Every year, on March 7th, Edward Kaspbrak would get a tattoo. He had no idea why he did it, tattoo parlors were a nightmare, with a million ways to get contaminated (“You could get AIDS, Eddie-Bear!”), and the date had no particular significance as far as he could tell, but year after year, time after time, he would find himself walking through the door, cash in hand.
He was just eighteen when it started, still freckled and terrified and tube-socked, with two hundred dollars in his hand and a shake in his knees.
“What can I get with this?” he had asked.
“Kid,” the receptionist with fifteen different piercings scoffed, “you gotta tell me what it is you want first.”
The statement, frankly, stumped him. He had thought, at length, about the various diseases and infections he could get if the needles weren’t properly sterilized, but had never even considered what he wanted. Eddie wasn’t used to wanting.
“Um…. Well…. I….”
“Go home, honey,” she said, New York accent strong and disdain a little stronger.
“No dice,” he replied. He wasn’t sure why he said it, he didn’t think it was a phrase he had ever used before, but the moment the words left his mouth they felt right, true.
The receptionist raised an eyebrow. “That’s what you want?”
“Yes,” he said. It had just been a response, but it was as good an answer as any.
He paid two hundred dollars to get it scrawled across his chest. Later that day, his mother screamed at him for three hours straight.
The day after, when he sat, shirtless under the harsh light of an exam room (“You have AIDS, Eddie-bear!”) ‘No Dice’ stared back at him from underneath the suggested seran wrap, and he felt less like an invalid and more like himself. It was his body, the tattoo proved it, not his mother’s, not his doctor’s, his.
He went back exactly a year later and got another one.
His mother didn’t like it, and later on Myra didn’t like it either, but she loved him (the way he loved her, because love wasn’t all fairytales, it was hard work and compromise after compromise, and so what if tall men with glasses caught his eye, so what if he could only cum with Myra when his eyes were closed? It didn’t mean anything. Love was hard work, that’s what his mother told him), and so he kept getting them. Stars and turtles and glasses and birds and books and whatever he could fit on his thighs and upper arms and torso, never where anyone could see them, never where someone could see Eddie.
Myra had tried to put her foot down, after their fifth year of marriage, said all she wanted for her anniversary present was for Eddie to not get a tattoo.
He got nipple piercings that year.
Myra didn’t talk to him for a week, but, after that, she also never complained about the tattoos again. You win some, you win some.
Then Mike Hanlon called his phone, then Eddie crashed his car, and then it became overwhelmingly, astonishingly clear that March 7th was Richie Tozier’s birthday.
The plane ride was haunting. Eddie had always liked planes, they’re statistically safer than cars, and they’d always represented freedom; Dallas or Chicago or LA, wherever his work sent him that was far, far away from his wife. He felt trapped now.
He had packed heavy, a tangible representation of his emotional baggage, and had waited until Myra had left for her book club to do so, jumping into the house like a tornado and leaving a handwritten note (with Xs as kisses and a promise to return) on the fridge. He had received no less than 27 phone calls and explosive voicemails in the terminal for Bangor, but he ignored them. He wanted to be mad at her, but really, he was so fucking neurotic that he’d probably do the exact same thing if the situations were reversed. They were each other’s unwilling, overbearing keepers.
A kid kicked his seat the entire way over.
Eddie twisted his wedding ring and tried not to scream. The gold felt heavy, rotten, fundamentally wrong. He didn’t know why. When he remembered, he almost crashed his car. ...again.
On the plane he had remembered names, blurry faces, inconsequential facts like favorite movies and ice cream flavors and Ben’s blinding smile and Stan’s binoculars. He remembered Richie’s birthday, which he really, really did not want to think about. But they were friends, right? Best friends. Of course his birthday would be significant, they knew everything about each other. He could remember Richie’s smell, popcorn and unwashed socks in junior high, cigarettes and cheap aftershave in high school. He could remember the way Richie looked, glasses too big for his face at twelve, hands to big for his wrists at fifteen. He could remember the way that Richie talked, no matter the age always loud, loud, loud. Then, alone in his rental car, with Bruce Springsteen on the radio, he remembered the way that Richie tasted.
