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Shadowplay.

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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.

Chapter Text

Richie woke with a start, gasping into the thick air of the hotel room. He’d been in Derry in his nightmare and he was disappointed to realise he was still in Derry when he woke up. He ran his hand down his face as he reached blindly for his glasses, patting his hand around on the nightstand until he grasped them and slid them up his face. Glancing around the room didn’t make him feel much better. It was hard to chase the demons away while you were sitting squarely in the middle of the stage of your nightmares.

It was only then that Richie realised that someone was knocking on his door, it sounded like they were trying to break the damn thing down.

“What?” Richie yelled from the bed.

“Get the fuck up asshole, everyone’s waiting for you,” Eddie called through the door.

Richie groaned and looked around at the digital clock on the nightstand, it read 9:42, that was a little early for Richie but they had said they’d meet up at half past the night before.

“Fine, fine, I’m getting up,” Richie said as he flung the sheets back and clambered out of the bed.

It took him all of fifteen minutes to get ready, which Eddie gripped about when he finally emerged from his room. Stan gave him a stiff look but made no comment.

“Ah, Sleeping Beauty emerges from her slumber,” Beverly cooed from where she stood, leant against the banister at the bottom of the stairs.

“Sorry guys, I didn’t have anything to prick my hand with,” Richie returned and winked at Eddie who looked mildly disgusted despite not knowing why he should be disgusted because it didn’t really make any sense.

“Sleeping Beauty fell asleep because she’d pricked her hand dumbass,” Eddie said, following Richie down the stairs, “it was the prince’s kiss that woke her up,” he added, hands gesturing sharply in the air before them.

“Maybe you should have come into my room and given me a smooch then Eds,” Richie returned, smirking as he waggled his eyebrows.

“Fuck you,” Eddie said, elbowing Richie in the side.

 


 

They had breakfast at a diner just down the street from the Town House, it hadn’t been there when they were kids but it still seemed old. Both Eddie and Stan had commented on the state of the place but had still eaten there. After that, they’d begun their amble through the town, pointing things out as they went.

It was as though Derry were a luminal space where time didn’t move the same as it did everywhere else. Maybe Derry stood on the borderline of crossing dimensions or some other sci-fi techno-babble from books Richie hadn’t read since college. Something about the place was eerie, and it left Richie feeling phantom pains all over his body.

Richie grabbed Eddie by the shoulder the moment he realised that they were passing in front of the Aladdin. He’d spent a large part of his childhood in there, playing arcade games and watching cheap matinees in the theatre.  It was all boarded up and news papers were plastered to the windows. The sight of it sent a wave of nostalgia rolling straight over him, it pulled him under as his eyes zeroed in on the hole in the glass near the handle and he let it wash down him.

“I used to spend so much time in here,” Richie murmured as Eddie turned back to him. The rest of the group had stopped too, just a little ahead of them.

“That probably did nothing for your eyesight,” Eddie muttered, he was looking at the building with the same sort of reverence as Richie.

“We all know it was beyond fucked to begin with,” Richie returned, tilting his head toward Eddie, brows raised over the rim of his glasses.

“Yeah, but I’m sure standing in the dark and playing video games all fucking day didn’t help,” Eddie went on and Richie just started at him for a moment.

“Let’s go inside,” Richie said, turning back to the door.

“It’s shut Richie,” Stan deadpanned.

Richie reached through the hole in the glass, he didn’t miss the way Eddie winced beside him as he did it, and opened the door from the inside.

“Doesn’t seem all that shut to me Stanley,” he said, smirking as he stepped inside.

The rest of the group followed him in. Ben closed the door carefully behind them as the last on in. They moved through the small arcade with their eyes glazed over with nostalgia, there were some really good memories held in that place. They’d seen all the greats there, they’d horsed around in the arcade for hours, they had made memories there that they all still carried with them.

The place was practically desecrated. All of the arcade machines were bashed in and spray painted over, the only poster left on the wall was for ‘You’ve Got Mail’ and the floor was littered with paper trash. Dust motes floated through the air, it felt like they were in a ghost town but only from the inside.  

“We used to come here all th-the time,” Bill said, hands stuffed into the front pockets of his jeans as he stared around the musty room, eyes wide.

“It was one of the few places where Henry wouldn’t start with us,” Ben murmured as his eye roved over the dusty machines and the spray paint on the wall.

Henry had started with Richie there, but he was pretty sure that he was the only one of the losers who’d come to the arcade alone, especially during the summer of terror. Richie didn’t bring it up though. It was a memory that he desperately wanted to bury, never mind how it was already flickering through his mind like an old home movie. He looked over at the dusty and graffiti ridden Street Fighter cabinet and it all came flooding back to him.

The music wasn’t the thing that stuck in his mind, no instead it was the sound and feeling of the buttons, he could just feeling them under his fingers as he stared at the machine. They clacked and felt almost flimsy as his fingers slid across them.

Richie had just won a round of Street Fighter with a kid who had bright curls like Stan but was a good few inches taller than him. The feeling of their hands coming together as the kid complimented him sent jittering shocks of electricity through Richie’s body, it made him feel sick in a good and bad way, his knees felt weak.

“It was good playing with you,” the kid said as he began to move away from the machine, “you really kicked my ass.”

There was a part of Richie that knew what he was about to do was a bad idea, it was usually a much louder part of himself, but with Eddie locked indoors Richie was feeling painfully lonely.

“We could go again,” Richie said, his palms were clammy and his voice had a desperate tinge to it that made even him wince, “I mean if you want to,” he added, horrified with himself.

The kid was looking at him like he had just asked if he wanted to share needles; he looked worried, he looked disgusted and Richie could already feel the acid sinking into his stomach. Then Henry Bowers and his two goons entered the room.

“Henry, you didn’t tell that your town was full of fairies,” the kid said, looking strangely at Henry, as though he needed to get away from Richie as quickly as possible.

Richie felt like he’d been slapped across the face, he felt like he’d been run over by a truck, his whole body stung.

“Huh-what?” He murmured dumbly, mouth agape as he stared between the kid and Henry.

“What’ve you been doing to my cousin four eyes?” Henry barked, drawing the attention of the whole damn arcade.

“Nothing,” Richie bit back, brows pinched, he both got it and didn’t. As far as he was aware, he hadn’t done anything wrong besides ask if the kid wanted to play again, other than that he’d simply just been there.

“Why don’t you get out of here, faggot,” Henry said sharply, the words had punched out of him so hard that Richie flinched.

For some stupid reason, Richie tried to stand his ground, he had as much of a right to be there as anybody else, but Henry cut in to his spluttering again.

“Get out!” Henry roared and Richie turned heel with his tail tucked between his legs.

He pushed his way out of the building, eyes stinging and his heart jammed all the way up into his throat. Richie promised himself that he wouldn’t run until he was out of sight of the arcade. Once he was sure that Henry or anyone else from in the Aladdin wouldn’t be able to see him, Richie started running and pleated it down the street. His pounding footfalls were the only thing he could hear.

Richie ran all the way to Memorial Park. He went over to the bandstand, near the standpipe, and dropped onto the bench in front of that stupid plastic Paul Bunyan statue. For a moment, he wished that it would come to life and split him in two with its axe.

He finally allowed himself to cry then. The only noise he released were quiet sniffles as the tears rolled down his cheeks. He slid his hands up under his glasses and rubbed at his eyes, sighing heavily into his hands. His glasses fell into his lap and Richie sighed again. Richie sniffled once more, willing the tears to stop as he clean his glasses with the hem of his shirt, before he slipped them back onto his face.  He wouldn’t cry anymore, they’d had enough of his tears.

Richie slowly came back to himself, blinking away the memory like it was just a bad dream, still staring at the arcade cabinet. His heart sank as he continued to stare it. He’d let them run him off so many times. If he had stayed he have gotten the snot beaten out of him, he knew that as well as he knew his own name. He quickly turned away from the machine, determined not to let the memory ruin his time with the losers, he was supposed to be having a good time with the closest friends he’d ever had.

“Didn’t the photo-booth used to be here?” Eddie asked, pointing at a large vacant space beside the other machines.

“Yeah, I think so,” Stan said, frowning at the dust in the carpet.

“I wonder what happened to those photos?” Beverly asked and looked between the group, “I don’t remember who took them.”

“I’ve got them,” Mike chimed in, biting his lip as he smiled at them.

“Really?” Ben asked, his face lit up as he looked over at Mike.

“They’re in a photo album back home,” Mike said, gesturing behind himself as he spoke, as though he still only lived on the outskirts of the town. “I could make copies and send them out to you all, if you want?” he said, surveying the group, they nodded and voiced their agreements.

“Oh hell yeah, I’ve got like five pictures of us and they’re all awful,” Richie said, the only pictures he had were from birthdays and were taken by either his mother or father.

“I’ve got a f-f-few, most of them are just of Eddie and me though,” Bill said and nodded at Eddie. “Georgie was collecting pictures from everyone he could and that was before most of us hung out,” he continued, looking away from them as he mentioned his brother. Some pain just never went away, you only learnt how to deal with them over time.

“I don’t think I have any, besides the pictures of Richie at my Bar Mitzvah,” Stan said, sort of smiling as he looked over at Richie.

“I bet they’re fucking priceless,” Richie said, smiling wide at Stan and Stan smirked back at him.

“Oh boy are they,” Stan returned.

“I’m certain I don’t have any pictures of us,” Ben chimed in, frowning as continued to stare at the place where the photo-booth had been.

“Me either,” Beverly murmured, somewhat sadly.

“I’ve got a whole lot of pictures of us, most of them don’t feature you though Bev since you were gone when I got the Polaroid,” Mike said, turning to Beverly apologetically.

“That’s alright Mikey,” Beverly said with a soft smile.

“Hey, wuh-we’re all together now, right?” Bill said, drawing the attention of the whole group. “We can make up for it,” he added, smiling as he looked between his friends.

Richie started to wonder just how the hell they’d all grown apart, maybe it was due to their parents moving Beverly and Bill away, maybe it was how hard it was to stay in contact with someone in the nineties, whatever it was Richie was suddenly feeling mighty sore about it. He felt like he’d missed out on something really important, as though he was just reclaiming pieces of himself that was stuck inside these six other people. They should have never lost touch.

 


 

They left the Aladdin, feeling just that little bit closer. Instead of just taking photos on their phones, Eddie had said that they should get a bunch of disposable cameras like they sometimes give out at kitschy weddings and make as many memories as possible, to make up for lost time. The losers agreed and they made their way to the drug store. It wasn’t a long walk, all of Derry’s business seemed to be mostly packed into one street.

Once outside, Richie saw that Eddie wasn’t following them to the door. He waited behind while everyone else filed inside and watched Eddie with concern.

“Hey Eds, you coming?” he asked, standing in front of the door as he continued to hold it open.

“I fucking hate this place,” Eddie muttered harshly as he scowled at the drug store. “I could probably fucking sue that asshole, Mr. Keene, for lying to me for so many fucking years,” he ground out, jaw tight.

He didn’t comment on Richie using the nickname.

Richie remembered that Eddie had been in and out of that place as much as he had his own home, it was as familiar to him as his home, Richie was sure of that. Eddie’s mother even had an account there. Until Eddie broke his arm, or more accurately Henry Bowers had broken his arm, Eddie had been taking a litany pills of that he took at all times of the day and he had an inhaler on top of that.

It had always seemed a little fishy to Richie, but he was a kid at the time, what the hell did he know about medicine. Still, he’d noticed that Eddie only got asthma when he was worrying about his mother. Eddie had always been good at gym class, he was the fastest runner out of the lot of them, and Richie had been there when Eddie’s mother had come to their school shouting about how Eddie couldn’t do gym class and their teacher had shot back that Eddie was physically fine. Richie was pretty sure that they had all known but had never brought it up to Eddie. They didn’t have the heart to.

“How did you find out that it was all garbage?” Richie asked, he let the door go and walked over the Eddie. He had never asked when they were kids, he’d just slowly noticed that the fanny-pack had disappeared, Eddie’s watch stopped periodically beeping and that inhaler was nowhere to be seen. They had all noticed it, of course, they had just never brought it up either and neither had Eddie. At the time Richie had just thought that Eddie was getting better, that he’d finally gotten over his asthma. It wasn’t until he was a lot older that he fully realised that Eddie had never had asthma.

“Mr. Keene suddenly grew a fucking conscious or something and told me,” Eddie said, still staring into the window of the store. “It was the same day that Henry Bowers broke my arm, it was just before that,” he added, looking as though he were far away.

“Holy shit, what a fucking day you had,” Richie spluttered, brows disappearing into his shoddy fringe.

“Yeah, it was a real shitter,” Eddie said, finally looking at Richie. “Once we got home from the hospital and she was saying how I wasn’t allowed to see you guys anymore, I just lost it and finally let her have it,” he elaborated, fists shaking at his sides as he spoke.

“You stood up to her?” Richie asked, but he’d known he did, the pills and the inhaler had been missing for the rest of the time they’d known each other and they wouldn’t have gone away without a fight. A sudden and sharp sense of pride spread through him as he stared back at Eddie.

“I put my fucking foot down,” Eddie said, almost smiling as he said it.

“Never knew you had it in ya Eds,” Richie said, and clapped Eddie on the back.

“I said I wouldn’t take a single bit of medicine unless a doctor told me directly that I had to and if I found out that she was feeding me bullshit again, then I’d start chucking up every fucking meal, that I’d never eat a damn thing she made me again,” Eddie rambled, smirking up at Richie.

Richie laughed then, imagining small Eddie Kaspbrak standing up to his bull of a mother. A lot of people had called Eddie weak, they’d made fun of his size and so much more and so much worse, but Eddie was anything but weak and Richie figured that he’d always known that.

“You’re so much braver than anyone ever gave you credit for,” Richie murmured in awe, smiling back at Eddie.

Eddie ducked his head and didn’t speak for a moment.

“You know how I was laughing when you guys found me?” Eddie asked, eyes sliding back into the past again.

“Yeah,” Richie nodded, he’d never forget that. Eddie cackling on the ground of the alleyway, holding his arm to him as he rolled around, hysterical and out of his mind.

“I wasn’t in shock, like Stan said,” Eddie murmured, “it was the first time that I’d felt real pain, like proper real pain and the world didn’t end and I wasn’t going to die and that just changed everything for me, I was just so fucking relieved,” he went on, sounding more relaxed as he continued, as though he was reliving the moment.

“So you started laughing?” Richie asked, brows raised, hands in his pockets.

“She’d never let me feel pain Richie, you have no idea how much that’ll fuck you up,” Eddie said, shaking his head.

“Yeah,” Richie murmured because for once he didn’t have a damn thing to say.

The rest of the losers came back out of the store then, chattering and sniggering as they carried a bag full of disposable cameras with them. Richie was thankful for the distraction, both for himself and for Eddie, they didn’t need to be thinking about the bad times especially when they were finally together again.

“Did you guys fleece their whole stock?” Richie asked, staring at the bulging plastic bag clutched in Beverly’s hand.

“Yeah, pretty much,” Ben replied, smiling dumbly as he bumped his shoulder into Beverly’s.

“You’re nuh-never gonna guess who’s still here Eddie,” Bill said excitedly as he came up beside Eddie.

“No way,” Eddie groaned, forehead creasing as he raised his brows, “that piece of shit’s still alive?”

“Yeah, Mr. Keene’s still here and he’s still a piece of shit,” Mike said, it was a little shocking to hear me say something like that, Mike usually never had a bad thing to say about anyone. Richie figured that Mike must have felt the same about what Mr. Keene had let happen to Eddie as he did.

“Looks like he’s a few screws short of a full set, I wouldn’t trust any prescription I picked up from him,” Stan noted and Beverly chuckled lightly beside him.

As they were talking, Richie reached into the bag Beverly was holding and pulled out a camera. He wound it until it clicked, held it up to his face and stared through the viewfinder, and then took a picture of Eddie’s screwed up face. ‘Cute, cute, cute,’ Richie thought. 

“Fuck you,” Eddie barked and Richie couldn’t help but laugh. Eddie pulled a camera of his own from the bag, did as Richie had done and took a photo of the other. “How do you like that asshole?” He bit back, smiling as he brought the camera away from his face.

“I hope you got my good side Spaghetti head,” Richie said, smirking as he held his chin between his thumb and pointer finger, Eddie rolled his eyes.

“We should move on, we’re blocking the entrance,” Ben said and shuffled away from the door.

“Where should we go next?” Mike asked, looking between them.

“We spent most of our time in the Buh-b-barrens right?” Bill said, looking across the way as he tried to remember.

“We could find the clubhouse!” Eddie yelled with unrestrained excitement. “I’ll bet you fucking anything that it’s still there, everything that Ben ever built worked like a fucking dream,” he went on, his smile growing wider as he thought about the things they had gotten up to as children.

“I don’t know about that Eddie, it’s been a long time,” Ben said, bashful as he ducked his head, rubbing at the nape of his neck.

“Let’s find out,” Beverly said, smiling as she began down the street, the rest of them scrambled to follow her. Ben jogged lightly to fall in step beside her.

 


 

The Barrens were anything but, they’d always been flush with trees and bushes and brush as the Kenduskeag ran straight through it. They’d played a lot down there, especially over the summer of ’89, it was less playing and more hiding but they did their best to forget about that. That place had been the sight of so many great experiences throughout his childhood. They’d built the dam there, they’d played guns there, running around and screaming their heads off, the apocalyptic rock fight had happened there, they had practically all met there and they had made their promise stood down in that very river.

It was an important place for all of them. 

Eddie guided them through the wood, as he always had, they all probably knew the way just as well as Eddie but it just didn’t feel right without him at the head of the group.

“It was somewhere around here, right?” Eddie said, frowning as he stared down at the brush covering the ground.

“Yeah, I think so,” Ben said and started stomping around as the rest looked on. Stan was staring through the trees, looking out for birds. Bill and Richie were horsing around, trying to trip each other up on the roots of trees. Mike and Beverly chatted idly as Eddie watched Ben. “I think it should be right about he-.” His words were cut off as Ben fell through the floor, a gust of dust and dirt flew into the air as they heard Ben’s body thunk against the ground.

“Ben!” They all called warily.

“I’m okay!” Ben returned. “Come down here,” he added, sounding a little awestruck.

The rest of the losers looked at each other before they made their way into the club house. It was dank and dark down there. It smelt like the past, it reminded Richie of his parents’ old musty garage. Looking around, Richie could tell that it was just as they had left it, just like he’d left it. He knew because the comic book he’d been reading the last time he was there was exactly where he left it, perched on the edge of a small wooden table.

They found Ben standing up as much as he could as he tried to shake the dirt out of his hair. Beverly chuckled lightly as he came up to him. Helping to get the dirt off of Ben as much as she could, Richie watched as they laughed together and felt something stir in his stomach as he flicked his eyes over to Eddie.

“Hey Stan, remember these,” Bill said, holding a tin aloft, smiling as he did so. On the outside, written over masking tape in red marker was ‘for use of losers only – Stan.’ He pawed at the tin, slowly opening the lid. They all turned to look at him as he reached into the tin and pulled out a shower cap.

“Oh my god,” Stan said, chuckling as he blushed lightly. “Spiders,” he murmured as he took the shower cap from Bill.

“Wow, I can’t believe all this crap is still here,” Eddie said loudly, in mild awe.

“I mean, we hid it pretty well,” Mike said, smiling smugly. “Ben had to fall straight through it to find it again,” he added on a chuckle and they shared a little laugh at that. A good chuck, Richie thought.

Richie’s eyes caught on the hammock and stuck to it like glue. Suddenly he felt like he was inside an old photograph, living a memory as it played out before his eyes.

Laid out in the hammock on a sticky afternoon, Richie was reading a comic as he tried not to think about feelings he was only just realising he had. It was also nice to know that Henry Bowers would never find them down there. He was too stupid and even the losers sometimes had trouble finding the hatch. It was the only place they had that was all their own, no one else knew about it and they were safe down there. It was a place where they could all relax and be themselves.

“Spiders,” Stan said as he loomed over Richie, his light curls were backlit by the small amount of light that came from the hatch, it made a golden halo around Stan’s head.

“What?” Richie said as he squinted up at Stan.

“If you wear this you won’t get spiders in your hair,” Stan said, smiling softly as he held the shower cap out toward Richie.

“We’re not scared of spiders Stanley,” Richie said dismissively, Stan deflated a little as he stepped away from the hammock. When Stan moved away, Richie saw that the rest of the losers were all wearing them. “I stand corrected,” he added flatly and returned to his comic book.

“Come on Richie, get out, your ten minutes are up,” Eddie said, pulling Richie from his comic for the second time.

“What are you talking about?” Richie asked, sighing as he looked up at Eddie, Eddie wasn’t wearing a shower cap anymore.

“The ten minute rule,” Eddie said sharply, “we all agreed to that we’d take ten minute turns,” he added, hands shaking as he gestured wildly.

“I don’t see any sign,” Richie said, playing up as he looked around for a sign he knew wasn’t there.

“Why would you need a sign for a verbal agreement?” Eddie said, smacking his hands together to punctuate his statement.

The commotion continued until Eddie scuffled and clambered into the hammock with Richie. It wasn’t really big enough for two, but Eddie crammed himself into the other end, Richie’s feet tucked under his ass. Richie’s heart was hammering in chest, trying to chisel its way out of his body. They had been closer than this plenty of times, they’d slept in the same bed during sleepovers, sat almost nose to nose in the tiny room above Eddie’s garage reading comic books and yet he had never felt like this.

Richie pretended to read his comic while he could only think of Eddie. He was hyperaware of everywhere that Eddie was touching him, his skin felt aflame and he was sure that he hadn’t been sweating this much before.

Eddie’s feet flicked up onto his shoulder, Richie tried to act as though this didn’t bother him, that was until Eddie started smacking his feet against the side of Richie’s head. He tried to ignore it, it wasn’t like he could actually focus on the comic with Eddie touching him so much anyways, and then Eddie’s toes slipped up under his glasses and knocked them clean off his face.

Richie sighed and stared at the blurry form of Eddie over the comic.

“Seriously?”

Eddie didn’t say anything, from what little Richie could see, he was smiling like mad. Richie wished he was wearing his glasses.

“You used to hog that fucking thing like you owned it,” Eddie said, voice ripping Richie from his memories.

“Well I don’t see no sign saying I didn’t Eddie Spaghetti,” Richie smiled, his heart beating as wildly in his chest as it had been all those years ago.

“That’s a double negative asshole,” Eddie bit, brows pinched in a frown as he stared at Richie, “and don’t call me that, I fucking hate it when you call me that,” he added sharply.

Richie really wanted to reach over and pinch Eddie’s cheek, how could a forty year old man be so damn cute?

Suddenly a light flashed, lighting up the entire room for a split second. They all looked over to find Ben standing by the ladder, smiling sheepishly as he held the camera against his thigh and wound it, biting his lip as he looked at them. Richie wondered what expression had been captured on his face.

