Actions

Work Header

Losers of the Rectangular Table

Work Text:

"Damn, I wish I had a gong. It was so cool last time."

"You've never been cool a day in your life, Trashmouth."

Richie Tozier blinks, surveying his friend from where she sits diagonally across from him at the long, dining room table, a glint in her jade eyes. It really is a sight to behold, ten grown people sitting pretty at the glossy mahogany structure, Richie and Bill at each end like twin-kings of their weird, little kingdom.

Upon arrival, they each had silently acknowledged that a circular table would have facilitated their large group a little better. But, after last time...Richie is glad for the change. He had already made the obligatory ‘Last Supper’ joke more than once, of course. He blames the cold for his lack of creativity. Eddie blames his now-fired ghost-writers.

"Words hurt, Beverly. I thought engaged life had changed you, but alas," he places a wounded hand to his chest, "you have marred the first annual Clown Club meet—"

"We're not calling it that," Stanley cuts across Richie’s dramatic speech, with a withering look from his right.

"Well, you already vetoed Dead Losers’ Society, Staniel—”

"That's because out of the ten people present, only three of us have actually died, so that name doesn't hold up, genius," Eddie sighs from his left, picking up his glass.

"Okay fine, Mr Pedantic Pants,” Richie shrugs down at Eddie before addressing the table at large, “how about - welcome to the first annual 'Pennywise fucked us up and we can't talk about it to professionals lest we get thrown in the nut house' meeting. That satisfy everyone?"

Various murmurs echo throughout the room and Richie takes that as his cue to sit back down, drink in hand.

"I never thought I'd hear you use the word 'lest' in a sentence," Eddie snorts, taking a large sip from his long island iced tea, his third of the night.

Three-drink-Eddie is where his lips really loosen, to Richie’s endless delight.

Richie studies his mouth around the purple crazy straw for a second, eyes lingering on said thin, pursed, snarky lips before he shoots back, unthinkingly, "Watch your tongue, Kaspbrak. Lest I put it to better use."

Shit. Rein it in,Tozier.

Three-drink-Richie is an idiot.

Well, an even bigger idiot than sober Richie, anyway.

He knows that he has gotten a little too...comfortable these last few months where Eddie and his carefully constructed line is concerned. They have been living together in Richie’s L.A. apartment for over six months now, after Eddie landed on his doorstep, announcing his divorce following his after-death crisis. Being roommates had come remarkably easy, with only minor hiccups, especially considering their type A and type B personalities, (the vegetable crisper is not a candy-drawer, Richie!) and it brought out a brazenness in Richie that he had thought was long-buried.

It’s just too fun fucking with Eddie (and have him give as good as he got), always had been.

Trouble is, subty isn’t exactly Richie’s strong suit the best of times, and when it comes to his oldest, deepest secret, he really can’t afford to test that. And yet, he does, almost unbeknownst himself, constantly.

Stan has always said I’m a masochist.

Richie has officially been out of the closet (complete with Twitter hashtag and upcoming Netflix special) for almost a year, while Eddie is too, albeit on a much quieter scale, for almost eight months. And not much has changed in their dynamic, really. They are still RichieandEddie, EddieandRichie, EdsandTrashmouth. They are, still at their core, those thirteen year old bickering boys, poking and prodding at each other, literally and figuratively, only they both now acknowledge that they had always been boys who liked boys, too.

And that...that made things interesting.

Kinda heartbreaking too.

‘Cause at least when Richie had thought Eddie was straight, he had that as an excuse, something to nurse his wounded, fragile heart. It was just never to be. Will never be.

But now…

Now he has to face the fact that Eddie is into dudes. He just isn’t into Richie. Will never be.

But that doesn’t stop Richie from riling him up at any given opportunity.

He’s only human.

If a little obvious, sometimes.

Though he’s certain Eddie hasn’t caught on as surely he would have run for the Hollywood hills if he had.

A flush of crimson rises steadily up Eddie's neck that Richie hungrily follows with his gaze like a man starved, heat pooling in his treacherous stomach. Eddie opens his mouth, no doubt to squawk an indignant retort when Bill leans forward, catching their attention.

"Richie, behave. We have company," he admonishes like a weary schoolteacher, gesturing first to Stan’s wife, Patty, and then to Adrian Mellon and his fiancé, Don Hagarty, as if they had all somehow forgotten their esteemed guests of honour.

“Oh don’t mind us,” Adrian waves dismissively, “we’re used to Richie’s latent flirting,” he leans forward in his chair to catch Richie’s eye, a smirk lining his face, “right, Tozier?”

“What can I say, Mellon?” Richie smirks right back, thinking, you smug little shit, “I’m an equal opportunity tease.”

Patty gives an amused snort as Richie turns to wink at her, ignoring Stan’s patented eyeroll.

Eddie shifts in his seat, clearing his throat.

“Alright so, uh...how do we start this?”

The Losers all look to their old leader, who is taking a sip from his piss/battery acid hybrid (according to Richie) craft beer.

Bill looks to his right, catching Mike’s eye and slowly lowering his glass.

“Well, uh...I’m no shrink but, I-I guess we could start with any uh...any pressing issues?”

“We’ve more issues than The Walking Dead, Big Bill,” Richie chuckles, not caring that he is ripping a line straight from his new special, “you gotta be a bit more specific.”

It had been a nice weekend, so far. Ben’s ‘cabin’ (actual giant wooden mansion) in Montana, had been the perfect backdrop for this little get-together, just over 18 months after everything that had gone down in Derry 2: Electric Boogaloo.

They were so far away from their real lives. A four hour flight from Los Angeles. Three from Georgia. Six from New York. Each pairing, (Richie did not allow himself to think ‘couple’) - Patty and Stan, Adrian and Don, Bill and Mike, and Richie and Eddie, had waved goodbye to their jobs, their responsibilities, their everyday worries, for an entire weekend to live it up with Ben and Bev in their vacation home.

And live it up, they did. Their first night had been spent settling in, acclimating themselves after their travels, followed by a quiet dinner and earlyish to bed like the near-middle-aged people they were. (Don and Adrian notwithstanding.) But tonight, after spending the day sight-seeing and catching up, tonight held a purpose.

