Actions

Work Header

How To Raise a Child With Your Best Friend/Long-time Crush: An Inaccurate Guide by Eddie Kaspbrak

Work Text:

JUNE 2003

 

Eddie sighed as he entered the dingy club. He refused to look at anyone and headed straight for the bar. He ordered his usual, a Strawberry Daiquiri, and sipped on his drink, waiting for someone to approach him.

 

It was his third night at the club that week. He knew he had to stop doing this, but he couldn't help himself. Living a lie just got harder each and every day. Especially when he had to face the lie every time he got home.

 

At twenty-seven, Eddie had been married for two years to the woman he'd been seeing for six months. All his friends thought he was making a stupid decision that he would regret, and they were right. But when you had a mother who, twenty-five years after your birth, treated you like a marionette, controlling every decision you make with her pudgy, pink lacquered fingers, it didn't leave much room for freedom.

 

Being in a relationship with Myra had never been his choice. He'd met her in 2000 during one of his shifts at the hospital, and she'd squeezed herself into his life without permission. After one conversation over a cup of coffee, Myra made it her personal mission to introduce Eddie as the love of her life to anyone who would listen. He didn't have the heart to break it off with her though, she was sweet, innocent, kind. She loved him. And she reminded him of his mother.

 

Maybe that's why he agreed to marrying her. Myra and his mother were pretty much the same person. In fact, Sonia Kaspbrak looked more like Myra’s mother than his. And their personalities were similar as well. They got along so well, and his mother made sure they got married and lived happily ever after. And even after twenty five years, Eddie would still do everything his mother told him.

 

So, here he was, sitting in a dingy club, sipping his drink, unhappily married. He didn't love his wife, that was no secret. It's why he didn't love her. Yes, she was pretty much a carbon copy of the woman who manipulated and emotionally abused him growing up, but that wasn't the only reason. For starters, she wasn't the right gender.

 

Eddie Kaspbrak was a closeted gay man. He could never be in love with a woman, no matter how hard he tried. He loved men, he knew this, his friends knew this, all his one-night stands over the past year and a half knew this. But he could never admit it to his wife or mother. He knew how they'd react. He'd had enough conversations with his family to hear the homophobia thrumming in their veins. So instead, he quietly married a woman, keeping his desires buried deep inside. For about six months.

 

Six months into their marriage, Eddie started visiting a gay club in the city, the same one in which he was sitting right now. He'd meet men, hook up, and leave. He'd tell Myra he was working extra shifts at the hospitals. At first, he felt incredibly guilty for doing this to her, and he promised he'd never do it again. But soon, once in three months turned to once a month, which turned into once a week, and now, thrice a week. He hated himself for it, but the pleasure made the guilt bearable. It made sex with his wife easier as well. Whenever he fondled her breasts, he'd imagine he was touching the sandy haired stranger he'd slept with the previous night. While thrusting into her, he'd picture the brunet he'd done that with just the previous week. Myra was blissfully unaware of what was going on in her husband’s head.

 

Eddie was sick of keeping it that way. He was sick of lying to her, lying to himself that he could live with it, because he knew he couldn't. It had been two years, and things hadn't got any better, except for the sex. He needed to tell Myra the truth. He needed to be free of her clutches. And he needed that tonight.

 

All the time he'd spent in retrospection gave him an insane amount of courage. He paid for his drink and practically ran home to his wife. When he entered their house, she was in the den, watching Family Feud reruns, with her legs propped up on the footstool. It was eerily familiar.

 

“Oh, Eddie, you're home!” Her shrill voice greeted him.

 

“Myra, there's something I need to talk to you about.”

 

His wife turned away from the screen and looked at him, her eyes wide with confusion. “What's wrong, Eddie-bear?”

 

Eddie cringed at the nickname every time she used it. It reminded him too much of his childhood. “I lied to you.”

 

“About what?”

 

“I… wasn't at the hospital. I was at a club. A gay club.”

 

Myra’s eyes grew wide in fear. “Oh no, Eddie, why would you go to a place like that? Do you know how filthy those places are? Not to mention those people, they're even worse! You could have fallen sick! We must get you to a doctor, make sure you haven't caught anything.”

 

“Myra, I'm gay.”

 

Her jaw dropped. She looked like she wanted to say something, but no sound came out.

 

“I'm gay,” Eddie continued. “I like men. I've been going to that club for almost a year and a half now. I've been meeting men, and spending the night with them. I've been lying to you Myra, for so long. I'm so sorry.”

 

Myra shook her head and stood up. “No, you don't know what you're saying. You're not one of them. You're not a faggot. You're just sick, Eddie-bear. Let's go to the doctor. We can fix you.”

 

“I'm not some object that needs to be fixed!” He yelled. “There is nothing wrong with me!”

 

Myra threw the tv remote at his head, and he ducked just in time. It fell to the ground and cracked, its contents spilling out. He looked at her in shock. “What the fuck, Myra?”

 

Myra had fat tears rolling down her cheeks. “You're hurting me, Eddie! Why are you doing this to me! Don't you love me?” She wailed.

 

Eddie sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. “I do love you Myra, but not in the way I'm supposed to.” He twirled his wedding ring around his finger before taking it off and putting it on the mantle top. “I'm sorry, Myra, I really am.”

 

He started for the stairs, but Myra grabbed his arm tightly. “No, Eddie-bear! Don't leave me!” She sobbed and sobbed, making ugly sounds. Eddie almost caved, but he was done letting her tears manipulate him. His mother used the same tactic when he left Derry to go to college in California, and he refused to let it affect him then, and he refused to let it affect him now. He shook her hand off.

 

“I'm sorry Myra. I need to go.”

 

Two hours later, he found himself in front of the familiar door, with two suitcases and box full of his belongings. He took a deep breath and knocked on the door. In a few seconds, it swung open to reveal the tall, lanky man with messy hair.

 

Richie. Oh, how he loved Richie. Richie Tozier was his best friend. They'd left Derry together, gone to California to start over. He'd been with Eddie through everything. He was his rock, his anchor. Whenever things got really bad with Myra and alcohol wouldn't help, he find himself in Richie's apartment. Sometimes they'd talk about the problem, sometimes they'd fuck, sometimes they'd just hold each other, not saying anything. But he'd always wake up the next morning in his arms, feeling better than before. He kept him sane. Without Richie, he'd be nothing.

 

He didn't exactly know what Richie was to him. They were best friends for sure, but they were also something more. Richie had been his first kiss, his first crush, his first love, his first everything. They'd gone to college together, and maybe that should have helped them figure out their relationship. Despite living together, they still managed to drift apart and see other people. They still came back to each other though, and no matter what the status of their relationship, they'd always look out for one another.

 

“Eds? Everything okay?” Richie's voice brought him out of his thoughts.

 

“Don't call me that.”

 

Richie rolled his eyes. “What's with the suitcases? Are we going on some trip I forgot about?”

 

Eddie took a deep breath. “I left Myra. For real. I'm not going back to her ever again.”

 

Richie grinned. “Well, well, well, looks like Spaghetti is finally a single noodle!” He pulled him into the apartment. “This calls for a celebration!”

 

“Uh, actually I'm not in the mood for that.”

 

Richie's smile dropped. “What's wrong?”

 

Eddie sat down on the couch and rubbed his thighs. “Nothing's wrong. I- I'm happy. I just, it's all sinking in, and I don't know, what if I made a mistake?” He looked up at the other man. His eyes were brimming with tears, making his vision blurry. “I mean, I really hurt her.”

 

Richie sat down next to him and wrapped his arms around his shoulders. “Hey, she's hurt you so many times. You're not making a mistake. You're allowed to do something for yourself. You're allowed to be happy.”

 

Eddie buried his face in his chest. “Thank you, Rich.”

 

He brushed the hair off his forehead. “What do you need me to do?”

 

Eddie sighed. “Please, just hold me.”

 

And he did just that.


 

JULY 2003

 

“Alright, Mr. Kaspbrak, we need your signature here and here, and then everything will be finalised.”

 

Without thinking twice, Eddie signed the documents and handed them over to his lawyer. Now the only thing required would be Myra’s signatures, and their divorce would be finalised.

 

“Mrs. Kaspbrak, I need you to do the same,” said the lawyer, sliding the papers across the table. Myra hesitated and looked at Eddie.

 

“Eddie-bear, are you sure about this? We can just speak to a doctor, we can work this out.”

 

Eddie sighed and rubbed his face. “Myra, there is nothing wrong with me. I like men. I’ve always liked men. Nothing is going to change that.”

 

“But Eddie! I love you so much!” Tears poured out of her eyes.

 

Eddie smiled sadly. “If you love me, you’ll let me go. You’ll accept me for who I am, and let me be happy. Please.”

 

Myra sniffled. “You’re sick, and you’re disgusting, Eddie. This is because of that friend of yours, that Tozier man. He made you like this. It’s a sin. You’re both going to hell.”

 

Eddie clenched his jaw and took a deep breath. “Do not drag Richie into this. Just sign the goddamn papers, Myra.”

 

She huffed and scrawled her name onto the papers, handing them over to the lawyer. “You’re making a mistake, Eddie. You’ll understand how sick you are, and you’ll come running back to me. Because I know what’s best for you.”

 

Eddie rolled his eyes. “I’m sure you do.” He gathered his belongings, thanked the lawyer, and stormed out of the room without saying another word to his ex-wife. He was a free man now. He never wanted to see that woman ever again.

 

He got into his car, rested his head against the steering wheel and sighed. The feeling of freedom was seeping away and reality was catching up to him. The divorce had taken a toll on him. Financially, he was going to have a lot of issues. He hadn't gained much from the divorce. Most of their possessions went to Myra, including their house and 60% of the savings in their joint bank account. Topped with the alimony, the money he had to send to his mother every month, and student loans which he was still paying off, he didn't really have enough money in his bank account to get a new apartment. He knew he couldn't live with Richie forever, but moving out wasn't the most financially feasible decision at that moment.

 

Not to mention the loss of familiarity. He'd married Myra because she took care of him like his mother had. She reminded him of what he'd left behind in Derry. In a very twisted and unhealthy sense, Myra made him feel safe. Eddie knew this and he hated it. He hated how two of the most important women in his life made him feel that way. He hated that the feeling was a constant in his life. He hated how he had to relearn how not to rely on someone all over again.

 

Maybe he could move back to Derry and live with his mother. That was solve his problems.

 

He punched the steering wheel and sobbed. It had been fifteen minutes since his divorce and he was already thinking about running back to Mommy. She was right. He couldn't take care of himself on his own. He was weak. Inefficient. A coward. He'll never be independent, he'll never be completely free. He'll always need someone to rely on.

 

Prove them wrong, Eds. I know you can.

 

The voice in his head sounded a lot like Richie's. He took a deep breath and wiped his tears.

 

He could do this. It would take time getting used to it, but he didn't need her. He'd made it through college, and he could do it again. He wasn't going to let her win. Not this time.


 

SEPTEMBER 2003

 

“And Derek, you promise to eat your vegetables for me?”

 

The shy blonde sitting in front of him nodded. Eddie smiled. “Alright, then. I don't think we should have a problem!”

 

He turned to the woman on chair next to the boy. “If the fever continues, please bring him back in, and we'll take the necessary tests.”

 

The woman smiled. “Thank you, Dr. Kaspbrak.” She took her son’s hand and led him out of the office. Eddie sighed and removed the stethoscope from around his neck. That was his last patient for the day, and he couldn't wait to go back home. The home he shared with Richie.

 

Richie had agreed to let him stay for however long he wanted, as long as he paid half the rent. He said it would be, “Just like old times, Eds!”

 

Frankly, Eddie had missed living with Richie. Sure, he never did the dishes and his bedroom was always a mess, but just his presence made his house feel like home, something he'd never felt with Myra. Also, Richie always agreed to watch Friends with him, so he couldn't complain.

 

He'd had the overnight shift at the hospital, and by the time he got home, it was nearly nine in the morning. All he wanted to do was curl up under his blankets and take an eight hour-long nap. Don’t get him wrong, he loved his job. Most people would assume growing up with hypochondria and spending most of his childhood in emergency rooms would make him hate working in a hospital, but to him it was empowering. It was like overcoming his fears and a huge ‘fuck you’ to his mother. But it was still exhausting as hell.

 

Eddie unlocked the door to find a young woman, maybe around twenty-five, wearing nothing but an oversized Nirvana t-shirt (that definitely belonged to his roommate), standing in the kitchen, flipping pancakes.

 

“Oh, hey! You must be Eddie!” She was quite cheerful for someone who'd just woken up. She probably had a good night’s rest.

 

Eddie hung his coat on the rack and dropped his keys in the bowl on the shelf near the door. “Hey, um… I'm sorry, but who are you?” He looked away from her and awkwardly scratched his neck.

 

She smacked herself on the forehead with the back of a spatula. “Oh, fuck! I'm so rude, I completely forgot to introduce myself.” She stuck her hand out. “I'm Sandy, Richie's girlfriend.”

 

Eddie shook her hand gingerly and studied her. She had long brown hair, warm hazel eyes, and soft pink cheeks. She was as tall as him, and was sort of pretty, if that was your type.

 

“I didn't know Rich had a girlfriend,” he said, as she turned back towards the stove. “How long have you been together?”

 

She shrugged. “About five months.”

 

Five months? That was before he’d moved in. Why had Richie never mentioned her?

 

“I've heard quite a lot about you,” she continued, “Richie never really shuts up about his best friend.”

 

Eddie wrinkled his nose. “Oh god, do I really want to know what he's told you?”

 

She giggled. “All good things, don't worry. He keeps telling me how cute you are, and I guess he was right.”

 

“I heard the word ‘cute’! Are we talking about my Eddie Spaghetti?” Richie sauntered into the kitchen wearing nothing but a pair of sweatpants that hung low on his hips. Eddie had to tear his eyes away from the trail of dark hair that disappeared under his waistband. Unfortunately, Richie noticed and shot him a wink. Eddie rolled his eyes and poured himself a glass of orange juice.

 

Richie wrapped his arms around his girlfriend’s waist and kissed her cheek. “Mornin’ babe, that smells amazing.”

 

She giggled again and pecked his lips. “Not as amazing as you.”

 

Eddie tried not to choke on his juice.

 

Richie opened the refrigerator to pull out a carton of milk. He ruffled Eddie's hair before pouring himself a glass. “Mornin’ Eds. How was your shift?”

 

Eddie huffed and smoothed his hair out. “Don't call me that. And it was fine. Kinda exhausting.”

 

Sandy looked over her shoulder. “Should I make you a plate as well?”

 

He shook his head. “No, thank you. I think I'm gonna take a nap instead.”

 

He turned to Richie. “Hey, uh, Rich, can I talk to you for a sec?” He motioned towards his bedroom with his head.

 

Richie shrugged and followed him to his bedroom. “What's up, Spaghetti Man?”

 

Eddie punched his arm lightly and sat down on the bed. “Don't call me that. Why didn't you tell me you were seeing someone?”

 

He shrugged again. “I didn't think it was important. Besides, you were going through your own shit, I didn't want you deal with my shit as well.”

 

“But you've been together for five months! That's like, your longest relationship ever!”

 

Richie blushed and looked down. “Yeah, I really like her, Eds. She's amazing.”

 

Eddie smiled softly. “I'm happy for you, I really am.” He really was.

 

Richie smiled back. “Thanks, Eddie.”

 

Eddie took a deep breath before his next question. “Do you want me to move out? I mean, I really don't want to be a bother, and I can find my own place.”

 

“That's ridiculous. You'll never bother me.”

 

“But is she okay with it?”

 

“Okay with what? The fact that I'm living with my best friend? Why wouldn't she be?”

 

“The fact that you're living with your best friend who you've slept with, on multiple occasions.”

 

“She can't be bothered by what she doesn't know.” He wiggled his eyebrows.

 

Eddie sighed. “Richie, I'm being serious. You really like her, and I don't wanna be the one that fucks everything up.”

 

Richie shook his head. “You're not, don't worry about it. Besides, she knows we've got history or whatever, and I'm sure she's cool with it.”

 

“Did she tell you that or are you just assuming?”

 

Richie chuckled. “Don't worry you little Spaghetti brain about it. It's fine, I promise.”

 

Eddie hesitated. “Okay, if you insist.”

 

Suddenly, his phone rang. Eddie groaned. If he had to go back to the hospital, he was going to scream.

 

Richie patted his shoulder and stood up. “Duty calls, Dr. K!”

 

Eddie pinched the bridge of nose and answered the call as Richie left the room. “This is Doctor Edward Kaspbrak speaking, how may I help you?”

 

The voice on the other line was all too familiar. It was one he never wanted to hear again. The high tone, the nasally whine at the end of every sentence, the little shrieks that interrupted him every time he tried to say anything; it gave him a headache. But it's what the voice was saying that made him feel worse. As the person on the other continued whining and sobbing and shrieking and blaming, Eddie felt the colour drain from his skin. His lungs began clogging up, and his breathing got heavy. He dropped his phone to the ground and clutched his neck gasping for air. He stumbled to his desk and felt around for his inhaler, but his breathing was too ragged for him to focus. He felt like he was going to pass out.

 

A large palm on his back was rubbing soft circles, and another was shoving his inhaler into his mouth. He clicked the trigger and took deep breaths. He felt fresh air fill his lungs. Apparently his gasping was so loud that Richie and his girlfriend had heard him and came rushing in to see what was wrong.

 

“Shh, Eds, it's okay,” Richie whispered soothingly in his ear, rubbing small circles on his back. Slowly, his breathing evened out.

 

“What happened?” asked Sandy. Eddie shook his head. This wasn't something he wanted a stranger to know. Even if she was dating his best friend.

 

Richie picked up on this. He looked up at her. “Sweetheart, why don't you get back to breakfast? I'll help Eddie up and be out with you in a minute.”

 

Sandy eyed them, skeptical, but left them alone. Richie helped him up and sat with him on the edge of the bed.

 

“Eddie? Are you okay?”

 

Eddie gulped and nodded.

 

“Who was that on the phone?”

 

Eddie took a deep breath and rubbed his face. “That- uh, that was Myra.”

 

Richie rolled his eyes. “Great. What does that bitch want?”

 

Eddie turned to look at him. He was sure there were tears pouring down his cheeks. “She's pregnant, Rich.”


 

OCTOBER 2003

 

“Okay, Mrs. Kaspbrak, we're going to start the sonography now.”

 

“It's actually Miss Chase. We're not married.” Myra gave her ex-husband a dirty look. Eddie resisted the urge to roll his eyes.

 

The doctor nodded. “Apologies, ma'am.”

 

She rubbed the gel on Myra's lower abdomen. Myra was five months pregnant, and she'd finally let Eddie come along to the doctor’s appointment. It was his child as well, and he wanted to be kept in the loop. At first, Myra had refused, but the man she’d been seeing, Josh, had convinced her to let him be a part of their lives. Eddie’d decided he really liked Josh. He was a great guy. Most men wouldn’t want to date a pregnant woman, especially when the child wasn’t theirs, but Josh was different. He loved Myra even though she was carrying her ex-husband’s five month old foetus. He was good for her, he took care of her. He was the man Eddie could never be. Eddie was happy for her. Myra deserved someone like him.