He veered off the road, narrowly avoiding landing in a ditch, and flung himself from the car. He felt like he was going to puke (just like Richie, Richie who had always puked when he was nervous, who had puked on Eddie’s shoes after they shared their first kiss and Christ they had had a first kiss and another and another, and another-).
A car passed by with a loud honk and a, “ get off the road, asshole,” and Eddie stumbled back toward his rented Sedan, heart beating in his ears. He pressed his hand to his chest and-
All of a sudden it’s Richie’s birthday, but no one’s celebrating. He’s freshly seventeen but he’s leaving, leaving Eddie with only Mike left, forced to Chicago by the promise of better care for his father. Just one more year, just one more year and they could have run off together, to New York or San Francisco or someplace kinder to boys like them. He’s come to Eddie’s house to say goodbye, climbed through the window even though Sonia wasn’t there, just to say he’s done it one last time. They don’t fuck, can hardly kiss through all the crying, and Richie just presses salted lips aganist his skin.
“Come with me,” he begs, “Eds, baby, please… please.”
‘I’m sorry Rich, I’m sorry.”
They both know he can’t go, both know Sonia would call the cops the second he left, and they both know Richie can’t stay, not with his father’s diagnosis. Brain cancer was one hell of a thing. Bev and Bill and Ben and Stan had all forgotten, one by one, “who?” they asked through the line when Mike and Richie and Eddie called, huddled up in a phone booth as though maybe this time they would remember them.
They hear a car pull up, backfire distinctive and Richie has to leave, has to, before she stomps up the stairs, drags him out by the ear and makes her ‘Eddie-Bear’ stay home from school for a week, because who knows what diseases that “filthy boy” could have given him. (“Didn’t I tell you to stay away, sweetheart? You’re so delicate”). Richie staggers back toward the window, more drunk on sorrow than he’d ever been on beer, and Eddie stumbles with him, holding on for one moment longer.
“Maybe you’ll remember,” he sobs, and he can taste his tears on his lips, doesn’t think he’ll be able to taste anything else ever again.
Richie laughs, too loud for the small room, too loud for the moment, harsh and heartbroken. He surges forward and kisses Eddie again, and it’s love love love love love Richie Richie Richie. They both know he’ll forget, just the same as the others. They both know Eddie will forget too, when he finally leaves. Derry takes your childhood, and it takes your memories.
“No dice, baby,” Richie breathes into his mouth.
Another kiss, another moment, and he’s gone.
He forgets in a week (“Eddie who? Why are you crying, dude, who are you?”). Eddie forgets in three months time, when his mom moves them to New York (“It’s Mike, Mike Hanlon. No, I… I guess you don’t know me”). A year later, Eddie gets “no dice” tattooed on his chest. He doesn’t quite know why.
The tattoo seemed to burn at his skin now, twenty years later when it finally, finally knows its purpose and he tears at his shirt, buttons ripping off as he bares himself to the dark Maine sky. He looks down at his chest, eyes wild, mesmeric, and sees himself as he really is, illuminated by the moon and the taillights, longing pressed into his skin with every needle, every year. His body was a grotesque shrine to every birthday he’d ever missed. His body was a memorial to Richie Tozier.
Raised gooseflesh rakes across his skin, and the chill of the wind brings him back to his senses. He realizes with unfortunate clarity that he had just ripped his shirt off like some sort of B movie werewolf, and was now standing on the side of a small town highway with his pierced nipples out.
Christ, he was so fucking crazy.
He ditches the shirt, now unsalvageable, and pops open the trunk, digging out a polo and a hoodie and shoving them on a little too fast. The fabric drags against his skin. He doesn’t like the feeling. He doesn’t like the hoodie. Why the fuck does he have this hoodie? He obsesses about it while he gets in the car and keeps driving. Better that than to think about other things.
Twenty minutes later, he’s in Derry.
