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Richie is pretty sure it should be dark when they get out of the Neibolt house, but it isn’t. It feels like they’ve been underground for days but it’s bright sun outside, clear sky, and they’re seven kids in dirty clothes, blinking against the glare. Eddie has the worst of it, his arm limp at his side and his hair plastered to his face with sickly looking black slime, but all of them are hurt. Stan’s face is bleeding and half of Mike’s face is swollen and bruised and Beverly keeps forgetting where she is and how to speak and she’s holding Ben’s hand in a grip so tight her knuckles look set to break through her skin. 

“I d-d-don’t think any of us should be by ourselves,” says Bill, when they’re on the street and they’ve realised how reluctant they are to separate.

“Our parents-” starts Stan, but Richie cuts him off.

“They don’t even know anything,” he says. “They weren’t there, they’re not gonna be washing clown loogie outta their ass cracks for the next five years.” He reaches across to tug on a piece of Eddie’s hair and Eddie slaps his hand away and it’s that, more than anything else, that makes Richie sure it’s going to be alright. If Eddie’s fighting back they’re golden.

“I can’t go back anyway,” says Beverly, quietly.

“I don’t want to,” says Eddie.

“You can come to mine,” say Ben and Richie, almost in unison, Ben looking at Beverly and Richie at Eddie, and Mike laughs and Ben blushes scarlet and Richie feels a little bit like he’s supposed to get angry but why should he? Of course Eddie’s coming with him. Whatever bullshit their laughing implies is just that. Bullshit.

So Eddie rides double on the back of Richie’s bike, like he had on the way there, the cast on his arm too heavy and awkward to keep himself straight. He keeps his unbroken arm around Richie’s waist and after a little while Richie feels him rest his forehead against his back, the cold dampness of whatever the fuck the clown had vomited all over him bleeding through his t-shirt. He’s too tired to care, too tired to do much more than pedal. His glasses are cloudy and smeared. His shoes are full of water. They pass Eddie’s place and Eddie’s hold on Richie tightens for just a second, and he pedals a little faster.

At his house, Eddie takes the first shower, ignoring Richie’s suggestion that they share to conserve hot water, fixing him with a look so severe he can only laugh. He’s too dirty to lie on his bed, so he hovers, paces the edges of his room. It all seems so strange now, the posters on his walls, the shit on his floor, clothes and shoes without laces, glasses lining his windowsill with orange soda stains at the bottom. Eddie hates his room, always steps around everything on tip-toes, careful to only touch empty carpet. Richie paces, talks to his hands and to the corners of his ceiling, accents and bad jokes, kicks his clothes into the wardrobe as he goes, putting all his weight behind his shoulder to force the door shut when the floor’s a little clearer. He thinks it might mean something that their group splits like it does, Ben and Bev and Bill, Mike and Stan, he and Eddie. Richie and Eddie. Trashmouth and Eds. He shuts his eyes and the clown laughs and he opens them and the ceiling drips with blood, thick and dark and rotten.

Eddie comes back, pink with steam and heat, and Richie takes his shower next, and the dirt of the sewers washes off him in waves of grey. It's hard to think about what happened, almost impossible, his mind slides over everything like oil over water. They went to Neibolt street to save Bev. They climbed down a well. Some asshole clown puked on Eddie. Richie hit it with a baseball bat. Bill shot his dead brother with a cattle gun. That kind of everyday summer time shit.

He goes back to his room, toweling clumsily at his hair, and Eddie’s sitting on the bed.

“I’m gonna burn my clothes,” he declares, holding a plastic bag full of his puke clothes out in front of him. “I’m gonna burn them and then I’m gonna bury the ashes.” He’s wearing Richie’s clothing, too long sweatpants and an old t-shirt, the softest things Richie could find.

“Mm,” hums Richie, taking off his glasses and putting them on the bedside table and then climbing onto the bed, passing Eddie, dropping onto his pillow and wriggling under the blanket. “Tomorrow,” he says.

