Actions

Work Header

the light that makes my darkness disappear

Work Text:

Eddie frowns at the screen listing the departures. His flight back to New York is marked with DELAYED in neon red letters, gleaming off the digital board. Richie shoulders his backpack next to him and surveys the screen himself.

“Aw, Eds, your flight,” Richie says. He claps a hand on Eddie’s shoulder. “Well, that gives you time to get wasted in the airport bar before you go back home to— Uhh. Mrs. Kaspbrak.”

Eddie scowls at him. Part of him thinks it’s not a bad idea, to try getting drunk before he goes home, just for how little he wants to see Myra. The reminder pisses him off even more. He’s mad at himself, not Richie, but it just makes it easier to snap, “I’m not going to get fucking drunk in an airport, Richie.”

“Suit yourself.” Richie squeezes his shoulder, then releases him. “Well, my flight’s on time.”

“Which one is yours?” Eddie asks, skimming the list. Richie looks down at his boarding pass on his phone again.

“687 to Los Angeles,” Richie tells him. When Eddie finally finds his flight, it’s not for another three hours.

“Why the fuck did you drive here with me?” Eddie asks, looking back up at Richie. Richie stares hard at the screen for a second before he laughs. It’s such a brief pause, but Eddie feels like he’s known Richie his whole life, no breaks, no gaps, no intervening amnesiac years, and he can tell it’s Richie gathering himself.

“Someone had to make sure you weren’t gonna keel over the second you left Derry,” Richie says. “Besides, what else was I gonna do? Sit around and watch Bill and Mike stare at each other while they wait for me to leave so they can— I don’t know what they do. I think they take acid and fuck.”

“Why would you— No, wait, do Bill and Mike take acid?” Eddie demands. There’s so much wrong with everything that just came out of Richie’s mouth that he tries to reorder his questions based on the urgency with which he wants an answer.

“They take something,” Richie says. “Mike gave me some before he left. It’s a weird root thing. Want some? We can go in the bathroom and—”

“I’m not doing fucking shrooms with you in an airport bathroom, Richie,” Eddie hisses. “What the fuck is wrong with you?”

“‘I’m not doing shrooms with you in an airport bathroom, Richie,’” Richie echoes, in a fairly good impression of Eddie’s voice. “‘I’m not getting drunk in an airport bar, Richie,’ ‘Why the fuck did you drive here so early with me, Richie—’”

“Those are all valid,” Eddie snaps. He looks at the board again. Their flights are leaving within half an hour of each other, now. After a beat, he sighs. The thought of anything that might make it marginally more bearable to get on his airplane back to his miserable fucking life in New York is tempting. “Is there actually a bar here?”

Richie’s whole face lights up. Eddie commits the expression to memory. He remembers it on Richie’s face when they were younger, but he hasn’t had many chances to see it the past few hellish days in Derry. Richie’s been even more uncharacteristically somber the last couple of days, after they defeated It. He told Eddie that night, quietly, that he’d seen Eddie die when he was in the Deadlights, and he was having a hard time forgetting about it. His hands had shaken the entire time he told him. That’s how Eddie had known for sure how serious he was, but he’d already been able to tell just by his face and the tone of his voice. He’d never really forgotten Richie; the knowledge had all just been buried. It was still all there.

“Eds, there are several bars here,” Richie tells him. He throws his arm around Eddie’s shoulders to steer him away from the departures board. Eddie finds himself wishing he could find a way to keep Richie there longer. He’s not sure what that means—

No, that’s a lie. He knows exactly what that means, but he can’t do anything about it, because he’s married, and Richie’s straight, so there’s nothing to do.

“Lucky I travel so much,” Richie’s saying, somehow still talking, “and that I’m a high-functioning— Well, medium-functioning— alcoholic, because I know the best bars in every airport. We can get fucked up together.”

“I don’t know if that’s luck or not,” Eddie says. It’s like they’re following a script, sometimes, the way they go back-and-forth. Eddie sometimes wonders what would happen if he deviated from the script, if Richie made a joke and, instead of shooting a barb back, Eddie just said, I’m gay and I’m in love with you.

“Eds, my man,” Richie says. “I didn’t say lucky for you.”

Eddie can’t ask what that means. Not because Richie doesn’t give him an opportunity, but because he can’t think of an actual, conceivable answer, and he’s too frightened to ask. After a beat of Eddie not speaking, Richie guides him towards Terminal B. There’s a place with a sign that says Shannon’s, but when Richie had said airport bar, Eddie had pictured, like— a bar along the literal wall of the airport. He’s never actually gone to an airport bar.

The place Richie leads him into doesn’t even look like it’s in an airport. It’s a dark, cozy, open room, with one long bar on one side and a row of plush, high-backed seats on the other. Eddie looks around the place, slightly bewildered; it’s such a disorienting transition that he almost misses the bartender asking what he wanted.

“Can I just have a Manhattan?” Eddie asks, a beat too late. Richie whistles. “What?”

“Nothing, just.” Richie makes an indecipherable motion with his hands. “A Manhattan. A Manhattan.”

“What the fuck is wrong with ordering a Manhattan, you dickwad?” Eddie spits. “I like Manhattans.”

“I just could’ve guessed you’d order a Manhattan,” Richie tells him. There’s something about being known by Richie like that that makes Eddie’s face heat up. He looks away, back to the bar.

“Then you order my drink,” Eddie snaps.

“Two blue Hawaiians,” Richie tells the bemused bartender.

“You sure this time?” she asks. Richie looks to Eddie, giving him one last out. Eddie finds he doesn’t want to take it. He wants to do something slightly impulsive.

“Yeah, sure,” Eddie says. He deliberately makes himself sound less confident than he feels, but he’s actually a little excited. Richie gives him a look like he’s onto him, so he looks away again. Instead, he watches the bartender make their drinks so he can see the ingredients. Richie reaches out and turns his face away from the bar with a hand on his chin, and Eddie’s heart trips up into overdrive, pounding into his throat.

“Stop watching her like that, she’s going to sue you,” Richie tells him. His hand falls away; Eddie’s fingers twitch when he wants to grab it. He stops himself, though. “What’re you gonna do when you get home?”

“I don’t want to talk about home,” Eddie says. Richie holds his hands up in surrender. “Just— What are you going to do?”

“Hey, if you don’t have to talk about it, neither do I,” Richie replies. The bartender hands them their drinks, and Richie thanks her before sliding one of the glasses closer to Eddie. It’s a tall glass and the drink inside is, sure enough, a teal-blue color; Eddie eyeballs it warily. “Drink up, cap’n. It’s delicious.”

Richie takes a sip of his own, and he doesn’t even flinch. Eddie’s not one to let anyone beat him in any competition, whether it’s an actual contest or just one Eddie’s created in his mind because he wants to win things, and he would never let Richie beat him at anything, so he takes a longer sip from his own glass.

“Shit, this actually does taste good,” Eddie says. It barely tastes like alcohol.

“Told you,” Richie says. He drinks a longer pull from his glass, and, this time, Eddie’s distracted by the movement of his throat swallowing, by his hands around his glass. He can only look down at his drink and focus on that in response.

Eddie almost misses his flight, because he orders them a second round and Richie orders their third, and they got caught up in reminiscing at the bar. Richie starts by bringing up the first time Eddie caught him smoking pot in the clubhouse, and Eddie ends up laughing so hard he almost chokes on an ice cube. When Eddie checks his phone and sees that his flight’s supposed to start boarding soon, he grabs his bag.

“I gotta head out,” he says. “You do, too. You’ll miss your flight.”

Richie downs the last of his drink, tossing his head back to get it. He’s let his curly hair grow long, Eddie noticed (and liked, and appreciated, which is beside the point), so it brushes the deep red shoulders of the printed shirt he’s got on when he tips his head back like that. Eddie has to look away, because if he doesn’t, he’ll do something stupid, like touch him, or, God forbid, say something.

Instead, Eddie hops off his barstool and tosses his carry-on bag over his shoulder. He waits until Richie puts his glass back down on the bartop before he looks at him again.

“Can I walk you out?” Richie asks, offering his arm to Eddie like a knight. He’s got a dumb smile on, so Eddie shoves him away. He’s tipsy, verging on getting maybe, slightly, a little drunk, but not that drunk, that he’ll let himself just start touching Richie like that.

When they have to split and go to their separate terminals, Richie offers him a half-wave before saying, “Ah, fuck it,” and reaching out to pull Eddie into a hug. Eddie hesitates for a second before he wraps his arms around Richie in return. He gives himself this moment as a little gift. He’s allowed to hug Richie as tight as he wants, but only if he lets him go and goes back to his wife afterwards.