“I’m still having nightmares.”

It’s Ben who speaks first.

Bev reaches out to squeeze his hand, lacing their fingers together.

“I’m being buried alive.”

Richie watches as Bev’s hand tightens over the planes of Ben’s knuckles, her own ghostly white.

“I’m suffocating to death, alone, the clown’s laughter all around me.”

A short silence follows those words.

“My deadlight dreams come back sometimes,” Bev pipes up quietly, running her free hand through her hair and blowing out a breath, “I thought they’d...stop, after. But they haven’t. Not completely.”

Richie swallows down the bile rising in his throat, dread forming in the pit of his stomach.

“Deadlights?” Don asks gently, surveying the table.

“Goodness gracious great balls of light,” Richie deadpans, gesturing with his drink, “big-ass orbs. The clown’s...energy, I guess? I dunno, man. Bev stared them straight on when she was a kid and...went into a trance or something. All white-eyed and floaty, like doing Molly at Burning Man. Except she didn’t achieve enlightenment or whatever the fuck. She saw us all die horribly in a freaky premonition.”

Bev’s gaze is heavy and knowing, no doubt hearing the strain in his voice as he tried to joke.

“You saw them too, Rich.”

Richie suppresses a shudder just as Eddie reaches out and clasps his forearm. The weight feels nice. Solid. Comforting. Everything Eddie has been for him for the last year. Or thirty years, depending how you look at it.

When it’s clear Richie isn’t going to say anything, Mike rests his palms against the table, staring at nothing.

“I think about Henry Bowers sometimes.”

Richie practically feels Eddie still in his seat, his grip on his arm tightening.

“Me too,” he admits, “hard not to think about the guy I axe-murdered.”

“You didn’t murder him, Richie,” Mike murmurs, trying to catch his eye, “you were defending me. You saved my life.”

The bile rises higher in his throat as he avoids Mike’s stare.

“Henry Bowers was Derry’s favourite bully,” he addresses Adrian, Don and Patty respectively, instead of even attempting to broach the subject of his ‘heroism’. “A real winner. Racist, sexist, homophobic. The true trifecta.”

“Anti-semitic too,” Stan adds, swirling the slice of lime around in his glass.

“Shit, yeah,” Richie agrees, “what’s after trifecta? Four-fecta?”

“Quadfecta,” Eddie corrects with a pat to his arm before letting his hand fall away.

Richie tries and fails not to miss its warmth.

“Yeah, I met a few of Derry’s bullies myself,” Adrian chuckles humorlessly, hand coming up to rest on his chest where they all knew an impossibly large, mouth-shaped scar lay directly over his heart.

Don leans into him, knocking their temples gently together, his arm winding around his shoulders and pulling him close.

Richie watches their casual intimacy, the ever-present ache flaring within him. He doesn’t look at Eddie. But it’s a near thing.

“They’re...they’re being prosecuted, right?” Patty asks, voice gentle but gaze fiery, “for what they did to you?”

Adrian nods, “Yeah, I mean, as much as they can be. Murder is off the table ‘cause, well,” he gestures up and down at himself, “but they’re up for assault, grievous bodily harm, attempted murder too. My lawyer says with that, and the Hate Crime angle, it’s looking good for fifteen to life.”

“Too good for those assholes,” Eddie growls, angrily gulping down the last dregs of his cocktail, slamming the glass back onto the table.

Adrian smiles, “Aww, Kaspy. I’m touched you care.”

Eddie blinks at him, “Of course I care, man. You...without you I—” he breaks off with a wave of his hand, the table filling in the rest. It’s still hard for Eddie to talk about what happened...after. Just as hard as it is for Richie to hear, if he’s being honest.

Adrian tilts, clapping Eddie on the shoulder.

“I wouldn’t have made it back without you, my afterlife-wife.”

Eddie glares at him.

“I hate that nickname.”

“Aw, Kasp—”

“That one too.”

Richie leans into the two of them, whispering conspiratorially, “Take it from me, Mellon-head. Spagheds is not a fan of any nicknames. I’ve been trying and failing since before you were just a twinkle in your dad's dick."

The whole table lets out some low chuckles at that. After a beat, Patty pipes up, smiling softly.

“I just...I can’t believe everything you all went through, now, but also, back when you were kids,” she marvels, glancing around at the Losers, her eyes settling on her husband, “you were all so brave.”

Don and Adrian hum in agreement before Bill heaves a sigh.

“If we had have just figured out how to kill IT back then—”

“That way madness lies, Bill,” Mike cuts across his friend, resting a hand on his shoulder, “trust me.”

Bill and Mike hold each others’ gaze for a weighted moment. It gives Richie pause. As does most interactions between Big Bill and Mikey these days. There’s something comfortable, familiar laced between them that Richie can almost put a name to.

It takes one to know one…

“You wouldn’t have died.”

Bill says it directly to Mike, but he means it for Stan, Adrian and Eddie.

“G-Georgie...he still would have, I know that. But...you three, those kids...they wouldn't have had to go through that. Dying and coming back.”

They all let that sink in.

“You think, ten years down the line we'll have Dean and Victoria knocking on our doors?” Eddie asks, clearly wanting to put an end to that train of thought, sounding both intrigued and horrified by the idea.

“Maybe,” Stan shrugs, “I mean, we get it, right? What they went through. Well. You guys do anyway.”

Richie can feel Eddie’s frown wafting from him across the table at their friend.

“You get it too, Stan. You...died and came back too.”

Stan nods, eyes lowered to his half-empty glass.

“Yeah. But you and Adrian were murdered. I took a bath.”

Patty’s sharp intake of breath is the only sound that follows that.

Stan reaches out for his wife’s hand, squeezing it apologetically.

“That’s bullshit, Stan,” Eddie practically spits, throwing up his hands, “I’m sorry, man, but it is. You...you sacrificed yourself for us. You ‘took yourself off the board’ to try and save us from that bastard. It may not have been directly him that physically did the job, but he did fucking kill you.”