There’s a long silence and Richie can practically hear Eddie biting his tongue. He wants to tell him everything’s fine, there’s no such thing as fear, not with It dead, or gone, or hiding, but, for once, he can’t find the words. There’s not really a lot to say.

“Are... you okay?” Eddie asks, finally, closer now, softer.

“I’m emotionally traumatised, Eds, I may never recover. Let me sleep.” There’s another silence. Richie buries his face deeper in his pillow.

“Don’t call me that,” says Eddie, finally, sounding strange, distracted. “Move over.”

Richie does as he’s asked, shifting across on his bed, and he doesn’t really question it, that Eddie will sleep with him, in his bed, because that’s another thing that was always going to happen. Of course Eddie will share his bed. Because everything’s fucked up. Obviously. They’re fucked up. And it’s already fading in Richie’s mind, grey spiderwebs crawling across his vision, plucking at his memory, but he hasn’t forgotten that they went down into the sewers and it was the most fucked up shit anyone could possibly imagine. Even if it was just Henry Bowers with a switchblade.

Eddie settles down next to him, tugging the blanket up over them both. He settles and sighs and Richie keeps his eyes shut tight but he can feel it when Eddie rolls over to to face him, the way the mattress dips and the blankets shift over his shoulders. He sort of wants to hold his breath. He sort of wants to babble some nonsense about how scared he still is and how glad he is that Eddie’s with him, but he thinks if he opens his mouth he’ll start crying.

When he feels something touch the hem of his t-shirt, he lets out an embarrassing sort of squeak, and Eddie makes a sound like he’s rolling his eyes, and it’s obviously him, just Eddie’s small hand gripping the fabric of Richie’s t-shirt, the back of his knuckles brushing against his stomach, but for a second he’d been sure it was the razor sharp claws of a werewolf. No. Just Eddie. Just Eddie, small and warm. His best friend, a real human kid.

“G’night, Eds,” he says, voice rasping raw against his throat. “Wake me up an’ I’ll cut your dick off.”

“Sure, Trashmouth,” Eddie sighs. “Goodnight.”

Apart from Eddie’s hand, still holding Richie’s t-shirt, they stay out of one another's space. They sleep with the lights on. In the morning, they all go to Bill’s, and burn their clothing in his backyard.

 


 

Derry turns into something else. It’s an itch under their skin, a need to leave that hovers at the back of all their minds, the same way they need to breath or eat or sleep to stay alive. Beverly is first, leaving a couple of days after the sewers, and she doesn’t say it but Richie can tell that she’s relieved. And he doesn’t think she’ll lose it, that sick thing swimming at the back of everything, but Richie imagines it's easier, outside the city limits.

The cuts on their hands disappear. Their heads fill with clouds and summer. They’re just kids and they stay just kids and Bill knows his brother died but he sometimes seems to think it was an accident. Henry Bowers, in an asylum. Henry Bowers, down a well. Richie isn’t sure either, but he trusts Bill.

They play in the Barrons, they build a dam, they get older and then they swap things like dam building for slouching around the arcade, leaning against the machines, trying to flirt with girls in oversized flannel and denim shorts, begging cigarettes that Stan and Eddie primly refuse to smoke even though they’re sixteen now and it’s kind of almost mandatory to smoke, even if it’s just bum puffing.

When Ben tells them his family are moving out of state, no one is particularly surprised. People leave Derry. The people who stay turn old and strange and blind and toxic faster than they should. So they go to his house, the night before he’s set to go, and it’s empty of furniture and Richie’s voice echoes through every room, bouncing off the walls as he does accents or argues with Stan or teases Eddie.