He tightens his grip, turning his face into Richie’s shoulder. Richie rubs his back, and it’s obviously more intimate than a hug between two childhood friends should be, but that’s never been all Richie was to him. He exhales hard, then pulls back, rubbing at his face.

“I’ll miss you, Eds,” Richie tells him. “Don’t forget to call me, alright? And like— Don’t forget me in general.”

“I could never forget you,” Eddie says back. The two of them look at each other for a long moment before Richie’s attention falls. He looks at Eddie’s hands for another beat before huffing a humorless laugh and looking away.

“Have a safe flight, Eddie,” Richie says. The way he had said I’ll miss you, Eds, is still ringing in Eddie’s ears as Richie walks away. Eddie has to take a second before he makes his legs move, heading towards his own terminal. His face feels hot still, and his head is pounding. Thinking about getting on the airplane and going back to Myra and his stupid, shitty life is almost making him physically sick. He doesn’t even know the last time he considered his life as something he could do anything to change, rather than just the way things are, but, looking at Richie, he can’t help but think of all the things he would do differently, if someone let him.

He’s not sure who’s stopping him. There really is no mysterious someone letting him or not letting him do things. It’s, in actuality, just him, making a series of increasingly elaborate rules for his own life so he won’t fall apart.

Then why does it feel like he’s falling apart anyways, he thinks, when he turns back and sees Richie walking away from him?

“Richie,” Eddie calls, starting to panic, but they’re too far apart now. Richie’s terminal was closer, and he’s nearly there already, lost in the crowd. Eddie looks back in the direction of his own terminal, a flicker of hesitation, but the second he started genuinely entertaining the idea of not going home, he realized he wanted it more than anything.

Eddie takes off at a run, like a dumbass. He nearly bowls over an old couple, and his bag comes inches from knocking a toddler on her ass, but he darts through the crowd reasonably quickly. He manages to get to Richie right before he reaches his gate, which feels stupid and cliché as hell, but it’s not like he’s confessing that he’s in love or anything, so it doesn’t count.

He grabs Richie’s wrist and yanks him backwards. Richie whirls around, bewildered, ready to jerk his hand free before he realizes it’s Eddie holding him. He laughs a little. “Hey, Eds. Forget something?”

You, Eddie thinks wildly.

“I don’t want to go to New York,” he says instead. Richie looks flummoxed, which is not a word Eddie uses lightly. “I can’t. I can’t go back, I’m not happy there.”

Richie looks down at him for a moment, speechless, before he says, “I don’t want to go back to L.A., either.”

Eddie laughs, relieved, just for a moment.

“What do we do?” Richie asks, a little delirious-sounding. Eddie doesn’t blame him. He feels like he’s high, even if he hasn’t gotten high since he and Richie were eighteen years old, before they left for college, when they’d lie side-by-side on the hood of Richie’s shitty car and smoke together. Remembering how he felt then, the feeling that he’d get out of Derry and go to college and get to be who he really was— It’s painful. Eddie didn’t get to do that. Instead, he forgot everything, the second he left, and he’d spent the last twenty-two years slowly regressing all over again, barely keeping his chin above water.

He feels like Richie just hauled him back onto shore. He feels like he can breathe again, like he can take a deep lungful of air and then decide who Eddie Kaspbrak really is, like he was supposed to do that summer when he was eighteen and he left Derry the first time.

Instead of answering Richie’s question, Eddie heads back to the departures board, trusting Richie to follow him. Sure enough, he does, and they stand side-by-side in front of the screen and stare together.

“Let’s go to West Palm Beach,” Richie says impulsively, looking over the board. Their flights to New York and Los Angeles are still listed, but Richie’s not even looking at them, when Eddie glances up at him. He’s looking down at flight 2421 to West Palm Beach, departing in half an hour. “I just want to leave here. I don’t want to go to New York, and I don’t want to go to L.A., I just want— I want to go. Let’s just go.”

“Can we do that?” Eddie asks. Theoretically, he means, can we exchange our tickets last minute like that?, but practically, he also means, can we just not go home? Are we allowed to just leave?, and Richie seems to pick up on that. Of course he does.

“We killed a fucking alien monster in the fucking sewer,” Richie says. “Fucking twice. We can do anything we want, Eds.”

Eddie’s not sure if he’s delirious, or drunk, or literally insane, but he’s the one who guides Richie to the customer service desk and gets their tickets exchanged for equivalent seats on flight 2421. Richie watches him work, as Eddie argues with the woman behind the desk to get them seats together, and Eddie flushes under his attention. He hopes, desperately, that Richie doesn’t notice.

“Your bags,” Richie says, when they’ve got their tickets and are trying to find the right gate. Eddie hesitates, then pulls his phone out.

“I’ll just call Myra,” he says. He’s definitely insane, because he doesn’t let Richie stop him from dialing Myra’s number, even though Richie tries pretty hard to get his phone out of his hands. Eddie shoves him off, pulling away to cover his other ear with his hand.

“Eddie?” Myra demands, the phone barely making it through one ring. “Aren’t you on your plane? You should be on your w—”

“My bags are going to be in New York,” Eddie tells her. “I’m not going to be. Do you mind grabbing them for me?”

“Did you miss your flight?” Myra asks. “Eddie, you always do this—”

“No, I didn’t,” Eddie cuts her off. He looks up at Richie, at his wide eyes behind his glasses, at the way he’s shaking his head and waving his hands frantically. He wonders if Myra would work this hard to stop him from self-destructing, which is, weirdly, the push he needs to actually self-destruct. He knows Myra doesn’t really care about him like that, which is fine, because he doesn’t really care about her like that, either. Maybe they never have. “Myra, I want a divorce.”

Richie’s hands clench into fists, and he turns away. Eddie’s not sure what emotions he’s feeling, but he knows his own chest is tightening, his heart pounding, his stomach churning. Richie turns back to him, his face all flushed, and he grins like a stupid idiot, and Eddie can’t even hear whatever Myra’s saying in response to him. His blood’s rushing in his ears, and he can’t stop staring at Richie and the giant smile on his face.

“I’m going to Florida,” he says, cutting off whatever she was saying. “I’m sorry, I know this must be sudden for you, but I can’t keep doing this. I’ll be back soon to get my stuff.”

Eddie hangs up his phone, terrified and bold, then pockets it. He’s glad he had it on silent, because he can’t feel the vibrations of all the calls he’s certainly receiving right now. After a moment, he looks to Richie. His grin’s still in place, and he’s quiet. He’s just waiting expectantly, and it takes Eddie a moment to realize he’s waiting for Eddie’s reaction. It takes him another moment to realize his immediate reaction is relief.

“Fuck, that felt good,” Eddie breathes. Richie reaches out, hauls him in and squeezes him tight before dragging him to their new gate.

Eddie’s pretty sure he’s not going to see the stuff in his bags again, but that’s alright. He can’t bring himself to care, in the rush of excitement he feels. He knows he’ll probably freak out soon, because he’s getting a divorce at the very least. Right now, though, he’s just overjoyed at the prospect of potentially getting a second chance. He’s even happier when they get on the plane and their side-by-side seats pay off, because Richie falls asleep on Eddie’s shoulder within minutes of them taking off.

Eddie spends the flight on the laptop he kept in his carry-on bag, booking them a nice guesthouse on Airbnb and renting a car from the airport in West Palm Beach. Richie turns into him a little more, when he’s booking the Airbnb. He sighs softly, near Eddie’s ear. Eddie has to shut his eyes just to calm his heart back down near its regular speed. When they land, he almost regrets having to wake him up. He’s still tipsy enough that this feels like a good decision, and Richie’s made him horny enough that he’s glad he did this with him, specifically.

“I got us a rental car and an Airbnb,” Eddie tells him, as Richie pulls his carry-on bag out of the overhead compartment. When he stretches his arms up, his shirts ride up, too, and Eddie can see the bare skin of his stomach and the trail of hair leading into his jeans and— 

He has to look away again. He grabs Richie’s jacket off his seat before they forget it and busies himself with tossing that over Richie’s shoulder.

“Of course you did,” Richie replies, and it takes Eddie a moment to remember what he’s actually replying to. “You’re like my fairy godmother.”

“Don’t call me a fairy,” Eddie snaps. He picks up his bag and says, “Ready to go?”

“I didn’t—” Richie starts to say, then stops. The two of them look at each other for a long moment. Richie still has a line on his cheek from the fold of Eddie’s shirt under his cheek while he’d slept. It makes him horrifyingly, endearingly adorable. “Sorry.”

“Don’t be sorry, dickwad,” Eddie says. “Just go.”