 

The doctor pressed and moved the equipment across Myra’s abdomen. Eddie could make out the head of a baby on the screen. His face slowly broke out into a grin. He couldn’t make out anything about the foetus, but it still filled him with warmth. That’s my baby. Even Myra smiled softly.

 

“Well,” said the doctor, “the baby looks perfectly healthy. No complications at the moment.” She pulled out a stethoscope. “Would you like to hear its heartbeat?”

 

Eddie nodded excitedly. The doctor moved the diaphragm around until she found the right spot. Eddie took the stethoscope from her and plugged in the earpieces. He closed his eyes and concentrated. He could hear the soft thumping of a heartbeat. He felt his eyes fill up with tears. He would never have thought a heart beating would make him feel so many emotions, but it did. He turned to Myra with a watery smile, but she was frowning at him.

 

“What’s wrong, Myra?”

 

Her frown deepened. “Do you want this child?”

 

Eddie was a little shaken by the question. “Do I- what?”

 

Myra tutted impatiently. “Do you want the child, Eddie?”

 

The doctor sensed the discomfort in the room. She took the stethoscope from Eddie. “I’ll wait outside.”

 

Eddie waited for the door to shut before he spoke again. “I- I do want the child, Myra. Why are you asking me this? Do you plan on cutting me out of their life?”

 

“I don’t want the baby.”

 

Eddie felt his heart drop. “What?”

 

Myra huffed. “I don’t want the baby, Eddie! No child of mine is going to have faggot blood in him! No child of mine is going to be impure!”  

 

Eddie resisted the urge to lash out. “Myra,that’s not-”

 

“No, I will not have it!” Fat tears were rolling down her cheeks.

 

He pinched the bridge of his nose. He was in no mood to argue. “Alright, alright. So what do you want to do? Do- do you want to get an abortion? I fully support you if you do, it’s your body after all, it’s your decision.”

 

Myra looked absolutely appalled at the idea. He expression was similar to the one she’d worn when he’d come out to her. “Eddie, that’s murder. I can’t kill a child.” She rubbed her bump.

 

Eddie wanted to correct her and tell her it wasn’t the same thing, but he didn’t have the patience to listen to her pro-life argument, so he let it slide. “What do you want to do then?”

 

“You can have him.”

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“Once the baby is born, he’s all yours. Whether you decide to raise him with that homo boyfriend of yours, or whether you put him up for adoption, I don’t care. I don’t want anything to do with him.”

 

Eddie sat down on the chair and ran his fingers through his hair. This was a huge decision. He was either going to be a single father or send his child away to some family that might not give a shit about them. But the more he thought about it, the simpler it got. It was a no brainer really.

 

He gulped and nodded. “Okay. I’ll raise our child.” Little did he know that that decision was going to turn his world around.


 DECEMBER 2003

 

As Eddie walked down the streets, he admired the decorations. It was the first week of December, and people were already setting up for Christmas. Even Richie’d insisted they put up lights and their little tree the moment Thanksgiving was over. Sandy had thought he was being ridiculous, but Eddie was used to his antics. Back in Derry, he’d start playing Christmas carols in June.  

 

Speaking of Derry, neither of them planned on going home for the holidays. There was nothing for them there anyway, except Mike and Richie’s parents. Richie’d already met his family for Thanksgiving, and Mike planned on flying down to California for the summer. So they were going to spend Christmas together, like they had during college.  Eddie was looking forward to it. The holidays were always  better with Richie around.

 

Eddie walked up to the apartment and unlocked the door. He’d had a long day at work, and wanted to take a nice, warm bath. He entered to see Richie sitting on the couch, head in his hands. He looked up at Eddie. His hair was a mess. His eyes were puffy and wet, and his nose was read. His cheeks were streaked with tears. He reeked of cigarette smoke. Eddie felt his chest clench.

 

“Richie? What’s wrong?”

 

Richie sniffed. “It’s… it’s my mom.”

 

Eddie sat down next to him and linked their fingers together. “What happened? Is she alright?”

 

Richie shook his head and looked down at their intertwined fingers. “She- you know she’s always had an issue with alcohol, right?”

 

Eddie nodded slowly. Maggie Tozier was a good woman, her alcoholism being one of her only flaws. She’d always struggled with it; she even spent three months during their junior year in a rehab centre, but it hadn’t helped much. She always went back to her old ways.

 

“Well,” Richie continued, “I guess her liver was too fucked up or whatever, and she drank a little too much.” He rubbed his eyes furiously.

 

Eddie didn’t need to hear anything else to understand what happened. “Oh, baby.” He wrapped his arms around Richie and pulled him against his chest. Richie was shaking, and Eddie could feel the tears soaking his shirt. He held him tight and rocked him back and forth, blinking his own tears away. Once Richie had calmed down enough, he wiped his nose with the back of his hand. He rested his head on Eddie’s shoulder.

 

He took a deep breath. “She’s dead, Eddie. She’s gone.”

 

*

 

They went back to Derry for the funeral. The ceremony had been small, consisting of just a few friends and family members. Wentworth and Richie had stood together as the priest said his words, both wearing stoic expressions on their faces. Tozier men were great at hiding their emotions.

 

It was almost six hours after the funeral. Richie and Eddie had squeezed onto Richie’s childhood bed, lying on their backs, shoulders touching. Richie had spent the afternoon talking to friends and family and people paying their condolences, and it was making him sick. Once everyone had left, Wentworth had retired to his bedroom to mourn his wife alone. Richie and Eddie had gone up to his room to do the same.

 

Maggie’s death had hit Eddie hard. She was always like a mother to him. When he found out Sonia had been lying to him about his medication, he’d run away from home, and the Toziers took him in. He’d stayed with them for almost a month. Maggie had been more of a mother to him than his own mother. She always looked after him. She was caring and kind and beautiful. She was a good parent.

 

“I miss her,” he said quietly. “She was always so nice to me

 

Richie exhaled softly and nodded. “I think she loved you more than she loved me.”

 

Eddie chuckled. “I don’t blame her.”

 

Richie punched his arm but managed a grin. “There were times when she was pissed at you as well, okay. Like that time she walked in on you blowing me.”

 

Eddie rubbed his red face and groaned. “Ugh, don’t remind me. I wasn’t allowed to spend the night for a week.”

 

“She was just scarred from seeing her perfect son’s wang in his best friend’s mouth.”

 

Eddie scoffed. “‘Perfect son’? You were far from perfect.”

 

Richie laughed. “Like you were some kind of saint. I know what kind of shit we did, in this very bedroom. Mags knew as well, and I think she secretly approved of us. She always thought you were a good influence on me.”

 

“That’s ‘cause I was. You’re the one who tainted me.”

 

“You’ve always been freaky, Eds, I just brought out that side of you.”

 

Eddie shook his head fondly as he looked around the room. They’d made so many memories in here. From his first time getting high, to losing their virginities, it had all been within those four walls. If he was there under different circumstances, better circumstances, maybe he’d let himself relive some of them. But not now.

 

Richie sighed softly and looked up at the ceiling. “She was a good parent. Sure, sometimes she drank a little too much, and sometimes she just didn’t get me, but she loved me. She took care of me. She’d always thought that if I were a girl instead, she’d understand me better, but she tried her hardest. She always made an effort. She thought she was a fucked up parent, but she wasn’t. She wasn’t perfect, but I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. I feel- I feel like I didn’t say it enough, but she was a good parent. I love her.”

 

Eddie laced their fingers together and squeezed his hand. “She knew, Richie, she knew.”

 

He took a deep breath and wiped the tears that had rolled down his face. “Sometimes I feel like we waste our words and we waste our moments. We think that the ones we love will always be there, and we don’t take the time to tell them exactly how much they mean to us, until one day, they’re gone, and all those words are left unsaid.”

 

Eddie didn’t know what to say, so he squeezed his hand tighter.

 

Richie turned his head to look at him. “Eddie, you’re my best friend and I love you more than anything in the universe.”

 

Eddie smiled at him softly. “You’re my best friend too, Richie, and I love you so, so much.”

 

Richie sniffed and gave him a small smile. “I just wanted you to know, I feel like I don’t tell you enough, how much you mean to me.”

 

“Hey, you don’t have to say the words. I know, I promise.”

 

Richie’s eyes flitted down to his lips. He brought the hand that wasn’t in Eddie’s and cupped his cheek. Slowly, he leaned forward and pressed their lips together.

 

The kiss was soft and gentle, and lasted for about five seconds. Richie pulled back and rested their foreheads together for a couple of moments. He placed a small kiss on Eddie’s forehead and turned to face the ceiling. Eddie gulped and looked up as well. He didn’t dwell too much on what had happened, nor did he think about Sandy, who was back in California, completely unaware that her boyfriend was in Maine for his mother’s funeral. They laid on the bed in relative silence, until it was finally time to leave.

 

*

 

They don’t talk about the kiss. They never do. 


 

JANUARY 2004

 

“God-fucking-dammit!”

 

Eddie threw the doll onto the floor in frustration and yanked at his hair. Richie chuckled from behind him.

 

“Someone’s having a hard time.”

 

Eddie glared at him. “I had no fucking idea putting diapers on would be this hard.”

 

“It’s not, Spaghetti Man. You just suck at it.”

 

“Don’t call me that. And it’s not like you’re a pro at it either.”

 

Richie grinned. “Actually, your darling Trashmouth Tozier is a man of many talents,” he said, in a pretentious accent. He grabbed the doll from Eddie and set it on the table. In about thirty seconds, he’d managed to successfully put the diaper on the doll. Eddie gaped at him.

 

“Where the fuck did you learn that?”

 

He shrugged. “Whenever we’d visit my cousins in Hawkins, I’d help out with baby Holly. Lord knows Mikey and Nancy were pretty useless.”

 

“Wow. You have to teach me, Rich.”

 

He smirked. “And what’s in it for me?”

 

“A sense of pride and satisfaction for helping a friend? More fuel to your ego?”

 

Richie laughed. “Not what I had in mind, but I guess I can work with it.” He removed the diaper from the doll. “Okay, here’s how we do it.” Richie rambled on with the instructions, demonstrating his words, but Eddie had a hard a time following. When it was his turn to try, he still couldn't do it.

 

He pushed the doll away and groaned in defeat. He collapsed on the couch and cradled his head. “I suck at this.”

 

“Don't worry, Spaghetti Head, practice makes perfect.”

 

Eddie rubbed his face and breathed into his hands. “I can't even put a diaper on a doll.” His eyes grew wide. “Oh my god. I can't deal with diapers. What if my child’s a girl? What am I supposed to do when she hits puberty? How am I supposed to help her with periods and- and bra shopping and whatever other stuff girls do? Oh my god! How the fuck am I going to be a single dad, Rich?”

 

He looked at him, amused, and shrugged. “Bev or Patty can always help out. Don't sweat it too much. You'll learn.”

 

“From where? All I have to go after is a childhood with a front row ticket to Sonia Kaspbrak’s A+ parenting.”

 

“Experience. There's no guidebook to parenting, Eds. Nobody writes down instructions to follow. You just… go along and pray whatever you're doing is right.”

 

He looked up at Richie with tear-filled eyes. “What if I think what I'm doing is right, but it's not really?”

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“What if I turn out to be just like her?” He said in a quiet voice.

 

Richie dropped down to his knees in front of him and squeezed his shoulders. “You won't. You're nothing like her. You're a good man, and you're going to be the perfect father.”

 

Eddie snivelled. “But she's the only one I have to follow. Her crazy, manipulative love is all I know. What if I treat my kid the same way?”

 

Richie cupped his cheeks. “Eddie, that is not true. What she was… that's not love. She was abusive. She was controlling. She was horrid. She lied to you. She hurt you. There's no fucking way you'll be the same. You… you are gentle, kind, caring. You've got such a big heart and you're so full of love. I have no doubt in my mind you're going to be an amazing parent, nothing like her.” He wiped the tears that had rolled down Eddie's face. “And another thing. That's not the only kind of love you know. There are so many other people in your life who love you differently, a much healthier kind of love. The Losers, me, we love you in the way you deserve to be loved, just like how you're gonna love your baby.”

 

Eddie bit his lip to prevent more tears from flowing out. “I can't do this alone.”

 

“And you're not. You're not in this alone at all. I'm gonna be there with you every step of the way. There's no way in hell I’m going to let you raise a child all on your own. I'm here for you.”

 

Eddie let out a watery laugh. “Oh no, my kid’s gonna be making mom jokes the moment they start speaking.”

 

Richie grinned broadly. “Your kid's gonna be the greatest comedian of all time, mark my words, Kaspbrak.”

 

Eddie placed his hands on top of Richie's which were still cupping his face. “Thank you, Rich. For everything. There's no way I can do this without you.”

 

“Hey. I'm not leaving you, ever. We're in this together.” He ran a thumb across his cheek before standing up. “Now come on, you still need to learn how to put a diaper on a baby.”


 

FEBRUARY 2004

 

“There’s nothing visibly wrong with Polly.”

 

“But she sneezed this morning!”

 

Eddie sighed and rubbed his temples. “I’m sure it was just the dust in the air.”

 

The dust?!” The woman in front of him shrieked and her daughter quivered. It reminded him of his childhood. In that moment, he instantly empathized with both the girl and every doctor who had to deal with his mother.

 

“Mrs. King, there’s nothing we can do right now, putting her on medication is redundant.”

 

The woman started bawling. “What if she’s dying?”

 

He took a deep breath. He tried to be as patient with the woman as possible. “Mrs. King, I’m sure Polly isn’t dying.” His pager beeped, and he was thankful for the interruption. “Look, how about you keep her under observation for a day or two, see if she gets worse. Is that alright?”

 

The woman huffed and didn’t look satisfied one bit. She opened her mouth to argue but his pager beeped again, interrupting her. He gave her a fake, but reassuring smile. “Trust me, Mrs. King. She’s alright.”

 

He bent down and ruffled Polly’s hair. “You’re gonna be fine, kiddo.”

 

She smiled apprehensively and clutched her doll tightly. “Thank you, doctor.”

 

Eddie’s pager beeped again and he almost groaned out loud. “I’m sorry, Ma’am, but I really have to take this. I’ll send in a nurse to help you out with the paperwork.”

 

The woman grumbled in response and Eddie resisted the urge to roll his eyes. He quickly left his office and told one of the nurses to help out his patient. His pager continued beeping so he ran down to the main desk.

 

“Jesus Christ, this’d better be good,” he muttered to himself. As soon as he reached the main desk, the attendant’s face lit up.

 

“Ah, Dr. Kaspbrak, you’re here! This man will not stop pestering me about your whereabouts.”

 

Eddie turned to see a young man with blonde hair and a concerned expression sitting in the waiting area, bouncing his leg.

 

“Josh?”

 

The man looked up and heaved a sigh of relief. “Oh, Eddie, thank god you’re here!”

 

“Is everything alright?”

 

“It’s Myra. She… her water broke. She’s gone into labour.”

 

Eddie felt his stomach drop. Josh was babbling something but Eddie couldn’t hear him. He could only hear his heartbeat in his ears. His head spun. His chest clenched. His breathing got heavier. He took out his aspirator from his pocket and took a few puffs. He felt someone shake his shoulders and call out his name.

 

“Eddie!”

 

He looked up to see Josh giving him a concerned look. “Are you okay?”

 

He gulped and nodded. “‘M fine. Where’s Myra?”

 

“Room 403. They won’t let me in because I’m not the father, but I thought you’d wanna witness the birth of your kid.”

 

Eddie nodded and squeezed Josh’s hand. “Come with me, I’ll get you in.”

 

The two of them headed to the elevator. After what felt like hours, it finally came and Eddie pushed himself in before it was fully open. He hit the button to the fourth floor multiple times, grumblin under his breath. “Come on, come on!”

 

Josh placed a hand on his shoulder gingerly. “Eddie.” His voice was calm. “Destroying the button is not going to make it go any faster.”

 

Eddie nodded and leaned against the wall of the elevator. He ran his fingers through his hair. “It’s finally happening, and I’m freaking out. Oh my god.” He took another puff of his inhaler.

 

Josh gave him a thin lipped smile. “I don’t know you very well, but I think you’ll be a great dad.”

 

He said it with such conviction that Eddie believed him.

 

The elevator opened and Eddie didn’t waste any time in rushing to Myra’s room. He slammed the door open to see Myra on the bed, covered in a layer of sweat, her legs spread open, and a doctor kneeling in front of her. She was panting.

 

“Is the child out yet?” Eddie asked, pulling on a paper apron.

 

One of the nurses shook her head and looked at Josh, unsure. “Uh, Dr. Kaspbrak, he isn’t allowed to be here.”

 

Eddie tossed him an apron. “He’s staying.”

 

“But it’s against protocol-”

 

“I don’t give a shit about protocol! He’s not going anywhere.” He  went to Myra’s side and patted her shoulder. “How are you doing, Myra?”

 

She wrinkled her nose in disgust. “This child has to be yours, he’s putting me through so much pain!”

 

The nurses exchanged uneasy glances. Josh squeezed Myra’s hand. “Not now, sweetheart.”

 

Myra opened her mouth to argue, but she screamed in agony instead. The doctor grinned. “I can see the head!”

 

Myra continued screaming and grunting. The doctor kept sending encouragements her way. “Wonderful, Miss Chase, you’re doing great!”

 

Josh pushed some hair out of her eyes. “You’re doing amazing, baby.”

 

She wailed loudly. “Aaarghhhhhhh!!! Get out already!”

 

Everyone in the room was yelling.

 

“You’re doing great! Wonderful!”

 

“Push, Myra, push!”

 

“Just a little further!”

 

“We’re so close!”

 

“C’mon, baby, you can do it! One last push!”

 

Myra screamed on the top of her lungs, and the room was filled with sounds of a baby crying. The doctor and nurses cheered.

 

“It’s a girl!” The doctor removed a fluid covered baby from in between Myra’s legs. She handed her to one of the nurses who cleaned her and wrapped her in a blanket.

 

Myra was panting and sobbing. Josh was stroking her hair and muttering compliments in her ear. The nurse turned to her. “Would you like to hold her?”

 

Myra shook her head. “I’m not her mother.”

 

Before the nurse could ask any questions, Eddie butted in. “I’ll take her, thank you.”

 

He took the blanket covered lump from the nurse and moved to sit down. His daughter was so small in his hands. He rocked her back and forth. “Hi, there,” he said, softly, even though he knew the baby couldn’t understand him. “I’m gonna be your daddy, beautiful.” The baby made a sound and he grinned. His eyes filled up with tears. He was finally a father.

 

*

 

Two hours later, Eddie was standing in front of the window and looking at the small baby with soft chocolate hair, rosy cheeks, and the cutest button nose in existence. She was fast asleep inside the nursery. He smiled at her fondly. He still couldn’t believe she was his.

 

“Eds!”

 

He turned to see Richie running to him. He grinned and practically jumped into his arms.  He wrapped his legs around his waist and buried his face in his neck. “Richie.”

 

Richie rubbed circles on his back and chuckled. “Woah, easy there, Spaghetti Man. As much as love getting frisky with you, this is your workplace.”

 

He pushed himself off him and punched his arm. “Shut up.” He bit his lip. “I would’ve called you earlier, but I was on call, and then with Myra. I’m sorry, Rich.”

