction."

Bev's quiet for a moment, then asks gently, "What's happening?"

"I'm hanging out in a coffeeshop while Eddie asks his wife for a divorce," he says, then adds "I hope."

Bev whistles. "Must have been a hell of a kiss."

"Please," Richie says. "This isn't all about my kissing skills. It just so happens that I also give incredible head."

"Richie!" Bev shrieks. "Are you serious?"

"I would never joke about my sexual prowess," he says.

"That's literally what you do for a living."

"Okay, I'd joke about it, but I'd never lie. Ask Eds if you don't believe me."

"You fucking bet I will," she says, and it occurs to Richie there may be a small chance that Bev saying "hey Eddie, how's Richie in the sack?" will lead to him getting extremely roasted, but he decides he can live with that. Besides, he has a secret weapon, he thinks, remembering Eddie's flushed, beautiful face when he said "I love it when you call me Eds."

But even as he's thinking it, he knows he could never use that moment against Eddie, even for a joke with their best friends. That moment was a gift he'll keep for himself always.

"Anyway," Richie says, "just to make sure you're up to speed on everything, I was massively fucking gay the whole time, and I've been in love with Eddie Kaspbrak since I've known him. Just, like, he's got my heart in his stupid fanny pack. And since I saved his life I have to take care of him forever, now, which apparently means I get to take care of his dick, too, which is pretty nice. The dick, I mean. Eddie has a nice dick, you'd think since he's so short--"

"Beep beep," Bev says.

"I offered you an opportunity to talk about Ben's dick," he reminds her. "Fair's fair."

"We haven't gotten there yet," she says. "Ben doesn't want to rush me."

Richie smiles at her tone. "You sound very relieved."

"Have you seen Ben?" Beverly asks. "No, wait, you're gay. You've seen Ben. He'd better start rushing me."

Richie laughs. "I feel like I should say something like 'yaaaaas, girl,' but I'm not quite up to speed on being gay yet," he says. "I'll let you know when I've got my hours in."

Suddenly, and much too late, Richie notices that the woman on the other side of the coffeeshop isn't looking at him. She hasn't been looking at him this whole time, but now it strikes him that she's very deliberately not looking at him, in the way people do when they recognize him. Richie is only mildly famous, but he's famous enough. People will consider it news that he's having a semi-public phone conversation about his boyfriend's nice dick.

This is… definitely something he should care about. But mostly he just wants to go back and think about that word that showed up uninvited in his train of thought. Is Eddie his boyfriend?

"Hey Bev?" he says. "Can I ask you a really stupid question?"

"I bet you can ask more than one, if you really try."

Richie lowers his voice and actually cups his hand around his mouth. He's not ashamed of being gay, he tells himself, but maybe he's a little embarrassed at being this old and not, well… better at it. "How do you know if someone wants to be your boyfriend?"

She's quiet for a moment. "Oh, Richie," she finally says, sorrow in her voice. Not pity, he couldn't stand that. She just sounds sad. "Has it been that bad for you?"

"I'm famous for making jokes about a girlfriend who doesn't exist," he says. "It's not a great way to meet dudes."

"I think the conventional wisdom goes, if he's leaving his wife for you, that's a good sign."

"Maybe he's not doing it for me, though," Richie says. "What if it's just something he needs to do, and I happen to be here? He said they haven't been happy for a long time. Maybe--"

"He's been in love with you longer," Beverly says.

Richie is silent for several seconds. This is becoming a habit, and he's not sure he likes it. "He has? Did he tell you that?"

Bev laughs. "He didn't have to. I remember how you two were together. You pissed each other off, but you were totally inseparable. I know that's all of us, but it's you and Eddie the most. Like you were each other's gravity." Richie feels tears sting his eyes. That's exactly it. "Things are fading again, but I still remember that," says Bev.

"Fading?" Richie's surprised. Everything is still sharp for him. Sharper than he'd like. He wouldn't mind if the image of Eddie growing an extra limb from his sternum fuzzed over a little.

"Yeah," she says. "You know, I remember that we killed It, but the details are sketchy. And stuff from when we were kids is losing focus, like it did before. It's different this time, though, because I still remember you guys. I'm not losing the way I feel, just what exactly happened."

Richie thinks over his memory of the last few days, feeling for soft spots, for places where he's uncertain. There aren't any. "I don't think that's happening to me, Bev," he says quietly. The admission feels scary. Last time it was Mike who remembered. Mike is the one who's equipped for that kind of responsibility, or maybe Big Bill. Not Richie.

"You're sure?" Her voice is casual, but he can tell this worries her, too.

"I'm pretty sure," he says, and then "yeah, I'm certain. It's all clear. I'd swear on… well, I don't give a shit about Bibles. I'd swear on Eddie's beautiful dick." The woman who isn't looking at him doesn't look at him especially hard, and yeah, this is definitely going to become a thing.

"I don't know what that means, but we should probably all talk about it," says Bev.

"You're not wrong," says Richie. "But hey, funny story, I think I might have just outed myself, so I feel like I need to move on that."

"Your funny stories are never all that funny, Richie," she says.

"I love you too, Bev," he tells her. "Give Ben my wet, sloppy love." He hangs up on her beep-beeping at him.

Then he opens Twitter. He's honestly much less nervous than he expected to be. After everything that happened in Derry, the idea of people knowing he's gay is… it's not fine, exactly, but it's no Stan with spider legs trying to chew off his face.

And if this tanks his career, well, fuck it. He's this year's Mike Hanlon, apparently, so maybe he'll go to librarian school. Make something useful of himself.

Without letting himself think about it too much, he types, "Someone at this coffeeshop overheard me talking about a guy with a beautiful dick, so I'm telling you all before she can: I'm gay! Bitch, you thought you could steal my thunder?" He hits send before he has time for second thoughts and puts his phone on silent. Eddie should be back any minute, he figures.

But Eddie is a long time coming.

Chapter Text

Eddie's conversation with Myra is short. She doesn't even let him into the house. He only makes it a few words into his prepared statement, standing awkwardly on the tiny front stoop, before she cuts him off.

"Eddie, are you serious?" she says. "You walked out on me without an explanation, without even telling me where you were going, you took the car, you didn't answer your phone for days and I didn't even know if you were alive, and then you figured after all that, you could come home and tell me you've decided it's over?"

She is furious. He's seen Myra frustrated plenty of times over the years, Myra crying, Myra anxious. He's never seen her furious before.

He tries to start in again, to explain about his autonomy, her micromanaging, how he's capable of more than she thinks, and she interrupts again.

"I am not your mother, Edward Kaspbrak."

Now utterly derailed, he simply gapes at her.

Myra shakes her head. "If you want to make that speech at her gravestone, be my guest, but don't you put all that on me. I'm not her." She's tearing up now, her face shiny in the way he recognizes, but she's still lit up with that unfamiliar anger and he knows better than to try comforting her. "I know you forget sometimes. You've slipped and called me 'Mommy' when you're really upset. I know you married me for the same reason you resent me, because I remind you of your mother, because you needed someone to be the bad guy in your life so you wouldn't have to do the actual work of moving on, and I play my part and I make the decisions you don't want to make and I need you the way you want to be needed and I let you hate me for it because you need that too, but don't you confuse me with her. I didn't make you--" she gestures with one hand to everything Eddie hates about himself, to his weakness and his complacency and his terrible insecurities and all the ways in which he is sick, still sick after all this time-- "like this."

"Uh," he says, because she's looking at him like she expects a response, but he can't think of one. Her prepared statement is better than his. He has to give her that much.

She wipes tears from her eyes and folds her arms. "So who is she?"

"Who is who?" Does she still mean his mother?

"Oh, I'm sorry," says Myra, correcting herself. "Who is he? The one you're leaving me for."

"Shit, Myra. I never said anything like that." Myra hates it when he curses, but he didn't do it to make her angry. He's genuinely reeling.

"I know you," she says, meaning it as an insult, and he takes it as one. "You're not taking off to go be alone and find yourself. That's not your style. There's someone else. Probably head over heels for you, right? He needs you more than I do, so you can feel like the big hero." She shakes her head. "Tell him he can call me when you're done with him, if he needs a friend."

Eddie squeezes his eyes shut, opens them again, finds himself still here. "Myra, I almost died," he says, as though that's a defense against her anger.

"My therapist says I let you turn me into a person I don't like because that's easier than putting in the work to like myself," Myra says. "But I'm done with that now."

"Since when do you go to therapy?" he asks.

"Fuck you, Eddie," she says, and then she closes the door on him. She doesn't even slam it. She's gentle. He stands there for a solid minute, waiting for someone to tell him what to do next, before he realizes that he can leave.

He should go pick up Richie, he thinks, but he doesn't. Instead he leaves the car in front of his house--Myra's house--and starts walking.

He gets two blocks before he stops on a street corner, puts his hands on his hips, and, to the great displeasure of a cat dozing on a porch, shouts, "What the FUCK just happened?"

He was prepared for tears. He was prepared for arguments. He had a rational response lined up for everything Myra might attempt to get him to stay. But it had never really crossed his mind--even though he joked about it with Richie, only a couple hours ago--that she might not try to make him stay, at all. That she might actually want him to leave.

He's imagined telling her "you'll be better off without me," but he's never imagined her reaching that same conclusion on her own.

So what exactly does that say about him?

"I know you," Myra said, and she does, doesn't she? He's been married to her almost ten years. Opening up emotionally has never been their thing, but still, it's fair to say that after a decade of seeing each other every day, Myra understands him in ways no one else does. She knows him, and she doesn't like him. She knows him and she's glad to see him leave.

What will happen when Richie gets to know him that well?

Right now Richie looks at him like he's a sky full of stars, like something beautiful and necessary and precious. But how long can that last? What does Richie know about him, really? As kids they lived inside each other's rib cages, shared beds, finished each other's sentences, but Eddie's not that kid anymore. He's a middle-aged hypochondriac and a shitty husband. How long until Richie realizes that the real Eddie doesn't live up to the one in his head?

He thinks about Richie, his sweet sad eyes, his vulnerability. Is Eddie being fair to him? Richie's never been married--has never even had a serious boyfriend, Eddie guesses, because it would have been tabloid bait. He has probably never lived with a romantic partner before. He's so young, Eddie thinks, even though they're the same age. Richie with his inexperience, Eddie with his baggage. Is there really any hope for the two of them?

Was there any hope for Eddie when he was shish kebabbed in a monster's lair? Anyone else in the world would have said no. But Richie didn't.

Eddie walks for close to an hour. He makes random turns, not really paying attention to where he's going, but his sense of direction is as rock solid as it's ever been. When he decides to turn around and head back toward the house he used to live in with Myra, he finds his way with no difficulty.

This time he doesn't ring the doorbell. He just pushes the car keys through the mail slot and leaves without a backward look.

It's another fifteen minutes or so of walking to reach the coffeeshop. He sees Richie sitting on the front patio, though the afternoon is growing cool, and from the tension in his bony frame Eddie can tell he's been gone too long. Richie is nervous.

Is this really what either of you need? asks a voice in his head. To worry about each other whenever you're apart? Do you need more reasons to be afraid?

Richie sees Eddie coming and he's on his feet. "Where's the car?" he says, making a face like that's not really what he meant to say first.

"I left it at Myra's," says Eddie. It's the first time he's referred to the house as "Myra's" out loud, the first time he's put into words that he doesn't live there anymore, and it feels good, even though it occurs to him that he's technically homeless now.

"Well, I came out on Twitter," says Richie.

That's not what Eddie expected him to say. "Wait, really?"

"Yeah, well, I was on the phone with Bev and I was telling her all about your incredible dick--" Eddie groans-- "and then I noticed this woman was listening, and it was like, fuck, I guess I gotta do this now."

"So what did you say?"

"I said 'I, Richard Tozier, being of sound mind and body, am hereby totally addicted to the amazing and surprisingly large cock of one Edward Kaspbrak, and do solemnly swear that, as an enormous homosexual, I have never fucked his or anyone else's mom.'"

He's going for a laugh, but Eddie feels like crying, and Richie can tell. "Hey, I'm kidding," Richie says quietly. "I didn't mention your name, I promise." Oh, Jesus, now Richie thinks Eddie is ashamed of him or something. What a fucking mess he's making.

Eddie, feeling exhausted all of a sudden, sinks into the chair next to Richie and leans against him. He feels Richie tense, then soften, wrapping an arm around Eddie's shoulders and kissing him on the crown of his head.

"How did it go?" Richie finally asks. "She try to lock you in the closet? Just a little gay joke there, from your pal, the known gay."

Eddie laughs without humor. "She couldn't wait for me to leave."

"Oh. Well, that's… Good, right? She's not going to fight you?"

"I guess." He shrugs. "She said you can call her after you and I break up."

"Are we breaking up?" asks Richie, with the forced lightness in his voice that tells Eddie he's actually concerned.

"Shit! No! I mean, I don't want to. I mean… wait. We can't break up." Eddie sits up and looks at Richie. "Are we even dating?"

"I want to make a joke right now, but I'm honestly confused," Richie says. "What's your goal here? Do you want to dump me or go steady?"

Eddie takes a deep breath. "Myra thinks I'm attracted to people who need me more than I need them, and I end up resenting them for it. She says that's what will happen with you, too."

"She sounds fun," says Richie.

"She's… Richie, she's not totally wrong. Things with Myra were bad because I let them be bad. I did all this codependent shit and I leaned on her in all the wrong ways and I lost respect for her because she let me do it, and I don't… I don't want to do that with you."

Richie opens his mouth like he's about to say something--probably something dumb, Eddie figures, given that he catches himself and goes silent. Finally, he asks, "What do you want?"

"I want to be honest with each other," Eddie says. "I don't want you to think I don't need you as much as you need me, because I'm--" He wipes tears from his eyes. "Because I'm yours, Richie, I was always yours even when I didn't remember it. I want to be good to you."

Richie pulls him close and kisses him. "You're so good to me, Eds," he murmurs against Eddie's lips. "So much better than I ever hoped for. Better than I deserve."

"See, that's the shit I'm talking about," says Eddie. "You deserve everything, dickhead. I'm not doing you any favors."

"You can do me some favors if you want," Richie suggests.

Eddie grins and kisses him. He tucks Richie's hair back behind his ear and leans in to whisper, his lips brushing Richie's skin, warm in the crisp air of late afternoon. "I want," Eddie says, and loves the flush that creeps up Richie's neck.

"Well, let's blow this Popsicle stand, then," says Richie.

"Yeah, except what's our plan? I left my car with my ex-wife."

Richie shrugs. "We'll get an Uber."

"To where?"

"Who fucking cares, Eds? All I want is to be wherever you are." Richie pulls him in for another kiss, a longer one, dragging Eddie halfway into his lap. Eddie lets his hand slide to Richie's waistband, and Richie gasps, his tongue trembling against Eddie's.

"Move in with me," Richie says.

"What?" That's not the proposition Eddie was anticipating.

"Move in with me. I'm asking for real. I want you to live with me and share a bed and make each other coffee in the morning and do unspeakable things to each other at night, but not too late at night because I'm pretty old."

Eddie laughs. "Do you know what I realized earlier?"

"What?"

"That you're my hope," said Eddie.

"Oh my God, Eds, that's so beautiful and gross," Richie says.

"Perfect for you, then," says Eddie. "You're like a sexy garbage can."

"Is that a yes or what?"

"Obviously," Eddie says.

In the Uber on the way to the airport, Richie posts a reply to his own coming-out tweet: "Also, the guy with the beautiful dick says I can tell you he's my boyfriend now."

Chapter Text

"You know what, I probably should have gotten our suitcases out of the car before I left it at Myra's house," Eddie says. At least they'll get through the airport quickly, without luggage.

 

"Or we could have just taken the car," Richie points out.

 

"No, leaving it was symbolic. I'm letting go of my old life. We can buy a new car together." Eddie grins. He feels light, a little dizzy but not in a bad way. "Or share a bus pass. Whatever."

 

"I still have a car in LA," says Richie. "Am I supposed to get rid of that too? Like, how symbolic are we getting here? Because I already have to buy new clothes. Unless you think your ex-wife will send us my suitcase."

 

Eddie wrinkles his nose. "Maybe if you ask her. She hates you less."

 

"Only because she hasn't met me," says Richie. Eddie pictures Myra and Richie face to face and is struck by a weird desire to laugh and shudder simultaneously.

 

Richie has TSA Clear, which makes Eddie snort and call him bourgeois, so they separate with a squeeze of each other's hands and go through their respective security lines. Eddie has always hated airport security--taking off his shoes in a public place, disgusting--but today he hates it extra for standing between him and Richie. Finally, after putting his shoes back on (and double-knotting them, because running through an airport to kiss the love of your life is a lot less romantic if you trip on a shoelace and break your nose), he finds Richie sitting on a bench, looking at his phone.

 

"Long time no see," Eddie says, kissing Richie on the forehead.

 

"Eds, don't you ever check your phone? I've been wasting away of boredom."

 

Eddie pulls out his phone and, sure enough, there are new texts from Richie.

 

eds I miss u

 

want to kiss ur cute face

 

wish u were nex2 me

 

or under me

 

on top of me wld b good 2

 

gonna get a personal trainer so we can have sex in all the diff positions

 

Eddie bursts out laughing at the last one. "I can't leave you alone for a minute, can I?" he asks.

 

"Really rather you don't," says Richie.

 

Eddie keeps looking through his phone. He's got unread texts from the rest of the Losers, too.

 

Bill: what the fuck, dude, I had to find out you and Richie are boyfriends now from fucking Twitter?

 

Bev: Eddie! I'm so happy for you and Richie! And so mad that you didn't tell us before he tweeted about it.

