Richie could’ve never moved from this bed and been content. Well, maybe not content. He wasn’t even sure what content was anymore. Maybe he never really had.
The fan spun above him, and his eyes followed the circles idly until he had to close them from a coming headache.
“Motherfucker,” he muttered to himself as he put his hand to his face, rubbing over his forehead. Sitting up, he groaned softly. His aging bones shouted protest at him laying for hours on this borrowed bed like a moody teen. Fuck his forties. Fuck that stupid clown, fuck that stupid cave, he still felt grimy even though he’d taken two hour-long showers since coming back.
He didn’t want to sit here, where thoughts could rattle around his brain, where he could still see piercing yellow eyes, rows and rows of sharp jagged teeth, coming right for h-
He got up so quickly he nearly fell over, but it had jolted the terrifying image out, at least. His feet moved of their own accord, his body moving on autopilot until he found himself standing in a now open doorway, looking at the man who sat on the bed, tending to the rather nasty wound on his shoulder.
“Rich? You need something?” Eddie asked, a confused look on his face as he looked back at him a moment after Richie hadn’t said anything.
Richie blinked, “Oh, uhh…” He hadn’t even planned on coming here, but he guessed his heart just went back to the place it had always gone, what it had yearned for even when he forgot what it was he sought.
“You look like a fish that was just caught,” Eddie joked, looking back down at his disinfectant as he sprayed it on a rag. “Like-” He made an exaggerated gaping motion, crossing his eyes a little, which earned a soft laugh from Richie. He smiled brightly as if in success, wincing a little and holding his cheek as it stung from the movement.
Before he thought about it, Richie was sliding himself beside Eddie, holding over his cheek with a “Be careful, Eds…”
Eddie looked at him, his eyes soft and a little smile playing on his lips, and for a moment, Richie could imagine-
“Do you need help rewrapping your shoulder?” he asked.
Eddie scoffed softly, “I’ve seen your handiwork, Tozier, I’m not trusting you with that.”
“Oh come on, a pair of extra hands or whatever. You can even direct me, Mr. Nurse,” Rich teased, poking Eddie’s unhurt cheek, earning a hand slap away.
Eddie didn’t even answer, simply wiping his wound down with a little hiss as Richie watched, chewing on his lip. Setting the rag down, he began wrapping bandages around his shoulder, his precise hands working quickly. Softly, “I never thanked you properly, you know. For saving my life.”
“What? Was I supposed to just let you get impaled?” he asked incredulously.” I’m just sorry I didn’t see it coming sooner, maybe I could’ve pulled you down quicker,” Richie added in a guilty murmur, looking at the hurt shoulder.
“It was better than the alternative, in my opinion,” Eddie said softly.
It was quiet for a moment as Eddie finished wrapping his shoulder, then he broke the silence with a sigh. “And it’s over, for good.”
Richie nodded softly, looking away from the other man. “I guess we’ll all be going back home within the next few days, huh?” The thought of going back alone to his empty apartment made stomach churn as his heart panged. “You think we’ll remember each other this time around?” he asked, trying so hard to make it sound like a joke, but it simply fell flat.
Eddie didn’t answer for a moment, looking at his fidgeting hands. “I… I’m not going home,” he finally said.
“What?” Richie asked, looking back at him quickly.
“I decided yesterday, I’m not going back home,” Eddie said again with resolution. “Being here again, seeing you guys again, remembering everything… It made me realize that my whole life, I’ve been letting someone else run it and tell me what I am. I didn’t even like being a risk analyst, it stressed me the fuck out, and Myra was as controlling as my mom, and…” He sighed softly, looking up at Richie with a soft smile. “I don’t know what I’ll do. It’s the biggest risk of my life other than coming back here, but still. I’d rather be anywhere but there.”
Richie took a moment to soak in that information. Slowly, he nodded, trying to think anything than ‘come with me, run away with me, live with me, I’ll take care of you’. “That’s… I’m real happy for you,” he said honestly. “It can’t have been an easy decision to make.”