Eddie is vibrating in his seat, his knee bouncing up and down as if independent from his body. Richie’s hand lands heavily on it, stilling it with a gentle squeeze. Their eyes meet, a little of the tension draining from Eddie’s shoulders at whatever he sees on Richie’s face.

Richie has an idea what it could be, but tries not to think too hard about it.

“I should’ve been able to warn you,” Bev breaks through whatever spell has befallen them, snapping both of their attention back across the table.

Richie goes to take his hand away, only to have Eddie’s fall atop it, their fingers brushing.

Heart hammering in his chest, Richie tries not to think too hard about that either.

That way madness lies…

“What?”

Bev glances over towards Stan.

“I—back then, back in the Barrens...I told you that I saw all of us, as we are now. Fighting IT. But I...I didn’t see you, Stan.”

Her voice is thick with emotion, her eyes wide and glistening.

“I’m sorry I—”

“Bev, it’s not your fault,” Stan interrupts gently, reaching over his wife to pat her hand where it still lay atop of Ben’s, “you were just a kid. You didn’t know what any of it meant. Didn’t...didn’t you say you saw all of us, die? Not just me and Eddie?”

She nods, her amber hair catching on the soft light.

“Well,” Stan gives a half-shrug, “then how could you know what would come true and what wouldn’t? Until it happened?”

Something ugly squirmed in Richie’s gut at that. He tried to shove it down, tried not to think of how, in those impossibly hard weeks after Eddie—after what happened, he had blamed Bev, was furious at her for not warning them that Eddie would be impaled.

It’s not her fault, it’s not her fault, it’s not her—

“What did you see in the Deadlights, Richie?”

It’s Bill who asks this time, his tone tinged with a determination that Richie had not missed from childhood.

Thing is, Richie had avoided outright telling them exactly what he had seen every time anyone dared to broach the subject, but now, with nine pairs of eyes levelled at him, even he, trash-talking Trashmouth that he is, knows he can’t evade the question any more.

So, he does the next best thing.

He lies.

Or rather, tells a half-truth.

“Oh, you know,” he shrugs, keeping his voice as light as he can, “the usual showreel of horror - Bev drowning in a sea of blood, Ben being buried alive, a spectre of Georgie drowning you in your basement, Mike being beheaded, and Eds—”

His voice catches in his throat as he gently slips his hand out from under Eddie’s, eyes glued to the table.

“Eds being skewered like the world’s biggest shishkabob,” he rasps, “I uh...I didn't know the last one would actually happen either.”

He had been too slow. Too dazed. Too horrified to do anything but watch as the love of his life—

“You couldn’t have done anything either, Rich,” Eddie murmurs, his eyes burning a hole into the side of his face, “you know that, right?”

Richie swallows around the lump in his throat, nodding vigorously before leaping up out of his seat, waving his now empty glass in the air, “I’m raiding your booze, Benny boy. I’m tapped out.”

He can feel several concerned glances follow him across the room to the liquor cabinet. His hand shakes as he reaches out for the bourbon, shakes even harder as the liquid splashes into the glass, filling it higher than it probably should.

Why the fuck did I agree to this little therapy session?

He knows it’s been a long time coming. This little trauma talk of theirs. Had known it pretty much from the moment Eddie had called him from Derry General, no longer dead and wondering, ‘Where the fuck are you, dickwad? I woke up in the Barrens and you assholes were gone. What gives?!’ not realising that it had been him who had been…gone for over a month and most of the Losers had headed home. But not Richie. Oh, no. Richie had ignored all 79 missed calls from his manager, exchanged his flashy rental for an inconspicuous Volvo and been hauled up in a shitty motel in Bangor, brainstorming ways to excavate the whole of Neibolt to get Eddie’s body the fuck out from under that hellhole. ‘Cause there was no fucking way Richie was leaving him down there.

Turns out, there was no fucking way Eddie was staying down there either way.

“...and he actually said, ‘chicks dig scars.’”

Richie tunes back into the conversation going on behind him, (having heard the story of Adrian’s pigheaded brother-in-law before), putting the lid back on the bourbon and snatching up the pitcher of Long Island iced tea. With a deep breath, he forces himself to turn and walk back to his seat as normally as possible.

He’s about 69% successful.

“Shame you bat for the other team, Mellon,” he snorts as he lowers himself into his chair, ignoring the dark eyes he adores as he deposits the pitcher to his left, focussing on the younger man, “that would’ve been one hell of a scar to show off to the ladies.”

He gestures with his glass towards Adrian’s chest.

“You could’ve said it was a shark bite or like a Wendigo or some shit. You woulda been swimming in puss—”

“Nope! No, thank you,” Adrian interjects over Richie’s chortling, grimace marring his face, “I thought you were the ‘new and improved’ Trashmouth? No more pussy references when you waved the rainbow flag?”

Richie wiggles his eyebrows, “Guess some habits are hard to break.”

Like being in love with your best friend. You haven’t managed to break that one in thirty years.

Something glints in Adrian’s eye that Richie decidedly does not like.

“You know, dudes dig scars too. But I’m happily engaged,” he smiles sweetly at Don before tilting his head, turning to his right, “but you’re single, Eddie. You ever think of showing yours off in your Grindr profile?”

That little shit.

Installing Grindr had been an impulse decision of Eddie’s. An impulse that Richie had hated with every fibre of his being. But, Richie is a good friend. Eddie’s best friend. So of course he had helped him with it. Helped him craft a witty tagline (that nobody actually reads) and leaf through his very few selfies for an appropriate profile pic (that nobody really cares about unless it shows he's either jacked as shit or hung like a horse.)

But still, Richie helps. Because he’s a good friend.

And a fucking coward.

“Ugh, no thanks,” Eddie curls up his nose in disgust at Adrian’s suggestion, causing Richie’s stomach to swoop with relief, “Grindr is weird enough without bringing out the like...body gore freaks or whatever. I don’t want some Freddy-Krueger-fanboy perving on me.”

Adrian nods, humming in thought.

Richie doesn’t like that either.

“So what do you like then, Kasp? Anyone catch your eye?”