In Ben’s room, Richie drifts. He drags his hands along the blank wall, no posters, no nothing. He thinks maybe there used to be photographs on the walls, print-outs from the library with words highlighted in pink and yellow, but he can’t remember what they were or what they meant. He sits down with the others on the floor and he’d stolen some stuff from his mother, a bottle of gold and a bottle of clear, because it’s not like she’d ever notice, and they pass them around in a circle, each trying to make the ugliest face when they swallow. 

Their shadows stretch and the bottles empty and Bill is stuttering, something he only really does when he’s drunk or tired now, falling over his words and laughing. Everyone knows what he means anyway, just like everyone always knows what Richie means when he’s trying to be nice, though they never let him get away with it. Mike is silent, smiling, leaning against Ben’s shoulder. Eddie’s cheeks are flushed. Richie looks at one of Eddie’s hands, the one he’s leaning on, splayed out across the wooden floor, the way his fingers are a little bent, his fingernails clean and smooth. Richie’s are bitten to shit and the cuticle of one of his thumbs is scabbed over.

“Did you break your arm once or am I crazy?” he asks, poking at the inside of Eddie’s elbow.

“You’re definitely crazy,” says Eddie, swiping at him lazily and missing. “But I did break my arm and I’m pretty sure it was your fault.”

“You don’t remember?”

“I...” He frowns. “We were messing around at Neibolt and you pushed me down the fucking stairs.”

“I would never,” Richie gasps, pressing his hand to his chest. “I don’t think anyone in this room can deny I’m a lover, not a fighter.”

“Stop, you broke my arm. It’s why I hate you now.”

“No he didn’t,” says Stan, quietly. “It wasn’t Richie, it was... the floor caved, you fell.”

There’s something that feels wrong about that, some itching at the back of Richie’s head, but he doesn’t pursue it. He remembers Eddie screaming and he remembers the broken floor and he remembers being so terrified he could hardly breath. He remembers Eddie’s inhaler. He doesn’t use it anymore, it’d only been water and camphor after all, nothing real. He pretends with his mother though. He swallows the pills because they’re sugar anyway and it makes her feel better.

“You’re always slandering me,” says Richie, a beat too late, caught on Eddie’s hands again. “Breaking my heart over and over.” He clutches at the front of his t-shirt, stretching out the collar, and Eddie rolls his eyes. He’s wearing a sweater, too big for him, and he keeps pushing up the sleeves but they fall down again straight away. Richie wants to roll them up for him properly, so they won’t fall. His collar is too wide too, swooping low across his collarbones, and there’s something about the way the grey wool looks against the rise of his skin, a curved line against the straight, that makes him want to see how much of his skin he can cover with the flat of his hand. He remembers seeing Beverly in the summer time, almost four years ago, a pleated skirt and a sleeveless blouse and her freckled shoulders, and then he realises he feels the same way looking at Eddie in his sweater and the cuffed folds at the ankles of his jeans and the soft fall of his hair across his forehead, and then he feels vaguely ill, vaguely terrified, vaguely out of his mind.

He grabs one of the bottles from Mike, takes a larger swallow than he should, coughs and splutters and blushes under Bill’s raised eyebrows and Ben’s confused laugh. He passes the bottle to Eddie, who pulls his sweater sleeve over the heel of his palm and wipes at the bottleneck, giving Richie a pointed look. It’s such an Eddie sort of gesture, Richie can’t even be mad.

“I thought you’d got over all that shit, Eds,” he says, watching as he takes a sip, watching the drop of gold that escapes, hovers at the corner of his mouth before sliding down his chin, over the curve of his jaw.

“You’re dirtier than most,” mutters Eddie, wiping at his chin with the back of his hand. “A literal trashmouth.”

“I think you love me,” hums Richie, lying back on the floor, heart beating wildly. “I think you love my dirty mouth.”

“Oh my God.” Eddie takes another, deeper drink from the bottle, tipping his head back, his hair falling away from his forehead. Richie watches his throat move as he swallows, laughs, takes his glasses off so everything is a pleasant blur instead of confusing and kind of sick-making and kind of lovely. Eddie is all of those things too. Eddie is... Richie puts his glasses back on, sits back up.