Richie turns and goes, leading the way down the aisle and off the plane for them. He’s useful to have around, Eddie’s almost proud to notice, because he’s tall and broad and he makes an easy path for them through the crowd. Richie keeps his hand on Eddie’s elbow, like he’s helping him get through the people. Eddie’s feeling hot all over, starting at the point of contact between his arm and Richie’s hand.

“There we go,” Richie says, low and near his ear, when he sees the sign for the rental cars. They manage to find their hastily-booked car in a standard four-door Volkswagen; Richie takes the bags off Eddie’s arms before he can protest. “Get in the passenger side, I’m gonna drive.”

“You—”

“You look like you’re about to explode and I’m a little worried you’ll freak out while we’re driving,” Richie tells him. “Plus, it’s night time. I’m not gonna let you kill me by careening off a cliff into the ocean at midnight in Palm Beach.”

“There are no cliffs here, it’s Florida,” Eddie corrects him. Richie rolls his eyes, throwing their bags in the back seat of the car.

“Of course that’s—”

“I’d never let you die,” Eddie interrupts him, because that’s what he wishes he’d said first. He’s not drunk anymore, not even a little tipsy, but he feels like he is, when Richie looks at him. It’s the way he looks at him, all warm and affectionate and surprised, like he’s not used to it and delighted to have it. He just makes Eddie want to give that warmth to him forever, and he can’t, and Eddie wants to fucking cry, which is mortifying.

“Aw,” Richie says, when it becomes clear Eddie’s melting down a little bit and isn’t going to continue. “That’s nice, babe. Spring wedding good for you?”

“Shut up,” Eddie snaps. Richie pales a little bit.

“Sorry, I forgot about—” Richie starts to say, then stops. Eddie remembers, belatedly, Myra. He hadn’t even been thinking about that. He’d just been thinking you can’t tease me about marrying you when you’re half the reason I’m divorcing her, and that was when he’d remembered Myra. “…Uh. Anyways. Sorry. I’ll drive.”

Richie slams the back door shut on the rental car and climbs in the driver’s seat. It takes Eddie a moment to actually come back into his body and follow suit, taking his spot beside Richie in the car.

Mercifully, their Airbnb isn’t all that far away, because the way Richie drives is actually getting Eddie hard, which is kind of a fucking joke, since he’s forty and not fourteen. The muscles in Richie’s forearms pull as he drives hand-over-hand, his long fingers wrapping around the steering wheel, the bones of his hands jumping when he moves. He twists to look behind them when he reverses, one arm draped around the back of Eddie’s seat, and Eddie almost fucking jumps. He feels like he’s going to come in his pants when Richie looks at him and raises an eyebrow.

“Eyes on the fucking road,” he snaps. Richie winks at him.

“I got four eyes for a reason,” Richie says. Eddie’s brain shuts down, so he turns on the radio. He doesn’t want to think about what Richie means, because it doesn’t mean anything to him, and that hurts worse than considering the (admittedly incredibly impossible) alternative. The idea that Richie’s intentionally flirting with him is so ludicrous to him that he can only imagine Richie means absolutely nothing by his comments. Which fucking sucks.

Eddie focuses on the radio, even though he doesn’t recognize the song playing. He can’t look out the window, because the views are pretty but it is night time, and it’s dark enough outside that he can see part of Richie reflected in his window. There’s nowhere to look he doesn’t see at least a little bit of him. He settles for closing his eyes.

Their Airbnb is right on the beach, he’s pleased to note, so Richie unlocks the place and brings their bags inside while Eddie takes off his shoes and socks near the door. He rolls up the ends of his pants, which is how Richie finds him when he returns. With a grin, Richie does the same, abandoning his shoes with Eddie’s to offer him his arm again.

“Care for a stroll?” he asks. Eddie takes his arm, this time.

“Sure,” he agrees. Richie’s grin becomes a softer smile, something warmer and more openly affectionate. He looks away, in the next moment, guiding Eddie down towards the edge of the water. It’s a warm, humid night, and the water’s even warm where it laps around their ankles as they walk. Richie doesn’t talk, for a long while. Eddie waits.

“Are you doing okay?” Richie eventually asks. “Like, really. You’ve— It’s been a weird day.”

“Fucking understatement,” Eddie replies.

“Yeah,” Richie agrees. “But I mean it. You can tell me whatever. I won’t say anything.”

Eddie’s not sure what Richie means by that. He’s not sure when he reverted into his teenaged self again, analyzing and overanalyzing every single word that came out of Richie’s mouth, looking for some hidden sign that he might like Eddie back, too. He forces himself to stop, then actually considers what Richie said, rather than why he said it. After a moment, he finds that he trusts Richie. He knows he’d never say anything, just because he promised Eddie he wouldn’t.

“I don’t even really know what I’m feeling,” Eddie starts, then stops.

“You can think out loud if you want,” Richie tells him, which was exactly what Eddie wanted to do. Myra didn’t really like it when he did that. She said he didn’t make any sense when he talked like that. “I know you do better like that. I mean— Unless you don’t anymore. Sorry, I know I don’t really—”

“No, I—” Eddie says, then groans, pressing his free hand to his face. He doesn’t want to pull his other arm out of Richie’s. “Sorry. I don’t really talk about my feelings a lot.”

“Coulda fooled me,” Richie comments. Eddie pinches him.

“I’m sure you’re an open book with your friends,” Eddie says. Richie’s mouth twists down, and he looks away, out over the ocean. The moon over their heads is reflecting on the ocean, the night’s so clear, and the light splashes off the water and spills across Richie’s face. He looks like he’s backlit just for Eddie to look at.

“I don’t really have any friends,” Richie tells him.

“How do you not have any friends?” Eddie asks, before he can stop himself, because the concept is genuinely absurd to him. He can’t imagine a room that Richie Tozier could walk into and not charm at least half the people in. “You’re, like. Made to be with people.”

“You’re telling me,” Richie replies. “But I asked you how you’re feeling, dipshit. So. How are you feeling? Really. Tell me.”

After a moment, Eddie says, “I’m not happy in New York. I don’t like my job, but it’s where I did my internship when I was in business school, and they hired me afterwards, because I was really good at it, and it paid really good, and I had, like, thirty dollars when they offered me the job, I had to, and then I— I never left! And I don’t even like it! And I got my fucking master’s in my business while I was there! And— God, I got married, and my mom hated her so I kept dating her and she started saying she wanted to get married and it was just… I don’t know, that’s what I was supposed to do!”

Richie doesn’t say anything, just lets him talk and nods through it, listening. He’s got a furrow between his brows, his head bowed a little bit to hear Eddie better. As if he needs the help; Eddie’s well aware that he’s nearly shouting.

“And I don’t even— God, I don’t even know what I want, Richie. I don’t know what I want, I just know that when I went back to Derry and I saw—” Eddie stops for the first time, because he was going to say and I saw you, but he can’t say something like that. Instead, he says, “When I saw all of you again, I realized I didn’t want that. I couldn’t go back to it. It was everything I’d left Derry to avoid the first time. I can’t do it again. I can’t.”

Eddie stops, finally. He’s not sure where all that came from, but it’s been festering in the bottom of his spine for a while. He feels like a weight’s come off his chest, and he’s suddenly crying, tears spilling down his cheeks. Finally, he pulls away from Richie, wiping at his face with the backs of his hands.

“Hey, I got you,” Richie tells him. He takes hold of Eddie’s shoulder, pulls him in and hugs him again like he had at the airport. Richie’s long arms wrap around his shoulders, but Eddie’s hands are still caught by his face; instead of wriggling free, he just fists his hands into Richie’s shirt and keeps crying. Richie rubs his back, just like he had before, but Eddie leans into him this time. He clutches Richie and cries until he stops, and it’s the first time he’s cried since even before the last time he saw Richie.

“Sorry,” Eddie says, once he calms down. He feels like a dumbass, and more than that, he’s embarrassed, because this is Richie. This is a forty-year-old Richie who is probably not impressed by a grown man sobbing on him after impulsively leaving his wife and flying to Florida with his childhood best friend.

Regardless.

“Nothing to be sorry for,” Richie tells him. “I’m sorry you’ve had such a shitty time, Eds.”

Eddie huffs a wet laugh, shaking his head against Richie’s chest before drawing back. Richie wipes at his own face, too.

“What are you crying for?” Eddie demands.

“I’m a sympathy crier!” Richie exclaims. “It’s not my fault! You were crying! You were—”

Eddie shoves at him, meaning for it to be playful, but Richie’s not ready for it and he falls backwards into the water. For a moment, they’re both shocked. Then, Eddie bursts out laughing, doubling over to catch himself on his knees. Richie grabs him by the back of his shirt and hauls him into the surf with him, drenching them both in the next wave that comes. Eddie forgets about Myra and his job and New York and wasted time, and focuses instead on shoving Richie’s face under the water until Richie flips him backwards and pins him to the wet sand.

