Chapter 1: Late for This
Dying, Eddie thought, wasn't all that much different than living.
He'd lived his entire life in fear—first his mother, then Myra, then being back in Derry... the list went on and on. But now, as he lay on his back, bleeding out all over the place, the fear didn't feel all that strange. It felt familiar, like an old lover you want so desperately to lose, but you can't because you have an obligation to them. The wound in his middle was a constant reminder about just how much he'd fucked up. He hadn't killed It. He hadn't even come close.
But... but maybe it wasn't all bad. He'd saved Richie. He'd saved Richie from the Deadlights and now Richie was here, leaning over him, filthy jacket pressed against Eddie while the others shouted insults at It, trying to make It small. He dimly heard Richie shout something of his own over his shoulder, and the agonized roar of It was his reward. Eddie couldn't help but smile. Richie Tozier: the only one who could make him smile in a time like this.
"You still with me, Eds?"
It sounded shaky, but with a type of forced calm that Eddie hated. It sounded nothing like Richie—his Richie, the one he'd bothered in that hammock all those years ago, the one whose smile was like the warmth of the sun after a blizzard. Slowly, Eddie willed himself to nod. The action was sloppy, but it was a nod nonetheless. Good enough. And yet... and yet...
He'd lived his entire life on "good enough." From his mother to his marriage, he hadn't focused on a damn thing that actually made him happy—truly happy. The only thing that ever had was leaning over him, tears in his eyes behind thick, cracked glasses.
Well. Chalk it up to Eddie dying, but it hit him then, just how much he loved Richie Tozier.
"I gotta tell you something," Eddie managed around the blood in his throat. "'S important."
Richie looked at him desperately. "If you say 'I fucked your mom' again—"
"It's not that." Eddie coughed a little, jostling things that really didn't want to be jostled. He winced, unsure if he could continue, but realizing that he had to. "Richie, I—"
A roar from It cut him off mid-sentence. Eddie glanced over that way, toward the others, who were still fighting their battle of wills. This can wait, he decided. I have time. The others—Bill, Mike, Ben, Bev—they need help.
"You have to be there," Eddie murmured, directing his attention back to Richie. "They need you, Rich."
It looked like Richie was about to refuse, like he was going to say fuck the world and everything in it. But then his expression shifted with blazing determination, and he left Eddie's side with a quick: "I'll be right back."
I don't doubt it, Eddie thought as he drifted off into darkness. I don't doubt it at all, Richie Tozier.
He wasn't sure how much time passed since he blacked out, wasn't sure why he was standing upright, either. The last thing Eddie Kaspbrak remembered was watching Richie charge in like the goddamn cavalry to help the others. Now, now Eddie was standing over something. It felt familiar, but also so, so wrong. He shouldn't be looking at it, he realized, but he couldn't stop himself.
And then Richie was running toward him, desperation clinging on to his face like a plague. Eddie felt himself smile. Richie was alive. Richie was alive! He—and the others—had defeated It. It was dead. For good.
Relief flooded through Eddie in waves as he stepped forward to draw Richie into a hug. They could talk about its implications later, when the entire cavern wasn't going to collapse on their heads, but right now, all that mattered was the two of them.
But then? Then Richie ran right through him, and Eddie's world slid sharply, jarringly, back into place.
He watched as Richie knelt next to his body—oh God, that's what it is; that's me. Holy shit, that's me!—and gripped at his face. Richie was smiling, telling him they killed Pennywise, that it was over. But then that smile dropped when Eddie—no, not me, that can't be me—didn't respond.
"Eddie?" Richie's voice sounded like gravel.
"Here," Eddie finally managed, taking a few steps toward him. "Richie, I'm here—I'm right here!"
The next few moments blurred together. He could see the others say they needed to go. He could see them dragging Richie away. Richie, who had just moments ago, held Eddie in his arms. Richie, who was kicking and screaming, cursing and begging, begging them to let him go. Those cracked glasses, stained with blood, and those wild eyes behind them, eyes that had seen too much in too little time...
Eddie couldn't take it.
"I'm right here!" He shouted, struggling to be heard over the sound of the collapsing cavern and Richie's screams. "Guys, I'm right fucking here!"
He tried to run toward them, but his feet wouldn't move, like he was in a dream: an awful dream. Richie's voice grew dimmer and dimmer, then eventually disappeared altogether. Eddie fell to his knees as black spots began to swim into his vision. He could feel himself going under, drowning. The fear set in, then, frigid shock of it like hail.
"No," he breathed. It was all he could manage—a breathy whimper. "No no no... Help me. Richie—help me... Richie..."
And then he went slack, collapsing to the cavern floor as darkness overwhelmed him and pulled him down, down, down.
"Richie..." He said with the last of his breath. "Richie..."
And outside the remnants of the house on Neibolt Street, Richie Tozier's entire world fell apart.
