Actions

Work Header

heaven tastes like you

Chapter Text



You don't know how've long I have wanted,

To touch your lips and hold you tight, oh

You don't know how long I have waited ,

And I was going to tell you tonight

But the secret is still my own

And my love for you is still unknown

Alone

- Alone by Heart

***

 

On the last Sunday of August, 1989, when the sun was still shy and the air heavy with rain, Richie Tozier got his heart broken for the very first time.

He had said goodbye to a few of his friends before, and sure, it had always been hard and a bit depressing (he had sobbed in Beverly Marsh's arms and made Stanley Uris promise to write everyday) but nothing compared to the way he felt when he saw little Eddie Kaspbrak waving at him through the backseat's window of his mom's Prius, eyes sad and smile hesitant. He had stood there, in the middle of the sidewalk, his gangly arms heavy by his sides and a distinct feeling of emptiness growing in his stomach. He hadn't cried at that moment, simply waved back, screaming at the top of his lungs  So long, Eduardo ! Try not to miss me too much! ” until the car had disappeared in the corner of the street. Then he had pushed his glasses up his nose and left, his hands deep in the pocket of his jeans.

Later, laying upside down on his narrow bed, his feet planted on the wall, Richie found himself mouthing along the lyrics of Take On Me  – one of his favorite tape, a gift from Eddie for his thirteenth birthday – through his tears. Life was funny. I'm pathetic, he thought, like a fucking school girl crying over her asshole Jason or whatever else douchebag who left her without a note.

Not that Eddie was a Jason. He was far from being a Jason, in reality. He was like a tinier, way cuter version of a Jason. He was...

Someone knocked.

“Richie?” came his mom's voice behind the door. “Your friends are here!”

He blinked.  My friends?  Then he remembered and almost fell off his bed.  Oh shit!  Bill, Ben and Mike were still in Derry, still his best friends, hadn't left him yet, in the back of a Prius with a sorry smile and a little wave... God. He stood up quickly and stumbled on a random pile of clothes on the floor. That Norwegian guy from a-Ha was still singing, cheerly  It's no better to be safe and sorry!”  and he switched the off button of the cassette player with a little more strength than necessary. The door of his room opened. He froze. Bill Denbrough entered, nose scrunched up, followed by Ben and Mike, the latter holding his arm and looking around the room with a polite interest and oh... Had he grown since the last time they had seen each other? He looked almost as tall as himself.

“D-Damn, Rich! W-what the hell h-happened to you?”

Richie opened his mouth, and he realized his face felt gross... a bit sticky. He wiped his nose with his sleeve and shrugged.

“What always happens when I see your beautiful mug Big Bill.”

Ben chuckled. Bill rolled his eyes and crashed on the bed. He took off an old sock from behind his head and winced.

“It s-smells like a s-sewer in here.”

“That's not what your mom said last night.”

Mike patted Richie on the shoulder, a tight smile on his lips.

“Hi, Rich. How are you holding up?”

Jesus, was it so obvious?  Is there a fucking sign on my forehead that says  I've just had a breakdown over Eddie fucking Kaspbrak, don't mind me!?

“What's up with the gloomy faces, guys?” he said, self-conscious, looking at each one of them. “Eds fucked off to NYC, not the afterlife!”

Bill mumbled something in his t-shirt. It sounded a bit like “You're one to talk.”. Ben sighed and took a seat by the window.

“It's just... everyone's leaving. I feel like soon I'll be the only one hanging out in the clubhouse.”

“Pretty sure it will be me,” Mike said, his eyes fixed on the ground. “Grandpa doesn't plan of moving and we have the farm.”

With a pang of guilt, Richie sank down in the floor by his side. He knew about Mike's dream of going to Florida to pursue his studies. His own parents were already talking about California, they missed living in an actual city, they had said. Bill sat down on the bed.

“N-never-mind that, g-guys. It's not l-like we're ever g-going to f-forget each other, right?”

I wish I could forget , thought Richie and then his stomach jumped at the idea. The idea of losing every memories of his friends, of the Losers Club, and especially of... of Eddie. It was as awful as it was tempting.  At least they wouldn't have to know the truth. He would never know...

“Bev seems to have fun in Chicago,” Ben said, blushing. “I'm happy for her.”

Mike nodded.

“And Stan made friends in his new school in Atlanta. That's what his last letter was about.”

Richie already knew about that, of course. He probably felt the absence of his oldest friend the most.

“So, Stan the Man finally found other tight-ass losers who get off of watching birds fly? Good for him!”

Bill rolled his eyes. Again. He seemed to have replaced Stanley at this game.

“Y-you're really a d-dick sometimes, R-Richie.”

Not just sometimes,  Eddie would have replied if he was here. Richie's vision became blurred, suddenly.  Don't cry, don't you fucking cry, Tozier.  Instead, he shrugged.

“Do I need to remind you what my actual name is, Billiam?”

For all answer, Bill threw a pillow at his face, and the impact made his glasses fall on his laps. Mike startled and Ben exploded in laughter. Richie jumped on his feet.

“You've just signed your death sentence, amigo! 

Soon, the four of them were having a pillow fight, feet tapping on the carpet, wheezing through their teeth, and when all the pillows were thrown, they decided to use comic books and Richie's dirty clothes as ammo. After that, they listened to a few cassettes while arguing over the last Batman issue, shared a pizza (the boys teased Ben who liked the ones with pineapple slices on it and Richie said he would rather eat a worm alive) and ended up watching a rerun of  The A-Team , all cuddled up under a blanket and half-asleep. Spending times with his friends was almost enough to fill the hole in Richie's guts left by Eddie's departure. Almost. Ben and Mike fell asleep first, and then Bill, his head landing heavily on his shoulder in the middle of an action scene. Eyes glued on the screen, Richie drifted off, remembering of that time he had been close –so close– of telling Eddie the truth.



A hot and rainy summer day, one month earlier.

When Richie stepped inside the clubhouse, his locks damp and his shirt sticky, Eddie was already here, curled up in the hammock, reading a magazine. The radio was playing a pop song he couldn't remember the name of to save his life. Eddie was wearing a pair of light blue jeans, a white polo, and his right arm was still engulfed in its cast. Two weeks ago, a few days after Beverly had left Derry, Bill and Eddie had been riding Silver and – later, Eddie would swear it had been a turtle, though the idea was completely absurd – trying to avoid something on the road, Bill had crashed the giant bike against a tree, sending the two of them flying on Mrs Carling's freshly watered daffodils. By the time Richie had learned about the accident, Eddie and Bill were both already being checked up at the hospital, and Mrs K. was absolutely furious. Eddie had taken the worst of it, landing on his forearm which had broken in two like a matchstick. She had thrown a tantrum, yelling at the Losers and forbidding Eddie to ever join them again in what she called their “dangerous feats”. When, despite the threat, the boys had managed to sneak up in their friend's room, Eddie was so high on painkillers he gave Richie a sloppy hug and kissed him on the cheek. It would be lying to say this wasn't still on top of the list of Richie's favorites moments ever.

“Eds! Did you manage to escape your mom's basement?”

He crashed next to Eddie in the hammock, making it swing dangerously. Eddie gasped and slapped him with the cover of his magazine.

“Rich, you're soaked!”

Richie wiggled his eyebrows.

“Always for you, my love.”

Eddie grunted with disgust, and then settled back in the hammock, his shoulders bumping Richie's. Richie ignored the butterflies' jig in his stomach when he got a whiff of the boy's perfume : a mix of menthol, camphor and candy floss. Weird, but – and he would never admit it out loud – strangely addictive. He let his head fall and pushed his glasses up his nose.

“What are you reading, Spaghetti? Is that porn?”

Eddie sighed.

“You wish.”

He showed the magazine to Richie.

Thrasher,” he read out loud. “What the fuck, man? Since when are you into skateboarding?”

Eddie shrugged.

“It's just something I picked up on Bev's pile. She left some of her stuff here.”

“Oh.”

Richie's shoulders sagged. He missed Beverly Marsh like a limb. Hanging out in the clubhouse, without her and her cigarettes or Stan and his ugly shower-caps, just wasn't the same anymore. The radio switched to an old cover of  Dream a Little Dream Of Me . Richie shivered. I sure could use one of Bev's cigs right now.

“When are the others supposed to show up?” Eddie asked, dropping the Thrasher on the ground.

“Are you tired of me, already, Eds?”

Eddie gave him a look. He was so close Richie could see the freckles on his cheekbones.

“That's not what I mean, asshole. Ben is supposed to bring the Omnibot 2000 he got for his birthday so we can test it.”

Richie perked up, interested.

“Wait, you mean the bot who can serve you a drink? I saw an ad on TV, last night! Neat.”

“God, I wish my mom would let me have one! She said since it's made by the Japanese it's probably dangerous or carrying some secret virus. Can you believe it?”

Richie winced. Mrs K. was a paranoid woman who probably also believed the Moon Landing had been faked somehow. He sometimes wished he could drag Eddie away from her claws and her stubborn beliefs. He wished a lot of things, nowadays...

Eddie yawned and stretched in the hammock, dragging his cast along Richie's face on purpose. His glasses were knocked sideways but he didn't mind. Then Eddie curled up against his side, nose pressed against his shoulder, and closed his eyes. Richie froze, his heart suddenly beating 200 miles per minute.

“Gonna take a quick nap,” Eddie muttered, his hot breath caressing his skin. “Wake me up when the guys are here.”

“Alright, Eds.”

His voice sounded all chocked up. Richie cleared his throat.

“Try not to dream of me. I know I'm hot stuff but that would be embarrassing, don't cha think?”

Eddie gave him a light kick in the shin, making the hammock rock a bit. Soon, the room fell silent. Richie swore he could hear his own heartbeat if he focused. Eddie probably could too. God. The thought was terrifying. He swallowed back another shiver, grateful for the boy's body heat next to him.  Deep breaths, Tozier , he told himself.  Are you a pussy?  It was almost too perfect. Them, alone in the clubhouse, Mama Cass singing softly about dreams, Eddie pressed up against him in the hammock. A wave of emotions grew inside his body and with a pang of shame, he felt tears rise up. Richie took a big inspiration to try and calm himself down. It seemed to work. He looked up at Eddie, at his long eyelashes, and the way his slightly tanned skin still looked smooth and young and how he would love to drag the tip of his fingers along that freckled cheek...

“Eddie?” he called, voice tiny and hesitant and so unlike him.

Eddie's eyes fluttered behind his eyelids but he didn't open them. Instead he hummed, already half-asleep. Richie worked his mouth.  I like you , he tried to say.  I mean, not like you as a friend. Of course I also like you as a friend, but that's- that's different. I  like you  like you. An awful lot. The way Ben likes Beverly, you know.  His throat was dry. He swallowed around the thick lump that seemed to leave rent free inside his oesophagus.