 

Ben: Twitter gets to know about your relationship before we do? I see how it is, asshole.

 

Mike: Richie's not answering his phone, can you ask him what his WiFi password is?

 

Eddie squeezes his eyes shut with a joy so big it's almost pain. How did he live without these people for twenty-seven whole years? He shows his phone to Richie. "I think everyone is mad at us," he says.

 

"Oh, shit," says Richie. "They probably texted me too, I just wasn't… yeah, okay, I have all the same ones. By majority vote, we totally suck."

 

"As soon as we get back to your place, I promise," Eddie says in a low voice, and Richie's eyebrows shoot up. God, that's cute. Richie's cute, Eddie thinks, all goofy and expressive, with that slightly lopsided smile. "You're adorable," he adds. "I just want to… eat you up."

 

"Eddie," says Richie in a dazed voice, but Eddie grabs his hand and pulls him up from the bench.

 

"Come on, we've got an hour before our flight boards, and I believe I owe you an omelette."

 

"That's not all you owe me," says Richie.

 

Eddie smiles. "I haven't forgotten."

 

He texts apologies to their friends while they wait for their omelettes (bacon and jalapeno for Richie, egg whites and asparagus for Eddie). Bill responds: all good. When are we getting together to dance on Derry's grave?

 

"Hey, yeah," he says out loud. "Richie?" Richie's focused on something in his own phone, but he looks up the second time Eddie says his name.

 

"Sorry," he says. "My agent wants to talk about my rebranding. Like I just decided to be gay because my career needed a change of pace. Huh, ratings are down, better suck a dick." Eddie coughs out a surprised laugh. "I don't know. I'll talk to him later. I don't even know if I want to keep doing this shit."

 

Another surprise. "Wait, really? You'd quit comedy?"

 

"I don't know. Maybe I just need some time off. But after everything that happened?" He shrugs. "I don't want to keep saying other people's lines, but I don't know how I'd make jokes about the actual shit that's happened in our weird fucking lives. Fellas, you know when a giant statue of Paul Bunyan comes to life and tries to kill you while a clown voices all your internalized homophobia? Don't you hate that?"

 

"Is that what happened when we split up?" Eddie asks quietly.

 

"Yeah. Gay-bashed by a fifty-foot lumberjack. Real subtle, the fucker."

 

"I'm sorry," says Eddie.

 

"Plus, you know," Richie says in a more cheerful tone, "people become comedians because they have a bottomless pit in their souls that they have to fill with laughter and praise because they don't believe they can have love."

 

"Same for risk analysts, really," says Eddie, and is stupidly thrilled when Richie grins.

 

"Yeah, well, I'm a little worried mine might be gone." Richie gazes into Eddie's eyes and Eddie feels his mouth go dry, but doesn't look away. "I might have everything I need, now."

 

Eddie reaches for his hand across the table, and Richie grabs it and hangs on. The thing they share is more than just a glance, or a moment. Eddie feels himself skirting the edge of something that could consume him, and he can't name the emotion that rushes through him because it's the exact opposite of fear.

 

"Anyway, you were saying?" Richie says.

 

"Oh." It takes Eddie a second to remember. "Bill. He wants to get together. And I was thinking, with me and Mike at your place and Bev at Ben's, we're all going to be in California, right? Dude, we'll be, like, neighbors again."

 

Richie smiles. "Fuck yeah. All of us together." Then the corner of his mouth twitches, and Eddie knows he's thinking about Stan. They haven't talked about it yet, really, about the threads of heartbreak that shine through the weave of their days. Eddie thinks it might take a while before either of them has the words. Instead, he caresses Richie's thumb with his own, and it's enough for right now.

 

"Let's make plans to see everyone in a couple days, once we've settled in and rested and everything," Eddie suggests, letting his voice linger over "and everything," and seeing that Richie notices.

 

"Hey Eds," Richie asks as they walk to their gate, "how much do you remember?"

 

Eddie frowns and thinks about it. "Everything, I think," he says. "I might be missing some stuff here and there from when we were kids, but I remember about It. Both times." He grimaces, shaken by a strong visual memory of looking down and seeing his own internal organs.

 

And of course he remembers Richie, his broken voice confessing, "you're so special and I always…" And himself with nothing to lose, saying what he'd always wanted to say: "Shut up and kiss me."

 

He thinks he could live a thousand lifetimes and not lose a moment of that memory.

 

"I'm not going to forget you, Richie," he promises, moving closer so their shoulders jostle together. "No chance."

 

Richie wraps an arm around Eddie and nuzzles his head. "Me, neither. You're stuck with me."

 

Eddie settles into a seat at their gate while Richie goes off in search of snacks. Eddie can't help smiling at Richie's familiar walk, so similar to when they were kids--the way he always seemed a little surprised at how much ground he could cover with those long legs, surprised at how fast he was going.

 

Loving Richie is made up of so many emotions at once, Eddie thinks. Nostalgic fondness and joy and pride and amusement and awe and desire--he has never felt this way about anyone. Or, no: he has always felt this way about someone, he just didn't allow himself to know it until now, so it is both astonishingly new and as familiar as his own skin.

 

While Richie is still in view, Eddie takes out his phone again and texts him: hate to see you go, but I love to watch you leave. Richie doesn't respond, and after a couple minutes Eddie concludes that he's not checking his phone. Fine. Eddie will give him a surprise for when he does.

 

I can't wait to get you home, baby.

 

There are so many things I want to do to you and I'm so excited to have all the time in the world.

 

He thinks for a moment. Where to start? Get too explicit too soon and he might kill the mood.

 

First we'll want to shower off all the travel grime, so I'll help you take your clothes off.

 

I'll be so tempted to throw you down on the bed as soon as I get a look at your chest, your stomach, that perfect ass of yours.

 

You look so fucking good naked, Richie.

 

But we gotta get clean first.

 

His phone buzzes, startling him. He's gotten lost in his train of thought and forgotten to expect Richie's response.

 

jesus fuck eds

 

of course u sext with cap letters

 

punctuation and shit

 

thats so insane and hot

 

Eddie laughs.

 

Only the best for you, baby, he replies.

 

was gonna ask if u want a soda for the flight

 

feel like i should offer u snthg better now

 

bj in the vip bathroom?

 

Eddie takes a second to actually picture that, because he knows Richie's joking, but he also knows he's as serious as Eddie wants him to be. Then he texts back: Wait til we get home. Remember I promised to take care of you.

PS: Will you get me a Perrier?

 

Richie is pink and fidgety when he comes back with a bag of chips, two apples (which are definitely not organic and Eddie wouldn't touch with a twelve-foot pole, but Richie is so proud of himself for buying produce that Eddie realizes he's going to have to eat them), a Pepsi for himself, and Eddie's Perrier.

 

"Thanks, baby," says Eddie, reaching up to hug Richie around the neck. With their cheeks pressed against each other, he breathes into Richie's ear: "Are you thinking about what I said?"

 

Richie squirms. "I don't know if 'thinking' is the word I would use, Eds, but…" He shifts his body against Eddie's. It's not a lascivious movement, but he keeps Eddie close with a hand on his waist, and Eddie can feel that Richie is half-hard in his jeans. It sends a jolt through him, and involuntarily, he shivers.

 

"We've got like half an hour," Richie murmurs, but Eddie steps back.

 

"Half hour till takeoff," he says. "They'll start boarding any minute." He looks Richie up and down and bites his lower lip thoughtfully. "Anyway, I'm gonna need a lot more than half an hour."

 

"I'm fuckin' not," Richie says in a strained voice, and Eddie laughs, suddenly bubbling over with the hugest happiness he's ever known.

Chapter Text

Eddie had a plan, and he's the kind of person who sticks to plans. Tease Richie a little in the airport and on the flight back to LA, get him riled up but don't go too far, then fuck his brains out the moment they get home. (He's not going to think too hard about when exactly he started referring to Richie's house, where he has never been, as "home.")

 

The thing about Richie Tozier, though, and it's not like Eddie hasn't known this for a solid three decades now, is Richie doesn't give a shit about anyone's plans.

 

Richie bought their plane tickets, so Eddie should have expected they'd be swanky--the famous comedian doesn't fly coach, especially not on the cross-country red-eye. Their first-class seats are fully reclining and actually comfortable, which Eddie never realized airplane seats could be. And although the flight attendants are bustling around bringing them drinks and snacks before takeoff, once they're in the air and Richie dims their lights, the sky beyond their window black, it feels almost like being alone together.

 

Which Richie immediately takes advantage of, pulling Eddie to him and kissing him softly, his tongue hovering politely just shy of Eddie's lips. Eddie grips the back of Richie's neck and kisses him back, harder, until they're both gasping for breath, sipping air from each other's mouths. The immovable armrest between them digs into Eddie's stomach.

 

"It's like they don't want people to make out up here," he grumbles as Richie nibbles gently on his earlobe.

 

"Climb on over here, Eds," Richie offers. "Plenty of room on top of me."

 

"You're so gross," Eddie says, somewhat undermining himself by sliding his hand up Richie's stupid Hawaiian shirt, pressing his palm against the heat of Richie's chest and teasing a thumb over his nipple. "Do you have any idea how filthy airplanes are?"

 

"Wanna make this one even filthier?"

 

"Ugh," says Eddie, trying to tamp down the fact that, yeah, he kind of does.

 

"Mr. Tozier, would you or your companion care for something from the bar?" says a very polite flight attendant. Eddie, after being briefly dead of embarrassment, does his best to retrieve his hands from under Richie's shirt in a dignified manner.

 

Richie is unfazed, of course. "He's my boyfriend, actually," he clarifies with a huge smile. His hair is a mess, his neck visibly wet where Eddie has been licking it, and he's clearly very proud of himself, which is incredibly annoying and hot. "I just came out today. I'm gay, and this is my boyfriend."

 

The flight attendant, a woman a few years their junior, smiles. "I know, I follow you on Twitter. Congratulations."

 

"Oh, that's awesome! This is the guy I was talking about, the one with the--"

 

"--boyfriend who never shuts up, oh my God," Eddie cuts him off, his face scorching.

 

The flight attendant scrunches her mouth like she's trying not to laugh. "You heard the thing about the seatbelts, right?"

 

"What thing?"

 

"From the safety briefing. I have to be able to visually confirm that your seatbelts are fastened whenever you're seated." She raises her eyebrows. "That's one seatbelt per person, per seat."

 

"Loud and clear," Eddie assures her. "And we don't need any drinks, thanks."

 

When the flight attendant is gone, he drops his head back in his seat with a groan. "We just got scolded for groping each other in public," he says to Richie. "We're forty fucking years old. "

 

"Eds my Eds, you keep me young," says Richie, who's half sitting up to look down at him, smiling. Then he's leaning over to kiss him again, his lips soft on Eddie's jaw and his fingers in Eddie's hair.

 

"This is, like, public indecency," Eddie says. He has to bite his lip for a second to keep from moaning, then adds, "You're going to get us arrested or thrown off the flight or something."

 

"You're so sexy when you're making lists of things to be worried about," Richie murmurs against Eddie's collarbone, his breath burning like steam. "Keep going."

 

"We could… ahh…" Richie is sliding a hand up Eddie's thigh, not quite high enough.

 

"Run out of ideas already?"

 

"We're not doing this," says Eddie, although the way he's opening his legs, angling his hips toward Richie as Richie's fingers trace his inseam, suggests otherwise. "I have a plan. Take you home, shower off, then have my oh fuck." He meant to say "have my way with you," but all of a sudden Richie's hand is exactly where Eddie needs it to be, and words are farther away and less important.

 

"Quiet," says Richie into his ear. "Don't get us in trouble." He's rubbing gently and the pressure is too much and not enough and Eddie could fucking scream, but he doesn't make a sound.

 

"You'd let me, wouldn't you?" Richie says. "You'd let me jerk you off and make you come in your pants, right here on the airplane. You're not going to tell me to stop, because you're so fucking hot for me, aren't you? I can feel how hard you are. I bet you're leaking, too." Eddie feels the words more than he hears them, the vibrations running through his skin as Richie's lips move almost silently against his ear. "I love how bad you want me, Eds." He takes a shuddery breath and whispers, "I can't wait to feel you inside me."

 

Eddie's hand shoots out and grabs Richie's wrist, because if Richie doesn't stop right fucking now it's going to be all over, in at least two senses. For a second they're both extremely still.

 

Richie moves his hand away, and Eddie could weep with frustration. He rubs his palms over his face. "God dammit, Trashmouth," he says. "Fuck."

 

"You started it," Richie points out. "Sorry, but if you tease me, my training takes over."

 

Eddie's just trying to breathe, hoping the furious, aching hardness will subside if he gives it a minute. This is all so embarrassing, but a little exhilarating too. He feels young, like when he was fourteen watching Richie dive in the quarry, drops of water glittering on his lips, wondering if you could actually die from being too horny.

 

"Saved my life just so you could kill me yourself," he says, and reaches for Richie's face to kiss him again. "How fucking long is this flight? I'm not gonna make it."

 

Richie nods toward the first-class bathroom, just behind their seats. "So go take care of it. I can wait."

 

"No way, Richie, that's disgusting," but he has actual tears in his eyes, he's fucking suffering, and Richie's appalling idea might be a better alternative to coming in his pants like an idiot teenager.

 

"Guarantee I can get you worked up again by the time we're home," says Richie. This is how done for Eddie is: just the mention of Richie talking dirty to him, sometime in the future, makes his cock throb so that he nearly cries out.

 

"Fine," he chokes out, and lurches from his seat. Richie stops him with a hand on his elbow, and Eddie looks back.

 

Richie's smile is wicked. "Take a picture for me first," he mouths, and Eddie just about stops breathing.

 

He rushes to the bathroom and slams the door behind him. It's big for an airplane bathroom, meaning it's about the size of Eddie's shower stall back at Myra's house, but he's not thinking about that now, because he's frantically unbuckling his belt and yanking free from his pants. He's got his hand around himself immediately, holding tight and still for a moment while he pulls his phone with his other hand. He takes one picture pointing down, a bird's-eye view of his red, yearning cock, then another shot in the mirror: his shirt pulled up to expose his navel, his face a mess of naked, undeniable desperation. Richie will like that one, he thinks.

 

Then he shoves the phone back in his pocket and jams the heel of his free hand into his mouth, so he can bite down on it to keep from shouting as he pumps his fist once, twice, three times, and comes.

 

After his heartbeat has dropped back into the normal range and he's cleaned himself up, Eddie washes his hands and goes back to his seat, feeling light-headed and drowsy. He can't believe he just did that. Richie is smiling at him, practically purring, as he slides back into his seat. Eddie pulls out his phone and hands it to Richie, displaying his mirror selfie.

 

"Eddie," Richie says reverently. He sucks in air slowly, through his teeth, then gently lets it out again. When he looks at Eddie, his eyes are shining. "Did I… do I do this to you?"

 

"Yes, baby," Eddie whispers back, and he leans into Richie's shoulder, and they tacitly agree not to mention that both of them are crying, just a little.

Chapter Text

By the time they land in LA, the sun is rising again and so is Eddie, swaying on his feet from only a few hours of sleep and the wild, profane, and in some cases anatomically improbable things Richie has been murmuring in his ear. Richie's thrumming with adrenaline and desire, still finding it difficult to believe that he is the one doing this to Eddie. He knows he's talking absolutely outlandish shit, but Eddie is going along with it, gasping and writhing and sighing "Christ, Richie," and Richie thinks he could live a hundred years on no sustenance besides Eddie's lust-deep voice saying his name.

 

They stumble into the daylight with their arms around each other, Richie's hand in Eddie's back pocket, and wander around for fifteen minutes while Richie tries to remember where he parked.

 

"You can just set a reminder in your phone, dickhead," Eddie is chastising him affectionately, when Richie points and says "There!"

 

Eddie takes one look and sputters with laughter.

 

"No way," he says. "Please tell me you're joking. It's too perfect. Richie Tozier, Fake Heterosexual, cannot actually drive a Hummer. "

 

"Fuck you!" Richie laughs. "It's butch!"

 

"It's chartreuse! "

 

The air inside his car is stale with the smell of panic. Opening the door feels like opening a time capsule, looking into the past at an entirely different era of Richie Tozier. The guy who parked this car a few days ago didn't know exactly why he was going home to Derry, just that he was scared shitless but he still had to do it. That guy was miserable, deeply closeted, living in fear of a past he couldn't remember and a future that promised to be as bleak and empty as his present. The Richie Tozier this car remembers was lonely and angry and old for his age.

 

The Richie Tozier climbing into the passenger seat this morning, because his boyfriend wants to drive, looks a lot like that other asshole, but he feels like he's been scraped and rebuilt. He's happy. He's in love. He's loved, not just by the beautiful man sitting next to him but by their four best friends in the world, and he remembers everything. His life isn't missing huge pieces anymore.

 

He's whole.

 

Eddie, with his weirdly-good verging-on-supernatural sense of direction, finds a route from LAX to Richie's house that's faster than Richie's normal one. "How do you do that?" Richie says. "It's like you have a compass in your brain. I'm dating a superhero."

 

"Well, you've got powers too," Eddie says.

 

Richie scoffs. "Yeah, a compass in my dick that only points to you."

 

"I was more talking about the whole bringing me back from certain death thing," says Eddie. "I don't even have a scar."

 

"Oh, yeah," Richie says awkwardly. "That was pretty cool."

 

Eddie shoots him a look. "Take a fuckin' compliment, dude," he says. "You saved my life. It was hot."

 

"I'm all for anything you think is hot," Richie says. "I just don't want that to be the reason you're with me."

 

"That you're hot? Call me shallow, but yeah, it's a factor."

 

Richie laughs. "You know what I mean."