 

Richie waved him off. “It’s fine, I get it, you had Dad stuff.” He turned to the nursery. “Now, which one of these ugly bundles is Miss Spaghetti Jr.?”

 

Eddie rolled his eyes. “The one in the yellow blanket.”

 

“There are literally five babies in there wrapped in a yellow blanket.”

 

“Third one in the second row.”

 

Richie spotted her and smiled. “She’s so cute, just like her father.”

 

“She looks like a potato.”

 

He turned to him and feigned shock. “Doctor! Is that anyway to talk about your progeny?”

 

Eddie let out a watery laugh. “She’s perfect. But she’s so small.”

 

“Well, she is your kid, Shortstack.”

 

Eddie punched him again. “I hate you.”

 

Richie wrapped an arm around his waist. “Ah, you love me, Kaspbrak.”

 

Eddie rested his head on his shoulder. Richie placed a soft kiss on his forehead. To anyone else, they looked like a couple. Eddie didn’t mind.

 

“You’re actually a father, Eddie,” said Richie, his voice full of awe.

 

Eddie smiled broadly as a tear rolled down his cheek. “I’m actually a father.”

 

Richie opened his mouth to say something,but Eddie cut him short. “If you make a single joke about me being a Daddy and ruin the moment, I’m gonna cut your balls off.”

 

He felt Richie smile into his hair. “For what it’s worth, you’re gonna be a great Daddy.”

 

Eddie sighed and leaned into his arms further. They stood together, watching his daughter sleep peacefully. “Do you want to hold her?” asked Eddie, breaking the silence.

 

Richie turned to him, completely surprised. He was definitely not expecting that. “You want me to hold a two hour old baby?”

 

Eddie nodded.

 

“Aren’t you afraid I’ll drop her?”

 

Eddie rolled his eyes. “You’re almost twenty-eight, Rich. Believe it or not, you’re not as much of a klutz as you were when you were twelve.”

 

Richie grinned broadly. He grabbed Eddie’s hand and led him to the nursery. After some persuasion (and some flirting on Richie’s part), the nurse finally let them in. Richie looked over at the sleeping bundle and cooed. “Oh, she’s so precious, Eds.”

 

Eddie smiled softly as Richie took her in his arms. He blabbered nonsense and rocked her slowly in his arms. He was filled with warmth as he watched Richie’s eyes light up when she made a soft sound. Watching Richie with his newborn baby made him feel fuzzy all over.

 

“You’re such a cutie, Pumpkin,” said Richie to the baby, “ayy, the cutest I e’er saw!” The baby whined at his accent.

 

Eddie laughed. “Looks like she already hates your voices, Trashmouth.”

 

Richie grinned. “Just you watch, Eds, she’s gonna love me more than you.” He booped her tiny nose. “You love Uncle Rich, don’t ya, little Miss Edsie. I don’t know your name, so that’s what I’m going to call you, Pumpkin.”

 

“Maggie.”

 

Richie looked up at him. “What?”

 

“Maggie,” Eddie repeated. “Her name is Maggie.”

 

Richie smiled softly as tears streamed down his face. “Oh, Eddie.” He looked down at Maggie again. “Mags would love her if she were here.”

 

Eddie squeezed his elbow. “I’m sure she does, wherever she is.”

 

Still holding the baby carefully, Richie bent down and placed a soft kiss on her forehead. “I love you, Maggie Kaspbrak.”

 

Eddie wrapped his arms around Richie’s waist from behind and rested his chin on his shoulder. He was crying as well. This was his new family, and he wouldn’t have it any other way.


 

JUNE 2004

 

There was a loud knock on the door and Eddie grumbled. He'd just managed to put Maggie to sleep, and the noise had woken her up again. She started crying.

 

“I'll get it!” Richie put the lasagna in the oven and threw off his apron to answer the door as Eddie rocked his daughter’s cradle.

 

“Shh, it's okay, sweetie,” he cooed. The loud laugh from the direction of the front door made him glare at the source. When he realised who it was, the crinkles on his forehead disappeared, and he grinned broadly.

 

“Mike!” he whisper-yelled, so as to not make Maggie cry again.

 

Mike grinned at him and kneeled in front of the cradle. “Oh my god,” he whispered.

 

“Ain't she a beaut?” Richie said in his normal tone, which was pretty loud.

 

“Shh!” said Mike and Eddie at the same time.

 

Richie frowned. “Alright, alright. I'll shut up.”

 

Eddie looked at him apologetically. “Just be softer, yeah?”

 

Richie nodded. “I'll make sure the others are quiet when they come.”

 

Eddie smiled at him fondly. “You're the best.”

 

The other Losers had all flown down to Cali to meet Eddie's daughter, and Mike had been the first to arrive. Bill was next, looking confident as ever. His stutter was practically nonexistent. Bev and Ben came after him, soon followed by Stan and his wife, Patty. The Losers loved Patty, she was great and fit into the group perfectly.

 

They ate lunch while Maggie slept, catching up on everyone's life. Bev had just released the new collection to her fashion line, and Ben had been included on Forbes’ 30 under 30 list. Bill had published his second horror novel. Stan had been promoted at his job, making him one of the head accountants. Mike had started helping out at Derry Public Library, and was running for Mayor. Richie'd started filming his episode of SNL, and Eddie, well, Eddie was busy raising Baby Mags.

 

“So, Eddie,” said Patty, “how's fatherhood treating you?”

 

He sighed. “It's exhausting, but it's also amazing. I love her so much.”

 

“She's beautiful,” said Ben.

 

Eddie smiled warmly. “Yeah, she is.”

 

All the Losers took turns in rocking Maggie in her cradle, and playing with her once she woke up. She took a liking to Patty and Bill, being around them the most. She'd cry whenever Patty wasn't holding her, or when Bill wasn't singing to her.

 

Eddie leaned against the kitchen island and watched as Patty played with her, making her giggle. Stan came and stood next to him.

 

“She's great with kids,” said Eddie.

 

Stan blushed. “She's great at everything. She's perfect.” He turned to Eddie. “How is it? Being a dad?”

 

Eddie gazed off in the distance as a warm look came over his face. “It's amazing, really. It's gross and tiring, I'm not gonna lie, but all the puke, dirty diapers, sleepless nights, it's all worth it.”

 

“Do you ever wish you put her up for adoption?”

 

“Never. She's the best thing to happen to me.”

 

“Apart from Richie,” Stan smirked.

 

Eddie felt his cheeks heat up. “Shut up, Stanley. That's high school news.”

 

“He’s great with your kid though.”

 

Eddie looked at Richie, who was saying something in one of his ridiculous voices and making Maggie laugh. It warmed his heart. “He really is. There's no way I could do this without him.”

 

Stan squeezed his shoulder. “You're great parents.”

 

Eddie looked down and blushed. The thought of him and Richie together as parents made him feel giddy. “He's seeing someone, Stan.”

 

Stan scoffed. “We both know that's not going to last.”

 

“They've been together for a year now.”

 

Even Stan was surprised at that. “That's… so not Richie-like.”

 

He shrugged. “They're good together. She makes him happy. And if he's happy, I'm happy.”

 

“You make him happy as well, you know.”

 

“I know.”

 

Stan smiled at him sadly. “It'll work out, Eddie.”

 

Eddie continued watching Richie play with her, but didn't say anything.

 

Stan sighed. “Well, in other news, Patty’s pregnant.”

 

Eddie turned to look at him so quickly that he almost gave himself whiplash. “Seriously?”

 

“Yeah. Three months. It's a boy. We plan on calling him Georgie.”

 

Eddie smiled broadly and wrapped him in a hug. “I'm so happy for you, Stan!”

 

Stan patted his shoulder and laughed. “Thanks, Ed.”

 

Richie's voice from the living room made them pull apart. “Alright, Losers! My Pumpkin needs her beauty sleep.”

 

Eddie looked to see her dozing off on Bill’s shoulder. “C’mon,” he said, “I'll help you put her to sleep.”

 

They went into Eddie's bedroom and tucked her in the cot.

 

“She's amazing,” said Bill, letting her tiny hand wrap around his finger. “You're really lucky.”

 

Eddie couldn't stop smiling. “I know. I just love her so much.”

 

Bill grinned. “She's easy to love.”

 

Eddie looked at him gazing at his daughter with adoration.

 

“Hey, Bill?”

 

“Yeah?”

 

“Would… would you like to be her godfather?”

 

Bill looked at him with tears in his eyes. “You- you want me to…”

 

Eddie nodded furiously. Bill grinned and wrapped him in a bone-crushing hug. “Of course, Eddie! I would love to!”

 

Eddie mirrored his expression. “Thank you, Big Bill.”

 

The two exchanged another embrace and then joined the other Losers outside. They chatted a little more, Stan told the others about Patty’s pregnancy, and everyone congratulated the lovely couple. Bill cried when Stan told him their unborn son’s name. The Losers had a few drinks and played a few games.

 

In the middle, Eddie went inside to check on his daughter. She was fast asleep.

 

Someone came in behind him and wrapped their arms around him.

 

“She looks like an angel,” Bev murmured in his ear.

 

Eddie chuckled. “Well, with Richie around, she's probably gonna be the opposite.” He turned to the red head. “You guys done with the game?”

 

“We’re taking a break. The sexual tension between Bill and Mike was getting a little too much.” She kneeled down next to the cot and stroked Maggie’s arm through the bars. She stirred in her sleep.

 

Eddie picked her up and handed her to Bev, who rocked her gently. “Oh, aren't you a precious little thing, Maggie Kaspbrak.”

 

Eddie bit his lip. “Maggie Beverly Kaspbrak.”

 

Bev looked up at him as tears pooled in her eyes. “Really?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

She kissed Eddie's cheek. “Eddie, thank you so much, I'm honoured.”

 

Eddie chuckled. “So is Maggie, she is named after one of the most badass women I know.”

 

Bev laughed and put Maggie back in her cot. She brushed her brown hair off her forehead. “Maggie is one lucky girl. She has the coolest dad, and the best aunts and uncles anyone can ask for. She's gonna have a great time.”

 

Eddie smiled broadly at that. Maggie had the best family, and he couldn't be happier.


 

OCTOBER 2004

 

Eddie woke up to the sound of a baby crying. He groaned and trudged out of bed. He walked to the cot and lifted his wailing daughter into his arms.

 

“Shh, baby, don’t cry,” he said, rocking her back and forth. He put the pacifier in her mouth, but it didn't help. She continued crying. He touched her forehead. She was slightly warm. Instantly he was filled with dread.

 

“Oh no, oh no!” He blinked the tears away and sat down on the bed, his knee twitching.

 

“Eds?”

 

Richie was standing at his door, rubbing his bleary eyes under his glasses. He’d come home late the previous night, and Eddie felt horrible for waking him up.

 

“Oh, shit, Richie, I’m so sorry.”

 

Richie waved him off. “Here, let me.” He took Maggie from Eddie and cradled her in his arms. He sang softly.

 

Hush, little baby, don’t say a word,

Papa’s gonna buy you a mockingbird,

And if that mockingbird don’t sing,

Papa’s gonna buy you a diamond ring

 

Eddie watched as Richie’s soothing voice calmed his daughter, and her wails turned to soft sniffles. Richie was so good with her, he was practically a baby-whisperer.

 

And if that horse and cart fall down,

You’ll still be the sweetest baby in town

 

By the time Richie was done with the song, Maggie was fast asleep in his arms. Eddie sighed as he placed her back in the cot. “Thank you, Rich. I’m so sorry she woke you up.”

 

Richie yawned. “It’s not your fault, Eds. Babies are loud.”

 

Eddie stroked his daughter’s face with his finger. “Does she seem warm to you?”

 

Richie touched her forehead with the back of his palm and shrugged. “Well, I mean, she’s slightly warm, but it’s not much.”

 

Eddie ran to the bathroom and pulled out the first aid kit. He pulled out a thermometer and cleaned the tip with some rubbing alcohol and water. He went back in the bedroom and slowly placed the thermometer under her arm. Richie was watching him intently. “Eddie, I don’t think that’s necessary.”

 

Eddie shook his head. “Better safe than sorry.”

 

Richie sighed and stood behind him, one hand on his shoulder. Eddie chewed on his lip nervously as he waited for the beep of the thermometer. After a minute, it beeped and he removed it from under her arm. His lungs squeezed as he saw the reading.

 

“Oh, fuck.”

 

Richie peered over his shoulder. “What is it?”

 

“It’s 98.1.”

 

“So?”

 

“It’s .6 degrees higher than normal!”

 

“I’m sure that’s not something to worry about.”

 

“It’s the beginning stages of a fever, Richie!” He pulled on his hair and paced around the room. “She’s gonna be sick!”

 

“Eddie, there’s nothing to-”

 

“Oh my god, this is because she was never breastfed! She didn’t get any of the natural antibodies present in breastmilk! Her immune system’s so weak!”

 

“Eddie…”

 

“She’s so fragile, so weak, I need to put her on acetominophen, or ibuprofen, it’s stronger, and maybe even-”

 

“Eddie!”

 

He turned to Richie, who was staring at him, exasperated. The look in his eyes was enough to tell him exactly how he was behaving.

 

Eddie ran his fingers through his hair, and sank down to the floor. “Oh my god, I sound just like her.” He looked up at Richie with tear-brimmed eyes. “Richie, I’m turning into her.”

 

Richie crouched down in front of him and shook his shoulders. “No, you’re not. You’re never going to be like her.”

 

“Were you even listening to me?! I panicked and immediately started thinking about the drugs I should give her! I called her weak! Fragile!” He sobbed into his knees. “I’m no different than my mom.”

 

Richie sighed and squeezed his shoulders. “Eddie, you’re nothing like her, you’re the exact opposite of her. You’re just scared right now because it’s the first time something like this has happened to Baby Mags.”

 

Eddie sniffed and wiped his cheeks. “I’m so fucking scared, Rich. I don’t know what to do.”

 

“Well, you’re a paediatrician. What would you do if Maggie was a patient?”

 

He choked out a laugh. “I’d roll my eyes at her parents for bringing her in when her temperature’s not high.”

 

“See? You know there’s nothing wrong. What else would you do?”

 

“I’d tell her parents to keep her under observation. I’d make sure she stays hydrated. If the fever exceeds 100.4 degrees, I’d put her on ibuprofen. That would help reduce the fever.”

 

“That’s good. So, what’s the first thing we need to do?”

 

Eddie stood up and walked to the cot. He made sure Maggie was not covered with too many blankets. “We shouldn’t keep her bundled up. We’ll have to observe her for a few hours, see if the fever rises.”

 

“Perfect. Should I take the first watch?”

 

Eddie shook his head. “You go back to bed, I’ll look after her.”

 

Richie nodded and squeezed his arm. “Alright, wake me up if you need anything.”

 

Just as he was about to leave, Eddie called out to him. “Hey, Rich?”

 

He had one hand on the handle. “Mhm?”

 

“Thank you, for everything.”

 

Richie smiled at him softly. “Anytime, Eds. We’re in this together, remember?”

 

And yeah, they were.


 

JANUARY 2005

 

Eddie came home exhausted as usual. Being a doctor was not an easy. It involved long hours and complete commitment. Sometimes he wishes he'd just become a chauffeur or a mechanic instead, but then he spends time with the kids at the hospital and he's reminded why he loves his job so much. He loves being around kids, especially the angel at home.

 

He entered the living room to see Richie and Maggie on the floor, playing with her toys, and Sandy in the kitchen, making coffee.

 

“Eds!” Richie yelled, and Maggie giggled.

 

Eddie rolled his eyes. “Don't call me that.” He put his briefcase down and went into the kitchen.

 

“Hey, Sandy,” he said, grabbing Maggie’s milk bottle and filling it up. She gave him a thin lipped smile. He liked her well enough, she was good to Richie and she loved him, that's all that mattered. But she was still a little uneasy around him, especially after Maggie’s birth. She knew Richie would probably pick them over her, and it made her insecure. Eddie didn't blame her though, he would be too if he was in her place.

 

“How was work?” she asked.

 

“It was good. How's your album coming along?”

 

Sandy was a part of an all-girl rock group that had been signed to a record label a couple of months ago. Richie had helped with that, he knew the CEO of the label through his SNL gig. “It's great. We've only got a couple more songs left to record.”

 

“That's good.”

 

They walked out to the living room to where Richie and Maggie were. Richie was impersonating Scooby-Doo, and Maggie was giggling uncontrollably.

 

“Ruh-oh,” he said, “rook who's here!”

 

Eddie shot him an amused look and pulled Maggie into his lap. He put the bottle to her lips and she drank some of the milk. “Hi, Baby Mags, is Uncle Richie bothering you?”

 

Richie pouted and Maggie poked his lips. She made a satisfied sound when he smiled again.

 

“Aww,” said Sandy, pulling out a video camera from her purse, “you're so good with her.”

 

Richie winked at her. “I'm Daddy material, Candy.”

 

Sandy wrinkled her nose. “Gross, never say stuff like that in front of a kid ever again. And you know that nickname sucks.”

 

“Ah, please you all love my nicknames.”

 

“No, we don't,” said Eddie, earning a high five from Sandy.

 

“Whatever. Pumpkin likes them, doesn't she?” He booped Maggie on the nose, making her jump slightly in Eddie's arms, before smiling broadly.

 

Sandy cooed and began filming. Eddie smiled at his daughter warmly. She was the light of his life.

 

“You like that?” asked Richie, before booping her again. She giggled gleefully. She turned to Eddie and booped his nose with her tiny finger.

 

“Eds.”

 

Everyone in the room went still.

 

“Holy shit.” Sandy was the first one to break the silence. “Was that her first word?”

 

Richie laughed loudly. “Of course that's her first word! I'm an amazing influence on her!”

 

“You're a terrible influence,” said Eddie, but he was grinning broadly, and Maggie was happy to see her dad happy.

 

She smacked his nose lightly. “Eds,” she said again, in that soft, angelic voice of hers. “Da-da.”

 

Eddie was filled with so much warmth. “Yes,” he said, nodding, “I'm Eds, I'm your da-da.”

 

Maggie laughed again, and this time, Eddie joined in too. He was so caught up in his daughter that he missed the heart-eyes Richie was giving him, but Sandy definitely got that on tape.

 

Maggie turned to Richie and made grabby hands at him.

 

“Aww, Pumpkin wants Uncle Rich?” He took her from Eddie into his arms. She poked his glasses and tried to get them off his face, but her hands were too small.

 

Richie chuckled and removed them, placing them on the coffee table. “You're just a blob now, Pumpkin.”

 

She tilted her head to the side, like she didn't understand what he was saying. She tried grabbing his face, but her hands were so tiny, it felt like he was being punched lightly.

 

“Wow, this one’s a fighter,” said Sandy.

 

Maggie stuck her tongue out at Richie and he grinned. “I have raised you well!”

 

“Maggie!” Eddie cried, and then he punched Richie's arm. “Richie! Stop teaching my daughter bad manners!”

 

Richie just laughed, and Maggie poked his smile. “Chee.”

 

The smile was quickly wiped off his face. “Wow.”

 

“Aww, that's such a cute name!”