His first thought when he gets to Jade of the Orient is that he doesn’t really like Chinese food. His second thought is holyshitohmygodit’sMikeMikeMikethat’sMikefuckingHanlonhowthefuckdidhegetsotallIloveyouIloveyouIloveyouit’sMIKE. He then says “Mike!” because that’s the only intelligible thing that can come out of his mouth at the moment.
Mike hugs him so hard it pops his back.
“Eddie fucking Kaspbrak,” Mike says, and he says it like it’s a name worth knowing.
Eddie is not going to cry.
He is not.
(He cries just a little bit).
“Eddie?” he hears, and then Mike lets go, stepping back, and Bill is there, Big Stuttering Bill Denbrough.
He’s not so big, the same size as Eddie, but he does stutter when he says, “G-G-Good to see you, man.”
It’s an understatement; it’s not good to see Bill, it’s thrilling, euphoric, profound. They had all looked up to Bill, all of them, but it was only Eddie who had no one else to look up to. Seeing Bill again was seeing a father, a brother, a best friend; seeing a little boy in a sandbox who offered strange, sickly Eddie Kaspbrak a shovel and asked him to play.
“Good to see you too, dude,” Eddie says back. He tries his best to stop crying, but feels in good company with the red rims of Bill’s eyes.
He loves them he loves them he loves them but he also realizes that he doesn’t know them. Twenty years and twenty tattoos and three different life paths lay between them, and Mike and Bill are looking at each other like ... something. Something Eddie can’t quite make out.
A waitress passes by and Eddie takes the chance to escape.
“Be right back,” he reassures his high school friends. (And how fucking weird is that? He’s almost fucking forty, what the fuck.)
He’s just finished telling the waitress about cashews (his nemesis) when a gong sounds.
He’s still in love.
Richie is tall, taller than when he last saw him, and his shoulders are still broad. His glasses are not quite so fucking stupid as they used to be but they’re still pretty fucking stupid. His jaw and his eyes and his nose are still the same, but he’s not stick skinny anymore, he’s got lines in his face, grey in his hair, stubble on his chin, and Eddie just… loves him. He had remembered, in the car, but memories are not the same as knowing. He knows now why his wedding ring burns his finger, and the tattoos, which, for the past half hour had felt so much like paint on a grave, now felt like promises-
“Went says I’m not allowed to get any tattoos, but, seeing as Jesus died for your sins you can get as many as you want. You’ve been absolved, Spaghetti, you have to use your powers for good. Tattoo my face on your ass.”
“ A: Don’t call me spaghetti. B: Stop calling your dad by his first name, it’s fucking weird. C: When the fuck have you ever cared about what the Torah says anyway, tattoo your face on your own ass.”
“ Why would I tattoo my face on my own ass? If I had to tattoo a face on my ass it would be your eighth grade yearbook photo.”
“ That was three years ago, what the fuck, stop bringing that up. My face looked terrible.”
“Your face is always terrible, but I think you look cute, cute, cute.”
“ Fuck you.”
“Anytime, anyplace, baby. ...would you really not get a tattoo though?”
“ Rich? You okay?”
“ Yeah, it’s just… I don’t know. My dad’s been getting really religious lately, and he made me sit down and promise that I wouldn’t and he just… looked really serious I guess? I’ve always wanted to get one but now I just… I don’t know, seems kind of shitty to break a promise to the old man since he… since he’ll probably-”
“Hey… I’d get a tattoo for you.”
“Yeah, I promise.”
“I think you’d look hot, baby. Especially if you got the same tramp stamp your mom has.”
“Beep fucking beep, Richie.”
He loves him. Eddie loves him. Eddie Kaspbrak loves Richie Tozier.
He tries not to smile and says, “Fuck you, dude!” and Richie looks at him and looks at him and oh…
Richie Tozier loves Eddie Kaspbrak too.
A cacophony of feeling wells up inside him, a symphony of emotion, but there will be time for that later, after they eat. After Stan arrives.
Stanley could not cut it.
Or at least, that’s what the fortune cookies said. However, when they spill out into the parking lot, confused, and dazed, and utterly fucking terrified, Stan is just getting out of his rental car. His fucking flight had been delayed. Everyone mobs him and Richie pukes out of nerves and relief and probably the crab rangoons.