 

Eddie puts his hand on Richie's leg. "I want to be with you," he says, quietly and simply. "I missed you so much more than I knew, all those years. My life is better with you in it. Okay?"

 

"Okay," says Richie, covering Eddie's hand with his own.

 

"Plus you give amazing head," Eddie adds.

 

"I was just telling Beverly that yesterday. She thinks I'm exaggerating."

 

Eddie turns onto Richie's block. "Why are you talking up your skills to Bev? Trying to steal her away from Ben?"

 

"Please," says Richie. "You know I only have mouth for you."

 

Eddie finds a parking spot Richie would never attempt in a thousand years, and guides the Hummer into it flawlessly. "Someday I'm gonna talk to a therapist about why I find it so hot when you say gross things," he says.

 

"But in the meantime, take me inside so we can do gross things," Richie says.

 

He's barely made it through the door when Eddie is on him, throwing his Hawaiian shirt on the floor. "I hate that shirt," Eddie murmurs, his teeth colliding with Richie's. "I hate all your clothes. Never wear clothes."

 

"Anything you say, Eds," Richie gasps as Eddie runs his fingernails down his back. "God, you're so--"

 

"HEY!"

 

Richie yells, Eddie curses, and they jump apart, Richie's mind racing with panic because there's someone else in his house, someone tall and half in shadow, how the fuck-- he's holding a baseball bat--

 

"Mikey," Eddie says, an octave higher than his regular voice.

 

Oh. Okay. Richie breathes. Right. He invited Mike to stay at his house, and that's why Mike is here, at his house. The baseball bat, though?

 

"Mike, it's us," he says.

 

"I know it's you," says Mike, not putting the bat down. "This is my 'I don't want to listen to you two having sex' bat."

 

"I think I have noise-cancelling headphones somewhere," Richie says helpfully. Mike raises his eyebrows and slaps the end of the bat into his open hand, not saying a word.

 

Eddie is the one who bursts out laughing. "We fucking lost," he says nonsensically, and flops down onto Richie's couch.

 

"What?" asks Richie, who's starting to grin too.

 

"We lost," says Eddie. "The clown lived, and this is Its new idea for torturing us, by being a gigantic fucking cock-block. "

 

Richie cracks up along with Eddie, and after a second Mike does too. There's something dark in their laughter, Richie thinks, some deep chasm of fear and pain and grief that they've barely begun to acknowledge, much less work though, and the laughter doesn't try to cover up that hole so much as dance around its edges. It's beginning to dawn on Richie that, now that they remember everything, they're going to have to deal with everything, a prospect which his adult life has thus far been organized around avoiding.

 

But I can do it, he thinks as he looks at Eddie, who's knuckling tears of mirth from the corners of his dark eyes. I can do it for you.

 

"Okay," Mike finally says. "I'll get a hotel room tonight, which, to be extremely clear, you two will pay for. But right now, it's eight in the morning, and I haven't seen you in three days, and it seems like maybe a few things have happened in that time, so Richie is going to make us coffee in that horrible science fiction machine in his kitchen and we're all going to have a goddamn conversation."

 

"And some fucking breakfast," suggests Eddie.

 

"Uh, maybe if Mike went grocery shopping," Richie says. "I'm pretty sure I have coffee if you want it black. Otherwise…"

 

"You make the coffee, I'll order grocery delivery," says Eddie. It sends a tingle through Richie's body--the easy assumption of partnership, of splitting up responsibilities. Such a simple thing, but he's never had someone to buy groceries with. Not since he moved out of his parents' house, in the Chicago suburb they moved to after Derry, has anyone shared Richie's life in a significant way. Eddie notices Richie's lovestruck gaze and smiles back at him.

 

In fifteen minutes they're drinking black coffee and recounting their respective trips from Maine to California; half an hour after that, Eddie is making pancakes and Mike is listing all the things he wants to do now that he's no longer holding down the fort in Derry. Finally, they sit down around the dining room table--where Richie has eaten maybe four meals ever--and Richie asks Mike the question that's been on his mind since yesterday. "Do you remember everything that happened?"

 

"I guess so," says Mike. "Well, maybe not everything."

 

"Do you know how we killed It?"

 

"Sure," says Mike, though now he looks uncertain. "It was the ritual, with the tokens and the fire." His eyes flick from Richie to Eddie and back, not liking what he sees in their faces. "Wasn't it?"

 

"The ritual didn't work, Mike," Richie says. "We had to improvise."

 

"Oh." Mike nods slowly. "I guess I remember that."

 

"He definitely doesn't remember," Richie tells Eddie. "If he did, he'd be giving me shit for not helping more, like he did right afterward."

 

"Right," says Mike. "No, I remember that. You got hurt, right, Richie? And Eddie was helping you while the rest of us were fighting?"

 

Eddie shakes his head. "Other way around. I basically got murdered and Richie saved my life."

 

"Which I've been informed was hot," Richie can't help adding.

 

Mike's forehead is wrinkling as he stares into his empty coffee cup. "Okay. So you both remember, and I don't. That's… strange."

 

"Bev doesn't either," Richie says. "I don't know about Bill or Ben."

 

"I always thought It was protecting Itself, somehow, by making everyone who left forget," Mike says. "If that's still happening, then…"

 

None of the three men meet each other's eyes. No one wants to say it first.

 

But finally, because he's the bravest of them and always has been and Richie has always loved him for it, Eddie says, "Then maybe It's not really gone."

 

"Nope. Fuck that." Richie shakes his head. "Derry, Maine got sucked into the mouth of Hell where it fucking belonged, and that clown is gone. I was in Its head at the end, Mikey," he says. "I took power from the deadlights to bring Eddie back. I felt it die. I swear."

 

"Richie," says Eddie quietly, putting a hand on Richie's arm.

 

"That motherfucker killed you, Eds," Richie says. His voice is shaking, near tears. It's kind of funny--for twenty-seven years he believed he was the kind of person who simply didn't cry. Now it turns out that all that time, he just didn't have anything in his life worth crying over. "It can't be alive. We can't-- you can't go back there." Eddie is silent, his hand gently stroking Richie's.

 

"But maybe that's it," says Mike.

 

"What's it?"

 

"Maybe that's why you remember, both of you. Because you were connected to It when It died. Maybe…" He shrugs. "Some of Its power survived through you?"

 

"Is that possible?"

 

"Do you want me to check my encyclopedia of clown monsters?" Mike asks dryly. "Who the hell knows what's possible, man? You're sitting here telling me you brought Eddie back from the dead. My friends and I killed the demon that haunted our childhoods, not three days ago, and I can't even tell you how we did it. I don't know what the rules are."

 

"Maybe your books," Eddie starts to say, then realizes.

 

"Shit," Richie says. "Are we gonna have to go spelunking for Mike's research?"

 

"I have some notes on my laptop," Mike says. "Always figured if I lived long enough I'd write a book. But it's just an outline, most of the real stuff was in the library."

 

"It's a place to start," says Richie.

 

"Let's check in with everyone else, too," Eddie says. "We know Bev is forgetting. We need to know what's up with Bill and Ben."

 

Richie nods and takes out his phone. Call Bill. That's a good plan, comforting. When they were kids everyone looked to Bill for answers--Big Bill, who used to tower over them all, and how funny that he grew up to be so short. Richie's probably a full head taller than him now. Still, a part of Richie will always feel like he's safe in Bill's shadow, trusting him to lead the way.

 

"Hello?" Bill's voice is formal.

 

"Hey, it's Richie." There's a pause. "Eddie and Mike are here too."

 

"Richie," says Bill slowly. "I'm sorry, man. For a minute there…"

 

Richie's heart plummets. "You didn't know who I was." Eddie's eyes go wide, and Mike visibly flinches.

 

He hears Bill sigh. "For a minute there I didn't."

 

"Bill, what the fuck. We saw each other three days ago. "

 

"I don't know," Bill says helplessly.

 

"Well, shit. There's one of our answers," says Richie, feeling the tears he just fought back surface again. "It must be happening faster for you because you're--apart from the rest of us."

 

"Is it happening to everyone?" says Bill in a hushed voice. "Can we stop it?"

 

"So far, it seems like Eds and me are remembering everything. Mike and Bev still have the big picture but the details are fuzzy. Don't know about Ben yet."

 

"Dammit," says Bill.

 

"Look, we need to get together, okay? All of us. I think that will slow it down, at least. You'll remember if we're together." Richie doesn't know why he feels so sure of this, but he does, it's right, he knows he's right.

 

"Yeah," says Bill, and Mike nods. Eddie squeezes Richie's hand again.

 

"Can you come to my place? Since the three of us are here already?"

 

"Yes," says Bill. "Tomorrow? I don't… I don't want to wait. I don't want to lose any more."

 

"Tomorrow," Richie agrees. "Write it down. Somewhere you'll see it even if you forget." He gives Bill his address.

 

"Hey Richie, thanks for calling," says Bill. "I love you. Eddie, Mikey, I love you guys too. We're gonna figure this out, right?"

 

"Yeah, we are," Richie assures him. "We love you too, Big Bill. See you tomorrow."

 

The conversation with Bev and Ben goes pretty much the same, although at least Bev picks up the phone already knowing who Richie is. They've agreed to come over when Bill does tomorrow, and are about to hang up, when Richie has an absolutely horrible thought.

 

"Bev," he says, interrupting her, and she stops talking the instant she hears the tone in his voice.

 

"What is it?"

 

He almost can't make himself ask, but he needs to know. "Do you guys… do you remember Stan?"

 

Beverly's slow intake of breath physically hurts him, and so does the momentary blankness in Mike's eyes. His intuition was right. Stan is disappearing from the others' minds.

 

Richie can't stand to be forgotten by his friends, but the idea of Stan being forgotten--again--is so much worse. Stan being left behind in the past, alone. "We've gotta fucking fix this," he says.

 

Beverly is reluctant to get off the phone after that, but with Ben saying soothing things to her in the background, and after reassuring Richie several times that she loves him and he's her best friend and she'll never let herself forget, she eventually hangs up.

 

"Stan," Mike says sadly.

 

"Don't you fucking let him go, Mikey," says Richie, surprised by the fire in his voice.

 

"No one's letting go," says Eddie. He's been so still all this time, just looking at their interlaced hands, but now he stands up and moves behind Richie's chair, bending over to drape his arms around Richie's shoulders like a cape.  Richie melts into his warmth, his weight. How is it possible to feel this good and this bad, all at the same time?

 

He reaches up and grabs Eddie's arms, pulls them tighter around him to keep out the cold. "No one's letting go," Richie echoes.

Chapter Text

Eventually Mike disappears into the guest room to go through his notes and see if any useful books made it into his luggage. Eddie looks at Richie and says, "Can you show me to my room?"

 

"Of course, Eds, but--"

 

"I just want to rest," says Eddie, so tired he could practically lay his head down and fall asleep right there at the table. "I haven't slept since yesterday morning except on the plane. I just want to lie down, Richie, will you come with me?" He looks up into Richie's sweet, worried face. "Will you just hold me?"

 

"Yes," Richie breathes immediately. "Yes."

 

Eddie still feels like he needs a shower, but he needs stillness more, stillness and the quiet heat of Richie's body, reassuring Eddie that he isn't being forgotten. Without speaking, Richie leads him to a bedroom. It's too big and too empty, and it hurts to think of Richie spending so many nights here all alone, while Eddie was on the other side of the country, alone too in the bed he shared with Myra.

 

They undress together, differently than they have before. There's less urgency, although Eddie still feels the rush of yearning when he looks at Richie, his tall thin body in his undershirt and boxers. All the time we've missed , he thinks sadly, but then amends it: All the time we still have.

 

Richie's bed is messy and unmade, but the sheets feel soft and clean. Eddie crawls in first, and Richie stands over him for a long moment.

 

"What?" Eddie asks.

 

"I just--I've wondered," Richie says, sounding choked up. "I've lived here for six years and I always wondered if it would ever feel like home."

 

Eddie almost makes a joke, almost retreats from the vulnerability of the moment into the safety of their adolescent insults. But he doesn't want Richie to shut down; he wants Richie to keep looking at him this way. Swallowing whatever wisecrack was about to emerge, Eddie reaches for Richie, pulls him close. "You're home now, baby," he whispers as they collide. "We're both home." Richie burrows his head into Eddie's shoulder, shivering. Eddie strokes his hair for a long time, until Richie is still.

 

They lie like that, curled around each other, and Eddie watches Richie's face smooth into sleep. Then he lets his own mind wander, dipping in and out of dreams.

 

At some point Richie stirs in his sleep, making a small, frightened sound. Eddie, half waking, wraps his arm tighter around Richie's waist. "You're safe," he says, lips moving against Richie's cheek. "You're safe." Richie sighs, smiles a little, and settles into deeper sleep.

 

Even if they all forget us, we'll still have this, Eddie thinks. He knows it in a way he can't explain and doesn't question: he and Richie will remember. They'll remember each other, and everything else. They are the holders of the past.

 

It's so much more than he had before, so much more than those twenty-seven years of not quite enough, of something's missing, like having a song in your head but forgetting the lyrics--except that the words Eddie couldn't remember were the most vital truth of his soul. He has the words back, now. He has Richie, and he knows him and is known by him. It feels like a miracle, and that's on top of the real, no-shit, what-else-could-you-even-call-it miracle that Eddie's not dead.

 

Maybe it should be enough. Maybe they should leave it alone, let their friends drift into their separate futures, let the horror fade from their minds. Maybe the forgetting is a kindness.

 

But Eddie doesn't think he can accept that. He remembers Richie's face when he asked Bev about Stan. They have been through so much together, triumphed over so much, the seven of them. Those left standing deserve to know who they are, what they're capable of. And Stan--Stan deserves to be mourned.

 

He's not losing them again, not any of them.

 

"We're going to fix it," he whispers against Richie's neck. He's scared as shit, is the truth. Being forgotten is, in some ways, more terrifying than being dead. At least being dead means it's over. To go on living, knowing the people you love don't know who you are anymore--the thought makes Eddie's chest hitch, makes him want his inhaler.

 

Instead he breathes in deeply, grounding himself in the scent of Richie, the warmth of Richie, the Richie in his childhood memories and the Richie in his arms. Holding Richie, Eddie can be brave.

 

"Hey, hot stuff," Richie says, stirring. "What time is it?"

 

"Uh, I think it's like dinnertime," Eddie says. "Based on the fact that I'm hungry."

 

"Fuck, that was a long nap." Richie scrubs at his eyes with his knuckles, then fumbles for his glasses. Eddie finds them first and nestles them gently on Richie's nose.

 

The house is quiet as they wander out into the living room, still in their underwear. "Is Mike sleeping too?" Richie asks.

 

Eddie checks his phone and sees that Mike has texted them both. Getting a hotel room for tonight, as promised. We can discuss reimbursement tomorrow.

 

"That's what I call a friend," Richie says, impressed.

 

Eddie is immediately nervous. "What if he forgets about us when he's away?"

 

"He's not gonna forget about us," says Richie. "Not that fast." He's got his arms around Eddie before he's finished speaking, soothing him with a gentle hand on the small of his back.

 

"Let's text him in the morning, just in case."

 

"I'll send him regular updates on our night of passion so he'll come back to tell us how much he hates us," Richie offers.

 

"Are we having a night of passion?" Eddie doesn't know why he's blushing.

 

"Hey, if you think I'm paying for Mikey's hotel room just so we can order ramen and watch Netflix…"

 

"Yeah?"

 

Richie shrugs, says "Actually, that would be fine. Long as I get to be with you."

 

"You fucking nerd," Eddie says, unable to stop himself from smiling. "You like me." He's tilting his head back to look Richie in the eyes, and then it's the easiest and most natural thing to kiss him, rising up on his toes, opening his mouth for Richie's tongue. Richie's hand slides down into his back pocket and squeezes his ass, and Eddie squirms happily.

 

"I like you so bad," Richie says, kissing Eddie's cheek, his temple, the curve of his ear. "I like-like you, Eds."

 

"Want to show me how much?" Eddie breathes, and oh, it's sweet to feel Richie's hardness through his boxers, stiffening against his belly, it's sweet to feel so wanted.

 

"Not Netflix and ramen?" Richie asks, and Eddie replies by pushing his hands up Richie's thin white undershirt, splaying his fingers across Richie's back and pulling him closer, feeling his heartbeat.

 

"Maybe later," says Eddie. "If we need a break." Richie's eyes are dancing as he walks backward toward the bedroom, pulling Eddie by the hand.

 

They collapse on the bed, kissing hungrily, sloppily, licking each other's mouths and ears and throats. Richie pulls Eddie's shirt off, then his own. Then they're tangled in each other again, Richie's hands in Eddie's hair, Eddie's cock grinding against Richie's hip as he presses his leg between Richie's thighs.

 

"Baby," Eddie groans. "Richie." Kisses him again, circling Richie's wide, panting mouth with his tongue. "Christ, you taste good."

 

"You feel amazing, Eds," says Richie, yanking Eddie's boxers halfway down his hips. "Want you so bad--"

 

Eddie pulls back, his palm on Richie's cheek. "How do you want me?"

 

"Oh." Richie's face is already flushed, but it turns a deeper pink as he glances away, then back up at Eddie. "I'm yours, Eds. I told you that already. Anything you want, I'm in."

 

"But that's not what I asked," says Eddie. He puts a hand on Richie's stomach, the sensitive skin below the navel, and drags it slowly downward. Richie arches his back, lifts his hips, a wordless please. Eddie obliges, pulling out Richie's cock and holding it loosely. "I asked you…" He tightens his grip, slides his hand down. Richie's eyelashes flutter. "How do you want me?"