Chapter 2: Time Feels Like Nothing When You Lose Everything
Six months later, Richie continues to drown in his grief; Eddie wakes up.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
The beautiful thing about Los Angeles? There were so many shitty dive bars for Richie to get wasted, he didn't even need to look that hard. That was a good thing, maybe the only good thing in his life anymore. If he had to look hard, then he would have to think hard, and thinking led to remembering and remembering led to—
He squeezed his eyes shut. He couldn't do this. Not in public. Not without the privacy of his apartment, where no one could look at him, no one could see just how bad it truly was. His hand tightened around his glass of... whatever it was he'd ordered. He hadn't really paid attention. Something straight, something strong, something to dull the pain. Even if it only numbed it for a little while, it was better than nothing. He thought it might've been bourbon; he'd always been a bourbon kind of guy. Bourbon, whiskey, anything but gin. He couldn't drink gin. Not anymore. Gin was—
Richie downed the rest of his drink, blank-faced. Yep. Definitely bourbon. For a moment, he stared at the empty glass. His reflection stared back at him, distorted and exhausted. Small wonder: he hadn't had a decent night's sleep since Derry. He had dreams, nightmares, really. Sometimes they felt like memories—probably were. Other times, they didn't even make sense. But the one thing they had in common? The one thing he couldn't get out of his head no matter how many bourbons he drank?
Well, there was no sense in thinking about the answer. He already had to deal with it enough as it was.
He waved down the bartender. "Same again."
Footsteps approached from behind the counter, followed quickly by the clanking of bottles. Richie tried to ignore the pounding in his head, the ache in his chest. He wasn't even buzzed.
"We're gonna close soon," the bartender said softly. "It's almost two."
Richie glanced over his shoulder. For the first time, he noticed that the bar was practically empty. Save for a few passed-out drunks, everyone had already left.
"Yeah," he said, throat tight. "Yeah, that's fine."
He turned back to the bartender as she poured him his drink. She was young, he realized, much younger than he would've expected. Most people who worked in dives like Tony's were easily in their late forties, years' worth of drinking and stale cigarettes having stolen their souls. Richie knew what that felt like all too well.
"That's number five, if you wanted to keep track," the bartender—Vera, according to her name tag—said.
Richie nodded. "Thanks."
She gave him a soft smile, then turned and put the bottle back on the shelf. She even did that softly. Richie was starting to think she did everything that way.
Eddie would've loved her, he thought, then downed the entire glass of bourbon.
That was the first thing he noticed as he slowly blinked his eyes open. He was cold. Well, that coupled with the name on his lips, a name he didn't even recognize. Eddie Kaspbrak—fuck, is that even my name?—didn't know anybody who went by Richie. He didn't even think he knew a Richard or Rich or any variant of it. But nevertheless, he woke up saying Richie, clinging to it like a lifeline. And maybe it was one. Or maybe he was just so goddamn cold, anything felt like a lifeline.
He sat up, feeling the ache and pull of his back, along with the ghost of something in his middle. It felt... weird. No, no, not weird. Wrong. Panic overtook him then, but he couldn't tell why. All he knew was that he had to check, he had to check—oh God, something's gonna be there and I'm so fucked. He pulled his shirt up and looked—
A scar was there. Angry and red and raised, almost too grotesque to look at, but at the same time, he couldn't force himself away. Gingerly, Eddie pressed two fingers to it, then immediately withdrew them with a hiss of pain. Wait. Pain. Scars weren't supposed to hurt. Maybe phantom pain, but that had felt all too real. Frowning, Eddie went to touch it again, but immediately froze when he heard a voice:
"Don't go and ruin my handiwork now."
"Hello?" He called, looking for the owner of the voice. It had sounded deep, but oddly... musical. Comforting. Like the father he'd never had.
He dropped his shirt back down and snapped his head toward... toward... Where the hell was he? Lying in the middle of the street, he realized. Lying in the middle of a street called Neibolt, right outside of what looked like a massive sinkhole.
I don't know a Neibolt Street, he thought. I don't know this place at all.
"You do," came the voice again. "Just like you do know a Richie."
Eddie nearly shrieked. That voice... It was coming from the sinkhole. But that—that was impossible, right? No one, nothing, could be down there. This wasn't a book. This wasn't a movie. This was real life, and in real life, voices didn't come from sinkholes.
"Real life often imitates fiction, Eddie."
This time, Eddie did shriek. He shrieked and scrambled as far away from the sinkhole as his body would allow. Which, in all honesty, wasn't very far. He felt exhausted and still so, so cold all over.
"W-who are you?" He managed, feeling his breath starting to come in wheezy gasps. "Wh-what do you want?"
"Who I am doesn't matter. Then again, maybe it means everything. Maybe I want everything... or maybe I want nothing." It sounded patient, but a patience that was slowly thinning. "What do you want, Eddie Kaspbrak?"
For a moment, Eddie short-circuited. Oddly enough, he found his mind drifting back to that name, the one he'd woken up saying. He didn't understand why. He didn't understand anything anymore. But... but the
voice, voice, why had he thought about a turtle? Didn't matter. It wanted him to respond. And, judging by the atmosphere, it wanted him to respond now.
Richie. "Home," Eddie said. "I want to go home."