“This was my favourite place in all of Derry,” Ben said with awe as he looked about the small room, staring between the losers as he smiled brightly.

“Me too, even with the spiders,” Mike matched Ben’s smile as he stared back at him.

“I think the dump was pretty cool,” Eddie said and Stan sneered while Bill nodded, “and the train yard.”

“My favourite place was under Eddie’s mom,” Richie said, smirking as he held him hand up for Stan to give him five, Stan only reached over and pushed Richie’s hand back down.

“Fuck. Off,” Eddie spat with venom.

Richie could only smile as Eddie flipped him off.

Cute, cute, cute, the word wouldn’t stop repeating in his head.

Chapter Text

They grabbed a light lunch at a coffee shop that was vaguely reminiscent of a Starbucks but definitely didn’t have the variety or snobbishness of one. The bad feeling from the arcade was almost a distant memory for Richie. Conversation continued to flow between them like water through the Kenduskeag, apart from that time they’d built a mighty fine dam and backed up the whole river, and Richie still couldn’t quite believe it.

Beverly and Bill kept snapping pictures whilst everyone ate. Stan and Mike posed like it was for the year book, with their arms over each other’s shoulders, smiling pleasantly. Ben kept turning away from the cameras but couldn’t keep the smile off his face. They giggled like kids as Eddie tried to keep them away from his food, babbling about getting Beverly’s hair on his Danish. Richie could only smile goofily as he watched.

“I think I’m gonna go back to the Town House, I gotta call Patty and I might have nap,” Stan said, pulling his phone out of his pocket as they all stepped out on the curb outside the coffee shop.

“Old man Uris is tired out already,” Richie said, jamming his hands into his pockets as he bumped his shoulder into Stan’s.

“I’m just looking after my health Richie, unlike some of us,” Stan returned and prodded Richie in the gut.

“Uh, you wound me Stanley,” Richie joked, bending over as he held his gut in mock pain.

“What about the rest of us?” Eddie asked, looking around at the group, but mostly at Bill, for ideas. “What are we gonna do now?”

“We should go to the quarry,” Richie said, suddenly very excited, smiling wide as he held his hands out as though he’d come up with some great idea.

“What, and swim in that disgusting water?” Eddie barked, brows pinched and forehead creased as he stared back at Richie.

“It didn’t seem to bother you when we were kids Eds,” Richie returned, catching Eddie out. He watched as Eddie’s face fell slightly, waiting with glee for whatever Eddie would come back at him with, smiling like the cat that got the cream all the while.

“Don’t call me that,” Eddie muttered, ducking his head to stare at his shoes.

“I think that’d be great,” Beverly piped up, cutting in on Eddie and Richie’s bickering, “that’s one of my favourite memories you know, all of us horsing around in the water,” she added, smiling as he tucked a loose strand of hair behind her ear.

“Yeah?” Ben asked, watching Beverly with quiet adoration and interest, Beverly nodded simply in return.

“Okay, so let’s split up and meet again at the quarry?” Bill said as he looked around the group.

“Alright, I can dig that,” Richie said, nodding as rest of the group agreed.

“Where you gonna go Mikey?” Ben asked, turning slightly toward Mike.

“I was thinking the library,” Mike said, rubbing his chin as he looked up the street, “see what they’ve got to offer.”

“Oh, I used to spend all my time there,” Ben said, his smile grew as he stared off into the middle distance, clearly remembering something that was all his own to remember.

“Why don’t you come with me?” Mike asked as he watched Ben’s smile widen.

“Yeah alright,” Ben said, nodding curtly, dusty blonde hair getting into his eyes as he continued to smile at Mike.

“I think I’ll join you boys, although I never really spent much time there myself,” Beverly said, seemingly stuck to Ben’s side.

“What about you, Bill?” Stan asked as he slipped his phone back into his pocket.

“I’m guh-gonna go down M-m-main Street,” Bill stammered, they all knew that he was going to go back to his old house, to where Georgie had died, but none of them would mention it. Bill’s grief was his own and what he did with it wasn’t their business, all they could do was be there for him when he was ready to come to them.

“Alright, let’s meet at the quarry at four,” Mike said with a nod and everyone replied in agreement.

They broke up and Richie watched as Bill walked away, he tried not to worry about him, but Bill had always had a way of doing things that made Richie worry about him. He’d just have to do his best to make Bill laugh when they met up again.

Richie had an idea of where he might go on his own. That place stuck out like a sore thumb in his memory and Richie was dying to see if it was still there while vaguely hoping that it wasn’t. He wouldn’t have far to walk.

“Where you gonna go Richie?” Eddie asked, turning toward Richie. They were the only losers left stood in front of the coffee shop. It almost sounded like Eddie wanted to come with him, but Richie couldn’t have that, not this time at least.

“It’s a secret Eds,” Richie said, smiling as he tapped his nose, “I’ll see ya later,” he said, giving Eddie a two fingered salute before he made to turn away.

“Hey Richie,” Eddie called.

“Yeah,” Richie said, looking back at Eddie.

“Do it properly,” Eddie said, his eyes shone with something that reminded Richie of the past, but ever since he got to Derry a whole lot of things had been reminding him of the past.

Richie sighed, but went along with it anyways, “see ya later alligator.”

“In a while crocodile,” Eddie returned with a smile and they went their separate ways.

 


 

The Kissing Bridge was the same as always, just older like everything else and the etchings on the wood were faded with a few new ones in the between the gaps. They had passed over and under that bridge so many times without even sparing a glance for the marks in the wood.

Richie scanned his eyes over the wood, flitting over initials, declarations of love and crude messages, until he found what he was looking for exactly where he had left it.

Eddie still had his cast on, Richie wondered how he could ride a bike like that, it must have been uncomfortable. They rode toward Eddie’s house because his mom was making him come home for lunch no matter what. Richie thought that he might as well have lunch at home too, that way he could spend more time alone with Eddie.

He watched as Eddie climbed off his bike and dumped it in his front yard. Their houses weren’t too far apart, Richie always thanked his lucky stars that he lived the closest to Eddie, and it meant he got to walk Eddie home every day. It meant that he was the last one to see Eddie.

“Hey Richie,” Eddie called, still standing in the yard.

“What?” Richie asked, he flexed his fingers around the handles of his bike as he stared back at the other.

Richie watched as Eddie looked up and down the empty street before he ran across the yard toward him. Eddie shot a look behind him, back at his house to make sure that his mom wasn’t spying on him, as he stopped in front of Richie.

“Kiss my cast,” Eddie said, holding his plaster covered arm up to Richie.

“What?” Richie yelled, eyes going comically large when magnified by his ridiculous glasses. His voice echoed across the street, causing the boys to wince, Eddie raised his shoulders up to his ears. Cute, cute, cute.

“I want it to get better faster,” Eddie said with fierce determination, his arm started to shake as he continued to hold it up.

“’Kiss it better’ isn’t exactly a medical term Eds,” Richie said. They were too old for that, Richie’s mom hadn’t kissed him better in a good two years, although he wouldn’t put it past Eddie’s mom to keep that sort of thing going even when Eddie went off to college.

“Yeah, I know that,” Eddie said, he looked down at the ground, shuffling his foot on the dirt as he picked at the cast.

Richie thought that he must really be goner because he just couldn’t say no to that face. He released a soft sigh before he took Eddie’s arm in his hands, held it up to his mouth and kissed it quickly.

“There you go Eds,” he said, patting the cast as he lowered Eddie’s arm, “should be all better now, people have said that my kisses could cure cancer,” he added, winking as he let go of Eddie, heart rumbling thunder in his chest.

“Whatever dickwad,” Eddie muttered, face flushed furiously as he stared at the front wheel of Richie’s bike. “Thanks Richie, I’ll see you in like an hour or something,” he added in a soft murmur.

“Sure thing Spaghetti head,” Richie said, smiling from ear to ear.

This time he didn’t wait to watch Eddie go inside, like he usually would have, instead he pelted it down the street to his own house.

He got home and wolfed down two sandwiches as fast as he could. His mom scolded him, saying that he was going to give himself indigestion. Richie only smirked at his mother as she pottered around in the kitchen. It didn’t seem like she really had anything to do in there, she probably just wanted to make sure that Richie didn’t fuck around and break something, which would have been insulting if Richie wasn’t occupied with other thoughts.

He finished his lunch quick enough; he left his plate by the sink, kissed his mom goodbye and sprinted out of the house. Richie clambered atop his bike and blew down the street in the direction of the Barrens. He went straight past Eddie’s house on the way, he couldn’t bring himself to look at it, he was worried that if he did his heart would explode.

Once he got to the Kissing Bridge, Richie climbed off of his bike and looked diligently up and down its length. There was no one around, thankfully. He leant his bike against the bridge and started to walk along it, looking for the perfect space. After a minute or so Richie found it. He quickly looked up and down the bridge again before he pulled out his dad’s Swiss army knife, he had lifted it weeks ago, and knelt down gripping the wood in one hand and the short knife in the other.

If he felt like his heart was going to explode earlier, when he had passed by Eddie’s house, then it was about to go nuclear as he scratched into the wood. Richie hopped to hell that he wouldn’t get caught. The thought of Henry Bowers catching him and beating the crap out of him sent shivers all over his body, getting murdered wasn’t exactly on his list of things to do that day.

He probably shouldn’t have even been doing it. It was so dangerous, it was risky, but that was just Richie Tozier all over. He was always getting himself into trouble whether he meant to or not.

After a few minutes of scratching into the wood, sweating profusely and damn near having a heart attack at every noise, Richie stepped back to admire his work. He smiled as he slipped the Swiss army knife back into his pocket. It was perfect.

Richie climbed onto his bike, he didn’t want to hang around too long ‘cause that’d be tempting fate, and rode back to Eddie’s house. He felt like he was flying, soaring, the whole way there.

‘R + E’ was scratched into the wood, it was faded but it was unmistakeable.

He pulled his phone from his pocket, knelt down and took a picture of the initials. He wasn’t going to mix this up with the losers club photos. There was no way that he was going to risk the chance that they would see it, this was his secret and he’d been keeping it his whole life.

When he got back up, Richie felt lightheaded. Whether it was because he’d gotten up too quickly, or it was just the effects of seeing it again, Richie didn’t know but his heart was fluttering like a hummingbird. He had been brave once and he was kind of proud of his younger self for that.

Richie leant against the aging bridge, it whined and groaned under him and Richie thought better of it. He decided to have a stroll instead as he waited for it to be time for them to meet up again. The weather was nice and Richie figured that he could use the time to check his e-mails and scroll through twitter. Sometimes he felt that if he wasn’t constantly keeping up with ‘current affairs’ then everyone would leave him behind and he’d end up fading away like Marty McFly in that photograph.

 


 

Eventually he found his way the quarry, moving through the dry tall grass. It wasn’t as tall as it had been when he was a kid, he was taller and older now, everything in Derry seemed smaller but it still felt the same too. Everything had been like that so far and it was still freaking Richie out. In a way he wanted everything to be completely different, but in another he wanted everything to be the same. Having it be both and neither at the same time was hard to reconcile with in his head.

The foliage was pleasantly overgrown, but the clearing was still there just as it had been when they’re were kids. The only difference was the addition of a fence and a warning sign that probably should have been there in the late eighties.

Eddie was leant against a tree, reading his phone. Richie thought about going up and scaring the crap out of him, thought about yelling something about Eddie’s mom, thought about running up there and kissing Eddie before he could do anything about it. That last one caught Richie by surprise and sent him into a coughing fit.

“What the fuck are you doing? Skulking around like some fucking predator,” Eddie barked, brows furrowed and Richie supposed he must have startled Eddie with his sudden coughing.

“Just walking Eds, it’s a free country right?” Richie said, smirking as he came up to Eddie, stopping in front of the other.

“What the fuck is that?” Eddie exclaimed, looking off over Richie’s shoulder.

Richie turned to find Bill approaching them, he was walking a large rusted bike alongside him, something about it reminded Richie of something.

“It’s Suh-suh-silver!” Bill yelled, smiling so wide that it looked like it hurt. It was a smile that looked exactly as it had twenty seven years ago.

Richie instantly heard the words rattling around in his head, roaring back at him from the past.

“HI-HO SILVER AWAY!” Bill screamed, legs working the peddles as best as his thirteen year old legs could. The bike was building speed, slowly at first and then faster and faster until they were belting it down the street. Henry Bowers, Victor Criss and Belch grew smaller and smaller behind them. Eventually, the bullies, the goddamned scariest people they’d ever met, were nothing but dots on the horizon.

Richie clung onto Bill as though his life depended on it. He wouldn’t die if he fell off, but he damn sure might break something.

“Hi-ho Silver away!” Bill never stuttered those words.

When Bill had turned up, skidding to a stop in front of him, Richie had been running for his life from Henry and his crew. He was usually running for his life from Henry, it wasn’t anything new. Bill had stammered for him to jump on the back and Richie wasted no time in obliging. It was a goddamned miracle and Richie thanked his lucky stars for Bill, for Bill and that death trap of a bike.

“We’re gonna fucking die,” Richie yelled against the wind, arms wrapped tight around Bill’s waist. They were hurtling toward an intersection and Richie was just as scared of that as he was Henry Bowers.

“Wuh-w-we’re not gonna d-d-d-die,” Bill assured and Richie could hear the smile crystal clear through his voice.

Richie believed Bill, but that didn’t stop him from being scared shitless. He scrunched his eyes closed and pressed his face into Bill’s back. Without really realising, Richie began to mutter ‘please God, don’t let us die,’ over and over.

“Ruh-ruh-richie, open your eyes,” Bill called, trying to look over his shoulder at Richie.

Slowly, Richie cracked an eye open to find that they were on the other side of the intersection and sailing toward Bill’s home. They had made it just like Bill said they would. He started to laugh and released a loud ‘woo’ as they tore past buildings and people on the street watched them go with startled faces.

They had gotten away. They had beaten the devil as Bill would always say.

“Fucking Christ, it is,” Eddie said with awe. “Remember when you got it, we spent the whole day fixing it up,” he added, smiling as he looked over the bike, roving his eyes along every inch of it.

“Yeah, that was probably the best day I’d had suh-since Georgie died,” Bill said with far away eyes as he flicked out the kickstand with his foot.

“You got it for like twenty dollars or something, I’m pretty sure that you were ripped off Bill,” Eddie said, flicking his eyes from the bike to Bill.

Bill rolled his eyes.

“He’s worth a whole lot more than that,” Bill said, still looking at the bike like he was in love with it, Richie supposed he was a little. That bike had brought him a thrilling kind of freedom when his family was falling apart, when it seemed like he’d never be happy again, it was his best friend for a little while. “He was in the front window of th-this second-hand store, the clerk recognised me and you’ll love this Richie,” he said and looked over at Richie still smiling from ear to ear, “he said didn’t want an autograph because the book he had wasn’t all that guh-good.”

“Wait, so you had to buy it again?” Richie laughed, holding his stomach as he looked over at Bill.

“Yeah, he took th-three hundred bucks for him and he’s worth even more than that,” Bill said, biting his lip as he continued to smile.

“You’re such a soft touch Bill, I bet he saw you coming a mile off,” Eddie said, smiling as he shook his head.

“You boys ready?” Beverly called smiling dazzlingly as she came up the hill with Ben, Mike and Stan trailing behind her.

“I’m always ready Bev honey,” Richie smirked. He gave her a kiss on the cheek as she came up to him, smiling as she giggled and batted a hand at his shoulder.

“Is that what I think it is?” Mike said, smile breaking across his face as he came up to Bill and Silver.

“It is,” Bill said, still smiling like a love struck teenager.

“Holy crow,” Ben exclaimed and came over to the bike too. “I always thought that you were gonna fall off of that thing and break your neck,” he went on, shaking his head as he smiled.

“Nuh-ever happened though,” Bill said ruefully.

“Well, I guess it’s never too late to have a life altering injury,” Stan said mildly, hands in his pockets as he stared at the bike. The group broke into skittering laughter at that. It kind of was a miracle that none of them had never seriously hurt themselves tearing up the way they did without any protective gear at all, then again Richie never saw the kids in Malibu wearing helmets either.

“Let’s get in the water already,” Beverly yelled. She jogged past them, jumped the fence and began to strip on the other side. They followed her, sharing sun drenched smiles as they hopped the rail to join her.

Richie watched Eddie look down at the water, grimace and still pull his jacket off, folding it up as he set it aside. Richie toed off his shoes by the railing. Just as he was about to take his own jacket off, Eddie pulled his polo over his head and Richie’s breath punched out of him at the sight of Eddie’s surprisingly toned and tattooed body.

“Why are you so fucking ripped?” Richie exclaimed, fingers flexing inside the pockets of his jacket.

“I like to stay healthy fuckface,” Eddie bit back, as though Richie had offended him with the spluttered compliment.

“What about the porn star tattoos?” Richie asked, brows raised as his eyes stuck to the shoddy work on Eddie’s chest. He had a star on the end of each collarbone and some lettering in the middle that read ‘no dice’, Richie had no idea what that was supposed to mean but it seemed like the sort of tattoo you got when you were black out drunk, it was incredibly hot.

“I went off the rails a little after college, what the fuck is it to you anyways?” Eddie muttered, frowning sharply as he stared back at Richie.

“Nah, I’m not taking my clothes off now,” Richie said, ignoring Eddie’s statement, and shook his head as he turned to the rest of them. Trying not to pop a boner while all of his friends we were getting undressed.

He wasn’t exactly overweight or hideous under his clothes, he was wildly out of shape, it was just that all of his friends looked like fucking underwear models. As far as he was concerned, Richie might as well have been a blobfish compared to them.

“If I remember rightly, you used to jump at the chance to take your clothes off,” Mike said, smirking as he pulled his jeans off.

“Yeah, we all had weird child bodies back then,” Richie said gesturing vaguely with his hands still in his jacket pockets, “now you’re all like fucking models or something and here’s me some slob over here,” he added, gesturing to himself.

“Never in my life would I have thought that I’d see the day when Richie Tozier was self-conscious,” Beverly chuckled. She was just standing in her jersey and panties. She’d always been the bravest of them, she didn’t just keep up with the boys she was often the one leading them.

“Come on Trashmouth, show us that trash-body,” Stan said, smirking as he folded his dress shirt as neatly as it would have been if he’d done it with one of those plastic contraptions that they used in stores. Richie flipped him off. He’d always kind of thought that Stan would end up being ripped, Stan was the kind of uptight that would have a perfectly regimented schedule and the discipline to give him a body like that.

“We wuh-won’t make fun of you Richie,” Bill assured. Richie felt that Bill had no business having abs, he was a writer and Richie was beginning to feel a little betrayed.

“Uh, bullshit, I’ll make fun of you,” Eddie barked, voice echoing off into the quarry.

“Why are so mean?” Richie said, looking back at Eddie, he resolutely kept his eyes on Eddie’s face. “My little Eddie Spaghetti was never this mean,” he pouted as Eddie sneered at him.

“He was always this mean, especially to you,” Mike said, chuckling as he spoke.

“Not without reason,” Eddie broke in, defending himself.

The whole group was now in their underwear. Even Stan and Eddie, with their anal nature, had managed to get undressed while Richie had been whining about how good looking they all were, Richie was sure that this was going to give him a complex.

“Jeez, this is boring,” Beverly said and pretended to yawn. “I’ll see you boys down there,” she added and made a break from the edge of the quarry.

They all watched in the same kind of awe as they had when they were thirteen as she leapt into the air and fell out of their view. She squealed as she fell. It was a delighted and freeing sound, it reminded Richie of the sound of wings flapping, soaring to their ears. Then there was a loud splash as she hit the water.

The boys, men now Richie supposed, inched up to the edge and looked down at the water.

“Come on you chicken-shits!” Beverly called from below, sweeping her wet hair away from her face.

Mike was already in the air before she’d finished talking, yelling a hearty cry as he crashed into the water, he definitely got a lot of it in his mouth. He came out of the water spitting it out of his mouth as he laughed.

Bill and Ben went next, jumping in one just after the other. Ben didn’t make a sound as he went, but Bill wooed as he hurtled toward the water. There were two louder splashes, one right after the other, as the two hit the water. They laughed heartily as they resurfaced.

“I’ll see you on the other side gentlemen,” Stan said, he saluted Eddie and Richie before he ran and jumped into the air. The splash that followed was the smallest and Richie supposed that he must have shot down like a bullet.

Eddie was still looking gingerly down at the water. Even if he was completely shredded and lightly sprinkled in tattoos, he was still the same old Eddie. It was the same look he’d get whenever he was about to lose his nerve and back out of something, or at least try to. Richie sighed to himself. He’d never been able to look at that face and not do something about it. He had always been a real sucker when it came to Eddie.

“For fuck’s sake Eds,” Richie muttered as he finally pulled off his clothes, throwing them haphazardly to the ground and was quickly down to his underwear. Richie reached over and took Eddie by the wrist. “Eddie, look at me,” he said, shaking Eddie’s arm lightly.

“What?” Eddie said, finally looking up at Richie.

“Let’s go together,” Richie said, he moved his hand down across Eddie’s palm and linked their fingers.

“Alright,” Eddie said with a nod of his head.

“Ready Eddie?” Richie asked, smirking as he stared at the other.

“Let’s just fucking go already,” Eddie said, tugging at Richie’s hand as he started to run, pulling Richie along with him.

Richie ran beside Eddie across the short distance to the edge, pulse ringing in his ears, he couldn’t keep the smile off his face, even as they leapt into the air they were ginning like mad at each other. Eddie swore as they fell through the air and Richie couldn’t help but laugh. Then they were in the water, hands no longer clasped and Richie instantly missed it. He resurfaced, pushed his glasses up his nose and flicked his hair off of his face.

Eddie came out besides him. Richie couldn’t control his eyes, couldn’t stop them as they ran over Eddie’s large brown eyes, his thin lips and sharp jaw, down his neck and to his collarbone where the tips of his tattoos were showing over the water. It was a hell of a sight and it would have been a whole lot better if trails of water droplets weren’t running down the lenses of his glasses.

When they were younger, they had come to the quarry a few times over the small amount of summers they’d had together. Richie had done much the same back then, which was trying his best not to stare at Eddie too much because that would be weird, and he’d just die if he got caught.

Richie quickly flicked his eyes away from Eddie, because he’d just die if he got caught, and swam straight up to Stan to flick water into his face. This started up a water fight. At one point Eddie got onto Bill’s shoulders and Richie flailed as Stan hoisted him up onto his own, they had done this so many times as kids, this time Eddie easily forced Richie off of Stan’s shoulders and into the water. They ran themselves ragged splash about at each other. It was more fun than Richie had had in years.

They were all sitting up on the bank, while Beverly and Bill continued to horse around in the water, when Richie caught sight of the scars on the inside of Stan’s thighs. When Richie looked up, Stan was looking back at him. He smiled at Stan, it was a smile that said ‘it’s fine, it’s fine because we’re friends and friends don’t go after that sort of shit’, and he hoped to hell it was reassuring. Stan smiled back and turned to rib at Bill.