 

Richie's eyes are so wide and dark, his hair falling back from his face. Eddie feels Richie's cock pulse in his hand as Richie whispers, "I want you to fuck me."

 

Fuck. Fuck. It's the most beautiful thing Eddie has ever heard and he will not ruin this moment by getting emotional. "I'm going to, baby," he says hoarsely.

 

Richie's nightstand is well-supplied. Eddie sets a condom where he'll be able to reach it fast, then rubs lube between his fingers to get it warm. "We'll take as long as you need, okay? If we don't get there tonight it's not a big deal." Richie nods. His face is nervous but determined; his hard-on, however, is dauntless. Eddie takes a moment to savor the way he looks right now, sprawled out on the bed with his cock trembling, lips wet and open, breathing shallow.

 

"You look so good," Richie says, giving voice to the exact thought in Eddie's mind. "I can't believe I got this lucky."

 

Eddie kneels between Richie's legs and pushes his thighs apart. "We're gonna go slow," he promises again. "I'm not gonna do anything you don't want me to."

 

"I want everything," Richie says, and it goes straight through him, burning like whiskey.

 

Eddie ducks his head to kiss Richie's thigh, catching the skin gently between his teeth and hearing Richie's soft groan. Then slowly, slowly, he ventures the first slick finger into Richie's hole. Eases it in, so gently, alert for any sign of tension or pain, knowing how much Richie is trusting him right now and determined to be worthy.

 

"Christ," Richie says after a moment, and Eddie feels him relaxing.

 

"Good?" he asks.

 

To his absolute delight, Richie responds with a slight thrust of his hips, a subtle but undeniable movement that takes Eddie deeper.

 

"Good," Richie confirms, and then "More. Slow, but--more."

 

" Yes." Eddie pours a little more lube on his hand for good measure, slides his index finger out a little, and eases it back in along with his middle finger. The sound Richie makes is filthy; Eddie needs to hear it again. He curls his fingers slightly, beckoning. Richie whines in response, hands digging into the sheets beside him.

 

Richie's cock is as hard as Eddie's ever seen it, leaking onto his belly. "You're beautiful, Richie," he says. "You have such a gorgeous cock. You look so good all spread out for me." Richie likes to run his mouth, but Eddie is learning that he really likes it when someone else--when Eddie--does the talking. "Should I suck you, too?" Eddie asks, and feels Richie's answering gasp. "Should I swallow you while I'm finger-fucking you so we're both inside each other?"

 

"Eds, Jesus," says Richie worshipfully. Eddie waits, and after a moment Richie says, "Uh, rain check on that, okay? Right now I want to-- ohhh. " All Eddie has done is tense and then relax the muscles in his fingers. "Right now I want to focus on this. "

 

"That's good, baby," Eddie says. "Focus on this. How I'm making you feel."

 

"More," says Richie again, and Eddie obeys. He keeps talking, telling Richie how good he looks, how good he feels, how he's doing such a good job, and Richie pants and curses and pleads for more. Eddie is at once brutally aware of his own agonizing hardness, and totally unconcerned with it. He could stay here forever, bent between Richie's spread legs, fucking him with his hand, first slowly and then, at Richie's insistence, faster and deeper. For a moment, Eddie tries to beam a telepathic message back in time to his sixteen-year-old self: A lot of things are as bad as you're afraid they'll be, kid, but hang in there and one day you'll get to stare at Richie Tozier's exquisite cock while you're fingering his ass.

 

"Eddie, I need you," Richie says.

 

"You've got me, baby," Eddie says, knowing what Richie means but wanting him to say it out loud.

 

"You." Richie moans as Eddie thrusts again. "Your cock. In me."

 

It takes Eddie a minute to put on the condom--he hasn't worn one in a while, and one hand is all slippery--but soon he's kneeling on the bed, his chest against Richie's, his lubed-up cock just barely pressing against Richie's hole.

 

"Yeah?" he asks, just to make sure. Richie nods. His hair is a mess and his eyes are huge without his glasses. Eddie has never loved anything more.

 

"Please, Eds," he says, and Eddie pushes into him. Jesus. This is real. This is happening. Richie is staring into his eyes with a look of wonder. It feels-- so-- fucking good.

 

"Breathe, baby," Eddie reminds Richie. "Relax. Tell me if it's too much."

 

"Not too much, oh fuck, so good, not too much, more," Richie says, half coherent. Then Eddie's all the way in, hips seated firmly against Richie's ass, and they both stop and adjust to the sensation.

 

"Richie, I love you," Eddie says.

 

" Fuck me," says Richie, and who is Eddie to argue with that?

 

He rocks his hips, pushes as deep as he can, so they both groan. Richie says his name, broken in the middle, each syllable a separate sound of desperation: "Edd--ie."

 

"God, that's hot," Eddie whispers. "Say my name like that again."

 

"Edd--ie," Richie moans, in time with Eddie's thrusting. "Edd-- ie. " He digs his fingernails into Eddie's back and keeps saying his name, his thighs around Eddie's waist, their chests sweat-sliding against each other. Richie meets his thrusts with such enthusiasm that Eddie briefly can't remember which of them is fucking whom. Eddie's arms are shaking and he's on fire everywhere. His mouth hangs open, there's not enough air.

 

"Richie, Christ, I'm coming," he sobs, and Richie wraps his arms and legs around him and growls " give it to me" and the world goes white and shattered and Eddie lets go.

 

He's shivering in Richie's embrace when he remembers himself again, his arms having collapsed, his face buried in Richie's shoulder, tasting his sweat.

 

"Okay, yeah," says Richie in a shaky voice. "I'm definitely into that."

 

Eddie laughs breathlessly. "Took it like a fucking champion, baby," he says. Richie's cock, still hard and hot between them, seems to appreciate the praise. "Hang on, I'll take care of you after I--" He pulls out slowly, holding the condom in place. "That was amazing."

 

"Eds," Richie says, motionless on the bed as he watches Eddie dispose of the condom, "can we--do something?"

 

"Did we not, just now?" Eddie says.

 

"Fuck yeah we did," Richie says with a satisfied grin. "But--I mean, I know you're… well. I'm saying, can we get tested together? Because I'd really like to…" His face is red, not just from exertion or his own unsated desire. "I want to be able to… feel you come. In me."

 

Eddie probably doesn't actually fly across the room to devour Richie's mouth in a kiss, but he certainly doesn't feel his feet touch the floor. "That's the fucking hottest thing anyone's ever said, why did you save that for after I came?" he laments. "Yes, of course, baby, of course we can, but it's gotta wait a few minutes because right now I need to suck your dick."

 

Richie laughs, the sound deepening into a moan as Eddie drops down between his legs again, catching the red, swollen head in his mouth. He's close, Eddie realizes with a thrill, incredibly close, and he wonders if someday he might be able to make Richie come just by fucking him. He opens his mouth wider, taking Richie deeper, to the back of his throat. Richie makes a strangled sound.

 

Eddie lifts his head, enjoying the wet pop of his mouth releasing Richie's dick. "Don't hold back," he urges. He reaches up to take Richie's hand and guides it into his own hair. "Use me, baby. I got what I wanted, now you take what you need."

 

"Your hand," Richie gasps, and Eddie needs no more prompting to slide two fingers into Richie's hole, even as Richie's pulling his head back down. Richie thrusts into his mouth--too hard, too fast, Eddie can't breathe, but he moans encouragement and curls his fingers inside Richie, and then Richie's hand in his hair is yanking, wrenching, losing control and Eddie is gulping frantically as Richie comes down his throat.

 

It feels like Richie is coming for hours, and by the end Eddie has tears in his eyes--from gagging, he tells himself, definitely not from being a melting puddle of feelings at the pure joy of being in this man's bed. He crawls up Richie's body and hugs him hard, his chest against Richie's broad back while they both slowly catch their breath.

 

"Remember when I said I was hungry?" Eddie says finally.

 

"Yeah," says Richie.

 

"Well, now I'm fucking starving," he says. "How about that ramen break?"

 

"Break, huh?" Richie catches Eddie's hand where it's stroking his chest hair and brings it up to his lips for a kiss. "Pretty confident for a guy your age."

 

Yeah, Eddie thinks happily. Pretty damn confident.

Chapter Text

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."

Chapter Text

Richie could swear it gets five degrees colder in his dining room after Eddie makes his suggestion.

"What, like a seance?" Bill is probably trying to sound dismissive, but he just sounds nervous. It's no more far-fetched than anything else they've seen and done together.

"Yeah, dickhead, like a seance," Eddie says defensively. "You have a better idea?"

"And what if something that's not Stan shows up, huh?" Mike asks. "What if that's just inviting It to come back and fuck with us?" He's tense, bordering on angry, and Richie knows he's thinking about his parents. There are so many strings that It can pull, so many ways into their hearts. Why offer It an open door?

But even as Richie considers the dangers, his mind is skipping past them, racing with joy at the thought of talking to Stan again. Joy and relief, because the first thing Richie is going to say is "Stan, I am so sorry," and even if Stan rejects his apology, at least he'll hear it.

Richie shouldn't have forgotten about Stan. Stan shouldn't have died afraid and alone. It doesn't matter that magic amnesia was involved; Richie wasn't there, and it's fucking wrong. He doesn't need forgiveness, he just needs Stan to know how sorry he is. There's nothing he wouldn't risk for the chance to apologize. He loves Eddie for suggesting it. He already loved Eddie infinitely, with every molecule of him, but infinity is ever-expanding and he can always love Eddie more.

"We have to do it," he says. "Stan can help us." He doesn't know whether the second part is true, but if Stan doesn't have the answer, they'll figure something else out. The first thing they have to do, the thing he needs to do so badly he's almost shaking, is talk to Stan.

"Is that--" Bev presses her lips together. "Is that kind?"

"Kind?" The question seems to baffle Eddie as much as it does Richie.

"I just mean, well." Bev is speaking slowly, carefully, but her hands are clenched together on the table, squeezing her knuckles white. "Stan chose… not to come back. He chose not to be a part of this. Maybe it's not fair to…"

"Fuck that," says Richie. "He was scared. He wasn't thinking straight. He would want to be here with us."

Beverly has tears in her eyes when she looks up at him. "I hate it too, Richie," she says. "I hate the decision he made. But it was his decision, and maybe… maybe we need to respect that."

"No," says Richie, but Bill cuts him off.

"There's no way," he says. "It's too dangerous. We're not messing with summoning the dead. We might think we're talking to Stan until… until it's too late."

"So you're fine with just kicking back and forgetting about all of us?" Richie spits. "Fine, better safe than sorry, no reason to risk anything for the sake of your friends who almost fucking died for you, twice--" He's not sure where all this anger is coming from, but suddenly he's seething. After dragging them all into this to begin with, Bill wants to turn around and start exercising caution now? How can he care so little about preserving the bond between them?

But of course, Bill has Audra. Everyone and everything Richie loves in the world is either right here in this room, or lying in some funeral home in Georgia. The others would all be fine without him, he realizes. Ben and Bev with their prestigious careers, Mike with his plans to travel the world. Even Eddie has found his way into and out of one marriage already, and if Richie disappeared from his life tomorrow, Eddie could start over with someone new. If they forget him, everyone else will be fine, but Richie will be left with nothing at all.

It burns. It's humiliating, to realize how much he needs them all, so much more than they need him. He takes his glasses off and swipes away angry tears.

"Don't be an asshole, Richie. That's not what I'm saying," says Bill. "I want to fix this just as much as you do. All I said is that's not how we're gonna do it. We have to come up with a different plan."

"This is the fucking plan," Richie says.

Everyone else is silent, staring from Richie to Bill and back, and Richie thinks wildly of when they were kids and Bill punched him in the face. Richie deserved it then and he probably deserves it now, but Bill just shoves back his chair in disgust and storms out of the room. Giving Richie a baleful look, Mike stands up and goes after him.

"God dammit," says Richie, and drops his head down on the table. Eddie lays a tentative hand on his shoulder, as if he half expects Richie to shrug him off, but instead Richie grabs Eddie's hand in his own and clings to it shamelessly.

"You okay, Richie?" Ben asks.

Richie lifts his head. "No, obviously I'm a shithead."

"Yeah, we know, but are you okay?" says Eddie.

"It was your idea," Richie says. "I was just backing you up."

"Dude, I can stand up for myself," says Eddie, "which I think you fucking know. It's not gonna kill me if Bill thinks my idea sucks."

Richie knows, and he knows that's not why he got so upset, but he can't find the words for the real reason.

"No one's giving up," says Bev. "I think Bill is right to be cautious. We can't just risk everything on the first idea someone throws out there. We'll keep thinking and come up with a plan we're all okay with."

Richie nods, but not because he agrees. He's just done arguing about it. Let the rest of them brainstorm until they run out of momentum and lose their grasp on each other. Richie knows what he needs to do.

Eventually Mike prods Bill back into the dining room, where he and Richie half-ass their apologies. No one is in the mood to keep the meeting going, so they make plans to get together again in two days and hug their goodbyes. As pissed as he is at Bill, Richie still wraps his arms around him tight, pressing the smaller man's head into his chest.

I love you so much, you asshole, he thinks fiercely. I'm not letting you leave me behind again.

"Well, that went terribly," Richie announces cheerfully as the door closes on Ben and Beverly.

Mike sighs. "You know, you didn't have to jump down Bill's throat like that."

"If I were going to jump down a straight guy's throat, I think I could do better than Bill," Richie says, but it's mostly reflex. His mind is elsewhere. "Look, I'm sorry I fucked things up. This is why I shouldn't be in charge. People look at me, I say stupid shit. It's my only marketable skill."

"That's my boyfriend you're talking about, fuckface," says Eddie. "Also, nobody said you were in charge."

"Who else is gonna be, if it's not me and you, Eds?" Richie wants so badly to reach out for Eddie, to be touched, held, but instead he curls his shoulders inward, self-protective. He's the one who made everyone mad; he can't ask Eddie to comfort him. "No one else is even going to remember who I am in a few days. I don't-- I know Bev says not to rush, but I don't know how much time we have."

Eddie goes to him without being asked. He threads his arms through Richie's and pulls him close. "They're not going to forget you."

"They did once. You did." He knows it's not fair--he forgot them all, too, so why does he feel it so personally? Maybe because he always expected it, always expected to slip through the cracks, to be left behind. To disappear.

What are you afraid of, Richie?

But Eddie says, "I might not have remembered you, but I never forgot you."

"The fuck," Richie murmurs into Eddie's hair. "Is this a riddle?"

"No, asshole. I just… always knew there was something missing, even if I couldn't say what. There was always a hole. Don't you dare make a dick joke," he adds before Richie can even open his mouth. "Everyone I was with, even when I was with Myra, I'd think 'this isn't quite as good.' But I could never think what it wasn't as good as, so I convinced myself it was just a fantasy, just me having unrealistic expectations." He tips his head back and looks up at Richie. "Even when I couldn't remember you, no one else could compare."

"I'm not sure I need to be part of this conversation," Mike says. "Maybe I'll go for a walk."

Richie is about to snark a reply, but Eddie cuts him off. "You know what, I think we could stand to get some fresh air," he says. "You hang out here, Mikey. We'll give you some space."

Richie follows Eddie out to the car. Without discussion, he heads for the passenger seat so Eddie can drive. "Do you want to go get a drink?" he suggests, even though it's like noon.

"Nah," says Eddie, and doesn't elaborate. Richie accepts it and leans his forehead against the window, watching the city go by. Eddie seems to be making turns at random, just putting distance between them and the house, and soon they're in a neighborhood Richie doesn't recognize. It's commercial, but run down; the storefronts are faded, some standing empty, paint flaking in the sun.

Eddie pulls into a parking spot. "We're here," he announces.

"Here" is an old Victorian house on a small square of dead grass. A sign hanging from the dilapidated awning says "Blue Moon Metaphysical Books." Richie stares. Has Eddie come here by some preternatural instinct, following whatever weird sense of direction has guided him since they were young?

Eddie rolls his eyes at Richie's confused expression. "I googled occult bookstores," he explains. "I don't know how to hold a seance, and I'm guessing you don't either."

"Why?"

"Because I remember the look you get when someone tells you not to do something and you're gonna do it the second they're not looking," says Eddie. "I can't stop you from being stupid, but I can make sure you're not alone."

Richie swallows tears. He gets out of the car and walks around to the driver's side, opening the door for Eddie. Then he pulls Eddie out and into his arms, crushing their mouths together in a kiss. Eddie's hands come up to Richie's cheeks, and he kisses back with all the feeling Richie's afraid to put into words.

Richie wraps his arms around Eddie's lower back and squeezes so hard he nearly lifts Eddie off his feet. "I love you," he whispers as their lips part. "Thanks for being stupid with me."

Inside, the store smells like dust, mildew, and patchouli. It's unpleasant, but at the same time oddly comforting. The shelves are too close together, arranged haphazardly with few right angles or clear, straight paths. Among the books are smeary glass cases with a strange assortment of items inside: a stone bowl, a knife with an ornate handle, what looks like a jar full of broken seashells.

"What are we looking for?" Richie asks.

"I don't know," says Eddie. The books are mostly used and don't appear to be organized according to any system Richie can discern. He finds a deck of cards that look almost normal, except each face card has the head of a drooling hyena. Ugh. Next to that is a book on medicinal herbs, then one called The Realm of Love: A Guide to Astral Sex.

"Hey, Eds," he says, grabbing The Realm of Love and holding it up. "Should we take up a new hobby?"

Eddie makes a face like he's trying not to laugh, which is only a little bit hot, Richie tells himself. "Get your head out of your astral, Tozier. We have an actual goal here."

A glint catches Richie's eye. On a high shelf that he almost hadn't noticed, a crystal figurine of a turtle prisms what little sunlight has managed to infiltrate the store into rainbows.