Richie can feel the heavy gaze of every other Loser (Adrian, Don and Patty included) at the goddamn banquet table (seriously, Ben, who the fuck needs a table this big?!) deeply regretting his conspicuous seating choice, as their looks alternate from him, to Eddie, and back again.

Subtly isn’t the Losers’ strength either.

Because here’s the thing - Richie knows he showed his hand back at Neibolt street. Back when he had to be dragged, literally kicking and screaming, out of the dilapidated well-house as his whole world crumbled down around him. And his whole world? Well, everybody figured out pretty quickly that that was Eddie.

Had always been Eddie since as far back as he could remember (now that he was allowed to.) He had spent those three days, over that terrible, horrible, no good, very bad weekend that was Derry 2: Judgment Day, remembering just how much Eddie had meant to him. And still means to him, despite their twenty-three-year-forced-separation.

Only to have it all snatched away with a claw through the back.

Hey, Richie listen, I think I got it, man! I think I killed it, I did! I think I killed it for rea—

“Aren’t we meant to be talkin’ about how fucked up we all are? Not critiquing my dating life?” Eddie’s indignant tone snaps Richie from his haunting reverie, his eyes darting up and meeting Bev’s.

She smiles gently at him. Her lips tinged with something like sadness, as if she can read his mind.

Richie takes a drink.

“Sometimes,” Stan speaks up, saving an embarrassed Eddie from the turn in conversation, “I wonder why we were brought back.”

“W-What do you mean, Stan?” Bill asks in a careful tone, fiddling with the coaster in front of him.

Richie watches as Stan shifts in his seat, brushing his thumb across the back of Patty’s hand.

“I mean...why us? Eddie, Adrian, the kids...me. Why did we get a second chance and nobody else?”

A sharp inhale of breath sounds from Richie’s left. Reaching out, he claps a hand down on Eddie’s shoulder, squeezing tight.

Slowly, Eddie lets out the breath.

Their eyes lock.

“I’ve thought that too,” Eddie admits, still looking at Richie, “I keep asking myself, over and over - what makes us different? Why did whatever...force...reverse what happened to us and not—not…” he falters, his eyes falling away to rest down at Bill.

“Georgie.”

The name seems to ring throughout the room.

After a beat, Bill leans his elbows up on the table, hanging his head.

“I think it’s been too long. He—he’s been gone for nearly thirty years. I don’t think even Derry magic can reverse that,” he speaks solemnly, “but you guys, you all died recently, were the clown’s newest...victims. Maybe whatever it was could only reverse the last cycle. Maybe it wanted to reward us for getting rid of Penny—”

“But I didn't fight the clown,” Stan cuts across him, voice hollow, “I was in a bathtub in Georgia. Eddie is the real hero. He figured out how to kill IT. His resurrection I get.”

Richie’s grip on Eddie’s shoulder tightens as he sits up straighter in his seat, stare boring into their friend.

“I’m...no, I’m not—we all did it, Stan. You too. You fought IT as a kid and you sacrificed yourself to try and help us this time around. That...that must have been why you were brought back despite being a thousand miles away.”

Stan nods, but doesn’t seem too convinced.

“Stan is right, though,” Richie pipes up, the words slipping from his mouth before he can stop them, “you are a hero, Eds. We—we wouldn’t have figured out what to do without you. We wouldn’t have beaten it, without you.

He chances a glance to see Eddie already looking back at him.

His heart ricochets against his ribcage.

“I told you you’re braver than you think.”

Something passes across Eddie’s face, then. Something soft and indecipherable. He gets like this, sometimes. Still wholly Eddie, something knowable to Richie, shadows of his past-self always present, while sometimes shrouded in the enigma of their missing years. But no matter what, he was still something Richie wanted to figure out, like the best kinda puzzle, for the rest of his life.

Careful, Trashmouth. That sounds like a vow...

“Always happy to help you bully a demonic space clown to death,” Eddie replies, a smile in his voice even if his face remains a little crinkled in that way that made him seem fourteen and forty all at once.

He blinks, breaking their eye contact.

Richie forces his gaze away only to land on Stan who is fixing him with his own knowing stare.

Drop it, Stanley. Just 'cause Eds admitted he likes dick, doesn't mean he likes this Dick.

“Guys uh…” Eddie takes a breath, addressing the table and from Richie’s side-view of his face, seems pained as he searches for words.

“I just wanna say, I...I'm sorry I died on you like that. I...I really tried to hang on. That must have been pretty traumatic for you all. To...to find me like that.”

Richie lets his hand fall from Eddie’s shoulder as his own body tenses like a coiled wire, blood rushing in his ears as his heart leaps into his throat, nausea rising from the pit of his stomach.

Richie honey, he’s dead.

Let him go, man. Let him go!

We can still help him, guys, we can still help him! EDDIE!

“...and I remember holding his jacket,” Eddie is saying as Richie forces himself to shove down the memory, feeling the weight of his gaze fall on him.

Be normal. Act normal. Don’t let him see—

“And I remember thinking to myself, ‘shit, I made Trashmouth cry.’ I knew it had to be bad if I couldn’t get Richie to laugh at a stellar ‘your mom’ joke.”

That got a murmur of laughs from the table.

Richie shoved down the urge to spew chunks all over Ben’s mahogany finish.

“And then I just...slipped away, I guess? Last thing I remember was hearing some lame playground insults being yelled by five grown adults,” he gives a small chuckle before sombering, “but yeah, I’m sorry I put you through that. I’m sorry I couldn’t hang on and you had to leave me down—”

“I didn’t want to.”

Richie blinks, realising too late that those words had come from his mouth. He stares ahead at nothing, his pulse jack-hammering in his ears.

“What?” he barely hears Eddie ask, sounding far away as if underwater and in another room all at once.

“I didn’t wanna leave you,” he continues, his mouth on autopilot as his eyes trace the dark wood, “these assholes made me.”

Silence rings throughout the room as Richie’s jaw tightens, something raw and ugly rising within the depths of him. Something that he has been repressing for longer than he’d like to admit.

The loud screeching of a chair sliding across hardwood floor is the only indicator to Richie that he had stood up.