Richie figured that they all had their own shadows that were clinging to them. He had been terrified into the closet and had never come out, Eddie had his mother, Bill had Georgie, Beverly had her father, Mike had lost his father to cancer at a young age and Ben still wore the scar that Henry Bowers had carved into him. Whatever Stan was carrying, Richie had seen pieces of it when they were kids. Stan had been on edge a lot all throughout their childhood. He basically flipped out about growing up at his Bar Mitzvah, they all joked about how Stan was the world’s smallest adult, but he’d always been the one most scared to become an adult.

As the sun began to kiss the horizon, they clambered out of the water and made their way back to their clothes. They got dressed and discussed where they’d go for dinner. As they were dressing, Bill kept shooting photos of them, much to Richie and Eddie’s chagrin. They shared a look before they ran over and wrestled the camera out of Bill’s hands. Turning the camera on Bill as he scrambled to get back into his jeans, laughing all the while, in that moment Richie could have sworn that he was thirteen again.

Chapter Text

In the dwindling evening light they walked toward what had been the one of the few restaurants in town that Richie remembered from when they were younger. It was a small Italian place, while it was quaint it definitely bore the wear and tear of over thirty years of being in business, it was another place that had aged more than it had changed. As they walked through the quiet streets, they spoke about what they had done while they were apart. Stan really had just called his wife and taken a nap, Bill had made it as far as the second-hand store and had ridden Silver around, Mike and Ben had spoken about the history of the library while traipsing through it and the whole town while Beverly tried to horse around with them like a teen and Eddie had gone over to the train yard like the little nerd he’d always been. Richie didn’t say where he’d been, he just made masturbation jokes all the way to the restaurant.

Richie was kind of having a fantastic day, despite the memory of horrible homophobia and being scared shitless all throughout his childhood, and he couldn’t wipe the smile off of his face even as he sat down at the table.

“I watched your special last night,” Stan said, drawing everyone’s attention as he sipped at his iced tea.

“What, on your phone?” Richie asked, brows pinched as he imagined Stan lying in bed in something very similar to the silk or faux silk pyjamas he’d worn when they’d had sleepovers as kids, the thought was strange but amusing to him.

“No, on my laptop, I was doing some work before I went to bed and wanted to watch something before going to sleep,” Stan explained plainly. And wasn’t that just Stan all over, although Richie would have thought that Stan would watch a nature documentary or something, not his damn Netflix special.

“What’s Stan the man’s review then?” Richie asked, leaning further forward against the table, he put his elbow on his plate and almost tipping it off the table.

“It was alright,” Stan said with a shrug and put a piece of his calzone on his mouth.

The rest of the losers laughed, Eddie was the loudest, and it was right in Richie’s ear since Eddie was sat beside him. Richie almost couldn’t hear anything over it and that thought alone made him feel kind of hopeless. He was still so far gone for the same guy he’d been crushing on in middle school. It didn’t help that Eddie was married and had a whole life that had nothing to do with Richie, it made him feel hollow, like if you hit him he was pretty sure that it’d echo inside him.

“Hey I’ll take that, an ‘alright’ from Stan is practically a raving five star review,” Richie said as he pulled himself out of his swirling thoughts, smirking as he stuffed a slice of pizza into his mouth, chewing with his mouth open just to make Eddie and Stan wince.

 “I like your st-st-uff Richie,” Bill said, smiling across the table at him.

“I’ve never watched your stuff,” Mike admitted as he brought his soda up to his lips.

“Me either, sorry honey,” Beverly said sheepishly as she pressed her forehead to his shoulder.

“That’s alright Bev, I’ve never brought any of your clothes,” Richie returned and she laughed into his shirt, her clothing line was way too stylish for Richie, his style had always been more of an anti-style.

“I can’t fucking watch it, it’s just the same shit from middle school and I swear you don’t write half your shit,” Eddie piped up, sneering as he spoke, smacking Richie lightly on the shoulder with the back of his hand.

“If you can’t watch it how did you figure out that I don’t write it Eds?” Richie asked, smiling smugly as he caught Eddie out.

“I fucking knew it!” Eddie exclaimed, words punching a hot puff of breath against the side of Richie’s face. He did mention how much he’d watched Richie’s shows.

Conversation they turned to Bill and his work after that. They’d all read at least one of his books at one point, Stan was the only one who’d read them all and that had turned Bill bright red, surprisingly, as the big reader of the group, Ben had only read two. Then they turned to Beverly, Mike and Stan were the only ones who owned any piece of her clothing. Mike had a few patterned shirts and Stan had brought a pair of sensible leather shoes. They had all unwittingly been inside a building that Ben had built at one point or another and Ben had used Eddie’s firm at one point. To everyone’s surprise, Richie had once been to the zoo where Stan worked while on tour and they had probably just missed each other.

It was kind of eerie how easily they had come back together, as though they were always meant to be friends, no matter how much time and distance was between them. They fit together like a puzzle of only seven pieces. Thinking about it gave Richie goose bumps, but he also felt impossibly warm. He had never felt as safe or as loved as he did around these six people.

“I’m gay,” Richie blurted it out.

It wasn’t what he had meant to say, he wasn’t sure what he had meant to say but he was pretty damn sure that it wasn’t that.

The group was suddenly silent and all eyes were on him. Richie gulped, memories flitted through his mind at a mile a second, all sorts of vile words and horrible things echoed inside his head. He knew they wouldn’t come but Richie was still scared that they might.

“Oh Richie,” Beverly cried, she reached over and flung her arms around him.

“Took you long enough,” Stan muttered and Bill elbowed him in the gut, making him release an ‘oof’ sound.

“Buh-beep beep Stan,” Bill returned, glaring at Stan.

“You knew?” Richie spluttered, face pinched in shock as he stared at Stan, lifting his head from Beverly’s shoulder.

“We were best friends dumbass, of course I knew, I’d have been a pretty shitty best friend if I didn’t,” Stan said sternly, wiping his hands on a napkin as he spoke.

“I don’t know about that,” Richie muttered as he rubbed at the back of his head and stared at the table.

“Richie,” Stan said, far more softly than he had spoken before, and reached over the table to put his hand on Richie’s shoulder. Richie slowly looked back up at him. “We’re proud of you, it obviously took a lot for you to come out and say that,” he said earnestly as he stared deep into Richie’s eyes.

“I hadn’t meant to say it at all actually, but thanks,” Richie returned, stunned at Stan’s words when he knew he shouldn’t be. The rest of them gave a short chuckle at Richie’s words. Stan was smiling at him as he withdrew his hand from Richie’s shoulder.  

“Whether you meant it or not, it’s still brave,” Mike said, smiling softly at Richie.

“Yeah, I’m glad you felt like you could tell us Richie,” Ben said and Richie almost broke up crying at the open earnestness in his face.

“I mean, I’ve never told anyone else that,” Richie muttered. He felt smaller than he ever had, quietly releasing his secrets to the only people he’s ever trusted to keep them, twenty seven years after he should have said it.

“You’ve never told anyone?” Eddie asked, frowning at the side of Richie’s face.

“Nope,” Richie said, shaking his head as he looked back at Eddie.

Eddie put his hand on Richie’s shoulder and gave it a reassuring squeeze. Richie relaxed into his seat like he was melting into the wood, he had said it and nothing bad had happened, instead his friends had been overwhelmingly supportive. He started to feel like he was going to cry again as Eddie’s thumb began to circles into his shoulder blade.

“Well, that just muh-makes it more special that you told us Rich,” Bill said, smiling at Richie from across the table. “We should say cheers to that,” he added, holding his Budweiser aloft.

“Uh, I dunno guys-“ Richie began but Eddie quickly cut in.

“To Richie Trashmouth Tozier finally tumbling out of the fucking closet,” Eddie called and Richie couldn’t help but raise his glass to that, laughing all the while.

They roared a ‘cheers’ as they clinked their glasses together. Richie had never felt so light. He felt as though he was going to float away at any second, the rest of the losers would have to pull him down from the ceiling, tie a string to his feet and drag him back to the Town House.

“You know I’m bi right, Richie?” Beverly asked, smirking with her chin in her hand as she stared up at Richie.

“Oh my god,” Richie exclaimed, gaping at her.

“Me too,” Mike added, he winked at Richie and Richie couldn’t stop the laugh that bubbled out of him.

“Yeah and muh-me too,” Bill said, to absolutely no one’s surprise. Even if Richie had been almost completely wrapped up in his own issues, when he looked back and thought about it, the evidence was right there in his face.

“Are we all gonna come out now because I thought this was my moment and you’re all kinda stealing the spotlight,” Richie said, laughter still on his voice as he looked around at the rest of the group, trying not to linger too long on Eddie.

“Sorry to break it to you guys but I’m tragically straight,” Ben said with a hearty chuckle as he set his drink down.

“Boo,” Beverly called, smacking her hand against the table and Ben laughed in return.

“Yeah, Ben, way to let the team down,” Richie added, he couldn’t seem to stop laughing.

“Me too, straight as a rod,” Eddie said rigidly and took a long sip of his Long Island iced tea.

Everyone turned to Stan then. They waited with baited breath for him to chime in, wondering what he was going to say.

“I’m going to be offended if any of you ever mistook me for a straight person,” Stan said flatly, staring back at their expectant faces, and that really set the whole group off.

“Stan the man gets off a good one,” Richie barked, sniggering into his fist. “Wait, so we’re a majority rainbow group?” He asked after a moment, brows raised over the rim of his glasses and his eyes had gone comically wide through the thick lenses. “What the fuck was I so worried about?” He added, frowning down at his nearly empty plate.

“Oh honey, don’t worry about it,” Beverly said as she pushed her fingers through Richie’s unruly hair. “We’re together now right? We know now and that’s all that matters,” she added, staring fondly back at him. He smiled back at her. They all knew now and that was what mattered.

 


 

Richie and Beverly stood outside the Town House smoking as the others filtered inside, saying their ‘good night’s as they parted. It had been a while since either of them had last smoked but Richie figured that he’d earned it.

“You know I’ve tried being with women and it just never worked out,” Richie said, speaking around the cigarette in his mouth as he tried to light it with a shitty plastic dollar store lighter.

“Yeah?” Beverly asked. She held her cigarette out between them, waiting as Richie lit his own and then hers.

“I had a girlfriend for like six months, it was like torture, it was fucking crap for the both of us and was a really shitty thing to do on my part but I dunno I was just so fucking lonely,” Richie muttered, staring up into the sky as he watched the smoke from their cigarettes disappear into the sky. He felt like a balloon that had been being filled with air for the past thirty years and he was only now deflating, finally releasing all that pressure.

“I know what doing something because you feel like you’re supposed to feels like Richie,” Beverly said and took another drag on her cigarette. “It can force to do all kinds of things that you don’t want to, that will hurt you,” she went on, smoke spilling out of her mouth as she spoke.

“Yeah, and it’s total fucking bullshit,” Richie muttered and kicked at the dirt on the sidewalk. “You know, it’s that prick Henry Bowers’ fault that I was so terrified, I mean it wasn’t only him but he was a large fucking part of it,” he rambled, “you remember the vile graffiti in Bassey Park or scrawled on bathroom stalls, this whole place is or was or whatever so fucking homophobic, I thought I was going to die if I ever opened mouth,” he went on, the words tumbling out of him, the dam had finally bust and he could hardly stop it.

“Richie,” Beverly said softly as she rubbed her hand up and down his arm.

“He used to call me a faggot, Henry did, and one time I tried to stand up to him but it only lasted a second and then I ran away,” Richie said, sneering as he remembered his feeble attempt to stand his ground.

“There’s no shame in that Richie, we all ran away from him,” Beverly said, her hand was still around his arm, firm and warm.

“Yeah, yeah, that kid was a goddamned fucking nightmare,” Richie bit out, taking another drag off of his cigarette.

“He sure was,” Beverly said in a far off sort of way, “we were kind of lucky that he killed his dad.”

“That’s fucking grim,” Richie muttered, practically chewing on his cigarette, “but completely true,” he added, hating the way that made him feel.

“He was looking to kill us that day Rich, I heard him, out in the woods with fucking Patrick Hockstetter,” Beverly said, she wrapped her arm around her waist and held her elbow as her hand shook, clutching her cigarette between them. Richie didn’t like thinking about Henry at all, but Patrick Hockstetter was on a whole other level, the guy had always given Richie the absolute creeps and he wouldn’t have been surprised if the guy turned out to be a serial killer or something equally as awful. He’d prefer to live the rest of his life never hearing that name again. “Henry wanted to kill all his friends and us and he wanted Patrick to help him,” she finished in quaver.

“Jeus fuck Bev, why didn’t you ever tell us?” Richie exclaimed, brows shooting up over the rim of his glasses and into his fringe.

“You were all terrified enough as it was, I thought that if we just spent all of that summer in the clubhouse we’d be fine,” Beverly said, she held herself a little tighter and took another long drag on her cigarette.

“Fuck that summer,” Richie muttered bitterly and pitched his cigarette. He didn’t want to talk about it anymore, but if Beverly had more to tell him then he’d listen, she deserved that much and a whole lot more.

“There was a lot of fucked up shit going on that summer, but it was also one of the best summers of my life,” Beverly said, smiling faintly as she stared up at Richie. “It’s the summer when we all became friends.”

“Yeah, bittersweet, huh,” Richie said, tucking his hands into his pockets, smiling back at her.

“Oh, you betcha tiger,” Beverly laughed dryly as dropped her cigarette and stomped it out on the sidewalk.

“You would have thought that going through something that awful would have toughened us up, eh?” Richie said, they had gone through so much shit, slopped through the mud of their childhood and Richie had come out a coward who had only managed to admit that he was gay at the ripe old age of forty.

“My therapist says that people who have been victimised before tend to be easier to manipulate and hurt, they’re vulnerable from the trauma they’ve been through,” Beverly said, looking off down the street and away from Richie, her arms were still wrapped tightly around her like she needed to protect herself.

Richie didn’t say anything. He just wrapped his arms around her and hugged her as tightly as he could. Like she’d said earlier, they were together now and that was what mattered. After that they were exhausted, tired from the long day and drained from the taxing but freeing conversation, they went into the Town House and parted ways to go to bed.

 


 

Richie’s mouth had run off and he hadn’t been able to stop it. He had never been very good at stopping his mouth once it got going, it had gotten him into a hell of a lot of trouble and it was doing it at that moment, he was almost powerless against it.

Richie was leant against the outside wall of the school with Bill as they waited for Eddie to come out. As they were waiting, Henry Bowers and his two goons rushed down the steps, they were all wearing sleeveless shirts and Richie just thought that it was the funniest thing he’d seen all day.

“Looks like there’s a sleeves thief in town boys, better keep a hold of your shirts,” Richie said in an old timey news reader voice, he’d tried to say it quietly but Richie had about as much control over the volume of his voice as he did the rest of his mouth.

“What did you say four eyes?” Henry roared, turning on his heels to lay his flaming gaze on Richie’s lanky form.

“Nothing,” Richie returned, smiling innocently. Bill had gone stiff against the wall beside him. Bowers didn’t seem too happy with that answer, but he was turning away, he probably had cats or smaller children to bother. Then Richie’s mouth was opening itself again, without his permission. “I was just worried about your poor shoulders Henry, if the wind picks up, I’m worried that your arms are likely to freeze off,” he said in one of his voices, the voice of an old and kindly doctor who probably wore a monocle, “and who’d beat ya meat for ya then? I sure do hope that you’ve got some understanding friends.”

Richie wanted to die. He prayed for a stroke, for a heart attack, for lightning to strike him, something quick that would get him before Henry did. Bill had moved a little ways down the wall from Richie, he didn’t blame him, Richie had basically just signed his own death warrant.

It seemed to take a few seconds for what Richie had said to catch up with Henry, but when it did he started to walk toward Richie, face fuming like a hungry dog.

“You’re dead Tozier,” Henry bit out, hands shaking with rage as he trudged toward Richie.

Richie scrambled off of the wall and made a break for the playground for the elementary students, weaving in and out of the swingset and the sandpit. He turned the corner to find that he was fenced in. He’d ran head long into a dead end. Fingers caught in the chain link fence, Richie looked back over his shoulder to see that Henry and the others weren’t too far off, he was trapped. Richie did the only thing he could think of and climbed up the fence. He was so close to the top, his hand was barely two inches away, but then he was yanked straight off of it.

He fell to the floor with a thud and a loud ‘oof’, it hurt like hell, and his glasses flew from his face. Richie reached for them but someone kicked them away, he heard them skitter off somewhere.

“We all know that you’re the only fag around here four eyes,” Henry growled as he dug his boot deep into Richie’s side. Richie was half convinced that he’d broken a rib, breathing hurt and tears stung his eyes, he willed them away. If he could do anything Richie would make sure that he never cried in front of Henry Bowers.

They wailed on him for a while and Richie just lied there hoping that it would end quickly. Once they left, Richie stayed there on the grass for a while, breathing harshly as he tried to deal with the pain. Eventually he began to pat around on the floor for his glasses.

“Ruh-r-ichie, here’s your g-glasses,” Bill said from somewhere to his right. Richie held his hand out and waited as Bill set them down on his palm.

“Thanks Bill,” Richie said as he tried to slide the glasses up his nose, but the leg came off in his hand. He sighed, slouching where he was sat cross-legged in the grass, his mom was going to kill him.

“I’ve got some adhesive tape in my bag,” Eddie said, unzipping his bag as he stood over Richie. “You’ve gotta learn to keep your fucking mouth shut Richie, Jesus Christ, he coulda split your head open if you’d have been like five feet over. You could have died Richie. You oughta go wash your hands, you never know what’s been pissing in the grass,” he rambled as he rummaged through his backpack.

“Sure thing Eds,” Richie muttered. He was too tired, too beat, to come up with a proper come back.

Eddie went quiet and eventually pulled out the roll of tape. He took the glasses from Richie’s hand, taped them up as diligently as he could before passing them back, he watched as Richie pushed them up his face.

“Thanks Eds,” Richie smiled as he got onto his feet, “my mom won’t kill me tonight at least,” he added, pinching Eddie’s cheek.

“Don’t call me that,” Eddie cried as he batted away Richie’s hand, his cheeks were bright red and he wouldn’t meet Richie’s eyes.

The beating didn’t matter anymore as he stared at Eddie, he couldn’t feel the aches and pains of bruises appearing all over his body, all that mattered was the look on Eddie’s face.

Then he remembered what Henry had said and felt sick. He looked away from Eddie and thanked Bill again before they started back home, his stomach churned the whole way, he felt disgusting.

 


 

Richie’s eyes flung open and he sat bolt upright, spluttering breath in the darkness. He rubbed the knuckle of his thumb over his heart, begging it to settle while it continued to stutter sharply in his chest, the pressure was giving him a headache.

There was a gentle tapping against his door. The sound was in complete contrast to the turmoil that had been roaring inside Richie as he’d woken up. He flicked on the lamp and stared blearily at the door.

“Richie, you up?” Eddie’s soft voice came through the dark wood of the door.

Richie slipped his glasses onto his face and climbed out of bed, he moved through the room in only his t-shirt and boxers, and opened the door to reveal Eddie’s pensive face.

“What’s up Eds?” Richie asked, a little breathless as he stared into the dark hall.

“Can I come in?” Eddie asked instead of answering Richie’s question, he was wearing a grey t-shirt and plaid pyjama pants.

“Uh, yeah sure,” Richie said and stepped away from the door. He went back over to the bed and sat on the edge. Eddie followed him inside, closed the door carefully behind him, and sat in the chair beside the window. Richie watched and waited as Eddie just sat there for a moment before he ran both hands down his face. When he dropped his hands he started talking.

“I think I married my fucking mom Rich and I’m kind of having a fucking crisis over it,” Eddie said in a rush.

“What are you talking about?” Richie frowned, rubbing at his tired eyes as he fought back a yawn.

Eddie palmed his phone out of his pocket, opened it and flicked through it before turning the screen to Richie. It was a photo of Eddie and a woman that looked remarkably like the late Sonia Kaspbrak. It was obviously from their wedding and Richie kind of hated looking at it, he wanted to grab the phone from Eddie’s hand and delete the photo. He did do it and he didn’t make any of the thousand and one jokes that had flitted over his tongue, he just swallowed them all down.

“There is a striking resemblance,” Richie murmured, unsure of what else to say.

“I might have put my foot down on taking all that fucking so called medicine, but she still dug her fucking claws into me, still kept a hold of me even from beyond the fucking grave,” Eddie said as he put his phone away, the words were gnarled and chewed as he spat them out.

“And you’re just realising this now?” Richie asked, staring hard at Eddie as he tried to manoeuvre through this minefield of a conversation. He couldn’t comprehend why Eddie had come to him of all people, he would have figured that Bill and Stan would be higher up the list than he was, maybe Eddie had tried but they were asleep. “I’m not trying to be mean Eds, I just wanna know what’s going on?”

“Being back here, with you, with everyone, it’s bringing a lot of shit back,” Eddie muttered, he ran his fingers through his hair, mussing it, “it’s making me realise a lot of stuff,” he added and leaned forward a little in the chair, arms braced on his knees.

“Okay, I mean I get it,” Richie replied because yeah, he did get it, he got it because he had been having a very similar experience.

“I haven’t thought about this shit for a long time or I’ve just been trying really hard not to think about it,” Eddie said looking at some point on the wall behind Richie’s head instead of at Richie, “but being here, back in fucking Derry, Richie I don’t even fucking like women,” he added, finally looking at Richie, his large eyes shone in the low light.

“Wow,” Richie exclaimed, brows raised high up on his forehead. He tried his best not to think about himself in that moment, it really wasn’t the time for that, he was a better friend than that. “That’s a lot, that’s a whole lot Eds,” he added, rubbing at his forehead as he looked at Eddie.

“Yeah it fucking is,” Eddie said, he was looking down at his hands.

“You’re just realising that you’re gay now?” Richie asked, trying to work through it as he squinted at Eddie.

“Don’t fucking joke about this Richie,” Eddie shot back, eyes suddenly aflame.

“I’m not, it’s not funny at all, it’s really fucking sad Eds,” Richie said quickly, hands held up in submission. The thought of it was so fucking sad that Richie could hardly stand it. Eddie had spent his whole life repressed way worse than Richie had ever been, at least Richie had always known who he was, Eddie had gone and married a damn woman. Eddie had gone and married a woman who bore more than a striking resemblance to his own mother and Richie almost couldn’t handle how rotten that thought made him feel.

“I mean, I’m not exactly just realising, certain things are just making more sense now,” Eddie said, wringing his hands as he held them between his legs.

“Yeah, I’ll bet,” Richie muttered, scratching at the stubble on his chin.

“It’s all her fucking fault,” Eddie spat, the suddenness and harshness of it startled Richie, “I think she knew, she knew when I didn’t and she spent all her time trying to terrify me out of being gay,” he added bitterly as he stared down at his shoes.