The rainbows dance on the cover of a book, tucked in by itself beside the turtle. It's bound in blue leather so dark that the black ink of the title is barely visible. But when Richie grabs the book and brings it down to eye level, he can see it clearly.

Guidance from the Dead.

Chapter Text

The book is practically singing to Richie from the paper bag around his wrist. Eddie spent considerable time perusing it before they paid for it, trying to ascertain that it wasn't a scam or wouldn't open a portal to the nether world or whatever, but the moment Richie's hands touched its cover, he knew this book was coming home with them. It's right. He feels it the way he feels that being together is the antidote for forgetting. This book is going to allow him to talk to Stan.

 

Richie wants to run straight home and put Guidance from the Dead to use, but Eddie points out that Mike is probably there and will, if not actively interfere, certainly voice his reservations. Eddie seems to feel the same urgency Richie does, the need to act before the memory loss gets worse, and Richie is pathetically grateful that he's not alone in this. Still, they're both aware that they are acting without the authorization of the rest of the Losers, and that it's probably best to keep a low profile--until and unless they succeed in contacting Stan.

 

Instead of going home, they walk around the neighborhood until they find a park, a modest plot of grass with a fountain in the middle. Eddie leads the way to a wooden bench painted fading green. The sun-warmed boards against Richie's back and legs are good; the way Eddie nestles beside him, fitting perfectly in the crook of Richie's arm, is even better.

 

"If they all go on without us, at least we'll have this," he says.

 

Eddie stiffens. "Dude, stop that," he says.

 

"What?" Richie turns red and yanks his arm back from around Eddie. "Shit, I'm sorry, I didn't--" He doesn't know what the rules are yet, what Eddie's comfortable with in public, how far he can go without embarrassing him.

 

"Not that, dickhead." Eddie grabs Richie's arm again and arranges it around his own shoulders, turning his head to press a soft kiss on Richie's knuckles. "Do that all the time. Why else do I have a tall boyfriend? I mean stop talking like everyone else is just--a lost cause. No one's leaving us behind, okay?"

 

Richie kisses Eddie on the top of his head, but says nothing.

 

"It's just some weird leftover magic bullshit," says Eddie. "They're not forgetting because they don't care. You're taking this shit really personally and you need to cut it out."

 

"That's, uh, kinda funny coming from you."

 

Eddie scowls up at him. "What the fuck is that supposed to mean?"

 

"Nothing," says Richie. "Nothing whatsoever. No one has ever accused you of taking anything too personally."

 

"Don't think that just because I'm in love with you means I won't kill you in your sleep," Eddie says, but he's smiling, and that smile pulls Richie in like an open door.

 

It's only been a few days, and given enough time Richie's sure that kissing Eddie will begin to feel commonplace--maybe a thousand, hundred thousand years from now. Today, though, it's still a revelation on par with the beginning of the universe. He experiences it in layers of feeling, each brilliantly clear: Eddie's weight shifting toward him, Eddie's hand on his neck, Eddie's lips, Eddie's breath, Eddie's tongue. Richie takes his time responding, layer by layer. Weight, warmth, hands, lips, sigh, tongue, until he's trembling with feverish intensity, skin prickling red in the early afternoon sun. Richie traces Eddie's jawline with his thumb and feels his head tilt in response, wordlessly directing Richie's hand farther back. Overjoyed to oblige, Richie slides his fingers into Eddie's hair, then closes them into a fist, pulling gently.

 

The sound Eddie makes in reply is deep and raw, and yeah, they're definitely approaching the limit of what's acceptable on a public park bench in broad daylight. Richie forces himself to break the kiss, resting his forehead against Eddie's. "I feel like we came here to have a conversation we can't have with Mike around," he says.

 

"Isn't that what we're doing?" Eddie's hand drifts down to Richie's hip, fingertips just barely curling into the waistband of Richie's jeans.

 

"Mmm." Richie feels his resolve softening, which is kind of ironic because-- "Hey, no, stop, we have planning to do. Forces of darkness and shit. We need, like, supplies and--"

 

"Oh, I have supplies," Eddie says, arching his eyebrows.

 

Okay, that does it. Richie grabs Eddie around the waist and drags him into his lap. It doesn't go quite as smoothly as he envisioned--there's briefly an elbow in his face, then a knee in his ribs--but then Eddie's laughing and straddling his thighs, fingers laced behind Richie's neck.

 

"You're cute when you're horny," Eddie says.

 

Richie laughs, feeling out of breath. "I'm always horny when you're around."

 

Eddie grins triumphantly. "Guess that's why you're always cute." He punctuates it with a little roll of his hips, and Jesus, Richie must be fucking precious.

 

He lets himself get a little distracted then, since Eddie's throat is right at eye level, enticingly framed by the v-neck of his soft gray shirt. Richie puts his mouth to the spot within the very point of the v, not quite kissing the hot skin there, just touching it with his lips. He likes the way Eddie's thighs clench at that, so he does it again: brushing his lips across the hollow of collarbone, then repeating the motion with the tip of his tongue. Eddie's pulse speeds up in response, and Richie chases it.

 

"Fuck, Richie," Eddie gasps. He grabs Richie's hand and presses it against the bulge in his jeans.

 

"Want to?" Richie whispers into his neck.

 

"Oh, now who's not focused?"

 

"I'm extremely focused," Richie says. Eddie lets go of his hand, but Richie leaves it where it is, moving almost imperceptibly. Although Eddie seems to perceive it just fine.

 

"We really need to take this somewhere more private," says Eddie.

 

"We have a car," points out Richie.

 

Eddie smiles. "Oh, yeah? You want to screw in the backseat like teenagers?"

 

"We never got to," Richie starts, and out of nowhere the wave of regret and loss catches him broadside. He chokes up, can't finish his sentence.

 

"No, you're right." Eddie dips his head down to kiss Richie on the lips, quiet and understanding. "We never got to be teenagers in love." He ruffles Richie's hair. "I wish I could've taken you to prom."

 

Richie laughs, trying not to think about their actual prom night, which he spent getting stoned in the clubhouse by himself. That night was still three years away from the first time Richie would kiss a boy. "Would you have brought me a flower?"

 

"Would you have put out?"

 

"Oh my God, Eds, if you'd suggested it in high school I would have died on the spot."

 

"Well…" Eddie pushes his head back, and this kiss is less sweet, more urgent. "My curfew's not for a while yet."

 

They hurry back to the car, Richie swaying on his feet like he's tipsy. "Want to put on some music to set the mood?" he suggests. Eddie fiddles with his phone, and after a moment, Tracy Chapman's voice comes out of the Hummer's speaker, singing about a fast car and a ticket to anywhere.

 

"This is your idea of a sexy song?" Richie asks.

 

Eddie shoots him a death look. "Well, what the fuck would you prefer, then, dickwad?"

 

Richie lets his smile break through. "I would have picked exactly the same thing, and you are literally my perfect man."

 

"Oh, you're going to pay for that," Eddie promises.

 

They leave the city and drive into the hills. It doesn't take long to find the perfect spot--a dirt parking lot, neglected and overgrown, at the trailhead of a hiking path that appears long forgotten. Richie dashes around the car to open Eddie's door, but Eddie is already scrambling over the driver's seat into the back of the car, ungainly and adorable.

 

Richie slams the back door open, and Eddie's sprawled in the seat, cheeks red, breathing hard, reaching to unzip his jeans, and he looks like fucking Christmas morning.

 

"What are you staring at, Tozier?" he says. "Get on me."

 

"Oh fuck," says Richie, and complies. He's definitely not a teenager anymore--trying to crawl on top of Eddie while skinning out of his jeans at the same time nearly results in him dislocating his shoulder, and he's very aware of how long it's been since he's had the car vacuumed. Still, in a moment they're lying together, Richie's legs scrunched up to fit in the backseat, Eddie's arms tangled around him, both of their pants having been summarily flung toward the front of the car.

 

Eddie rubs his nose against Richie's. "Hi."

 

"Thank you," says Richie, which is maybe a weird thing to say under the circumstances, but he means it more than anything. Eddie is here with him. Eddie is not letting Richie fall away into the void. No amount of gratitude Richie could express would ever be enough.

 

"Haven't even done anything to thank me for yet," says Eddie. Then he arches his back, moving underneath Richie in a way that makes him feel like giving thanks and demanding more all at once.

 

"Thinking about you since yesterday," Richie says, warm in Eddie's ear. "I can still fucking feel you. I want to feel you again."

 

Eddie gives an amazed laugh. "God, you're greedy. One time, and you can't wait for more." The words stoke the already blazing fire at Richie's core, and he leans forward, rutting helplessly against Eddie's groin.

 

"Keep talking," Richie manages to say, his face red.

 

"Yeah? You like it when I call you greedy?" Eddie's voice is quiet, musing. "What if I call you a slut?"

 

Richie whimpers an affirmation without meeting Eddie's eyes.

 

"No, look at me, baby," Eddie says. "I want to make sure this is okay."

 

Richie pushes himself up onto his hands, staring down into Eddie's face. As soon as Richie's weight lifts from his torso, Eddie reaches down between them, shoving fabric aside until he has both their cocks wrapped in one broad hand. Richie trembles at the feeling of Eddie's soft skin on his own.

 

"Do you want me to call you a slut?" Eddie asks, low in his throat, and Richie breathes "Yes," even though the syllable leaves him feeling like his whole body is scraped raw.

 

"Yes, you do," says Eddie, and then he's moving his hand up and down, slick with both of their precome. "You want me to notice how desperate you are for my cock, don't you? I notice, baby. I see how you can't get enough of me. You want my cock all the time, don't you, slut? You need to be fucked so bad."

 

Richie is absolutely incapable of forming a coherent response. Eddie's hand, Eddie's cock, Eddie's voice--it's all he can do to keep breathing, and even that's getting more erratic by the second.

 

"All it took was one fuck to turn you into my gorgeous, greedy slut," Eddie says. "You're so fucking perfect. You were made for me to fuck you. Now that I know what a slut you are, I'm gonna give it to you all the time."

 

"Yeah, yeah, yeah," gasps Richie. He's suddenly aware of just how fucking awkward this is--two grown men folded into a parked car, jerking off and talking dirty with their shirts still on--but that awareness just makes it hotter, reminds him anew how shamelessly he needs Eddie. There's a slow explosion unfurling inside his skin with every filthy thing Eddie says.

 

"I know you're dying to feel me inside you again," Eddie groans. His cock pulses along with Richie's, furiously hot, both of them thrusting into Eddie's fist. "I know you want to feel me come in you, so you don't forget you're fucking mine."

 

"Jesus, Eds, yours, all yours."

 

"Such a dirty slut, and all for me," says Eddie, looking up at Richie with those huge brown eyes, and Christ, he's close. Eddie's hand speeds up, Richie's hips twitching, but it's not until Eddie says "Come for me like a good little slut" that Richie's arms give out and he falls over the edge of infinity, moaning Eddie's name. Eddie's right behind him, below him, around him, above him, Eddie is the sky and the whole universe and they're coming together and Richie sees stars, even though he never looks away from Eddie's eyes.

Chapter Text

When they get home, Mike is at the dining room table with his computer, a notebook, and a haphazard stack of books. There are two half-full cups of coffee beside him. He glances up as they walk in, and Eddie sees him register their dishevelment, but he doesn't comment. "Did you get some groceries?" he asks instead, pointing to the paper bag Richie is carrying.

 

"Wine," says Richie, which is true but not the whole truth. In addition to two bottles of wine, the bag holds Guidance from the Dead and all the supplies the book said they needed: a round mirror, a small sharp knife, candles, salt. "I know my kitchen is pretty sparse, but I have fucking salt," Richie had said, and Eddie had replied "We're not summoning Stanley's spirit with fucking Morton's, dickhead" and made him get a little glass jar of sustainably harvested sea salt. They also stopped at a mall, where Eddie bought two pairs of jeans and a stack of t-shirts without bothering to try them on.

 

"How's the research coming?" Eddie asks Mike.

 

Mike shrugs expressively. "I don't even really know what I'm looking for," he says. "At least in Derry all the crazy shit was local, and you could usually track down an old lady who heard about it from her grandfather or something. This…" He gives a half-hearted smile. "Turns out there's a lot of research on memories and memory loss out there. It's overwhelming even before you get into the supernatural stuff."

 

"How can we help?" Eddie says. If he's honest, and even though it was his idea, the prospect of a seance makes him nervous--all the more so because he and Richie won't have the rest of the Losers to back them up. He wouldn't be at all disappointed if Mike came up with another idea.

 

But he also knows Richie is terrified. He felt the fear in him earlier, the way it bubbled into anger, and he knows it's still humming beneath the surface. Richie is good at living with fear, keeping it at bay with jokes. It's a skill forged in Derry and honed over years of shame and denial. Eddie has some idea of how frightened Richie must be if he can't laugh through it, and it claws at him. He can't let Richie carry that fear alone. If there's even a chance Stan can help, Eddie is willing to risk a lot.

 

"Braver than you think," he remembers Richie saying. Eddie wants it to be true.

 

"I don't have a clear enough idea what I'm doing to ask you for help," says Mike. "Unless you want to start digging out another smoke hole in the backyard."

 

"Shit, no, I don't own this place," says Richie, and Eddie looks at him in surprise.

 

"Why the fuck don't you own a house? You can afford it."

 

Richie shrugs. "Never got around to it, I guess. Or never felt sure I'd want to stay in one place long enough. I haven't… spent a lot of time picturing a future for myself."

 

That makes Eddie catch his breath, but he still says "So you're just throwing money away on rent every month? Richie, that's stupid."

 

Richie trails his thumb along Eddie's jawline, smiling, and Eddie's heart flutters. "I love it when you call me stupid. Let's go house hunting together."

 

"Thank you for reminding me that I need to go house hunting," says Mike.

 

"But we'd miss you!" Richie protests.

 

Mike gives them a long, even look, and Eddie remembers with a sharp rush of heat that there's a gigantic hickey on his neck. "Would you, though?" is all Mike says.

 

Richie surprises them all by offering to make dinner, and still further by turning out a pretty decent eggplant parmesan, though Eddie is gratified that it's only decent. Eddie knows how to cook and is looking forward to showing off; in fact, he's plotting the irresistible meal he's going to surprise Richie with, as soon as he can find time to go grocery shopping alone. He compliments the eggplant, smug in the knowledge that Richie is going to be impressed.

 

They sit around for a while drinking one of the bottles of wine Richie bought and shooting the shit, but Mike starts yawning and disappears into the guest room before it gets too late. Then Richie and Eddie are sitting alone in the dining room, and Eddie suddenly feels first-date nervous.

 

"Want to go to bed?" he says, trying for a light tone but landing somewhere north of chirpy. Richie flashes him a small but genuine smile and nods.

 

They undress themselves instead of each other, then curl up without speaking in the middle of the bed. Just like last night, Eddie is on the left side, nearer the window. It's the opposite of the side he slept on with Myra, and he likes that, the newness of it. Richie faces him, laces his fingers through Eddie's where his hand rests on the pillow.

 

"We have a little time before midnight," says Richie, but without lechery.

 

"Nap?" Eddie suggests.

 

"I don't think I can, but if you want to sleep I'm happy to lie here watching you."

 

"Fucking weirdo." Eddie kisses him. "No, I'm too keyed up. Let's just talk. What's the best movie you saw in the years we were apart?"

 

Richie starts talking about some horror movie Eddie would never watch in a million years, about cave explorers and monsters deep in the earth, and it sounds awful but somehow after a few minutes Eddie is promising to watch it with him. "Why do you still like all that scary shit, though?" he asks. "After everything? I feel like I want to spend the rest of my life watching nothing but Disney movies. Ones I've already seen, so I won't get too nervous."

 

Richie laughs. "I mean, fair. I guess I just… I don't know if this makes sense, but it's kind of relaxing to be scared of something I know isn't real. It's like a vacation from my regular fears."

 

Eddie must make some kind of a face at that, because Richie says, "Yes, as a matter of fact, I do see a therapist about my anxiety."

 

"I wasn't going to say that!" says Eddie. Then, after a pause, "But I'm glad."

 

"I don't know how much good it's done so far, but that's probably because I haven't told her I'm gay or have massive clown-related childhood trauma. She's working from an incomplete picture."

 

"What does that even leave to talk about in therapy?"

 

"Hey, I have lots of issues," says Richie. "I'll have you know that I'm an absolute fucking mess."

 

"And yet you're still the most incredible person I know." Eddie knows Richie's shitty at taking compliments, so he doesn't linger on it. "Do you think you'll mention any of this at your next appointment?"

 

"Oh, yeah, it's gonna be fun." In a cheerful sing-song, Richie says "So I didn't do those breathing exercises you talked about, but I came out, my boyfriend moved in with me, I straight-up killed a dude, and my hometown is now a pile of smoldering rubble. What's new with you?"

 

"I'm sure she'll be impressed by how efficiently you're managing your time, at least."

 

"What about you?" Richie asks.

 

"Oh, I'm definitely impressed by your time management. Especially considering how many orgasms you've given me in the last three days."

 

"No, I mean--I'm obviously really happy about giving you orgasms, but I was--"

 

"Yeah, I know. Therapy." Eddie sighs. "I've given it a shot a couple times, but it never really stuck."

 

"How come?" Richie has such beautiful eyes, Eddie thinks. It's the way they focus, the way he makes Eddie feel spotlit, like the most fascinating thing in the world. When Richie Tozier looks at him, he stays looked at.

 

"I think I wasn't ready to put in the work. I couldn't really picture being happy, so I didn't want to bother trying." He scoots closer to Richie so he can sling an arm over his waist. "I should try again, though. It's suddenly seeming a lot more worth the effort."