“We could have got you out,” he growls, clenching his fists at his sides as he fights the urge to slam them down and test just how strong Ben’s carpentry skills are.

“We could have taken you with us,” he continues, eyes flashing down at every Loser but Eddie and Stan, “but they wouldn’t let me even try. We—”

“Richie, we couldn’t—”

“Bullshit!” Richie snarls across the expansive table at their fearless leader who looks about ready to stand himself.

What’s the matter, Big Bill? Gonna hit me again?

“That’s bullshit and you know it!” Richie spits, his words tasting like battery acid, “I know you’re a shortass, Denbrough, but between me, Mike and Haystack who are built like two brick shithouses?! You’re really telling me we couldn’t have carried him out?”

“Richie,” Ben pipes up placatingly, trying to catch his eye, “the place wasn’t structurally sound. It was coming down. We barely got out in single-file, there’s no way—”

“Then you should have left me!”

The words rip from his throat like the breath of a wounded animal. He would have barely registered having said them, if it isn’t for the deafening silence that follows.

Suddenly, there is a wave of colour in the corner of his eye and a heavy presence at his side.

“Richie…” Eddie murmurs, his puff of breath brushing Richie’s jaw, “you would've died.”

He sounds...broken. As if it had been Richie who had actually died and he couldn’t bear the thought.

Slowly, Richie tilts his head down, eyes catching on that dark gaze he loves with every atom in his being.

“So...?”

A gasp punches out of Eddie’s chest.

“Rich, I…” were it any other circumstance, Richie would have revelled in striking his frenetic friend speechless, but now, it just adds more guilt into his potent, swirling mix of emotions.

He stares doggedly at the pattern on the mahogany table.

“I wouldn’t have wanted that for you,” Eddie says so quietly that Richie is convinced the words are only for his ears.

A humourless chuckle rips from his throat.

“You were fucking dead, Eddie. You couldn’t want anything.”

Suddenly Eddie is directly opposite him, wedging himself between Richie and the table, glaring up at him, eyes flashing bright.

“What good would it have done, huh? You dying along with me? What the fuck, Rich? Why would you—”

“I DIDN'T WANT YOU TO BE ALONE!”

He doesn’t mean to yell, he really doesn’t, but the words explode from him anyway, as if finally breaking free from the cage he had kept them in for the last eighteen months.

Eddie startles but doesn’t step back as Richie continues to rant, the words escaping him quicker than he could catch them.

“You were stuck down there in that dark, disgusting, shithole. Grey water fucking everywhere and what? I was just supposed to leave your germaphobe-ass down there? To let you spend eternity in your worst fucking nightmare after—”

“YES!” Eddie erupts, all hands and frantic movements, “I was gone, Richie, fuck! I wouldn’t have wanted you to die too! I—”

“You died saving me.

All of the fight drains from Richie, his shoulders slumping as he mutters barely above a whisper.

“You sacrificed yourself to save my shitty life. An ex-coke-head-closet-case who made a living talking shit that wasn’t even his own. I was the one dumb enough to taunt the clown, I was the one that got caught in the deadlights. It should have been me who was stabbed through the fucking back. It was my fault that my best friend that I only had back for three fucking days, died. And...I couldn’t fucking live with that.”

Richie turns on his heel and stalks out of the room as fast as his legs can carry him.

Out. He needs to get out now.

Fuck this fucking maze of a house!

His eyes bounce around, desperately searching for somewhere, anywhere to take a fucking breath when they land on the balcony.

That'll do, pig. That'll do.

Scrambling forward, legs akimbo in his tipsy haste like some overgrown, bespectacled Bambi, Richie wrenches the sliding glass door open and steps out into the night air.

It's moments like these where he regrets having given up smoking back in the early 2000s. The bite of the Montana cold, coupled with the impressive view of glowing lights down below and twinkling stars up above, really made a man wanna spark one up for the hell of it.

He leans his elbows on the railing, letting his head hang low as he forces himself to breathe.

In and out. In and out. Just like a pregnant lady, Rich, you got this.

If he were an even bigger masochist than Stan thinks he is, Richie might torture himself with thoughts of those lonely, desperate weeks after Derry 2: Bigger, Longer and Uncut, hauled up alone in his room in Bangor, pouring over topographical maps of his shitty hometown and guzzling down more booze than air to keep the sound of Eddie’s dying voice from rattling around in his skull.

He would think of how a depression, deeper and sharper than anything he had ever felt even in his most closeted, isolated years, had wrapped around him like a vice as he avoided the Loser groupchat, his agent, his mom and his weed dealer, all while Facebook-stalking Myra Kaspbrak like a jealous ex-boyfriend.

His writers would have had a fucking field day with that one.

‘I cried over my dead best friends’ wife’s profile pic ‘cause her husband still had that dimple in his cheek that I always wanted to poke as a kid, and that’s not a euphemism, folks…’

But instead, as he stands there on Ben’s admittedly impressive balcony, shivering his ass off being not-so-subtly reminded just how fucking close to Canada he is right now in the month of November, all he can think of is how nice Eddie’s hand, warm and so, so alive, had felt on his arm.

“You left your jacket.”

The voice shouldn’t startle him, but it does. His grip tightens on the railing as his jacket is draped over his shoulders, a soft pressure against his biceps as Eddie slides his hands down his arms.

Richie can’t blame Canada’s proximity for the shiver that racks his body at that.

“Thanks.”

His voice sounds like he has spent the last hour swallowing glass, which, considering their topic of discussion, he would have preferred doing.

Eddie steps back, taking his warm touch with him as he settles next to Richie (who makes quick work of slipping on the coat), also leaning on the rail and looking out at the view.

A beat passes.

Two.

“When I was 27, I tried to kill myself.”

Richie tenses, jaw slackening. He isn’t sure exactly what he had expected Eddie to open with, but it sure as shit wasn’t that.

“I took an overdose of prescription meds in a hotel in Jersey after convincing my mom I was on a work retreat.”

Richie holds his breath, not moving a muscle as he surreptitiously surveys Eddie from the corner of his eye. He looks...not calm, but resigned, almost. Richie isn’t sure if that’s a good thing or not.