A little bit gets on Eddie’s shoes, and it’s disgusting and super unsanitary, but he doesn’t even like these shoes anyway, doesn’t like the way they look and why the fuck does he own these shoes?
Stan is alive, and the puke on Eddie’s shoes reminds him of the first time he kissed Richie, and Richie and him just look at each other, scared, and relieved, and full of resolve. They’re going to get the fuck out of Derry.
They don’t get the fuck out of Derry.
Stan confesses to almost killing himself and Beverly tells him how he was going to do it and it turns out she has fucking visions from the deadlights and she also has bruises on her arms that are decidedly not from the deadlights.
How is this Eddie’s life right now.
Richie drinks too much and Eddie can feel his stare burning into his cheek the same way Ben’s burns into Beverly’s and shit why the fuck did Eddie tell everyone he was married. The whiskey reminds him of the plastic brown bottle Bev had stolen from the liquor store, passed around among the 15 year old Losers like the holy grail. She had smiled bright, laughed loud, looked beautiful and Richie had walked him home and kissed him with cheap liquor on his breath and Eddie thought it was maybe the best night of his life.
Bevvy wasn’t smiling now, and Richie wasn’t kissing him. Eddie ached for both.
They all decide to go to sleep.
Well, that’s not really right. Bill decided they should go to sleep and he was Big Bill, so they did as he said.
Richie walks a little too close to him, and Eddie burns in his proximity, wants like he hasn’t wanted in twenty years. Their rooms are across from each other's, and they both pause, hands on their respective doorknobs.
Stan and Mike are talking down the hall, voices muffled, but still very much in sight.
Eddie and Richie had only ever existed behind closed doors.
The way Richie looks at him is worth a thousand words.
“Not tonight,” Eddie answers; quiet, regretful.
Richie works his jaw the same way he always does when he’s trying not to cry, and Eddie baulks, realizes he sees it as rejection.
Reaching out his right hand he fumbles to grab Richie’s. Richie’s warm and soft and christ where the fuck does he get off having fingers that big, and, most of all, he’s real. He’s there. Eddie loves him.
“Hey,” he says quietly, and Richie doesn’t let go but he does look to see if Mike and Stan are looking. They aren’t.
“I want you,” Eddie says.
Something insurmountable dawns on Richie’s face, and Eddie wants to cry. Wants to scream and rage against the world. He remembers that look, always followed by tears, always followed by “Eddie, I’m disgusting, I’m not worth you, Eddie I love you I love you, I’m sorry.” Instead of twenty years of open mouth kisses and skin on skin and “You’re worth so much Richie, I love you so much,” he got pills and Myra and this fucking hoodie. He hates this fucking hoodie.
“Just not tonight, Rich.”
Richie smiles, bitter and breathless and beautiful.
“It has been one hell of a day, hasn’t it Eds?”
“Don’t call me Eds, asshole.”
They grin at each other, sixteen again for a moment, and then they drop hands.
Safe in his room, Eddie sits on the bed and takes off his shoes (not his socks it’s a fucking hotel the carpet would probably light up like a fucking Pollock painting under a black light). He feels… deflated. Worn down. Tired. So, so in love.
He’s never loved anything as much as he loves Richie.
Now that he knows, knows why he’s walked around with a hole in his heart and coke bottle glasses tattooed on his thigh, he wants to fling himself across the hall, fall down at Richie’s feet, beg him “please Richie please please hold me I need you please.” Richie would, of course he would, and Eddie’s heart would stitch together while reverent hands touched his shoulders, his hips, would make him come undone.
He gets up, grabs his toiletry bag, and goes to the bathroom.
It’s meant to be a steadying thing, his nighttime ritual of pills and creams and toothpaste, but he feels unmoored as he steps onto the tile, as he looks in the mirror.
He’s horrifyingly austere; the way his hair is parted, his itchy polo shirt and his stupid fucking hoodie. You could superimpose his sixth grade yearbook photo over his reflection now and he would look exactly the same. He still looks like a little boy. He still looks like his mother’s boy.