“Do you really have to go to New York?”

The question escaped through his lips without his consent and he snapped his mouth shut. Eddie moved beside him. When Richie turned over to look at him, his eyes were slightly open and dark with... something. Sorrow, perhaps. Or regret.

“You know I don't have a choice. My mom—”

“Yeah, your mom this, your mom that. She can't control your life forever, dude! Did she even ask if you were happy with that decision? I bet she didn't.”

Richie ignored why anger took fear's place. Why the only thing he wanted desperately right now, was to take Eddie's hand and never,  ever , let him go.

“Fuck off, Rich,” Eddie moaned, “I don't wanna argue with you about this.”

He put some space between them, let out a sigh. Richie missed the warmth so much it was like being stabbed in the heart. His hand hovered over the boy's shoulder.

“Eddie,” he repeated.

Eddie glared at him. Then seeing the expression on his face, he pushed himself up on his elbows, his eyebrows furrowed.

“What?”

“It's just...”

Tell him, Rich. Three words. He deserves to know.  Richie wondered if Eddie would hate him. If he would reject him, disgusted. If he would look at him differently. He could tolerate the jabs and the slurs from assholes like Bowers, but Eddie- Eddie seeing him as some sort of...  monster . That seemed way worse than any other alternatives. Of course, he also knew Eddie was a good, caring and supportive friend. But it wasn't enough to ease the terror, the anguish burning in the pit of his stomach.

“Richie. What's wrong?”

Eddie touched his shoulder, looking at him with round, curious eyes.  You could do it, right now. Kiss him. If only you were a little bit braver...

But at the end, Richie simply shook his head.

“Whose mom am I going to fuck now?”

Maybe some other time.

 

*



27 years later



“No, I'm telling you man, I'm writing my own stuff now. Yeah... Sure. What the fuck does this even mean?”

Richie pushes the door of his apartment open with his shoulder, his phone stuck in the crook of his neck, holding a stack of mail in one hand and some Chinese takeout in the other. His manager Steve is currently yelling in his ear, because of course he is.

“You know you sound like you've got the hots for that Irvin guy, Stevie? I don't know, since you keep praising his work! Yeah, maybe I'm just done with the masturbation jokes he writes, man. Everyone think I'm some kind of perv.”

Richie drops the bag of food on the kitchen counter. He sinks down in the couch and rolls his eyes at whatever Steve is saying. Something about... consistence. And his audience. He looks down at the envelopes in his hand. A bill, another bill, some ad about music classes ( maybe I should start taking guitar lessons, that would be neat ) invitations for two different parties, another invitation for—for— he sits upright, his heart pounding in his chest. Steve's voice becames a faint murmur.

“I'm— I'm gonna have to call you back.” Richie says, ignoring his manager's protestations. He hangs up and lets his phone fall on the carpeted floor.

The invitation card is a square of glossy paper adorned with flowers and butterflies. Written in an elegant, italic font are the words :



The honor of your presence is requested at the marriage of Myra Smith and Edward Kaspbrak, 

Saturday, the fourteenth of May

two thousand and sixteen

at half past eleven...



Richie reads and rereads the small paragraph, unblinking. Oddly, his first coherent thought is :  Is Eddie going to wear a tie or a bow-tie?  And then the bile rises up his throat, acid and painful. Eddie. Eddie Kaspbrak is getting married. To her... To  Myra . He remembers when he met the woman for the first time in his life. Back in 2009, Steve had managed to find him some tour dates in a shitty theater in NYC. After the show, which had been quite a disaster to be honest, Eddie had called him, asking if he would like to have some drinks with him before returning to his motel. He had agreed, because who would say no to meet up with your childhood  crush  best friend you haven't seen in years? Later, Richie had jumped into a taxi and driven until he was standing on the porch of a beautiful little house in the suburbs. When the door opened, he almost has had a heart attack. It was like being thrown in the past. Brutally. The woman in front of him was Sonia Kaspbrak. Except she was blonde. And shorter. Younger, too.  My God , he had thought,  Eddie has a secret sister?

Eddie had showed up a second after, a tight smile on his lips. His face had lighten up when he'd discovered Richie standing awkwardly in the doorway.  Rich, man it's good to see you! Come on in. This is my girlfriend Myra.  Girlfriend? At that moment, Richie had felt similar to how he felt now, looking at the flowery card, at the words who seem to taunt him and stab him right through the guts.

The whole time he'd spent with Eddie, talking around a beer, Myra had looked at him sideways, her pasty face closed in an almost... disgusted expression. Like he was carrying some kind of secret deadly disease. She had barely spoken to him, except once to ask him if he'd ever met Al Pacino, her voice high and screechy, her tiny eyes full of defiance.

Man.  Richie doesn't like to think about this. It was probably one of the most awkward interactions of his life, and he's met Bill Hader.

His phone buzzes. A FaceTime call. He reaches for it, not taking his eyes off the card. He clicks on the green button. A familiar voice greets him.

Richie? Everything's alright?”  Stanley sounds hesitant.

Richie jumps. His senses come back with violence. He looks at the screen and waves at his friend.

“Well if it isn't my best buddy in person! I missed you.”

We talked last night, Rich. What were you up to? I hope I'm not interrupting.”

Richie wipes the corner of his eyes, jostling his glasses.

“Well I was about to watch porn. You kinda ruined the mood, man,” he hopes his voice doesn't sound too weird. But Stan takes the bait.

Beep beep, asshole. Have you heard of the big news?”

His chest tightens. Of course he's fucking heard. That's why he looks like a kicked puppy about to drown his feelings into some cheap whiskey. Richie gives a small nod.

“Just got the invitation. Can you believe our little Eddie is finally going to get his cherry popped?”

The joke tastes loud on his tongue. He snaps his big mouth shut.

About time,”  Stans says, dragging a hand through his perfect curls.  They've been together for what... Seven? Eight years?”

“Ten,” Richie answers. A bit too fast, for someone who's supposed to not give a damn. It's not that he's interested in Eddie's relationship with Myra. He can count on his fingers the amount of times they separated, and then went back together, and then broke up again, and each time Richie had felt the glimmer of hope deep down his stomach, and each fucking time he'd been disappointed, even when one night Eddie had called him from his mom's apartment and had stated with a firm voice ; That's it, I'm done. Never again.

Crazy,”  Stan says, on the phone.  “ What took them so long, you think?”

Richie shrugs. He doesn't know why Stan is asking him this. All his close friends are aware of his own fucked-up love life. Romantic relationships are just not his thing.  Well, it could be,  whispers the voice in his head. He shuts it down quickly.

“Are you going?” he asks Stan, avoiding the question. “How's my beautiful Patty-Pie by the way?”

Stan smiles so hard a dimple appears on his right cheek. His eyes are shiny.

“Well, in fact, that's why I'm calling you. I wanted you to be the first to know... She's pregnant, Rich.”

Oh... Oh ! Not that  this  news is particularly surprising. His friends have been trying to have a kid for a while. It's sweet, the thought of a mini-Uris toddling around, babyface scrunched up and soft curly hair sitting on top of their head like a bird-nest. Maybe it's the stack of things he's learned today, or maybe it's just the premises of a mid-life crisis, but the idea brings tears to his eyes and warmth to his heart. He swallows down his emotional outburst and gives Stanley and his wife the congratulations they deserve.

“Tell Patty I'm very proud of her and I hope the baby doesn't look like their dad.”

Stan doesn't even beep him this time. He's beaming. Stars could pop up from his eyes and yet his expression would remain the same ; accomplished. That's how life is supposed to go for him. That's what he's always dreamed of. A nice, loving marriage. A house. A kid. Richie hates himself for the wave of jealousy that suddenly hits him like a slap in the face. Not that he wants a pregnant wife. That idea is beyond horrifying. But he wonders if he will ever get to taste the same kind of normal happiness someday.

Anyway, duty calls,”   Stan says, still smiling.  I've got some work to do. See you at the wedding, yeah?”

Oh yeah, the wedding. Eddie and Myra's wedding.  Shit.  Richie cringes.

“Sure, wouldn't miss this for the world. Bye bye, my dude. And— thanks for telling me about Stanley Jr.”

Stan's laughter sounds beautiful.

“Of course, Rich. Bye”

He hangs up. Richie remains seated on his saggy couch, phone in hand. He wishes he could melt with the walls. He wants to watch some crappy action packed movie on the TV and eat a full bag of Doritos, Chinese food forgotten. Cry himself to sleep, maybe. But before that, he needs a drink. Multiple drinks.

 

Three beers and two martinis later, he ends up lying face down in the very same couch, nose pressed in a pillow, mouth half-open, scrolling through the Losers group chat on WhatsApp. In perfect Kaspbrak fashion, Eddie's sent them the full program, with the details for the rooms he's rented for each single one of them at a pretty nice motel in New York City, close to the church, and some printable versions of plane tickets. Because of course, he's paying for them all. Like it's his way of saying,  please don't fucking let me down guys . Richie feels nauseous. Now, he's forced to come. Damn it.

Eddie : also, myra and I decided that ben should be my best man. she's always appreciated him. so hanscom, what do you think?

Ben :me?? well... thanks, man. of course.

Stan : congratulations, buddy!

Mike :that's great, eddie. we are very excited! :)

Bev : absolutely! and if myra ever needs a designer friend for her dress...

Eddie : nice of you to propose, bevvie, but she's gonna wear her mother's dress. at least that's what she told me.

Bill : i'm sorry but audra won't be joining me. she's in cali busy doing some last reshoots for her new movie.

Richie reads the conversation, feeling like he should intervene somehow. Add something. Make a typical joke. But he can't think of one that wouldn't ruin his cover or make him throw up his repressed feelings. So Ben is going to be Eddie's best man, huh? That makes sense, when you think about it. Myra hates his guts. She probably sees Beverly as some kind of threat. Bill writes gruesome, disgusting books about killer clowns and dead children. Stan is... well he’s jewish, and they're getting married in a church, please. And Mike is kind, probably the best candidate for the role, but a black man nonetheless. What would her dear friends from the country-club think? She doesn't seem like the type of woman who doesn't take her bigoted besties' opinions in consideration. He wants to write :  who cares about what your awful fiancée think of us, Eddie-spaghetti?  It's almost too tempting. His thumb even hovers over the keypad during a few seconds.

In the end, Richie just mutes his phone and hides it behind the pillow. His eyelids are heavy. He thinks that he hasn't cried yet, not a single tear, and that's probably for the best. Myra isn't worth his time. Let's hope Eddie will come to his senses. Richie closes his eyes, and falls asleep in a flash...