“I woke up in the hospital three days later,” he shuffles his weight, blowing out a breath that they can both see in the night air.

“A maid found me. Called an ambulance. Saved my life.”

Richie’s stomach lurches, an ominous feeling overcoming him.

“That maid was Myra.”

“Fuck.”

Richie hadn’t meant to say that out loud, but Eddie nods all the same.

“Yeah. To this day, I’ve managed to convince her that the overdose was accidental. I—I think that's partly why she was so fucking militant about me taking my pills over the years. Something mom definitely passed down to her,” he sighs, running a hand through his hair, before turning to face Richie.

Even as every atom in his body screams not to, Richie turns to face him back.

Their eyes lock.

“I had nobody, Richie. No one. I had never been in a relationship, had never been in love or had someone be in love with me. I had no best friend, or a casual friend to meet for coffee, or even a work friend to bitch about nosy Brian in accounting to. I was lonely. So, fucking lonely.”

Richie’s heart pangs painfully in his chest. He can see him, a late-twenties Eddie Kaspbrak, much like he is now except younger, all buttoned up and reserved until you piss him off and then he’s wildfire, all karate chop hands and acid tongue, hiding a soft, gooey center that only a lucky few ever get to see…

“And marrying Myra, my ‘saviour’, someone that my mother approved of, didn’t help, either,” Eddie sighs again, “sure, she came with ‘couple-friends’ and brunches at the weekends and Lance my ‘workout bro,’ but I was still fucking miserable. Still had no one I could call a genuine close friend or even a decent acquaintance. Nobody knew much more about me other than I liked my coffee black and my small talk non-existent. For a whole fucking decade, I went through life like that. Like a guest star in my own depressing show.”

He pauses, tilting his head, something unreadable swimming in his gaze.

“And then, thirteen years later, I got a phone call from Derry,” he smiles gently, “and suddenly, I remembered The Losers. I remembered I had friends. The best group of friends on the planet. I had felt love before. I had loved and been loved. I had people who knew me, inside and out. Every little piece of me had been accepted, not rejected, ever.”

His smile twists.

“Until I forgot.”

Richie blinks, not entirely shocked to feel the wet trail of a tear slipping down his face.

Eddie steps closer, hand reaching out to rest on the one Richie still had leaning on the railing.

“Remembering the Losers, even just for those three days, made me feel more alive than I had in twenty-three years,” he half-whispers, gaze boring a hole into Richie.

“Remembering you…”

He trails off, a little line forming in between his eyebrows as he chooses his next words.

“Remembering the last time I saw you, saying goodbye to you on The Kissing Bridge, crying my eyes out—Richie, I’ve never felt pain like that since. And I’ve been impaled.”

A surprised laugh escapes Richie’s chest, then, bubbling up his throat.

Eddie joins in, tickled by his joke landing. Richie always did say he was funnier than he had ever been. And he still is.

It’s between one breath and the next, that Eddie slides his hand down Richie’s arm to rest on his hand, squeezing gently.

“The Deadlights would have killed you,” he continued, quiet but firm, “and there’s no way in hell I would ever let that happen to you, Rich. You were my best friend. Still are my best friend, even after all those years apart. You said I’m braver than I think, and I believed you because you said it. So, yeah. I died saving you...and I’d do it again.”

Richie goes to pull away, a noise of disagreement clawing up his throat.

“No, no, Richie, listen to me,” Eddie tightened his grip on his hand, “I—you may not think you deserved to be saved at my expense. But you’re wrong. And what’s done is done. I died. I came back. And I’d do it all over again if it meant that you got to live. Okay? Once that goofy kid with glasses who did bad voices and made up dumb nicknames for me that I fucking loved with everything in me got to stay alive, then it was all worth it. And nothing you say will ever change my mind."

I'm in love with you. Have been for thirty years. Would that change your mind, Eds?

After a pause where it becomes obvious Richie isn't going to say anything, Eddie tilts his head, eyes narrowing a little.

"You were in Bangor the day I called you," he says lightly, but Richie hears the heavy implication all the same.

"Over a month after I died and you still hadn't left Maine."

It's not a question, more of an observation, really. But Richie knows Eddie has been itching to discuss it ever since they reunited back on the land of the living the very same day Eddie called from the hospital, scarred but freshly breathing.

Another beat passes where Eddie, in a show of patience he is not well known for, waits Richie out.

“I couldn’t…” Richie rasps when the silence becomes too much, “I couldn’t just leave you, Eds.”

Eddie’s hand on his tightens.

"You really would have done anything to get me out, huh?"

His voice is low, his eyes shining against the night stars.

Richie feels like he’s in some sort of Nicholas Sparks novel. Except with 50% less death, 100% gayer and 150% more cursing.

He nods.

"And you…” Eddie swallows as if struggling to get the words out, “you would have stayed with me if you couldn't?"

He nods again.

Suddenly, Eddie is lunging and pulling him down into a tight, all-encompassing hug that knocks Richie’s breath from his lungs.

“I’d do the same,” Eddie mumbles into Richie’s shoulder, his mouth pressing against his jacket’s collar, “you know that, right?”

Richie nods yet again, feeling like he’s slowly turning into one of those drinking-bird-toy-things that boring people have on their desks in corporate offices. He doesn’t need to see Eddie’s office to know he doesn’t have one. He’s far too interesting.

Eddie mustn’t be satisfied with his nodding bird routine however as he soon breaks the hug and steps back slightly, clasping Richie’s biceps in his hands, his stare unwavering up at him.

“Richie, I mean it. You’re my best friend in the whole world. I may not have remembered you, not fully, just bits and pieces, but I...I carried the pain of losing you for over twenty years. I’d...I’d do anything for you.”

Emotion wells up Richie’s chest, unshed tears stinging his eyes.

“You know why I brought you to the Kissing Bridge that day I was leaving?”

What the fuck are you doing, Trashmouth?!

Eddie’s eyebrows slowly rise up his forehead as he thinks back to one of the worst days in Richie’s life.