“I wouldn’t put it past her,” Richie said with a sneer.

“Remember when we patched up Ben, in the alleyway behind the drug store?” Eddie asked, eyes still stuck to the floor.

“The same alleyway where we found you with a broken arm, yeah I remember, Henry Bowers had cut him up good,” Richie said, mind flooding with memories and all the dumb shit he’d said as Eddie had cleaned Ben up. Suck the wound, you gotta get the poison out.

“I genuinely thought we were all going to get AIDS,” Eddie said quietly, face in his hands.

“Holy shit Eds, I thought you were fucking joke,” Richie exclaimed a little too loudly and put his hand over his mouth. “You started going on about amputating his waist,” he whispered, trying to make up for the noise.

“Yeah, I had a really poor understanding of all things medical because that’s the way she wanted it,” Eddie said, finally looking up at Richie, he looked tired as though he were wearing all the years of his life on his face. “She wanted to keep me dumb so she could manipulate me, when she couldn’t do that she guilted the fuck out of me,” he went on, hands shaking as his eyes skittered around Richie’s face, “saying that she’s all alone and that she’s just worried about me, she was always so fucking worried about me,” he rambled

 “That’s rough Eds,” Richie said. He was starting to feel awful about even feeling like he was going to die the instant he opened his mouth and came out with it, nothing had happened because his friends were decent people and they had been through a whole lot more than he ever had.

Richie didn’t have to deal with his mother controlling every aspect of his life he just had deal with her disappointment. His father wasn’t abusive and scary and two steps away from being a rapist, his father had barely been there and had done his best when he was. He didn’t have to watch his dad die slowly and have to look after his family, he was so far away and detached from them all when his dad had died. His brother hadn’t died, he didn’t have a brother. Sure he’d been beaten up, but Henry had never left any scars on him. He’d never been afraid of growing up, Richie had just gone on with his life, chasing his career.

Maybe he was just playing oppression Olympics with himself, maybe he shouldn’t be beating himself up for only just starting to deal with his own hang ups. Either way, he still felt like shit for coming out and having his little moment when Eddie was holding all of this inside him.

“My wife’s the same,” Eddie said, grimacing as he spoke.

“Eddie,” Richie sighed softly.

“She’s always fussing around me, saying that she’s worried about me, calling and texting and messaging all fucking day,” Eddie said shooting up onto his feet, he ran his hands through his hair as he stared down at Richie, “she leaves me fucking voicemails Richie, voicemails, I haven’t had voicemails from anyone else in like three years,” he added and began to walk up and down the room, worrying the carpet with his bare feet, Richie would have thought that he’d have worn socks to bed.

“Yeah,” Richie said, leaning back a little as he watched Eddie pace.

“After my mom died, I kinda just lost it, I started drinking a lot and got all these stupid fucking tattoos because she couldn’t tell me not to, she wasn’t in control anymore,” Eddie said, fingers over his mouth as though he didn’t quite want Richie to hear it. “I was out of control and then there she was, swooping in when I needed her the fucking least,” he spat, hand shaking against his mouth, “Myra put her fucking claws in where my mother had left fucking holes.”

“Earlier, Bev said something to me, she said something like ‘people who have been hurt before tend to get hurt again because they’re vulnerable to it’ and I think that’s what happened to you Eddie,” Richie said, he felt so out of place saying it as though their places should have been switched, it was the most mature he’d been in the last five years. The most mature he’d been since he’d broken up with his girlfriend because neither of them were happy and he couldn’t keep lying to himself.

“Yeah, yeah probably,” Eddie said, he stopped pacing and sat down on the bed next to Richie.

“What are you gonna do Eds?” Richie asked, trying to distract himself from how close they were, how intimate this felt.

“I’m gonna divorce my fucking wife and then I don’t know, I’ll figure it out from there,” Eddie said with a shrug, fingers worry at the fabric of his pyjama pants.

“Okay,” Richie nodded, “I’ve got your back, like if you need someone to come to New York with you and back you up, I can be there,” he said and he meant it. It wasn’t one of those usual late night/early morning declarations. He would follow Eddie wherever he wanted to go, be wherever Eddie needed him to be, he wasn’t going to let go this time.

“I don’t know if I’ll need that, but thanks Richie,” Eddie smiled as he looked up at Richie.

“Any time Spaghetti head,” Richie said, smiling back as he ruffled Eddie’s hair.

“Don’t fucking call me that,” Eddie said, still smiling. “What are you gonna do?” He asked after a moment, his large brown eyes were staring earnestly up at Richie.

“Huh?” Richie hummed, blinking at Eddie, barely able to speak around the sudden lump in his throat.

“When you get back to California?” Eddie elaborated.

“Oh, I dunno man, I’ve got a lot of shit to work out, probably need to see a therapist or something,” Richie said, chuckling to himself as he scratched at the side of his head.

“Yeah me too,” Eddie murmured. He stared hard at the patterned wallpaper as though the answers to all of his questions could be found there.

“Eddie,” Richie called softly. Slowly, Eddie looked back at him. “You’ll call me, right? If you need to talk to someone, you can call me or Bill or Stan or any of the losers, if you need anything you can call us,” he said, dead serious, with his hand on Eddie’s shoulder.

“Alright Rich, I call ya,” Eddie said and began to rise from the bed, Richie didn’t want him to go but there was no way that he was going to ask him to stay. He followed Eddie to the door and stood in the doorway as Eddie stepped out into the hall. “Good night Richie,” he said, face only lit by the soft light coming from the lamp in Richie’s room.

“Good night Eds,” Richie said quietly and reluctantly closed the door as Eddie shuffled back to his room.

 


 

Richie came bopping down to the stream and pinched Eddie’s cheek.

“Don’t do that! I hate it when you do that, Richie,” Eddie yelled, rubbing his cheeks as he sneered at Richie.

“Ah, you love it, Eds,” Richie said, and beamed at Eddie. “So what do you say? You having any good chucks or what?” He added, it was something he’d always said and in those days keeping up tradition was so important, it already seemed like it was just him and Eddie left alone in Derry.

“What are you, five?” Eddie bit, frowning as he stared up at Richie. The irritation was there but the usual fondness was missing. Richie hated it, wanted to do something about it, to make things the same again.

“We going down to the clubhouse or what?” Richie asked, as though Eddie hadn’t said anything.

“I don’t know Richie,” Eddie said with a shrug, avoiding Richie’s eyes.

“What do you mean, you don’t know?” Richie asked, brows pinched as he stared down at Eddie.

“Ricky Johnson’s got this new game and a bunch of us were going to go over and hang out,” Eddie muttered, fingers curled tightly around the straps of his backpack.

“So you’re ditching me?” Richie said, heart stuttering painfully in his chest.

“I’m not ditching you Richie,” Eddie said quietly, still not looking at Richie.

“Yes you are, you totally are,” Richie said, unable to hold back how hurt he really was, they usually spent all of their time outside of school together. He couldn’t stand the thought of Eddie not wanting to be around him.

“We don’t even hang out at school anymore,” Eddie said harshly and the words shot straight through Richie as effortlessly as a bullet would have.

“We can hang out at school Eds, but you don’t hang out with me either,” Richie said quickly, trying to shift the blame off of himself.

“Because you stopped hanging out with me asshole,” Eddie barked, brows furrowed furiously as he finally met Richie’s eyes.

Richie opened his mouth to try to explain why he was being such an asshole, but the words wouldn’t come out, they were stuck in his throat suffocating him. He couldn’t just come out and say ‘I don’t hang out with you Eds because I’m terrified that people will start calling me a fag again, because I’m terrified that everyone will be able to see it, to see that I’m a dirty fucking fagot because I can’t help the way I am around you.’ That wouldn’t work.

“What, Trashmouth’s speechless, that’s a new one,” Eddie muttered bitterly. “I don’t get it Richie, I really don’t fucking get it. You sneak into my bedroom at night and spend the whole night talking and having a great fucking time together and on the weekends you want me all to yourself, but at school you want nothing to do with me and I just can’t figure it out,” the words rattled out of him, but the harshness was absorbed by the overgrown foliage.

“We’ve just got different friends Eds, I don’t know what to tell ya,” Richie said, as though Eddie’s words weren’t breaking his heart.

“I don’t know Rich, I just thought that best friends were supposed to stick together,” Eddie returned, maybe he was just as hurt as Richie, he sure sounded it.

“Don’t do that,” Richie murmured, staring down at his grass stained canvas sneakers.

“We’re the last of the losers left, I don’t know what I expected, but I thought it’d be different,” Eddie said, eye imploring but still angry as he stared up at Richie, his lip was quivering as though he were trying real hard not to cry.

“Eddie,” Richie started, but the words still wouldn’t come out, it was the one thing he couldn’t tell Eddie. His mouth was suddenly jammed up with honey. It wouldn’t budge.

“If you don’t have anything to say to me Richie, then I’m just gonna go,” Eddie said. He stood there, waiting for Richie to say something that would never come, for a moment before he began to walk up to the bridge.

Richie could only watch him go. For the first time in his life, Richie wanted his mouth to move, to say something even if it hurt him but it would move and then the moment was gone. The moment was gone and Richie would never get the chance again.

Chapter Text

Clogging up the lobby, they exchanged numbers and addresses and promises that if any of them were in their particular city that their door was open. They walked out to the parking lot together. They stood in the mostly empty space, apprehensive and unwilling to get into their cars or to call a cab, unwilling to leave each other again.

Richie didn’t want to go back to Malibu, he sure as shit didn’t want to stay in Derry, but Malibu was lonely and so far away from everyone he’d suddenly remembered that he loved.

“We sh-should do this e-e-every year,” Bill said, smiling as he looked around the group.

“We should do this every six months,” Beverly said, bumping her shoulder into Ben, smiling something not quite so secret as she stared up at him. Ben smiled down at her and the whole group knew exactly what was going on, it had been going on for twenty seven years.

“We should do this every fucking month or as much as possible,” Richie said, he’d been smiling so much that his face was starting to hurt.

“I don’t know if I like you that much,” Stan muttered flatly, sliding his leather bound address book back into his satchel.

“Oh, you know you love me Stan,” Richie said, crowding Stan, he wrapped his arms around Stan’s shoulders and tried to kiss him.

“You come out and instantly try to jump me,” Stan said as he dropped his bag to his feet, trying to struggle out of Richie’s hold. “I am a married man Richard.”

“We’re friends Stanley, I can kiss you on the cheek,” Richie exclaimed, still trying to reach Stan’s face with his lips as the other held him at bay with a hand against his chest.

“I bet that’s what you say to all the boys,” Stan returned and Richie laughed as he continued to hold firm onto Stan.

Richie lunged, hopping up onto the balls of his feet as he pulled Stan down, and laid one directly onto Stan’s cheek. As he did it, Richie heard the telltale click and wind of a camera beside them. Finally, Richie allowed Stan to push him away.

“I think I got a great shot,” Beverly said smirking wickedly as stared back at them.

“Hey Stanley, some people would pay a lot of money for that DNA,” Richie said, faux indignantly as he watched Stan wipe the side of his face with a handkerchief.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if he caught something, I remember your skincare routine and the fact that it was non-existent, I’ll bet my ass that it hasn’t changed in twenty seven years,” Eddie but in, sneering as he pointed at Richie.

“You want one too Eds?” Richie asked, smiling from ear to ear as he turned on Eddie.

“Do not fucking touch me,” Eddie yelled firmly and took several large steps back.

They hugged and shared heartfelt goodbyes and more promises to stay in touch, to meet up again. Bill hugged Richie firmly and patted him on the back, saying that they meet up for drinks whenever he was in LA for movie stuff. Richie had been on a movie set a few times and it’d be cool to hang out with Bill and maybe worm his way into one of his pictures. He said that he’d get Bill tickets for one of his gigs whenever he was in LA.

Mike said that if they were ever missing Maine that they could always visit him in Bangor. The group laughed, none of them missed Maine, all of them besides Mike had crossed state lines just to get away from Derry but they promised visit if they were in the area. Mike hugged Richie tightly, his floral scented body wash went straight up Richie’s nose, he found himself relaxing into the touch and it was gone all too soon.

Richie was watching Mike get into his car when he was blindsided by Stan. The other man had almost tackled him to the floor. They only saved themselves by staggering across the parking lot, a little ways away from the rest of the group. Stan held on tight and Richie could feel his fingers digging into the flesh of his ribs.

“Holy crow Stanley,” Richie barked as Stan littered the side of Richie’s face with kisses. He couldn’t stop the fluttering laughter that rattled out of his chest, despite all of his anal retentive tendencies, Stan could be a real weirdo and get on Richie’s level at any time.

“If you don’t call me Richard I’m gonna send carrier pigeons to your apartment, it’ll be a mix between The Birds and Harry Potter,” Stan muttered, barely holding back his own laughter. “There’ll be shit everywhere,” he added, gesturing with his arm as he looked out across the parking lot where Ben, Beverly and Eddie were stood chatting.

“Jesus fuck Stan,” Richie muttered, still laughing. “Of course I’ll call ya,” he added softly, fingers around the back of Stan’s neck, slipping into the hair at his nape.

They held each other close for a moment and stepped apart with shining eyes. Stan moved on Eddie next, holding him tight and probably murmuring something similar into Eddie’s ear. Then Stan got into his car and pulled away.

Richie went up to Eddie, stood in front of the other for a moment as Eddie stared back at him before he brought them together, yanking Eddie into a tight embrace.

“You call me Eddie Spaghetti, you better call me,” Richie muttered into Eddie’s ear as he clung on tight to the other.

“Don’t call me that,” Eddie said, but Richie could hear the smile in his voice.

“You’re gonna call me, right Eddie?” Richie asked, his voice low and soft as he continued to hold onto Eddie.

“Yeah, I’ll call ya Rich, I already promised didn’t I?” Eddie returned, hands on Richie’s back, holding Richie just as tightly as Richie was holding him.

“Just making sure you don’t flake out on me,” Richie muttered, smiling against the side of Eddie’s face. He didn’t want to let him go, didn’t want to have to watch him leave and know that they would soon be about as far apart as they could be while still being in the same country.

“Like fuck, you’re the one who’s flaky,” Eddie said, stepping back as he smacked Richie hard on the chest.

They stood like that for a moment, staring at each other as they continued to smile. Richie didn’t think that he was brave, but in that moment, he wanted to give every little bit of bravery he had to Eddie, he deserved to be happy and he needed to be brave to make that happen. He didn’t doubt that Eddie could be brave, Richie had seen it plenty of times. Still he wanted to give Eddie more. There was so much that he wanted to give Eddie. Richie blinked hard and tried not to tear up, tried not to say ‘break a leg and divorce your wife’.

“I’ll see you around Trashmouth,” Eddie said, his voice was thick with something but he was smiling back at Richie all the same. The sound of it made Richie’s heart swell.

“Yeah, I’ll see ya, Spaghetti man,” Richie returned, smiling so wide it hurt.

Eddie flipped him off as he walked over to his car. He, Ben and Beverly waved Eddie off as he passed them by. Richie had to keep telling himself that this wouldn’t be the last time that they’d see each other, had to repeat the promise in his head, just to keep the tears at bay.

Richie drove Ben and Beverly to the airport, bid them good bye with firm hugs and more promises to keep in touch. Ben gave him a strong bear hug, lifting him off the ground as he squeezed his ribs, Richie wheezed as he patted Ben’s shoulder to let him down. They shared a short chuckle before Beverly rushed him. She wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him on the check.

“Don’t you disappear on me Richie Tozier, I know where you live,” Beverly said firmly into Richie’s ear, the quivering of her voice made Richie’s heart ache.

“I won’t, I promise I won’t,” Richie murmured in reply. He leaned back to find tears rolling down her cheeks and Richie did what he always did when Beverly was down. “Hey chin up kid,” Richie began in an impression of Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca, tilting her chin up with his fingers, “when the sun sets you’ll be far from here and we’ll set you right kiddo, so you got nothing to be crying about ya hear?”  

“You don’t sound anything like Humphrey Bogart,” Beverly shot back as she wiped her eyes, she was laughing despite her words.

“Here’s looking at you kid,” Richie went on and she laughed louder.

He watched them go stood against the door of his rental car. He was determined to make this different from the last time they’d parted ways, they wouldn’t lose touch, not if Richie had anything to do with it. They had each other’s addresses. He’d turn up on their doorsteps if it came to it, just as Beverly had threatened to do.

 


 

Richie’s home was just as lonely as it had been before, maybe even more so now that he’d reunited with the only people that had ever made him feel like he belonged somewhere. He struggled to get back to work with all of the thoughts and memories (old and new) swirling in his head.

Sure, he’d told the losers that he was gay, but that didn’t mean that everything was settled. If anything Richie just felt more pressure to do something about it. He knew he didn’t have to, but knowing that he was forty and had never had a proper honest relationship made him feel so woefully pathetic.

On top of that was the fact that his childhood crush had never really faded, but had also come back with a vengeance. His feelings for Eddie weren’t complicated, but they sure as hell made everything else complicated.

Richie tried to ignore his feelings as he stared at his laptop screen, blank document open as he stared at the blinking line on the screen, his desire to start writing his own material again was not translating into words. He felt empty, but he was mostly just distracted. He thought about writing about his childhood, while leaving out the whole being gay thing, but there was a lot of dark stuff lying there that wouldn’t easily translate into laughter. The document stayed as empty and lonely as his apartment.

His apartment might have been empty and lonely but his phone had never been this lively.

The group chat was more than lively, it was downright rowdy. Richie had never spent so much time staring at his phone, smiling dumbly at the screen. In the three weeks since they had reunited Bill had left his wife and started the divorce proceedings, it seemed that neither of them were exactly happy with the relationship anymore. Bill was staying with Mike, which was weird but not super weird since Bill only lived in Vermont and wasn’t all that far away from Mike. The group chat was full of pictures of them hanging out, fixing up Silver and reading books.

Beverly and Ben were suspiciously in all of each other’s pictures. No one was surprised when they announced that they were dating, but everyone congratulated them earnestly. The photos of them together were sickly sweet. Richie was ridiculously happy for them. They deserved to be happy and quite frankly it had been a long time coming, Ben had been smitten with her since they were twelve and they were just a perfect fit.

Stan mostly posted pictures of himself with all kinds of birds and strange memes that often went straight over their heads. He shared a review of one of Bill’s books that was written by his wife Patty, it was particularly scathing and everyone got a good kick out of it, but no one more than Bill himself.

Richie sent blurry pictures of dogs he’d seen on the street and made as many jokes about him being gay as he possibly could. It was freeing and the fact that Stan always jumped in to rib him made him feel better, if they were making jokes then he wasn’t getting hurt, and none of them would ever call him a faggot.

Eddie only replied to what everyone else was doing and didn’t say much about himself. He and Eddie bickered at each other in their own conversation, he didn’t push Eddie or mention what they’d spoken about that night when Eddie had come into his hotel room.

Every now and then though, Eddie would say something (or more accurately type something) that both depressed and delighted Richie. Eddie had told him a lot about his marriage. More than Richie would have liked to know, but he was glad that Eddie had someone to tell these things to and was more than thrilled that Eddie thought he could tell Richie.

Eddie didn’t hate his wife, but then again he had never really hated his mother, he just hated what she did to him and Richie figured that it was the same with Myra. She cut the crusts off of Eddie’s sandwiches. She left out his umbrella, his rain slicker (which Richie teased him for owning) and galoshes (which Richie also teased him for owning) whenever the forecast said it was going to rain. She would lay out his clothes on their bed every morning while he was in the shower. She made him breakfast, lunch and dinner, at first Richie hadn’t seen the problem in that but then Eddie went on the explain that she got upset whenever Eddie made food for himself and didn’t that just sound like the late and not so great Sonia Kaspbrak.

Thinking about Eddie all the way out there on the other side of the country stuck in a miserable marriage downright depressed Richie. Every time he thought about it, his skin itched with the need to jump on a plane, barge into the Kaspbrak household and drag Eddie back home with him. He couldn’t and wouldn’t do that but he thought about it. This was something that Eddie had to do for himself, Richie could only be there for him.

It reminded Richie of just how helpless he’d felt standing against the hold that Sonia Kaspbrak had on her son. He’d done all he could to help Eddie forget about things and live the life a child should live, but there were things he couldn’t touch, things he couldn’t keep from hurting Eddie.

Richie felt empty and useless, lonely down to the bone despite his near constant contact with his friends. His apartment stayed empty and his word document stayed blank. Something had to give. Richie knew that if he wanted things to change then he would have to change them. He pulled the laptop back onto his lap and began writing. It was probably mostly garbage, but it was something at least.

 


 

Sat in his car outside one of the more discreet gay bars in LA, Richie stared at the entrance and watched people come in and out as he had a mild panic attack. In a way, he’d done a lot to just drive out to the place. Before reuniting with the losers, Richie had driven straight past these sorts of places, heart hammering in his chest as though people would know he was gay simply because he was in the area. He still felt scared.

His heart was pounding awfully and his hands were clammy. He felt as though something awful would definitely happen if he got out of the car, he wasn’t quite sure what it was, but he was certain that something would happen.

Fumblingly, he palmed his phone out of his pocket and dialled Stan hoping that he wasn’t interrupting something. His hand was shaking as he held the phone to his ear.

“Hey Richie, what’s going on?” Stan voice came low and easy, the sound of it made Richie feel a little better.

“Hey Stan,” Richie said, voice wavering as he took short shallow breaths.

“Is everything okay, what’s going on?” Stan asked, more alert as concern flittered into his voice.

“It’s so fucking pathetic, I’m so fucking pathetic,” Richie sobbed, face pressed against the steering wheel as he began to cry in earnest. It felt as though his lungs were full of broken glass, tearing at his insides every time he breathed.

“You’re not pathetic Richie, come on, tell me what’s happened,” Stan said, it sounded like he was moving around, perhaps going to a quieter room.

“I can’t get out the car,” Richie muttered, he flung his glasses onto the passenger seat and furiously wiped at the treacherous tears. “I’m sat in the fucking parking lot and can’t even get out of the fucking car to even just stand outside,” he added, forehead still pressed into the steering wheel, he was going to have a strange mark there when he sat up but he didn’t care about it at that moment.

“Where are you?” Stan asked.

“I’m outside a, a gay bar,” Richie said, struggling with the words.

“Okay,” Stan said and Richie got the feeling that he was nodding as he said it, “you’ve never been to one before and you made it this far right?”

“Yeah, I guess so,” Richie said, shrugging even though Stan wouldn’t see it.

“One step at a time Rich,” Stan said, soft but firm, “you can’t jump into the deep end before you’ve learnt how to swim,” he added and Richie got the feeling that Stan would make a great teacher.

“Yeah, you’re right Stan, you’re right,” Richie said, rubbing at his forehead as he sat back, sniffling slightly.