 

"Shit, I don't know," says Richie. "You're already hotter and dress better than me. If you get all emotionally stable, too, my inferiority complex will be off the charts."

 

"You're literally rich and famous," Eddie points out.

 

"Maybe not for long. I might have flushed my career when I came out. It could all be downhill from here."

 

"Well, you'll still have a big dick, and that's what really matters," says Eddie.

 

Richie yelps with laughter. God, Eddie loves that sound. If he had to choose just one for the rest of his life, he might take making Richie laugh over making him come. Maybe. He thinks about the look on Richie's face in the backseat earlier, and decides it's a good thing he doesn't have to choose.

 

"I love you, Eds," says Richie. His eyes are bright. "I'm never going to get over how good it feels to say that. I never thought I'd be able to."

 

"I'm never going to get over how good it feels to hear it, so that works," Eddie says. It's not like Richie's the first person who's ever spoken those words to him, but Eddie knows no one else has ever meant it like Richie does. Richie doesn't just love the person he expects Eddie to be. He loves expansively, loves all the possibilities Eddie contains and all the people he might someday become. When Richie says "I love you," Eddie feels free.

 

"Probably getting close to time," Richie says, too casual.

 

Eddie takes a deep breath. "Richie, I'm scared," he says.

 

"We don't have to," Richie says immediately, and Eddie loves him so much it's hard to breathe.

 

"No, I want to," he says, which isn't quite true, but he wants to do what Richie needs. "I'm just scared. I can be scared and still do it."

 

"My brave Eds," says Richie. Eddie pushes himself up on an elbow so he can lean over and kiss Richie. Their lips meet soft and slow, and Richie rests his warm hand on Eddie's waist.

 

"Okay, let's go," Eddie says.

 

Richie pours the salt in a circle on the floor. Eddie lights four candles and places them inside the salt circle at the cardinal directions, pausing for a brief but intense whispered argument about which wall of the bedroom faces north. Eddie wins, obviously, because he's fucking right, and they sit in the circle with their legs folded, facing each other. Richie holds the wine and a glass; Eddie, the knife. Guidance from the Dead lies open on the floor between them, and beside it is the mirror.

 

"Okay." Richie takes a steadying breath, and Eddie does the same. They lock eyes, breathing in unison. Inhale, deep; exhale, slow. Inhale, deep; exhale, slow. As they settle into a rhythm, everything that isn't Richie's eyes goes shimmery and strange, and Eddie's fingertips start to tingle. He grips the knife tighter.

 

"We ask for help from beyond the veil," Richie reads from the book. "I'm Richie Tozier and this is Eddie Kaspbrak, and we seek guidance from Stanley Uris. We welcome no other spirit to our circle. Stanley Uris, those you loved and left behind have need of your wisdom. If you hear us, come to us."

 

"Please," Eddie adds, because Stan never responded well to being told what to do. Richie makes a face like he's trying not to laugh. It looks extremely out of place on him.

 

"We offer you wine," says Richie, pouring generously into the glass.

 

"And blood," says Eddie, proud that his voice doesn't shake, much. They only need a drop, the book says. The blade is sharp and barely stings as he splits open the spiral of his thumbprint.

 

Eddie holds out his hand and lets the blood drip from his thumb onto the surface of the mirror. There's a hissing sound, and Eddie chokes on a shriek, because the blood is sizzling, and why the fuck is it doing that?

 

"It's okay, Eds," Richie whispers.

 

The blood on the mirror turns black, like it's burning. From that one drop, blackness spreads until it covers the whole glass.

 

"We seek guidance from Stanley Uris. We welcome no other spirit to our circle," Richie repeats, sounding nervous now.

 

The blackness seethes. It writhes. Eddie recoils from it, fighting the urge to jump up and run. Instead he reaches for Richie, almost knocking over the wine glass. Richie grabs his hand and holds on, hard.

 

Then the black surface of the mirror goes still. Richie's fingers tighten around Eddie's. He doesn't seem to notice that Eddie's thumb is bleeding onto his hand. From the stillness, a face is looking up at them.

 

"Jesus fuck," Eddie breathes, as though this isn't exactly what they were hoping and planning for. "It's fucking Stan."

 

Stan--older than Eddie last saw him, of course, but so much the same--gives a little shrug, like ta-da!

 

"Holy shit, Stan the Man." Eddie doesn't know when Richie started crying. "Stan, I'm so sorry. I should have fucking been there."

 

Stan doesn't answer. His brow furrows. He looks worried.

 

"Can you talk to us?" Eddie asks. Stan appears to think about it for a moment, then shakes his head.

 

"Well, shit." Richie is still weeping, and Eddie might have to join him. It's almost worse than Stan being gone, to be able to see him but not hear his voice, not ask whether he's okay in--wherever he is now. Whatever comes next.

 

Stan smiles at him. A feeling of rightness, of peace, spreads through Eddie's chest. After a moment, it occurs to him that this is a kind of answer. Stan somehow understood what he was thinking, and he's reassuring Eddie. Stan is at peace. Later, he knows, he'll second-guess this intuition, but right now it's powerfully convincing.

 

"We miss you, Stan," says Eddie.

 

"We don't want them to forget you," says Richie, sounding broken.

 

"Can you help us figure out what's going on?" Eddie asks. "What's causing everyone else to forget?"

 

The feeling of peace dissipates. In its place, Eddie feels a sudden, profound sadness. No, he thinks. I take it back. I don't want to know.

 

Stanley fades from the mirror, and the blackness swirls, then resolves into a new shape. It's the answer--or at least part of the answer.

 

Not what's causing the forgetting, but who.

 

It's Richie's face.

Chapter Text

I fucking knew it, Richie thinks.

 

It feels like when Mike called to summon him back to Derry, like remembering something he had never quite forgotten, something that was always part of him. It's astonishing, but at the same time, he's been expecting it. Of course this is his fault.

 

"How?" he asks, at the same moment as Eddie says "Why?" Eddie hasn't pulled his hand away from Richie's yet--he must be frozen from shock, but the disgust will hit soon, Richie knows.

 

Hasn't he been waiting for this ever since the cave, for the thing that would take it all away? Hasn't he guessed there's a catch? Richie Tozier doesn't get the boy of his dreams, not really, not to keep. Things don't work that way. Not even magic works that way.

 

The Richie in the mirror stares up at him, and Richie feels like he's falling into that image. There, in the dark of his reflected eyes, something is gleaming.

 

Richie's stomach lurches. The fucking deadlights.

 

As though the mirror hears his thought, its picture dissolves again, then reforms into Eddie's face, blood spilling from his mouth, Eddie dying in that dirty hole in the ground.

 

"Shit," hisses the real Eddie. Richie looks down at their linked hands and sees Eddie's blood drying on his skin, and time turns inside out. In the mirror, Richie kneels over Eddie, lifting his nearly lifeless body, kissing him. Now he sees what he couldn't see before, because he was inside it: a horrible light taking over his face, shining through his skin and bones, rendering him skeletal, grotesque.

 

That's what happened when I stole power from It, he realizes, his breath hitching in his chest. That's what I became.

 

That's what I am now.

 

Of course this is why the others are forgetting. It's not an accident; it's a shield. He has taken from the monster, and now he is the monster. It lives in him. It's protecting Itself by erasing him from the others' minds, so they won't see It lurking inside Richie, gathering the strength to--what?

 

In the mirror: Eddie bleeding out, Richie kissing him. That ugly light that oozes from Richie's face encompasses Eddie, envelops him, and Eddie's wounds begin to disappear.

 

Eddie begins to live again.

 

Of course, thinks Richie with a sick feeling of free fall. It wanted Eddie. It still wants Eddie, and Richie cheated It out of Its bounty--but not forever. It's stowed away inside Richie, waiting for the others to forget, to look away, waiting for Eddie to be unprotected, alone with Richie and the light behind his eyes.

 

Richie's head swirls with shame and sadness. Christ, he couldn't have played into Its hands any more perfectly--uprooting Eddie from his carefully established life, bringing him to a new city where no one knows him or will miss him. How elegantly It has used Eddie's love, the best and purest thing in Richie's life, against him--

 

Unless--

 

Unless the love, too, is Its doing.

 

As soon as the thought crosses his mind, Richie is overcome with despair. Of course, he thinks again. Doesn't that make much more sense? Did he really let himself believe that Eddie fucking Kaspbrak was in love with him? If It can erase a whole childhood from his memory, surely It could conjure up a little infatuation for long enough to get Eddie where It wanted him.

 

And Richie didn't question it, didn't wonder whether it was all too fast, too easy, too exactly like he always dreamed. He just. Went along with it, because he wanted it so much it broke his stupid fucking brain.

 

Richie Tozier is the monster.

 

"Stan," he says, drowning in rage and self-hatred, "Stan, how do I kill It?"

 

The image in the mirror changes again. It's the house on Neibolt Street. It shakes. It crumbles. It collapses. The earth swallows it up.

 

Then it's the house Richie grew up in, walls cracking like eggshells, falling, falling through what used to be solid Earth.

 

The high school. The alley where they doctored Ben's stomach. Bev's apartment building, fire escapes falling away like water shaken from a dog's coat. The Standpipe. Image after image of Derry, in the moment of wreckage.

 

Richie understands what Stan is telling him. Derry was where it started and Derry is where it has to end. Richie smuggled something out of Derry that was supposed to die there; now it's time for him to bring it back.

 

He's made it out of Derry alive twice. He doesn't think his luck will hold on the third try.

 

But that's okay, as long as he can protect Eddie. As long as he can keep that light from finding Eddie again. If he'd had the choice, back in the cave, to exchange one life for the other, he wouldn't have hesitated an instant. This is an even better trade, really, because he got to have these few days living in a dream world with the man he loves.

 

And now he'll carry the poison inside him back to the filthy well it came from, and he won't let it hurt anyone again.

 

He hopes that when everything is over, his friends will remember him.

 

Derry is still imploding in the mirror when Richie finally drags his eyes back to Eddie's face. He sees none of what he expects there: not fear, not rejection. Eddie hasn't understood the message Stan gave them, Richie realizes. He's going to have to explain.

 

He braces himself for how much this is going to hurt.

 

And then, instead of speaking, he vomits all over the mirror.




*****




"Oh, fuck my life, " Eddie groans, as Richie pitches forward onto his hands and knees, just in time to puke again. The candles go out, all four of them at once, and the bedroom is dark except for moonlight through the window. The slide show of Derry's destruction is gone from the mirror; it's just a pane of glass, albeit a smeared, disgusting one. Eddie is pretty sure they're supposed to do something to end the ritual, to release Stan's spirit, but he can't remember and doesn't have time to check the book right now.

 

"Bathroom," he says to Richie, wrapping an arm around his chest and dragging him to his feet. The master bathroom is just off their bedroom, and he manages to half-carry Richie to the toilet before he throws up again.

 

"Sorry, Eds," Richie says between heaves. "So fucking sorry."

 

Eddie rubs his shaking back. "Baby, no, you don't have to apologize. It's okay. I've got you."

 

The truth is, Eddie's nerves are screaming, the muscles in his legs twitching with the impulse to run from the room. He hates vomit. The sour smell, the noises Richie's making--it's all the stuff of his literal nightmares. Eddie is barely holding it together.

 

When Myra gets sick, Eddie stays at a hotel. She's always the one to suggest it-- "you've got a delicate constitution, you'll be much worse off than me if you catch this" --but Eddie never protests, is secretly always relieved. It probably has something to do with Myra not trusting him enough to be miserable in front of him, and he's always known it says nothing good about their relationship, but still. He goes.

 

Eddie has never before in his life held a person who was throwing up. Just as he suspected, it's fucking awful. The way Richie's muscles are spasming under his hands as Eddie strokes his back--he's in pain, and Eddie hates it so much.

 

But Richie will be in pain whether Eddie is here or not, and Eddie knows it will be worse for him if he's alone. Richie hates being left alone.

 

So he stays. He rubs Richie's back and whispers it's okay, as much to calm himself down as anything else. He holds Richie until he's done heaving and trembling. Then he helps him to his feet and gets a cool washcloth to wipe his sweating face. If Eddie's hand isn't perfectly steady, Richie doesn't seem to notice.

 

"Can you brush your teeth?" Eddie asks, and Richie nods hesitantly. "Do you need me to stay here while you do, or can I go get you a glass of water?"

 

"Water's good," Richie says. Eddie dashes to the kitchen and makes it back before Richie's done brushing his teeth. He spares a moment to be grateful they don't seem to have awakened Mike; he's not at all prepared to explain what's happening.

 

Richie manages about a third of the water before he starts crying. "Shit, Eds, I'm so sorry. I can't believe I did this to you."

 

"You don't have to be sorry," Eddie says again. "That freaked you out. I really…" He takes a deep breath. "Dude, I really fucking get it." The image of his own face, in what was almost the moment of his death, was deeply upsetting in a way Eddie has to shove to the back of his mind because he can't deal with it right now. He wishes he knew what Stanley was getting at, showing them those reruns. "It's okay. You're okay."

 

"I fucked up," Richie says. He's still leaning over the sink, not meeting Eddie's eyes in the mirror. "I'm so sorry. Should have left you alone."

 

"Richie, what are you talking about?" Eddie has almost managed to get his breathing back to normal, but he starts to feel that panicky choking sensation again when it occurs to him that Richie might be delirious. "Do you have a fever?"

 

Richie's forehead is hot and dry, which scares Eddie. "Baby, you need to lie down. I'm worried about you."

 

Richie makes a dreadful sound, strangled and harsh. It takes Eddie a moment to recognize it as laughter.

 

"Worried about me," he mumbles. "God. Fucking mess, Eds, I'm so sorry."

 

"It's okay," Eddie repeats. "I can clean it up. You need to rest."

 

"Your mom was right," says Richie, and Eddie winces.

 

"I'm glad you have the energy to make mom jokes, but fucking… read the room, dude."

 

"Not joking," says Richie. "She was right about me. Bad for you, like she always thought. Should have stayed away."

 

Eddie rubs a hand over his face. "Richie. I don't want to yell at you while you're sick. Please help me out by never fucking saying anything like that again. "

 

Richie shivers and doesn't reply. Eddie helps him ease an arm around his shoulders, then supports him as they walk back to the bed, detouring widely around the salt circle with the pool of vomit in the middle. There are still tears on Richie's face as Eddie settles him into the bed, tucking the sheets around him.

 

"Sleep, baby," Eddie whispers. "We'll figure out the rest in the morning."

 

He sits on the bed watching Richie until his face relaxes into sleep. Then he gets up and goes hunting for cleaning supplies. Richie's stash is subpar, as Eddie knew it would be, but fortunately most of the vomit is on the mirror, which is much easier to clean than carpet. Finally, when everything smells like fake lemons, Eddie gives in to the urge to take a just-shy-of-scalding shower.

 

As he emerges from the bathroom, his gaze falls on Richie's nightstand, where he's piled the carefully disinfected ritual components. Maybe I should try again, he thinks. Get a clear answer out of Stan, so I'll have good news for Richie when he wakes up.

 

He pours out the circle, he lights the candles, he reads the incantation. Richie turns over in his sleep but doesn't wake. Eddie cuts his other thumb and drips blood on the mirror, but this time there's no hiss, no swirling, living blackness. No Stan. Just blood-streaked glass and Eddie, in the middle of the night, feeling very small and alone.

Chapter Text

Eddie has a long, bad night. Richie sleeps fitfully, muttering to himself, sometimes half-waking with more wild apologies on his lips. Eddie keeps a trash can within arm's reach, but Richie never throws up again; he just sweats and flails and occasionally sobs. Eddie would almost rather he go back to vomiting. He hates how far away Richie feels, how he never seems to be talking to Eddie, even when his eyes open and he stares straight at him.

 

He tries to cuddle in bed with Richie, to stroke his hair and soothe his dreams, but every time he settles in Richie jerks awake, frantic. Between the exhaustion and the desperate, impotent need to do something, Eddie gets to a point where it feels like he's going to cry if he hears Richie say "I'm sorry" again. Around dawn, Eddie sighs, kisses Richie on his clammy forehead, and goes out to the living room. He lies down on the couch, unsure whether he'll be able to sleep, alert for any sound that might mean Richie needs him.

 

It feels like he comes into the dream after it's already started. Stan is yelling at him. Has obviously been yelling at him for a while, even though Eddie just got here.

 

"-- ass back in that circle and fucking try again, I swear, Kaspbrak, I will haunt your shit so hard--"

 

"Uh, hi," says Eddie. "Where are we?"

 

Stan looks at him with absolute disdain. They are in a room, that's all Eddie can say with any confidence. Whether it's big or small, cluttered or empty, familiar or strange--somehow he can't tell. "We're wherever the fuck you assholes dragged me to ask for my fucking help and then you couldn't even hear me and you just left me here. I don't know how to get out! You need to do the seance thing again and listen to me this time and then send me fucking--back!"

 

"Back to where?"

 

Stan yells in frustration and turns into a bird, bright blue and yellow and cartoon-looking. He swoops through the air as if he's going to peck Eddie's eyes out. "What are you doing?" the Stan-bird shrieks as Eddie desperately tries to bat it away. "Are you okay?" Its claws are tangled in Eddie's hair, and Eddie thinks wildly of all the diseases birds can carry. He thrashes his arms but can't connect with the bird, which keeps screaming "Are you okay, are you okay, are you--"

 

"--okay, Eddie?"

 

"Fuck away from--oh, shit, sorry," Eddie finishes awkwardly, realizing that he's awake now and yelling at Mike. "Bad dream. Sorry, man."

 

"Why are you on the couch?"