“Uh, you...you said you had something to tell me,” he murmurs in confusion.

Richie stares down at him, at those dark brown, bush-baby eyes he never fully forgot, his heart in his throat.

'That I fucking loved with everything in me,' rings in Richie's ears as he forces out:

“Do you remember what I told you?”

Eddie frowns that adorable frown of his, “Yeah, man. You told me you fucked my mom, then got snot all over my sweater pretending you weren’t crying.”

Richie lets out a huff of a laugh at his transparent sixteen year old self, even as his brain continues going all Kill-Bill-sirens on him.

“That wasmy very own version of ‘As you wish’, Eds. What can I say? It’s a—"

“From The Princess Bride?”

Fuck. Kinda showed your hand there, Trashmouth.

“Uh...yeah.”

Something passes over Eddie’s face that Richie has seen many times before, both as kids and as recently as this very night. His heart lurches as Eddie leans even closer to him, his hands brushing up and down Richie’s arms, leaving a path of heat.

“What did you really wanna tell me?”

This is it. This is your do or die moment, asshole.

I know your secret. Your dirty, little—

“I fucked your dad too.”

Something shutters down over Eddie’s eyes, dimming them as Richie cringes, cursing himself and his cowardice, nausea swirling in his gut as he watches him step away, dropping his arms from Richie and huffing out a laugh that sounded anything but amused.

He takes a step back towards the door, face unreadable.

“Okay, Rich. Alright. It’s cold, I’m just gonna—”

Richie’s hand shoots out to grab his wrist gently, stopping him in his tracks.

“No, Eds wait—I’m sorry. I’m sorry, okay? I...I’m bad at this. I talk trash, remember? I’m not...not good with serious shit. I don’t know how—”

“I deleted my Grindr profile.”

If Richie had the life of Ferris Bueller, now would be the time that a loud record-scratch would sound to alert the audience of his sheer astonishment.

“...What?”

Eddie isn’t looking at him anymore, but rather down at Richie’s fingers around his wrist.

“I said I deleted Grindr. I...I realised that I didn’t wanna find someone on a dumb hook-up app.”

Richie blinks, his brain fried by the turn in conversation.

Eddie tilts his head, heaving in a breath, “Especially ‘cause…I already have someone I wanna spend all my time with.”

Slowly, he twists his wrist so that Richie’s hand falls open and he takes the opportunity to brush their fingers together.

Richie stops breathing.

Holy shit. Is he…?

“Rich.”

He lets Eddie’s voice coax his gaze up, biting his bottom lip to try and compose himself as he shakily admits:

“I carved initials into the Kissing Bridge that Summer.”

He can practically feel Eddie opening his mouth to say something, so he rushes on, lest he lose his nerve.

“We weren’t talking. Me and Bill had had our fight, I said some shitty things, Bill punched me in the face, and you were practically on house arrest after breaking your arm so Mrs K had banned me from seeing you. I had never felt so alone as I did those few weeks. I...I kept going to the arcade and thought I’d maybe made a new friend, but...” he blew out a breath, running his free hand through his hair, “Bowers showed up, did his whole homophobic bully schtick, you know. So I fled, ended up at the Paul Bunyan statue. Then the clown showed up and it was really a party.”

I know your secret...your dirty, little—

“Bringing the statue to life, singing his little songs, taunting me with truth or dare...but none of it worked. I still did it. I stole Went’s pocket-knife from his toolkit and I booked it over to the Kissing Bridge anyway. Because it—I had to let it out. I had to say it somehow. And if it couldn’t be out loud, then it would sure as shit be right up there with every other lovesick asshole in our crappy hometown.”

He takes a steadying breath, surprised at how the words keep flowing from him, as if the dam that he had carefully constructed around his heart all those years ago, had finally broken. He stares directly down into Eddie’s eyes, those wide eyes that he had recurring dreams about even when his childhood was a foggy haze, his heartbeat a crescendo in his chest.

“I carved our initials, Eds. R plus E. Richie and Eddie.”

Eddie’s mouth drops open, ever so slightly. Richie probably wouldn’t have even noticed if it wasn't for the fact that his gaze had been alternating between Eddie’s eyes and lips for the last few minutes.

A beat passes.

Two.

Three.

The sirens in Richie’s head are blaring.

Well, you’ve done it now, asshole. You’ve ruined everything with your stupid—

“I carved a heart,” Eddie whispers finally, lacing their fingers together and squeezing, “a shitty, misshapen heart around the letter ‘R.’ For ‘Richie.’”

Oh.

“Ed—”

Richie is cut off when he's abruptly yanked down by his jacket as Eddie surges up, their lips crashing together in a desperate kiss. His heart soars as Eddie’s free hand slides up his chest to cup the back of his neck. He gasps as he feels the faintest brush of Eddie’s tongue along his bottom lip.

With a broken moan that he will one hundred percent deny later, Richie opens his mouth, deepening the kiss, Eddie licking in behind his teeth and causing a flood of warmth to spread in his abdomen as he reaches out to clasp Eddie’s hip tightly, pulling him flush against his chest.

Richie winds his arm around Eddie’s lower back as he nips playfully at his lower lip, just like he always daydreamed about doing when he was a hormonal, pining teenager.

“Shit, Rich,” Eddie gasps against his lips as they break for air, tilting up on his tip-toes (cute, cute, cute!) to bring their foreheads together.

“I—I…” Richie swallows around the lump in his throat, overwhelmed as he opens his eyes, “I saw us. In the deadlights.”

It’s not what he intended to say. In fact, he had wanted to say something else entirely. Something sexy, or flirty, or god help him sincere, anything but downright traumatic, but such is his life.

Eddie leans back a little to blink at him. Waiting.

Generally, Richie doesn’t like thinking about it. About any of what he had seen in the godforsaken hellscape that was Pennywise’s...mouth? Whatever. And he hadn’t lied, he really did see all the Losers’ gruesome deaths. But it was what he saw after, in the sparse few moments before he woke up to Eddie Kaspbrak, love of his pitiful life, leaning over him, smile elated just before things took a turn for the absolute worst.