“Of course I’m right,” Stan returned and Richie released a weak chuckle at that. “What are you gonna do now?”

“I think I’m gonna go home, I’m fucking exhausted and like my eyes are all red from crying,” Richie said, feeling silly but feeling better than he had, “it’s not exactly a good look,” he added and snorted a little huff of laughter, trying to make himself feel better.

“I’m sure someone would go for it, the messy wreck sort of look, but I doubt you’d wanna go for that though,” Stan returned, obviously trying to cheer Richie up the way Richie would cheer up the rest of the losers.

“Yeah, that’s not exactly what I’m going for,” Richie laughed. He plucked his glasses up from the passenger seat and slid them back up his face. “Thanks Stan,” he said, sinking a little into his seat.

“Any time Richie,” Stan returned. “Text me when you get back okay?”

“Sure thing Stan,” Richie assured and hung up. He slipped the phone back into his pocket and started his drive home back to Malibu.

One step at a time.

Richie had already come out his friends and was comfortable making jokes about it, talking to them about his insecurities. He had toyed with the thought of signing up to a dating app but hadn’t made it that far yet. He had made it as far as the parking lot, it was the furthest he’d gotten yet and that was progress. It was safe to say that he had come a long way from the woefully closeted forty year old he’d been before the losers had reunited.

One step at a time.

That wasn’t all of it though. He couldn’t keep Eddie out of his mind whenever he was trying to work out his issues around his sexuality. No matter how far Richie got, Eddie would still be at the starting line until he divorced with his wife. Richie tapped his fingers against the steering wheel impatiently. He knew it was dumb, he knew that Eddie would call him a fucking moron for it, but Richie couldn’t help but feel guilty for being able to even sit in the parking lot when Eddie was stuck in a miserable marriage.

He knew there wasn’t anything he could do about it, he knew that he could exactly help Eddie through his issues when he was so entrenched in his own. They both had a lot to do before they could meet in the middle. Richie wasn’t entirely sure what he meant by that but thinking about Eddie made him want to be better. It always had, but this time he was going to do something about it.

One step at a time.

 


 

The window was open, like it always was. The light was on, like a beacon in the night, calling Richie and guiding him to the shore. Richie thought that things could never be too bad if Eddie’s bedroom window was left open for him. He climbed the guttering and the vines that crawled up the side of the house as quietly as he could and clambered into Eddie’s room.

Eddie was lying in the bed, face pressed into the pillow, and his eyes were closed but Richie knew that he was awake. There was no way that Eddie would fall asleep without switching the light off. Richie stayed by the window and watched Eddie for a moment before he went over to the bed.

“What’s going on Eds?” Richie asked softly as he sat down on the edge of Eddie’s bed.

“Don’t call me that,” Eddie mumbled into the pillow, he rolled onto his side away from Richie, pulled the covers up around himself and ducked his head inside.

“Come on, what’s up?” Richie asked as he pulled his shoes off. He clambered onto the bed and sat against the headboard beside Eddie.

Eddie’s head peaked out from under the cover, he stared up at Richie for a while before he spoke. “Am I going to die?”

“Not any time soon, what’s your fucking mom been telling you now?” Richie asked, frowning down at Eddie, if cockroaches could survive a nuclear blast, then Richie’s hatred of Sonia Kaspbrak would follow him into the afterlife.  

“We were watching Unsolved Mysteries,” Eddie murmured softly.

“And you spooked yourself and ya ma only made it worse?” Richie returned and pushed his glasses back up his nose.

“Maybe,” Eddie said weakly.

Richie moved down the bed and got under cover beside Eddie, he wrapped his arms around the smaller boy and held him close.

“No one’s gonna kill ya Eds, I won’t let them,” Richie said, speaking into Eddie’s hair. If Bill was there, if he was still talking to them, then he would have had something better to say. Richie was sure of it. Bill had always known what to say to make Eddie feel better in an instant. All Richie could do was make a promise that felt flimsy, especially when he couldn’t even protect Eddie from his mother, and hold onto him until they fell asleep.

“What are you gonna do Trashmouth, irritate them to death?” Eddie muttered as he slung his arm over Richie’s chest, face pressed into the other’s shoulder.

“Yeah, that’s right, they’ll be so annoyed and confused that they’ll think it’s too much effort and won’t bother,” Richie said, hoping that Eddie wouldn’t notice how fast his heart was beating.

“My hero,” Eddie said sarcastically, but Richie could feel his smile against his shoulder.

“Always,” Richie returned, hoping that he could make it true.

 


 

The fluorescents of the drug store were giving Richie a headache, he wanted to be out of there as fast as possible, before it turned into something he couldn’t ignore. He grabbed some painkillers as he waited in line. Who would have thought that a drug store would be so busy on a Wednesday night? Definitely not Richie. He just wanted to pick the photos and go.

Finally he was at the counter. He paid for the painkiller and collected the photos and left with the stiff legs of a man who’d been waiting in line too long. Richie didn’t look at the photos until he got home. He crashed onto his couch with unbound excitement, kids probably didn’t get this excited for Christmas. Slowly and carefully, he slid them out of the small folder.

The first one was of Eddie, mid conversation, slightly scowling. Richie’s smile grew as he stared at it. The next was off Beverly and Stan in the Barrens, moving through the brush behind him. Beverly was smiling at the camera while Stan was looking off into the trees. Then there was one of Bill, Eddie and Stan stood around the entrance to the clubhouse, smiling at each other as they spoke. He hadn’t taken anymore that day until they were making their way to the restaurant. There was a photo of Bill riding Silver past him, smile wide and childlike. The next one was of Eddie frowning at him, probably telling him not to take it, Richie’s heart swelled at the sight. There were a few of various members of the group walking down the street only lit by streetlamps, they were mostly blurry but Richie adored them all the same. The rest were all of Eddie, Eddie drinking his Long Island iced tea, Eddie laughing at Bill’s joke, Eddie scowling at him again, Eddie stood in the lobby looking very much like he didn’t want to go home, Eddie in the lobby staring up at Richie with those large brown puppy dog eyes wet and wide.

Richie set the photos down onto the coffee table and sat back against the couch. He pushed his fingers up under his glasses and rubbed his eyes, sighing as he tried not to think about what Eddie was doing at that moment.

He wanted to call Eddie, he called Bev instead.

Chapter Text

Richie didn’t usually get up too early unless he had to be somewhere and on that Thursday morning Richie didn’t have anywhere to be, so when his phone started to ring at 10:15 in the morning Richie was fast asleep. He woke with a start, thinking that he had to be somewhere and some assistant or his agent or whoever was calling him to tell him that he was late and that he better get his ass there ten minutes ago. Richie slipped his phone off of the bedside table and held it close to his face. It took a moment before he could focus on the name and actually read it. A different kind of adrenaline flooded his system at the sight of the name.

“Hey Spaghetti man, what’s up?” Richie said breezily, holding the phone to his ear, ignoring the way his hand was already getting clammy. He slid his glasses up his face and sat up against the headboard as he listened to Eddie speak.

“I think I might need to take you up on that offer,” Eddie’s voice came, sharp and rattled, sounding much like it had every time the fear of his mother struck through him.

“Yeah?” Richie could hardly believe it. He hadn’t actually expected Eddie to take him up on his offer, especially when Bill and Mike were so close by, most especially Bill. When they were kids, Eddie would have done anything for Bill. In a way they all would have, but Eddie had been different, his devotion and downright hero worship of Bill was staggering. Not to mention that Bill could have driven to Eddie and be there by nightfall.

Richie felt kind of honoured that Eddie had called him and not anyone else.

“I know it’s asking a lot Rich, but I can’t do this on my own,” Eddie said, Richie could practically see the furrow of Eddie’s brow as he spoke.

“Hey Eddie, it’s alright, I offered didn’t I and I wouldn’t have offered if I wasn’t prepared to do it,” Richie assured, he was prepared to do that and so much more.

“I’ve tried to tell her like fucking twelve times since I got back and it just turns into something else or I just end up saying nothing,” Eddie said in that rattling voice and Richie knew he was shaking at the other end of the line. Richie wished he could just reach through the phone and wrap his arms around Eddie.

“Eds, it’s alright, stuff like this takes time and if you need me there then I’m there, I said I would be,” Richie said, trying his best to reassure Eddie, “and after you throw your ring at her or whatever, we can go to a gay bar and I’ll be your wingman or you can be my wingman and we’ll have the night of our lives,” he added, he could hear Eddie’s stifled laughter from the other end of the line.

“Shut the fuck up,” Eddie bit, but Richie could hear the smile in his voice.

“I’ll be there as soon as I can,” Richie said as he pulled his laptop onto his lap and opened up a new e-mail, he started to draft something as he spoke to Eddie, phone held between the side of his face and shoulder.

“Thanks Richie, I,” Eddie sighed heavily. “It really means a lot to me.”

“No problem Eds,” Richie returned.

They hung up shortly after and Richie got straight to making room for a visit to New York in his schedule. He had a pretty heated but somewhat passive aggressive argument with his agent about previously booked dates in local comedy clubs, he had new material to work through and that was usually how you did it, but Richie was in no mood to stand on a stage and try to be funny when his friend needed him. It didn’t matter what it took, he’d be there as soon as possible.

 


 

By the next Friday, Richie was touching down in New York. He was anxious to get off the plane and in front of Eddie. There was a line for the rental cars and Richie shifted his weight from one foot to the other. He tapped his fingers against his coffee cup and sipped at it every time the lady in front of him turned around to throw him a haughty look. Eventually he was in the car, something black and German, Richie wasn’t paying a whole lot of attention, he just wanted to get to Eddie.

Bill had always been the one to step up and protect Eddie, the one to go running off to set things right, belting down the street on Silver to fetch him a new inhaler. Richie had always been a little jealous of that. He was never strong enough to really stand up for Eddie, he’d never had the stones to step up, didn’t have a fast enough bike to offer his help. He had always been there though and that had to count for something.

Richie had always been there to make Eddie laugh or make him angry, anything to take his mind off of whatever was bothering him. If he couldn’t be the knight in shining armour, he could always be the jester.  

It was strange to look back at their childhood and realise just how gone he’d been for Eddie, and just how oblivious Eddie had been. They’d been practically joined at the hip, especially when the others had started to leave, and even when Eddie was telling him to shut up he stayed close by. Sure, Richie had tried his best to hide it but he doubted that he’d been that convincing. Eddie was so far in the closet, so horribly repressed by the cruelty of his mother. It wasn’t that surprising that Eddie had never noticed Richie’s unruly crush.

Eddie was going to have a whole lot to sort through once this was all done with, Richie thought with a heavy sigh.

 


 

It was a Sunday afternoon in mid October. Eddie and Richie were sat in the small room above Eddie’s garage reading comics like they usually would on dreary weekends like this one. It wasn’t hard to tell that Eddie had something on his mind and desperately wanted to tell Richie about it, the kid was so damn easy to read sometimes. He kept flicking eyes up to Richie every now and then and he was fidgeting like mad, if Richie had been moving around like that Eddie would flipped his lid.

Richie wasn’t going to ask him about it though. He’d learnt from experience that you couldn’t just ask Eddie what was bothering him, that would just make him clam up and he’d refuse to even acknowledge that anything was bothering him. Eddie was like a deer or something, you had to wait for him to come to you.

“Richie,” Eddie called tentatively and Richie almost sighed with relief.

“Yeah,” Richie replied, not looking up from his comic book but clearly unable to continue reading it.

“Is it normal for a hobo to offer out blowjobs for a dollar?” Eddie asked and Richie just about choked on thin air.

“I dunno Eddie, I guess some people will do anything for money,” Richie said, a little wide eyed as he stared at Eddie but Eddie refused to look up from the comic book held in his hands. “Did a homeless man offer to give you a blowjob for a dollar?”

“Maybe?” Eddie said, like he wasn’t sure.

“It either did or didn’t happen Eds,” Richie said and dropped his comic book into his lap.

“Yes, it happened,” Eddie yelled, exasperated as he dropped his own comic book.

“Where?” Richie asked, flabbergasted. He couldn’t imagine some guy propositioning kids on the street would last too long before the cops caught wind of his business operation. Richie hoped that the cops had picked him up.

“Out in front of that creepy fucking house on Neibolt street,” Eddie said, fingers clutched around the comic book on the floor crumpling it slightly, but he was at least looking at Richie.

“What were you doing out there?” Richie asked, brows furrowed, he knew that Eddie hated that house.

“I was heading to the train yard,” Eddie said simply.

“Nerd,” Richie huffed a laugh.

“Fuck off Richie, it was really scary,” Eddie said, kicking at Richie’s shin, he certainly sounded scared.

“Well, did you?” Richie asked, mischief dancing in his eyes.

“Did I what?” Eddie returned, eyes squinted suspiciously as he stared back at Richie.

“Get a blowjob from a hobo,” Richie said, unable to hold back his laughter as he clutched at his stomach. Making Eddie angry would get his mind off of the absolutely terrifying thought of a homeless man selling blowjobs for a dollar to fucking kids.

“Shut the fuck up Richie,” Eddie barked, his face had turned cherry red and he was shaking, it looked like he was going to boil. “For one thing, why the fuck would I want a blowjob from a hobo? They’re filthy, you have no idea where they’ve been or what they have, you could get sucked off and next week your dick’s falling off. And he was a guy, Richie, I ain’t queer,” he went on, blowing steam like a damn kettle, and settled back against the wall with a huff.  

“Never said you were Eds,” Richie said mutedly. Eddie’s words both made his heart sink but also made it beat like mad.

He knew that Eddie didn’t exactly mean anything by it. He was pretty sure that Eddie didn’t know shit about what queer people were or did from the things he’d said about them and all that crap that his mother was constantly pouring into his skull. And he was goddamn certain that Eddie didn’t mean him because Eddie didn’t know about Richie, no one did. It didn’t mean anything.

“Do you want me to come with you next time, to the train yard?” Richie asked, he made sure not to look at Eddie as he said it, and picked the comic book back up off of his lap.

“Yeah, thanks Richie,” Eddie said, smiling softly as he stared at Richie.

“Hey, what are friends for if they can’t keep paedophilic hobos at bay?” Richie said, laughing as he spoke. He was smiling wide at Eddie as the other rolled his eyes at him.

“Gross Richie,” Eddie muttered, but he was smiling as he lifted the comic book back up to his face.

Richie carried that smile with him for the rest of the day, tucked away, close to his chest.

 


 

Richie pulled up outside the Kaspbrak home just after five pm. It wasn’t outlandish or anything, it was just a nice house, and they’d probably brought it for a reasonable price. It was exactly the sort of place that Sonia Kaspbrak would have liked, so of course Richie instantly hated it.

It felt as though it took years to get to Eddie’s front door. He turned off the engine, pulled out the key, walked up the steps to the porch, walked across the porch and rang the bell. It released a shrill noise that made Richie’s nose wrinkle. Richie tapped his fingers against his leg and tapped his foot against the wooden deck of the porch as he waited.

The door opened and it felt like time had sped up and ground down to a halt. Eddie stood in the doorway, hair gelled back but it was coming out a little, he was still wearing his work clothes, a suit minus the jacket, his tie was loosened and he looked tired but happy to see Richie.

Richie’s heart leapt into his throat at the sight and the ability to speak completely abandoned him for a moment.

“Hey man,” Richie coughed the moment he found his voice.

Eddie replied by grabbing Richie’s arm and dragging him into the house, he shut the door behind them and wrapped his arms tight around Richie. Richie sunk into the feeling. It felt right and Richie put his arms around Eddie, held the other close, he never wanted to let him go.

“I don’t think you’ve ever been this happy to see me, I should get you divorced more often,” Richie said, unable to stop himself from ruining the moment.

“Fuck you man,” Eddie said harshly as he stepped away from Richie and out of the embrace.

They shared the sort of smile that only people who knew each other a little too well could. It felt like Richie’s heart was taking up his whole chest and his whole body itched to hold Eddie again. He had to keep reminding himself that he was there to help Eddie leave his wife and not to do whatever the hell his heart thought he was.

“So, where’s the woman?” Richie asked, he stepped back a little further and tucked his hands into his pockets. He looked down the hall as though he expected her to suddenly appear.

“She’ll be back around eight o’clock,” Eddie said, he flicked his eyes to the door, as though he expected her to suddenly appear as well.

“Okay, so what we gonna do until then?” Richie asked. He hated the look on Eddie’s face, that cowed and fearful look, it’d always shown up around Sonia and now it was showing up at the mention of his wife. Richie tried not to grind his teeth.

“I dunno, you probably have more experience telling people this sort of thing than me,” Eddie shrugged and scratched at the back of his head, eyes skirting around Richie’s face.

“Uh, a few shitty month long relationships are not the same as a fifteen year long marriage,” Richie said. He felt extremely out of his depth, Bill definitely would have been a better pick, Richie still couldn’t wrap his mind around why Eddie hadn’t just called Bill.

“It’s still more experience than I have asshole,” Eddie bit back, eyes wide as he stared up at Richie.

In that moment, with Eddie staring hard at him, Richie realised that Eddie was counting on him and he needed to get it the fuck together. He couldn’t remember the last time someone had really counted on him but it was probably Eddie that time too. Only god knew why, but there he was and he owed it to Eddie to do right by him.

“I guess you’re right Eds,” Richie said, sounding a little subdued.

“Take your shoes off,” Eddie said and started to move down the hall.

“Yes Mr. Kaspbrak sir,” Richie said, saluting Eddie as he toed off his shoes in the entryway.

He followed Eddie through the house and into the kitchen. Eddie made them coffee, pulled his tie free and set it down on the counter, Richie sat at the island on a stool and looked around the immaculate room. He’d expected as much.

“Do you have the papers?” Richie asked, he wrapped his fingers around the coffee mug, finger nails tapping against the ceramic.

“Haven’t gotten that far yet,” Eddie muttered, he sat at the island beside Richie, his own mug of coffee in his hands.

“Okay,” Richie said. He stared back at Eddie, he was wound tighter than Richie had ever seen him, Richie wanted to get him to calm down somehow. Eddie would definitely bite his head off if he said something like ‘hey man, relax’. He guessed that Eddie would be coiled like a spring until this whole thing was over. Richie pushed his fingers through his hair as he tried to think of something to say. “How do you wanna go about this?”

“I dunno, I’m not gonna meet her at the door, I guess I’ll introduce you and then get the fuck down to it before I lose my nerve,” Eddie said, eyes glued to the countertop as he sipped at his coffee.

“Alright, so what do you want me to do?” Richie asked.

“Not much, just, just make sure that I actually tell her this time,” Eddie said, waving his hand through the air as he spoke.

“Okay. And after you’ve gotten it out, what then?” Richie asked, watching Eddie because he didn’t know what else to do.

“I’ve already got my bags packed, so I figure I’ll stay in a hotel or something for a while,” Eddie said, his eyes flicked up to Richie’s and quickly shifted away again as he drank more of his coffee.

“Alright,” Richie nodded and took a drink of his own coffee.

He had always hated seeing Eddie like this, lost and confused and anxious, he expected to see that inhaler make an appearance at any moment even though he knew Eddie didn’t have it anymore. It reminded him of a lot of times that Eddie had been terrified to go home.

“H-how do you break up with someone Rich?” Eddie asked, the words tried to stay his mouth but Eddie forced them out, fingers hovering over his coffee. He looked too young and too old at the same time.

Naivety in someone Eddie’s age was scary. It made someone easier to manipulate, easier to abuse and that thought rocked through Richie like lightning.

“You’ve never broken up with someone?” Richie asked and Eddie only shook his head, still not meeting Richie’s eyes. Richie ran his hand down his face as he sorted his words out. “You try to tell the truth, but some people don’t want to accept what you’re saying, so you just have to put your foot down and tell them that it’s over,” he said, thinking of the mostly messy endings his relationships had come to. This was going to be messy and difficult, Richie could tell just by the way Eddie was shifting around in his seat.

“I’m just gonna have to fucking come straight out with it,” Eddie muttered and finished off his coffee.

“I think you wanna start with ‘I want a divorce’ and then go from there,” Richie said, he tapped his closed fist against the countertop for emphasis.

“Yeah, yeah,” Eddie nodded and wiped his mouth with his hand as he frowned.

“So as soon as she comes in, like she’s in the doorway and she sees me and my beautiful face, you introduce us and the very next thing you say is…” Richie said leadingly, looking at Eddie expectantly as Eddie slowly looked up at him.

“I want a divorce?” Eddie said, raising his brows as his voice went up in pitch.

“Atta-boy,” Richie said, smacking Eddie on the back, “we’ll have you breaking hearts in no time,” he added, smirking at Eddie.

“I don’t want to break anyone’s heart Richie,” Eddie said, frowning.

“Sometimes it’s unavoidable,” Richie said and took a long sip of his coffee. He hated how it sounded, like all he did was break hearts. Richie wasn’t meant to give advice, he was made to make jokes, break the ice and fill awkward silences. Richie Tozier was a jester, but he also needed to be a good friend, so he’d grit his teeth and bear it.

“Yeah, I guess so,” Eddie murmured, he turned away again and ran his fingers through his hair.

Richie moved onto his new material, they couldn’t talk about Eddie’s divorce forever, Richie had pretty much said all he was able to say about it anyways. So he pulled out his phone and told Eddie a few of his new jokes. Eddie wrinkled his nose and sneered at most of them, plainly calling Richie ‘unfunny as fuck’ while trying to keep the smile off his face.

The sound of a key sliding into the lock in the front door rattled them both. Eddie almost jumped straight out of his seat to get onto his feet, pressing his hands down the front of his shirt to straighten it out. The silence around the sound of the door opening and closing was deafening and made Richie feel as though he was at the end of a concrete tunnel.

He was sent straight back to Derry, the summer of his fifteenth year, and the sound of Sonia Kaspbrak coming home. His and Eddie’s horsing around would instantly halt as Eddie got that caged look in his eyes. Richie would give Eddie a quick hug, promise to see him tomorrow and climb out the window. He eyed the window over the kitchen sink out of habit and Eddie gave him a look as though he’d had the same thought.

Myra Kaspbrak filled the doorway. It took only a moment for her face to screw up in confusion and distaste as she looked between the two of them, Richie felt like he was having déjà vu. She shuffled into the room and kissed Eddie’s cheek.

“Hey Eddie-bear, I didn’t know we were having guests,” Myra said, there was twinge in her voice that sounded like she was really saying ‘he better just be leaving.’

“Uh, hey,” Eddie said, words a little garbled. “This is Richie, he’s an old friend, from when I lived in Maine,” he said as he gestured to Richie, looking at him like a life raft.

“Hi,” Richie said, smiling as he gave her a little wave, he stayed glued to the kitchen island.

She simply continued to stare at him as though his shouldn’t be there, as though he should skitter out of their house just from her gaze alone. Richie stayed where he was.

“Myra, I’ve got something to tell you and if I don’t tell you now then I’m never gonna say it and I really really need to say it or I’m just going to fucking implode,” Eddie began, hands slipping into his pockets and Richie knew they were shaking.