*



It's Christmas of 1999.

Mike is hosting a party in the Florida's lot he shares with two roommates, who are conveniently absent tonight. He's invited all of them, even Stanley who doesn't even celebrate the holiday. A Losers Club reunion. They're twenty-four years old, most of them employed or still studying. They're young and full of dreams.

The party is a blast. They have fun, they drink, they take a walk on the beach, they eat cookies, they drink, they talk about each other's lives, they drink again. Bev shows up way later than them ; a problem at the airport she explains, avoiding their eyes. They all know the truth. Her asshole of a boyfriend – Tom or John or whatever - gave her shit again. For the first time in his life, Richie wants to kill a man he doesn't even know. Simple as that. Just squeeze his throat until he turns blue.  Sayonara, trash-bag. Hope you rot in hell.

The night is quieter after that. They end up sitting in front of the animated image of a campfire on the TV's screen.  Pretend it's a real fireplace , Mike says while pouring more mulled wine into their plastic cups. At the radio, George Michael is singing about his broken heart. It's been a exhausting but productive year for them all. Richie has had his very first stand-up show. Good job, for a rookie. They haven't been able to come, but they were all happy for him nonetheless. Bev has graduated from her art school and a big fashion agency is already eyeing her. Ben – who's starting to look like a fucking lingerie model - is on his way to become a successful architect. Bill has finished the first draft of his novel and has found a publisher willing to give him a chance. Stan is already working and the accountant look kind of suits him. He's very much in love with his girlfriend, Patty. Mike wants to be a historian. He's started taking history and literature classes and his eyes shine with ambition. Eddie is...  God.  Richie is having trouble tearing his eyes away from him. He's grown since the last time they saw each other. He's less thin and more fit. The baby-fat on his cheeks has disappeared. His jaw is sharper, the lines on his face more pronounced. He still has some freckles on his cheekbones, faint but here, and his dark hair is well combed. He's beautiful. And his school seems like the most depressing hellhole ever created. Who the fuck willingly choose to become a risk analyst?

Eddie is also single. Somehow, it's the best news Richie has heard tonight. Not that he wants to shoot his shot, oh no. He's still not out. Well not to the most of them at least. He's told Stanley a few years ago, when he was still in high-school. And Beverly's randomly guessed ; she had mentioned a boyfriend one day and he hadn't denied. The others are still clueless. Absolutely clueless. Bill asks him if he has a girlfriend and he shrugs, plays along. I have a few, yeah. One of them is your mom, Denbrough.  Beep fucking beep, Richie.  Big Bill's stutter is gone, can you believe it? Beverly eyes him with a sad smile and Stan keeps sipping his wine, cheeks red and curls falling like a curtain on his forehead. Eddie is silent.  Maybe he believes I'm a womanizer,  Richie thinks, dumbly. Then he laughs, because what the fuck.

They exchange gifts. Bullshit like socks and perfumed candles and  Sex for Dummies'  kind of books. It's perfect. He loves his friends more than life. After four bottles of red wine and a few shots of tequila, they're all tipsy and can barely stand on their feet. He doesn't remember which one of them starts the karaoke session, but he's grateful.

Bill has a duet with Mike on  Stand by Me . They mess up the song so much it hurts, and Stan laughs to the point he snorts wine out of his nose. Eddie is a light-weight and the alcohol turned him into some kind of fearless version of himself. He jumps on the coffee table to sing  Bohemian Rhapsody , using a broomstick as a mic. They all join him for the chorus. Then it's Richie and Bev's turn and they butcher  Don't Go Breaking My Heart  through their incessant giggles and imitate Elton and Kiki with so much accuracy Ben has to go grab his camera to film the scene.

By four a.m, Mike's living room is in chaos. They're tired to the bones, but they help him clean. And somehow, by miracle, (A Christmas's miracle, ah!) both Richie and Eddie find themselves under the branch of mistletoe Mike has planted on the ceiling as a joke. They'd all been avoiding it until now. Richie is the first to realize this, and he doesn't know if he wants to laugh at the irony or burst into tears. Ben notices and gives him an timid thumbs-up.  Go for it, man. I would.  Bill is less discreet, the amount booze he's injected not helping his case.

“Richie and Eddie, under the mistletooooooe!” he sings-song, before tripping on the carpet and almost landing face-first on the table.

At this point, Richie can't breathe. He's never felt that sober in his entire life. He wonders if the lump in his throat is going to choke him to death. The blood on his veins runs colder than ice. Eddie looks up. He's pretty inhibited himself, lips curled into a sloppy smile. Richie tries to smile back but all he manages is a weird scowl that probably looks like he's constipated. Eddie shrugs and what happens next is history. He curls both hands around Richie's face and kiss him. right. on. the. lips. Not the passionate, feverish, sexy kiss involving a lot of tongue and groping like Richie uses to imagine late at night in bed when he can't sleep, but the lazy version, just a warm, delicate brush of lips against lips. Someone gasps, and he hears another person whoop, but Richie is no longer aware of his surroundings. He's lightheaded, about to pass out. His legs tremble like leaves. His skin is burning. Eddie is kissing him.  Eddie Kaspbrak is kissing me.  He's kissing him, and what should he do, should he kiss back, should he take him by the waist, but then he remembers, it's just a game, just a dare, the fucking mistletoe, and he doesn't even have time to close his fucking eyes and enjoy the moment because Eddie is already pulling away, his eyes bright, a light shade of pink spread wide on his cheeks. He smirks, as if proud of himself, proud of the boldness of his action. Richie is glued to the floor.

“I hope I don't catch the flu and die Tozier, or else I'm gonna haunt your sorry ass forever!” Eddie chuckles like an idiot.

Then an awful noise grows in his throat and he turns paler than an aspirin. He drops to his knees and vomits all over Richie's new pair of Nike, large chunks of half-digested Christmas cookies and a lot of red wine. Not for the first time in his life, Richie Tozier wonders why God – if there is even one - hates him so damn much.

“Jesus, I'm sorry, man” Eddie whines, wiping his mouth with his sleeve. “Sorry. Fuck. Guys, I feel like I'm about to die.”

Ben and Mike help him get to his feet.

“You're alright, Eds,” Ben pats his back. “You've just had a little too much to drink, like Big Bill over there.”

With a wince, he glances at the latter who's snoring on the couch, mouth wide open. They escort a panicking Eddie to the guest room. Richie blinks. Stan is already standing in front of him with a wet dishcloth in his hand and a little smile on his lips. He mouths his thank you, unable to speak just yet. Both Stan and Bev help him clean the mess and bless them, they actually manage to save his sneakers. They can't say that much for the dishcloth. Bev drops it in the garbage disposal and goes to wash her hands in the kitchen sink. Stan gives him a look.

“You okay, Rich?”

“Never been better.” Richie answers. After years of longing, hoping, dreaming, he's just had his first kiss with Eddie and Eddie threw it up all over the floor. Sometimes, life is just hilarious.



*



Richie remembers this while he's on the plane for New York, three days later. Mike's stupid Christmas party. He can't even stand the sight of mistletoes anymore. He wonders if Eddie has forgotten all about this— incident. There's a very high chance, considering how much he was wasted that night. None of the Losers ever mentioned the kiss again. And to think it was the first time he ever shared one with a man. Well, shared is a big word. He didn't even breath or move for the half second it lasted.  Pathetic.  Richie turns his head toward the window, and touches his lips with the tip of his fingers. The airbus is flying upon huge, candy-floss looking clouds. He thinks,  I should have stayed at home.  And then ;  God, I'm such a bad friend.  The truth is ; he doesn't want to attend to the wedding. He doesn't want to see Eddie, in his gorgeous tuxedo, waiting for his beloved in front of the altar with fucking hearts in his eyes. He doesn't want to hear people cheer or have to pretend he's happy they finally tied the knot.

The mere thought of being forced to congratulate them gives him the creeps.  It's your fault, you know. You've wasted way too much time, buddy. Maybe he you weren't such a coward.  Richie barks out a laugh and his neighbor – an old man wearing an ugly cap - glares at him. He hides his grin behind his hand. To his defense, he doesn't even believe Eddie swing his way. Eddie kissed him, yeah, but it had been a dare. A fucking tradition.

The plane lands some times after. Richie collects his stuff quickly, leaves the airport, then hails a cab. He's supposed to meet the others at the motel. Bev insisted they should take Eddie somewhere, maybe a club, for his last day as a bachelor. Mike proposed some bar he found online instead –  Eddie Kaspbrak in a discotheque, really?  And Ben and Bill agreed. Stan is coming with Patty, so it's probably for the best. And Richie... well, he didn't even think about making the obvious loud joke : let's take Eds to the nearest strip-club! because he's simply not in the mood. In the end, he gave his vote to Mike.

The taxi driver is glaring at him in the rearview mirror. He's a young, skinny guy, who kind of looks like a just-came-out-of-puberty version of Tom Cruise. The stubble on his cheeks barely even cover the last traces of his acne.

“Man, I really don't wanna bother you, but I just have to ask. Are you that comedian? Tozier? ”

Richie smiles, lips pressed in a thin line.  Please don't ask for a selfie. Please don't ask for a selfie.  He didn't tell Steve about his unplanned trip to NYC and he looks like absolute shit. He caught a glance at himself in the bathroom's mirror earlier ; the bags under his eyes have bags under them. He hasn't shaved and he's wearing a fucking t-shirt with a “Caution : Zero to Horny in 2.5 Beers” joke on it. So yeah, not happening.

The kid just nods. “I took my mom to see one of your shows. Won two tickets on the internet, you know. You should have seen her face at the end of it. I think she thinks you're a pervert, dude.”

Richie blinks. Maybe the selfie isn't such a bad idea after all, compared to being roasted by a twenty-something years old kid.   I'm not a perv, man,  he wants to say.  But the guy who writes all my jokes believes straight sex is the funniest subject on earth for some obscure reasons. And I can't even tell him to fuck off because that's what pays my rent and gives me a cover. Sad, huh? 

“That's alright,” Richie answers with a little laugh. “Tell her she's free to come yell at me after, next time. Promise I won't do any pervy thing.”

“No, man, she never wants to see you again. Sorry. But I still find some of your stuff pretty funny. I mean you're not John Mulaney, but you could be. Just chill on the dick jokes, maybe?”

Richie pats the seat's backrest. “Thanks, Risky Business. Appreciate your input.”

“Risky Business?”

“It's... nevermind. Want a selfie?”

The guy does want a selfie. Fuck.