“Honestly, it was pretty easy when it came to it. It just seemed obvious, like I’d suddenly realized that I wasn’t happy and that I had a chance to get out.” Eddie shrugged softly, and suddenly, even with the bandages, he looked the lightest and happiest that Richie had ever seen.
Richie smiled softly, drinking in this vision of Eddie while he could. He wouldn’t let himself forget this. Not ever. Not for anything.
“What about you? I guess you’ll be off, back to doing shows you didn’t write yourself,” Eddie jeered playfully.
“Shut up, so what if I am?” Richie said with a playful puff back. He sighed, running a hand through his hair, “I don’t know, actually. I don’t… I don’t wanna keep being a fraud, some puppet of a manager. Maybe I’ll just get a job at some radio station or something, something more modest. I have enough in my savings to keep apartment and shit for like a year before I’d need another job if I lived off ramen.”
“Jesus Christ, I’m vetoing that. Although, I could see you as one of those annoying radio show hosts,” Eddie teased. “And you’ll still have a sad love life, I’m sure.”
Richie went a little quiet at that, and Eddie noticed quickly that he might have actually hurt his feelings with that, scrambling to fix his words.
“Sorry, I didn’t mean that, I’m sure you’ll find some nice woman somewhere,” he quickly said.
Richie looked away, swallowing a little hard. Maybe he could tell him… What if it ruined everything? More than an evil clown monster? Barely a mutter, “Some nice man.”
Eddie blinked, taken a little aback. He thought maybe he misheard, but couldn’t justify it. “Some nice man…” he repeated.
They were both quiet for too long a moment, and Richie could feel Eddie’s eyes burning on him.
“How long..?” Eddie finally asked quietly. “D-did you know, I mean?”
Richie took a deep breath before he said, “Since I was twelve. I mean, I think I always did, it’s just when I realized what my feelings were.”
There was another long moment of silence. If Eddie realized that it synced up perfectly to when they became friends, he didn’t say it.
“Did you tell the others?” he asked curiously.
Richie shook his head, “You’re the first person I… ever told, actually.” Another moment. “It feels pretty good actually, to finally have that off my chest. I was so scared of anyone knowing its what the fucking clown used against me.”
Eddie looked at him with… pity? Worry? Richie didn’t know. “Jesus, Rich… I’m sorry.”
Richie shook his head again, “It’s fine.”
He didn’t like this awkward energy that hung in the air, where for once, words had failed both of them. Eddie was shifting, biting his lip as he tried to think of something, anything to say. How to break this..? For once, a your mom joke didn’t seem like a good idea. Then he had an idea.
“You know, Derry has a gay bar now. I found it when I was walking yesterday, just kinda stumbled on it. Where that old comic shop used to be, it’s really discreet. I just ended up going in and talking to the bartender for a minute, found out that most people don’t even know it’s in business, but people who do come in a lot so they can be themselves in a safe space for a while,” Richie rambled suddenly.
Eddie raised his eyebrows, “Wow… I wouldn’t have expected that, honestly, even now.”
“Yeah… Maybe we should go,” Richie said, maybe a little hopefully.
Eddie blinked. “I-I’m not-”
“No, I know,” Richie said quickly, trying to ignore how his heart sank to his stomach at those words. “But it would be fun, and there wouldn’t be a huge crowd.”
Eddie looked at him incredulously, “I'm not going to a gay bar, Richie, I mean after all that we just dealt with, I’ve barely been dealing with it in private, I mean, I-I just can't, okay, I can't. How could you?”
Richie sighed softly, “Yeah, we went through a fuckload of fucked up shit, but that-that's WHY I wanna go.” He looked at Eddie, searching his eyes, willing him to understand his restlessness. “I just,” he paused, trying to find the words, “If even for one night, I wanna forget about that and just pretend like we're normal.”