They take turns in the one bathroom in the guesthouse they’ve rented. Richie goes first, because it takes him ten minutes to shower and Eddie knows he’s going to need more time than that. He puts their wet, sandy clothes in the washing machine while he waits. Richie’s right, he doesn’t need much time, but Eddie does, just to calm down; by the time he’s done showering, throwing their clean, wet clothes in the dryer, and dressing himself in the few backup articles of clothing he had in his carry-on, Richie’s asleep on the sofa.

“Hey,” Eddie whispers. “We can share the bed if you want.”

Richie doesn’t even seem to understand where he’s going or why, just blearily following Eddie before collapsing on the right side, the side Eddie usually takes when he’s at home. He curls up there, on top of the covers, just in his underwear. He hadn’t brought any pajamas to Derry at all, because he will always be as fundamentally Richie as Eddie is fundamentally Eddie. There’s a beat where he’s not sure what to do next; he busies his hands by taking Richie’s glasses off and setting them on the night stand.

Eddie’s exhausted enough that it only briefly bothers him that he offered to share the bed before thinking it through. He pulls the blankets up around Richie, just so he can stop looking at him in his tight boxer-briefs, feeling nearly lecherous the entire time. After several moments of breathing deeply beside the bed, Eddie climbs in. It’s Myra’s side, and then Eddie reevaluates, reframes it as this is my side, when I’m sharing with Richie, and that helps before it makes his heart pick up again. He turns on his side, his back to Richie, nearly hugging the edge of the bed, and slams his eyes shut.

It takes a while to fall asleep, but, when he wakes up, he’s forgotten why. He’s forgotten where he is, or why he’s there, but it’s warm and sunny in the room he’s in. He can tell, even through his closed eyes. He yawns, then stretches. He hears someone stretch next to him, and the sound is definitely not Myra’s voice; everything from the day before comes slamming back into Eddie’s brain, and his eyes snap open.

“Richie,” Eddie says, slightly too loudly for having just woken up. Richie flinches, his face crumpling up and his eyes squinting shut when Eddie looks down at him. He’s still mostly asleep, it looks like; he covers his eyes with his hand.

“Go back to sleep,” Richie tells him. His voice is sleep-rough, and it makes Eddie’s palms start to sweat. He’s already half-hard from whatever he’d been dreaming about, and looking down at Richie like this isn’t helping fucking at all.

“We have to figure out what we’re going to do next,” Eddie says. “Richie. I’m getting a divorce. Oh, God. Holy fuck—”

“There it is,” Richie says, rolling over to grab Eddie’s wrist in his hand. He tugs on him, and the movement surprises Eddie so much that he quiets. “Eds. Eddie. Hey. You made the right call. It’s gonna feel insane and you’re gonna think you did the wrong thing, but that’s what change does. Even good change. You’re doing the right thing.”

Eddie would say it was an unexpectedly wise thing for Richie to say, if he hadn’t been Richie’s best friend when they were younger. He knows Richie likes to pretend that all he’s good for is a laugh, but he was also their class valedictorian and the only one who could, without fail, know exactly which friend was upset about what, and what to do to make them feel better. He’s always been this smart.

“You’re right,” Eddie says quietly. “But… I do feel like I’m doing the wrong thing.”

“That’s because it’s scary,” Richie replies. “Change is scary, man, it sucks, I get it. But I know you can handle scary, Eds. You’re the bravest guy I know.”

“Braver than I think,” Eddie says, echoing Richie’s words in Derry. Richie smiles at him like he remembers. Maybe he even does.

“Braver than you think,” Richie agrees. He squeezes Eddie’s wrist, then sits up with a groan, climbing out of bed. He grabs his glasses off the night stand before he stretches. Eddie had forgotten he had gone to bed in just his underwear; he’s fully hard before he can look away.

“I’m gonna shower,” Eddie says hurriedly. Richie starts to comment on how he’d showered less than twelve hours ago, but Eddie’s already gone, locking himself in the bathroom. He briefly considers jerking off in the shower, but that feels like crossing a line, now that he’s forty years old, rather than an eighteen-year-old jerking off in his shower over his best friend.

He takes a cold shower instead. He takes a long, freezing shower, actually, until he’s almost shivering, before he gets out and dresses himself meticulously in the clothes he had washed the night before. Richie’s made them breakfast out of the sparse groceries he had found in the place’s tiny kitchen, when he gets down there. It’s such a strangely domestic scene that Eddie fucking aches, for a second. His brain catapults from I think I’m glad to get a divorce to I wish Richie was my husband, rather than just vague thoughts of how nice it would be to marry Richie. Thinking the words Richie and husband so close together makes something in him short-circuit, which just leaves an opening for Richie to talk.

“Hey, I made us food,” Richie says, motioning broadly at the omelettes on the short table. “I tried to avoid the foods you said you couldn’t have, but there wasn’t much here anyways. And I Googled stuff we can do today, because I was thinking it might be a good idea today to just— Maybe we should just not think about the future. Like, maybe we’ve had a shitty enough week, and today we should just have fun and not discuss the future at all, and just fucking enjoy ourselves for one fucking day, and tomorrow we can figure everything out.”

When Richie stops, Eddie just blinks. He thinks over what Richie’s said, now that Richie’s not speaking anymore, and then says, “Okay.”

Richie’s brow furrows. “Uh. Okay?”

“Yeah, okay,” Eddie says, taking a seat at the table. Richie takes the other seat, slightly hesitant. For a moment, Eddie worries that something about him is off-putting. Then again, this is Richie, and it doesn’t take much to send him spiralling.

“You’re sure?” Richie finally ventures to ask. Eddie nods, taking his second bite of his omelette. It’s not bad.

“I’m not sure how much I’m actually allergic to,” Eddie says. “Just whatever my mom told me I was, and I forgot which ones were real when I went to school.”

“We can figure that out,” Richie tells him. His use of we doesn’t go unnoticed, not by either of them. Eddie feels warm, but Richie looks almost angry when he looks back down at his plate. “I mean, I can help you. Whatever you need.”

“Richie—”

“I want to help,” Richie says firmly. After a moment, he looks up at Eddie again. “But we’re not talking about the future today.”

“No, we’re not,” Eddie agrees, even though he wants to prod. Richie said they could talk about the future tomorrow. If today is all he has, Eddie’s going to enjoy every last fucking second of it.

Richie finishes his food and then dashes back upstairs to shower and dress himself in the same clothes as yesterday, newly-washed from the dryer. He’s back in record time, then shows Eddie the places he had found on his phone. Eddie hasn’t checked his phone since he hung up on Myra, and he plans to keep it that way; they leave his phone behind when they get into their rental car to head to their first destination, and Richie doesn’t ask about it.

Their first stop is a botanical garden that Richie saw on their drive to the Airbnb the night before. Eddie hadn’t noticed fucking anything on the drive, because he had been too busy lusting after Richie, so pretends to have just missed seeing it when Richie drives them back out. It’s a beautiful place, filled with tropical plants and butterflies and roses and ponds, but Richie’s clearly too keyed up to be in a quiet place like a botanical garden. He spends more time taunting Eddie, joking around with him, taking pictures of him on his phone.

Eddie chooses their next stop, and they head to an aquarium. He almost wishes he had his own phone, because Richie’s a little more focused while they’re there, and there’s a few pictures he’d like to take for himself. They’re both bathed in blue, inside, while looking at tanks full of fish in the dark. The black lights make Richie’s teeth glow when he laughs at his own jokes. He’s lit up again, like he had been by the moon the night before.

Eventually, Eddie drags Richie into the planetarium, just so he can grab an excuse to get a break from staring at him. Joke’s on him, because he spends the whole show watching Richie’s face anyways. He smiles through it, his eyes flickering to Eddie’s now and then. Richie motions upwards, at the planets spiraling on the displays above them, and Eddie thinks, fuck, fuck, fuck—

Richie takes a picture of Eddie in front of a tank with one grumpy-faced fish in it, because Eddie’s face is similarly creased as he reads the little infographic beside the tank. He laughs so hard Eddie smacks him on the arm and makes them leave. The late afternoon sun is warm on the back of his neck, when they go back outside.

“Where to next, chaperone?” Richie asks, one hand on his hip as he stands beside their rental car. The other hand is spinning the keys around and around; the movement of his arm as he does it is horribly distracting. Eddie, Richie’s phone in his hand, scrolls through the list they’ve been reading off of, pointedly not looking at him.

“We can go to Rosemary Square,” Eddie tells him. “It says it’s got cafés and shops and stuff. The pictures look nice.”