“Shouldn’t we be like... at the school or the fucking... trainyard, I don’t know, smashing bottles and whistling at the girls trying to get into the Den with fake IDs?” he asks, throwing his arms wide. “Shouldn’t we have fake IDs?

“Shut up, Richie,” says Bill. “Ben’s leaving.”

“I know, but-”

“No one would buy you with a fake ID anyway, you look like Rowlf from the Muppets,” says Eddie.

“Well you look like fucking... Beaker, so... I win.”  

“Holy shit, you do,” whispers Mike. Ben is laughing, silently, shoulders shaking, and Stan is watching them all over the rim of the bottle, eyes soft. Eddie looks ready to murder someone, but he doesn’t, he just lashes out, punches Richie weakly on the shoulder. Richie wants to kiss him or... No. Richie wants to squish his dumb Beaker face. He laughs helplessly into his hands instead. He takes his glasses off and cleans them, like it’s some problem with his eyes and not his... heart? His dick? Whatever. When he puts them back on he notices Eddie watching him, half a smile and one eyebrow raised and Richie pulls the fingers and he laughs and looks away.

They stay in Ben’s house and really, Richie doesn’t mind it. They’ve always been able to make their own fun, fighting about the best parts of movies they all like or lounging around and talking shit or stomping around the Barrens because they always have, because it's theirs. But Ben’s leaving. Ben’s leaving and Richie knows that Stan’s parents have talked about moving too and Bill’s have been close to moving ever since Georgie died, have stuck out longer than anyone thought they would. Mike lives on the outskirts of Derry and that’s a little different again. He knows the town better than any of them, because he can see it from the outside. He talks about it sometimes, things that seem rotten underneath it all, and even though they all know what he means, they can never really think about it for long. Eddie is... Richie doesn’t know. He doesn’t think his mum wants to move and it’s hard, getting her out of a habit. It’ll be college, if anything, that gets Eddie out of Derry. Richie too. Except he doesn’t plan on going to college so he'll have to find some other way to leave. Maybe he’ll follow Eddie.

At some early hour, they roll out foam mattresses and sleeping bags and Stan sets a light in the middle of the room, like a campfire except it’s just some plastic thing in the shape of a flame, kind of tacky really, but also kind of perfect. The room flickers orange and gold. Richie sets his sleeping bag next to Eddie’s. He’s drunk and he’s decided that he doesn’t actually care if he has feelings for his friend. His very male friend. It’s the fucking nineties isn’t it? It’s not a problem that he's a boy it's only a problem that he’s Eddie, because he loves Eddie and he’d never do anything to fuck that up. Well. He would, actually, but not on purpose. He stares at the ceiling, just smudgy white without his glasses. Eddie makes a soft noise in his sleep. Richie rolls over to squint at him and he’s just a smudge too, a smudge of dark lashes and straight eyebrows and his hands tucked under his chin. A cute smudge.

“Eds,” he hisses, quiet as he can in the dark. Eddie moves. His sleeping bag rustles. “Eddie.”

“Th’fuck?” mumbles Eddie, his voice thick with sleep.

“You awake?”

“No,” he mutters. “What’d’you want?”

“I... I don’t think you look like Beaker,” says Richie. His voice comes out shaky and strange so he clears his throat. “Well... I mean, I do, because you do, but you have better hair and like... I don’t mean it bad.”

“You’re much uglier than Rowlf,” says Eddie. Richie can see his eyes blinking, the dark blur of his eyelashes.

“You’re cute,” whispers Richie. “You’re really cute.”

“Th’fuck are you talking about, Richie?”

“Nothing, I just...” He fiddles with the zip of his sleeping bag. “Fuck. Nothing,” he finishes, lamely.

“Then go to sleep.”