“Eddie, why are you swearing?” Myra said, brows furrowed as she stared at him.

Richie balked, even when they were kids, Eddie had always had a fowl mouth and, as far as Richie was concerned, that hadn’t changed at all. Eddie shot Richie a look and moved on, ignoring what she had said.

“Myra, I want a divorce,” Eddie said flatly.

Myra broke out in tears almost instantly. They were quick to come and made Richie feel rotten to the core. Wet trails rolled down her face, marring her light make-up, mascara smeared around her eyes. Sonia had used this trick too. Richie had never been there when Sonia had really laid into Eddie, but Eddie always told him about it later. It was a reflection of the past through a glass of water.

“What do you mean Eddie?” Myra asked, wet eyes flicking between Eddie and Richie. “You’re scaring me Eddie-bear,” she blubbered.

“I want a divorce Myra, I want out of this loveless miserable marriage,” Eddie went on, repeating himself without being cruel the way his mother would have been.

“You’re not happy Eddie?” Myra hiccoughed, hands wringing in front of her.

Richie swallowed thickly. He had never been caught up in the middle of anything like this before. One time at college, he hadn’t left his dorm room for four hours because someone was having a roaring argument out in the hallway and he wasn’t going to get any kind of involved in something like that. The whole room felt as though it was full of static electricity, there was a charge, something that made Richie wholly uncomfortable but unable to move.

“No I’m not happy and I-I don’t think you’re happy either,” Eddie said, brow creased as he stared at her with open eyes. She didn’t say anything, but her silence did all the speaking for her. “Let’s stop lying to each other and ourselves,” he added, imploring and empathetic as he stood before her.  

It was almost like Richie hadn’t need to be there at all, but he knew that wasn’t true. Eddie had been so brave in front of the losers only to be torn down when he went home. He was braver because he had someone who believed in him there, and Richie was glad to be able to be that for Eddie.

Myra moved to take a seat at the dining table across the room. She dropped her head into her hands as she continued to cry, blubbering mumbled words that Richie barely caught.

“I’ll worry about you Eddie, I worry about you,” she went on and the words gave Richie the damn shivers.

“I’ll be fine Myra, and you will too,” Eddie said, he patted her shoulder reassuringly. “I’m gonna leave now, alright,” he added and Myra started to say something but Eddie went on, “I’m gonna leave and I’ll be in touch but I doubt we’ll see each other again.” Eddie’s words were delicate as he worked the ring off of his finger and set it down on the table in front of her.

“What? Eddie you’re not making any sense,” Myra said, voice quivering as she continued to cry, her eyes flicked to Richie then.

He’d been trying to act as though he wasn’t there. Her eyes were on him though and Richie was very much there. He could only imagine what she was thinking, if Myra were anything like Eddie’s mother then she’d be pinning all the things she didn’t like about the whole situation on Richie. It was easier to think it was some stranger’s, some weird boy’s, fault than the man, the boy, she’d clung to. Those thoughts felt unkind and Richie tried to stamp on the ugly memory of Sonia Kaspbrak in his mind.

“I’m leaving and I won’t be back,” Eddie said firmly, and his eyes moved onto Richie too. They shared a look for a moment and Richie knew that this was coming to an end as Eddie turned back to Myra. “I hope you find happiness with someone else Myra, I really do,” he added and kissed her on the cheek.

Eddie stood back and the way he held himself made him seem almost an entire foot taller. It reminded Richie of that time, out in the Barrens on the river during the apocalyptic rock fight, screaming feral as he pelted rocks at the bullies that were (unbeknown to them) trying to kill them. He could just hear that scream echoing from the past as Eddie lifted his head and looked over at him. Strangely, Richie had never felt as attracted to Eddie as he did in that moment, which was very inappropriate. Eddie tilted his head toward the door and left the room.

Richie didn’t know if he should say anything to Myra and if he should then he sure as shit didn’t have anything he wanted to say, at least not anything nice. He didn’t think that ‘it was nice to meet you’ would go down well, especially since it wasn’t true and they both knew that. He got up from the stool and began to make his way across the room as he heard Eddie’s fast footfalls up the stairs.

“You won’t be able to take care of him,” Myra muttered as Richie passed her, making him stop dead in his tracks.

“Myra, with all due respect, I’ve known Eddie since we were eleven,” Richie said as polite as he could force himself to be, leaving out the twenty five-ish year gap, “I know that he can take care of himself,” he added, looking down at the top of her head, her body was still shaking with sobs and Richie didn’t know whether he should believe it or not.

She didn’t reply, instead she started to cry louder and Richie left the room.

Myra’s broken rattling sobs followed him out into the hall. Richie had never pulled his shoes on as quickly as he did then, he wanted out of that house, the sound gave him the creeps. It was like an echo from the past. He could hear Sonia’s voice bouncing off the walls of his mind.

He watched Eddie stagger down the stairs, holding a large suitcase and a duffle bag. It felt like they were running away from home.

 


 

Richie sneezed for the billionth time as he sorted through the crap at the bottom of his closet. Boxes were littered around his room, they were finally leaving, and Richie hated how much he didn’t want to. If they left he’d never get the opportunity to apologise to Eddie. Although, he hadn’t seen Eddie at school for about a week and that would never happen unless he was in the hospital or had left town. Eddie hadn’t been to the hospital since Henry Bowers had broken his arm, at least as far as Richie knew. He shook his mind of the thought before it could take hold and pulled a dusty Batman doll.

His mother rapt her knuckles against the doorframe, Richie came out of the closet and laughed to himself about it for a second before the fear, guilt and shame washed over him like it always did. He got up onto his feet and took a step away from the closet.

“Yes mother?” Richie asked in an aristocratic English voice. 

“Don’t you want to say goodbye to anyone?” She asked, brows pinched as though she was really asking where all his friends were, still stood in the doorway. Deep cut mom, he thought.

“Who would I say goodbye to?” Richie returned, daring her to take this further.

“Whatever happened to that Eddie boy? I really liked him,” she said, watching his face with solemn eyes.

“Yeah me too,” Richie muttered under his breath so that his mother wouldn’t hear.  He brought his hand up between them and used it like a puppet as he did his ventriloquism bit. “Oh Mrs. Tozier, that sweet boy has left too, it seems like no one wants to stay in some shithole dead end town for the rest of their lives,” he said, voice high as he tried and failed not to move his lips.

His mother only stared back at him with a look of pure exasperation. She didn’t understand him, she never had and never would, and Richie felt it like a gulf between them. He dropped his hand back down to his side.

“We don’t talk anymore,” Richie said with a shrug.

“That’s a shame,” she replied softly.

“Yeah, I guess so,” Richie muttered and went back to the closet, and after a moment he heard his mother’s retreating footsteps.

What he thought was more of a shame was the fact that he didn’t have a single piece of Eddie to take with him. Would he forget about Eddie? Absolutely no fucking way, he told himself, but the rest of them had seemingly forgotten about him. Beverly had stopped writing almost a year ago, Bill stopped calling at some time around October last year, Mike was too busy and Richie just felt bad about trying to pull him away from his family, Ben had only called him two times before radio silence and despite being his best fucking friend, Stan hadn’t called or written at all.

They had forgotten about him because he wasn’t worth the effort.

Richie bit his lip and tried not to cry. He still had so much packing to do and he didn’t have the time to cry about shit he couldn’t do anything about. Richie pushed his fingers up under his glasses and rubbed his eyes, he took a deep breath and sat there with his ass on his heels for a moment. Once he was sure he wasn’t going to cry, he went back to packing. In hindsight he probably shouldn’t have packed his radio already.

He picked up a large book about sleight of hand, he’d never got the hang of it because he just didn’t have the patience, and a piece of paper slipped out from between the pages. Richie picked the paper up from his lap and unfolded it. His heart leapt into his throat as he stared down at the page. It was a copied piece, one of seven, and Richie could hardly believe his eyes.

It read, in Stan’s impeccable handwriting: ‘The members of The Losers Club swear that, no matter what, they will meet at the clubhouse twenty seven years from August 20th 1989, which will be August 20th 2016.’

And below that was written each of their names with a space for them to sign. Bill’s name was first, of course, his signature was plain but messy. Then came Stan’s, neatly scratched into the page. After was Richie’s, his signature was large and messy, he’d dotted the I’s with a star. Eddie’s was next, he hadn’t exactly signed it, it was more like he’d simply written his name in his own handwriting. Ben’s was simple and stayed between the lines. Beverly’s was swooping and elegant with a little splodge at the end. Lastly, there was Mike’s, it looked like a doctor’s signature and Richie had a hard time figuring out what it said but he figured that it had to be Mike’s name.

Richie stared at Eddie’s signature, that wasn’t really a signature, and smiled to himself. He would come back, he’d make sure of it.

 


 

Richie’s heart was hammering away in his chest as he took the suitcase from Eddie and waited as the other put on his shoes. Eddie didn’t spare another word for Myra, he simply slipped his coat on and opened the door into the night. Richie couldn’t wait to be out of there. They were out the door, off the porch, down the steps and at Richie’s rental car in no time.

As soon as they were sat in the car, they both released a sigh of relief, sinking into the seats. They looked at each other for a moment and started laughing. It was so inappropriate and it reminded Richie of finding Eddie flat on his back in that alleyway, arm askew and laughing like he’d lost his mind. It was the laughter of relief, the laughter of freedom.

“This isn’t funny,” Eddie struggled out.

“No, it’s really fucking not,” Richie said, laughing like a loon as tear started to spill from his eyes, “but it kinda is though,” he added, trying to quell the noise as his body shook.

“Yeah, in a really fucked up way, it’s kinda funny,” Eddie said and smiled wide at Richie.

They laughed some more, hands on each other shoulders as they struggled to get a handle on themselves. It really did feel like they were running away from home. As though Richie had gone through with the plan he’d thought through a billion times over. When they were thirteen, it’d been stuffing his backpack full of comics and snacks and riding their bikes out of town. When he was fifteen, he’d been learning to drive with his dad on the empty back roads over that autumn and he’d been fantasising about stealing his dad’s car, picking up Eddie and driving as far away as they could get. He never did it, but in a way, he was doing it now.

Eventually, the laughter died down and Richie finally started the car.

“Okay, what now buckaroo?” Richie asked, still smiling and pulled out onto the road.

“I don’t know, I just hate my fucking life,” Eddie said, shrugging as he looked out the window.

Richie tapped his fingers on the steering wheel as he tried to stop himself from saying the one thought that was ricocheting off of his skull like a bullet through his mind. It came out anyway.

“Why don’t you come and stay with me, you know, just until you get on your feet,” Richie offered, eyes resolutely on the road, preparing himself for the rejection he knew was coming because the offer was so damn stupid.

“Okay,” Eddie replied almost instantly.

“My apartment isn’t tha-what?” Richie began until what Eddie had said caught up to him. He looked over at Eddie who was looking back at him.

“I said okay,” Eddie repeated.

“You’re going to come to California with me?” Richie said, brows raised as he kept flicking his eyes between the road and Eddie. The traffic was light but it was dark, just pushing nine o’clock, in an unfamiliar city.

“Yes,” Eddie said mildly. “Keep your eyes on the fucking road jackass,” he barked, not so mildly, hands gesturing sharply at the windshield.

“Alright,” Richie shot back, and tried his best to keep his eyes on the road. “What about your job and your car and all your stuff?” He asked, brows furrowed as he tried not to choke on his heart, tried not to stare holes in the side of Eddie’s head.

“I already quit my job, she can have the car and the rest of it,” Eddie returned, there was no emotion to his words, it was just a statement of fact.

“Were you expecting me to offer?” Richie asked, heart thrumming as he tried to breathe normally.  

“No, but I knew I wouldn’t be able to stay here, I don’t even want to stay in this state anymore,” Eddie said, sneering at the side of Richie’s head.

“Right, yeah,” Richie said, nodding as he continued to drive.

The silence was strange and weirdly charged. He couldn’t handle it for very long and he wasn’t about to ask Eddie what all the staring was about. Richie switched the radio on and a smile spread wide across his face as he listened to the opening tunes of California by Phantom Planet. He flicked his wide amused eyes to Eddie who was frowning hard at the radio.

“Fuck off,” Eddie spat as Richie started to sing along.

“California here we come, right back where we started from, California! Here we come!” Richie sang, loud, obnoxious and definitely out of tune, but Eddie was smiling and laughing despite himself. That was all that mattered.

Chapter Text

Eddie had been, to put it lightly, fucking insufferable all throughout the flight back to LA. He’d spent the whole time chewing Richie’s ear off about how unsanitary planes were, how Richie shouldn’t sit down to pee in a public bathroom because you never knew what was on someone else’s ass, you shouldn’t use the plastic cutlery they give you, what if it snaps and you swallow a small piece of plastic, you need to get up and move around every hour or you’re going to get a blood clot and die. Despite all that, Richie didn’t put his earphones in or ignore Eddie.

This was who Eddie had always been and despite how it was driving him up the wall, Richie was enjoying listening to it. If Eddie was running his mouth then it meant that things weren’t too bad. It felt right, like everything was right with the world if Eddie could spare the breath to complain about anything. Richie found himself smiling, to which Eddie asked him ‘what the fuck are you smiling about?’

Of course, this didn’t mean that everything was fine. Eddie was still messed up, still had to deal with decades of repression and a lot of deep seated issues because of what his mother put him through. Things weren’t all dealt with simply because he’d told his wife he wanted a divorce. They didn’t even have the divorce yet, which would take a while, and Eddie might have go back to New York and meet Myra if she decided to be difficult.

There was a strangely awkward silence between them as they waited at the luggage claim. Richie didn’t know what had made Eddie so silent, but Richie was silent because he was trying not to think about Eddie’s future and failing miserably. Even without the divorce and the repression and the years of abuse, this would be difficult. How he felt about Eddie hadn’t change and that was something Richie was going to have to deal with on his own. Living with the maybe love of your life without being able to do anything about, well Richie knew he’d thrown himself to the sharks on that one. There was too much to think about and there was a sharp pain beginning behind Richie’s eyes.

“One step at a time,” Richie murmured to himself, under his breath, as he lifted his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose.

Eddie’s bulging suitcase came round on the carousel. Richie was too sluggish to grab it and be the perfect gentleman and Eddie was far too full of nervous energy to let him.

As soon as they got into Richie’s car, Eddie started up again, complaining about how Richie’s car smelt and the sweet wrappers left in the glove compartment. Then he moved onto the radio. Eddie fiddled with it for a few minutes before settling on the station that it had been on when he’d turned it on.

The closer they got to Richie’s apartment building, the longer Richie wanted to make the ride. His hands kept slipping on the steering wheel. Eddie gave him a sharp look and told him to ‘get a fucking grip’ which had Richie in stitches, crying as he tried not to crash into the car in front of them.  

They finally got back to Richie’s apartment. Richie’s mind felt cluttered, as though he couldn’t focus on any one thing for more than a few minutes or so. He took a deep breath as he stood in front of his door. Get it together Tozier, Richie told thought.

 


 

To say that Richie was anxious about showing Eddie his apartment would have been an understatement. He mind flooded with images of all the things that Eddie would comment on, a stray sock somewhere near his bedroom door, dirty dishes in the sink and dishwasher, mug of half drunk coffee on the kitchen counter and a whole bunch of other things that wouldn’t occur to him until Eddie was calling him a slob as he pointed them out. Richie felt lightheaded as he pulled his keys out of his pocket. Eddie was stood close behind him, suitcase in tow, as he followed him into the apartment.

“To be honest, this is better than I expected,” Eddie said as he gave the apartment a once over.

“What the fuck did you expect?” Richie asked, brows pinched as he turned back to Eddie.

“I don’t know, something like a fucking frat house or whatever, you know, a real bachelor pad,” Eddie said, shrugging as he continued to look around.

“Eddie, I am forty years old,” Richie returned.

“And you still make jokes about my mother,” Eddie said, he licked his top lip and stared up at Richie like he was begging him not to make one right then.  

“Because they’re funny,” Richie said, as though it were the most obvious thing in the world.

“Whatever, just, which room am I staying in?” Eddie sighed and gripped his suitcase more firmly.

Richie pointed at his spare room. Eddie nodded at him and made his way into the room, closing the door behind him with a click. Richie gripped the back of the couch as all the energy rushed out of his body. He felt like his legs were going to give out. Richie slipped down onto the couch and stared at his reflection in the television screen, he hadn’t realised that he was smiling. Sure, this would be hard, but it didn’t matter, he had Eddie beside him.

He got up from the couch and tidied up. His skin was buzzing, he was unearthly tired, a little jetlagged and cranky but he wanted to show Eddie that he was welcome in Richie’s home. It didn’t exactly take him too long, but he was fucking exhausted when he was finished.

Eddie was still in the spare bedroom when Richie was done cleaning. He was probably puttering around, mumbling about the sheets or something. Richie smiled to himself as he picked up his duffle bag and went into his room. He pulled out the clothes he hadn’t worn because he’d barely spent a day in New York, took the small pack of toiletries out and had a shower.

When he came out of the bathroom, Eddie was in the kitchen, opening and closing cabinets as he mumbled harshly to himself.

“Whatcha doing Eds?” Richie asked, leaning against the counter. He still had the towel around his neck as his hair continued to drip.

“Don’t call me that,” Eddie muttered before he turned to Richie. He stopped, stared at Richie’s Mariah Carey t-shirt for a moment before returning to Richie’s face and began speaking again. “Do you have any actual food in your apartment?”

“I’ve been busy recently,” Richie said with a shrug. “We can order takeout and I’ll get groceries tomorrow, I need to like sleep for maybe twenty four hours before I step outside again,” he added and began to dry his hair again.

“Right, yeah,” Eddie muttered. He moved to the living room and dropped himself on the couch. Richie watched him pull his phone out of his pocket, saw the wall of notifications that filled the screen, and set it face down on the coffee table. Eddie sighed heavily and held his face in his hand.

“Eddie,” Richie called softly, but Eddie didn’t say anything or show any indication that he had heard Richie.

Richie went over and sat down on the couch beside Eddie. He set the towel down over the back of the couch and pulled his own phone out to go through his e-mails as he waited for Eddie to be ready to say whatever was on his mind. Beverly had posted a picture of her and Ben’s new dog in the group chat, Bill had already replied with a whole bunch of emojis which made Richie smile, before he was able to type out his own reply a sound began beside him.

It was a sound that Richie hadn’t heard since the ’89. Eddie’s breath was shallow and fast. Even though he knew that Eddie didn’t need it anymore, Richie wished that he could just pull out the inhaler and get Eddie to take a few puffs off of it.

“Hey Eds, what’s going on?” Richie asked as he turned bodily toward the other on the couch. He put his hand on Eddie’s shoulder and squeezed, he tried to think of a joke, something that would raise Eddie’s head but the words wouldn’t come.

“What am I doing Richie?” Eddie sobbed and collapsed against Richie’s side, arms wrapped around Richie’s waist as he gripped him tight. “Have I done the right thing, how do I know if I’ve done the right thing?”

“You’ve done the right thing Eds,” Richie said, holding Eddie just as tight as Eddie was holding him. “You were miserable, it was a miserable marriage and besides that, you’re gay,” he went on, releasing a weak laugh as he said the last part.

“But leaving everything behind,” Eddie returned, shaking his head against Richie’s chest, smearing his tears over Mariah Carey’s face. “Can I really be myself when it feels like I’ve spent the last twenty years pretending to be someone else?”

Richie didn’t want to say that he felt the same, even though he did, because it wouldn’t help. This wasn’t about him.

“It’s a new start, sometimes you just need a new start to figure out who you are,” Richie said, as much to himself as to Eddie, he rubbed his thumb in circles on Eddie’s back. “It’s gonna be alright, Eds, I’m here, we’re all here for you, you know,” he went on as Eddie nodded against him.

They stayed liked that, awkwardly bent up on Richie’s couch, until Eddie’s breathing evened out and he seemed to settle down. Richie hoped that Eddie didn’t notice the way his heart was thundering in his chest. If things were different, this would mean something else, Richie shook the thought from his head and gripped Eddie tighter.

“Thanks Richie,” Eddie murmured, wiping his face as he finally sat up. Richie didn’t know what to say to that, it didn’t feel like he’d done anything to be thankful for.

He swallowed, nodded and said, “It’s no problem Eds.”

“Don’t call me that,” Eddie muttered weakly as he sneered at the mess on his hand.

“There he is,” Richie said and smacked Eddie on the shoulder.

“I’m gonna have a shower,” Eddie said, almost smiling as he got up from the couch. Richie watched as he went into the bedroom and came out with his little pack, scurrying by as he went into the bathroom, locking the door with a clack.

“One step at a time,” Richie murmured to himself as he picked up his phone and began to look at their dinner options.

 


 

They were out in the Barrens, lying in the grass and staring up at the sky. Usually they would be running around, screaming their heads off as they caused whatever havoc they’d fallen into that day. Despite himself, Richie didn’t feel itchy or like his skin was on fire just because he hadn’t spoken in the last five minutes, he didn’t feel like he was choking or suffocating on words that were begging to be let out. He knew it was because he was lying next to Eddie.

Eddie was pointing out clouds and saying what he thought they looked like. A dog, a crab, a piece of popcorn and a couch. Richie was just happy to lie there listening to Eddie’s voice, the other boy would go on and on if you let him and Richie was more than glad to let him. But there was something else he enjoyed as much as the sound of Eddie’s voice and that was Eddie’s reaction to the outrageous things Richie said.

“Hey Eds, that cloud looks like your mom,” Richie said as he pointed sharply at a large cloud in the sky.

“Fuck off Richie, you know I hate it when you call me that,” Eddie bit back, sneering at Richie as he turned his head to look at the other.

“Come on now Eds, it’s not nice to lie,” Richie said, rolling onto his front and pressing his body against Eddie’s, “you’re too cute to lie,” he added and pinched Eddie’s cheek. Eddie squawked and batted Richie’s hand away as Richie laughed and continued his mantra of cute, cute, cute. 

“Stop it,” Eddie yelled as Richie began to tickle him, climbing atop the smaller boy and pretending that their friends weren’t doing their best to ignore them.

“Make me spaghetti head,” Richie replied, smiling wickedly down at Eddie.

Eddie brought his elbows in and whacked Richie hard in the gut, sending him sprawling across the grass as he held his stomach.

“Jesus fucking Christ Edward,” Richie bit out against the dirt as the frames of his glasses dug into the flesh of his face. He continued to groan as he rolled on the ground.

“That was kind of uncalled for Eddie,” Ben piped up.

“Ruh-richie probably d-d-deserved it,” Bill said as he flicked the page of a comic book he was sharing with Mike.  Stan scoffed as he continued to stare through his binoculars at the trees across the way.