 

The motel Eddie rented for them is a bit on the tacky side, and unsurprisingly clean and ordered. Not that Richie ever cares about where he ends up sleeping anyway. He's done a lot of tour dates, in a lot of different places, and seen his fair share of cockroaches. There was this one time in Dallas where...  God, nope, not a good time to have another trip in memory-land, Tozier. 

The taxi drops him in the parking. He pays the kid, takes the fucking selfie, makes him promise to say sorry to his mom. He watches the car go, hands deep in the pockets of his jacket. Suddenly there's a pair of arms around his shoulders and he jumps out of his skin.

“Come here often, handsome?” Beverly Marsh says, beaming.

“God, Bevvie, you scared me! I'm old you know, I could have had a heart attack.”

She laughs and kisses him on the cheek. He notices the cigarette in her hand.

“Watch out, you're starting to sound like Eddie.”

“It's not a bad thing,” Ben says, coming from behind her with a serene smile on his lips. “Hey, Rich.”

“My dear Haystack. Always a sight for sore eyes. ”

Jesus, that man is smoking hot.  The nickname doesn't even fit anymore. He knows Beverly and Ben have been "roomating" since her divorce with that piece of shit of Tom Rogan. It's a good thing. He's happy for them. They both deserve the best.

They hug. Bev offers him a cigarette and he accepts graciously. They've arrived one hour before. They're both exhausted, but excited nonetheless. Falling back and forth in the usual chatter with his best friends is easy, and Richie missed the way warmth spreads around his guts everytime he hears Bev laugh or sees Ben blush.

He often asks himself what his life would be without them. He has some other friends in LA, sure, but they don't share a bond. They didn't use to spend hours in front of the Derry's theater waiting in queue for the gates to open so they could go watch Marty McFly time-travel, their popsicles melting in their hands under the summer sun. They didn't use to play in the quarry's dirty ass water until their skin turned all wrinkly like prunes. They didn't grow up together in a shitty Maine town, stand up against terrible parents, teachers and bullies alike, against prejudices and social injustice. Richie is aware of the fact that he is very much lonely. But without them, without the Losers, he'd be fucking  empty.

At long last, the rest of the gang – minus Eddie – decide to show up. Bill picked up Mike at the airport to give him a ride. Stan arrives a few minutes later with a radiant – and unsurprisingly very pregnant - Patty by his side and they all coo over her cute baby-bump.

“Is it a boy or girl?” Bev asks, her blue eyes teary.

Stan exchanges a knowing look with his wife.

“We decided to keep the gender a secret for our friends and family. So you all better start taking some bets.”

Richie bets 150 bucks for a girl. Bill is down for it. They shake hands.

“You can say goodbye to your money, Tozier,” Bill says with a smirk.

“Oh, keep dreaming, Guillermo.”

He's obviously not an expert in pregnancy, but he remembers how his mom's belly bump looked so high when she was pregnant with his little sister. Just like how Patty's looks right now. He catches Stan's wink and feels his heart flutter with joy and excitement.

They all check into their rooms to drop their luggages, shower, change clothes and catch some rest before meeting in the lobby again to wait for Eddie. By then it's already half past nine in the evening. He's texted them, saying he was going to be a bit late. Richie wonders if Myra is keeping him busy. Knowing her, she's probably insisting that he reconsider his plans.  Going out with them?  In Richie's mind, she pronounces the word  them  like an insult.  To some... filthy bar? They're gonna get you in trouble, Eddie-bear! Don't forget that we are getting married tomorrow!

Twenty minutes and two cigarettes later, a nervous looking Eddie Kaspbrak stumbles out of his Toyota, cheeks flushed and hair's a mess. He's wearing a long sleeve white shirt and some tight dark pants that show the outline of his butt – not that Richie's been checking it out like a horny teenager thank you very much, but it's kind of hard to avoid. Seeing Eddie in something else rather than jeans and ugly polos is confusing but it's not like he wants to complain.

“Guys, I'm really sorry,” Eddie explains while hugging each one of them, “traffic's kept me on the road and oh... wow, is this— is this a baby? Are you guys having a freaking baby ?”

Patty laughs.

“Well, it was supposed to be a surprise but I guess I can't hide it from the world anymore.”

Stan curls an arm around her waist. Eddie looks in awe of the couple.

“This is— this is amazing. Congratulations!”

Richie is last in line for Eddie to greet. It's only when he's having a armful of his friend that he realizes how much he's missed him and how much he feels complete right now.

“Hey, Rich,” Eddie pats him on the back. Quick but efficient. Richie is already melting like a puddle on the ground. God, get a grip on yourself Tozier. This man is about to marry someone else. He swallows back his feelings and grins.

“Eduardo, my man! Did you finally decide you've had enough of dressing like an eighty years old grandpa?”

Eddie glares at him.

“Says the dude wearing an Hawaiian shirt. What are you, thirteen?”

It does feel like I'm thirteen again,  Richie wants to answer.  My heart shouldn't still be beating so fast everytime I fucking look at you but yet here we are.  He shrugs and pulls on his own shirt.

“This is top-notch. Ask Miss Fashion Designer over there.” He nods towards Beverly.

“Stop fighting, you two” She smiles. “You both look amazing... for forty years old guys.”

Eddie crosses his arms on his chest. Richie hears him mutter under his breath :  who even say top notch anyway?  Then Bill claps his hands.

“Should we go? Is everyone ready?”

“Let's do this!” Mike looks excited. During the ride (Bill, Mike and Richie are all riding with Eddie), he tells them that he found a fun Hollywood's themed bar online and that he went to one similar in Florida. Apparently, they serve cocktails that wear celebrities' names. Bill asks if there was one called the “Richie Tozier” and when Mike answers that no, but there was indeed one called the “Bill Hader” they all cry with laughter. Well, all except Richie who's sitting very still and very offended on the front-seat of Eddie's car. What have I ever done to God?

“Ah, ah, hilarious, guys. I bet it tastes dull and lame.”

Eddie is wheezing.

“I don't care, I'm definitely ordering one!”

Richie grunts. “You're a fucking traitor, Eds. Unbelievable.”

From the backseat, Bill gives him a squeeze on the shoulder.

“Oh, come on, Rich! If there was a cocktail named after you, I would definitely drink it. What would it taste like, do you think?”

Mike gasps.

“I know, I know!” He looks at Bill and Eddie and the three of them answer together, like one man : “Jealousy!” before bursting into a fresh new wave of laughter. Richie remains unimpressed. Eddie nudges him playfully with his elbow.

“Add a little bit of Schweppes in it. You know, because of the bitter part.”

“Beep beep motherfuckers.” Richie says, rolling his eyes, even though a grin is already curling the corner of his mouth. The truth is : he loves his best friends to death and bickering with them is the most fun he's had in months. They perfectly fill the giant loneliness-shaped hole in his heart.

They arrive at the  Walk Of Fame , still wiping the tears away from their faces. Stan, Patty, Bev and Ben are already waiting inside, seated around a table in a corner of the room. The building is crowded with young folks, hot ladies, hipster-looking dudes who show their ankles, laugh out loud and probably comb their beards in their spare time. The most retro thing about the place is the music, and the set of arcade games stuck in a corner, not far from the actual bar.

“This place looks great, Mikey,” Bill says, taking a seat next to Ben.

Eddie slips right next to Stan, and Richie follows.

He looks around. “I think we're the oldest people here.”

Bev chuckles. “So what? You're sad you're not gonna get hit on, Trashmouth?”

“On the contrary. If you wanna go to jail, Bevvie, be my guest. These kids all look fresh out of high-school.”

She rolls her eyes fondly. Ben stands up.

“I'm gonna go order some drinks. Want anything specific?”

They all pick their poisons. Two Jennifer Anistons, one Robert De Niro, and two Barack Obamas (there is, at Eddie's great regret, no Bill Haders available). Stan chooses to support Patty's imposed alcohol diet and asks for two cokes. The boys tease him merciless but Bev calls his sense of devotion adorable.

Once they get their drinks, the group settle, tired but relaxed. They argue about music and TV shows, about baby names. Richie insists that Ricarda is absolutely lovely while both Patty and Stanley look at him with concern.

“We are not naming our baby Ricarda,” Stan shakes his head. “Nope, don't even count on it.”

“But it's pretty! And super rare.”

Eddie groans into his hands. It's so easy to piss him off.

“Ricarda? Do you want your best friends' child to be fucking bullied at school?”

His yells are music to Richie's ears. He shrugs and throws an arm around his shoulders.

“No need to be jealous, Eds. Their second girl can be named after you, you know... Edna? Edith?”

“Shut up, Richie.” Eddie replies with no real heat in his voice. Richie doesn't know if the alcohol is already starting to make him dozy and prone to take things out of context, but his friend seems to lean a bit more against his side while he speaks. Richie tries very hard not to shiver.

After a while though, he can't help but notice that Eddie seems quieter than usual. Sure, he laughs with them and adds his input to the conversation from time to time but he also has that look in his eyes. Like he's thinking about something else – like he's miles away from here, on another planet. He keeps biting his lip. His fingers play with his cocktail's straw mindlessly. While the others are chatting, not paying attention to them, Richie pats him on the forearm.

“You okay, man?”

Eddie blinks, as if he's just remembered where he is. With whom he is.

“I'm— I'm good, yeah. Why wouldn't I be?”

“I don't know. You seem a bit off.”

“What?” He barks out a laugh. It sounds wrong. “No, dude, I told you, I'm good. Just tired is all.”

Richie nods, not convinced, but he decides to drop the subject for now. He doesn't want to startle Eddie.

He nods toward the cocktail. “Want another drink? I'm paying since you're... you know. The future groom and everything.”

“Sure. Thanks, Rich.”

So they drink. And drink more. All of them pay their tour. Two hours and a lot of Jennifer Anistons later, Eddie seems more and more present, his earlier blackout completely forgotten. He sings along songs and even wonders out loud where's the fucking karaoke machine is – a few of the dudes at the bar look at him like he's grown a third head. Then he grips Richie's wrist and drags him away from the table.

“Wh— Eds, what the fuck are you doing?” Richie tries to stop him.

Eddie tilts his head. “Come with me! Gotta show you something.”

That's enough to get the flame of excitement burn inside Richie's stomach. He adores the other Losers but he never get to spend time with Eddie alone, like when they were kids. He follows Eddie until they're both standing in front of a Street Fighter  arcade machine and Richie is violently hit by a vivid memory of his thirteen years old's self, all gangly limbs and nerdy glasses, elbow pushing another boy's to try and win the game at the old Derry's arcade room. He almost loses his shit right there, right now, but Eddie is watching him with fucking stars in his eyes. He needs to resist.

“So, what d'you think, Rich? Wanna play? Like good old times.”