 

Eddie was blushing furiously. He used to call Richie ‘Chee’ when they were younger, and it used to make him putty. He hadn't used that nickname in a while, at least not to his face. He was guilty of sometimes referring to Richie as ‘Uncle Chee’ in front of Maggie when he wasn't around, and that's probably how she picked up on it.

 

“Haven't heard that in a while,” said Richie, looking directly at Eddie. His cheeks heated up more and he looked away. He needed something to cut through the tension.

 

Thankfully, Maggie poked Richie's face again. “Chee.” She then poked Eddie's cheek. “Eds.”

 

“Chee and Eds,” said Sandy. She was smiling, but her tone was slightly bitter.

 

Eddie gulped. “Yes, Maggie. Chee and Eds.”

 

Maggie smiled broadly. Richie stroked her hair fondly. “Mags, Chee, and Eds, we're the perfect family.” He placed a gentle kiss on her forehead, and she sighed softly. She yawned and rested her head on his shoulder.

 

Richie stood up. “I should probably put her to bed.” He walked to the bedroom leaving Sandy and Eddie alone.

 

“Her first three words were Eds, da-da, and Chee.”

 

Eddie looked up at Sandy, but she was fiddling with the cam recorder.

 

“It speaks a lot about your dynamics.”

 

“Sandy…”

 

“I get it, Eddie,” she said, shaking her head, “he'll do anything for his friends. It's one of the many things I love about him.”

 

“He loves you.”

 

She smiled sadly. “He'll always love you more.”

 

Eddie didn't know how to respond to that, so he settled for playing with the lint on the carpet. He heard Sandy sigh softly, but he couldn't make himself look at her.

 

Richie came into the room, bouncing on his feet.

 

“She's out like sleeping beauty.” He wrapped his arms around Sandy and kissed her full on the mouth. “Let's head back to your place, wouldn't wanna wake Baby Mags up.”

 

Eddie began gathering all of Maggie’s toys to keep himself busy. He didn't want to seem awkward.

 

“Bye, Eddie,” came Sandy’s soft voice. He looked up to wave them goodbye.

 

“Don't wait up for me,” said Richie, “and call if you need anything.”

 

Eddie nodded. He watched them leave with a tinge of sadness in his heart. Maybe Richie did love him more, but he'd never be his, and that was the sad truth.


 

FEBRUARY 2005

 

Richie unlocked the front door looking like he'd just rolled out of bed. He sauntered into the kitchen. Eddie looked up from where he was frying bacon.

 

“Hey, Rich, how was your night?”

 

“Amazing, as always.” He smacked a wet kiss on Eddie's cheek, making him squirm.

 

“But,” continued Richie, “I had to leave the missus early.” He lifted Maggie off the booster seat. “It's my favourite girl’s birthday!” He blew a raspberry on her stomach, making her giggle.

 

“Chee!”

 

Maggie had started talking a little more, a few broken words here and there, but Chee seemed to be her favourite. She'd use it all the time.

 

Richie peppered gentle kisses all over her face. “Happy birthday, Pumpkin!”

 

Maggie clapped and laughed along with him. Eddie smiled and ruffled her hair. “My girl is one year old today!”

 

Maggie raised one finger, and Richie nodded. “Yes, Baby Mags, one!”

 

She pointed to herself. “One?”

 

Both men nodded excitedly. She grinned, satisfied. Richie, who'd been holding her on his hip the whole time, put her back down in his seat. He grabbed a piece of bacon from the pan and Eddie smacked his head.

 

“Take it in a plate, Richie!”

 

“No violence in front of the kids, Spaghetti Man!”

 

Eddie grumbled turned back to the stove. He could hear Richie and Maggie playing a game of peekaboo behind him, and he smiled to himself. He was glad he'd taken the day off, or he would've missed this.

 

He served Richie a plate of toast and bacon, and made one for himself as well. He'd already fed Maggie her breakfast. She was playing with her favourite toy, a stuffed dolphin. Richie and Eddie watched her fondly.

 

“It's hard to believe it's already been a year,” said Eddie, wistfully.

 

Richie nudged him with his shoulder. “You've been a father for a year, Eds. How does it feel?”

 

“Just as hard as it was the first day. I don't think I'm ever gonna get used to it.”

 

“Maybe that's a good thing. Everyday with her is a new experience. It's always a new feeling. Why'd you want to get used to that?”

 

Eddie smiled at him. “Yeah. She's the best thing to happen to me, Richie. She's been in my life for a year, but god, she's managed to change it so much. I don't think I ever want to let go of her. Honestly, keeping her was the best decision I made.”

 

Richie wiped his cheeks. “Why're you crying, baby?” he muttered. Eddie didn't even know he'd started crying.

 

He shook his head and wiped them. “Happy tears.”

 

Richie smiled fondly and wrapped him in a hug. “She's the best thing to happen to me too. Thank you for letting me be a part of her life.”

 

“There's no way you weren't gonna be in her life. If it wasn't for you, I'd have never made it this far. I should be thanking you.”

 

Richie wiggled his eyebrows. “I can think of a few ways.”

 

Eddie rolled his eyes. “You're a taken man, Richard.”

 

“Why do you assume I was talking about sex?”

 

“Everything with you is about sex.”

 

“Fair point.”

 

Maggie was looking at them strangely. Eddie sighed. “Don't worry, kiddo. We'll have this conversation in ten years or so.”

 

Maggie just shrugged and went back to playing with her dolphin. The two men finished their meals and put the dishes in the sink.

 

“So,” said Eddie, “you wanna open your gifts?”

 

Maggie nodded and clapped. Eddie carried her on his hip into the living room. He pulled out his gift from the cupboard.

 

“Ha! Mine's bigger!” said Richie, smugly.

 

Eddie rolled his eyes. “Whatever, Trashmouth. She'll love mine more.”

 

Richie grabbed his keys. “Well, mine's still in my car, so you've gotta wait.”

 

Eddie and Maggie waited patiently for Richie to return. He came back up in five minutes with a big bundle wrapped in green paper..

 

Eddie gulped. “What’s that?”

 

He smirked. “Only the best gift for my Pumpkin!”

 

He put the present down in front of Maggie. She immediately reached for it and ripped off the wrapping paper, with help from Eddie. She giggled when she saw the gift. It was a large dolphin-shaped pillow. She wrapped her tiny arms around it and smiled contentedly. “Thank, Chee.”

 

Richie placed a soft kiss on her arm. “Anything for you, Pumpkin. You want to open Daddy’s gift?”

 

Maggie nodded happily and reached for Eddie’s present. He’d got her a couple of new onesies, a new blanket, and a set of building blocks that weren’t small enough for her to swallow. She clapped gleefully and made grabby hands for Eddie. He pulled her onto his lap, and hugged him around his neck.

 

“Thank, Da-da,” she whispered.

 

Eddie brought one hand up to cup her head gently and smiled into her haid. “Happy birthday, angel.”

 

Richie joined the hug as well, such that Eddie’s back was flush against his chest, and his limbs were wrapped around both of them. He placed a soft kiss behind Eddie’s ear. “I love you,” he muttered, not loud enough for Maggie to hear, “I love you both more than anything.”

 

Eddie settled in arms and sighed. “I love you, too, Rich. We both do.” He’d never said anything truer.


 

 APRIL 2005

 

Eddie’s shift at the hospital got over earlier than expected, so he decided to stop at the toy store on the way back. Maggie already had way too many toys, but Eddie loved spoiling his little girl. Maggie loved playing with the building blocks he’d got her for her birthday, he decided to pick up another set in a rainbow colour scheme. As he reached for it, another hand grabbed it first. He turned to glare at whoever it was, but the expression was wiped off when he saw the man.

 

He was tall, with sandy hair and green eyes, dimples and chiseled jaw. He smiled at Eddie sheepishly.

 

“I’m sorry,” he said. His voice was warm and pleasant. “It’s my nephew’s birthday, and he really loves these.”

 

Normally, Eddie would’ve argued with all the gay rage pent up in him, but this stranger was really attractive, and his libido took over. “Uh, no, it’s fine, you can have it.” He gave the man his best smile, which, according to Richie, would make even the straightest men weak in the knees. It seemed to work on this guy as well.

 

He looked Eddie up and down and licked his lips. “I’ll tell you what, let me make it up to you.” He stuck his hand out. “I’m Chris, let me take you out to dinner.”

 

Eddie cocked an eyebrow. That was straightforward. He considered the offer for a moment. He hadn’t been with anyone for a long time, and wouldn’t be either, given how well Richie and Sandy’s relationship was going. Besides, one date never hurt anybody. He shook his hand. “Eddie. How does seven sound?”

 

Chris smiled. “Perfect. I’ll meet you outside the toy store?”

 

Eddie nodded shyly. The two exchanged numbers as well, and then Eddie bid him goodbye. There was a slight spring in his step as he headed home. He was genuinely excited for this date with a complete stranger. It was very out-of-character for him.

 

He entered the apartment to find Richie watching Full House reruns, and Maggie playing with her toys at his feet. He swooped down to give her quick kiss on the forehead before settling down next to Richie.

 

“Hey, Rich?” he asked. Richie hummed in response. “You have plans for tonight?”

 

Richie shrugged. “I planned on spending the night with Sands.”

 

Eddie’s shoulders fell. “Oh.”

 

“Why?”

 

“Well, I kinda have a date, but I can cancel since there’s no one to watch Mags.”

 

Richie smacked his arm. “You have a date? With whom?”

 

He feigned nonchalance, but his blush gave him away. “Just this guy I met at the toy store.”

 

“Eddie! You have to go!”

 

“But Mag-”

 

“I’ll cancel with Sands, she’ll get it.”

 

“I don’t want you to do that for me.” He felt guilty. Richie already did so much for him and Maggie, he didn’t want him to flake on his girlfriend for him.

 

“Eds.”

 

“Don’t call me that.”

 

“Look at me.”

 

He turned to see Richie’s lips curled into a small smile, but his eyes were unreadable. “You haven’t been on a date since Maggie was born! You need to go back out there, you’re depriving the world of some of that amazing Spaghetti lovin’.”

 

He scowled. “Shut the fuck up, Richie.” His hand immediately went up to his lips, and he looked down at Maggie, who was completely unbothered.

 

Richie chuckled. “I’m serious. You need to have some fun. Go out on that date. I’ll look after Baby Mags.”

 

He hesitated. “You sure?”

 

Richie grinned. “Of course. A night with my favourite Pumpkin?” He ruffled Maggie’s hair. “What more can I ask for?”

 

Eddie gave in. He spent his evening getting things ready for Maggie, and then for his date. He wanted to make things as easy as possible for Richie.

 

“Okay,” he said at 6:45, “she’s already eaten, so make sure she’s asleep by seven, seven-fifteen at the most. You’ll have to change her diaper before bed. The baby wipes and powder are in-”

 

“Eddie.” Richie cut him off by placing his hands on his shoulders and bending down so that they were at eye level. “I know. I live here too. And I’ve done this before. I’ll be fine.”

 

Eddie took a deep breath and nodded.”Okay. Call me if you need anything, alright?”

 

Richie rolled his eyes and nodded. He smacked Eddie’s butt as he turned around to open the door. “Have fun, Spaghetti Head! Don’t forget to use protection!”

 

Eddie flipped him off and slammed the door in his face.

 

*

 

The date was… disappointing. Sure Chris was nice enough. He seemed like a good man who loved his nephew. He had a stable job that he loved. But he talked too much. Not like Richie. Richie spoke a lot, but Eddie was always a part of the conversation. Chris didn’t make Eddie feel like he was included. He kept talking, and Eddie had to listen. It was frustrating.

 

Another thing that was ticked him off was that Chris wasn’t too eager to know that Eddie was a dad. For some reason, the fact that he had a daughter didn’t sit too well with Chris, and everytime Eddie tried to bring her up, he always changed the topic. And if he didn’t like Maggie, well, then Eddie didn’t like him.

 

He came home feeling a little bummed out that the date sucked and he didn’t get anything out of it. His needs hadn’t been satiated, just like the past sixteen months.

 

Eddie opened the door softly, so as to not wake Maggie, or Richie, if he was sleeping. He heard a quiet voice coming from his bedroom. He tip-toed to the room to see Richie lying on his bed, with Maggie asleep on his lap. He leaned against the doorframe and watched Richie read out a story in his voices to Maggie who was snoring softly. If she had been awake, she’d be laughing uncontrollably. He knew he should be concerned that his daughter wasn’t in her cot, but the sight in front of him was too precious.

 

Richie was reading ‘Goldilocks and the Three Bears’, imitating each of the characters.

 

“”Someone’s been sleeping in my bed!”” he said in a gruff voice. “”Someone’s been sleeping in my bed!”” This time, the voice was in a higher pitch. “”Someone’s been sleeping in my bed, and she’s still here!”” This voice was the highest, and almost childlike.

 

“Goldilocks isn’t the only one asleep,” said Eddie, interrupting Richie and making him jump.

 

“Eds!” he whisper-yelled. “Didn’t hear you come in.”

 

“This is really cute and all,” he said, gesturing to the sight in front of him, “but why isn’t she in her cot?”

 

Richie shrugged. “She wasn’t sleeping properly, so I read her a story.” He looked down at her. “Guess she’s out now.”

 

He put the book down and cradled Maggie in his arms. He set her down in the cot on her dolphin pillow and pulled the blanket over her body. He placed a soft kiss on her forehead. Eddie joined him and stroked her hair.

 

“C’mon,” he said, “we should let her rest.”

 

The two moved to the living room. Eddie sat down on the couch and kicked his feet up on the coffee table. Richie lay down next to him and rested his head in his lap. Eddie slowly carded his fingers through his hair, untangling the curls, making Richie hum in satisfaction.

 

“How was the date?” asked Richie.

 

Eddie looked down at him. His eyes were closed, and he looked so calm. “Not great. He didn’t really want to listen to anything I had to say. Plus he didn’t like Maggie. That’s a dealbreaker.”

 

“I’m guessing you didn’t get any dick then.”

 

Eddie scoffed. “I used to get more dick when I was married to Myra.”

 

“I’m always happy lend a hand. Or a mouth.”

 

Eddie yanked on his curls painfully. “Shut up, Trashmouth. You’re committed.”

 

Richie smirked. “You know that turns me on, Spaghetti Man.”

 

Eddie settled on pinching his neck this time.

 

“Ow! Okay, okay. I get it.”

 

Eddie huffed, satisfied, and continued playing with his curls. “Thank you for looking after Maggie. You’re really good with her.”

 

Richie smiled. “I’m really good with kids.”

 

“That’s true. Have you and Sandy ever thought of having kids?”

 

Richie exhaled. “We have. She’s not too keen on it. She thinks I should get a vasectomy if we ever get married.”

 

“Oh.” Eddie knew that really hurt him. Richie loved children. “Is that why you haven’t asked her to marry you?” Richie opened one eye to look up at him. “I mean, you guys have been together for almost two years. I thought you would’ve popped the question by now.”

 

He heaved a sigh. “That, among other things.”

 

“Like what?”

 

“Marrying her means leaving you and Baby Mags. I don’t think I can do that.”

 

“Richie…”

 

He brought one hand up to link his fingers with Eddie’s. He brought Eddie’s hand to his lips and placed a soft kiss to his knuckles. “You guys are my family. I’ll always pick you first.”

 

“Rich, that’s unfair to Sandy.”

 

“I know. I love her, Eds, god I love her so much, but there are some things that are more important.”

 

Eddie sighed softly. “We’re not going anywhere, you know that, right? Nothing’s gonna change that.”

 

Richie opened his eyes and smiled at him sadly. “Some things will.”

 

He shook his head. “I won’t let them.”

 

Richie looked up at him with so much adoration, all he wanted to do was kiss him. But he couldn’t. Richie wasn’t his.

 

Richie raised the hand that wasn’t in Eddie’s to trace his lips. Eddie closed his eyes at the feeling.

 

“Eddie…”

 

“I know, Rich. Me too.”


 

JULY 2005

 

It was a quiet summer morning. Eddie flipped pancakes in the kitchen while Maggie played with her blocks in the living room. He was humming to himself softly. He stood up on his toes to retrieve the maple syrup from the cupboard. A loud groan from behind him made him fumble, almost dropping the bottle.

 

“Really, Eds? You just had to wear those shorts, didn’t you? And with one of my t-shirts?”

 

Eddie turned around to see Richie rubbing his eye and staring shamelessly at his butt. He wiggled his ass cheekily and winked at him.

 

Richie came up behind him and squeezed his ass. “You little minx,” he said breathily, and bit down on his neck playfully.

 

Eddie blushed furiously and tried not to moan. “Richie!” He shrieked.

 

Richie chuckled and wrapped his arms around his waist, as he waited for him to finish making breakfast. Once Eddie was done, he turned the stove off, and Richie turned them around so that he was the one leaning against the counter, and Eddie’s back was flush against his chest. He rested his chin on Eddie’s head and he sighed in his arms. It was so domestic, it made Eddie feel fuzzy.

 

They watched Baby Mags crawl on the floor to her toy box.

 

“I’m worried about her,” said Eddie, biting his lip.

 

“Why?”

 

“She’s seventeen months and she hasn’t started walking yet. She should have by now.”

 

Richie’s eye roll was evident in his voice. “It’s fine, Eds. She’ll walk when she wants.”

 

Eddie turned around to look at him. “But what if something’s wrong with her?”

 

Richie gave him an amused look. “Nothing’s wrong with her, Dr. Spaghetti-o.”

 

Eddie started rambling. “She could have hypotonia, or hypertonia, it could be either really, or issues with her motor skills. We’ll have to get a neurological exam, maybe put her for physical therapy or something-”

 

“Eddie…”

 

He looked up to see Richie looking at something above his head. He spun around and saw Maggie standing up, using her toy box.

 

“Guess that exam isn’t necessary,” Richie muttered, and grabbed the camera from the mantle top.

 

Eddie approached Maggie and sat down on his knees a small distance from her. He stretched his arms out. “Maggie?”

 

She looked up and waved at him. Eddie called her with her hands. “You wanna come to Daddy?”

 

Slowly, she let go off the box and put one foot in front of the other. She stumbled slightly and Eddie reached out to steady her. When she tried walking again, she stood up straight. She walked rather quickly and in no time she was in her dad’s arms, hugging him tightly. Tears were flowing down his cheeks. Behind him, Richie whooped.

 

“Yeah, Mags! Take those steps!”

 

Maggie laughed. “I walk!”

 

Richie cheered, and Eddie let out a watery laugh. “Yeah, angel, you walk!”

 

She moved out of Eddie’s embrace and practically ran to Richie and wrapped herself around his leg. It was a miracle she didn’t trip.

 

Maggie clung on to Richie’s leg so tightly that he looked like he was ready to burst into tears. He patted her head encouragingly. “You were so great, Pumpkin, you’re a real star.”

 

Eddie looked at them fondly. His heart fluttered.

 

Richie met his eyes and grinned broadly as Maggie latched herself onto his leg. “I don’t she’s ever gonna let me go Eds.”

 

Maggie mumbled something Eddie couldn’t hear, but it made Richie cry happily. He sat down and peppered small kisses all over her.

 

Eddie laughed. “Richie, stop! You’ll smother her!” He crawled over to them and wiped his tears. “What did she tell you?”

