Richie’s eyes caught on the writing on his calendar; it was in big red marker letters and circled several times. His throat went dry and his veins buzzed with a vague excitement whenever he looked at it. The date had stayed in his mind ever since they had set it on that warm August afternoon, the date was practically imprinted onto the inside of his skull.
Thinking back to that day, that sweltering summer’s day as the afternoon slipped into evening, Richie could help but smile to himself.
They could hear the sirens passing by as they stood in the river down the hill from the kissing bridge. Even then they knew that those sirens were on their way to Henry Bowers’ house. The seven of them were all bloody and banged up, having run for their lives through the sewers under their hometown. They washed off in the river as Eddie went on about how unsanitary it was despite copying them.
The lot of them were skinned, scuffed, bruised, cut and bleeding, but they were alive. More alive than they’d ever been and probably ever would be.
Stan had stood first, tucking his shirt into his shorts as he looked around the group.
“Do you think we’ll still be friends when we’re our parents’ age?” He asked, seemingly out of nowhere, he’d obviously been thinking about it for a while.
Bill was the next to stand, his shirt clung slick to his body from the water and the sweat. He looked around the group, not that Richie could see his expression since he was cleaning his glasses, before he spoke in his firm stutter.
“O-o-of course,” he said, his conviction was striking for a thirteen year old.
Once Bill had spoken everyone took note and stood up straight, now focused on him. No one had ever said it, it had never been discussed, but they all knew that Bill was their de-facto leader. They all agreed with him. Nodding their heads and murmuring agreements, if Bill said so then it had to be true.
“How many of your parents stay in contact with their friends from middle school?” Stan asked in return, his voice wavered slightly as he stuck to his point.
“We’re all best friends Stan, it’s different,” Eddie said testily, inhaler rattling in his hand, dripping water. His cast was peeling and sloppy.
“You’re all my best f-f-friend,” Bill said, his conviction held strong as he continued to stare at Stan.
“What if we lose touch?” Stan returned, it seemed that his conviction was just as strong as Bill’s.
“We won’t,” Eddie spat, still stood up to his shins in the water, usually he would be complaining about the water seeping into his shoes but he wasn’t, he was always like that when he was sticking with Bill.
“But what if we do?” Stan said sharply, his voice was so loud that it echoed around the small clearing. His chest was heaving, rising and falling in a rapid pace, his hands were shaking fisted at his sides. There was something about him, just something about the way he’d said it and the way he was holding himself that made Richie wonder if he knew something that they didn’t.
“He’s got a point, Beverly’s moving away next week,” Mike pointed out, gesturing to Beverly with his thumb.
“It’s only Portland,” Beverly replied skittishly as she tucked a short strand of hair behind her ear.
“It’s still far,” Ben murmured, barely above a whisper, still they’d all heard.
There was a moment of silence then. They all looked between each other and Richie could tell that they were thinking about the future, thinking about losing each other, because he was too. It almost felt as though they already were. Richie could just feel them growing distant from each other even as they stood a few feet apart.
“Wh-what should we do then St-stan?” Bill asked, his bright blue eyes were still staring hard at Stan.
“We make a pact,” Stan said, as though it was as simple as that.
“What kind of pact? Because I swear if you guys wanna spit in your filthy hands and shake like it’s fucking certificate day I’m gonna chuck my guts right into the Kenduskeag and then I’m never going to talk to any of you again,” Eddie went on, hands shaking in the air as he gestured at Stan.
“Take a fucking breath Eds,” Richie muttered, elbowing Eddie in the side.
“Don’t call me that,” Eddie bit back in return, glaring daggers at Richie.
“It’s a promise we make to each other,” Stan said, as though he’d never been interrupted, “no spit handshakes,” he added, rolling his eyes at Eddie.
Eddie took a deep breath, his whole body tensing, as he usually did when he was about to go into another one of his triads about how sitting on a public toilet would definitely give you ass cancer or something like that. Bill put his hand on Eddie’s should before he was able to start up again.
“We promise that we’ll come back, right here when we’re older, when we’re our parents’ age no matter what’s happened, no matter where we are,” Stan said, there was a shake to his voice, but only with the hindsight of an adult could Richie really pick up the emotion in the memory. This was very important to Stan.
“Don’t know if I’ll be able to roll out from under Eddie’s mom in time,” Richie said, cracking up as he spoke.
“Shut the fuck up asswipe,” Eddie bit back.