“Lead the way, Mr. Frodo,” Richie says, climbing into the car. Eddie frowns as he puts the address into Richie’s phone. A text from Bev comes through, popping up with a notification at the top of Richie’s screen. The preview says, I’m sure it’s not you, it’s probably something he… and then cutting off. His frown deepens.

“Here you go.” Eddie passes Richie’s phone back over. Richie mounts it on the dashboard phone support, giving Eddie a raised eyebrow before turning his attention back to the phone.

Rosemary Square is nice, but the sun is starting to set and there’s only so much Eddie can take of walking around with Richie like they’re on a date like this. He picks a café at random and grabs them a table.

“Can you get us food?” Eddie asks. Richie flips the car keys on their table.

“Can do,” Richie says. “List me your allergies again, Dr. K.”

Eddie starts to oblige, then stops. “Just— Bring whatever.”

After a moment of Richie looking at him, one eyebrow raised again, Richie says, “Sure thing, Eds.” There’s another beat, and then he says, “Proud of you,” and scampers off, like the cowards they both are. Eddie buries his face in his hands while Richie’s gone.

Richie returns with almond rolls and hot chocolate for them both, insisting they should eat an actual dinner only when they find an actual restaurant. The almond rolls don’t give Eddie hives, and the milk in the hot chocolate doesn’t make him sick, and he feels bold, just from eating fucking snacks. He is forty. He doesn’t want to waste any more fucking time.

He’s so emboldened that he starts pushing Richie on his own personal life, and doesn’t let Richie deflect. Their time in the café is spent with Richie telling him about the few acquaintances he does have, the tour he just finished, how badly he just wants a writing job where he can do his own stuff. Rather than spending the entire time joking and taking pictures of Eddie, Richie spends the entire time slowly tearing almond rolls to shreds and answering questions that Eddie’s not sure anybody else has ever asked him about his life.

“We should probably go back to the house,” Richie says, when the sun has set and Eddie’s so in love with him he’s dizzy. The easy way Richie says the house almost makes it feel like they’d be going back to their house, for a second, and that makes Eddie so happy that he can’t have it.

“Where was that other place you wanted to go?” Eddie asks instead. “We might as well, while we’re here.”

The other place had been Clematis Street, a strip in the heart of West Palm Beach with music and shouting voices spilling out into the streets, lit by artificial lights and bright neons. It’s only a short walk from Rosemary Square. Eddie has to fight his hand back from taking Richie’s the entire way over.

It’s a Thursday, and apparently that means most of the places along Clematis Street have live music blasting out their open windows and doors. Richie stops at a couple of places before finding one nightclub whose music he seems to really like, paying both of their cover fees and getting their hands stamped before dragging Eddie inside.

“We’re forty,” Eddie shouts over the music. Richie rolls his eyes.

“Were you ever twenty?” Richie shouts back. Eddie’s not sure he was ever properly twenty, so he allows it. Richie’s hand takes his and pulls him deeper into the nightclub. There’s a good amount of people there, plus loud music and pulsing lights, but Richie’s with him. Eddie just focuses on that, on how Richie seems to be enjoying the rhythms and the noise and the people surrounding them. He remembers again how Richie had looked when he had looked away from Eddie and confessed I don’t really have any friends, like it was a shameful secret.

Eddie knows, now, that he should have said, Yes, you do. He wishes he had said, You have six friends, you have us. Fuck them, actually, you have me, and you’ll always have me.

He wishes he could have said that. He can’t, because then he won’t have Richie anymore. That’s too much for any one fucking person. Richie’s already had Eddie drag him to Florida and have several meltdowns on him. He’s not going to add Eddie’s forty-year-long gay crisis over me to Richie’s growing list of unnecessary Eddie-related concerns.

Eddie can’t remember the name of the drink Richie had ordered for them the day before, at the airport. It feels like five minutes ago and a lifetime ago, all at once. Richie leans over the bar and shouts, “Two blue Hawaiians, por favor!”, and Eddie thinks, Oh, right. He’s not sure what, exactly, that’s in response to, though.

One drink is enough to make Richie start pulling Eddie out to dance, but it’s not until he’s finishing his second that Eddie starts to entertain the idea. His third is what pushes him over the edge, and he and Richie chug the last of their drinks before Richie drags him out. Eddie doesn’t really recognize most of the music, but every now and then they’ll play a song from the ‘80s. Most of the people in the room were babies then, or weren’t even born yet, but Eddie remembers all that music like it had been released yesterday.

“I Wanna Dance With Somebody” is playing when a guy comes over to say something to Richie. It’s sort of infuriating, because Eddie used to have a mixtape with this song on it, and it always made him think of Richie. Most songs made him think about Richie, back then. He wonders if it’s going to start all over again, the way he acted when he was in love with Richie. Then, he wonders if he ever stopped being in love with Richie, really, or if it was just another thing he packed away to deal with that got trapped underneath the amnesiac avalanche of his last twenty-two years.

The guy leans into Richie’s side, saying something near his ear. He’s tall and blonde and Richie doesn’t look pleased that he’s there. He keeps glancing back at Eddie, actually, like he’s gauging his reaction. Well, only like he’s gauging his reaction, because there’s no reason for Eddie to care. Richie’s just his friend, and he’s straight, and some guy is coming on to him, so of course he’ll be looking to Eddie. He’s probably looking for Eddie to help him out.

Eddie tells himself that he’s just helping Richie, when he steps in between them. That Richie wanted him to step in, and that’s why he’s doing this. He doesn’t let himself think I’m jealous, or Get your hands off him, or Back the fuck off, he’s mine, because he has no right to any of that. He doesn’t. He can’t.

“He clearly doesn’t want you touching him, so back the fuck off,” Eddie spits in the blonde guy’s face. The guy looks bewildered for a second before he pushes off from the bar and straightens to his full height. He’s even taller than Richie, but Eddie’s so mad that this guy could put his hands on Richie and he couldn’t, and that this guy didn’t even appreciate it, that he knows he could take him down if he had to, height difference or no height difference.

“Let him decide what he wants,” the guy snaps back. Eddie’s blood boils.

“He doesn’t want you,” Eddie says. It almost feels like it echoes between them, and Eddie thinks desperately, He doesn’t want you, either, and the thought makes him sick.

“Yeah, man, just fuck off, alright?” Richie says. The guy looks to him, but, whatever expression is on Richie’s face, he just gives up.

“Whatever,” he says, then flips them both off and leaves. Richie grabs Eddie by the arm and steers him back to the bar.

“What the fuck was that?” Richie hisses. Eddie hasn’t seen him actually mad in— He’s not sure how long, really, but it wasn’t recent, not like this.

“You looked like you wanted my help,” Eddie says. “That guy was coming on to you.”

“Yeah, and?” Richie demands. Eddie feels like the room is spinning, and he’s not sure if it’s alcohol or if Richie’s response really just is that disorienting.

“What do you mean, and?” Eddie shoots back. “He was all over you! Just fucking tell him no!”

“Tell him no?” Richie asks. They’re both too loud, but the place is loud, so nobody’s really paying them any attention. That’s probably for the best, because Eddie can feel his face getting red, and he’s still mad as hell. “Fucking why?”

“Because you’re not interested,” Eddie says. It should be simple. Why isn’t this simple? Why is Richie making this so fucking difficult?

“Why the fuck wouldn’t I be interested?” Richie asks, which just throws everything totally off-course.

“Because…” Eddie trails off, then stops. “I… What? Were you?”

Richie looks at him incredulously. After a moment, he says, “Eddie, are… Are you not cool with me being gay?”

If his own head had exploded in the next second, Eddie couldn’t have been more surprised than he was right then. He stares at Richie, shell-shocked, feeling like he’d been sucker-punched in the nose. He keeps hearing Richie’s voice saying gay gay gay on a loop in his brain like a weird nightmare.

“Gay?” Eddie manages. It’s not a sentence, or a question, really. Richie’s whole face flushes dark red, and his eyes get wet, and he frowns.

“If you’re not cool with that, Eds, you can— You can just fuck off, I thought you were—” Richie starts, then stops, shaking his head. He shoves his hands through his hair, then exhales sharply. “It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter—”

“No, Richie, I just—” Eddie says, then asks, “Are— You’re sure? Are you sure?”

Richie laughs, but there’s no humor in it at all. It’s almost scary. The background noise fades away, loud as it is, and all Eddie can hear is Richie when he says, “Am I sure? Well, I’ve been in love with you since I was fucking nine, so, yeah, I’m pretty fucking sure, Eddie.”

The two of them look at each other for a long moment. After a beat, Richie starts visibly panicking, his face flushing darker and his breaths coming faster. Eddie can feel his hands shaking, but he can’t get himself to speak. He doesn’t even know what to say. It’s such an insane thing to hear, that Richie’s been in love with him since he was fucking nine, supposedly, while Eddie’s spent the same amount of time crying himself to sleep, wishing he could just hold Richie’s hand.