Eddie turned away from him, shaking his head as he began gathering the first aid kit and repacking what was still out. “Then go by yourself.”
Richie looked down, setting his jaw a moment. “I... I can't. Eds, I've been hiding this shit since I was twelve, so yeah. Being in a place where my very presence outs me is pretty fucking scary, I…” he sighed, shaking his head.
“Then why not ask one of the others? I’m sure Bev would go with you, at the very least.”
“You’re the only one who knows right now, and I don’t… I don’t know if I’m ready to tell them yet.”
Eddie was quiet for a moment “... Alright, fair…” He sighed, “Fine. Fine, but you're buying me a drink.”
Richie’s face split into a grin, “You got it, sweet thing~!” He jumped up, holding his hand out to Eddie. “Come on, Eddie Spaghetti, let's go have a good time and pretend everything is okay!”
“Don’t call me that, I didn’t even like it when we were kids,” Eddie muttered as he took Richie’s hand a little hesitantly. “And only like two drinks, I don’t wanna have to carry you back home.”
“Oh please, Eds, I can hold my liquor, I’m worried about you, I bet you could be floored by a single sip of beer,” Richie teased as he dragged Eddie down the stairs, ignoring his protests and offended noises. He shot a peace sign to Beverly, who was sitting with Ben and Bill in the little living area. “We’re off, don’t wait up, and we’ll try not to get too shitfaced!”
They were out the door before any of them could get out more than an “Okay bye?”
The night was a blur of drinks and music and talking with other queer people, albeit very few. Eddie had become less anxious about it after half a drink, and was simply rolling his eyes at Richie’s teases. A drink down and he was teasing back, almost like flirting. Two drinks and Richie managed to get him onto the small little “dance floor” that was really just a floor space without tables. Swinging around sloppily, Eddie laughed freely, falling into Richie’s chest in a fit of giggles at how ridiculous they looked. Three drinks in, Eddie was going on and on and on to the bartender, the lone remaining person in the building other than them, about his and Richie’s relationship when they were kids, while practically climbing into Richie’s lap, almost making him spill his drink.
As Eddie went for a fourth, Richie was surprisingly the voice of reason. “We still gotta walk back to the place, hotel, lodgey whatever thingy,” he said, laying his head on Eddie’s shoulder. He’d had a little less, serious about being worried about Eddie getting drunk.
Eddie whined, turning a little on him to frown, “You’re the one who made me come! You said you were gonna-” he was interrupted by a hiccup- “buy me a drink!”
“I did. In fact, I bought you three. Come on, Edsie, we should head back soon,” Richie said, a little pouty that he’d moved.
“Why are you suddenly being the voice of reason, dipshit?” Eddie whined, poking his cheek. Except one hand was holding an empty glass, and the other holding himself up on Richie’s shoulder. So, he used his face instead.
When he pulled back, it was nowhere near enough. Richie’s eyes widened as he realized that the gap between them was so easily closable. Eddie was suddenly staring at his face, his eyes going half-mast as he looked down at Richie’s parted lips. No way, there’s no way, there’s no way he would-
Richie was shell shocked as Eddie kissed him. If he’d been a little more sober, he might have gently moved Eddie back now. But he wasn’t, and his eyes fell closed as he kissed him back, earning a surprised but happy sigh from the other man.
He’s drunk. You’re drunk , Richie’s reason kicked back in. Gently pulling back, holding Eddie back from pressing back up against him, he didn’t know how to feel. So instead, he told the bartender to close the tab, pretty much just picking up a squirmy and wiggling Eddie and setting him on his feet, leading him out without another word.
“Where’re we goin’? Somewhere cool? Are we gonna jump into the Quarry again?” Eddie all but babbled, stumbling slightly on a rock in the road. “Hey, watch it, I’m walkin’ here,” he said, kicking it.
Richie watched the little rock go flying down the street, shaking his head softly. “We’re getting you in bed.”
Eddie gasped, doing a full turn to him, “ Richie , that’s so forward!” No trace of joke or irony in his voice.