 

He smiled at her and brushed her hair off her face. “She called me Papa.”

 

Eddie stilled. For some reason, knowing that his daughter thought of Richie as her father didn’t sit well with him. It wasn’t that he didn’t want Richie to be his daughter’s father, it’s that he wanted it too much. He’d be lying if he said he never thought about how they’d be as actual parents, raising their daughter together. They practically were, and that’s what hurt. Because deep down, he knew it’d never be a reality. He couldn’t cling to that fantasy, because Richie wasn’t going to be around forever. Eventually, he’d get married, settle down, and have kids of his own. Maggie would move down his priority list. He’d move down his priority list. It would break his heart.

 

But seeing the look on Richie’s face, full of joy at being called ‘Papa’, Eddie knew he couldn’t break his heart. So he pushed those feelings away and watched his daughter treat the man he loved as a father. He’d deal with them on another day.


 

OCTOBER 2005

 

“And this has a fully furnished kitchen, with double hung windows and a beautiful view of the city!” The woman said with an overly enthusiastic smile.

 

Eddie was pretty impressed with the house. It was pretty big, close to the beach, about fifteen minutes from Maggie’s daycare, and close to the hospital as well. It had three bedrooms, of which one could be Maggie’s room (she was growing older, she definitely needed a room of her own), and the other could be a guest room. The living room was large and spacious, with big bay windows and a direct view of the sea. He really liked it.

 

He looked at Maggie, who was on his hip. “What do you think, Mags?”

 

She pouted. She was upset that Richie wasn’t with them. Eddie hadn’t told him he was looking at houses. He wanted to get out of Richie’s hair and let him move on with his life. But he wasn’t sure how to bring the topic up. Richie seemed more than content with them living together.

 

“Wan’ Chee,” she said, shaking her head.

 

Eddie sighed. He turned back to the realtor. “How much is the rent?”

 

The woman smile sweetly. “Around $120,000 a month. But the owners are looking for someone to buy it. The starting price is $750,000.”

 

Eddie gulped. He should’ve expected it to be so expensive, it was a beach house in Cali. Still, there was no way he’d be able to afford it on his own. He’d have to get a loan from the bank.

 

He ran his fingers through his hair. “Okay. I- I need some time to think about it.”

 

The woman nodded. “Of course, sir. If there are any changes with the cost, I’ll let you know.”

 

Eddie thanked her and headed for the car. He put Maggie in her booster and drove, his head swimming with thoughts about the finances. He could always look at cheaper apartments in the city, but he wanted Maggie to grow up in the best environment. He really need to figure things out.

 

He dropped Maggie off at the daycare and continued to the hospital. His shift kept him busy, and he barely thought about the house. But by the time he clocked out, the thoughts came back. On his way home, he stopped at the bank and picked up pamphlets relating to loans. He’d go over them in the night.

 

When he got home, Richie was sitting on the couch, his fingers linked together and his chin resting on them. He seemed to be thinking hard about something. He barely acknowledged Eddie.

 

“Richie. Everything okay?”

 

Richie was snapped out of his daze and nodded. “Uh, yeah. Wendy from Sunny Homes called, said something about the owners willing to negotiate. She wants you to call her back.”

 

Eddie perked up. “Oh, that’s great!”

 

“Eddie, why didn’t you tell me you were moving out?” Richie looked so hurt, it broke him.

 

“I- I didn’t want to bother you with it.”

 

“When were you planning on tell me? Once it was all sorted out?”

 

“Kinda, yeah.”

 

Richie gulped and looked down. “Why?”

 

Eddie frowned. “Why what?”

 

“Why do you wanna move out?”

 

“I can’t keep living here, Rich. I can’t keep troubling you like this. Maggie’s keeping you busy as well, I can see how exhausted we’re making you. We’re holding you back.”

 

“You don’t get to decide what you’re doing to me. Did you for once take my feelings into consideration?”

 

Eddie opened and closed his mouth like a goldfish. “I-I-”

 

“No, of course you didn’t! Don’t you get it Eds?” His eyes were filled with tears. “You and Mags… you’re family. If you leave, I’ll have no one left.”

 

“Richie, that’s not true. You have Sandy.”

 

“Sands isn’t even half as important to me as you two. You’re… you’re my world. My whole world.”

 

Eddie wrapped his arms around him. “I’m not going anywhere. We’re still going to be in the same city. We’re still gonna be a part of your life.”

 

Richie shook his head. “It’s not the same thing. Why can’t I come with you?”

 

Eddie looked at him incredulously. “You want to get a place together?”

 

“Look, I know what you’re going to say. You feel like you’re not letting me live my life, but you’re wrong. This is my life. You are my life. Mags is my life. I signed up for this, too. When I said I wasn’t going to let you do this alone, this is what I meant. Maggie’s the closest thing I’ll ever have to a child, and I don’t regret it one bit. I want this, Eddie, I want it all.”

 

Eddie blinked. That’s not what he expected. Or maybe it is. He isn’t sure anymore. But there’s one thing he knows. He doesn’t want it all if its not with Richie. Before he can change his mind, he nods. “Okay, we’ll get a place together.”

 

Richie gave him a small smile. “Thank you, Eds.”

 

Eddie was suddenly reminded of his girlfriend. “What about Sandy? Is she gonna be okay with it?”

 

Richie shrugged. “I’ll talk to her, we’ll figure something out.”

 

Eddie wasn’t too sure if it would end well for the couple, but he kept it to himself. It wasn’t his place to comment.

 

Over the next few days, they sorted out the finances. Richie managed to get the house at a much lesser price through contacts, and with both of them in it together, it was a lot more affordable. They packed up all their belongings and moved into their new home. Maggie was super excited to have her own bedroom, and once everything was baby proofed, they let her spend the afternoon there as they got the rest of the house ready. It took a few hours, but when they were finally done, they collapsed on the couch, completely worn-out.

 

“Can you believe it, Spaghetti? This is the hottest bachelor pad in California.”

 

Eddie chuckled. “I don’t think it really classifies as a bachelor pad, but okay.” He looked out at the waves rolling against the shore. “It’s a great place, though.”

 

Richie leaned his head on his shoulder. “Sands is gonna love this place.”

 

He looked down at him. “I’m guessing everything worked out, then?”

 

“Yeah. I mean, she was a little upset that I never considered moving in with her, and called me the world’s shittiest boyfriend, but I guess I deserved that. But she came around, said something as trivial as this shouldn’t come in the way. Besides, she’s gonna be on tour for the next six months, plus she’ll have to go to Atlanta to record the next album. So living together would be kinda pointless, we’d barely see each other anyway.”

 

“Oh. That makes sense.”

 

Richie closed his eyes and smiled happily. “I love our new home, Eds. Our home. Has a nice ring to it.”

 

Eddie smiled too. “Yeah, I guess it does.”


 APRIL 2006

 

“Maggie, slow down!” Richie chased after her as she ran to the park. Ever since she’d started walking, she’d only got faster, and she was incredibly quick for a two year old. Eddie watched as Richie swooped her into his arms.

 

“You gotta slow down kiddo, or I can’t keep up with you.”

 

Eddie pushed the stroller to them. “Maggie, honey, do you wanna stay in the pram or walk?”

 

“Walk,” she said, quietly.

 

Richie shrugged and put her down. “No running fast, okay?”

 

Maggie nodded and wrapped her hand around his index finger. She tugged him along. “Come, Papa Chee.”

 

That was another thing. Maggie had started calling Richie ‘Papa’ way to often, and it made Eddie a little uncomfortable. At the end of the day, no matter how much he acted like it, he wasn’t her father. They weren’t even together, and that title implied other things. She’d used it in front of Sandy once, and she’d been really upset. Eddie didn’t blame her. Having someone else’s child call your boyfriend ‘Papa’ couldn’t be easy to hear.

 

Maggie dragged Richie along the pathway, stopping to smell flowers growing close to the ground. Everytime she found a flower she’d like, she’d pluck it. Richie would bend down and she’d place it in his curls, giggling softly. Richie looked at her with so much love in his eyes. To anyone else, they really did look like a father-daughter duo.

 

Eddie would be lying if he said he didn’t feel a little insecure. He was so grateful for everything Richie did, but sometimes it felt like Maggie loved him more. He spent a lot more time with her, and he was so good with her. It made Eddie feel inadequate. He pushed those feelings away. He couldn’t be jealous of Richie, he was his best friend. Besides, Maggie was a baby. She couldn’t possibly love one more than the other. He was being irrational.

 

Maggie made grabby hands at Richie, seemingly tired of walking. He scooped her up into his arms. He placed her in the stroller. “You happy, Pumpkin?”

 

Maggie nodded happily. Eddie pushed her along, and Richie fell into step beside him. He intertwined their fingers and whistled a tune softly as they walked. Occasionally, Maggie would point to birds, and Richie would make up ridiculous names for them.

 

“Stan would murder you if he were here,” Eddie chuckled.

 

“Ah, Stan the Man can suck my dick.”

 

“Richie!” Eddie chided, as they got a bunch of dirty looks from angry parents.

 

Maggie let out a sudden whine and pointed to the pond, where there were a bunch of ducks swimming around.

 

“Ah, yes, those motherfuckers. I call them Meanus attackus. They’re mean and attack people.”

 

Eddie smacked him the chest.

 

He looked down at his daughter. “Do you want to see the ducks, Mags?”

 

She clapped excitedly. Richie carried her in his arms and moved closer to the pond. “Be careful!” Eddie called out after them.

 

“Is that your daughter?”

 

Eddie turned to see a woman with blonde hair and blue eyes smiling at him. He nodded. “That’s my girl.”

 

She looked at Richie, who was pointing to the birds and gesturing wildly with his hand, making Maggie laugh. “Your boyfriend’s really good with her.”

 

Eddie blushed furiously. “Oh, he’s n- he’s not my boyfriend.”

 

She winked at him. “It’s fine, I’m accepting.”

 

“No, really. He’s my best friend. He just likes helping around.”

 

She shrugged. “That’s a shame. You two make a really cute couple.”

 

He didn’t know why a stranger’s compliment affected him so much, but it did. Thankfully, Richie called out to him before the woman could ask him anymore questions.

 

“I’m really sorry, I need to go,” he said, before joining Richie and Maggie.

 

“Is it safe to pet the ducks?” asked Richie, as Maggie looked at him with puppy-dog eyes.

 

Eddie shook his head. “Absolutely not. You’re the one who said they’re mean and attack people. Besides,” he pointed to sign next to the pool, “you’re not allowed.”

 

Richie pouted and turned to Maggie. “Sorry, Pumpkin. Daddy says no.”

 

Maggie frowned. “Papa say yes?”

 

Richie shook his head. “Papa also says no. Sorry, sweetie.”

 

Maggie looked a little sad, but she soon got over it. She yawned into Richie’s shoulder and he chuckled and put her back in the pram.

 

“Alright, Pumpkin, time to take a nap.” He covered her in a blanket and placed a soft kiss on her forehead. She smiled contentedly.

 

Eddie thought he might actually combust from how cute Richie was with his daughter. God, he was so screwed.


 

MAY 2007

 

Eddie came home to find Richie furiously typing away on his laptop. He looked up when Eddie entered and grinned.

 

“Ah, Eds! Just the man I wanted to see!”

 

“Don't call me that. What's up?”

 

“Well,” he said, “Maggie's daycare is having this thing, kinda like a talent show, and I figured we should sign her up for it, since she's such a great artist.”

 

It's true, for a three-year-old, Maggie drew really well. “That's great, Rich!”

 

“Oh good, ‘cause I already sent them an email confirming her spot. It's on Friday.”

 

“You sent a confirmation without consulting me?”

 

Richie shrugged. “I figured you wouldn't have a problem with it.”

 

Eddie snapped. “What the hell, Richie?!”

 

“Geez, Eds, take a chill pill. It's not a big deal.”

 

“You're not her real father, Richie! It's not your place to make those kind of decisions!”

 

Richie clenched his jaw. “You're right. I may not be her real father, but at least more of a dad to her than her actual one!”

 

“Richie, that's not fair.”

 

“You're barely ever around, Eddie! I'm always taking care of her! I'm the one who's always there for her!”

 

Eddie's shoulders slumped. “You know how busy I am.”

 

“Look, I get it, okay? Being a doctor is hard. It involves long hours and it's really fucking exhausting. But soon all you're gonna do is bury yourself in your work, ignore her, and she's going to grow up wondering what the hell she did wrong, and by the time you realise how much you've neglected her, it's too late. She's already fucked up.”

 

Eddie stood stunned in silence. He knew exactly where Richie was coming from. Wentworth Tozier had always been a busy man when they were kids. He never really paid much attention to Richie, and although he didn't show it, it really hurt him.

 

“Rich,” he said quietly, “I'm not Went. I'll never do that to her.”

 

Richie rubbed his face. “Bet that's what Went thought when I was born.”

 

“We're not same person. Stop projecting your childhood insecurities on my daughter.” That hit a nerve. Eddie knew exactly how mean he was being.

 

Richie crossed his arms. “Is that what you think I'm doing? Well, since you want everything to be about you, how about this: you're a shit parent.”

 

Eddie felt tears roll down his cheeks. “Take that back.”

 

“No. Congratulations on being Father of the Year, Eddie.”

 

Eddie poked him in the chest. “Take that back, Tozier, or I swear to god I'll-”

 

“You'll what, huh? You'll kick me out? Cut me out of Maggie's life? God knows you wouldn't survive a day without me.”

 

Eddie shoved him. “Shut up!” He yelled.

 

Richie opened his mouth to retaliate but a soft voice from came from behind the banister. “Stop.”

 

Both men turned around to see Maggie standing timidly behind the banister clutching her dolphin. “‘M scared.”

 

Eddie went to her and lifted her in his arms. “Shh, it's okay sweetheart,” he said, rubbing a hand on her back, “let's put you back in bed.”

 

He went up to Maggie's room without looking back at Richie. He tugged her back into bed. She rubbed his cheeks. “Why are you crying, Daddy?”

 

He sniffed and smiled. “It's fine, dear. Don't worry your pretty little head about it.”

 

“Did something happen with Papa Chee?”

 

Eddie nodded. “We… had a fight. We said some pretty mean things to each other.”

 

She pouted. “I don't want Daddy and Papa Chee to fight.”

 

Eddie sighed. “I don't want to either.” He leaned down and kissed her forehead. “But don't you worry about it, just sleep tight.”

 

She nodded and closed her eyes. Eddie watched her for a little while, thinking about everything Richie had told him. He was right. Eddie was barely around. Most days, he came home after Maggie had fallen asleep, and most mornings he was in such a rush that he barely paid attention to his daughter. He truly was a shit parent.

 

He quietly walked down to the kitchen where Richie was washing the dishes. If Richie noticed him, he didn't say anything.

 

Eddie took a deep breath. “You were right.”

 

Richie didn't say anything, so he took that as an invitation to continue. “You're a much better father to her than I am. I'm barely ever around, and even when I am, I don't pay much attention to her. I'm a horrible parent.”

 

Richie sighed and put the plate away. “You're not a horrible parent.” He turned around and crossed his arms. “You're trying your hardest, because you want what's best for her. It's just… I know what this is going to lead to, and I don't want her to go through that.”

 

“I won't let her. I'm gonna be there for her, I promise.” He stepped closer. “I'm sorry I yelled at you. And shoved you.” Richie let out a small laugh. “And I'm sorry I said you're not her real father. Just cause you're not her biological dad doesn't mean you're any less of a parent. You're even better than I am. I guess that's why I snapped. I'm insecure. She loves you more than she loves me. You're the best Papa Chee she could ever have.”

 

Richie pulled him in for a hug. He rested his chin on his head. “She loves us the same amount. She'll never pick me over you, you have nothing to be insecure about. And I'm sorry I compared you to Went and called you a shit parent. I know you've always been worried about that. But you're not. You're an amazing parent. You really do deserve the Father of the Year award. No sarcasm.”

 

Eddie laughed. “So do you.”

 

“Eh, we could share it.”

 

He looked up at Richie. “Maggie's so lucky to have you.”

 

Richie brushed the hair out of his eyes. “She's so lucky to have both of us. She's the luckiest kid. She's got two amazing fathers who're total DILFs.”

 

Eddie smacked his chest lightly. “Shut up.”

 

“What? Am I not a DILF? Cause you definitely are.”

 

He shook his head fondly. “You're a menace.”

 

“I'll take that as a yes.”

 

Eddie buried his face back in his chest. “You're the father she deserves, Rich.”

 

“She deserves you just as much. Don't sell yourself short.”

 

He smiled to himself. The idea of Richie being his daughter’s father didn't make him uncomfortable anymore. If there's anything he learned, it's that even if they weren't together, he was always going to be there for Maggie, and at the end of the day, that's what mattered.


 

JANUARY 2008

 

By the time Eddie parked his car in the driveway, his eyes were struggling to stay closed. He knew there was no way he'd be able to make it up to his bedroom, he'd have to fall asleep on the couch.

 

He walked into the living room to see Richie sprawled on the couch, fast asleep. He groaned internally and then shook his head.

 

“Fuck it,” he muttered to himself, and collapsed right onto Richie.

 

Richie woke up with a quiet “oof!” as Eddie buried his face in his chest.

 

Richie carded his through his hair. “Hi, Eds.”

 

“‘M tired,” he murmured into Richie's t-shirt.

 

“Long shift?”

 

He nodded. He looked up at him, resting his chin on his chest. “Sometimes I feel like I should've become a mechanic instead. Or maybe like a limousine driver or something. At least then I wouldn't be so damn tired all the time. And I'd have more time for Maggie.”

 

“So why don't you quit?”

 

“I worked really hard to get to where I am. I mean, I didn't slog my ass off in med school for nothing. Plus I love my job. It's just exhausting.”

 

Richie hummed. He wrapped one arm around his waist and traced small circles on his back.

 

“How's work for you?” Richie worked as a writer for SNL and starred in a few recurring roles.

 

“It's good. They want me to host another episode in April.”

 

“Rich! That's amazing! I'm so proud of you.”

 

He blushed and looked down bashfully. “Thanks, Eddie. That means a lot.”

 

“Daddy!” Maggie yelled from the top of the staircase. She ran down and jumped onto Eddie's back, making both men groan.

 

“I missed you!”

 

“I missed you too, angel.” He turned his head slightly to look at her.

 

She giggled and began punching his back lightly. It felt really good. “Mmm, thanks, Baby Mags.”

 

She pouted and crossed her arms. “I'm not a baby.”

 

Richie chuckled. “You'll always be a baby, Pumpkin.” He pinched her nose. She booped his in retaliation.

 

“Daddy, why are you sleeping on Papa Chee?”

 

“Because I'm tired,” he mumbled.

 

“Fuck, that sucks.”

 

Eddie glared at Richie. “This is your fault.”

 

He shook his head defensively. “You swear just as much as me!”

 

Eddie rolled his eyes and turned to his daughter. “Don't use those words, Maggie.”

 

“But Papa Chee uses them all the time!”

 

“Ah, fuck.”

 

“Richie!”

 

He shook his head and put it back down on Richie's chest. He closed his eyes as Richie continued playing with his hair.

 

“Daddy, why don't I have a mommy?”

 

Richie's hand stilled in his hair as his eyes shot open. He locked them with Richie's.