“I-I-I think we should d-do it,” Bill said and that was that.
They took each other’s hands and stood in a circle still in the stream and made their promise.
They would all come back, no matter what.
The day was two weeks away and it was kind of all Richie could think about. His life wasn’t devoid of interest or things that took up his thoughts, but this was something that, as it drew closer, became bigger in his mind. He was in half a mind not to go. There was much he’d left behind in Derry, there was much that he wanted to stay in Derry, that he was desperately trying to make stay in Derry. He didn’t want to go digging up dead bodies and if he went back he’d definitely see a few of his own corpses he was sure of it.
Maybe it was a little too cliché to be a man of forty and still in the closet. It was twenty-fucking-sixteen and it shouldn’t matter, but it did, oh boy it did. There was too much in his past that kept him holding the doors closed.
There was too much back there waiting for him, but he knew he’d end up going anyways.
He had already cleared his schedule, at the beginning of the year, he’d made it clear to everyone that needed to know that he needed the entire week free. Why he’d set aside the whole week, Richie didn’t know, he just had the strange feeling that they’d end up spending more than the one night out in Derry.
They had so much to catch up on.
Stan had been right. They had all grown apart, Beverly left first after her mother had divorced her father and moved them in with her aunt in Portland. She’d wrote and called them for a time, but that had eventually petered out over the next year or so. Then Bill’s parents left the next Autumn, unable to bare staying in that place, down the street from where their son and Bill’s younger brother had died two years previously. George Denbrough had slipped in the rain and cracked his head like a broken egg on the sidewalk while chasing the little paper boat that his devoted brother had made for him. They all knew that Bill had always carried that weight. Then, a year later, Stan’s dad got a better job and they were moving out to New York, around the same time Ben’s grandmother got ill and they moved out to Texas to look after her. Mike stopped coming around so much when his dad was diagnosed with cancer, he and Eddie were out of town before Mike’s father finally died two years later. Richie and Eddie had left around the same time. By then they had sort of stopped talking, they were moving with different crowds, growing apart from each other as Stan knew they would. They hadn’t even told each other that they were leaving.
Back out there, stood filthy in the river with their hands clasped, it’d felt as though they would never grow apart. Now, stood in his kitchen staring at the sun bleached streets outside his apartment in Malibu, Richie hadn’t really thought much about any of them in twenty years. Sure he’d taken note when Bill’s books had started rolling out, he’d even seen the movie, which he’d liked for all the wrong reasons. He hadn’t realised it was his Beverly Marsh they were talking about on television until an ex-girlfriend had switch to the E! channel and her face had appeared. Whatever the hell Ben, Eddie, Mike and Stan were doing, Richie had no idea.
He found himself wondering about all of them then. He wondered if Eddie still had his fanny-pack, if Bill still stuttered, if Stan still thought that the phoenix was real, if Mike was still an amazing listener, if Beverly still smoked, if Ben still went through books as quickly as he ate.
Richie laughed to himself, shaking his head as he poured himself a glass of water. He was on such a nostalgia trip it was giving him vertigo. There was good mixed with the bad and he supposed that being an adult meant pulling them apart yourself, it meant putting the good bits up on the mantel place inside yourself and throwing the bad in the trash, but that was so damn hard to do when the bad refused to come off of the good. Maybe the reunion would help him pull those things apart.
When the day finally arrived, it felt like Christmas, finals, prom and his first set at a comedy club all wrapped up into one. Throughout the morning, he bounced around his apartment like an oversized puppy; he was a ball of pure nervous energy. He couldn’t get out of there quick enough.
The flight from LAX to Bangor was inconsequential. Richie spent the flight playing games on his phone as he listened to podcasts, bouncing his leg all the while, thank fuck he was in business class or he would have been irritating the life out of someone. Once he got to Bangor, he rented a cherry red Corvette just because it was obnoxious and drove straight to Derry.
It really felt like he was returning to something, good and bad again. He certainly felt some sort of way about seeing the town sign again. When he’d left with his parents, he couldn’t wait to see that sign retreating behind him, ‘good riddance’ he’d thought as he lost sight of it. In a way, he felt like he was betraying his younger self by returning. Then again he’d be betraying an even younger version of himself by not returning.