“I—” Eddie starts to say. He doesn’t know what the end of the sentence is, so he doesn’t say anything at all. Richie keeps waiting, but nothing comes. Eventually, he huffs, looking away and then jerking his head sharply back.

“I’m so fucking sorry,” Richie chokes out. Tears finally start spilling down his cheeks and, in the next moment, he’s shoving away from Eddie through the crowd. He’s lost in seconds, even as tall as he is. Eddie’s still frozen. It takes him a heartbeat to move, but, by the time he does, he can’t see Richie.

“Shit,” he spits. He digs cash out of his wallet and passes it off to the bartender in a rush before running out after Richie. Neither of them has any idea where they are or where they’re going. It’s fucking West Palm Beach. Eddie’s never been here before. He doesn’t even know if Richie has; he never asked. He has a brief surge of panic when he thinks Richie might never talk to him again, so he may never get a chance to ask.

He looks around frantically, and thinks he sees Richie at the end of the street, so he starts running after him. When he catches up and turns the corner, he’s greeted with water and a dimly lit sign that says Palm Harbor Marina, and there’s someone sitting at the end of the long dock. The person shifts; Eddie recognizes Richie’s shoulders easily. He didn’t get far, and he looks defeated, all slumped over over the water. Eddie approaches cautiously, feeling dramatically more sober than he had inside the nightclub.

Richie doesn’t look up when Eddie sits beside him. Richie’s legs are dangling over the edge, but his feet don’t reach the water, so Eddie figures he’s safe to let his legs dangle without getting wet, too. They sit there in silence for a moment.

“I think I’m gay, too,” Eddie says. Richie glances up at him. “I was going to start with I’m sorry, but I didn’t want you to interrupt me.”

“Smart move,” Richie says roughly. He clears his throat and wipes at his face, obviously still crying. Eddie feels miserable for being the reason for it. “Sorry I ran out.”

“No, I deserved it,” Eddie tells him.

“You didn’t.”

“I don’t know,” Eddie says. “I’m kind of feeling like an idiot.”

“For not realizing I was gay?” Richie asks. Eddie shrugs with one shoulder, leaning back on his hands. Richie’s eyes are still on him, but Eddie keeps looking out over the water. If he looks at Richie, he worries he’ll lose his resolve.

“For not realizing you were in love with me,” Eddie tells him, “when I was so fucking in love with you.”

Richie’s quiet. After a moment, Eddie makes himself look at him, and he’s not answering because he's started crying harder. Eddie sits up, alarmed, but Richie just waves him off.

“Jesus, Rich,” Eddie says, ignoring Richie’s hands to pull him in for a hug. Richie’s silent crying breaks on a loud sob, and he cries into the crook of Eddie’s neck, his hands fisted in his shirt, just like Eddie had cried on Richie the night before. “Hey, what the fuck? I’m in love with you, you fucking idiot. Why are you crying so much?”

Richie doesn’t answer for a second, but then he manages, “Do you still love me?”

Eddie’s bewildered, and then he realizes he said I was so fucking in love with you, and wants to fucking punt the word was into the ocean.

“Rich, I’d marry you tomorrow if you asked,” Eddie tells him honestly. Richie starts crying all over again. “Goddamnit, calm down, I’m trying to tell you I’m in love with you.”

“If you want to love me, you have to love all of me,” Richie jokes, his voice wet. Eddie hugs him tighter, feeling his heart pounding. He’s almost worried it’s a dream; if it turns out it is, he reasons, at least he’ll have it as a nice semi-memory to look back on. He’s pretty sure it’s real, though. Especially when Richie rubs his face into Eddie’s shoulder and leaves a trail of tears and snot.

“Gross,” Eddie comments.

“Gross parts included,” Richie amends.

“Remember,” Eddie begins, ignoring Richie’s reply, “earlier, when you told me we should just enjoy today and not think about the future?”

Richie pulls back and wipes at his face, then says, “Yeah. Why?”

“I think…” Eddie trails off, then stops, just so he can phrase this correctly and not fuck it up this time. “I think the fact that I enjoyed today this fucking much makes it impossible for me not to think about the future, because I think… I just realized I want every day to be like this.”

Richie’s brow furrows. There are boats floating right near them, tied to the dock, and low lamplights reflecting across their faces. Eddie wants to kiss Richie, desperately, and his heart jumps into his throat when he realizes he might be able to very soon, for real, and he nearly loses his mind at the mere thought.

“What?” Richie asks. “You want to move to Palm Beach?”

Valedictorian or not, Richie can be so fucking dumb sometimes, so Eddie replies, “Why, do you want to move here? I was just planning to move to wherever you were.”

Richie doesn’t say anything, just stares at Eddie’s face for long enough that Eddie starts to panic, thinking that was maybe too much. He has dropped a lot on Richie in the last ten minutes— Hell, he’s dropped a lot on Richie in the last thirty-six hours. Something had to break him, at some point.

“If that’s okay,” Eddie tacks on, when Richie’s silence grows worrying. A light catches on a wave and sends a sparkling reflection across Richie’s face, glinting in his glasses, making him squint a little. Eddie wants to kiss him so badly his palms start to sweat.

“Obviously that’s okay,” Richie finally manages, sounding choked. “Fucking shit, Eds. I used to have dreams about shit like this. I’m still so fucking in love with you— Eddie, when I thought about you going home to her, I just, I, I don’t know, I just—”

“I know,” Eddie tells him. He gets it, a fraction of it, from that angry, violent chill that had settled in his bone marrow when he had watched that guy draping himself over Richie. In the next moment, Eddie’s brain sort of explodes, because he registers Richie saying, I’m still so fucking in love with you, and he exhales hard. “Fuck.”

“What?” Richie asks. “Are you— You okay?”

“Yeah, I just—” Eddie says, then huffs a laugh, rubbing his hands roughly over his face. “I’m in love with you. I’ve never, like— I never wanted to think about it, because I can’t— I couldn’t have that. Or I thought I couldn’t have that, so I just tried— Anyways, what I mean,” he says, when Richie starts looking impossibly soft, “is that— Richie, I think I’ve loved you for so long I forgot that’s what it was. I didn’t know. I didn’t know.”

Eddie’s not sure he’s making any sense, but he doesn’t know how else to explain it. The way he knows Myra isn’t the way he knows Richie, not by a long shot, no matter what sorts of time they’ve spent together. He doesn’t know how to tell Richie that the only way he knows how to be in love is to be in love with him.

“I’ve stopped trying to— to analyze it, I think,” Eddie tells him, in the interest of full disclosure. “I just love you. I don’t love her like I love you. It’s not even kind of the same. And I want— I meant it, when I said I’d move wherever you were. I’m already leaving her. I told you I hate my job. We can figure it out, I just know I want to stay with you.”

Richie doesn’t say anything for a minute. He looks back out at the water, silent, which is so uncharacteristic and strange that Eddie gets a strong urge to push Richie into the water, just for a reaction. It’s only the facts that it’s night time and Richie has their only phone in his pocket that stop him. Instead, he just waits, getting incrementally more nervous the longer Richie doesn’t talk.

Finally, finally, he hesitantly lets himself add, “I’d do anything to stay with you. I’m not afraid. Well, not anymore.”

Richie doesn’t speak for another moment, but then he turns back to Eddie and smiles. “And people say I can’t stop talking. You can’t handle thirty seconds of quiet.”

“Not when I fucking bare my soul to you,” Eddie snarls, and Richie leans in to catch his face and kiss him. Eddie, for once, doesn’t freeze. He doesn’t hesitate, and he doesn’t pause, and he doesn’t overthink. For once, Eddie just acts, taking Richie’s face between his hands and kissing him back, twisting to deepen the kiss, separating Richie’s lips with his tongue and licking into his mouth.

Richie pulls back, laughs. He presses a kiss to Eddie’s cheek, then to the hinge of his jaw, down to his throat. Eddie holds back what he’s sure was going to be an embarrassing sound. “Fuck, you kiss good, Kaspbrak. I wish I could’ve kissed you back when we were nine.”

“I probably didn’t kiss as good then,” Eddie tells him, breathless. He’s already half-hard from the kiss and Richie’s breath spreading warm across his neck. Richie lifts his head, frowning a little at him.

“I want to be the one who taught you,” Richie says. He dives back in, holds Eddie’s jaw to kiss him hard. Eddie scoots himself backwards onto the dock, breaking the kiss to drag Richie fully onto the wood so there’s no risk of slipping into the water. He pushes Richie onto his back and climbs over him, kissing him again; Richie’s hands came up, held his hips and pulled him down into him, and Eddie can’t help but groan into his mouth.