Richie rolls over onto his back again. He chews on his lower lip. He’s so awake, so completely aware of Eddie lying next to him, less than a metre between them, and the low hum of his friends breathing, sleeping. Usually, when he can’t sleep, it’s because he’s scared. Because if he closes his eyes he’ll only see horror, something that crawls through his dreams, so awful he wakes up screaming. But here, he can’t sleep because Eddie’s beside him and he’s only just realised something he’s felt for awhile now. Maybe always.

When Eddie’s hand finds his in the dark, he almost bites clean through his lip. It bleeds rust against his tongue and Eddie’s hand isn’t so small anymore. He takes Richie’s hand, and his skin is soft and warm, and he braids their fingers together, lets the tips of his fingers find their place against the ridges of Richie’s knuckles, squeezes once, and is gone again. Richie stares at the ceiling. He can hear his heartbeat in his ears and he thinks that if he turned over now, if he turned back toward Eddie, the sound of it would echo off the floor and he would hear it too. He sucks his cut lip into his mouth. He shuts his eyes. Across the room, someone lets out a soft snore, and it throws Richie back into sanity. He rolls onto his side.

“G’night Eds,” he whispers, across the space between them.

“Night Richie,” says Eddie, a familiar shape in the dark.




Stan leaves three months after Ben and Bill a month after that and Mike doesn’t leave, but he doesn’t come into town very often, and if he does it’s only to go the library. He’s picking up where Ben left off, a town history, and Richie doesn’t want anything to do with that, with whatever dark shit there is under Derry’s skin. His palms itch when Mike talks about it and Eddie gets all green at the edges and they know what it's about, sort of, but they don't really know why. There are memories that neither of them are willing to poke at. They’ve avoided Neibolt for years, the whole street. Richie turns off the TV every time a clown appears and he’s developed a particular distaste for McDonald’s. 

So he and Eddie spend their last two years of high school together, alone, and they don’t talk about holding hands in the dark, it's just a tiny thing after all, and Richie doesn’t do some big dramatic confession, though his feelings don’t change, though it’s always on the tip of his tongue, though Eddie looks at him sometimes in a way that makes him think he wouldn’t mind. He keeps a secret for the first time in his life and Eddie dates a girl called Alice for almost two months and Richie tries hard to hate her, but he can’t. She’s pretty and she’s funny and she makes Eddie blush and when they break up, Richie isn’t happy about it, he just feels kind of lost. He still doesn’t say anything. It’s going to be summer soon and after that Eddie’s leaving. Richie doesn’t know what he’ll do without him.

Summer comes anyway and Eddie buys a car with money he’s saved up from working at the pharmacy on the weekends, because he’s some kind of masochist, and they spend their days cruising. Eddie drives and Richie leans out the window and heckles passersby until Eddie’s laughing too hard to steer straight. They eat ice cream. They park the car at the trainyard and Richie climbs onto the roof to let off fireworks. Eddie makes him take his shoes off first and when he slips and almost falls he’s so apologetic Richie can only laugh. They sit on the hood together and name the stars after celebrities they like and their favourite albums and superheroes and books.

“That's the Hawkline monster,” says Eddie, quietly, pointing at something wispy and indistinct.

“That sparkly one is Eddie Kaspbrak,” hums Richie, pointing at the brightest one he can find.

“Shut up,” mutters Eddie, but he sounds pleased.

“Oh shit, no it's Richie Tozier’s Shining Future, my mistake.”

“Richie Tozier’s Invisible Penis,” says Eddie, laughing.

“Yes, my dick is a massive ball of burning gas, thank you for noticing.”

“It's kind of hard to miss.”

“Your-”

“Say one word about my mother and I'm leaving you here.”

In an alley behind the arcade, Richie kisses girls against brick and concrete, and then he goes and wins Eddie stuffed animals and gold chains with the claw machine. He kisses boys too, in his bedroom, Kevin from his history class with a gap between his teeth and fluffy hair and rips in his jeans, and then he calls Eddie and tells him nonsense stories about his conquests until he falls asleep. He doesn’t date anyone. He does everything but.