“No, I’m taking you to your bed, and then I’m going to my bed,” Richie clarified.
“Oh…” Eddie seemed slightly disappointed by this as he kept walking beside him, leaning a little on him for support.
No one was still up, or at least out, when they got back to their inn. Getting Eddie up the stairs was a bit of a challenge, and he didn’t seem to want to make it any easier. But finally, Eddie was fast asleep in his bed, and Richie was flopping back onto his own, rubbing his face with his hands.
He wished he’d kissed him longer. He wished he’d stopped him. What was it? Was it just Eddie being that drunk? Or something more? Was he experimenting because Richie had told him he liked men? Did it mean something..? Would Eddie even remember it in the morning? Would it be awkward?
Questions swirled in his mind, but as he started drifting off, all he could think of were Eddie’s lips.
The next morning, he wasn’t exactly looking forward to going downstairs. He had no idea what to expect if he ran into Eddie.
And he immediately knew that Eddie remembered everything when he finally did, and Eddie nearly dropped his coffee, setting it too quickly onto the counter and excusing himself, all but running past Richie and up the stairs.
Beverly and Mike stared at where Eddie had disappeared, then at Richie.
“Uh, everything alright..?” Mike asked cautiously.
Richie looked at them, then promptly ignored the question as he went to get himself coffee from the pot.
“Rich?” Bev prompted softly, stepping towards him. “Did something happen last night?”
“No,” Richie said unconvincingly.
“You can tell us, honey. We won’t judge,” Bev said, putting a comforting hand on his arm.
Mike nodded in agreement. “We’re Losers, what is there to judge? I already watched you kill a man to save me,” he said with an almost teasing tone.
Richie looked at Bev’s hand on his arm, following it up to her worried eyes. He held her gaze for a moment before meeting Mike’s matching gaze. He sighed. Fuck it. He looked down, “I told Eddie I was gay last night.” He mentally prepared for the worst.
It didn't come. Their faces barely changed, Mike’s a little surprised, Bev’s more worried.
“Did he take it badly?” Bev asked.
Richie blinked at how smoothly they took the news, before shaking his head. “He took it fine, just kinda asking questions and stuff, we- we ended up going to a secret gay bar I found the other day, and he… He kissed me when we were drunk.”
“Oh…” Bev and Mike said in near unison.
“Yeah. So, from that reaction, I’m guessing he remembers,” Richie said quietly.
“You guys are so close though,” Mike pointed out. “You were as kids, and even now I saw you fall back into those old habits.”
Bev nodded, “I doubt it would ruin your friendship, maybe just a little awkward for a bit. Maybe you should talk to him?”
Richie scoffed, “Yeah, and what would I tell him? Admit that he was the first boy I fell in love with and seeing him back brought it back full force?” he said as bitter as his coffee, which he made a face at as he sipped, going to add more sugar in it.
“Aw, that’s cute,” Bev couldn’t help but coo. “And honestly not that surprising.”
Mike nodded, considering. “I guess I just didn’t think anything of it, but I certainly see it.”
“That’s not helping,” Richie muttered as he stirred his coffee and sipped it again.
“Sorry,” Bev said, not really sorry. “I mean, though, if he kissed you …”
“Maybe he feels the same,” Mike said a little excitedly.
Richie didn’t answer, sipping his coffee again. “Thanks… I’m gonna go take some aspirin and hide in my room for some point of time though. See ya,” and he was going out with the mug back up to his room.
Eddie had been in his room for- he checked his phone again- nine hours. It was nearly 5 now, and honestly, he was starting to be starving, but he didn’t dare show his face out there because what if Richie was out there? What if he’d be mad? Or awkward? Eddie was still mortified, and just because Richie liked guys didn’t mean he liked him . And thought after thought had been swirling in his head, a lot of thinking about his past, present, and future.
There was a soft knock at the door, and Bev’s voice came softly from the other side. “Eddie? I thought you might be hungry.”