 

Eddie rubs his bleary eyes. Christ, it feels like he just fell asleep five minutes ago, even though it's been--no, wait, he can still see the sunrise colors in the sky through the window. He just fell asleep five minutes ago. "Richie's sick," he tells Mike. "He threw up in the night."

 

Mike presses his lips together, nods as if he understands perfectly, and Eddie realizes how it looks: like fragile, germophobic Eddie abandoned his suffering boyfriend, more concerned with protecting himself. His face gets hot. "I stayed with him," Eddie says defensively. "I got him cleaned up and everything, but he couldn't seem to sleep with me there, so--"

 

"I get it," Mike reassures him. "I know you'd do whatever you could to help him."

 

"Stan," says Eddie, his dream still reverberating in his head. "He's pissed at me, I need to do it again--"

 

"Do what again?"

 

Fuck. Eddie should really remember to wake up first, then talk. Obviously he's going to have to tell Mike and the others what happened, so they can help Richie, but he wishes he had some time to think about the best way to phrase it. "So," he says, "you remember my idea from yesterday, about the seance?"

 

Mike nods.

 

"You know how we, uh, agreed that we--weren't going to do that, and that we'd come up with another idea?"

 

Mike nods again, very slowly. He's really not going to help Eddie out with this, at all.

 

"Well, Richie and I, we, um." Eddie wishes Richie were awake and next to him. Richie would be like yep, fuck you guys, I did the seance just like I did your mom, and then Eddie wouldn't feel so much like a little kid about to get in trouble. "We found this book, and it told us how to contact Stan, so we. I guess. Did that."

 

"You and Richie had a seance."

 

"Yeah."

 

"And you talked to Stan?"

 

"Kind of." Belatedly, Eddie scrambles to his feet, so he can talk to Mike eye to eye. Except he still can't do that, because Mike is unreasonably tall. "He couldn't actually talk to us, or I guess maybe we couldn't hear him? He showed us Richie saving me, and then Derry collapsing, but I'm not sure what it was supposed to mean."

 

"You're sure it was really Stan?"

 

Eddie shrugs helplessly. "I think so. It--felt like Stan. And in my dream just now--I think that was real. I think he was really talking to me. He sounded like himself. But different, too, because he was grown up. If it were just my imagination he'd look the way I remember him as a kid, don't you think?"

 

"I guess so." Mike doesn't look convinced. "Is talking to Stan what made Richie sick?"

 

"I don't think it was Stan's fault. I think Richie just got upset, because of all the--you know, the sinkhole and stuff, and watching me almost die again." He knows, he knows what Mike is thinking, that he told them the seance wasn't safe and they went ahead with it anyway, and basically it's all Eddie's fault that Richie is sick.

 

"Fucking, whatever, okay, we fucked up," he says angrily, in response to Mike's absolutely nothing. "But it fucking worked, or it almost worked. Stan was trying to tell us something, and now he's stuck somewhere until he can. We have to try again."

 

"That's your solution?" For the first time, Mike lets a flicker of anger show. "You did something incredibly risky behind our backs, Richie had some kind of breakdown about it, and you think the answer is to do it again?"

 

Eddie doesn't back down. "Yeah, I do," he says. "I think it's the best way to help Richie, and it's what Stan wants."

 

"We have no way of knowing it's--"

 

"Mike." He can't explain how he knows, he just knows. "It's fucking Stan."

 

They stare at each other for a long moment. Finally, Mike lets out a slow exhale, drops his eyes, and Eddie knows he's won.

 

"You get to explain this shit to everyone else," Mike says. "The safest way to do it is with all of us together. But I'm not going to call them for you."

 

Eddie calls Ben and Bev first, and they're unhappy with him but sympathetic, as he knew they'd be. It's easy to convince them to come over and repeat the seance, especially once he describes his dream about Stan. Bev knows some shit about preternatural dreams, and she agrees with Eddie that he is neither being tricked nor losing his mind.

 

"Tell Richie to hang in there, okay?" she says. "We'll see you tonight."

 

Eddie goes into the bedroom, where Richie is still sleeping with a pained look on his face. "We're going to fix it," he whispers into Richie's ear, and Richie whimpers and rolls away from him. It kills Eddie, seeing that Richie can barely stand his touch.

 

He's been putting off calling Bill, but suddenly he doesn't want to wait anymore. If Bill's pissed, let him be pissed. Helping Richie is more important.

 

The second Bill picks up, Eddie blurts out everything: the book, the seance, Richie's sickness, the dream. "I'm sorry we didn't listen to you, Bill, but we have to try again. All of us together this time. We need to know what Stan's trying to tell us."

 

There's a long pause, and Eddie braces himself for shouting, but it doesn't come. Instead, Bill says very quietly, "It's really Stan?" Eddie hears the hope in his voice, and realizes what he's been missing all along: that Bill wants it to be Stan, needs it to be Stan so badly it hurts, and is fucking terrified of being disappointed. Again.

 

"It's really him, Bill."

 

"How can you be sure?"

 

"Dude," says Eddie, pretending he's not starting to tear up. "He's mad at me. You know what it's like when Stan is mad at you. That shit can't be imitated."

 

Bill laughs. "I guess that's true. Okay. Fuck it. Let's do it."

 

"Since Richie's kind of out of commission, I'll take responsibility for informing you that that's what your mom said."

 

"You two are such a bad influence on each other. See you soon."

 

As Eddie’s pocketing his phone, he hears a noise from the bedroom. Richie is struggling to get out of bed, still half tangled in sheets.

 

“Baby, no,” Eddie says, hurrying to Richie’s side. “Lie back down. You need to rest.”

 

Richie is breathing hard and looks just about to panic. “Have to go, Eds,” he pants. “I have to--keep you safe. Take it back.”

 

“Take what back?” Richie shakes his head hard and doesn’t answer. “Richie, I really need you to lie back down and rest, okay? Can I bring you some toast?” Rather than give Richie an opening to say something else nonsensical and upsetting, Eddie keeps talking as he guides him back to horizontal. "Everyone's going to come over tonight, and we're going to try talking to Stan again. We just need you to hang on until then, okay? We're taking care of it, I promise." He lies down too, resting his arm across Richie's waist, partly for the comfort of contact and partly to keep him from getting up again.

 

"I don't want to make you sick," Richie says, so sadly Eddie can't stand it. He nuzzles in closer, kisses him on the head, despite the unhealthy smell of Richie's sweaty hair.

 

"You're not going to get me sick, Richie. I'm fine."

 

"I don't want to hurt you," Richie says, squeezing his eyes shut. Eddie's heart clutches in his chest.

 

"Then go to sleep, dude," he says. "Rest and get better, because the only thing hurting me is seeing you feeling like shit."

 

Richie gives a dry little sob, his fingers digging into Eddie's back like a drowner grabbing for a raft. "Just hold onto me, baby," Eddie whispers. "Just hold on. I'm gonna make it better."

 

The day sputters and drags like the night did. Eddie holds Richie, brings him water and toast, occasionally drifts into restless sleep beside him. Richie mutters and cries and apologizes. The hours are endless, and then suddenly it's night and Bill is at the door, with Ben and Bev right behind him.

 

This time there's no preliminary banter period. The Losers hug Eddie, and one by one they go to the door of the bedroom to peek in at Richie, who's mumbling incoherently through another fever dream. "Let him sleep," Eddie suggests, and everyone accepts his ruling.

 

There's not enough of the fancy salt left to make a circle all the way around the dining room table, so Eddie has to finish it with the blue box of Morton's after all. Ben lights the candles, Bev pours the wine, and Bill reads the incantation without even a hint of a stutter. Eddie, once again, provides the blood. He's the only one who doesn't jump when it hits the mirror and starts to sizzle.

 

This time, though, there's another sound cutting through the hiss, even before the blackness has resolved into an image. " Took you motherfuckers long enough," Stan is saying, his voice rich with irritation and also love.

 

"Stan!" Bill shouts, any hint of incredulity gone, and he bursts into tears.

 

"Oh my God, Stan," says Beverly, and she's crying too, though more quietly than Bill. 

 

"It's good to hear your voice again," Mike says, his voice thick and low. "I didn't think--Christ, Stan. I'm so sorry."

 

"It's not your fault, Mikey," Stan says immediately. "You didn't make me do it."

 

"If I hadn't called--"

 

"Stop it," Stan says gently. "You kept your promise. I couldn't keep mine. I should be the one saying sorry."

 

Eddie's jumping out of his skin with a weird mix of sentimentality and jitters. "Stan, we all love you so much and we wish you were here," he says in a rush, "but what's wrong with Richie?"

 

"Richie…" Stan blinks up at them from the mirror, as though he's only now realizing who's missing. "He's not here?"

 

"He's sick," Eddie says. "That's why we didn't send you off properly last night. He started throwing up and saying crazy shit. He's in bed right now."

 

"And that's why you can hear me," Stan says, in a tone of dawning comprehension.

 

"Why couldn't they hear you before?" Bill asks.

 

"For the same reason you're all having trouble remembering," Stan says. "Richie isn't letting you."

 

Everyone has something to say about that, but Eddie is the loudest, cutting through the clamor. "No," he says. "No fucking way. "

 

"Eddie, I tried to show you before--"

 

"Are you fucking joking, dude? This is Richie's worst nightmare. Being forgotten is… it's driving him out of his mind. There's no chance he's doing this to us."

 

"Not on purpose, anyway," says Mike, and Eddie says "Oh, fuck you," and Stan says "That's what I'm trying to tell you."

 

"One at a goddamn time," says Ben, and he's not quite yelling, but it's about the loudest and angriest Eddie has ever heard him, and it shuts them all up.

 

After a pause, Stan says "Will you just look ," and the mirror changes. It's the same thing Eddie saw last night, before Richie got sick: the two of them deep underground, Eddie bleeding, Richie kissing him tenderly. Eddie flushes a little, because it's an incredibly personal moment to broadcast to all their friends like this, but no one comments. He watches as Richie's face lights up from within, the eerie glow absorbing into Eddie's skin as his wound heals.

 

"He took Its magic," says Bill.

 

"To save me, " Eddie protests.

 

"But still," says Beverly. "Does that mean he's--keeping It alive somehow?"

 

"No," says Stan immediately. "That's what I was trying to say last night. Richie asked how to kill It, but It's already dead. That's why Derry fell apart. The town was too tangled up in Its influence to exist independently."

 

"It's dead," repeats Mike. "Then why?"

 

"Because magic abides by the laws of the shape it inhabits," says Stan. "Power follows the will of its wielder."

 

"What are you saying?" Eddie says, feeling furious and not quite sure why. "That Richie wants to be forgotten?"

 

Stan is quiet for a long time. Finally, he says "I'm not talking about what he wants. I'm talking about what he believes. "

 

"Oh," says Bill.

 

"Oh," says Beverly.

 

"No," says Eddie.

 

"It works the way we believe it does," says Mike. "So if Richie's always expected everyone to forget him, if he thinks he's not important to us--"

 

"If he spent his whole childhood telling himself he was sick," Eddie realizes.

 

"Then the magic gets inside him, and it starts to make things the way he believes they are." Stan nods.

 

"Fuck that," says Eddie. "How do I fix it?"

 

"I'm not sure," says Stan reluctantly. "Maybe if you can explain to him what's happening, he can try to change it, to change what he believes."

 

"Wait, why isn't it working on Eddie, though?" says Ben.

 

"Because I got a dose of the magic too," Eddie says before he has a chance to think. As soon as he says it, he knows it's right. "I have just enough to counteract Richie's, if I believe the opposite of what he does. If I believe that--that I could never forget him." He looks down, biting his lip, then back up. "If I believe that he's everything."

 

Bill puts his hand over Eddie's wrist. Eddie can't look him in the eyes or he'll start crying. "He's lucky he has you," Bill says gently.

 

"No," says Eddie. "That's what he thinks, too, but no. He's--you guys, I'm so fucking in love with him." He gives up, drops his forehead to the table and lets the tears come.

 

Richie, his kind, brave, funny, brilliant Richie, writing himself out of existence because he doesn't think he's worth remembering. Eddie is so, so glad Derry is a hole in the ground and nothing more. Fuck that place and the number it did on them all. Maybe he'll go back sometime just to piss on the ruins.

 

"I think you have to take it from here, Eddie," Stan says. "I think you're the one who can help him."

 

"I will." He focuses on believing it, as hard as he can.

 

He's only half listening as Stan says loving goodbyes to the rest of the Losers. "I'll miss you guys so much," he says, "but I feel like I have places to be."

 

"Thank you, Stan," Eddie says, knowing it's not enough, could never be enough, knowing there will never be time to say all the things he wants to say to Stan, but also knowing--believing--than Stan understands it all without being told.

 

Bill is crying again, but he's the one who picks up the mirror and says "We thank you and release you, Stanley Uris. Go in peace." His voice cracks. "We love you." He turns the mirror face down and sets it back on the table, and the candles go out.

 

As soon as the circle is broken, Eddie is on his feet. He suddenly feels like he's running out of time, like he needs to get to Richie now, or things will get worse.

 

But he's wrong. He isn't running out of time; he's too late. Because by the time he gets to the bedroom, Richie is gone.

Chapter Text

Richie is probably not operating at a hundred percent right now, but he's clear-headed enough to realize that driving in this condition would be dangerous--to other people, not just to himself. He also realizes that he must look like a murder victim who's been lying in the sun for a week, but there's no way he can take a shower without Eddie noticing, and besides, Uber drivers in LA have seen worse.

 

His friends are gathered around the table as he slips out the back door, and he longs to hug them all one more time--to look Eddie in the eyes and say something beautiful and true, something Eddie can carry forever, and even if he forgets about Richie, some part of him will always remember how deeply he was loved. But if they know he's leaving, they'll try to stop him, and he doesn't have the energy to fight. They might not even need to talk him out of it; one look in Eddie's fathomless brown eyes and his courage is likely to fail.

 

So he just leaves.

 

He keeps checking his phone on the way to the airport, wondering when Eddie will notice that he's gone, if he'll call or text, what he'll say. He's determined not to answer, but he can't quite bring himself to turn the phone off. Part of him thinks he owes it to Eddie to see the last thing he'll ever say to him, even though it will probably be a question he can't answer. Another part is just desperate for any sign that Eddie will miss him.

 

But Eddie doesn't text. Doesn't call. He's been in and out of their bedroom all day, checking on Richie every five minutes, but now it's been more than an hour and Eddie hasn't even registered that Richie has left the building. What the fuck? Richie makes it all the way through security--he gets patted down, which makes sense, because he's sweating and crazy-eyed and has no luggage--and not a word from Eddie. Richie is starting to feel a little abandoned. That's stupid, because he was the one who left, but still.

 

His head is throbbing by the time he makes it to his gate. He should probably file away "don't take a red-eye when you're sick" as a Life Lesson, but then, he's not planning to be around long enough to put it to use. Richie sinks into an uncomfortable chair and pushes his glasses up onto his forehead so he can rub his eyes.

 

"Nice try," says Eddie from the adjacent seat.

 

"What in the fuck?" Richie says, but only quietly, because he's probably hallucinating and he doesn't want to give people more reasons to look at him weird.

 

"You didn't think you were going to get rid of me that easily, right?" That… definitely sounds like Eddie. And looks like Eddie. And smells like Eddie. Every cell in his body is screaming at Richie that this is really, really Eddie, and he should make out with him. "Because I might be offended."

 

"What are you doing here?"

 

He puts his glasses back on in time to see Eddie roll his eyes. "Obviously you were going to be dramatic as shit and try to run back to Maine. There's only one flight to Bangor between now and 8 am," he says. "We can get on it together or not at all."

 

"How long have you been sitting here?"

 

"At least twenty minutes. I can't believe it took you this long. I don't know why everyone in this fucking town insists on taking the longest possible route to the airport."

 

So much for his escape plan. And of course this is why Eddie didn't text or call him. The moment he realized Richie wasn't in bed, he must have jumped straight into action. God, Richie loves him so fucking much. "Eds," he says, then stops, because he's going to cry more or less immediately.

 

"Can we talk about this at home?" Eddie says. "No offense, but you look like hell. Someone's gonna take your picture and the tabloids will have you addicted to eight different substances by the time the sun comes up."

 

"Doesn't matter," Richie says quietly.

 

"Richie." Eddie puts a hand on his arm. "Tell me why it doesn't matter."

 

"Fuck, Eds, you know why. I'm not gonna be around to hear what they say about me." The tears are pouring out now. "I have to go back and make sure It's really dead."

 

"It's dead. Stan said so. It's fucking dead as shit and the whole fucking town is gone. There's not even anything to go back to. What are you, just going to--throw yourself into the giant-ass crater?"

 

Richie shrugs. Probably. He hasn't thought that far ahead.

 

"Your fever must be frying your brain, because that is the dumbest motherfucking idea you've ever had, and I remember when you tried to learn to breakdance."

 

"It's in me, Eds," he says helplessly. "I don't know what else to do. How else I can keep you safe."

 

"It's not your fucking job to keep me safe, dickhead," Eddie says, and it finally dawns on Richie that he's angry. "I'm an adult man of average height and a small amount of magical power. I can take care of myself, but I need you to be with me."

 

"You're not--wait, magical power?"

 

"Yeah," says Eddie. "You gave it to me when you brought me back. Just enough to avoid getting hexed by your dumb ass."

 

"What are you talking about?"

 

"Okay, it's like if you got--a blood transfusion or something, from a serial killer. It doesn't make you evil just because it came from someone evil. I got some magic, and you did too, but it's our magic now. The clown is extremely fucking dead, Richie, I swear."

 

"Then why are they forgetting us?" he asks, his voice extremely small.