 

“You sure you wanna tell her now?” he whispered.

 

Eddie sighed. If he kept postponing the conversation, it would never happen. He turned the best he could without Maggie falling and hitting Richie in the nuts.

 

“Before you were born, I was married to a woman, her name was Myra. But then something happened, and I had to leave her.”

 

“What happened?” asked Maggie.

 

“I, uh, I realised I didn't love her. Not like I'm supposed to. I love men.”

 

“Like Papa Chee?”

 

He blushed hard and spluttered. With the way Richie was shaking, he knew he was trying hard not to laugh. “Oh, yeah, exactly like Papa Chee.”

 

Eddie elbowed him. “Shut up, Rich.” He turned back to Maggie. “Anyway, after I left her, I found out that she was pregnant.”

 

“What's preg-ant?” she asked curiously.

 

“Pregnant,” corrected Richie, “it’s when a woman has a baby growing inside her.”

 

Maggie looked completely horrified at the idea. “Am I preg-ant?”

 

Richie chuckled. “No, Pumpkin, you're not. You'll understand this in a few years, don't worry.” Eddie mentally thanked whatever God was out there for Richie's existence.

 

Maggie didn't look completely satisfied with that answer but she didn't ask anything else.

 

“So Myra,” Eddie continued, “was pregnant with you. But then she decided she…” he trailed off, he didn't know how to put it nicely. Thankfully, Richie came to his rescue.

 

“She realised that Eds loved you so much, that he just had to have you all to himself, and since she was very generous, she let him.”

 

Maggie smiled. “So she's my mommy? She's so nice!”

 

“Erm… she's alright.”

 

Maggie bounced on Eddie's back. “Can I meet her?”

 

Eddie exchanged a look with Richie. “Sweetie, I don't think that's the best idea. Myra doesn't like me very much.”

 

She pouted. “I want a mommy.”

 

Eddie felt his heart shatter. He knew it was an innocent statement, but he still felt horrible. Richie rubbed his arm soothingly. “It's okay, Pumpkin, you're a special kid. You've got two Da-das instead!”

 

She giggled and clapped. “Daddy Eds and Papa Chee! The best Da-das ever!”

 

Maggie bent down, trying to wrap both of them in a hug. Richie laughed and wrapped an arm around her as well.

 

“I love you both,” she said, happily. She kissed both their cheeks before jumping off and rushing to her bedroom.

 

If both men were holding each other and crying, well then, no one had to know.


 

JUNE 2008

 

Eddie looked up from his spot on the couch as Richie came home.

 

“Hey, Richie. You’re home early.”

 

He hummed in response. He toed off his shoes and shrugged off his jacket. He threw it over the arm of the couch and slumped down, rubbing his eyes. Eddie squeezed one of his shoulders.

 

“Tiring day?”

 

Richie didn’t respond, he just continued rubbing his eyes.

 

“I thought you were going out with Sandy.”

 

He threw his head back against the couch and squeezed the bridge of his nose. “We broke up.”

 

Eddie stopped massaging his shoulder. “What happened?”

 

He shrugged. “We drifted apart, I guess. She- she thought I wasn’t giving her enough attention. I think she was right.”

 

“Wow.” He didn’t know what else to say.

 

“We were together for more than five years, can you believe it?”

 

“Who- who broke it off?”

 

“I did. Or maybe we both did. She gave me an impossible decision to make, really.” He sighed heavily. “It was a long time coming. We’ve been on the rocks for the past two and a half years.”

 

That really surprised Eddie. Richie didn’t share much about his relationship, but from what he could see, they looked closer than ever. “I- I’m sorry, Rich. I know how much you loved her.”

 

“Don’t be, Spaghetti Man, it’s… it’s better now.”

 

Eddie rubbed circles on his neck. “Is there anything you need me to do?”

 

Richie looked at him. His blue eyes shown with contemplation, and a little desire. He licked his lips. “Yeah.”

 

Eddie gulped. He knew exactly what Richie wanted. What Richie needed. He took his hand and

lead him upstairs to Richie’s bedroom. He pushed him down onto the bed and straddled his thighs.

 

“You sure about this?” He asked, bringing one hand to Richie’s neck.

 

Richie nudged his nose along his jaw. “Please, Eds, I need you.”

 

Slowly, Eddie leaned down and captured his lips in a bruising kiss. Richie kissed back with the same force, coaxing his mouth open and sliding his tongue in. Even after all these years, kissing Richie made him feel fireworks. He’d never get used to the feeling.

 

The two broke apart for air, leaning their foreheads together, swollen lips brushing against one another.

 

“How do you want to do this?” whispered Richie.

 

Eddie pecked his lips softly and pushed him onto the mattress. “Let me take care of you.”

 

“Are you sure? I know it’s been a long time for-”

 

He put his fingers on his lips. “Trust me, okay.”

 

Richie nodded. He didn’t say anything further as Eddie tugged off his shirt.

 

*

 

Eddie woke up the next morning to an empty bed. Richie was sitting at the window, staring out at the beach, smoking a cigarette. He sat up and rubbed his eyes.

 

“Hey.” Richie smiled at him softly.

 

He smiled back. “How are you?”

 

He shrugged. “It hurts, a little. Getting dicked after five years does that, I guess.”

 

Eddie nodded. He threw the covers off and pulled on his clothes. He could feel Richie’s eyes on him. The air between them was tense and awkward.

 

He stood up and cleared his throat. “Well, I guess I better go wake Mags up.”

 

“Wait.” Richie grabbed his wrist. “Last night was…”

 

Eddie waved him off. “I get it, Rich. Not the first time I’ve been your rebound.”

 

Richie frowned. “Is that what you thought it was?”

 

“Isn’t it always?” He sighed. “Look, I’ve been in love with you for twenty years now, I’m numb to this. If you wanna blow it off, call it a one-time thing, not keep things official, I get it. It’s cool.”

 

“You’ve never just been a rebound, Eddie. You’ve always been more than that. You’re the one I always come back to, because no matter what, I can never love anyone as much as you. That’s- that’s why I broke up with Sandy. We both knew my heart belonged someplace else.”

 

He gulped at the admission. He took Richie’s hand and linked their fingers. “So what do you want to do now? Because I’m sick of us dancing around our feelings.”

 

“I want you, all of you.” He cupped Eddie’s face. “I wanna wake up next to you every morning, and I wanna kiss you goodnight, every night. I wanna take you out on dates to swanky places and I wanna make out with you like all the fucking time. I wanna update my relationship status on Facebook to ‘In a relationship with Edward Kaspbrak’ so that all our friends can finally yell at us for getting our shit together after twenty years. I want you to be mine and I wanna be yours.”

 

Richie took a deep breath and continued. “That’s what I want.”

 

Eddie felt himself tear up. “I want that too.”

 

Richie beamed. He leaned forward and pressed his mouth against Eddie’s. Their lips moved in tandem. The kiss was soft yet passionate, full of love and want. It was twenty years in the making, filled with adoration and meaning of all the kisses they’d shared thus far.

 

Eddie buried his face in Richie’s neck. “I love you,” he whispered.

 

Richie hugged him tightly. “I love you, too.”

 

He looked up at him. “Isn’t it too soon, though? I mean, you broke up with Sandy yesterday.”

 

“Spaghetti, I’ve wanted this since 1988, there’s no way I’m waiting any longer.”

 

He grinned cheekily. “Does this make us boyfriends?”

 

Richie chuckled. “Hell yes. Boyfriends.” It rolled off his tongue so easily.  “I’ll never get tired of saying that.”

 

Eddie wouldn’t either.


 

SEPTEMBER 2008  

 

“Okay, Maggie, you have your bag?”

 

“Yes, Daddy.”

 

“Your lunchbox?”

 

“Yes, Daddy.”

 

“Your water bottle?”

 

“Yes, Daddy.”

 

“Your hand sanitizer?”

 

Maggie rolled her eyes. She was sitting on the kitchen island, swinging her legs. Richie stood next to her, watching his boyfriend fret about amusedly.

 

“Eds, she’s got everything. Stop fretting.”

 

Eddie nodded and smoothened out his shirt. “Right. Okay. Where are my keys?”

 

He looked around the living room, searching for his car keys. Richie lifted his palm, holding them. Eddie grabbed them and helped Maggie down. She ran to the garage as Richie and Eddie followed her. Richie helped her into the booster and then got into the driver’s seat, since Eddie’s hands were shaking too much.

 

The ride was short, mainly filled with excited chattering between Maggie and Richie. Eddie kept bouncing his leg anxiously, and Richie had to squeeze his knee reassuringly. They pulled into the parking lot, and Eddie helped Maggie out. Both men held one of her hands and led her to the building. Once it was time to enter, Eddie crouched down to eye level with his daughter.

 

“Okay, Mags, this is it.”

 

Maggie clapped excitedly. “I’m a big girl!”

 

Richie grinned and ruffled her hair. “Yes, you are, Pumpkin!”

 

“Don’t forget, if you have any problems, what are you supposed to do?” asked Eddie.

 

“Tell Ms. Pearson.” She rattled off a rehearsed answer.

 

“Very good. And Ms. Pearson will call either me or Richie, and we’ll come, okay?”

 

Maggie nodded. Eddie hugged her and kissed her forehead. “Bye, angel. I love you.”

 

She kissed his cheek. “Love you, too, Daddy! I’ll see you!”

 

Richie kneeled down and she gave him a quick hug before running off into the building with all the other kids.

 

“Bye, Mags!” Richie called after her. “Have fun!”

 

Eddie bit his lip nervously. “Should we have gone with her? What if she gets lost?”

 

Richie squeezed his hand. “She’ll be fine, Eds. It’s just her first day of school. Besides, it’s kindergarten. You can’t really get lost.”

 

“I’m just so worried about her.”

 

“I know you are, babe, but it’s gonna be okay. Maggie is a bright kid. She can take care of herself. At least a lot better than I could at that age.”

 

Eddie snorted. “You were a mess on the first day of kindergarten. I remember you tried to eat paper.”

 

He grinned. “Caught your eye, didn’t I, dah-ling?”

 

Eddie shook his hand fondly. “I’ll never know what I saw in you.”

 

Richie wrapped an arm around his waist. “You saw the love of your life.”

 

“Oh, that’s a bold statement.”

 

He grabbed him in a headlock and gave him a noogie. Other parents looked at them strangely.

 

Eddie smiled into his boyfriend’s shoulder. “I can’t believe Maggie’s already in school. I still feel like she was born only yesterday.”

 

Richie kissed his forehead. “Our girl’s growing up so fast.”

 

Our girl. Eddie felt his heart swell twenty times at that. They were still in this together.


 

MARCH 2009

 

“Hey, Daddy?”

 

“Yes, angel?” He looked at her in the rearview mirror. He had the night shift, so he was driving Maggie home from school.

 

“Is Papa Chee my real Papa?”

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“Today, we learned about family in school. Ms. Pearson said everyone has one mommy and one daddy. So I told her I have two Da-das. But she said that was… imp-pos-i-bal?” She said the last word like it was the first time she was saying it.

 

Eddie sighed. “What Ms. Pearson means that only a man and a woman can have a baby. Remember I told you about Myra?”

 

She nodded.

 

“Well, Myra was your biological mommy, and I’m your biological daddy.”

 

“What’s that?”

 

“It’s like…” he cursed silently. If Richie were here, he’d know the easiest way to explain it. “It basically means that Myra and I had you. Richie is just… he’s your Uncle, if we’re being technical.”

 

“So he’s not my Papa?” She looked like she was about to cry.

 

“No! That’s not true at all. He’s still your Papa, even though he’s not biologically related to you.”

 

“But he’s not my real Papa.” She pouted and crossed her arms. “I want him to be my real Papa.”

 

Eddie sighed. “Me too, Baby Mags, me too.”

 

“How can he be my real Papa?”

 

“Well, he’ll have to adopt you legally. That’ll make him your foster parent.”

 

“I don’t know what that means.”

 

“It’s… I’m sorry, sweetie, I don’t know how to explain this in simple words.”

 

She frowned. “I just want him to be my real Papa, make him my real Papa.”

 

Eddie wanted that so much. He really wanted them to be her official parents. He’d have to talk to Richie about it.

 

Once they got home, Maggie ate her lunch and napped. She woke up around four in the afternoon, and Eddie entertained her for a while, until Richie came home. He played with her, and then fed her and tucked her into bed, just as Eddie got ready for his shift.

 

“Hey, babe,” he said, wrapping his arms around his boyfriend’s waist as he left Maggie’s room.

 

“Hey, handsome.” Richie leaned down and placed a soft kiss on his lips.

 

“There’s something I wanna talk to you about,” said Eddie, pulling him to the couch.

 

“What is it?”

 

“Well,” he said, wringing his fingers together, “I was wondering, how would you like to be Maggie’s father?”

 

He raised an eyebrow and smiled, but it was more out of confusion. “I’m sorry, I was under the impression that I already was.”

 

“No, I mean, officially.”

 

“I’m sorry, I’m kinda lost, Eds.”

 

Eddie sighed and grabbed his hands. “Would you like to adopt Maggie? Be her legal guardian? I mean, you’re already listed as her second emergency contact pretty much everywhere, plus we’ve already established that you’re basically her father, and she calls you Papa, so I thought we could just make things official, y’know? I mean, only if you want that. Although I really don’t know why you wouldn’t-”

 

“Yes.” Richie cut him off. He was crying. “Yes, of course I’d love to adopt her!” He wrapped Eddie in a hug.

 

Eddie laughed. “Great. Mags’ is gonna be ecstatic.”

 

Richie peppered kisses all over his face. “Thankyouthankyouthankyouthankyou.”

 

Eddie cupped his face and kissed him on the lips. “There’s no need to thank me, Rich, you were always her father. We’re just making things official.”

 

Richie raised his hand to his lips and kissed his knuckles. “I love you so much, you know that?”

 

He grinned smugly. “I know. You’ve made it pretty obvious.”

 

Richie punched his arm. “Rude, Spaghetti Man. But I forgive you, I know you love me too.”

 

Eddie pretended to think. “Hmm, do I really?” He smiled fondly at Richie’s mock pout. “Yeah, I do.”

 

Richie kissed him again. “You know what this means, don’t you, Eds?”

 

“Don’t you dare fucking say-”

 

“I’m officially a DILF!”

 

“Beep, beep, Richie!”


 

NOVEMBER 2010

 

When Eddie picked Maggie up from school that day, she looked rather upset.

 

“What’s wrong, angel?”

 

She shook her head and crossed her arms. She refused to look at her father.

 

“Sweetie,” he said, brushing her hair out of her eyes. “Did something happen in school?”

 

“Are you and Papa Chee bad people?” She mumbled to the ground.

 

Eddie had an idea as to where this conversation was going. “Who told you that?”

 

“Billy.” She sniffed. “He said boys can’t like boys, and I told him you and Papa Chee love each other. He said that’s wrong and you’re bad people.”

 

Eddie sighed. Ten years into the 21st century and people still couldn’t accept gays. “I’m sorry you had to hear that, angel. Don’t listen to him, he’s wrong.”

 

“He said I’m also a bad person because I’m your daughter.” She was sobbing now. “I don’t want to be a bad person!”

 

Eddie wrapped her in a hug. “You’re not a bad person, okay? Don’t listen to Billy. He’s mean and he’s wrong.”

 

She snivelled and wiped her eyes. “Why did he say that?”

 

“Some people are just mean. They think that men are only allowed to love women, they don’t believe that a woman can love a woman, or a man can love a man. But that’s not true. That’s not true at all. Boys and girls can love whoever they want. Sometimes they can love both, like your Papa Chee. But that doesn’t make them bad people. Do your Papa and I look like bad people?”

 

She shook her head. “So I can love girls?”

 

“If you want, yeah.”

 

“I like girls, they’re nice. Boys are mean.”

 

Eddie scoffed. “Yeah, tell me about it.”

 

“I don’t like Billy. He’s very mean.”

 

“Don’t listen to boys like Billy, angel. They don’t know what’s right.”

 

Maggie hugged her father. “Thank you, Daddy.”

 

“Always, angel.”


 

APRIL 2011

 

Eddie closed his eyes and leaned against Richie’s chest, breathing in the smell of the ocean. His boyfriend rain his fingers through his hair, leaving soft kisses down his neck. Maggie was spending the night at a friend’s house, and her parents decided to take full advantage of it by having a picnic date on the beach. The sun was setting, painting the sky a beautiful vermilion. Eddie felt content.

 

“I’m so happy we decided to do this,” he sighed softly.

 

“Me too, baby. It’s been so long since we’ve gone on an actual date.”

 

“Every day with you is a date, Richie,” said Eddie, kissing his fingers.

 

Richie buried his face in his shoulder. “You remember our first beach date?”

 

“Oh you mean the ‘date’ when we went skinny dipping in the ocean and had sex on the beach and got arrested for public indecency? Oh boy, how could I ever forget.”

 

He felt Richie’s chuckle reverberate through him. “That was a great night.”

 

Eddie rolled his eyes. “Except now we both have criminal records.”

 

“At least we have great stories to tell Mags when she’s older.”

 

Eddie smiled. He and Richie had some pretty amazing memories.

 

“Hey, Eds?”

 

Eddie hummed.

 

“I lied.”

 

Eddie turned around to look at him. Richie stood up and looked down at the sand. He stood up as well. “About what?”

 

“My first kiss.”

 

He furrowed his brows. “What?”

 

“When we were fifteen, I- I told you I’d already kissed someone.”

 

“Bev. Yeah, I remember.”

 

“Well, uh, I lied.” He looked up to meet Eddie’s eyes. “Bev wasn’t my first kiss. You were.”

 

Eddie snorted. “Well, yeah, I figured. You were so bad, you missed my lips and kissed that part below my nose. Why’re you telling me this now?”

 

Richie took a deep breath. “What I’m trying to say is, you were my first kiss. My first crush. My first kinda-boyfriend. My first blowjob, and handjob. My first time having sex. My first love. My first heartbreak. You were my first everything.” He dropped down to one knee. “I want you to be my last.”

 

He felt around for something in his pocket. “Shit, I sworn I could have-”

 

“Looking for this?”

 

He looked up to see Eddie holding a small velvet box. He was smiling fondly.

 

Richie hung his head, embarrassed. “Fuck, I can’t even propose without fucking up.”

 

Eddie slipped the box into his palm. “I think it was perfect. And you were my first everything, too. It would be an honour to be your last.” He was crying.

 

Richie opened the box and positioned himself properly. “Edward Spaghedward Kaspbrak, spaghetti to my meatballs, lead star of every single one of my wet dreams since 1992…”

 

Eddie laughed and shoved his shoulder lightly. “Shut up, Rich.”

 

“Love of my whole life and after, will you marry me?”

 

Eddie choked out a sob and nodded furiously. “Yes, yes, a thousand times, yes!”

 

Richie slipped the silver band onto his ring finger. He was crying too. Eddie threw his arms around his shoulder and connected their lips in a searing kiss. It put all their other kisses to shame.

 

Eddie buried his face in Richie’s neck and sobbed. Richie stroked his hair lovingly. “Shh, baby.”