“It’s open,” Eddie called, muffled by the pillow he was holding, half over his face. He sat up a little bit as he saw Bev holding a plate with a sandwich and chips on it. “You’re a literal angel.”
“I haven’t seen you all day,” Bev said as she sat beside him, handing the plate to him. “Richie told me what happened last night.”
Eddie looked down, swallowing hard, “He… he did..?”
“And I’m gonna cut to the chase. I think you need to talk to him,” Bev said seriously.
“What? No, no way, I can’t-”
“Do you like him? In that sense?” Bev interrupted him.
Eddie hesitated… A long moment, and “I think I might… and maybe I always did.”
Bev looked at him, gently putting her hand on his. “It’s not my place to tell, but talk to him. I promise, he won’t be mad.” She smiled softly, a little gleam in her eye. “I think it’ll go very well, in fact.”
Eddie held her gaze for a moment, searching her eyes for any trace of a lie. Finally he nodded, and got up, setting the plate aside for later.
“Good luck, Eddie!” Bev said with a cheering smile.
Eddie said a soft thanks before psyching himself up a moment in front of Richie’s door, knocking, and at the “yeah?”, walking himself right in. Wait no- shit, bad idea bad idea, he didn’t know how to start.
“Eddie?” Richie asked after a moment, trying to break the tension, “You need something?”
“Um, about- about last night, I- I, uh…” Eddie had forgotten how to speak English dear god help him.
“Listen,” Richie sighed softly. “Don’t worry about it, you were drunk, we do dumb things we don’t mean when we’re drunk sometimes.”
“But-” Eddie bit his lip, bouncing once on his toes. “What if… I did mean it, though.?”
“What?” Richie asked, his voice breaking slightly as his head snapped to him.
“I, well, I’ve been thinking a lot about it, and I liked kissing you and I also realized that maybe I’ve been repressing this shit the whole time because I remember feeling so strongly about you and never feeling like I could do anything about it and my whole life was controlled by someone else and I guess I was so used to that and that’s why-wh-why I married Myra cause I knew she’d run my life and I was scared to give that control to myself cause I was so used to it, but I don’t want that anymore, and I wanna be myself and figure out who that is without someone standing over me, and you- you…” Eddie suddenly realized that Richie had gotten up and was now standing in front of him. “You were always standing beside me. Not above, you were the one who supported me when I felt like I was dangling like some puppet.” He bit his lip again, and he tried to will himself to shut the fuck up as Richie’s hand gently caressed his face so softly it could make Eddie cry. But, “And so I think I’ve actually been in love with you this whole time but I just didn’t know it and-”
Richie’s lips slowly shut him up, something that Eddie had never felt before making him think this is it, this was right . This was what he’d been missing his whole life.
“I knew the whole time it was you,” Richie said softly as he pulled back half an inch. “When I was fourteen, I carved our initials into the kissing bridge… I went back and recarved them the day after we defeated it.”
Eddie blinked. “I passed those.” A sudden memory appeared in his mind, of being a kid, walking his bike past the kissing bridge, his eyes passing over the carvings until he found the R+E, pretending for a fleeting moment that they stood for him and Richie. “I remember pretending they were for us… And they were.”
Richie laughed in disbelief, kissing him again ecstatically. “Come with me, Eds,” he said in a rush as he pulled back, his eyes darting between Eddie’s.
“W-what?” Eddie asked, a dark flush on his face.
“When we leave Derry. Come with me, I have space in my apartment, we could- we could start over, everything,” Richie said, his eyes shining with a youthful light that had been many years lost.
“We could…” Eddie laughed disbelievingly, “Yes!”
Richie pulled him into his arms, swinging him around, being mindful of his shoulder. “Come on, let’s tell the Losers.”
“About us or us ?” Eddie asked, emphasizing the second.
“Both, fuck it, let’s do it!”
Richie took Eddie’s hand, and in that moment, everything was right. Everything was so right.