He pulled up outside the Chinese restaurant with his heart in his throat. A week before, Mike had somehow gotten all their numbers and added them to a group chat, he’d suggested that they meet at the Jade of the Orient at the small strip mall in Derry, everyone had agreed and said nothing more in the chat. It was almost like an unspoken (or unwritten) rule that they shouldn’t speak until the real reunion.
As he climbed out of the car, Richie spied two people embracing a short distance away. The woman with the fiery hair was obviously Beverly, he already knew what she looked like since he’d looked her up on the internet after seeing her on TV, he wasn’t sure who the other person was until they were looking at Beverly with that far away dreamy gaze that was unmistakeably Ben.
“Wow, you two look amazing,” Richie said, he’d always known how to make an entrance, “what the fuck happened to me?” He added as Ben and Beverly stepped apart. They shared a small chuckle as they greeted each other and a new round of hugs began.
Beverly smelt like expensive perfume and cigarettes, it reminded Richie of sitting in their clubhouse, smoking as he sat side by side with her. Ben smelt clean and like the leather of his rental car, it was his warm smile that reminded Richie of the kindness that Ben had always extended to everyone around him, that smile had literally lit up every room it’d ever been in.
They walked into the Jade of the Orient, which definitely hadn’t been there when they were kids. It was a little more high class than anything Richie remembered seeing in Derry while he lived there. The waitress guided them to the small semi-closed off section they seemingly had to themselves. Richie didn’t see the group, all he saw was the gong and the stick and Richie literally couldn’t help himself.
“This meeting of the losers club is in session,” Richie called as he banged the gong, drawing everyone’s attention.
“Well, you haven’t changed,” Mike said, smiling wide as he climbed out of his seat to embrace each of them.
As Mike hugged him, Richie thought that Mike hadn’t changed either. His hands were still rough but his hug as warm as it’d ever been. He sat down, diagonal from Eddie, swallowed his feelings and made jokes about them all being old and different as he ate.
Beverly wasn’t all that different from how Richie remembered her, she was just as head strong and fierce as Richie remembered her. That personality had probably helped in the fashion industry. Her hair was short and curled around her ear, it was a more stylish and mature version of the one she’d cut for herself when they were thirteen, it suited her. She definitely still smoked.
Bill looked as earnest and stubborn as he used to, the stutter was still there but fainter and there was a streak of grey in his fringe that made him look a little rugged. Richie was sure he’d seen Bill wear almost the exact same combo of green flannel shirt and jeans when they were kids. It made sense that Bill had become a writer, he’d always been the best at telling stories when they were kids.
Mike was as gentle and friendly as always, listening intently to each of them speak of their new lives. Apparently Mike was working up at the University of Maine teaching history, he and his mother had sold the farm a while back and now he lived in Bangor, it suited Mike even if the thought of it bored Richie to death. He’d told them all to shut up when they’d admitted their regrets at not being there for him when his father had died.
Ben had maybe the most drastic change of them all. To put it simply, Ben was ripped, handsome (‘handsome Hanscom’ Richie had said), a far cry from the shy but painfully earnest fat kid they’d known. His smile was still the same though and Richie could tell from the way he begged them to shut up and listen to Mike’s story that he was still as kind as he’d always been. It turned out that Ben was some sort of hot shot architect and Richie remembered them building the dam in the river as Ben directed them, and that Ben had built their underground clubhouse in the Barrens and thought that it figured.
Stan had not changed one single bit and Richie loved it. Back when they were kids, Stan had been Richie’s best friend, they’d been as thick as thieves despite being almost opposites. They’d always had the same strange sort of sense of humour, but they resolutely vowed to never laugh at each other’s jokes. He was an ornithologist to absolutely no one’s surprise and he still wore that self-satisfied smile he’d always worn. Stan had written a book about some rare birds no one had ever heard of and would probably bore the rest of them half to death if they ever bothered to so much as look at it. Richie could have sworn that Stan had been born eighty years old and was just growing into his personality.
Eddie was the same but different all at once. There was no sign of the trademark inhaler or the pills or the infamous fanny-pack, but he did go on about the state of the plates and whether the food was contaminated or not. He still swore as though he were trying to punch you with his words. He was still a damn firecracker that lit up at the slightest incitement and Richie loved it just as much as he had when they were kids. Eddie was a risk analyst, which was as typical and about as boring as Stan’s book, Richie had pretended to be falling asleep while Eddie began to describe what he did for a living. Eddie never got to finish his explanation as the rest of the group began laughing when Richie pretended to snore.