“We can’t,” Eddie tells him. Richie looks heartbroken, when he pulls back. “Because we’re in fucking public, you shithead. And on a fucking dock, what are we doing, you told me you have a bad back, get up, get up—”

They manage to make it back to the car by not touching each other at all on their brisk walk back. Eddie feels like he’s speed-walking, but Richie’s got much longer legs than him, so he’s really just trying to keep up with him. He doesn’t even ask who’s driving; Richie climbs right into the driver’s seat and starts the car while he waits for Eddie to get in.

Eddie has to arrange himself carefully, because he’s so fucking hard already. He can’t look at Richie, either, because the way he drives is going to make Eddie fucking snap with how tense he is already. Richie turns the radio on, after a minute of silence, then says, “Are you as hard as I am?”

“Richie, Jesus fuck,” Eddie spits, because the question makes his dick pulse in his jeans, and he glares over at him. Richie laughs, the fucking traitor, as he takes a left turn, and it’s so inexplicably hot that Eddie has to shift again. He wants to press his palm down against his cock, but he worries that touching himself in any capacity will just ruin everything.

“Oh, now we’re modest?” Richie says, still grinning.

“It’s not modesty,” Eddie hisses. “I’m trying not to—” Eddie breaks off, then groans, because it’s embarrassing. He doesn’t finish. It only takes a beat for Richie to laugh again.

“You are as hard as I am,” Richie answers for him. “Good to know.”

It’s weird and simultaneously hot as fuck that Richie’s hard just from kissing him, that Eddie turned him on with his mouth and his hands and his words, and it makes Eddie feel wanted in a way he’s not sure he’s ever felt before. He rolls down his window and looks outside so there’s no reflection of Richie to see in the glass.

“Getting hot?” Richie asks, in a low voice.

“Richie, I swear to God,” Eddie says through gritted teeth. Richie turns the volume up, but when Eddie chances a glance at him, he’s got a smug grin on his face. That makes his dick twitch again, and he bites back another sound before looking back out the window.

The drive back to their Airbnb isn’t actually that long, but it feels like an eternity. Eddie’s not sure he’s ever been this turned on before in his life, and he’s almost glad for the break in the car so he can gather himself. He wants to make this last. The night still feels fragile, like this might be all he gets before he wakes up from a— a coma or something, and when he voices that to Richie, he doesn’t laugh.

“Yeah, I get it,” Richie says. “I keep thinking I’m gonna wake up from the Deadlights again, but this time you’ll be dead. Like the first time.”

Eddie reaches out and takes Richie’s hand once he puts the car in park. Both of them are warm to the touch; Eddie presumes it’s for the same reasons.

“This is real,” Eddie tells him, squeezing his hand. Richie turns his hand over, tangles their fingers together.

“This is real,” he echoes, mostly to himself. He looks up at Eddie and smiles. “Can I kiss you again?”

“Fucking— Yes,” Eddie answers, and Richie dives in across the center console, scooping up Eddie’s face in his big hands and kissing him hard. He keeps it close-mouthed, for a bit, but it’s not chaste, not with the way Richie’s gasping for breath, fingers digging into Eddie’s skin. Eddie feels like his skin is stretched too thin, like he’s going to snap like a rubber band at any moment. He deepens the kiss, leans into the feeling, opens Richie’s mouth again and makes the kiss as dirty as he can. Richie makes a soft moan that gets lost somewhere behind Eddie’s teeth; it’s the hottest thing Eddie thinks he’s ever heard.

“We have to go inside,” Eddie tells him. Richie jerks back, nodding aggressively as he throws his door open. Eddie’s the first one in the door, but Richie pushes him through, backing him up against the wall to kiss him again once they’re inside. The place isn’t big, so, once Eddie’s shut the door, Richie’s all over him again, taking him through to the kitchen, since it’s the closest room with any furniture at all.

Richie looks him over, then flips on the light. He takes a second, chest heaving, to look Eddie over. Eddie stares back up at him, feeling almost like a cornered animal, and it’s so delicious that he inhales sharply when their eyes connect. Richie steps forward, and Eddie steps backwards, until his back hits a cabinet. Richie crouches down, lifts Eddie up onto the counter and steps in between his legs, spreading his knees apart with a hand on either side.

“I can’t believe you love me,” Richie says, and he really does sound incredulous, like he truly doesn’t believe it, and the idea that Richie’s the one who doesn’t believe it is bewildering. Eddie spent years pining after him, wanting to do— to do anything, to hold his fucking hand if he could, yearning for something he never thought he could have. And yet— And yet Richie doesn’t believe that Eddie loves him, when it’s Eddie’s most deeply ingrained truth. Sky is blue, grass is green, Eddie Kaspbrak loves Richie Tozier. The universal, unchanging facts of his life. The things he didn’t always think about consciously, but remained true regardless.

“I can’t believe you love me,” Eddie replies. The look Richie gives him makes it seem like he’s having a similar rant in his own head to Eddie’s, and that makes Eddie hungry, pulling Richie in to kiss him again. Richie’s hands settle on his waist, pressing hard up into him where he sits on the countertop. He can’t even bring himself to care about who owns the place, how sanitary they are, how clean the countertop is— None of it crosses his mind, with Richie tearing his shirt off of him like he can’t get to his skin fast enough.

“Let’s go to bed,” Eddie says. Richie looks so confused for a moment that Eddie has to laugh and clarify, “Not to sleep, you fucking dumbass. I just—”

“Oh, you want to fuck in a bed,” Richie says. Those words coming out of Richie Tozier’s mouth, directed at him, makes Eddie, impossibly, harder. He presses his palm down against his groin, just for a little bit of pressure, and a moan slips out when he does it. Richie’s attention zeroes in on Eddie’s hand, and he grins. “Oh, you want to fuck in a bed now.”

“If you don’t fucking mind,” Eddie snaps. Richie drags him off the counter and pulls him up the stairs to their shared bedroom, pushing Eddie onto the bed before he goes to his bag. He digs out a bottle of lube and holds it up. “Why the fuck do you have that?”

“So I can jerk off on the go, Edward,” Richie shoots back in the same tone. “You fucking prude. What, you just go in dry?”

“You’re gonna call me a fucking prude right now? Really?” Eddie asks incredulously. “I can go. Or you can, since you wanna be the—”

“I don’t have any condoms,” Richie interrupts him. He looks genuinely heartbroken, looking over at him. “I don’t have any condoms, Eds. Do you?”

“No,” Eddie says. It’s an insane concept, that he would own any condoms. He hasn’t had sex in years. “I don’t— I mean, I’m— I don’t mind.”

Richie’s still holding his bag in one hand and the lube in the other. “You— Are you sure?”

They stare at each other for a long moment, and then Eddie says, “Yeah, Rich.”

Richie drops his bag and climbs over Eddie on the bed, pinning him back against the mattress. Eddie feels a brief flash of pity for whoever owns this Airbnb, because he’s not going to hold back after how long he’s waited for Richie specifically. Richie gets his hands on Eddie’s jeans first, opening them and tearing them down his legs, undressing him completely with a speed Eddie didn’t know he was capable of. He looks him over, and it feels unfair to Eddie that Richie is still fully dressed.

“Take your clothes off or I’ll take them off,” Eddie warns, and he means it as a threat, but Richie’s eyes darken behind his glasses. Eddie raises an eyebrow, then gets his hands on Richie’s open patterned shirt and pushes it off his arms. He makes quick work of his shirt underneath, tugging it over Richie’s head before he’s stripping his jeans off and pulling his dick out. He’s just as hard as Eddie is, but he’s also fucking huge, and Eddie stops, Richie’s jeans halfway down his legs, just to look at it.

“What, what happened?” Richie asks, pushing himself up on his elbows. “Eds— What the fuck are you doing?”

“You—” Eddie says, sounding choked even to his own ears. After a moment, he says, “You have a huge fucking dick, Richie, what the fuck?”

Richie looks down at him, breathing heavily. Eddie realizes belatedly how close his mouth is to Richie’s fucking exposed cock, so he turns his head on impulse and licks the head of it. Richie falls backwards, groaning loudly.

“Fucking shit, Eddie,” Richie gasps. Eddie wraps his hand almost all the way around the base of Richie’s dick and looks it over for a second before he licks a long line up it, from his hand all the way to the head. Richie full-body shudders, his hands shooting down to grab onto Eddie’s head seemingly of their own accord. “If you— If you want me to fuck you, Eds, you’re gonna have to stop that soon.”

Eddie pulls back, takes the head of Richie’s cock between his lips again, and Richie exhales hard.