Richie opens his mouth to answer but no sound comes off. He gives a weak nod instead. Eddie bumps his fist in the air and checks for coins in the pocket of his pants. He takes place in front of the joystick, opens the first few buttons of his shirt and says behind his shoulder :

“C'mon, Tozier, I'm gonna beat your ass to the ground!”

That snaps Richie out of his trance. He positions himself next to Eddie.

“Bring it on, Eduardo.”

They play for almost twenty minutes, hips brushing and nudging each other, wheezing through their clenched teeth. Eddie, the little shit, is great at the game. Richie's had forgotten all about his skills.

“This isn't fair,” Richie groans after loosing the third fight in a row. “You're so tiny and my fucking arms are six feet long.”

Eddie giggles. Then he turns pale and Richie has deja-vu. He takes a step back.

“Oh oh. I know that face, Eds. You okay?”

“Nuh-huh. I gotta— wait.”

He runs for the bathrooms. With a sigh, Richie follows him. When he enters the room, Eddie is perched upon the sink, splashing water on his face and neck.

“Eddie?”

Eddie gives him a thumbs-up.

“All good. False alarm.” He tries to walk and stumbles on his feet like a baby deer, but Richie is quick to catch him before he hits the floor. He grabs him around the armpits to help him stand in a more upright position. Eddie buries his face in the crook of his neck.

“Jesus,” Richie can feel his hot breath caressing his skin. “When did ya get so fucking tall, Rich?”

“Since I've fucked your mom,” Richie deadpans, ignoring the way his heart knocks against his ribcage like it's about to jump right out off it. Eddie giggles again. He sounds so young.

“Beep-beep. Not funny, Trashmouth.”

“You're drunk, Eds. Maybe we should—“

“I don't wanna go home.” Eddie's voice is barely a whisper. He stills in Richie's arms, his whole body tense like a cord. Richie doesn't know what to say. He waits in the heavy silence that follows Eddie's admission. Then :

“Mom's gonna be mad at me. I wanna stay at your place. Play some Street Fighter. Can you go ask your folks?”

Richie closes his eyes.

“Eds, we're not—“ he stops, swallowing around the lump in his throat. Slowly, he raises his hand and puts it on the back of Eddie's neck.

“You're okay, buddy. We're okay. You're just wasted.”

Abruptly, Eddie pulls back. He blinks. Once. Twice.

“The wedding,” He looks around, his eyes wild. “What time is it?”

Trying his best not to feel hurt, Richie takes a glance at his watch.

“You've still got about nine hours before your big day, Eds.”

“Oh.” Finally, Eddie disappears inside a toilet stall to throw up. When he comes back to wash his hands and rinse his mouth, his skin doesn't look so gray and ashy anymore.

“You good?” Richie asks and Eddie nods in answer. “We're getting you home, dude. You need your beauty-sleep.”

They leave the bathrooms. Once they get to the Losers table, Richie puts an arm around Eddie's waist to steady him.

“I'm gonna bring Mister Groom home,” he explains to the rest of them. “We don't want him to faint at his own wedding, huh?”

Ben and Mike are already on their way to help him. He stops them with a hand.

“It's okay, I've got it. Thanks, guys.”

“You sure?” Beverly asks, frowning, and he nods.

“See you all tomorrow!”

“See you, Rich.”

“Bye, Eddie. Take care of yourself.”

“It was fun to spend time with you all.”

Outside, he asks Eddie for his car key. Eddie mumbles something about his pants and Richie tries not to cringe as he plunges a hand on his pants' front pocket to find it.

“Okay, let's go.” He opens the car door and helps Eddie settle on the passenger seat. He doesn't forget the seatbelt. Once he's satisfied with the results, he gives a pat on his friend's cheek. “Don't puke in the car, Eds, alright?”

Eddie is already half-asleep. Behind the steering-wheel, Richie wonders if he should bring Eddie back to his actual house in the suburbs, or back to the motel. The idea of having to confront Myra about the state of her fiancé, of having to explain or argue isn't really appealing. Plus he's a bit worried about Eddie, and the sentence “I don't wanna go home”still resonates in his mind. He knows Eddie was talking about his old home — where his mom was, always ready to give him shit about one thing or another – but still. Something about Myra just... doesn't sit right with him. Richie ends up taking the road that leads to the motel.

The parking lot is almost empty. He parks the Toyota, then helps Eddie get out of it and with his friend a limp weight in his arms, he walks up the stairs to his own room.

Richie grunts. “You know you're kinda heavy for a small dude.” By the time they enter the room, he's struggling to catch his breath. He lays Eddie down on the bed and exhales loudly.

“Jesus fuck, man. Next time rent a motel with a fucking elevator.” Eddie doesn't answer. He just buries his face further in the pillow, his arms spread out against his sides. Richie watches him with a little fond smile on his lips. Eddie's still wearing his shoes. With a sigh, Richie takes them off of him, feeling himself flush like a kid. Everything is starting to feel very domestic. He goes to the bathroom to brush his teeth, drink some water and change into a pair of sweatpants and a t-shirt.

When he comes back to the room, Eddie is still lying in the same position, but his eyes are open. He doesn't say anything when Richie settles down next to him, on the narrow bed.

“If you want, I can sleep on the—,” Richie starts to say, but Eddie just lifts up a hand and curls it around his bicep. Richie's breath catches in his throat. He finds out he can't talk anymore. Eddie closes his eyes, not moving his hand, not moving at all, and soon his breathing steadies, slowly, deeply. Richie just stares, unblinking. He's overwhelmed by a rush of feelings so strong and confusing it leaves him weak, unable to smother the sudden flame of hopefulness burning in his guts. He waits some more, for Eddie to wake up and realize what he's doing, for him to recoil in disgust. Nothing of that kind happens. Instead, Eddie just squeezes his arm, a little spasm of the hand. Richie breathes out and lets his head fall back on the pillow.

“Goodnight, Eds.” he says, in the dark.

“We should buy a hammock.”

Eddie doesn't look aware that he's just talked. He's still asleep, face buried deep in the pillow. Soon he even resumes his light snoring, as if of nothing. Eyes on the ceiling, Richie nods, slowly, feeling his heart break piece by piece.  Yeah, buddy, we should,  he thinks. We really should. 

 

Chapter Text

*

 

The next morning, Richie doesn't even have to look up to know that Eddie is gone. Reaching out blindly, he grabs his glasses on the bedside table then checks out the hour on his phone : it's already long past ten. “Shit.” he mutters, dragging a hand on his face.

He decides to just lie in bed for a little longer, wondering if yesterday was just an alcohol induced dream. He misses the warmth of Eddie's hand around his arm, misses hearing his breathing, calm and deep in sleep.  We should buy a hammock.  Richie didn't remember that Eddie is a sleep-talker. What did he mean by that? The hammock. They spent most of their childhood curled up into that dusty thing, arguing and fighting for the right to stay more than ten minutes each. The first time – only time – Richie had felt ready to confess, they'd both be lying down in it, making it rock back and forth, their legs and arms tangled in a labyrinth of limbs. I miss this,  Richie thinks, admiring the tiles on the ceiling. I miss how easy everything was before.

Feeling like a man having a out-of-body experience, he drags himself out of the bed and goes to the bathroom to take a shower. With everything that happened yesterday, he's almost forgotten about that damned wedding.

 

Twenty minutes later, Bev and Ben pick him up in the parking lot. She's wearing a gorgeous red dress that contrasts with the fair tone of her skin. She's breathtaking, even more than usual. Ben looks absolutely handsome himself in his Marsh designed suit. He feels a bit self-conscious around them, in his worn tuxedo – the one he's packed randomly, barely glancing at - but the idea of buying a new suit for this special occasion sounded too much like the beginning of a nightmare. During the car ride, he's silent. Bev and Ben don't seem to notice something is off and when they ask him questions he tries to answer with his usual banter, even though he's boiling from the inside.  Maybe I should just say fuck it and go back to the motel, Eddie won't mind, would he?  Eddie is probably too busy right now to even think about him or about last night. Last night didn't mean shit. Just like the fucking mistletoe, years ago. Richie just has to put on a brave face, pretend it's not killing him, then he can say goodbye and fuck off to L.A for good. He has no doubt once Eddie ties the knot with Myra, she will keep him away from the Losers. She's always hated them. He'd rather have Eddie marry any other person than this— this god awful woman who by all means is just another version of his fucked up mother.

He wants to ask the others what they think about Myra, but he can't. They all look genuinely happy for Eddie and he doesn't want to ruin the day with his weird accusations.  Having all those doubts, does that make me a bad friend, Eds?

They arrive at the crowded church. As he watches the sacred building, Richie wonders if Eddie is even religious to the point of getting married in a church or if it's just another thing his wonderful fiancée insisted on them doing. The guests are gathered in the courtyard. A lot of people he's never met before, in their ugly, pompous outfits, most of them from the bride's side of the family, he guesses, looking all red and emotional. The trio meet up with the rest of the gang, and Ben excuses himself – as the groom's best man, he has to go give a quick pep-talk to Eddie – before disappearing inside the church. Richie hides his shaking hands in the pockets of his pants. While his friends are chatting, he lets his eyes wander around. Not far way from their group, three middle-aged women wearing huge meringue-looking dresses are busy waving fans to their faces (it's the middle of goddamn May) and giving the side-eye to an oblivious Beverly. Without thinking, Richie takes a step behind Bev to hide her from the ladies' field of view and offers them his best smile, even though his teeth are clenched so hard he can feel pressure in his skull.

They quickly lose interest after that.  Is this really the kind of people you want to be associated with, Eddie?  The questions itch his skin like the leaves of poison ivy. Richie needs to know if his best friend is okay, be sure he's not about to make the mistake of his life ; he needs to know or else he might regret it forever.

So before he can change his mind, he turns towards the Losers.

“I'm gonna go check on Eddie, too. You know, just to make sure he's not shitting his pants right now.”

Bev gives him a soft smile. “No moms jokes, Richie. Don't piss him off.”

Richie throws his hands in mock offense, and gasps dramatically. “Is this how little you think of me, Marsh?”

His voice comes out hoarse, and he clears his throat. He's nervous as fuck, the whole deal, hands shaking, stomach in knots, blood pounding in his ears. But they don't need to know that.

“Give him a hug from us,” Patty says, beaming. “Tell him we're all excited.”

Richie nods. “You got it, ma'am.” Then he turns on his heels in direction of the church, hands deep in his pocket. His heart is beating so fast he feels like he's about to throw it up on the ground. Some people turn his way to glare at him, but he ignores them and thinks :  This is my last fucking chance. I can't mess it up.  He doesn't even bother admiring the architecture of the church when he enters inside, he just checks for the only closed room at the far end of the building.