“Derry’s too small,” he tells Eddie. “Gotta get outta here, stretch my dick.”

“Ouch,” murmurs Eddie, wrinkling his nose. “Come with me to college.”

“Not my scene, Eds,” hums Richie. “Too many rules.”

“You don’t have to do the college bit, just come to New York.”

“Maybe.” Richie jumps onto Eddie’s bed, drops down onto the mattress, stretches himself out. “Your mum got her head around that yet?”

“Nope, but I don’t care.”

Eddie climbs up beside up, lies down too. He’s still small, still almost a head shorter than Richie is anyway, but not small like the kid Richie met a thousand years ago. His shoulders are broad. He’s all right angles, the base of his thumbs against his wrists, the cut of his collarbones against his throat, the way he squares his jaw when he’s thinking. Richie is a scribble of a human being, slouched lines and long legs and narrow hips. He falls against Eddie like water over stone.

“Come with me,” says Eddie again.

“You’re cute,” says Richie, a rush of air.

“I’m serious.”

“Sure.” Richie raises one hand, splays his fingers wide, a star against the ceiling. “Anything for you, Eds.”

“Stop calling me that, then.”

“I think you’d cry if I stopped calling you Eds, Eds.”

Eddie doesn’t say anything to that. Richie lets his hand fall onto his stomach, fumbles with his glasses, takes them off, leans over Eddie to put them on his bedside table. He settles back into place, eyes closed, well aware that this isn’t really something most friends do, share a bed like this, lie down together like this, touching at their shoulders, their hands, but he doesn’t care. There’s a shelf across the room of the toys Richie’s won Eddie at the arcade, a green T-Rex, an orange giraffe, a unicorn with pastel pink hair, a soft white hippo, all lined up pretty and neat, smudges of colour to Richie’s bad eyesight. He wants to turn over, press his face into Eddie’s neck, tuck his arm around his waist, tight as if they were riding double on a bike. He does turn over, but only to blow wind into Eddie’s ear, to make him shriek and throw himself up off the bed.

“Fuck you,” he snaps, rubbing at his ear. “Why do you have to do that shit?”

“What shit? I’m blind,” Richie mutters, sitting up, screwing up his face. “It was an accid-”

“No, no Richie, it wasn’t.” Eddie is pacing now, stalking back and forth across his room. “It wasn’t, because nothing you do is an accident, it’s all just stupid. Stupid ass shit and I’m tired of it.”

“Wait, what?”

“Oh, I’m Richie and I’m just gonna... just gonna act like I’m in love with my best friend for like four years or some bullshit but never actually do anything about it. Just gonna call him cute all the time and fucking name stars after him and then pretend it's all a huge joke and go... go fuck everyone else except him.” He grabs the unicorn off the shelf, shakes it at Richie vigorously, a pink blur. “The fuck is this, Richie? The fuck did you win me a fucking horse for?”

“I... it's a unicorn,” Richie whispers. He feels like he's about to pass out. He feels like he might be dreaming. He puts his glasses on, but it doesn't really help. Eddie stops pacing, scowls at the unicorn.

“Oh well, shit, my mistake, the fuck did you win me a fucking unicorn for?” he spits, all squeaky with rage. Still cute. Still the cutest in the world.

“I'm scared of ruining it,” says Richie. He looks at his hands. He looks at the stupid pink unicorn and at Eddie's flushed cheeks, his hair all wild where he's been running his hands through it. “You're my best friend.”

Eddie's eyes soften and he sighs, this deep and quiet thing that seems much older than he is. Ancient at eighteen. He puts the stuffed unicorn back on the shelf. He comes back to the bed, sits down next to Richie. Richie whose tongue feels swollen in his mouth.

“You’re stupid,” says Eddie. “You’re so dumb sometimes but for some reason I still want to kiss you.”