Silence from the sinkhole. Eddie slowly got to his feet, unable to stop the ache of disappointment in his chest. Maybe—maybe he'd imagined the whole thing. Yeah. He definitely had. There were no voices in sinkholes. There was no one named Richie in his life. And home? Home was in New York with Myra. He had a life there, that was right. He had a life he needed to get back to.
"A life you need to get back to..." The voice sounded strangely sad. "You're right about that. But what life is it, Eddie? What life are you going to choose? The one you think you want?"
Eddie felt a sharp pain stab through his middle—right where the scar was.
"...Or the one you deserve?"
The pain dissipated, replaced by a warm glow.
"I can do a lot of things, Eddie Kaspbrak," the voice continued. Eddie turned back toward the sinkhole. "I can do a lot of things... but I can't make the choice for you."
Fear reached its icy tendrils into his heart, tugging and freezing everything in its path. "So what happens now?" Eddie demanded, trying in vain to keep the tremor out of his tone.
"Now?" The sinkhole shifted slightly. "Now you go. Life is yours to choose, after all." The voice darkened around the edges. "But I must tell you: make the right one, and you'll live. Truly live. But make the wrong one..."
Another jolt of pain flashed through Eddie's middle. With a shaking hand that didn't feel like his own, he lifted up his shirt. And instead of just the pink raised skin of the scar, a fragment of it was covered in crimson.
"...And you'll die."
The streets of Derry, Maine, were empty that morning as Eddie made his way through them. He didn't have a direction, didn't really know what he was doing, but it sounded a hell of a lot better than any alternative. He'd never been to Maine before. At least, he didn't think he had. There was a nagging feeling in his chest telling him the opposite, telling him there was more to the small town than he could see... or remember. The conversation with the
sinkhole remained fresh in his mind. As much as he tried to play it off, as much as he tried to pretend it never happened, he couldn't. It had felt too real. Eddie knew the difference between imagining things and reality. He knew the difference between gazebos and—
Fuck, he was going insane.
I should call Myra, he thought, reaching for his back pocket, where he always kept his phone. She'll be worried—
He grabbed nothing but the dirty fabric of his pants, and a wet twenty dollar bill. Great. No cellphone. How he'd lost it, he had no idea, but it quickly threw that option out the window. Sighing, Eddie glanced up at the shop he stood outside. Second Hand Rose, Second Hand Clothes... Maybe... maybe they would have a phone inside. He could call Myra, sort out whatever mess had happened, and get back to his old life.
Something in his chest felt off about that. He tried not to wonder what that meant.
The bell above the door jingled when he opened it, the sound grating on a certain nerve. It sounded too much like a pharmacy he could barely remember. It sounded almost like—
"Can I help you?"
The old man behind the counter barely looked up from the show he was watching, but somehow Eddie knew he was more alert than anyone else. Eddie took a few steps closer, trying not to marvel at the rows and rows of antiques.
"I..." He began uncertainly. "I need to... use a phone, if you have one."
The shopkeeper glanced his way, annoyed. "This is 2019. Of course I have a phone... But it's for paying customers only."
"Right." Eddie grabbed the closest thing he could find—a book—and tossed it on the counter. "How much for this?"
"Twenty." At Eddie's incredulous stare, the shopkeeper smirked. "It's signed. Author was in here about six months ago."
I'll bet he's a no-talent hack. Rolling his eyes, Eddie fished the wrinkled twenty out of his back pocket. "Here," he said. "The phone?"
The old man pointed to a rotary dial-up at the edge of the counter. "Be careful with it. It's old."
Eddie nodded, not really paying attention, and moved to grab the receiver. As he did, as he picked it up and started dialing Myra's number, the shopkeeper when back to his show. Eddie glanced at it, more for a distraction than anything else. A man was standing on a stage, smiling and cracking jokes, but—and Eddie noticed this right away—the smile didn't reach his eyes. Eyes that had seen too much in too little time.
"Who is that?" He asked nonchalantly, though he couldn't deny the frantic beating of his heart.
The shopkeeper shrugged. "Some comedian. Used to be a lot funnier than he is now. I'm not a fan of dark humor."
"Uh huh." Eddie found himself gravitating toward the screen. "You know his name?"
As it turned out, he got his answer from the TV itself. The man raised his hand and said: "My name is Richie Trashmouth Tozier—"
Eddie's entire world slid back into place.
Memories—memories he couldn't believe he'd forgotten—flew at him like fighter jets. His childhood, Derry, the clown. Then, much later, coming back. Henry Bowers stabbing him and Eddie returning the favor. The house on Neibolt Street. The tunnels. Its claw as it went right through his chest. Richie leaning over him, holding him, crying—Richie Richie Richie.
"Hello?" Myra's voice sounded through the receiver and snapped Eddie back to the present. "If this is another telemarketer, I'll have you know I have the police on speed di—"
"Sorry," Eddie interrupted, eyes wide. "Wrong number."
He slammed the phone back on to its stand and bolted for the door. He was still confused, still fuzzy on a lot of the details, but he knew one thing and one thing only:
I have to get to Richie.
Welcome to my current hyperfixation y'all! Thanks for reading :D