Just as he's about to knock, the door opens and a smiling Ben almost collides with him. He takes a step on the side, surprised.

“Oh, hey Rich! What's up?”

Richie nods towards the door.

“Just checking in on our dear pal. How's he doing?”

Ben laughs and it rings loud and clear in the air. “He's... stressed. You know Eddie. But I'm sure it's gonna be fine.”

He places two hands on Richie's shoulders. “Go easy on him, Rich.”

“Okay, first of all, what the fuck? Why do everyone think I'm some kind of immature asshole with zero self-control?”

Ben winces. “You're well aware that your nickname is Trashmouth, huh?” When Richie doesn't answer, Ben just pats him on the shoulder. “Anyway, see you, later, man. And good luck.”

“Yeah, yeah, see ya, hot stuff. Jesus, I can't believe this shit.” He watches Ben go, then knocks on the door. “Eduardo? Can I come in?”

Uh-huh. Sure.”

Richie steps in a narrow room whose only furnitures are a leather armchair stuck in the corner and a full-length mirror. Eddie is standing in front of the mirror, visibly struggling with the knot of his tie. He's wearing a simple dark blue two-pieces, a white shirt and a red tie. His face is scrunched up in a scowl and he went a little heavy-handed on the hair gel, but despise this he looks amazing, the ideal groom, and Richie's chest tightens with anguish and envy.  In another life, another timeline, maybe.  Then he hates himself for having those kind of thoughts.  God, this is getting ridiculous. When did I turn into a such huge sap? 

Eddie keeps fiddling with his tie. “You know my mom taught me how to tie a tie knot when I was like— fifteen? Sixteen? It was before my high school homecoming, and I was wearing a suit for the first time in my life— well actually, not the first time since I wore one for my father's funeral but I was too young to remember. You should have seen me back then, I looked like a fucking shrimp in a black tuxedo and I spent that evening hiding in the bathroom with my inhaler because I was too damn scared of holding my date's hand because of the germs, can you fucking believe it?”

Richie smiles. He can perfectly picture a younger Eddie freaking the fuck out in a toilet stale, pressing the inhaler to his mouth every five minutes or so. “Yeah, I can, you freak. How you even managed to get a girlfriend is beyond me.”

In the mirror, Richie notices the cringe on Eddie's lips. “Well, Myra is just like me, I guess that's why we get along so well.” He laughs, but it comes out high and wrong. Maybe it's just the nerves.   No she's not, Eds,  Richie thinks, watching his friend.  She may be an hypochondriac wreck too, but she can't even compare. She's the fucking far opposite of you, man. 

“You need help with that thing?” Richie asks, approaching Eddie.

Eddie shakes his head. “I'm okay, thanks.” He drops his hands to his sides, lets out a long sigh and turns on his heels toward him. “Man, this is scary. How do I look?”

“Like a fucking shrimp in a tuxedo. A tiny baby shrimp. Wearing way too much hair gel, by the way.” Richie tries to grab one of Eddie's locks but Eddie bats his fingers away.

“You're such an asshole, Richie, you know that, right?”

Richie is smirking. “I'm kidding, I'm kidding. Please don't get mad, the guys wouldn't forgive me.”

A silence, then his smile drops a bit and he adds, his voice sincere and barely above a whisper :

“You're perfect, Eds.”

Heat spreads on his cheeks, and he tilts his head on the side, feeling flustered. After a while, Eddie squeezes his forearm.

“Thanks, Rich.” When Richie looks up Eddie is staring at the floor, his eyebrows slightly furrowed. Richie notices his hands are shaking and he fights the need to reach out and hold them.

“Dude, you're alright?”

Eddie presses two fingers to the ridge of his nose. “I'm good. Anxious as fuck, though. Damn it. ” He sighs.

“You don't have to be.” Richie says, looking at him.

Eddie rolls his eyes. “Yeah, well. I'm getting married in a few minutes. Forgive me for being a little bit on edge.”

“Eddie.”

“What?”

This it it. You have to tell him.  Richie feels every second drag by as he stands here, ready to pull his heart out to the only person he's ever loved, a love so deep it burns under his skin. He opens his mouth, but then, reality smacks him in the face with the strength of a sledgehammer and the words he's rehearsed so many times throughout the years just get stuck on the roof of his mouth.

Eddie is waiting for him to talk. Eddie in his dazzling suit, about to exchange rings with a woman and who is he to ruin this, to ruin his friend's possible perfect future and happiness, his perfect life?

Richie gulps around the lump in his throat and asks, instead :

“Are you sure about all of this?”

And if the world could crumble it would be the perfect moment. Eddie blinks at him like he's suddenly grown a third head.

“About— About all of what?”

There's the light, unmistakable tremor of fear in his voice. Legs weak, Richie leans against the armrest of the chair.

“Myra.” The name tastes sour on his tongue. “You, marrying her.”

You, marrying your mom. Oh, Eddie, can't you see it? 

Eddie takes a step back, eyes wild.

“Why are you asking me this? Of course, I'm sure, I'm— dude, I'm wearing a suit, I gathered everyone, why wouldn't I be sure of myself?”

Richie shrugs. He can't bare to look at Eddie so he focuses on a dust bunny laying on the floor.

“I don't know, man. Your relationship with her. It never seemed very healthy to me, with you guys breaking up every five months.”

Eddie scoffs, like he can't quite believe what he's hearing. “Since when— what do you know about healthy relationships anyway? You've been single for years!”

“I just want to make sure, Eds. Forgive me for caring.”

Eddie shakes his head, then starts pacing the room like a mad-man. Richie just watches, fists tight on his laps.  Here we go , he thinks.  Here's where I fuck up in the most me-way possible.  His heart is thumping hard against his ribcage.

“What's your fucking problem, Richie? Why would you ask me that, right here, right now ?” Eddie sounds desperate.

“Because— Because Myra isn't the right person for you.”

To that Eddie looks like he's just been slapped in the face. He turns redder than humanly possible.

“So what - what you're saying is that, because she's a big woman and I—“

Richie stands up, annoyed.

“No, Eddie, you absolute moron, her weight is not the fucking problem! The problem is that she's holding you by the balls, just like your mom was back when we were kids and that's— that's totally fucked up when you think about it.”

By the way Eddie is shooting daggers at him, Richie almost expects to get shoved or even hit. But Eddie just remains still, very still, his feet planted on the ground.

“Fuck you, Richie. Fuck you.”

Richie licks his lips. There's still a million things he wants to say and either way, he's already too far gone. If Eddie has to hate me, then he might as well hate me for a reason.

“Do you even love her?”

Silence. Agonizing. Eddie seems frozen, which is odd. Normal Eddie is a ball of energy, always talking, always in action. Richie feels awful for putting him in that situation. The guilt plunges its ugly fangs into his heart and leaves him shaking.

Then :

“She's safe,” Eddie answers. “I've— I've known her for years.”

His voice is so strange, so unlike his usual self. You've know me for years, Richie wants to argue, desperately. But he forces his mouth shut.

“I met her in college, I was young. It's easy with her, it's—“

“Is it? Eddie are you seriously thinking that?”

With a sigh, Eddie checks his watch.

“I have to go. I can't be late to my own fucking wedding.”

But Richie can't take it anymore, watching his best friend try to avoid the obvious.

“That's not an answer. Eddie, please—“

In a flash, Eddie snaps out of his stupor. He digs a finger into Richie's chest.

“I know what's your problem is, man. You're just— you're just jealous!”

Richie stares up at Eddie, unbelievingly. Breath stuck in his throat, like oxygen can't find its way through his airways anymore. Suddenly unable to fight for himself or even argue back. Eddie scoffs, knowing he's found the breaking point. His tone is low and sharp.

“Things are starting to get a bit lonely back there in L.A, am I wrong, Rich? You just can't stand to watch your friends live their lives and be happy. You'd rather they stay fucking miserable just so you can feel less alone.”

I deserve this, Richie thinks, his eyes burning. I deserve this, but that doesn't make it hurt any less. He can't talk.

Eddie tilts his head to the side.

“What? You're lost for words, Trashmouth? Good, for once in your fucking life!”

The air feels cold, and Richie shivers a little. He wants to throw up, or maybe curl up in a ball. He wants to yell at Eddie ; This isn't you, asshole! You're trying to push me away, to make me leave, and if you keep going it's about to fucking work! But Eddie is looking at him with so much intensity that it makes him wonder, if maybe he's got it all wrong. If maybe he's just really bad at taking hints. Maybe Eddie does indeed hate him. 

Still silent, Richie rushes past him, making sure to shove him hard with his shoulder on the way. And just when he's about to grab the door handle, fingers are around his wrist, gripping firmly.

“Rich, wait— please, wait.”

He turns around. Eddie is watching him with a dismantled expression, his eyes bright.

“I'm sorry, man. I didn't mean what I just said. I'm sorry, I just— I just don't understand why you're telling me all of this, now.”

Richie swallows, his chest fluttering up and down. He is too scared to talk, so he does the next best thing that comes to his mind. Remembering years ago, a playful mistletoe, he cups Eddie's face and kiss him right on the lips.

Not the passionate, feverish kiss like he's imagined a thousand times before, but the other version, a graze of lips on lips, a tease. The last act of a hopeless man. Heart beating faster and faster in his chest, he feels Eddie leans on against him, then a hesitant hand coming up to hold his forearm, not shoving him away, disgusted, but staying there, like a comfort pressure.

Seconds pass like years. Richie can smell the harsh fragrance of Eddie's aftershave, can taste the menthol of his wash mouth on the tip of his tongue. They're alone, breathing  into each other's mouth in that dusty room, while behind the doors, people are patiently waiting for the bride and groom to unite forever. Somehow it doesn't even feel wrong. Kissing Eddie could never feel wrong and Richie wonders, why have I been so scared all my life? It was there, just in front of me, so right, so easy! And he asks himself if Eddie shares the same thoughts or if he's too petrified to back off and tell him to go fuck himself, I never want to see you again.

When Richie finally pulls away, Eddie still has his eyes closed, looking frozen and perfect with the light blush on his cheekbones. He decides to picture that image, keep it locked up in the secret imaginary box sitting inside his mind.

A moment later, Eddie blinks and stares up at him, mouth open, a tangle of different emotions on his face.

“I want to be certain that my best friend makes the right choice.” Richie says, smiling shyly.

He doesn't wait for Eddie to answer. He turns around and leaves the room.