His face in the mirror is somehow the most terrifying thing he’s seen tonight.
He grabs his hair, yanks at it like a madman until the gel is displaced, until he changes the part. It’s not enough, and he tears off his clothes for the second time that day, chest heaving as he looks back toward himself.
He looks wretched, wild, panting like a rabid dog, but it’s a hundred times better than how he looked before. The tattoos on his chest and arms stare back at him, and he’s comforted, mollified by the reminder that he did this. His skin is his.
He stares at himself until his pulse doesn’t beat so loud anymore, he thinks about Richie he thinks about Richie he thinks about Richie, and then he calls Myra.
“Richie! I think I killed it, man, I think I-”
When he wakes up, he thinks he’s dead. It’s light, bright and blinding, but then there’s a beep-beep-beep and he knows he’s in a hospital, could recognize any hospital like the back of his hand. He doesn’t want to be here, he doesn’t like it, Mommy,Mommythere’snothingwrongwithme,Mommyplease,please,no,Idon’tneedit,Idon’tneedit,there’ssomethinginmythroat,mythroathurtsMommy, please.
“Somebody!” he hears, over the quickening beat of the monitor, “Somebody help! Please!”
It wasn’t his mother’s voice, it was a man’s; terrified and hurried and warm. Eddie wants to sink into it.
Footsteps sound through the halls like gunshots.
“He’s seizing! Get the doctor! Sir, I need you get out of the way. Sir!”
“Please, please, help him, please!”
“The doctor is on his way, the best thing for you to do is wait in the hall.”
A needle slides into his skin, and his last conscious thought is: “Hey, my name’s Eddie too.”
The next time he wakes up it’s not so bright. He comes to, slow and gentle, and the first thing he sees is a big window to the right of his bed. The stars twinkle at him softly, and he thinks he’s never seen a sky so beautiful. Derry may be a shithole nightmare from hell, but it has its moments.
He stares for a while, pain thumping dully with every heartbeat, and then he looks around the room. Richie’s by his side. He’s curled up, asleep in a chair, legs too long and glasses still on, and he’s breathtaking. His top (“My grandma got arrested and all I got was this stupid t-shirt”) is wrinkled and stained with coffee, his cheeks are dark with stubble, and Eddie doesn’t think he’s ever seen anything so beautiful. Fuck the stars, fuck the sky, fuck Derry. Richie is all he wants. All he needs.
It’s hard to move, pain shooting through his arm, his shoulder, his stomach, but he does, reaching for Richie with his left hand. He no longer has a wedding ring. He rasps out Richie’s name.
It was a quiet thing, his throat still hurts and his tongue feels like cotton in his mouth, but Richie wakes instantly, startling like it was screamed. He looks around wildly, as though expecting to be attacked, but his eyes still when they fall on Eddie’s face.
“Eds,” he breathes; yearning, reverent.
Eddie doesn’t correct the name.
“Water,” he croaks instead.
Flailing a little as he untangles himself, Richie scrambles from the chair and grabs him a cup. His hands shake almost as much as Eddie’s as he guides it to his mouth. He helps him drink, gentle with Eddie the way he never is with himself, and when Eddie is through Richie falls to his knees at his bedside, as though his legs could no longer keep him up. It brings his eyeline down to Eddie’s, and he can see that he’s crying. The last time Eddie had seen him cry was when he left through his childhood window. Richie breaks like china.
“Eddie, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry, Eddie, I-”
Eddie can’t do much; his limbs feel at once like both jello and rusted steel, but he brings his hand up to cup Richie’s cheek. Richie holds it there like a lifeline, pressing a kiss into his palm. His eyes look like planets behind his cracked glasses, and Eddie can see the universe there, his universe, trapped inside the only man who ever really mattered to him.
“Don’t cry, Rich.”
“You almost… you almost fucking died, Eddie.”
He doesn’t need the reminder, can still remember the claw in his chest, the blood that spilled out of his mouth onto Richie’s; a mockery of a final kiss.
He’s not really able to kiss Richie right now, but god, does he want to.