Richie was much the same as Eddie himself, the same but different. He’d grown into his face but his eyesight was still god awful. Eventually, he had worked that nervous humour he’d used to cover up his anxiety and fear into the sharp talent that had got him to where he was today, and then he’d let it fester the moment he could get people to write his own material. Richie could only hold onto something good for so long before he felt like it was rotting in his hands. Being a comedian hadn’t exactly come naturally, but it was something that gave him a feeling he’d been chasing without realising what it was until he had sat in that Chinese restaurant that night, Richie realised he’d been chasing the high that being around the losers and making them laugh gave him.
“So any of you married?” Mike asked, flashing his charming smile as he looked between them.
“Divorced, finally,” Beverly said with unrestrained glee. Richie gave a girlish whoop and clinked their glasses together because that’s what his younger self would have done, no matter the billions of question he was just itching to ask her.
Bill, Stan and Eddie flashed their wedding rings.
“Eddie, you got married?” Richie barked. “What, to like a woman?” he added, smirking as he turned on Eddie because he always did. He could never help himself with Eddie. The other was so easy to pick on and gave the best reactions, when they were younger all Richie could think about when Eddie went off on him was how cute the other was. Richie had never had the best of sight, in fact his eyesight was fucking awful, but his tunnel vision with Eddie was worse. He wondered if Eddie’s reactions would still be as cute nearly thirty years later.
“Yeah, something funny about that asshole?” Eddied returned aggressively, turning toward Richie.
“It’s not funny,” Richie laughed, feeling a little lightheaded from the intense way Eddie was staring at him.
“What about you?” Eddie said, nodding at Richie.
“Oh yeah, I’m married,” Richie said, battling the smirk that threatened to force its way across his lips.
“Really?” Eddie asked, brows pinched as he continued to stare hard at Richie.
“You didn’t know?” Richie said. He was so damn happy that Eddie was still so easy to string along.
“What, do I know her?” Eddie said, leaning back a little in his chair.
“Yeah, me and your mom have been toge-“ Richie began but was cut off by Eddie shoving Chow Mein into his mouth with his chopsticks. The whole group burst into laughter then, Stan almost choked on his water.
Richie couldn’t remember the last time he’d felt this at home, the last time he’d felt this happy, but he had a feeling that it was probably the last time they had all been together. Even with the way Stan and Eddie kept snipping at him, he wouldn’t have changed it for the world.
“I think my wife’s going to divorce me,” Bill announced once the laughter died down.
“Why?” Ben asked, sympathetic brows pinched in concern and it felt as though all of them were leaning in.
“Because she lied about liking my b-b-books,” Bill struggled out.
“Holy shit, what a lie,” Richie yelled, slamming his palms down on the table, rattling the plates and glasses.
“She said the e-endings suck,” Bill said and they all had to restrain their laughter, but when Bill started laughing they all did, politely chuckling into their drinks. At least Bill wasn’t as prideful as he used to be.
“Oh honey,” Beverly murmured, smiling as she rubbed Bill’s arm.
“When was this?” Mike asked. He held his chopsticks aloft as he stared warmly at Bill, biting back his smile.
“Yesterday,” Bill replied.
“Oh my god,” Richie exclaimed, it was as funny as it was kind of awful.
“My wife doesn’t like your books either,” Stan said flatly and continued to fork up egg fried rice.
Richie almost fell to the floor he was laughing so hard. Stan’s dry humour had sent them all for a loop and they were soon all bent double over the table as Stan allowed himself a small smile. There was nothing more said about Bill’s possibly failing marriage after that.
Conversation continued to flow between them as though no time had passed at all. After they’d all caught up, filled in the blanks, they moved onto reminiscing over their childhoods. Eventually Stan left for the bathroom as they continued to swap stories.
“If only Stan was here,” Richie began, fingers up under his glasses as he pretended to wipe his eyes.
“What the fuck are you talking about?” Eddie bit because he always bit on Richie’s bait.
“I can almost hear his voice now,” Richie said with his hand over his heart as he bent, body shaking with mock sobs.
“You’re such a loon Richie, you know I’ve never laughed once at any of your shows,” Stan’s voice came from behind him as flat as always.
“It’s almost like he’s actually here with us,” Richie continued, staring at the ceiling.
“Is this real enough for you Trashmouth?” Stan said as he smacked Richie across the back of his head, wearing the same little smirk he always did when he got one over on Richie.