“Gross,” says Richie, faintly. “Must be my hydrogen dick.”

Eddie laughs a little helplessly and Richie grins at him and their knees are touching and Richie takes a breath but Eddie’s already there, pushing into Richie’s space, eyes dark, determined, sitting up so he can swing one leg over Richie’s thighs and settle in his lap. Richie is pretty sure he’s going to die. His hands fall to Eddie’s hips and he’s definitely going to die.

“This is... it’s pretty presumptuous of you, Eds,” he says. He drags his hands up, from Eddie’s hips to his waist, back down, slow and smooth. “You think I like you or something?”

“Richie-”

“I like you so much.” Richie grins at him again, laughs. “Like... I’m Westley and you’re Buttercup, y’know? And we already fought the fucking... the rodents in the swamp or whatever and you pushed me down a cliff but I don’t even care we’re still gonna ride off on a horse together.”

“Can we ride off in my car instead? Horses are kind of... dirty.”

“As you wish,” says Richie, and he sticks his tongue out, flutters his eyelashes, and Eddie groans like he’s in pain, pushes at Richie’s shoulders, makes out like he’s going to climb off him, but Richie keeps him there, hands linked at the small of his back.

Richie kisses him then, leans up and kisses him and thinks, a little hysterically, that this is the only way Eddie will ever have height on him, and that he kind of likes it, it’s kind of nice, being under him, being so close to him, and then Eddie’s kissing him back, his mouth soft and warm, and his hands at Richie's jaw, in his hair, and he stops thinking altogether. 

They fall through the afternoon together, mostly staying in Eddie's bed, and Richie learns a lot of things he's wanted to know for a long time. Eddie's collarbones do taste as pretty as they look. Eddie's hair is as soft as it seems, as easy to push back as he thought it would be, slipping through his fingers, sweet and easy. And Eddie's mouth has bite to it and his hands are strong and even his ankles are kind of charming, though not as charming as his wrists. Richie kisses a freckle there, just below the base of his thumb. Eddie takes off Richie's glasses, folds them up carefully and puts them aside, kisses the bridge of his nose, the soft skin under his eyes, and it's kind of more than two eighteen year olds fooling around in a bedroom should be, slow and sweet instead of heated and fumbling, but Richie doesn't care. He doesn't care because it's been forever and they have forever and there will be plenty of time for all the rest, in Eddie's shitty car, on the open road, in a cramped dorm in New York city. Eddie will freak out about how dirty the streets are and Richie will hustle him back to his room and they'll find ways to untie his knots. 

Derry is an open wound and Eddie and Richie leave, together, at the end of summer, and then it is a scar. Mike stays. Mike who knows more than any of them about what happened, who treads the line between Derry and the rest of the world, trying not to fall. And he's there, helping Eddie and Richie pack up Eddie's car, smiling at Eddie's mother even though she only ever screams at him, and he doesn't say anything about the library or about his research and Richie is glad for it. He knows they'll be back one day, for something awful, for something somehow even more awful than what they've already done. He hugs Mike goodbye and when he pulls away, Mike keeps his hand for a moment, presses a finger to the cushion of his palm. 

"Remember Bill's bottle?" he asks. "Before Bev left?" 

"Maybe," says Richie, dubiously. It seems unlikely that Eddie would ever cut himself with broken glass on purpose, and there's no scar anymore, but he remembers them all standing in a circle, the cast on Eddie's arm and Stan looking even more worried than usual and the bright sunlight, the blue sky. 

"I... I'll call you, if it happens again," says Mike. 

"Call us anyway," says Eddie.

On the way out of town, they get ice cream, and it drips down Eddie's arm while he drives and Richie leans over to lick his hand, making him shriek. They pass the Derry sign, you are now leaving Derry, and it feels a little bit like the they've been under a cloud, but it's clearing, and the sun will be out soon.