“Is It… is It…”
“It’s dead. We burst that little fucker’s heart in our hands like a ravioli. You were right Eds, we made it small. That’s how we killed It, we made It small.”
“Fine, fine, everyone’s fine. Well, Stan cut up his wrists pretty bad helping dig you out of the rubble, but he’s fine. They stitched him and Mike up, you know, since-”
Richie convulses just a little, like a cat about to throw up.
“You know, because of Bowers, his arm, but he’s fine now. Ben and Bev and Bill are fine. I’m fine. Everyone’s-”
“Yeah, Eds? You need anything? More water? I can get you-”
“No, just… stop saying fine.”
The request startles Richie into a giggle. It’s quiet and a little manic but it’s better than his sobbing apologies. Eddie has always loved to see him happy.
“I love your smile, Richie.”
Richie starts to sob again. That… was not the intended reaction.
Eddie rubs his thumb across Richie’s cheek, catching his tears. It’s all he has the energy to do.
“Hey, hey, shh… it’s okay, Rich, it’s okay.”
“I’m sorry, Eddie, I’m so sorry.”
“This whole fucking thing, not pushing you out of the way, not leaving with you after the restaurant, being… being too much of a coward to take you with me when we were seventeen-”
Sobs start to shake his body, and he holds Eddie’s hand tighter against his cheek, as though he would float away without a tether.
“For ever thinking that a fucking… fag like me deserved to touch you, for touching you now, for loving you. I’m sorry, Eddie, I’m sorry but I love you, I still love you so much, Eddie, I’m sorry but I can’t stop, it’s like breathing, Eds it’s in my blood-”
He stops talking, can’t talk, with how hard he’s crying, and Eddie cries too. He weeps. He weeps for what they could have had if he had just followed Richie out of that window, what they could have had if they had just killed that stupid fucking clown the first time. He weeps for Richie, on his knees in supplication beside his bed, beseeching Eddie for things that never needed his forgiveness, for painting his own love the color of sin. He weeps for himself, weak and tired against the starched white sheets and unable to take Richie in his arms, unable to think of the words to say.
The hospital is unyielding against the onslaught of their sorrow. The machines beep ever onwards. Eddie lies there, and he hates himself, hates the hospital, but he loves loves loves loves Richie. His devotion settles on his chest, grievous in its enormity, and he’s hungry, ravenous for Richie at fifteen, Richie at seventeen, Richie now, Richie forever. Richie, Richie, Richie.
He slips, unwilling, into opioid dreams, and it feels like stubble scrapes against his cheek.
When he next wakes up, it feels like coming home.
The room is bright and warm, streaming with sunlight, and when he blinks awake five heads turn toward him.
They rush to his bedside, crowding around him like they used to when his mother put him on bed rest, only letting them stay because Eddie wouldn’t be without them. They smile like little kids, and everyone seems to want to touch him, wrapping arms around his shoulders, resting hands on his blanketed legs.
He feels better, stronger than he had last night, (at least, he thinks it was last night), and he’s able to prop himself up on the pillows with Ben and Mike’s careful help. Stan lets him eat his sandwich (“Oh yeah, yuck it up, Bill, but me buying food at Safeway makes a lot more sense than eating at the nasty fucking cafeteria”), Bev does not let him drink her coffee, and they spend the next hour talking about anything other than Pennywise. Anything other than Richie too, and Eddie notices, of course he does, can feel his absence from the room like the hole in his chest, but he doesn’t ask.
He doesn’t think he could bear it if Richie left.
The nurse comes in to check his vitals, and tells Eddie he’s healing well. He doesn’t ask her any questions, he knows that if he knows one thing he’ll want to know everything, and the Losers (as much as they love him) don’t want to sit through that. She smiles at him, too young to know him as “little Eddie Kaspbrak,” but she casts an unforgiving eye at his friends, clearly skeptical of the rag tag group at his bedside.
They all giggle like children in detention when she’s gone.
“You know,” Eddie says, playing with the hem of his blanket, “I’m surprised they let you all in here. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad, but they normally only let in the emergency contact.”
All five pairs of eyes swivel away. Nobody’s smiling now.