 

*

 

When Richie gets to his sit, Mike asks him if everything is okay, in his casual attentive tone. He nods and gives a thumbs-up. The others wave at him, oblivious. Good. Don't let them see me just yet. In the church, the chatter of people reverberate against the walls. Someone is trying the organ. Soon, a strident melody starts to play and people stop talking. Richie grits his teeth.

Minutes later, Eddie steps out of the room, in a rush, blushing under the gaze of half a thousand guests. Once in front of the altar, he starts fiddling with his tie, a nervous gesture. Ben, standing behind him, whispers something in his ear then pats him on the shoulder. Eddie keeps his lips pressed in a thin line, pale as hell.

For a minute, it almost looks like he's about to faint in front of everybody. And wouldn't that be something? But when the church's doors open, Eddie quickly regains his composure, standing still and upright like he's supposed to.

Richie can't bare to watch the rest of the ceremony. Myra in her hideous dress, walking down the aisle. People gasping and whispering, eyes teary, fake happiness plastered on their faces. He only realizes his leg is bouncing up and down at a bewildering speed when Mike puts a hand on his knee to stop him.

“What's wrong?” he mouths, his eyebrows furrowed.

Richie gives a lop-sided grin. Don't worry, Mikey. It's all good. But it's not. Bride and groom exchange vows. Right after the ultimate question, there's a moment, half a second perhaps, where Eddie seems to hesitate, the tiniest shift of his eyes on the left, towards where Richie is seated, fists curled on his laps and blood pounding in his ears. And Richie thinks, that's it, and he's swallowed whole by hope, the kind that make him tremble like a leave. He imagines Eddie shake his head, apologize to Myra. I can't do this. Forgive me, but it's not you. It was never you. He imagines Eddie rushing to his seat, take his hand and smile : We wasted too much time. Never again, I promise. But then... Then. Against all odds, a strange shadow passing on his face, Eddie answers, in a clear and distinct tone : “I do.”

Richie's mouth goes slack. And the world stops turning.

When he comes back to himself, he's standing outside, bent over a patch of grass behind the church, his right hand clutching his stomach. The bile burns through his oesophagus and the pain is enough to help him focus on reality. Once he's sure he's not going to throw his guts out anymore, he lets himself slide against the concrete wall and drags a shaky hand to his face. It comes back wet.

Behind the building, he can hear the guests cheer for the newly wed couple, the honking of a car. Richie realizes he's crying, hot salty tears tracking down his cheeks. There's a heaviness sitting in his chest, like his lungs just turned into bricks. He feels pathetic and how so embarrassed. What did you think was gonna happen, dipshit?

Richie brings his knees up to his chest, curls his arm around them. He's thirteen again watching Eddie wave at him in the backseat of his mom's car. He's twenty-four, desperate for Eddie to notice him, hear his laughter. He's forty and Eddie's asleep next to him, his hand firmly gripping his bicep. We should buy a hammock.

A sob piercing his chest, he clenches his jaw shut, presses the palms of his hands to his eyelids until he sees stars float behind them. Suddenly, there's the unmistakable sound of shoes against gravel, approaching, and Richie bolts upright, quickly wiping his face with his sleeve. He stares straight ahead, too ashamed to turn his head and see who's the new comer is. Someone sits next to him.

He recognizes, with a little relief, Mike's cologne.

“Hey, man. You disappeared.”

Richie gulps.

“I did.” His voice is still hoarse from crying. He wonders if Mike noticed. Of course he did, you dumbfuck. You're sitting here looking like hell upon Earth with your eyes red and a mix of snot and tears on your face. You're not exactly subtle.

With a sigh, Mike throws an arm around Richie's shoulders. The gesture makes his eyes burn again. He leans against his friend, exhaustion taking over his body.

They stay like this in a comfortable silence, Mike slowly stroking Richie's arm up and down.

“You know,” he says after a while “all of you are my best, most precious friends. Big Bill— well, you might have noticed, but we were always the closest as kids. When he got married, it kind of felt like a part of me had been teared off. Like losing a limb, like I would never be whole again. For a long time, I hated myself ; I thought I was being the biggest selfish jerk on this planet. I was happy for him, and Audra is a great person. But I was also sad, not because of jealousy, but because I'm just a very lonely person and Bill manages to fill the hole in my heart. I was convinced I was going to lose him forever. ”

Richie blinks at him, in shock. He's never believed one of his friends could be lonely too. Deep in his memories, Mike bites his lip.

“Seeing your childhood friends start their own lives— it sucks, no matter how glad and proud you are of them. When I was thirteen, I watched all of you go and leave me behind. My heart was broken, but I picked up the pieces, one by one, and now here we are, twenty-seven years later. I wouldn't change a thing, if you ask me. At the end of the day, Losers stick together. Always.”

Richie huffs a laugh.

“That's the problem, Mikey. I'm not glad for Eddie and I don't think I could ever be. I just— I just can't.”

It all comes out desperately and Mike frowns at him.

“It's about Myra, isn't it?” he asks, and Richie nods. Maybe he should have shared his doubts with the gang sooner. But hell, isn't he the master of bad decisions, lately?

“I don't trust her. She's too much like his mom.”

Mike sighs, leaning against the wall.

“I've noticed that too, and I think the guys and Bev did as well.”

Confused, Richie whirls around.

“So why the fuck did we— why on Earth did we let him marry her?”

Why on Earth did I let him marry her? Now that he knows his friends feel the same way about that woman, Richie wants to slap himself for being too much of a coward. Mike shrugs.

“It's his life, Rich. His choice.”

“That's bullshit! He doesn't even love her!”

“Richie, you can't know that.”

But I know. Eddie never answered my question. He avoided it like the fucking plague. It must mean something, right? Mike squeezes his shoulder.

“Eddie is not an idiot. If he's made a mistake, if he's unhappy, he will realize it sooner or later. And then we'll all be here for him, to support him no matter what.”

It's too late, Richie wants to argue. He said yes. Sliding two hands behind his glasses, he wipes his teary eyes. Mike watches him, silent, and Richie can't stand it anymore.

“I love him.” he blurts out, not thinking.

Mike nods.

“I love him too.”

“No, it's not— it's not that.” He breathes in, heart throbbing. When he talks his voice is tiny and hesitant. “I'm in love with him. I've been in love with him my whole life.”

He keeps his eyes fixed on the ground. He doesn't want to see Mike's reaction. He doesn't want to see the judgment, the betrayal or the disgust. Richie tries is best to school his face into a serene expression, to not burst into tears like a whiny kid, too afraid to assume his feelings.

“Oh.” Mike says, a second later. His arm stays in place, around Richie's shoulders. “I guess that makes sense.”

He laughs a little, and it's a sweet sound.

“I'm sorry, man. I truly am.”

Richie can't help it. He's so relieved, he snorts.

“Are you sorry that I fell in love with Eddie Kaspbrak of all people? I know I could have done way better, but yet.”

Mike pokes him in the ribs gently.

“Beep beep, Tozier. You know what I mean.”

“Yeah, I know,” Richie's shit-eating grin turns into a sincere smile. “Thanks, Mikey. Sorry you had to witness my outburst. Again.”

“I remember when Eddie left Derry,” Mike says, with a fond chuckle. “God, your face. It was a sight.”

Richie groans.

“Yeah, I was a mess. It was my very first heartbreak, dude, be nice.”

Mike gasps, remembering something.

“That Christmas party! Eddie kissed you, didn't he? Were you— at that time?”

“What do you think?”

Mike lets out a sigh. “That's harsh. I feel guilty, now.”

“Come on. It wasn't your fault, man.”

He can't finish his sentence, because Mike is hugging him, face hidden in his neck. He hugs back, patting his friend's shoulder like he's the one who need comfort.

“Thanks for telling me,” Mike mutters against his jacket. “About you and Eddie. Means a lot.”

“No, thank you, Mikey. You're the best.”

When Mike pulls back, his eyes are bright.

“We should go back. They're probably wondering where we are.”

He stands up and holds his hand for Richie to take. But Richie just stares at it, his Adam's apple jiggling up and down. He stares up at Mike.

“Tell the others I'm sorry, that I have a migraine. I think I'm gonna go back to the motel to— to think.”

Mike frowns, concerned.

“Are you gonna be okay? Do you want me to come with you?”

“No, it's alright. Go have fun. Try to accidentally spill some red wine on Myra's awful dress, if you can. You'd be doing me a favor.”

Mike gives a sad smile.

“Take care of yourself, Rich.” He starts walking back, but then turns around to offer a finger-gun. “Don't forget I love you. We all do.”

“See you, Mikey. Love you too.”

Once his friend is gone, Richie gathers himself and heads straight for the parking where he calls a cab.

 

*

 

A few hours later, he's laying down on his bed, still in his suit, his luggages sitting next to him on the carpeted floor, ready to go first thing in the morning. His head is pounding. He wants a drink. More than one. He wants to take a hot bath and slide under the water, watch the blurry shape of the ceiling above him.

It all feels very familiar. He finds himself thinking about his old cassette-player. He believes his mom throw it away, or maybe it was his sister. He should have kept it. The thing was a wonder, probably worth a lot nowadays.

He drifts in and out of sleep, until the room turns dark. Will Eddie hate me for ditching him on his own wedding? Then, He's probably relieved I'm not there to ruin his day even more.

He goes to the mini-bar in the corner of his room, finds a bottle of cheap beer. He settles back down on the bed and switches the TV on. There's a rerun of Back To The Future on the cable and he laughs at the irony, remembering hot days and melting ice-creams and Derry's old theater.

He drinks while watching Marty and Doc drive the Delorean to travel back in time, trying hard to change his mind and not let the feeling of emptiness consume him whole. He's tired. Flying back to L.A tomorrow is going to be a nightmare and he's not looking forward to it. Steve will probably be waiting for him the moment he steps back inside his apartment.

God, he needs a vacation. Can I take an off-day, Stevie? Just one? I just got my heart shattered into a billion pieces. I'm sure the masturbation jokes can wait a bit more.

Richie doesn't remember falling asleep.

 

When he wakes up, hours later, it's to the sound of someone knocking – no, banging– on his door. Startled, he stumbles out of the bed, dropping the bottle of beer in his rush. It goes rolling under the bedside table. The TV is still on, some documentary about elephants. He switches it off, sighs, then walks to the door, holding his throbbing head in his hand.

“Yeah, yeah, I'm coming.” he grunts, wondering why the fuck room-service would bother him for at almost four in the morning. Maybe there's a fucking fire somewhere. His chest tightens. What if something happened to his friends?

He opens the door, expecting the worst, and freezes in his tracks. Eddie Kaspbrak is standing here, staring right back at him, a frenzied look in the eyes. Richie opens his mouth, to gasp or throw up or ask what the fuck is he doing here, but Eddie beats him to it.