“I saw...us,” he murmurs, letting himself cast his mind back to the memory that had been too painful for him to entertain in those following weeks, months, over a year since. Even with Eddie alive again. Perhaps because of Eddie being alive again, even. So close and yet so far from that vision he had seen.

“We were…” he closes his eyes, lets the image come to the forefront of his mind. “We were standing like this. Close. Smiling. Our arms around each other. Kissing at the kitchen table at home.”

He keeps his eyes closed as he feels Eddie’s fingers rake through his hair.

“You were making pancakes, and I was putting too much sugar in my coffee like I always do. And...and then you just leaned in, put your arm around my waist and kissed me. Like it was the most natural thing in the world. And I kissed back. Like I’d done it a million times before. It seemed to last forever...and then I woke up.”

“Oh, Richie,” Eddie mumbles, sounding bereft, no doubt realising what Richie had awoken to.

“I’m so sorr—”

“Don’t.”

Richie’s eyes fly open, desperate for Eddie’s gaze again.

“Don’t apologise, Eddie. Please. It wasn't your fault. You were a hero, you saved my life. And I know I have conflicting thoughts on it but...but I never want you to feel bad. Never.”

Eddie nods, still looking pained.

“So you stayed.”

Richie’s not sure if he means in Neibolt, or Maine in general, but nods all the same.

“I stayed.”

Eddie blows out a breath, it tickling Richie’s cheek.

“Fuck. I love you so much. I always have.”

Richie’s breath punches out of his chest, the surge of emotion overwhelming him. He squeezes his hand and tips his head down, resting their foreheads together.

“E-Eds, oh my god,” he rasps, cursing his voice that’s noticeably thick and at least an octave higher, “I’ve been in love with you for practically my whole life. Back when we shared hammocks and comics and I called you dumb names in dumber voices just to get you to look at me. I’ve never loved anyone else. Even...even when I couldn’t remember you, I could in a way. Feel...feel the gap in my life where you used to be. Feel the pain of missing you. Ever since I set foot in that haunted fucking restarant, I can’t remember how it feels to not love you.”

He tilts his head back to meet Eddie’s gaze, surprised to see tears gathering at the corner of his eyes.

God, we’re saps.

“Aww, Eds…” he teases gently, unable to stop himself, “did Trashmouth make you—”

It’s another kiss, not a ‘beep beep’ like he expects that cuts him off. This one is more chaste, just a pressing of smiles really, but still makes his toes curl and his blood sing and his entire body feel like it’s a fireworks display on the 4th of July.

“Hmmmm,” he grins as Eddie breaks the kiss, “now that’s the kinda ‘beep beep Richie’ I could get used to.”

He can practically feel him roll his eyes.

“Beep, beep, asshole.”

It’s somewhat lessened by the fact that it’s immediately followed by another peck to the cheek and a snappy retort of “Just putting my tongue to better use,” into his collarbone.

Richie chuckles into the slope of Eddie’s neck, “‘Better use’ is right, Eds. Now, is this where we take our shirts off and kiss, or...?”

Eddie groans, forehead falling to Richie’s shoulder, no doubt remembering his little drunken slip when they arm-wrestled back in the Jade.

“In this weather? Fuck no. Maybe later though. Under one of those huge fucking afghan blankets that Ben has draped in every guest room.”

Richie is hit by the very confusing duel-feeling of potent sexual arousal and childlike excitement at that suggestion, and even has to physically stop himself from bouncing on the balls of his feet.

“Oh my god, Eds. Can we push our twin beds together to make a double? I always wanted to do that when we were kids.”

Eddie snorts, shaking his head.

“Sure, Rich. We can make a fort while we’re at it. Really relive the glory days.”

Richie gives him a playful squeeze to the hip.

“Hey! Our forts were the shit. We had the best sleepovers.”

Something glints in Eddie’s eye, then.

“Yeah we did. I have a feeling they’ll get even better now.”

Molten heat tugs low in Richie’s gut.

“Fuck yeah they will.”

They share a grin before Eddie’s eyes drop to something over Richie’s shoulder.

Richie chuckles.

“They’re watching us, aren’t they?”

Eddie keeps looking, tilting his head.

“Yep.”

“ENJOYING THE SHOW, YOU PERVERTS?” Richie yells behind him, cackling as Eddie shoves him, shushing him with a “shut up, you animal! Ben has fucking neighbours!”

A flurry of muted noise can be heard as eight fully-grown adults, clearly caught snooping, scramble back into the living room.

Richie turns just in time to see Bev’s fiery hair disappear around the corner. He smiles softly at the sight. He has some apologies to make.

“Come on, Eds. Back to the Losers of the Rectangular Table we go,” he throws an arm around Eddie’s shoulder, leaning down to kiss his temple.

“Losers of the Rectangular Table?” Eddie asks, miraculously allowing himself to be steered back into the house.

“Yeah, you know,” Richie gives a half-shrug as they slide the door closed and creep through the kitchen, “like Knights of the Round Table. Except with less swords and more psychological trauma.”

He feels Eddie’s chuckle rumble against his chest as they enter the living room still wrapped around one another, to find the Losers (Patty, Adrian and Don all considered new members now) playing what looked like a game of poker.

Nobody acknowledges them as they sit back down, their arms pressed against one another, Stan merely dealing them in and Bev sliding fresh drinks in their direction, a soft, knowing smile on her face.

“You gonna be my good luck charm, Spagheds? You are way cuter than a rabbit’s foot,” Richie wiggles his eyebrows as he squeezes Eddie’s knee under the table.

“Stop flirting with me and pick up your hand, dumbass,” Eddie faux-grouses, trying and failing to hide his grin.

“Aww, Eds! I’ve been flirting with you since 1986. Thanks for finally noticing.”

Eddie splutters, knocking their elbows as he whips around to gape at him.

“You have not!”

“Yep.” “He has too.” “He definitely has.” “Yeah he has.” “He has 100%.” The O.G. Losers all reply in unison, still looking at their cards.

Richie glances fondly around the table at all his favourite people in the world, eyes falling on Eddie Kaspbrak last, and laughs.