When Richie got his wind back, he shot up onto his feet and made to leave the Barrens. He didn’t know why he was so bent out of shape but he knew he needed to get out of there before he did something really embarrassing like crying. Eddie had hit him a fair few times, especially when he was being rowdy. The only difference was that Eddie would usually apologise. Even if Eddie were being sassy, he would still apologise. Maybe Richie was being too obnoxious, he didn’t know.

Maybe he was being too obvious and Eddie was disgusted by the thought of having Richie touch him like that, he thought miserably to himself.

“Hey Richie, where are you going?” Eddie called as he bounded up beside Richie.

“I’m going home to have a shit Eds, you knocked it out of my guts,” Richie replied automatically, letting his mouth do its work.

“That’s fucking disgusting,” Eddie returned, brow creased as he grimaced at Richie.

“You asked,” Richie said flatly.

“Are you okay?” Eddie asked, he looked hard at Richie for a moment before he looked away and began to rub at the back his neck. “I didn’t mean to hit you that hard Richie, I’m sorry, you know I hate being tickled,” he rattled on, arms flying about his face as he spoke.

“I know Eds,” Richie returned, deflating as he stared down at the other.  

“We’re good then?” Eddie asked, looking up at Richie with those big doe eyes, Richie practically melted on the spot.

“Of course we’re good, we’re always good,” Richie beamed and ruffled Eddie’s hair. Everything was alright because Eddie hadn’t said anything about the nickname and for some reason that meant something.

 


 

Things weren’t perfect. Richie had known they wouldn’t be, but things kept coming up that Richie hadn’t expected. He had expected Eddie to touch every damn thing he owned and move it around until he was happy with it, but he hadn’t expected to have to keep stopping himself from staring at Eddie too hard while the other rearranged his kitchen cupboards. He had expected Eddie to buy a shit ton of cleaning products and wipe down every surface until Richie felt like a germ living in his own apartment, he hadn’t expected to have to stop himself from the touching Eddie too much, from crowding Eddie’s space too much.

He’d expected Eddie to be the same old Eddie he’d always been, which was pretty much what he’d gotten. Eddie hadn’t come with an entire drug store, but he had brought the kind of medication and supplies that Richie probably should have already had, like aspirin and band-aids and Vicks vapour rub. He’d fussed about the nearly empty medicine cabinet and asked Richie what he did exactly when he was ill.

“I lie in bed and feel sorry for myself,” Richie replied and Eddie scoffed at him as he continued to pack the cabinet.

What Richie hadn’t expected, although he probably should have, was how much he’d have to keep check on himself. His eyes would wander and his mind would go farther. He had to keep telling himself that there was no deeper meaning to the way Eddie moved or touched him or looked at him. Richie felt like rotten garbage, he had no business feeling that way when Eddie was dealing with so much already, he didn’t need to add Richie on top of that. Still, he couldn’t stop the way he reacted to the other simply being around.

Richie almost spat out his cereal when Eddie came out of the bathroom with nothing but a towel wrapped around his hips. It wasn’t exactly because Eddie was nearly naked, but it definitely wasn’t helping, it was mostly because Richie had forgotten all about the tattoos on Eddie’s chest. Milk spilled out of his mouth and dribbled down his chin, which must have been so attractive. He wiped his chin with the back of his hand as Eddie frowned at him.

“You’re eating Froot Loops?” Eddie asked, eyeing the bowl in Richie’s hand with distaste.

“Yeah,” Richie replied mildly.

“You’re forty years old man,” Eddie said, shaking his head slightly.

“So?”

“I’m surprised you’ve still got teeth in your head with your diet,” Eddie returned, brow creasing as he frowned at Richie.

“Hey, I’m alive, so it can’t be that bad,” Richie said with a shrug, looking down into the bowl so he wouldn’t be staring at Eddie’s chest.

Eddie sneered as Richie continued to shovel the cereal into his mouth.

“Yeah, not for much longer asshole,” Eddie bit back and made his way into the spare bedroom. Richie’s spluttering laughter followed him through the apartment.

“Is that a threat Spaghetti?” Richie yelled after Eddie.

“Fuck off!” Eddie called through the door and Richie laughed some more.

Richie’s heart was hammering away in his chest and he felt lightheaded. If this was going to be the rest of his life, then Richie thought he could handle that, he’d take that with a damn smile on his face.

Guilt and shame were quick to follow that feeling. The smile fell from Richie’s face and he dumped his bowl and spoon into the sink, he made to leave the kitchen before he thought better of it and turned back to the sink and cleaned the bowl and spoon.

“Get over yourself Tozier, don’t be a prick,” Richie muttered to himself as he scrubbed. It had only been four days.

It had only been four days and Richie was finding it hard to stay out of his own way. They had spoken on and off about Eddie’s marriage, about all the ways that it didn’t work and all the ways Eddie felt sorry, not just for himself but for Myra. Richie, himself, couldn’t find too much sympathy for her. She’d obviously seen the hole in Eddie’s life where a manipulative and overbearing woman had been and had filled the space perfectly.

Richie had woken up that morning to a message from Eddie in the group chat: Anyone know a decent divorce lawyer?

The replies were supportive and sympathetic. Beverly and Ben asked how he was doing, if everything was okay. Mike said that he and Bill would come straight over to New York and pick him up if he needed the support. And Stan had sent a link to a list of family attorneys in New York city before saying that he’d be there if Eddie needed him. Richie blinked down at his phone in awe as a strong wave of love and affection flooded out from the screen. How they ever fell apart, Richie didn’t know. It was probably just a part of life that people grew apart and it was a damn miracle that they ever found their way back to each other.

He was still in bed as he watched as another post from Eddie appeared on the screen and Richie’s heart leapt into his throat. Richie scanned his eyes over the screen again and again. He wanted to leap out of the bed and pull Eddie into a bone crushing hug but he thought better of it.

Thanks guys, it really means a lot to me, Eddie had written and had added a few heart emojis to the end. I’m actually staying with Richie atm, he came and picked me up like an out of shape and wise cracking knight in an awful patterned shirt, he went on.

Hey, my shirts are charming and quirky, Richie typed and added a shocked emoji.

Come out here and say that to my face, Eddie replied. Richie was eleven and he was thirteen and he was fifteen and he was forty years old with a crippling crush on one of his best friends. He had all but scrambled out of the bed to find Eddie locking the bathroom door, which was anticlimactic.

Richie dried the bowl and spoon and put them away. Eddie had been surprisingly open about the whole divorce thing and his relationship with Myra, it wasn’t exactly nice because Richie hated hearing about it but he was glad that Eddie felt comfortable enough to talk. What was kind of getting under Richie’s skin was how Eddie hadn’t really mentioned anything about being gay since that night in his hotel room back in Derry.

Of course, they didn’t need to talk about it straight away and it might affect Eddie’s divorce, not that Richie really knew anything about that. Eddie had to go at whatever pace he needed to go. Still, it was on Richie’s mind, for the worst reasons possible.

When Eddie had come out to him, even after all of their friends had pretty much done the same, Richie had felt less alone. Sure, their friends were mostly the same too, but it just felt different with Eddie. It probably had something to do with how repressed they had both been. Richie was dying to talk to Eddie about it, itching to feel the kind of relief you only felt when someone could relate to the same fucked up situation as you. On top of all that was the stupid crush he couldn’t fucking shake.

Maybe inviting Eddie to stay had been a bad idea, but he couldn’t and wouldn’t take it back. Even if he could go back in time, Richie doubted that he’d change a single thing he had done in New York. If he could do something for Eddie then he would do it. He had made that promise to himself when he was thirteen, sat in that alleyway holding Eddie as the other boy laughed hysterically.

 


 

It was a quiet and mostly normal Friday afternoon. Richie was sat on the couch with his laptop, going over his schedule for that night. He was booked for a club that night and he wanted to make sure that everything was set. Friday nights were live wires. With the traffic of people coming out of work and being at the end of the week and all, the roads and crowds would definitely be lively in either a good or bad way, you just never knew until it was too late.

Eddie was sat beside him, puttering around on his own laptop, frowning the entire time. Richie tried not to think too hard about it. If Eddie wanted to talk about something then he’d bring it up, Richie told himself for the billionth time.

Richie wanted to say something, maybe crack a joke and either deepen those frown lines or make them disappear altogether. He knew it wasn’t good idea just by the sound of Eddie typing. Eddie’s fingers alighted the key with a kind of ferocity that had Richie wondering how there went holes punched straight through the thing. Then Eddie’s phone started to skitter across the coffee table as it vibrated, making a loud thrumming noise against the wood, they both stopped what they were doing and stared at it.  

Eddie reached over and plucked it from the coffee table, he looked down at the screen as it continued to vibrate in his hand.

“Huh, it’s Bill,” Eddie murmured as a smile began to spread across his face. He answered the phone as he rose from the couch, still smiling as he put the phone to his ear. “Hey Bill,” he said, voice as sunny as the streets outside, and made his way to the bedroom, closing the door behind him.

Richie turned his attention back to his laptop and tried not to listen to the muffled sound of Eddie’s voice coming through the door. He didn’t get to do much of anything though as his own phone began to vibrate against his leg only seconds after he’d turned his eyes to the screen. Richie palmed the phone out of his pocket and answered the phone without checking to see who it was.

“Richie, with all due respect, what the fuck are you doing?” Stan’s voice came sharp through the speaker before Richie could even begin to ask who was calling.

“Well, hello to you too Stanley,” Richie said, rolling his eyes as he set the laptop back on the coffee table, beside Eddie’s.

“Hi, what are you doing?” Stan returned.

“I don’t know, I couldn’t just leave him on the fucking curb,” Richie said, flicking his eyes to Eddie’s bedroom door as he leaned forward and kept his voice low, so that it wouldn’t carry.

“You could have taken him to a hotel and called Bill or something, but now you’re what? Torturing yourself when you can’t even step inside a gay bar,” Stan continued, brushing straight past Richie’s statement.

“Hey, I got to the front door last week,” Richie said, mildly affronted as his face began to heat up.

“And I’m really proud of you,” Stan replied, he was as sincere as he was stern. He took a breath and sighed quietly before he spoke again. “Do you know how I knew that you were gay?”

“No, I mean if I had known that you knew then I might not be as fucked up about it as I am,” Richie rambled as he got up from the couch and made his way into his own bedroom before Stan could drop more truth bombs on him.

“I knew because you’d never leave Eddie alone, you know, the way Ben never left Beverly alone only more annoying,” Stan explained.

“You’re shitting me,” Richie muttered and dropped down onto the edge of his bed.

“I’m all out of shit Richie.”

“Well, whatever, it doesn’t fucking matter because I’m an adult Stan and I can handle this,” Richie said, trying to convince himself as much as he was Stan.

“Richie, I’m not saying that you can’t handle it,” Stan said with another sigh, “I just don’t want you to get hurt.”

“Get hurt? How would I get hurt?”

“Are you being serious?”

“Yeah, I’m being serious Stan, as serious as you’ve always been,” Richie returned, sneering as he ran a hand through his hair.

“Well, for one thing, you’ve still got feelings for him and don’t try to say you don’t because there’s no other explanation for the way you were acting last month, not to mention flying out to New York at the drop of a hat and inviting him to stay with you,” Stan rattled off, like a particularly self righteous teacher, Stan had spoke like this to Richie a thousand times in their youth.

“Take a fucking breath, jeez,” Richie breathed, his eyes kept flicking to the door, as though Eddie would burst into the room and call him a faggot or something because his nerves were just that rankled.

“I’m just saying that you’re clearly not over him and I’m not judging you for that,” Stan said, “but you’re dealing with your issues and Eddie’s got his own issues, it’s gonna be difficult Rich.”

“I know it is, it already is difficult, but I wasn’t just going to leave him there, I know I could have called Bill or anyone else, but I don’t know. Eddie never brought it up with the rest of you and I didn’t want to tell you guys because that’s not my place,” Richie rambled and stood from his bed, he began to pace around the room.

“Yeah I get that, I’m not saying you shouldn’t have done it, that you shouldn’t have been there for Eddie, but,” Stan stopped and huffed out a breath. “Richie you’re already having a hard time with your sexuality and I just don’t think this is good for you, but if you wanna be there for Eddie then of course I’m not going to stop you.”

“I mean I wouldn’t let you, but thanks I guess,” Richie returned, he stopped and leaned hard against his half open closet.

“You’re hurting yourself,” Stan stated.

“I know Stan.”

“If shit hits the fan, you call one of us, right?”

“Yeah, of course,” Richie said and nodded, he had a habit of doing that when he was on the phone.

“I love you man,” Stan said softly.

“I love you too,” Richie returned, feeling very much like his worst thoughts had been validated through his best friend.

Richie was shaking as he put the phone down and looked around his cluttered bedroom. It was as though he’d been in limbo or on some other plain and was slowly returning to his body. Things were hard and would continue to be hard, but people didn’t say ‘no pain, no gain’ for no reason, at least Richie hoped so.

He stepped out of his room with as a sigh. Eddie was on the couch again, laptop in his lap, fingers striking the key less forcefully than they had been before. Richie dropped down on the couch beside Eddie and sat there for a moment before he pulled the laptop back into his lap.

“Hey, I didn’t know who you were talking to or how long you’d be so I saved your work,” Eddie spoke up, looking up from the screen and at Richie.

“Uh, thanks Eds,” Richie said, he was unable to stop himself from smiling at Eddie.

“No problem, but you know what a better thanks would be?” Eddie returned, eyes back on the screen, but it was obvious that he wasn’t really looking at it.

“What?”

“Stop fucking calling me that,” Eddie said, biting down on the smile that was fighting to spread across his mouth.

Nothing worth doing was easy and Richie was certain that this was worth doing, one step at a time.

Chapter Text

It was Sunday and it was Richie’s fifteenth birthday, and neither of those things were of any note. Since Bill and Stan had left, Richie hadn’t wanted to bother with his birthday, it would be too pathetic to try to do anything without a decent group of people. His mom had given him twenty bucks and told him to go out and do something. Richie supposed that she found it too depressing to watch her son sitting around the house doing nothing on a weekend, on his birthday.

Richie took the money, kissed his mom on the cheek and left the house. He brought himself a can of Coke and a bag of sweets before making his way to the clubhouse. Sat in the dim light, with his back against the wall, Richie read his ventriloquism book and tried not to think about how pathetic he felt.

He sat up a little straighter, held his hand up and practiced his technique.

“You’re a fucking loser,” Richie made his hand tell himself.

“You’re mouth’s moving asshole,” Eddie said, staring hard at Richie from where he stood by the ladder.

Richie startled, dropped the book and knocked over the can of Coke, he righted it quickly before too much could spill. Eddie was back lit by the light cascading down through the hole that Eddie had come through. A halo of light encircled Eddie’s dark hair, and his eyes seemed almost impossibly dark, like two little black holes were sitting on either side of Eddie’s nose. Richie struggled to catch his breath as he wiped his hand on his jeans.

“Jesus fuck Eds, you trying to kill me?” Richie barked, hand held over his heart as he leaned hard against the wall, only half joking.

“If I was trying to kill you Richie, I’d have done last year when set fire to my hair with a Bunsen burner,” Eddie said as he made his way over to Richie, he sat on a crate beside Richie and shrugged his backpack off of his shoulders.

“That was an accident,” Richie exclaimed.

“Whatever,” Eddie muttered as he rummaged around inside the backpack.

“How did you know I was down here?” Richie asked, he shuffled against the wall and rolled up his packet of sweets and slipped them into his jacket pocket.

“Well, since it’s your fucking birthday,” Eddie said with a kind of harshness that held a measure of endearment, eyes hard on Richie again, “I went over to your house and your mom said you’d gone out, so I went to the arcade and you weren’t there so I came here,” he finished with a shrug.

“Am I really that predictable?”

“Just shut up and take the present Richie,” Eddie said as he pulled out something shiny that caught the light and made it dance in front of Richie’s eyes.

Richie took the present, fingers grazing over the foil like wrapping paper, it had little planets on it and his hands started to sweat as he held it in his lap. Bitten fingernails scraped over the paper and tore it open. It was a joke book the size of a VHS tape, it felt heavy in his hand.

“Happy birthday,” Eddie said softly and Richie looked up at him again.

The light was still spilling in around him, softening his features in the dark and Richie was reminded of how much he loved Eddie in that moment, he almost got up on his knees to kiss the other. He didn’t do that.

“Thanks Eds,” Richie murmured as he continued to stare up at Eddie.

“Yeah, maybe you’ll actually learn how to be funny ,” Eddie said, looking off to the side as he scratched at his neck.

“Ah, you wound me Edward,” Richie cried dramatically and fell to the floor, he knocked over the can of Coke again and landed in the wet patch on the dirt. He cringed but made no move to get up.

Eddie picked up the can and put it to the side. His small hands curled around Richie’s wrist, and he began to try to pull Richie up but Richie stayed there in the dirt, playing dead weight.

“Get up you oaf,” Eddie muttered through gritted teeth, still struggling as he yanked on Richie’s arm.

Richie sat up and Eddie fell to the floor with a thud. Eddie didn’t let go of Richie’s wrist, they just sat there for a moment, staring at each other in the relative darkness. He wondered if he was imagining the blush that was rising up Eddie’s cheeks. Even when Eddie finally let go of Richie’s wrist, he still stayed close, crowded in each other’s personal space. Suddenly it was one of Richie’s best birthdays.

“Thanks Eddie,” Richie said, unable to look away from Eddie’s boundless dark eyes.

“You already said that Richie,” Eddie said, looking away from Richie again.

“Sometimes ya need to say it twice,” Richie said while feeling as though no amount of thanks would ever be enough, not for Eddie.

 


 

Two weeks went by and Richie had managed not to implode from all the feelings he’d been keeping inside. He had mostly been too busy to spend any amount of time worrying about how he felt about Eddie, and really he’d been too busy looking out for Eddie to worry about himself. They had watched a load of movies that they’d seen in the Aladdin back in Derry. Eddie spoke all the way through each of them and Richie couldn’t have cared less, he’d seen them all anyway. Eddie was critiquing the movies and yelling at the characters. Richie laughed as Eddie threw popcorn at the television screen, he knew that Eddie would only pick it up later.

“I can’t believe they’re just okay with this kid having a gun in school,” Eddie said, eyes wide as he stared at the TV, they were watching Heathers.

“Different times,” Richie said with a shrug, but the image on screen still made him cringe.

“It’s fucking crazy,” Eddie muttered, shaking his head.

“You remember that she shoots his middle finger off, right?” Richie returned, smiling as he looked over at Eddie and watched the way that the light from the television washed over his face.

“Okay, this movie’s not that bad,” Eddie said, the corners of his mouth twitched upward as he continued to watch the screen.

“You just hate Christian Slater,” Richie said, still unable to turn his eyes back to the TV, he would rather watch the movie in Eddie’s depthless eyes.

“Winona Ryder is too good for him,” Eddie said flatly, popping more popcorn into his mouth, “he deserves to blow up.”

Richie practically cackled, mouth wide open as he doubled over, holding his stomach. He had missed this.

They had played the same board games they played as kids. Cheating as much as they had done as kids, he and Eddie had always cheated as much as they could get away with, which wasn’t actually all that much with Stan’s hawk eyes watching their hands. Eddie had gone through Richie’s vinyl collection and commenting on every single record. They had watched a couple episodes of Thunder Cats and Richie hadn’t stopped teasing Eddie the whole way through. It had been a relatively good time and Richie thought that he was getting pretty good at pretending that he didn’t have feelings, which he attested to a lifetime of repression.

He felt like he was succeeding at not losing his shit every time he saw Eddie shirtless or all sleepy soft in the mornings.

It was a Sunday and the leaves were starting to turn yellow, it was also the first day Richie had completely taken for himself in the last week. Richie was looking forward to relaxing. He didn’t have to perform for anyone, he didn’t have to do anything beside exist. Richie was watching Curb Your Enthusiasm. He let Larry David’s voice wash over him as he stared unseeingly at the screen and sipped as his coffee and tried to wake up.

Eddie came in through the door, Richie had kind of freaked out about giving him a key, but it was practical and necessary and not at all like the dreamy romantic thoughts that had drifted into Richie’s mind like clouds filling his head. Eddie had been out for a run. There was a sheen of sweat over his skin that made his body shine, his cheeks were flushed and Richie had unholy thoughts that had him crossing his legs.

Richie watched as Eddie crossed the room, leaned over the couch, took the coffee from Richie’s hand and finished it. He put the coffee back into Richie’s hand, sneered at the screen and went into his bedroom. Richie wasn’t sure when he started thinking of it as Eddie’s bedroom but things were quickly beginning to feel like they really were roommates. He had to keep reminding himself that Eddie was only staying temporarily, and he only needed Richie until he managed to get onto his feet. This wouldn’t last forever. Richie knew he should be thankful that this wouldn’t last forever, his torture would be over eventually, but there was something bittersweet and intoxicating about it that had Richie leaning in for more.

He tried to focus on whatever Larry David was doing, but he’d seen this episode before and it wasn’t as though Curb Your Enthusiasm was unpredictable. Richie began to flick through the channels as he set the empty mug down on the coffee table. It took everything Richie had for him not to look up when Eddie left his room and made his way into the bathroom, locking the door behind him. Eventually he settled on some true crime show and turned the volume up so he couldn’t hear the sound of the water running.

It was easier to lose himself in the over-dramatic reconstructions and Richie found himself laughing at the bad acting, he tried to feel bad about it but he couldn’t stop. Eventually, Eddie joined him on the couch. The clean citrus smell of Eddie’s body wash drifted over to Richie and suddenly he couldn’t focus on the stiff reconstruction of some awful event.

Richie flicked his eyes to Eddie, he had changed into a loose t-shirt, Richie could see the tips of Eddie’s tattoo over the dipping collar, and a pair of sweats. Eddie looked comfortable and soft, and Richie was suddenly struck with a strong desire to snuggle up against Eddie.

“How’s your thing going?” Eddie asked, staring forward at the television.

“My thing?” Richie returned, brows pinched as he turned his head more fully toward Eddie.

“The whole coming out and being gay thing,” Eddie clarified, circling his wrist in the air as he spoke, obviously trying not to make a big deal out of it.

“Uh, it just is Eds, I don’t think it goes anywhere,” Richie said, he tried to keep his heart rate at a normal pace, but it was already tapping wildly against his chest. It was the first time that they had talked about it and Richie had no idea where it was going to go.

“You know what I mean, jackass,” Eddie barked, turning toward Richie and leaning back against the arm of the couch.

“I don’t know, it doesn’t matter,” Richie shrugged. Eddie was possibly the last person he wanted to have this conversation with, it’d be like tiptoeing drunk through a minefield trying not to trip himself up.

“You’re not on Grindr or anything?” Eddie asked and Richie tried not to choke.

“I’m not looking for a casual hook up, especially with you here,” Richie said flippantly as he turned back to the television.

“It’s not just for hook ups,” Eddie muttered, arms crossed tightly against his chest.

“How would you know?” Richie asked, looking back at Eddie, brows raised as he stared at the other.