“Say it.” Eddie takes a step forward, not breaking eye-contact. Richie just blinks.

Eddie comes even closer, his chest heaving up and down, like he's struggling to breathe.

“Say it, say the words you've been dying to tell me.”

His cheeks are flushed and his hair disheveled. He's probably been dragging his hand into it again and again.

“Eddie, wh—” is all Richie can manage before a set of lips are crashing against his, with so much strength he almost trips backwards and lands butt-first on the ground. With a graceful kick of the feet, Eddie closes the door. He cups Richie's face and kiss him more properly, tongue trying to find its way through his mouth.

Richie can't breathe, can't even close his goddamn eyes. He's in shock. Too much informations at the same time. He's like a computer that just caught a virus, unable to function anymore.

Then Eddie pulls away, not entirely, but just enough to gaze at him. “Say it. Fucking please say it, Richie.”

Richie snaps back into reality. His throat is dry as hell. “I— I love you.” he says. Hesitant. A shaky whisper. Eddie doesn't move but hearing the words, his expression lights up. He kisses him again, softly, less desperate, before stopping again.

“I fucked up, Rich,” Eddie admits, his voice watery. “I don't know what happened, I was— I was scared. God, I was—“

Hands sliding down to his back, Eddie buries his nose in the crook of his neck. Richie hugs back immediately, ignoring the concerning speed of his pulse, or the way he's as delighted as he is confused.

“It's okay,” he tries, because he has no idea what else to say. Because Eddie is currently wetting his shirt with his tears and Richie feels absolutely helpless. He puts a hand against the back of his neck and squeezes. “I love you. “ he repeats. “Eds, I've loved you for years.”

Speaking it out loud, making it real, is such a relief, like a weight has been taken of his shoulders. A shiver runs down his spine. Eddie looks up, mouth agape, something burning in his pupils. This time, Richie is the one who leans forward.

Eddie kisses him back, hot and deep, and Richie lets himself be pushed flat against the nearest wall. His calf bumps against the bedside table, knocking the lamp sideway. His hand rises up to curl around Eddie's waist, to pull him closer, gripping the fabric of his shirt.

“How much time did we lose?” Eddie asks between breaths, his eyes still closed.

Too much. Richie doesn't say. For the first time in his life, he's speechless. His skin is burning and covered in goosebumps at the same time. His mind is an endless alarm of Eddie Eddie Eddie. He wants to never let go.

Fingers thread through his hair, pulling slightly. Richie moans into Eddie's mouth, and immediately feels the warmth spread on his cheeks.

“Sorry.” Eddie says against his lips.

Richie is panting. “No. S'okay.”

“Your glasses are getting on the way.”

Eddie bumps his nose against them to prove his point. Richie shakes his head.

“Well, I'm pretty much blind without them, so—“ He doesn't have time to finish talking because Eddie's lips meet his again, hungry and eager, tongue licking into his mouth, teeth grazing his skin, until Richie is lightheaded enough to pull away. Then two palms collapse against his chest and he's shoved on the bed, the mattress giving a concerning squeak under his weight. He pushes himself up on his elbow and blinks.

“Wow, Eds.”

Eddie just hovers above him, face red and lips swollen.

“I think I'm about to cheat.” he says in a whisper, before letting out a nervous laugh.

His fingers start fiddling with the new ring around his annular, trying to take it off. Once he successes, he puts it on the bedside table then climbs on the bed, straddling Richie's hips and leaning on to kiss him again. And Richie's mind may be flooded with confusing, unholy thoughts, but it's not enough to drown his common sense. Gently, he grabs Eddie's face before their lips can touch.

“Hey, Eddie, hold your horses, man.” he breathes out, flushing under Eddie's bright stare. “I wanna make sure of something first.”

Eddie frowns. “What's that?”

“It's not just—” Richie hesitates, closes his eyes, opens them again, swallows some saliva. “You're not doing this by— by pity, right?”

“Pity?” Eddie huffs, offended as if Richie's just insulted his ancestors. “Fucking pity, Rich? Are you serious?”

Richie shrugs. He feels himself start to shake. “I don't know, dude. I thought— I thought you hated me.”

Eddie rolls his eyes, mutters something under his breath. He grips Richie's wrists and pins them down on the mattress. If looks could kill, Richie would be fucked.

“Listen to me you absolute dumbass, I didn't sneak up on my drunk wife after my own fucking wedding to come back there in that shitty motel just for you to think I hate your guts and don't reciprocate your feelings and I only want to— to do this with you because I feel bad, ugh, come on, Rich, what kind of person do you think I am? Did you really believe I was gonna—“

“Okay, alright, dipshit, I got the point!” Richie cuts him off, smiling and grabbing the collar of his shirt. “Come here.”

And so they kiss, hips pressing against each other, hands traveling up and down their bodies, exploring under their clothes, and Richie thinks I could never have enough of this, as he drags his lips along Eddie's jaw, and the side of his throat, his chest and further down, down, down...

Richie is melting like a puddle, the more he tastes Eddie's skin on the tip of his tongue. He tells himself, if Heaven had a flavor, it would probably tastes like you.

 

*

 

When morning comes, Richie wakes up to an empty bed.

Before he can panic, however, he hears the frustrated grunts of Eddie, busy pestering against the tube of shampoo in the bathroom next door. The water is running and there's a faint odor of vanilla floating in the air. Richie hides his smile into the pillow, not quite believing his luck. He closes his eyes, trying to fall back asleep when—

Someone knocks on the door. He bolts upright, heart in his throat, his smile dropping of his face.

“Rich, open up!” comes Ben's voice behind the wall.

He kicks the sheets off his legs and stands up, realizing he's in his boxers only. He grabs an old torn t-shirt laying on the floor on the way. He opens the door and barely has time to blink that Ben is already stepping inside the room, handing him Starbucks Venti cup.

“Good morning, I thought you'd like some coffee before heading back to the airport.” Ben greets him, a huge smile on his lips. “Are you feeling better? I've heard about your migraine. Here, take this.”

Richie nods and accepts the cup with a shaky hand. He takes a sip, not trusting himself to speak. Ben crosses his arms on his chest and looks at him fondly.

“Stan and Patty left earlier today. Bev, Mike, Bill and I are planning on having lunch together later, would you like to come? At what time do you have to catch your plane?”

Richie clears his throat. “Actually, I don't know if I—“

“Dude, your shampoo contains more than eighty percent of methyl hydroxybenzoate, that shit is worse than fucking hell and can give you actual fucking cancer and fertility issues! Why on Earth would you willingly buy something like that— Oh my God, holy shit!

Eddie stops dead in his track, eyes wide, his hair still soaked wet. He's wearing a single towel around his waist and looks obviously so guilty and red Richie has to face-palm. Ben just stares at him, his jaw slack.

“Ben it's not— It's not what you think it is,” Eddie starts, like the big idiot he is. “I mean, I know what it looks like, but it's not— holy fucking shit, Richie, can you explain?”

Richie can't believe it. He glares at Eddie.

“What do you want me to explain, moron? Ben isn't gonna believe any of our bullshit.”

Eddie huffs.

“First of all, it's your fault, asshole, maybe if you hadn't opened the door—”

The audacity! 

“You're the one who came stumbling out of the bathroom looking like you're about to star into some freaky porn film—“

“Oh, you know what? Fuck you, dude! Fuck you!”

“Guys! Guys!

Always the pacifist, Ben throws his hands up, his eyes looking back and forth between the two of them. They fall silent, blushing like two grounded middle-school students. Richie shrugs and takes another sip of his coffee. Eddie rolls his eyes.

“So,” Ben says, after a few seconds of tense silence. “you two.” He opens his mouth to add something, but starts laughing instead. Chuckles that turns into wheezes, and soon, Ben is down on one knee, eyes dripping tears and hands clutching his chest.

Richie and Eddie exchange a look.

“Ben?” Richie asks, concerned.

“What's so fucking funny?” Eddie deadpans, his voice high.

Then Ben stands up, still giggling. “About damn time!”

He shakes his head, wipes at the corner of his eyes. “I was wondering when— when one of you guys would finally decide to grow a pair. God. It only took you both twenty-seven freaking years!”

Richie points a finger at him. “Oh, shut it, mister Winter Fire January Embers! You're one to talk.”

Ben smirks. “At least I've waited for her to get a divorce.”

“Oh, come on!” Eddie moans. “Give me a break, man. I already feel bad enough as it is.”

Ben lets out another giggle. He goes to Eddie and hugs him firmly. “No judgement here,” he says. “I'm proud of you, Eds.”

Eddie frowns, unsure. “For—for cheating not even one day after getting married?”

“For putting yourself first for once in your life.” Ben pulls back and ruffles his hair. Eddie's lips curve into a shy smile.

Ben steps in front of Richie. “And you,” he grabs his face and drops a kiss him on his forehead. “Congratulations!”

Richie snorts. “For being gay?”

“See that's pretty cool but no. For telling Eddie about your feelings. Trust me, I've known all those years. I've got eyes.” Ben winks at him.

Richie can't help but feels tears rise up. He swallows them back down with a grin. How could he ever think his friends would hate him for who he is? “Thanks, buddy.” he says, his voice all choked up.

Ben claps his hands together. “So, I guess I won't see you at lunch, huh? In that case, take care of yourselves. And if you ever need anything— a shoulder to cry on, a runaway lovers hiding place... Well, you guys have my number.”

When Ben is gone, both Richie and Eddie sink down on the bed, feeling exhausted, but relieved. Richie turns his head towards him. Eddie's hand slithers up the sheet to grab his own. He's staring at the ceiling, a peaceful expression on his face, a lock of wet hair stuck on his forehead.

“What do we do now?” Richie asks, his heartbeat picking up. “About— everything.”

Eddie bites his lip. “I'm going to explain myself to Myra. Apologize even if it's useless. Try to cancel the wedding.”

“And how are you gonna do that?”

“We're not— we didn't go to the city hall yet, to officialize things. We were supposed to go next week. On the papers, we're still technically both single.”

Richie nods. “That's a nice start. I guess.”

Eddie drags a hand on his face. “Yeah. But it would've been easier if I had said no yesterday.”

“It's not your fault, man. You were scared. It happens.”

Eddie looks at him. “But it wasn't fair to you.”

Richie doesn't answer. Instead, he calls :

“Eds?”

“Yeah?”

Richie closes his eyes. His pulse is throbbing against his temples.

“Would you like to come with me— back to L.A?”

No response. When Richie opens his eyes, Eddie is perched above him, his hand curled around his bicep. He's smiling and it's the most beautiful thing Richie has ever seen.

“Only if you let me buy that hammock.”

 

 

END