“Oh, Stanny, don’t ever leave me again,” Richie said, reaching for Stan as the other slipped out of his grasp.
“Hey, I warned you all that it was going to happen,” Stan said as he got back into his seat.
“How did you know though?” Ben asked, staring at Stan with intrigue.
“Because he was a cynical old man then and he’s a cynical old man now,” Richie replied smiling at Stan as Beverly snickered beside him.
“You ought to be thanking me Richard, otherwise this wouldn’t be happening,” Stan said, gesturing between them as he spoke.
“Let’s toast to that,” Bill said, holding his drink aloft.
“To what?” Eddie asked, brows pinched as he stared at Bill. Still, he held his drink up, he’d always been the first to follow Bill.
“To St-stanley Uris’ foresight and the reunion of the loser’s club,” Bill announced, reaching across the table, Stan’s self satisfied smile was out in full force as he held his drink up.
“Cheers!” They called in unison and they clinked their glasses together. Richie pushed his glass hard against Eddie’s, slopping their drinks onto the table.
They were all but kicked out of the restaurant, none of them had noticed the time until the waitress had shown up, coughing politely behind them. They got the hint and started to leave.
“Who’s paying?” Richie asked as he stood and shucked on his jacket.
“I figure we’ll pay for ourselves,” Stan said mildly.
There was a mildly offensive Jewish joke on Richie’s tongue, just as he knew that there was a freeloader joke on Stan’s, but neither of them got to say anything.
“Don’t worry about it guys, I already handled it,” Ben said, smacking Stan lightly on the back.
“When did you do that?” Mike asked, laughter on his voice as he smile at Ben.
“When I pretended to go to the bathroom earlier,” Ben explained, dipping his head bashfully as he ran his fingers through his hair.
It was kind of typical, at least typical of Ben.
They spilled out into the night. It felt the same way it did when they came out of the movie theatre on an autumn evening when they were kids, crashing out onto the streets like excited children. The parking lot was practically empty, besides their cars of course, the sight was a little eerie but it also made it feel like they had the whole town to themselves.
“You’re so small in real life,” Richie said, ruffling Bill’s hair as they stepped toward their cars. “You’re shorter than Eddie,” he added, flicking his hand between them, laughing as he made the observation.
“Holy shit you’re right,” Eddie said, as though he was just realising, “you’re a real shortass Bill,” he went on, smiling wide as he spoke, it was the first time he’d been taller than any of them.
“Not exactly Big Bill anymore,” Richie said with glee and Stan snorted beside him.
“H-hey, I’m big where it counts,” Bill threw back, smiling back at Richie as he said it.
And that left them all howling in the empty parking lot. Richie felt like a teenager again, giddy and high from getting one over on ‘big Bill’.
“What are we doing tomorrow?” Stan asked, as though there was no shadow of a doubt that they were going to hang around for a few days, just as Richie had suspected.
“We should take a tour around the town, go to all our old haunts,” Mike said, smiling between his friends.
They all agreed to meet up in the Town House lobby tomorrow morning and grab breakfast together somewhere in town.
After a short drive they all pulled up outside the Town House, the large brick building didn’t seem to loom over them as much as it had when they were children, then again this was the first time he’d been inside and back then he wasn’t as tall. Richie was pretty sure that they had the run of the place. Derry wasn’t exactly a popular tourist destination at the best of times and there weren’t that many rooms in the building anyway.
After bidding each other good night, Richie found himself alone in a stuffy hotel room. It was all dark wood, dark furniture, dark wallpaper and patterned curtains and sheets.
Richie flopped down onto the mattress, face pressed against the sheets, forcing his glasses to dig into his skin. He groaned and rolled over. For a while he just blinked up at the stained ceiling.
He could do this, he told himself, he could spend a few days with the few people he’d ever been close to in life without imploding, he could spend a few days with his childhood crush and first love without losing his mind.
The fact that Eddie was married had stupidly blindsided him.
Of course they would have all moved on and gotten on with their lives. And it wasn’t exactly like Richie had ever so much as given the other’s a hint that he batted for the other team as they said, let alone gave Eddie any indication of the crippling crush he’d been carrying with him for close to thirty years now. It wasn’t like he had any reason to hold out any hope on that front and still he had. A small part of him had carried that hope with him all these years, Eddie had snuffed out that hope when he’d flashed his wedding ring earlier that night.