 

Eddie sighs. "Because you need therapy, okay? Like the kind where you actually tell them what's going on in your head. Because now you have powers and they're, like, bringing all your insecurities to life. You're so scared of being forgotten that you're actually making it happen. You've spent so long believing you were sick that you made it come true."

 

"Jesus," says Richie. "Your boyfriend sounds like a hot mess."

 

"You have no idea," says Eddie. "But he's also so fucking brave that he'd walk back into the mouth of hell to keep his friends safe. And he was willing to risk his career just so he could brag that he's with me, which, not gonna lie, that made me feel amazing. And--"

 

"If I have magic powers, how can you trust me?" Richie says. "How do you know I'm not just--putting these feelings in your mind? How do you know this is real?"

 

Eddie leans against his shoulder, and Richie wishes they were having this conversation literally anywhere other than side by side in airport seats. "You've had powers for a fucking week, dipshit, and I've been in love with you for thirty years."

 

"Why?"

 

Eddie answers without a hint of hesitation. "Because you were always such a dick to me."

 

"Oh, but I need therapy."

 

"We both need therapy like a motherfucker, but that's not why. You were a shithead when we were kids, but--you weren't a bully, Richie. You were never cruel to anyone weaker than you. So when you'd go out of your way to piss me off--it made me realize, you know, that you didn't see me as weaker."

 

That actually makes Richie laugh. The idea of Eddie being weak.

 

"Hey," says Eddie. He laces his fingers through Richie's. "You brought me back to life, and I'm sorry if this sounds ungrateful, but--I only want it if it's with you. Okay?"

 

"Okay," Richie sniffles. Christ, his head hurts. He's so tired.

 

"God, it's the middle of the fucking night," Eddie groans, almost echoing Richie's thought. "Can we go home already?"

 

"What, and waste all the money we spent on last-minute plane tickets?"

 

"I'd rather waste money than time," Eddie says. "Derry has already eaten up too fucking much of my life."

 

"Yeah, fair." Richie takes a deep breath, knuckles at his eyes, and then heaves himself up to standing.

 

Beside him, Eddie stands too. Richie takes his hand and starts to take a step, but Eddie plants his feet, tugs him back. "Richie," he says, and his eyes are huge, like, he's always had big beautiful sad eyes, but this is ridiculous.

 

"Eds?"

 

"Can you stop? The forgetting, I mean. Do you think you can just--make it stop, if you decide to?"

 

He wants to say yes, wants to promise that everything will be fine, but he doesn't have the energy to lie to Eddie so he says "I don't know" instead. "I don't know if I can untangle every fucked-up thing I've spent forty years telling myself," he admits. "Not, like, by tomorrow."

 

Eddie nods. "Okay. Well, I'll try to just balance it out, I guess." He grins. "Boyfriends with magic powers, locked in an eternal struggle. I'd watch that movie."

 

And there's that--click again, that feeling of intuitive rightness, of the puzzle solving itself. Richie pulls Eddie in for a kiss.

 

Eddie makes a little sound, maybe surprise or the beginning of a word, but then he softens, his mouth hot under Richie's. He lets go of Richie's hand and seizes him by the hips, lining up their whole bodies against each other, and Richie burns everywhere Eddie touches: thighs, stomach, chest. Eddie's tongue skims over Richie's lips, then into his mouth, and Richie's hands are in Eddie's hair, and Eddie's pulse is a drumbeat that shivers through Richie's whole body.

 

Eddie pulls him in until Richie feels like their bodies could melt into each other, until the distance between them is a negative number. His tongue opens Richie like a book and reads every word. His hands rise to Richie's chest, grabbing fistfuls of his shirt, and as Richie's breath comes faster and faster he thinks, Now.

 

Richie finds the light that's burrowed away inside him, the light he stole from a monster to bring his lover back to life, the light he now understands he was never supposed to keep. He finds it, and he holds it for a moment, not because he's having second thoughts but just to make sure he gets this right.

 

He gives the light to Eddie.

 

There's no way he could explain how it works, or describe how it feels. He just wants Eddie to have it, to hold that light, because Eddie is so good and so strong and Richie trusts him so much, and if anyone should have magic powers, it's Eddie. So Richie lets go of it, and it passes from him into Eddie, and that's all he knows.

 

Eddie gasps. His whole body tenses up, his fists tightening in Richie's shirt, and he rises up on tiptoe for a bright, electric second. Richie feels a hot thrill of fear: Eddie is buzzing , the way a wineglass hums the note that will shatter it an instant later.

 

Then he sighs, and sinks down to his flat feet, and whatever's going through him isn't gone, exactly, but it's no longer threatening to burst out of his skin.

 

"Fuck, Tozier," Eddie says, his voice thin. "I know you're a good kisser, but what the fuck was that ?"

 

"My powers," Richie says. "I gave them to you."

 

Eddie stares at him. "How?" Richie shrugs. "Okay, then why?"

 

"Because I've had them for a week and I nearly ruined my whole fucking life, and you're the one who saved me. I trust you."

 

"That's… a lot of responsibility," says Eddie slowly.

 

"Yeah, exactly, fuckin' better you than me." He kisses Eddie again, quick and warm, a to-be-continued kiss. "Want to go home?"

 

"Seriously, let's get out of here before someone takes our picture and exposes me as a necrophiliac. You look so gross," says Eddie fondly.

 

"There's like three people here this time of night," says Richie. "I'm sure no one has noticed us."

 

He's wrong, of course, but by the time the headlines appear the next day, he's much too happy to care.

Chapter Text

Myra gets the house, the car, most of the money, and all their friends. Eddie gets Richie. He knows it's not a fair split, but he can't bring himself to feel too guilty for coming out ahead.

 

The Losers get together for dinner in honor of Eddie's divorce being finalized. They come up with lots of excuses for shared festivities: Mike's new job at the Museum of Folklore, Bill's film wrapping, Beverly winning her lawsuit against her ex-husband and regaining control of her business. Mike was especially celebratory after signing the lease on his new apartment-- "where I'll live by myself, without roommates, in my own personal space, alone" --which Eddie and Richie agreed was a little rude, but they're also happy for him.

 

After Indian food and several rounds of drinks, Eddie is pleasantly buzzed, his mouth tingling from spice, the rest of his body tingling from Richie's hand venturing boldly up his thigh. "To Eddie Kaspbrak, on the market again," Bill toasts, and Richie gives him a horrified look.

 

"Not for an instant," Eddie says, smiling at Richie. "How about, to the rest of my fucking life, which I get to be alive for."

 

They all drink to that, and then Richie adds "To Stan Uris. May we never need to bother him again," and they drink more. As the rest of their friends drift into a conversation about when Ben's next project breaks ground, Eddie leans over and rests his head on Richie's shoulder.

 

"Take me home," he murmurs.

 

Richie can talk for an hour without taking a breath, but it turns out he can also say heartfelt goodbyes to their best friends incredibly quickly, given the proper motivation. It's mere minutes before they're collapsing into the back of a cab, Richie nearly in Eddie's lap.

 

"Don't get too excited," Richie says in Eddie's ear, which is sending very mixed messages, considering where his hands are. "We have all night ahead of us."

 

"And no roommate," Eddie reminds him. "Want to fuck on the couch? Dining room table?"

 

"How about the shower? Get squeaky clean and then get filthy. And then clean again, if we're not too tired."

 

Eddie laughs. Richie gets him. Their driver turns the radio up so she doesn't have to listen to them, and after that they stop even pretending like they're trying to be quiet.

 

Richie pants in Eddie's ear outside their front door as Eddie fumbles for his keys. "You look so fucking good tonight, Eds," he says. "All neat and tidy in your jacket and tie. You know that just makes me want to get you messed up." His hands are roaming, cupping Eddie's ass, pulling up his shirt where it's carefully tucked in. Richie scrapes the nape of Eddie's neck with his teeth, then soothes it with his tongue. Eddie finally finds the right key, and they collide and crash through the door, laughing breathlessly.

 

Richie has Eddie on the couch before he knows what's happening, kneeling between his legs, easing Eddie's pants down. Eddie goes to take off his blazer, but Richie says "no, leave it," and guides Eddie's hands to the crown of his head, instead. Eddie runs his fingers through Richie's hair, but doesn't pull; he lets Richie lead.

 

After all that rushing to get Eddie's pants off, now Richie takes his sweet fucking time. He trails kisses up Eddie's inner thigh, biting gently, then sucking at the skin hard enough that Eddie knows it will leave a bruise. Just as the sensation verges on too intense, Richie pulls back and blows gently on the sore spot, his breath a salve.

 

He does the same thing again, higher up Eddie's thigh. Then he repeats it on the other leg. Eddie is still in his boxer briefs, his cock straining shamelessly against the fabric, wetness spreading from the head. "Richie," he whines through clenched teeth.

 

Richie smiles up at him, then slowly lowers his mouth until it's just barely brushing Eddie's hard-on through his underwear. "All in good time, Eds," he says. "Warn me if you get too close, though, okay? I'm still trying to get fucked tonight."

 

"You're always trying to get fucked."

 

"Yeah, and you love it." There's no point denying that, Eddie supposes--not when they can both see how his cock jumps at Richie's words.

 

Fucking finally, Richie hooks his fingers in the waistband of Eddie's briefs and guides them down. Eddie lifts his hips to be helpful. As his cock drags against the elastic before springing free, he moans with delight and agony. He's leaking on the front of his nice gray dress shirt, but if getting spectacularly laid isn't the whole point of having nice dress shirts, Eddie doesn't know what is.

 

He loosens his tie because he's dying, and Richie's eyes are crinkled in a smile as he looks up at Eddie, tormenting him, breathing on him. "God, I love the way you smell, Eds," he says. "Especially when you're… mmm… all wet like this." He fucking licks his lips and Eddie could weep.

 

"Get me wetter," he pleads, and that's all it takes. Richie has his mouth around the head before the words are fully out. He stays there for a moment, probing Eddie's slit with his tongue, making him gasp; then Richie opens his mouth wider and melts down onto his cock.

 

If Eddie had a little more self-control, he'd stifle the ragged, desperate sound he makes when he feels the back of Richie's throat, but right now he's too far gone to care. Richie anchors Eddie's thigh with one hand and wraps the other around the base of his dick. The heat and the pressure are fucking exquisite as Richie envelops him with his tongue.

 

Don't come, Eddie reminds himself, and takes deep breaths, trying to bank the fire at his core. His thighs are shaking as he tries to keep himself from thrusting. Richie's lips are stretched so red and raw around him, humming against Eddie's most sensitive skin as he grunts with effort.

 

With a wet, obscene noise, Richie pulls his mouth off Eddie. "I changed my mind," he says.

 

"What?" Eddie will actually stop being alive, right here and now.

 

"I changed my mind. I want you to come like this," says Richie. "I want you to fuck my face until you come in my mouth."

 

"Oh," says Eddie, idiotically. "Okay."

 

Richie grins. "When you can't think of a sarcastic comeback, that's when I know I'm bringing my A game." He doesn't wait for a reply, which is good, because Eddie really doesn't have one.

 

Richie drags his tongue up Eddie's length before swallowing him down again. Eddie's back arches. I want you to fuck my face, Richie said, and Eddie lives to give Richie what he wants. He reaches for Richie's hair again, and this time he grabs it in handfuls, using it to hold Richie's head in place while Eddie fucks into his mouth. Richie groans around him in rhythm with Eddie's thrusts, sloppy, frenzied sounds that spark every nerve in Eddie's body.

 

"So fucking good, baby, I'm gonna come," Eddie gasps, and then he's falling apart as Richie somehow takes him even deeper. Eddie's whole body turns inside out and pours into Richie's yearning mouth. He roars through his orgasm, head thrown back so far his throat closes up, veering dangerously toward the black edge of consciousness. Richie holds his hips and kisses his thighs and waits for the storm to pass.

 

When it's over, he feels like the aftermath of an earthquake, ruined in the best possible way. After a few minutes, Richie climbs up and sits on the couch beside him. He's still fully dressed. Eddie reaches out with a weak hand to palm the bulge in his jeans (they argued earlier about Richie wearing jeans to a nice restaurant, but Eddie had to admit they made his ass look great).

 

"You know what I hate about sucking your dick?" Richie says, and laughs at the expression on Eddie's face. Eddie would have guessed with a high degree of confidence that there's nothing Richie hates about sucking dick. "I hate that you're not fucking my ass at the same time," he explains. "It's the twenty-first century. I should be able to do both."

 

"Greedy," Eddie says, unzipping his pants. "Insatiable cock slut."

 

"Fuck yeah, I am," says Richie, as Eddie's hand finds him aching and hot.

 

"Sorry I can't fuck you right now," Eddie murmurs.

 

"Oh my God, you can't? Eds, what happened, how did you lose your hands?" Richie says in mock alarm.

 

Eddie laughs, fizzy with pleasure and love. "Okay, bed," he says. "I don't want to finger you on the couch."

 

"Your wish is my command," Richie says, and they race for the bedroom, shedding clothes as they go.

 

Eddie could die happy at the sight of Richie sprawled on the bed, legs open and cock hard, massaging lube into his hole. Richie really is insatiable. He could get fucked three times a day and still want more. Eddie doesn't know where he gets the energy. Except, as he glances down at his own dick, starting to rise again in defiance of all laws of nature and forty-year-old man, he thinks maybe he does know. Maybe it's magic.

 

He crawls up Richie's body and covers his mouth with a kiss before settling in, slinging one of Richie's knees over his shoulder for a better view. Eddie's first two fingers slide easily into Richie, finding the rhythm he likes by muscle memory. "Christ, Eds, yeah, just like that," Richie hisses, fucking back against Eddie's hand.

 

"You're so pretty, baby," Eddie says, and feels Richie tighten around his fingers with a gasp of pleasure.

 

"Yeah?" Richie lifts his head to look down at Eddie, his face flushed, sweat beading in his hair. "You like how I look when you're fucking me?"

 

"The way you look, the way you sound…" Eddie lowers his head to lick the crease of Richie's inner thigh. "The way you taste." Richie makes a high, soft noise. "I love how bad you want it. You're such a cock slut, but only for me. This…" He twists his fingers just a little, then pushes deeper, treasuring the way Richie's jaw goes slack. "This fucking perfect ass, it's all mine. No one gets to have you like I do."

 

"Only ever you, Eds," Richie keens.

 

"Me too, baby. Only ever you."

 

Richie gasps as he speeds up the pace. "Feel so fucking good. God, don't stop."

 

"Can you take another finger?"

 

"Fuck, yes, more." Eddie obeys, and Richie sighs his name. "Wish it was your cock, though. You're right, I need it all the fucking time."

 

Eddie smiles. "Actually, I didn't want to distract you, but seeing you like this is really working for me. I'm hard again, if you want--"

 

"Oh, yeah. " Immediately Richie pulls away from Eddie's fingers, with only a small groan of disappointment. "Get the fuck up here, I want to ride it."

 

As Eddie lies back, Richie rubs the lube between his hands to warm it, then slicks it directly onto Eddie's skin. They both tested negative for STIs as of last week, and fucking without a condom is still deliciously novel. Richie positions himself over Eddie, and Eddie catches his breath, savoring the moment of anticipation that seems to last forever and vanish instantly.

 

Richie braces his hands on Eddie's chest, and they both moan out loud as he lowers himself onto Eddie's cock.

 

"Richie," says Eddie, entranced.

 

Richie takes a moment, adjusting, then begins to move. His eyes are hot on Eddie's face as he slowly rolls his hips, rising a little and settling back, angling Eddie just the way he wants him. Eddie stares up at Richie, feeling like the world is falling away, like there's no more air or time or gravity, just Richie's body, and Eddie buried in him up to the hilt.

 

"Come on," says Richie, and Eddie grabs him by the hips and fucks up into him in earnest. "Oh, fuck, Eddie Eddie Eddie-- " Richie's voice goes higher and higher, the consonants crumbling away until he's just saying eh eh eh, riding Eddie so hard and fast it feels like flying.

 

Richie's cock pulses between them. "Should I touch you?" Eddie says. "Or can you come from getting fucked like this?" Richie makes a little sobbing sound and shakes his head. "No, don't touch? You want me to fuck you until you come all over both of us without even touching your dick?"

 

"Eddie," Richie says, like it's been dragged out of him.

 

"Yeah, Richie, come on," Eddie pants. "Come for me, baby. You can do it. Ride my cock until you come. I know you can, I can feel you getting close, you're so fucking tight for me, baby, I want your come all over me--"

 

Richie arches his back and makes a devastated noise. Come shoots hot over Eddie's stomach and chest, and he holds tight to Richie's waist, guiding him through the aftershocks. Eddie feels like he's in fucking free fall, soaring through space, untethered to anything except this man, this beautiful man. "Richie," he says, like it's the only word he knows.

 

After a moment of stillness, Richie starts to move again, clenching around Eddie, hot and loose-limbed and shivery. "You don't have to," says Eddie, but Richie opens his eyes and says "I fucking want it," and then Eddie is coming too, in a furious explosion that outshines the known universe.

 

Richie holds him, Richie strokes his hair, Richie whispers his name. As Eddie regains control of his body, he discovers that he and Richie have rolled onto their sides, Richie's forehead against his, Richie's legs wrapped around his waist. Eddie smiles and nuzzles against Richie's neck.

 

"Eds," Richie says. "Little help here?"

 

"With what?"

 

Richie gestures to their entwined bodies. Eddie looks around, taking in their surroundings. He and Richie are bathed in a golden glow, like sunrise--which is weird, since it's the middle of the night. The light seems to be coming from Eddie's chest. Also weird.

 

The other weird thing is that they're floating in the air, orbiting each other in a lazy spin, six feet above the bed.

 

"Huh," says Eddie. "That's new."