 

“Happy tears, I promise,” he said, wiping his cheekd. He cupped Richie’s face and smiled softly. “I love you.”  He kissed his cheek. “I love you.” He kissed his nose. “IloveyouIloveyouIloveyouIloveyou!” He covered his face with kisses.

 

Richie laughed and nuzzled his nose in his cheek. “I love you, too, baby.”

 

Eddie brought his hand up to admire his ring. He sighed happily. “It’s beautiful, Rich.”

 

“I’m glad you like it, sweetheart.”

 

“I love it. I promise I’ll get you one tomorrow.” He looked up at his fiancé. His fiancé. He almost started crying again at the thought.

 

“Gosh, we’re not just fathers anymore,” he said, linking his fingers with Richie. “We’re fiancés.”

 

Richie beamed. “And soon we’re gonna be husbands. I can’t wait for that day.”

 

Eddie couldn’t either.


 AUGUST 2011

 

They decided to keep the wedding lowkey because of Richie’s celebrity status. They planned on getting married on the beach behind their house, and it would take place towards the evening. All the Losers and their families had been invited. Eddie had extended the invitation to his mother as well, but unsurprisingly, she’d refused. Maybe that was a good thing.

 

Eddie looked at himself in the mirror and adjusted his bowtie. No matter how hard he tried, it was never straight. Frustrated, he yanked it off.

 

“Here, let me.” Ben came up behind him tied it around the collar. He managed to do it perfectly. “There. That better?”

 

Eddie nodded. “Thanks, Ben.”

 

Ben squeezed his shoulder. “You’re gonna be fine, Eddie. It’s Richie you’re marrying.”

 

Eddie took a deep breath. “I know. It’s all just so… surreal, y’know? I mean, I’ve done the whole marriage thing before, but this time it actually means something.”

 

Ben smiled softly. “Nothing’s going to change, you know that, right? You’ve always behaved like a married couple.”

 

Eddie chuckled. “Yeah, I guess. It’s nice to actually be able to call him my husband.”

 

“Do you have your vows?”

 

He patted his pocket. “No, I think it’s in my coat.” He went into the other bedroom. Richie shrieked and hid behind the room divider.

 

“Eddie! Don’t you know it’s bad luck to see the groom before the wedding?”

 

Eddie rolled his eyes and grabbed his coat. He pulled out his wedding vows and pocketed them in his blazer. He turned to see Richie, who was trying to hide behind the screen. Maggie, who was sitting on the chair and playing some game on Bill’s phone, sniggered.

 

“Daddy can see you!”

 

“Eds! Leave! It’s bad luck!”

 

He sighed fondly. “Fine, fine.” He kissed Maggie’s forehead. “Bye angel. I’ll see you soon.”

 

*

 

The altar looked absolutely beautiful. It was a raised wooden platform, surrounded by vines and flowers and fairy lights. Bev and Mike had set it up, and they’d done an excellent job. Eddie sighed and smoothed down the coat of his white suit. Bill linked his arm through his. “You ready?”

 

Eddie nodded. Richie had decided to let Eddie be the one to walk down the aisle first. The wedding music started playing, and Bill walked him down the aisle. The few members in the audience rose and clapped. Maggie stood at the altar with Mike, who was officiating the ceremony, jumping excitedly. Eddie took his position and waited for his future husband to join him.

 

He finally saw Wentworth and Richie walking down the aisle. He felt the air being knocked out of his lungs. Richie looked gorgeous in his burgundy suit. He’d tamed his curls and put on contacts, making his blue eyes shine. He grinned broadly as he stood opposite Eddie.

 

“You look gorgeous,” whispered Eddie.

 

“Not as gorgeous as you,” Richie whispered back.

 

Mike cleared his throat and began the ceremony. “We are gathered here today to celebrate one of the greatest moments in life, the union of these two souls. I’ve known Eddie and Richie since I was thirteen, and even back then, I always knew what they felt for each other was something that transcends friendship. I watched them dance around their feelings,” that earned a laugh from everyone, “and I’ve been lucky enough to watch them fall in love. My words will never do justice to what they have, so if you’re ready, you can exchange vows.”

 

Eddie nodded. He took Richie’s hands in his. “Richard Tozier, from the moment I saw you eat paper in kindergarten because you wanted to impress me, I knew you’d be the biggest menace in my life.” Richie chuckled. “But what I learned over the years was that you’d be my best friend, my love, my everything. I have loved you for twenty-three years, and I will continue loving you till the end of time. There’s no one else I would ever want to spend the rest of my eternity with. I love you, Richie, I always have and I always will. That is a promise.”

 

Eddie sniffed and wiped his cheeks. He turned to Ben and took the ring from him. He slipped the wedding band onto Richie’s finger.

 

Richie took a deep breath. Eddie could see he was trying hard to cry. “I- I tried writing a speech, I really did, but I realised, I just couldn’t. What we have… it goes beyond that. There aren’t enough words in any language to coherently express how I feel about you. When my mom died, I told you I loved you more than anything in the universe, and it still stands true. The only difference is our daughter shares that position with you.” He smiled at Maggie. “Eddie, you are the love of my life in every alternate reality out there, and in every one of those realities, I will never stop loving you. You’re my whole world, and I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life with you.”

 

He took the ring from Bev and slipped it on Eddie’s finger. “I’m all yours, Eddie. For all my days.”

 

Eddie turned to Mike. “Mike, can we please get this over with? I really need to kiss him.”

 

Everyone laughed. “Alright, alright,” said Mike chuckling, “by the power vested in me, by, well, you two, I now pronounce you husband and husband. You may kiss your groom.”

 

Eddie threw his hand around his husband’s neck and pressed their lips together. They were both grinning too wide for it to be a proper kiss. The audience cried and applauded. Maggie cheered and showered them in flowers.

 

Richie pulled back to rest his forehead against Eddie’s. “Our forever starts now, Eds.”

 

He grinned. “Forever starts now.”

 

*

 

“Richie, come on! Put me down!”

 

“No can do, Eds!”

 

Richie carried Eddie bridal style up to their bedroom. He kicked the door open. The floor was covered with rose petals and jasmine-scented candles were placed all around the room.

 

“Baby, what’s this?” asked Eddie, as Richie placed him down on the bed, gently.

 

“Married couples need to have hot, steamy sex on their bed on their wedding night. It’s tradition.”

 

“What it is, is a fire hazard.”

 

“See, I knew you’d say that, which is why I placed all the candles away from the bed.” He kissed Eddie’s cheek. “C’mon, love.”

 

Eddie sighed. “What about Maggie? We need to put her to bed.”

 

“She’s with her Auntie Bev. They’re talking about girl stuff. Besides, Stan and Patty are going to look after her tonight. Georgie will love the company.”

 

“You really thought this out, didn’t you?”

 

Richie pressed a slow and languid kiss to his lips. “Of course I did. I wanted the first time I had sex with my husband to go uninterrupted.”

 

Eddie moaned softly at his words.

 

Richie leaned over him and gazed into his eyes with pure adoration and lust. “Let me make love to you, husband,” he whispered.

 

Eddie’s heart fluttered. Making love. As husbands.

 

Husbands.

 

Eddie cupped his face and kissed his lips gently. “Please do, husband.”

 

They’d never get used to saying that.


 

DECEMBER 2013

 

“Mmm, Richie.”

 

“What is it, baby?”

 

“Stop.”

 

Richie placed a soft kiss on the back of Eddie’s neck. “What’s wrong?”

 

Eddie squirmed as Richie traced patterns below his navel. “Maggie might walk in on us.”

 

“The little Pumpkin’s probably still asleep.” He slipped his hand further down, lightly squeezing the inside of Eddie’s thigh.

 

Eddie sighed softly and leaned his head against Richie’s shoulder. Richie left kisses down his neck. He lightly grazed his hand against Eddie’s half-hard member.

 

Eddie whimpered and gripped the edge of the bathtub. His fingers were pruney, but he didn’t care. They were supposed to be having a nice bubble bath together, but Richie had other ideas.

 

Richie nipped lightly at Eddie’s neck and grabbed him. Eddie moaned quietly as Richie stroked him slowly.

 

Suddenly, the door to bathroom was thrown open and Maggie ran in.

 

“What’s taking so long?!” She stopped when she saw her fathers in the bathtub together, faces red.

 

“Why’re you having a bath together?” she asked.

 

“Uhhh…..” Eddie was completely embarrassed. Thankfully Richie saved him.

 

“We were saving water.”

 

Maggie raised an eyebrow, like didn’t believe him, but she didn’t say anything further. “Whatever. Get ready quickly. We have to go!”

 

She ran out, leaving them alone.

 

“Can’t believe we got cock-blocked by our own daughter,” Richie grumbled.

 

Eddie huffed. “Come on, we better leave before she comes in again.”

 

They drained out the water and dried themselves off. They changed into their clothes and met Maggie in the living room. She was bursting with excitement.

 

“Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go!”

 

Richie laughed. “Slow down, kiddo, the puppies aren’t going anywhere.”

 

After a whole lot of pestering, they’d relented and agreed to get Maggie a dog (though Eddie was sure it was Richie who wanted the dog and was using their daughter as an excuse). They were going to go down to the shelter and adopt one. Maggie was thrilled.

 

Throughout the car ride, she was rambling her new pet.

 

“I’m gonna get a beagle,” she said, bouncing in her seat, “and I’ll call him Rex!”

 

Eddie chuckled. “Don’t you at least want to see the dogs before you pick one?”

 

She shook her head stubbornly. “No. I want a beagle.”

 

When they got to the shelter, she immediately ran to the beagles. “Daddy, look!”

 

The pups scurried around her, making her giggle. Eddie smiled at her fondly. She looked so happy.

 

“Eds, look!”

 

Eddie turned to see Richie holding a chihuahua, grinning dopily. “He’s so small and cute! Like you!”

 

The dog snapped at him, and he jumped. “And fiesty, I guess.”

 

Eddie was not amused. “Hardy-har-har, Trashmouth.”

 

Richie put the chihuahua down and went around to play with the other dogs. Eddie followed his husband as he pet all the dogs, rolling his eyes fondly. When they were with the german shepherds, Maggie came up to him and tugged on his jacket. She looked upset.

 

“What’s wrong, angel?”

 

“The beagles don’t like me very much.” She turned to look at the beagle puppies sadly. “They won’t play with me.”

 

Eddie wrapped an arm around her. “It’s okay, we’ll find a puppy who likes you.”

 

She sniffed and nodded. A golden retriever puppy came up to them and sniffed Maggie’s shoes, and she instantly perked up. He tried to jump on her, making her shriek in glee. “Daddy! He wants to play with me!”

 

“Yes, he does, Pumpkin!” Richie joined them and ruffled Maggie’s hair. She jumped eagerly and bent down to pet the pup.

 

“He’s so soft!” She cried happily.

 

Eddie kneeled down next to her. The puppy put its paws on his thighs and began licking all over his face. He giggled. “Okay, okay, pupper, calm down, boy.” He scratched the puppy’s neck. Maggie was right. His fur was really soft.

 

He looked up to see Richie looking at him with adoration in his eyes.

 

“What?”

 

Richie smiled softly. “Nothing. You really cute, ‘s all.”

 

Eddie rolled his eyes. “I’m a grown-ass man, stop calling me cute.”

 

Richie grinned. “Never.” He bent down to pinch his cheek. “Cute, cute, cute!”

 

Eddie frowned and swatted his hand away. The puppy kept licking and teething at his hand while Maggie rubbed his back.

 

“I want this one!”

 

Richie grinned. “Me too. He already loves Daddy so much.”

 

Eddie looked up to the owner of the shelter. “Can we adopt him?”

 

She smiled sweetly. “Of course. Just know, he’s deaf in one ear.”

 

Eddie shook his head. “That’s not going to be a problem. We’ll take him.”

 

Maggie clapped and tackled Eddie in a hug. “Thank you, Daddy!”

 

He laughed. “You’re welcome. Mags.”

 

She scooped the pup into her arms. “What should we call him, Papa Chee?”

 

Richie stroked his chin like he was pretending to think. “Hmmm. What should we call the little furball?” He snapped his fingers. “I know! We’ll call him Chewbacca!”

 

Maggie snorted. “That’s so bad, where did you even come up with it?”

 

Eddie exchanged a look with his husband. “We’re making her watch all six movies tonight.”

 

Maggie smiled broadly. “Let’s call him Dug! From UP!”

 

“Okay, angel, we’ll call him Dug.”

 

“Yay!”

 

She wrapped the pup in a hug. Richie joined in too. Eddie felt his heart swell. He loved his family so much.


 

JUNE 2015

 

Maggie ran down the stairs and into the living room, where Eddie was reading a book.

 

“Dad! Dad! Dad! Check the news!”

 

He looked at her, confused. “What happened?”

 

“Just do it!”

 

Eddie frowned and turned on the tv. As soon as he found the news channel, he could tell why Maggie was so excited.

 

BREAKING NEWS: SCOTUS RULING MAKES SAME-SEX MARRIAGE A RIGHT NATIONWIDE

 

Eddie sat down on the couch as Maggie jumped excitedly next to him, furiously typing something on her phone. He covered his mouth as tears streamed down his face. He couldn’t believe it. Even though he was already married, this was a huge deal for the entire gay community. Now those couples who couldn’t get married finally had that chance. He was so happy.

 

“Maggie, sweetie, could you pass me my phone?”

 

Maggie handed the device to him and he dialed the number without looking away from the tv screen. He put it to his ear. After two rings, the other person picked up.

 

“Have you seen the news?”

 

“Yeah. I’m… I don’t know what to say. I’m so happy. More than happy.”

 

“Me too, baby, me too.”

 

“Do you want to go out and join a parade?”

 

“I’ll wait for you to come home, Rich.”

 

“Alright, Eds. I’ll leave work now, I promise I won’t take too long.”

 

“I love you, Richie.”

 

“I love you too, baby.”

 

Eddie cut the call and smiled happily. He turned to his daughter. “Change out of your pajamas.”

 

Maggie looked up. “Where’re we going?”

 

He grinned. “We’re going to celebrate!”

 

*

 

An hour later, the three of them where on the streets, with Maggie on Richie’s shoulders. She was waving a pride flag high and hollering on the top of her lungs. Richie hadn’t bothered changing out of his work clothes, but he’d let Maggie paint the bisexual pride flag on each of his cheeks. Eddie himself had pulled on his rainbow tank top from college (which was a little snug on him, but it drove Richie wild) and put on some light rainbow-themed makeup.

 

Eddie was so happy, he stood on his toes and smacked a wet kiss to Richie’s lips. He heard his daughter groan.

 

“Really, dads? Right in front of me? Gross.”

 

Some of the people around them laughed. Richie squeezed her calf. “Well, if you don’t wanna see that stuff, get off my shoulders, Mags.”

 

Maggie rolled her eyes, but let Richie help her out. The three held hands so that they wouldn’t get lost in the parade.

 

There were so many couples and families out on the streets, celebrating like them. People were sobbing in happiness and wrapping each other in hugs. Everyone was congratulating everyone. The sense of camaraderie was heartwarming.

 

“This is amazing!” yelled Maggie. “Look at how happy everyone is!”

 

The couple smiled at their daughter fondly. They were so proud of her.

 

Richie linked his fingers with Eddie. “We’ve raised her well.”

 

Eddie looked back at her and felt his heart burst. She was so in awe, and she looked so proud.

 

“I’m so happy for everyone,” she said, smiling softly. “They’ve earned this.”

 

Eddie felt he could cry. His daughter was so supportive. He locked eyes with Richie, who had the same look of pride in his eyes. They loved their daughter so much, and they couldn’t be prouder.


 

JANUARY 2017

 

“So, how’s school, Mags?”

 

Maggie ate her celery and mumbled, “‘s fine.”

 

Richie frowned. “Doesn’t sound fine to me, Pumpkin.”

 

She wrinkled her nose. “C’mon, Pops. Don’t call me that, I’m not a kid anymore.”

 

Richie was slightly taken aback. “Okay, Not A Kid Anymore.”

 

She groaned loudly. “I set myself up for that, didn’t I?”

 

Eddie bit back a grin. “You kinda did.”

 

Maggie sighed and went back to playing with her food. She seemed very distant. Her parents exchanged a look.

 

“Maggie,” said Eddie softly, “if something’s wrong, you can talk to us, you know that, right?”

 

Maggie grumbled. “Nothing’s going on, okay?! Just leave me alone.”

 

Eddie tried not to look hurt. He knew teenage girls could be brutal.

 

Richie squeezed his hand under the table. “Maggie, I know something is bothering you, but that doesn’t mean you need to lash out on your father and I. We’re just trying to help you, we haven’t done anything wrong.” His tone was very understanding.

 

She nodded. “‘M sorry. There’s just a lot going on in my head, that’s all.”

 

“Is there anything we can do to help?” asked Eddie.

 

She dropped her fork in her plate with a soft clang. “When did you realise you were gay?”

 

That’s not what he was expecting. “Uh, maybe when I was around eleven?”

 

“How’d you figure it out?”

 

“Well, I realised that girls didn’t really interest me much. All the boys would talk about girls and their bodies and stuff, and none of it really appealed to me. Even when we’d go swimming at the quarry in Derry, all my friends would ogle your Aunt Bev in her swimsuit, and I realised I didn’t care. In fact, I’d catch myself staring at my male friends. Like, I’d stare at Stan’s sharp jaw whenever we went birdwatching, or I’d get lost in Bill’s eyes. I’d find myself admiring Ben’s smile, or Mike’s strong arms.”

 

“And me,” smirked Richie.

 

Eddie smiled. “And you. When I was twelve, I realised I loved your father, a lot more than I should. My feelings were definitely not platonic. But Derry was not accepting at all, so I kept my feelings to myself, and pretended to like girls.”

 

“Ugh, Gretta Keene,” Richie said, rolling his eyes.

 

Eddie chuckled. “Yeah. I pretended to have a crush on this girl called Gretta, and she was horrible, really. But then when we were fifteen, Richie kissed me, and I just knew I was hella-effing-gay.”

 

Maggie rolled her eyes. “Ugh, Dad, please don’t say that ever again. Stick to you old man talk.”

 

“Hey, who’re you calling old? I’m just forty.”

 

She ignored his comment. “If you knew you were gay, why did you marry Myra?”

 

He sighed. “I was still in the closet. I- I never told my mom ‘cause I knew she wouldn’t accept me. When I met Myra, she kinda reminded me of my mom, and in a very weird and twisted way, she made me feel safe and loved. However, I don’t regret it one bit, because then I wouldn’t have had you.”

 

Maggie smiled shyly. She turned to Richie. “What about you, Pops? When did you realise you liked boys?”

 

“Pretty much the same time as Eds. I knew I liked girls, but then I started to see your dad differently. I think I fell in love with him before I even knew what love was.” He smiled at Eddie. Even after eight years together as a couple, he still managed to make him blush like a teenager.

 

“Anyway, when I found out that my little Eddie Spaghetti had a ‘crush’ on Gretta Keene of all people, I was really angry and upset. It was only after I kissed him that I realised I was jealous. And I realised that I really liked kissing him. At first I thought it was just Eddie, but in college I was with a few other guys as well, and I learned that I was bi.”

 

Maggie wrung her fingers together as a tear rolled down her face. “What if… what if I liked girls?”