Richie would just have to suck it up. He wasn’t going to let something like a thirty year old crush ruin their reunion; he was at least mature enough for that.
The moment Richie Tozier realised he was in love with Eddie Kaspbrak was probably the strangest moment to realise something like that.
Eddie’s arm was flopping around strangely and the boy looked pretty green as they came upon him. Henry Bowers had snapped Eddie’s wrist like it was nothing more than a twig, just for the fun of it, just because they’d gotten away from him one too many times, just because he’d lost his damned mind. It didn’t matter why.
When they had found Eddie, he was laughing hysterically as he lied flat on his back in the same alleyway as they had patched up Ben in. They probably should have mentioned what was going to an adult, but when you’re a kid the lives of adults and children seem so separate that it’s hard to believe that anyone will do anything. No one had ever done anything about Henry and his friends before.
“Eds,” Richie called, he skinned his knee as he dropped to the concrete beside Eddie but he didn’t care, hands hovering impotently above the other. The rest of the group’s thundering footfalls followed Richie’s and they came to a shuddering stop around Eddie.
“It hurts,” Eddie continued to laugh.
“Then why are you fucking laughing?” Richie returned wide eyed. Eddie was really beginning to scare him and he didn’t exactly know what he should do about it. He knew they should call Eddie’s mom, but Mrs. Kaspbrak was a damn bulldozer and as far as Richie was concerned no good would come out of telling her that Eddie had broken his arm. Richie noticed that none of the others were running for the phone either.
“He’s in shock,” Stan said, his shadow loomed over Eddie and Richie.
“Eddie, this is going to hurt but I need to reset your arm,” Richie said, kneeling beside Eddie with him practically in his arms, as Bill crouched down on Eddie’s other side. He’d only said it because it was the only thing he could think to do, besides calling Eddie’s mom, he was sure he had seen it on TV or something.
“Don’t you fucking touch me,” Eddie snapped, demeanour changing in an instant as Richie reached for his arm, struggling in Richie’s grasp. “Do not fucking touch me.”
Richie ignored Eddie’s cried as he grabbed his arm, he felt for the break as the smaller boy yelped in his lap, he held the broken parts in both hands and pushed them toward each other. There was a crack that made Richie’s stomach churn and Eddie’s screech echoed off of the alley walls but then it was over.
He and Eddie stayed there, sat on the concrete breathing heavily as they stared at each other and that was when it had happened. As he stared at Eddie’s tear and sweat stained face, Richie realised that he would do anything for wheezy little Eddie Kaspbrak, he would even face Henry Bowers and his gang of thugs for Eddie despite how terrifying that thought was.
“Are you okay Euh-euh-eddie?” Bill asked, yanking Richie straight out of his thoughts.
“You know I don’t like it when you stutter my name Bill,” Eddie muttered quietly, turning away from Richie and shakily clambering out of his hold. He sat with his ass on the concrete, leant against Richie’s side.
“Su-sorry Eddie,” Bill murmured in return, looking cowed.
“We should call your mom Eddie,” Ben said tentatively, he was as aware as everyone else that this was the last thing any of them wanted to do, but he was smart enough to understand that it was something they would have to do eventually.
“Yeah, I guess we should,” Eddie said sadly and he began to wheeze.
In that moment, Richie hated Eddie’s mother more than he had hated anything in his entire life. He hated her more than he hated his glasses or his buck teeth, he hated her more than he hated being told to sit still, he hated her more than he hated the way his own mother would sometimes say how she wished Richie had been a girl, he hated her more than he hated Bowers and his gang even.
Richie had a thought then, one that kind of scared him; he wished that she would just drop dead. He’d never in his whole life wished such a thing. Sure, he’d thought it before at plenty of people, but he had never meant those thoughts like he did right then.
As he pawed Eddie’s inhaler out of his fanny-pack and put it to the other's mouth, Richie had another strange thought, it was kind of a fantasy he wanted to sink straight into. Richie wanted to plop Eddie onto his bike and ride it straight out of this fucking town until the two of them were free. Until they were finally free from the terrifying bullies, from Eddie’s mother, from school, from Mr. Keene and every other damn shitty person in that godforsaken shithole. He would pump those peddles until his muscles burned and his chest felt as tight as a death grip. He would ride that bike with Eddie on the seat, hands braced on his waist, until Derry was but a memory and the two of them were finally, finally, free.