Bev looks up first, she’s always been the bravest of them.
“Eddie, I don’t know how to tell you this-”
“I do. Your wife’s a stone cold fucking bitch, Edwardo.”
Each of the words drops into the room like stones in a well.
“Beep beep, Richie.”
It’s Ben who says it, quiet and stern, because all Eddie can do is stare.
He looks beautiful, illuminated by the light from the hall as he stands in the doorway, hand shaking around a cup of coffee. Beautiful, even in his anger, and he is angry. His face has been shaved and he changed t-shirts (“Centralia Mine is for lovers”), but he looks wild, sleep deprived, untamed.
He looks like he looked their first night back in Derry, how he looked when he thought Eddie didn’t want him, and when Eddie thinks back to last night, he remembers Richie’s love confessions, remembers he never said a single one back.
“Can I be alone with Richie, please?”
The Losers look nervous, unsure. They catch each other’s eyes and hesitate.
Richie staggers into the room as the others file out. The door shuts with a bang, and Richie nearly jumps out of his skin. He won’t meet Eddie’s eyes.
“Is a fucking cunt-”
“It’s fucking TRUE!”
Richie errupts, his awkward, reluctant stance exploding into nervous energy. He starts pacing, waves his hands about, sloshing coffee everywhere. He still won’t look at Eddie.
“I’m sorry Eddie, I’m sorry-” he starts, a gross parody of the night before, “-I’m sure you love your stupid fucking wife and want to try and make it work or whatever but she doesn’t… she doesn’t deserve you, Eds.”
“No, let me talk. The doctor let me call her, you know, gave me her fucking phone number, said the news would be better from a friend, even though I’m fucking not-”
“I said let me FUCKING TALK- and I had it on speaker, I put it on fucking speaker phone and told her and she just said she wasn’t coming down and hung up, that fucking cunt just hung up and you-”
“-could have died Eds, you almost died and she just-”
“RICHIE SHUT THE FUCK UP, WILL YOU SHUT THE FUCK UP FOR JUST ONE FUCKING MINUTE?”
He’s tired, panting with exertion from just sixteen words, and Richie grinds to a halt, wide eyed. He’s yelled at Richie plenty of times before, a hundred times even, but only as children. It’s strange to know that this is a first for them.
“My wife’s not coming, Richie, because I asked for a divorce.”
Richie almost drops his coffee. He saves it at the last minute, hissing as it drips onto his hands, and sets it down hastily, clunkily, like he would when he was a kid. Wipes his hand on his shirt.
“I asked for a divorce, Richie. That’s why I turned you down at the inn, I didn’t want to touch you as a married man, and I realized… I realized she never meant as much to me as you did. ...as you still do.”
Richie splutters incoherently, his trashmouth finally speechless. When he gets himself together he finally, finally, looks at Eddie.
“Eds, you can’t… you can’t do this if you’re not serious, cause I can’t-”
He cuts off, runs a hand over his face, under his glasses, pushes a wayward sob through his throat.
“I can’t survive it. You’re it for me, Eddie Spaghetti, alpha and omega. It’s just… it’s just you. It’s always been you.”
He stops, scared and hunched and vulnerable. Eddie gets his hand ready to chop through the air.
“Richie, you absolute fucking dipshit. Of course I’m fucking serious, I’m divorcing my wife for you, asshole. Jesus fucking Christ, that was romantic; you’re gonna make me cry, dickbag.”
Richie laughs, terrified and incredulous and joyful, and smiles at him like Eddie hasn’t seen in twenty two years.
“How the fuck am I so in love with you? I can’t believe you just called me a dickbag, you fucking piece of shit.”
“I can’t believe you called my wife a cunt!”
Sunshine streams through the window, and Eddie laughs so hard he busts his stitches. His mother would have screamed at him, Myra would have screamed at him, but Richie just takes one look at the blood leaking on the hospital gown and says, “I guess that joke was a real gut buster,” which sets them both off again.
Richie’s still laughing as he leaves to find a nurse, and, for the first time in a long time, Eddie feels like things are going to be okay.