 

Eddie squeezed her hand softly. “That’s fine. You’re allowed to like whoever you want. Girls, boys, non-binary folk, anyone and everyone. It doesn’t change who you are.”

 

“I’m just so confused.”

 

“And that’s completely fine,” said Richie. “We were all confused. I was your age when I started questioning my sexuality, and I didn’t fully accept it till I was in college. You’re still young, you don’t need to put a label on it, you’re still figuring things out, and that’s completely okay.”

   

Maggie wiped her tears. “Thank you, dads.”

 

They wrapped her in a warm hug. She hugged back tightly.

 

“We’re so proud of you,” said Eddie, softly. “I know how hard this can be. Thank you for trusting us.”

 

She sniffed and wiped her nose. “I’m sorry I snapped at you. Both of you.”

 

Richie patted her shoulder. “It’s fine. We understand.”

 

“Anyway,” drawled Eddie, “is there a particular reason as to why you’re confused about your sexuality?”

 

Maggie blushed and looked at her plate. “There’s this girl in my science class, Amanda.”

 

Richie nudged her shoulder. “She cute?”

 

“Yeah. And she’s really nice to me. But it doesn’t matter. She’s probably straight anyway.”

 

Eddie groaned. “Oh, yeah, having a crush on a straight person is the absolute worst.”

 

Richie snorted. “You say that like you’ve had a crush on a straight person.”

 

“Who says I haven’t?”

 

Maggie giggled as Richie opened and closed his mouth like a goldfish. “W-what? Who?!”

 

Eddie winked at him. “It’s a secret.” He got up to put his dishes away. Richie kept staring at him as he cleaned them.

 

“Eds, who’s this straight guy?”

 

“Some dude in college.”

 

“Was it A-hole Arnold?”

 

Eddie shrugged.

 

“Eddie? Eddie!”

 

He sauntered up the stairs, leaving a confused Richie and a cackling Maggie behind him.


 

NOVEMBER 2019

 

“Eddie, will you stop fretting over everything? It’s just dinner.”

 

“It’s dinner with Maggie’s girlfriend!” Eddie hissed, adjusting the table cloth for the tenth time.

 

“It’s just her girlfriend! We have nothing to worry about. If anything, she should worry about us.”

 

“We have everything to worry about! We need to make a good first impression.”

 

Richie rolled his eyes. “You’re acting like you’re the one meeting the parents.”

 

Eddie opened his mouth to argue, but the doorbell rang. Maggie came rushing down the stairs. She was wearing a floral print A line dress and had braided her brown locks to one side.

 

“Okay, Kelsey’s here!”

 

“Kelsey?” asked Richie. “I thought her name was Amanda.”

 

Eddie smacked his chest. “No, that was her crush when she was like, twelve.”

 

Maggie glared at Richie. “Pops, do not embarrass me.”

 

Richie raised three fingers. “Wouldn’t dream of it. Scout’s honour.”

 

Maggie took a deep breath and opened the door. Her girlfriend greeted her with a hug. They exchanged a few compliments before Maggie led her in.

 

Kelsey was really pretty. She was tall, had thick black hair, and her brown skin was covered by a subtle layer of makeup. She was wearing a beautiful green dress. She smiled Eddie and Richie.

 

Eddie stuck his hand out. “You must be Kelsey. You look lovely.”

 

“Thank you, Mr. Kaspbrak-Tozier.”

 

Eddie waved her off. “Please, call me Eddie.” He introduced Richie. “This is my husband.”

 

“Richie Kaspbrak-Tozier, at your service, ma’am.” He placed a soft kiss on her palm, making her giggle. Maggie was glaring daggers at him behind her shoulder.

 

Everyone took their place at the dining table. There were a few minutes of awkward silence before Eddie cleared his throat.

 

“So, uh, Maggie tells me you enjoy sports and are on the volleyball team.”

 

Kelsey nodded. “Yeah. It’s loads of fun, really.”

 

“That’s, uh, that’s good. It’s- it’s good to stay active.” Maggie visibly cringed.

 

They went back to their meals, the sounds of cutlery clashing filling the room.

 

Eddie cleared his throat again. “So what are your interests?”

 

Kelsey shrugged. “Not much, apart from volleyball. I really enjoy reading books, especially crime novels. They’re my favourite kind.”

 

Eddie hummed. Richie put his fork down and crossed his arms.

 

“I’m more interested in your intentions with our daughter.”

 

Eddie groaned internally. Of course Richie had to go into overprotective dad mode.

 

“I’m not sure of what you’re asking, sir.” Kelsey responded, sharing a glance with Maggie.

 

“Are you with our daughter only because of her body? Or do you actually care about her?”

 

Eddie kicked him under the table. He could see Maggie’s knuckles going white from gripping her knife too hard from the corner of his eye.

 

“I-I-” Kelsey fumbled.

 

Richie grinned. “I’m just messing with ya, kid. Obviously you care about Mags, you’re at this dinner, after all.”

 

Maggie groaned, relieved. “Ignore my Pops. He’s a comedian.”

 

Kelsey laughed. “Sorry, I was really worried for a second.”

 

After that, the conversation picked up. Kelsey spoke like she was talking to old friends, not her girlfriend’s parents. They shared stories about school, about Maggie. Richie managed to completely embarrass their daughter, but she didn’t seem to mind. They all had a good laugh. It was a fun dinner.

 

Once their meal was over, Maggie and Kelsey left to play with Dug. Eddie and Richie remained in the kitchen, wanting to give them some alone time.

 

“She’s really nice,” said Richie, “I like her.”

 

Eddie nodded. “She’s a sweet girl. Kinda reminds me of Mike.”

 

Richie agreed. “Can you believe we just met our daughter’s first girlfriend? She’s grown up so fast!”

 

Eddie’s eyes filled with tears. “She’s not a child anymore. It’s kinda hard to grasp.”

 

Richie wrapped his arm around him and kissed his forehead. “Don’t worry, Eds. Deep down, she’ll always be our Baby Mags.”

 

Just as they were finishing with the dishes, Maggie and Kelsey came back in.

 

“Uh, Kelsey’s going to leave now, before it gets too late,” said Maggie.

 

“How are you going home?” asked Eddie. “I can give you a ride, if you want.”

 

Kelsey shook her head. “It’s fine, Eddie. I’m sixteen, I can drive.” She gave both men hugs. “Thank you so much for having me over. I had a great time. It was really nice meeting you.”

 

Richie smiled. “It was really nice meeting you too. And feel free to come over whenever you want, our door’s always open.”

 

Maggie walked her to the front door.

 

“Bye, Kelsey!” Eddie called after her. “Drive home safely!”

 

Maggie watched her drive away before coming back in. She rubbed her hands together. “So, what did you think?”

 

Eddie smiled. “She’s great, sweetie. We really like her.”

 

Richie nodded. “She has the Parental Stamp of Approval.”

 

“What we want to know though, did she like us?”

 

Maggie grinned. “She loves you guys. Thinks you’re the coolest parents ever.”

 

“Hell, yeah! That’s ‘cause we are!” They exchanged a high five.

 

Maggie wrapped them both in a hug. “Thank you, dads. This really means a lot to me.”

 

Richie kissed her temple. “Anytime, Mags, you’re our girl. We’d do anything for you.”

 

They really would.


 

AUGUST 2020

 

Eddie got home from the hospital pretty late. He was pretty exhausted. He couldn’t wait to curl up in his husband’s arms.

 

He found Richie in the living room looking worried.

 

“Babe, what’s wrong?”

 

Richie jumped up when he saw Eddie. “Has Maggie called you?”

 

“No, why?”

 

He bit his lip. “She said she was going to over to a friend’s place to watch a movie. It’s almost ten and she’s not back yet.”

 

Eddie ran his fingers through his greying hair. “Have you tried calling her?”

 

“Yeah, it’s not going through. I think her phone died. I called Kelsey as well, but she doesn’t know either.”

 

Eddie’s breathing got heavier. “Oh god, oh god, what if something happened to her?”

 

Richie rubbed his palm across his back. “Eddie, calm down.”

 

“Oh god, something could have happened to her and we’d have no way of knowing!” His breathing was laboured. Richie grabbed something from the drawer and stuffed it into his mouth. He felt his lungs open up and he could breathe again.

 

Richie helped him sit down on the couch. “You feel better?”

 

Eddie nodded. “We need to go out there, Rich. We need to find our daughter.”

 

As if on cue, the front door opened and someone tip-toed in, shutting the door softly behind them. They tried to sneak up the stairs but a voice stopped them.

 

“And where exactly do you think you’re going, young lady?”

 

Maggie stilled. She turned around slowly to see her fathers standing together, arms crossed, wearing similar expressions of disappointment. She grimaced. “Hey, dads.”

 

“Maggie Beverly Kaspbrak-Tozier.” Eddie had brought out her full name. He was really pissed. “Do you have any idea what time it is?”

 

“Nine?”

 

“Ten. When’s your curfew?”

 

She sighed and looked down apologetically. “Nine-thirty,” she mumbled.

 

“If you’re going to be late, you’re supposed to call. That was the agreement we’d come to.”

 

“I know, Dad, but my phone died!”

 

“That’s no excuse!” said Richie. “Literally everybody has an iPhone. You could’ve easily borrowed someone else’s charger.”

 

“Or you could’ve used someone else’s phone to call us. It’s not that hard.”

 

Maggie rolled her eyes. “God, you guys are acting like I was out drinking or getting high. I was just watching a movie, it’s not the worst thing.”

 

“When I was your age, I was always getting drunk and high,” Richie snapped. “But I always came home on time.”

 

And then you’d sneak out again to crawl through my window, Eddie thought, but he didn’t mention it.

 

“If I was going to be late,” Richie continued, “I always let my parents know.”

 

“Well, good for you!” Maggie shouted. “But I was out just this one time, stop making it such a big deal!”

 

“Of course we’re going to make it a big deal, we were worried about you, Pumpkin!”

 

“Don’t call me Pumpkin!” she yelled. “And stop treating me like a kid! I’m sixteen, I can take care of myself, I don’t need you babying me all the time! God, why can’t you just leave me alone?! I hate you!”

 

She ran up the stairs and slammed her room door shut before either of them could say anything.

 

Richie ran a trembling hand through his hair before sinking to the ground. He was close to tears. “She hates me, Eds.”

 

Eddie sighed and squeezed his shoulder. “She doesn’t hate you, Rich. She’s just being a teen.”

 

Richie shook his head and sniffed. “You heard her. She hates me.”

 

Eddie kissed his forehead. “Baby, she doesn’t hate you. Just give her time to cool off, okay?”

 

Richie nodded and stood up shakily. “Do you want to check up on her?”

 

“Yeah. I’ll talk to her and join you.” He pecked his lips before heading up to Maggie’s room. He knocked on the door.

 

“Maggie?”

 

No response. He knocked again.

 

“Maggie, it’s me. Can I come in?”

 

He heard a muffled “yeah”, so he pushed the door open slightly. Maggie was sitting on her bed, refusing to look at Eddie. He sighed and sat down at the edge of the bed. “You okay?”

 

She shrugged.

 

“Look, I know you’re mad at us, but look at it from our side. We had no idea where you were and couldn’t get in touch with you, so obviously we were scared. We don’t really care what you’re up to, we just want you to keep us informed. That’s all.”

 

“That’s not why I’m mad,” she muttered, playing with the end of her blanket.

 

“Is it because of the pet name?”

 

“He always does this, you know,” Maggie whined. “He still thinks I’m a five year old. He doesn’t get that I’m sixteen. He needs to stop treating me like a kid. It’s really fucking frustrating.”

 

Eddie bit his lip. “I get it. He still treats me like I’m a child sometimes. But that’s just who he is. It’s not meant to be insulting or degrading in anyway. It’s one of his many ways of showing affection.”

 

“All it does is piss me off. I really hate being treated like a child, but he doesn’t seem to get that.”

 

“Richie’s trying his hardest, please don’t be so hard on him. You need to apologize to him. He is your Papa Chee, after all.”

 

Maggie gave him a soft smile. “Haven’t heard that in a while.”

 

“He doesn’t show it, but he really does miss it.”

 

Maggie sighed and rubbed her face. “I’m still mad at him.”

 

“I know. Sleep on it. You can apologize in the morning.”

 

She nodded. She squeezed his hand. He squeezed back. A lot was left to be said, but neither said anything.

 

*

 

The next morning, Eddie was at the dining table, sipping on his coffee, while Richie made an omelette. Maggie padded into the kitchen rubbing her eyes. Richie turned to look at her over his shoulder.

 

“Oh, hey, Mags.”

 

She exchanged a look with Eddie. He tilted his head in Richie’s direction. She sighed and went up to him. She wrapped her arms around his torso from behind. Richie stilled.

 

“I’m sorry,” she mumbled into his shirt. “I shouldn’t have yelled at you yesterday, you were just worried about me. I was being a dick.”

 

Richie spun around and hugged her properly. “It’s okay. And I’m sorry for treating you like a kid, you’re not Baby Mags anymore. You’re almost an adult, I should start treating you like one.”

 

He met Eddie’s eyes over her head. Eddie smiled at him encouragingly.

 

She pulled away and looked up at her father. “We’re cool?”

 

Richie smiled. “Yeah, we’re cool.” He turned back to the stove. “Do you want an omelette?”

 

And just like that, everything was back to normal in the Kaspbrak-Tozier home.


 

APRIL 2022

 

“Okay, hold still!”

 

“Ugh, Dad! Enough!”

 

“Just one more, I promise!”

 

Richie watched, amused, as his husband took a thousand pictures of their daughter and her prom date.

 

Maggie whined. “Dad, we’re going to be late!”

 

Eddie huffed. “It’s your senior prom! I have to take a few pictures. Especially when you both look so beautiful.”

 

Maggie blushed and hid her face in Kelsey’s shoulder. They really did look gorgeous. Maggie was wearing a blue and white cocktail dress and had pinned her hair to one side. Kelsey wore a white maxi and had tied her hair in a sleek top knot. They wore matching blue corsages.

 

Richie chuckled. “Alright, Eds. I think that’s enough. Let the girls go have fun.”

 

Maggie mouthed “Thank you” to him before dragging her date to her car.

 

“Be careful!” Eddie called after them. He shut the front door and joined Richie in the living room.

 

“Well, Eds. It’s just you, me and Dug. What do you wanna do?” He wrapped his arms around his husband’s waist. “You wanna get down and dirty?” he asked, wiggling his eyebrows.

 

“I can’t believe it’s already her senior prom,” said Eddie, wistfully. “In a month she’ll be graduating, and then in September she’ll finally be off to college. Where have all the years gone?”

 

Richie chuckled. “Can you believe we’ve been at this parenting gig for eighteen years?”

 

“And yet it never gets easier.”

 

Richie smiled at him fondly. “We did a good job with her.”

 

Eddie kissed him. “Yeah, we did.” He sighed. “I really hope she has a good time tonight.”

 

“You remember our senior prom?”

 

“Oh, that shitshow? I had to spend the whole night watching you dance with Veronica. It was horrible.”

 

“But then we danced in hallways together, just the two of us. That was pretty romantic.”

 

Eddie sighed, reminiscing his teen years. “That made whole thing worth it.”

 

“What song was it?”

 

Eddie crinkled his eyebrows as he tried to recall. “That one song by Berlin?”

 

Take My Breath Away.” Richie grinned. He scrolled through his phone before connecting it to the speakers. He stuck his hand out to Eddie as the opening notes played through the house. “C’mon Eds, dance with me!”

 

Eddie giggled and grabbed his hand. He let Richie pull him in and lead.

 

Watching every motion

In my foolish lover's game

On this endless ocean

Finally lovers know no shame

Turning and returning

To some secret place inside

Watching in slow motion

As you turn around and say

 

Richie hummed the song softly as he twirled Eddie around. He dipped Eddie, giggling as he almost dropped him.

 

“Watch it, Dick.”

 

Richie pulled him back up and kissed his nose.

 

Watching I keep waiting

Still anticipating love

Never hesitating to become the fated ones

 

Eddie sighed softly and rested his head on Richie’s shoulder. They swayed in their living room, feeling like teenagers again.

 

Eddie looked up at his husband. “How do you still make my heart race, after all these years?”

 

Richie captured his lips in a gentle kiss. “A love like ours only grows stronger over time.”

 

“I guess that’s why I fall in love with you a bit more everyday.”

 

Take my breath away

Take my breath away

 

The song faded out and they rested their foreheads together.

 

“Eds?”

 

“Yes, love?”

 

“I know I tell you everyday, but I love you. Sorry if you’re getting tired of hearing it.”

 

“Oh, never, baby. Never ever.”


 

SEPTEMBER 2022

 

“You sure you have everything, right?”

 

Maggie rolled her eyes. “Yes, Dad. We’ve already been over this.”

 

Eddie nodded. He was trying hard not to cry. “I know, I know. I’m just…”

 

She smiled sadly. “Yeah, me too.”

 

Richie ruffled her hair. “You call everyday, okay? Or at least send a text. Don’t ghost us.”

 

“Pops, come on. I’m like, two hours away. I’ll probably come home every weekend.”

 

“Yes, but you’ll get really busy in college,” said Eddie. “We just want-”

 

“Dad.” She squeezed his shoulders. “I’m not going to forget you, I promise. Besides, who’s gonna keep me updated on my Duggie boy!”

 

She kneeled down to scratch the dog’s neck. “I’m gonna miss you so much, old pal.” She hugged him and kissed his head and he licked up her neck.

 

Maggie stood up to look at her parents. She felt the tears pour down her cheeks. She threw her hands around Richie neck and sobbed into his shoulder.

 

He stroked her hair lovingly. “Shh, it’s gonna be fine.”

 

“I love you, Papa Chee,” she whispered into his neck.

 

He let his tears pour down freely. “I love you, Pumpkin.”

 

She kissed his cheek before letting go and turning to Eddie. He was already a crying mess.

 

Maggie choked out a sob. “Daddy Eds!”

 

Eddie cried harder. “My angel.”

 

He hugged her tightly, like if he let go, she’d disappear. “I love you so so much.”

 

“I love you, too.”

 

Eddie placed a kiss to her forehead before pulling away. Richie tucked him under his arm.

 

Maggie wiped her cheeks and took a deep breath. “Okay.” She looked back her parents and put on her brightest smile. “Baby Mags is gonna move on to the next step now.”

 

They laughed. “Yeah, she is,” said Richie. “They better watch out, she’s a real firecracker.”

 

She laughed. “Bye, dads. I’ll call soon.”

 

Maggie gave them a quick wave before rushing off into the university building. They continued crying as they watched their daughter disappear into the crowd.

 

“We did it,” whispered Eddie, “we made it through eighteen years of raising a child.”

 

Richie kissed his forehead. “We did a damn good job.”

 

“Remember that time before she was born and I freaked out and you calmed me down?”

 

“Vaguely.”

 

“Well, you said something about there not being a guidebook to parenting. That we just… did whatever we did and prayed whatever we were doing was right.” He turned to look up at his husband. “Guess whatever God’s out there answered our prayers.”

 

Richie pressed their lips together. “No God out there helped, Eds. This was all us. Eddie Spaghetti and Trashmouth together through it all.”

 

“And that’s the only way I ever want it.”