“Now, you’re gonna have to stop now,” Richie breathes, so Eddie pulls off entirely. Richie exhales hard, then sits up. “Take my jeans all the way off, Eds, fuck, focus—”

Eddie yanks the rest of Richie’s clothes off before climbing up and over him again. He presses the lube back into Richie’s hand and says, “You know what you’re doing, right?”

“Fuck, yes, I— Do you?” Richie asks.

“I’ve only ever done it to myself,” Eddie tells him, and Richie moans again before tugging Eddie down into another kiss. “Will you—”

“Yes,” Richie cuts him off. He opens the lube and dumps a bunch in his hand, then warms it between his hands before reaching around Eddie. The fucking simple act of him taking two seconds to warm it before touching Eddie with it is so fucking sweet that Eddie almost comes untouched between them.

He grabs onto Richie’s shoulders, exhales hard, then says, “Okay, go ahead.”

Richie lays him on his back and opens him up slowly. He’s torturously gentle, with one finger and then with two, slowly opening him up with his fingers to the third knuckles. He adds a third finger; when Eddie asks him, remembering how Richie’s cock had felt in his hands, to use four, Richie makes a soft whimpering noise before agreeing and obliging. Four of his long fingers in Eddie’s ass already open him more than Eddie had ever managed on his own, and he feels like a live wire, exposed all over, Richie’s hands drops of water making his electricity spark wherever he touches.

“Are you ready?” Richie asks, when he’s used half the bottle of lube and spent twelve minutes opening Eddie up. Eddie feels like he’ll die if he doesn’t get fucked right now, which is kind of insane considering how long he’s spent not getting fucked by Richie. He’s pretty sure his life will be marked as before this moment, and after it.

“Yes,” Eddie breathes. Richie slicks himself up with another warmed handful of lube before lining up with Eddie’s entrance. He keeps one hand tight on Eddie’s hip, the other guiding him in as Eddie gasps. It’s not only unfamiliar, it’s fucking huge, and he has to slam his eyes shut.

“You okay?” Richie asks.

“Who the fuck needs a dick this big,” Eddie mutters, and Richie huffs a laugh, which makes him slip in another inch. “Fuck, Rich, fucking shit—”

“Sorry, sorry,” Richie murmurs. He stops, breathing hard, and says, “I’m serious, are you okay?”

“I’m okay, just— Go slow,” Eddie tells him. Richie takes the request to heart, goes laboriously slow, so slow that Eddie feels like he’s going out of his fucking mind when Richie’s only halfway down. He pushes Richie’s hand away, then says, “Okay, I got it from here.”

“Eddie—” Richie starts to say, but Eddie grabs Richie’s hips and pulls him two inches deeper. Richie moans, his head falling forward over Eddie, and Eddie gasps with him, because he’s fucking stretched out around Richie’s dick and not even fucking done, but he wants Richie all the way in him yesterday, so he relaxes as much as he can before pushing up into Richie’s body, pulling Richie down in the same movement, rolling his hips up to take Richie all the way in. He inhales sharply, tears pricking in his eyes as his head falls back against Richie’s pillow, and Richie’s hand slams down next to Eddie’s face on the mattress.

“Holy fuck, holy fuck,” Eddie gasps, voice sounding wrecked even to his own ears, and Richie moans again, shaking his head.

“Eddie, I swear to fuck, if you move right now, I’m gonna come,” Richie tells him, eyes shut tight. “I’m serious. Do not fucking move.”

Eddie takes him seriously, doesn’t move until Richie’s breathing is a little steadier and he opens his eyes again. He looks down at Eddie like he can’t believe he’s actually there, and Eddie gets it. He’s feeling the same way.

“Okay,” Richie says. “Okay, I’m okay. Are you— Fuck, are you okay? I’m s—”

“I’m good,” Eddie says, “Richie, move—”

“Right.” Richie hesitates, then says, “Sorry.”

“Richie—”

“Right,” Richie repeats, then pulls out and back in, rolling his hips slowly to make sure Eddie can get used to the sensation. The combination of Richie’s tight grip, his hot, hard length sheathed inside of him, his tenderness, his expression like he can’t fucking believe this, it’s all so much, and Eddie rolls up to meet him. Richie shoves his glasses back up his nose like he doesn’t want to miss a second.

Richie doesn’t say much, when he starts to pick up speed, finding a hard, steady rhythm and pounding into Eddie, one of Eddie’s legs up on his shoulder. Eddie encourages him, whispers yes and more and Richie, fuck, there when Richie fucks directly into his prostate, making him nearly black out. Richie seems to catch on to why he’s suddenly right at the edge, his hands scrabbling against Richie’s arms.

“Eds,” Richie says softly above him, his voice rough and low as he fucks hard into him. “I love you— I just, I love you so fucking much, thank you for loving me, too—”

It’s such an insane thing to say, right now, to thank Eddie for loving him, and it’s so fucking sweet that Eddie really does come untouched this time, his hips bucking up as Richie thrusts down. He feels the heat that had been pooling at the base of his spine blow outwards, limbs exploding with heat as cum splatters both of their chests, and Richie captures him in a kiss as he comes deep inside of him just a few thrusts later. He holds Eddie tight as he pulses inside him, arms wrapped around him, nose buried in his hair. When he finally comes down, catching his breath, Eddie takes his face in his hands and pulls him back to kiss him.

“I love you, too,” Eddie tells him, even though it’s a little late.

“Maybe I can make it Pavlovian,” Richie speculates, face gleaming with sweat as he grins down at Eddie, still inside of him. “Maybe I can make it so you cum like that every time I tell you I love you.”

“You’re such a dickwad,” Eddie says. Richie moves to pull back, but Eddie says, “No, don’t move yet.”

Richie stops, then leans back over him, capturing Eddie’s lips in a soft kiss. After a moment, he pulls back and says, “I’m not going anywhere. I’ll even bring you to the shower myself if it’ll make you feel better.”

“It might,” Eddie says, smiling at him. “Maybe. I’m not sure.”

Richie sighs dramatically, like he’s incredibly put-upon. “Well, I suppose we won’t know until we try.” He braces himself on the mattress and pulls out of Eddie inch by inch; by the time he’s fully out, Eddie feels like he’s going to die, empty and cold. Richie’s not saying anything, so Eddie looks up at him to find him looking down between Eddie’s thighs.

“Shit, I never—” Richie says, sounding a little choked up. Eddie’s going to strangle him.

“You are not crying looking at my ass right now,” Eddie says. “Tell me you’re not.”

Richie waves his hand, then says, “I just never thought I’d get to— I just love you! It’s not my fault!”

“Don’t cry looking at my ass!” Eddie shouts back, which just makes Richie laugh through his emotional tears as he gets up and offers Eddie a hand to help him to the shower.

It’s worth using the soaps left behind by the owner, not being able to use the soaps and shampoos and gels that were in the suitcases that he left to Myra’s whims in New York. He and Richie smell the same, after they shower and change the sheets and get back into bed. Richie flicks through his phone, once they’re both settled in bed, so Eddie finally grabs his own phone and plugs it into the wall, since it died sometime the night before. Once it turns on and lights up, he has countless messages. Most of them are from Myra, which makes sense; there are a bunch more from the Losers, especially from the group chat with all seven of them, and then he has a shitload of emails. He frowns at the top notification, which is for an email from a coworker that says Is this you? as a subject line.

He opens the link they sent him, and it’s a BuzzFeed article about a strange man appearing on comedian Richie Tozier’s official Instagram account, complete with pictures straight off Richie’s fucking Instagram of Eddie on the beach that first night, Eddie at the botanical garden in front of a rosebush, Eddie at the aquarium with the grumpy fish, Eddie drinking hot chocolate at the café in Rosemary Square, Eddie at the nightclub on Clematis Street. Eddie, Eddie, Eddie.

He wants to be mad, but he can’t be. Instead, he turns his phone and shows the BuzzFeed headline at the top of the page to Richie, who groans.

“Eds, I’m sorry,” he says. Eddie shrugs, looking down at the article again. It’s not like he’s planning to go back to the job anyways. He’s not sure what his plans are, but he knows Richie’s got a starring role in whatever they’ll end up being, and that’s enough for him, in this moment. It won’t be in the morning, when he’s going to want to figure everything out to the last detail, because he’s still himself, but it’s enough right now.

“It’s fine,” Eddie tells him. “The dangers of dating Richie Tozier, I guess.”

Richie’s answering grin and the smiling kiss he presses into Eddie’s scarred cheek is worth every second of Eddie’s entire life until this point. Richie wraps his arms around Eddie and pins him back against the pillows, setting his phone aside so he can kiss all over Eddie’s face uninterrupted. Eddie just laughs into his mouth, holds onto his shoulders and forgets about the future so he can just, for a moment, enjoy the now.