“I’ve been looking into it because I knew you wouldn’t,” Eddie said, picking at the soft fabric of his sweats and resolutely not looking at Richie.

“Uh, thanks?” Richie said, unsure of how he was supposed to reply to that kind of thoughtfulness.

“Maybe we could get back on the wagon together?” Eddie said as he looked up at Richie sheepishly, there was a hint of hope that tore at Richie’s insides. His heart stopped, jumped into his throat and started jack hammering as though it were trying to tear his windpipe apart.

“Aren’t you still married?” Richie asked because he couldn’t say anything of the million other things that were swirling in his head.

“We’re separated and she’s being surprisingly agreeable about it, it’s probably because I’ve never done anything to her and I’m giving her the house and the car,” Eddie said, fingers lacing and unlacing in his lap, “I’ll probably be divorced in a month or two,” he added and smiled wide at Richie.

“That’s great Eds,” Richie said and he meant it. He gave Eddie a light punch on the shoulder as he smiled at the other.

“Yeah, so I wanna finally start living my life.”

“By helping me get laid?” Richie said, incredulously.

“Well, I was thinking, that by like helping you then I would find it easier when I’m ready to start dating,” Eddie said, turning sheepish again as he rubbed his hands together.

“Right,” Richie nodded, rubbing his chin, scratching at the stubble there. “Well, since I got back, I’ve been trying to go to this one gay bar, except every time I go I have a fucking panic attack and I’ve only managed to make it to the door so far,” he went on, turned back to the television, speaking to the commercials.

“Holy shit Richie, I don’t know it was that bad,” Eddie exclaimed, voice sharp with pity that Richie didn’t want to hear.

“How were you supposed to know? I didn’t tell you,” Richie murmured and tried his best not to interpret the way Eddie was looking at him as judgemental.

“Is this why you don’t really have any friends?”

“What?” Richie said, his head snapped back to Eddie, brows raised in shock.

“I don’t mean anything by it Richie, but fuck, the only people you’ve spoken to since I got here are work people and the rest of us, I’m just putting two and two together,” Eddie said, shifting in his seat as he raked his fingers through his hair and avoided Richie’s eyes. “It’s fine, you know, I’ve been fucking miserable since we left Derry, not that Derry wasn’t and isn’t a shithole, what made Derry good was you guys and when I lost you I got weak again,” he went on, sinking into the couch as he curled in on himself.

“Eds,” Richie sighed. He’d always hated it when anyone else called Eddie weak, but it was a hell of a lot worse when Eddie called himself weak. It was something Eddie had always been sensitive about and Richie had always been sensitive to Eddie’s sensitivity. Of course he’d teased him about it, but he made sure that Eddie knew that he was only joking.

“Shut up and let me speak,” Eddie bit and Richie held his hands up and leaned back against the other end of the couch. “I continued to let my mom walk all over me because I thought I’d won the war but I hadn’t won shit, she just let me think I did, and I didn’t even catch on when she died,” he continued, he pushed his fingers through his hair again and released a ragged breath against his arm.

“That’s not your fault though, you were a kid Eddie, you were conditioned, it’s unfortunately happened to a lot of people and it doesn’t make you weak,” Richie said, he struggled to keep the firmness from his voice. In a way, he was glad that they weren’t talking about him anymore, but this conversation wasn’t any easier.

“You know what happened when she died?” Eddie asked, as though he hadn’t even heard Richie, Richie shook his head unsure whether Eddie had seen him or not. “I started drinking, I started partying because I didn’t know what to do and I just didn’t want to think, then I got into drugs and I got these stupid fucking tattoos,” he went on and pulled on the collar of his t-shirt, flashing more his tattoo. “I met Myra in a hospital and she saw straight through me,” he muttered, he leaned back against the couch and held his hand to his mouth.

“That’s fucking awful Eddie, you should write a book about it, go on Oprah, you’ll be rolling in it,” Richie said, unable to keep a joke out of his mouth for more than ten minutes, it was worth the risk though when Eddie scoffed.

“I’ll save that for when I’m flat broke,” Eddie said, barely smiling as he stared forward. “What I’m saying is, I didn’t have any friends because of what my mom did to me and that’s probably why I didn’t get any better and maybe something like that happened to you too,” he continued, finally getting to his point, as he offered Richie a sympathetic look. His brow creased as he smiled weakly.

“I guess so,” Richie said with a shrug, he didn’t guess so though, he knew so. He decided that now was as good a time as any to talk about this and Eddie was asking, Eddie had spilled his guts and Richie felt like he owed him something. “I was always kind of worried that if I got to close to anyone then they’d know and something really fucking bad would happen,” he began, dropping his head into his hands as he mechanically worked the words out of his mouth, “I never figured out what bad thing I thought was going to happen, but it always and it still does feel like I’m going to fucking drop dead if anyone finds out.”

“But we know Rich, and nothing bad happened,” Eddie assured, his tone soft.

“Yeah, that’s what I keep telling myself, that’s what Bev and Stan keep telling me, but that fear still chews on the back of my neck every time I even think about touching a guy,” Richie said wearily.

Eddie reached across the couch and put his hand on Richie’s shoulder. Richie sunk into the touch, let it ground him in the moment, and closed his eyes. He felt and heard Eddie shift closer to him. Then Eddie’s arms were around him, one arm slung over his shoulder and the other wrapped around his chest. Richie held on tight to Eddie. It didn’t feel wrong, in fact it felt more right than anything else in his entire life. The voice was quiet and the fear didn’t come.

“We can work through this together, one step at a time,” Eddie said, words breathed along the nape of Richie’s neck.

“That’s what Stan keeps saying,” Richie said, huffing a laugh against Eddie’s shoulder.

 


 

Richie was still telling himself that he didn’t need coffee to function, but he more often than not found himself stood in his kitchen at nine in the morning with a mug of coffee in his hand, so the joke was on him he guessed. He was scrolling through his e-mails and sipping at his coffee when Eddie came through the door and dropped an ornate envelope on the countertop.

“Ben and Beverly are getting married,” Eddie said before Richie could even pick up the envelope, voice loud and giddy.

“Wow,” Richie said, he put the mug of coffee down and picked up the envelope. It was thick, rigged and obviously expensive. His address was written in looping cursive on the front, he opened it and read through the invitation, his brows shot up his forehead as he read the date. It was only three months from then. “They’re in a hurry,” he said, even as the warmth spread through his chest at the thought of his friends finally getting their happily ever after.

“Well, it must seem like they’ve been waiting their whole lives, why wait anymore?” Eddie said, fiddling with his own invitation, smiling dopily at it.

“I guess so,” Richie said. He felt words he wasn’t ready to say crawl up his throat and tap against the back of his teeth. Richie had waited pretty much his whole life too, but he would wait some more because he’d come so far already, he would wait because now just wasn’t the time.

Richie’s phone vibrated in his hand and he saw Eddie pull his own out from the pocket of his joggers. There was a notification from their group chat, Richie set down the wedding invitation and opened his phone.

I’m sure you guys have all got your invitations by now. Ben and I are supper excited. Before the actual wedding, we wanted to have a losers club get together in Omaha next month, that’s if everyone can make it, Beverly wrote, leaving a trail of emojis behind her words. Richie couldn’t help but smile down at his phone, it was starting to hurt his face.

For the next few minutes, Richie and Eddie were stood in the kitchen staring at their phones as they tried to orchestrate a losers’ club meeting. It quickly became apparent that everyone was free or would at least make themselves free. Richie already felt the itch to see them all again, even though they’d only seen each other just over a month ago, even though they would see each other in three months, even though they all spoke to each other every day. Now that they’d gotten each other back, they weren’t going to let go.

Mike suggested that they bring along their photos from the reunion, a little spark of fear shot through Richie at the thought of showing them all those pictures of Eddie, but he wanted to see everyone else’s photos. Maybe it wouldn’t be too obvious. He could probably get away with it by saying the same thing he always said as a kid, that Eddie was just too much fun to wind up, his reactions were too cute. He looked over at Eddie. The other was still stood on the other side of the kitchen counter, smiling down at his phone. Eddie was still cute.

“I’ll see ya in Nebraska,” Richie said, smirking as he moved around Eddie and slid into the bathroom. Eddie’s voice came indignant but muffled through the door and Richie couldn’t help but snigger to himself as he got undressed.

 


 

They could barely hear the TV over the sound of the rain pounding against the house. Bill was sat sandwiched between Richie and Stan on the couch, Richie could feel the way that Bill was rigid beside him. Richie didn’t blame him for being terrified or on edge or whatever this was. It was nearly a year since Georgie had died and it had been on a day like this, Richie figured that he’d be about the same if it had happened to him.

Back to the Future was playing on the TV, but Richie had a feeling that none of them were really paying attention to it at all. Richie was busy battering down the urge to wrap his arms around Bill and tell him that everything would be okay, tell him that it didn’t matter if his parents had forgotten about him, the losers still loved him and they would always love him. He’d hugged Bill before, but that was when Bill had been crying and it felt wrong to do it when he wasn’t.

There was also that little voice in the back of Richie’s head that spoke in a vicious whisper that sounded so painfully like his own voice. If you touch him they’ll know, they’ll know and they’ll be disgusted because you’re disgusting, rotting from the inside out and they’ll be able to smell it if you get too close, it would say. 

“Do you guys wanna do something else?” Richie asked, trying to crawl away from that voice and trying to do anything that would bring some light back into the room.

“Like what Richie?” Stan asked, leaning forward to look at him around Bill, his eyes imploring Richie to come up with something good.

“Monopoly,” Richie offered.

Usually, Stan would have rolled his eyes and commented on how Richie would only cheat, while Bill would mutter about how Stan and Richie would just end up arguing about something and the game would never really end. They’d still play of course, because they were perhaps the most competitive members of the group. Sure, Eddie was competitive, but you had to work him up to it, Bill, Stan and Richie only needed the vague insinuation of a competition before they were bending over backward to beat each other. That night, there was no argument. Stan agreed and Bill got up to get the board game.

They got down on the floor, pushed the coffee table aside and began to set up the board game. Richie switched off the movie and turned the TV to a random channel just to have some other noise filling the room, something that would at least somewhat drown out the sound of the rain.

Stan was the banker, as usual. He never trusted Richie not to cheat and Bill would usually get confused or would get too focused on his own tactics and forget what he was supposed to be doing. Bill started, he was the top hat, and things began to seem a little more normal from then on.

There was a knocking on the door and the boys all jumped, they’d been so focused on the game that it had seemed as though the rest of the world simply disappeared behind them.

“Can you get the door Bill, I’m making dinner,” Bill’s mom called from down the hall.

“Yuh-y-yes mom,” Bill returned and rose from the floor, he sent Richie a sharp look before he left the room.

“Don’t you even think about cheating Richie,” Stan said sternly, eyes on Richie’s hands as he spoke.

“How could I cheat when you’re watching me like fucking hawk?” Richie said in a stage whisper, he held his hands up between them.

Stan was about to say something when Bill re-entered the room with a dishevelled Eddie in tow. Eddie was wearing a large woollen sweater, it was swamping him, and he must have been wearing a hat because his hair was fluffy and all over the place. Even if Richie was thinking of cheating, his mind was too distracted to do it now.

“Sorry I’m late guys, my aunts just wouldn’t leave,” Eddie said as bustled into the room, usually he would have sworn but he never swore in Bill’s house, only Richie did that. Eddie came over and sat beside Richie on the floor.

“You wah-wanna join Eddie?” Bill asked as he counted his money, just to make sure that Richie hadn’t pinched any.

“Nah, you’re too deep in, I’ll just watch,” Eddie murmured, chin held in his hand as he stared down at the board.

“You wanna help me out Eds?” Richie asked, jabbing Eddie in the ribs with his elbow. He was a little dizzy from how close Eddie was, their knees were brushing as Richie jostled around, crowding Eddie like he always did.

“Don’t call me that,” Eddie muttered as he looked at Richie’s haul, “and no because you’re going to lose,” he added, smirking as he looked up at Richie. His deep brown eyes absorbed all the light in the room, swallowed it whole and sucked Richie in too.

“Some friend you are,” Richie said, sticking his tongue out of his mouth as they went back to the game. He stared at the board and tried to will his heart to stop racing.

Eddie was right though, Richie did lose. It didn’t matter though, because Bill had won. Bill was laughing and joking with Eddie about Stan’s sour face. All of the previous tension and tragedy left the room as Eddie’s loud and sharp voice cut across the sadness, Stan’s flat undertones got them laughing too loud for how quiet Stan had been, by the time dinner was ready Bill was rolling on the floor with the good kind of tears in his eyes.

The night had been saved. Eddie was a life saver, he had brought a brightness into the room with him, that wild chaotic energy threw the sadness off balance and it had slipped out of the room. Richie couldn’t keep his eyes off Eddie, the small ball of fierce vibrating anxious energy and come through and made everything better just by being there. Eddie was his hero.

Chapter Text

Sheets of rain were sliding down the window, it was kind of helping Richie short through his schedule and e-mails. In a way, it sort of made him zen. Things were going really well at least career wise. His podcast was taking off really well, which he did with another comedian that he was friendly with, of course it was a true crime comedy show (weren’t they all these days?). They’d only done two episodes and Richie had already gained a ton of new followers on Twitter and Instagram. Richie had no idea what you were meant to do on social media, but he supposed that he should figure it out if he wanted to advance his career.

He could be a bit more honest in that form than he could in his stand-up, which was floundering somewhat, but it was still early days and it really had been a good few years since he’d written his own material. He needed to work the rust off. But he couldn’t exactly do that when he was still lying to everyone, he was working up to his big reveal though, at least he thought he was. Just the other day he’d made a comment to Eddie about how nice Paul Rudd’s ass was and Eddie had sprayed his orange juice all over the fridge. So Richie felt like he had at least made some progress.

Eddie set down two steaming mugs of coffee on the coffee table and dropped himself on the couch beside him. Richie was busy e-mailing his manager about his stand-up material, which they both thought was lacking but for wholly different reasons.

“I need to get a job,” Eddie muttered, rubbing at his brow as he pulled his phone out of his pocket.

“Okay,” Richie said mildly. Eddie would have to get a job eventually, it wasn’t a surprise, it was a part of Eddie getting his life back together. Richie just hoped that he’d decide to stay in LA at least.

“But I don’t know what to do, like, I really fucking don’t want to be a risk analyst again because that blows and probably reinforces a lot of my bad habits and we should get therapists,” Eddie said, still looking down at his phone.

“Oh, right yeah,” Richie said and set his laptop down by the edge of the couch, he had almost forgotten about that. Things hadn’t been all that bad with Eddie living with him, despite the internal turmoil being near his lifelong crush caused him, and all of his friends were at the other end of the phone. Although, it probably wasn’t good that he relied on Stan for a large amount of his emotional support and it wasn’t fair on Stan either. “I should really get right on that, I think I’ve been abusing Stan’s good nature,” he added, scratching at his stubble as he looked sheepishly at the cooking program that was playing on the TV.

“Stan doesn’t have a good nature,” Eddie returned, smirking slightly up at Richie.

“Well, he’s got a weak spot for me at least,” Richie said, smirking back at Eddie as he picked his phone up from where it was sat on the coffee table.

“And Bill,” Eddie added.

“We’ve all got a weak spot for Bill Eds, don’t you dare lie to me,” Richie said, smirking as he tapped his phone against Eddie’s knee. Eddie ducked his head, but Richie could see the blush crawling up his neck and across his cheeks, even underneath the hand rubbing at the nape of his neck. “What is happening?” Richie asked, brows raised as he watched Eddie with glee.

“Uh, I think Bill was my first crush,” Eddie said, smiling at Richie from under his arm.

Richie’s brain whited out and he dropped his phone in his lap. He picked it back up a little too quickly, tried to remember why he had his phone in his hand in the first place, hadn’t he been about to look up therapists in the area? Find a therapist that dealt with childhood trauma? Shouldn’t he be doing that on his laptop? Why had he put his laptop down in the first place? Richie swallowed several times as he looked back over at Eddie and tried to ignore how hurt he was by not being Eddie’s first crush.

“I bet Bill was yours too, right?” Eddie said, smirking at Richie as though he’d dropped his phone because Eddie was right and not because Eddie had shot an arrow straight through his heart.

“Nah, I never had a crush Big Bill,” Richie muttered as he shook his head.

“Bullshit,” Eddie spat, smacking Richie on the shoulder.

“I’m telling the truth,” Richie returned, looking over at Eddie, brows raised as he smiled something pleading. He was telling the truth too. He might have liked Bill a whole lot, he might have thought that Bill was nice to look at, and sure he might have thought about what kissing Bill would feel like but he had never felt the all consuming yearning that he felt for Eddie.

“Was it Stan?” Eddie asked, he sounded a little too giddy about it, as though he were enjoying it, as though this were only light-hearted teasing and not something dangerously close to a truth that Richie desperately didn’t want to get too close to. He wasn’t ready, not yet.

“Just fucking drop it Eds,” Richie snapped, breathing harsh shallow breaths as the arm of the couch dug into his side.

“Okay,” Eddie said, frowning as he turned toward the television screen.

Richie tried to get himself under control as he stared down at the mug of coffee on the table. His hands were shaking as he reached for it, he wrapped his fingers around the warm ceramic and held it in his lap. He tried to swallow, but his throat was suddenly too dry. Eddie picked up the remote control from the middle of the couch and began to flick through the channels. Richie’s heart was still pounding, he felt like he was being taken by the undertow and his lungs were filling with water, it was too much.

He knew he shouldn’t be made at Eddie, he wasn’t mad at Eddie, but it was difficult to deal with. It had been more than wishful thinking to hope that Eddie’s first crush had been him. When they were kids, Bill had been the best looking out of the lot of them, it was obvious from the way Beverly had gravitated toward him the moment they’d met. The only thing that kept Bill from being popular was his debilitating stutter and his choice of friends. Richie hadn’t been a looker either. He had thick large glasses, buck teeth and gangly limps, not to mention the fact that he could never stop his mouth from running away from him. It should have been obvious and Richie felt like an idiot for feeling hurt.

And Eddie hadn’t meant anything by asking who his first crush was. Eddie had shared something, something that he’d kept locked up tight inside him for nearly three decades, and was only asking Richie to do the same.

“I think you should be a nurse or something, someone that helps people,” Richie murmured as he opened his phone and began to idly scroll through twitter, eyes washing over the screen unseeingly. He sipped on his coffee, trying to seem casual after his outburst.

“You think so?” Eddie asked, he didn’t look away from the TV as he plucked his coffee from the table, he folded his legs underneath him. The light from the TV barely brightened the darkened room but it lit Eddie in gentle tones.

“You’ve always been good at helping people Eds, you did a pretty good job of patching Ben up,” Richie said, smiling softly over the rim of his coffee mug.

“That was twenty seven years ago and all I did was clean it up and stick some dressing over it,” Eddie said flippantly and changed the channel, even though neither of them were paying attention to the television.

“I wouldn’t have known to do that though, I mean, we were thirteen Eds,” Richie returned, smacking his lips as he pulled the mug away from his mouth, “and it’s not just that, there was all those times when you took care of Bill and me when we got into scrapes, you were always looking out for us and you’re the same now so I think it makes sense,” he went on, looking over at Eddie as Eddie looked back at him.

“Thanks Richie,” Eddie murmured, lips barely moving, his deep doe eyes stuck to Richie’s.

“No thanks needed, it’s just the truth,” Richie returned because it was.

Eddie looked so cosy and warm bundled up against the couch on that rainy afternoon. He didn’t just look like boyfriend material, he was husband material, he was spend-the-rest-of-eternity-with material. Richie knew he was a goner, but he didn’t mind it so much. As long as Eddie kept smiling at him like that then Richie would take whatever fate the universe decided to hand him.

 


 

Richie could hardly see from the way his heart was pounding so awfully, he tried to catch his breath as he crouched under the Kissing Bridge. About half a block away, Henry Bowers had spotted him and that alone meant that Richie had moved to the top of his hit list. Luckily for him, Richie had been stood in front of Freese’s, the department store. He’d slipped inside before Henry could even suck in the breath to yell something vile at him.

Instead of running straight through the store and leaving through the back exit, Richie dipped into the women’s section and stayed there. The racks were high and crowded and the section had a good view of where Bowers and his groupies would come by on their way to the back exit, it was the perfect hiding spot. Richie crouched slightly behind a rack of summer dresses and waited with bated breath.

He didn’t have to wait long before Henry, Victor and Belch burst into the store and pelted it toward the back, toward the exit. Richie waited for maybe half a minute, stock still, behind the dresses. He cautiously stepped out of the section and caught sight of Belch leaving through the back.

Richie bolted for the front entrance and dashed toward the Barrens. Even though Henry and his gang had come down there a few times, it always felt like a safe haven, if he could just get to the Barrens then he would be safe. Richie ran with reckless abandon. He was barely paying attention to what he was doing when he skidded and tumbled over the edge of the bridge.

Now crouched beneath the bridge, Richie finally caught his breath and gave himself a once over. There were a litany of cuts and scrapes up and down his legs and arms. It wasn’t too bad, especially considering how much worse it could have been.

The adrenaline flushed out of him and chased all of his energy away. It left Richie feeling weak. He dropped down onto the bank of the river and watched as the water passed him by. The unmistakable sound of a playing card shotgunning from where it was clipped to the mud flap of a bike started up in the distance and drew closer, Richie only knew one person who did that.

Before Richie could get up, not that he was going to, he was pretty sure that his legs would give out if he tried, Silver was tipping down the side of the bridge. He watched as Bill and Eddie came down the bank. Bill was walking Silver, he always tied the bike up underneath the bridge whenever they came out to the Barrens.

“Hey guys,” Richie called, waving softly at them from where he was laid out on the grass.

“What the fuck happened to you?” Eddie exclaimed, fanny-pack bouncing against his hip as he bounded toward Richie. “You look like road kill,” he added, brows furrowed as he loomed over Richie.

“It’s not that bad,” Richie returned, loosely flapping his hand in the air between them.

“You’re buh-buh-bleeding Richie,” Bill said without looking back at Richie as he tied Silver to the bridge.

“’Tis but a scratch,” Richie said in a poor imitation of an English accent, his heart just wasn’t in it.

“Yeah, until it gets infected and you get gangrene and they have to cut your arms and legs off,” Eddie muttered. He knelt down beside Richie, unzipped his fanny-pack and pulled out a half full pack of wet wipes and a screwed up box of band-aids.

“I think I’ll live Dr. Kaspbrak, I’ll just roll around in the river and wash the dirt off,” Richie said, eyeing Eddie’s hands. He knew that Eddie wouldn’t let him clean himself up, that he would say that Richie wouldn’t do it properly.

“Don’t you remember office Nell telling us that it was mostly grey water?”

“Nope,” Richie returned, even though he remembered that day very well. It had been the day that he’d perfected his Irish cop accent, Stan had gripped his arm so hard to keep him quiet, and Richie had developed bruises by the end of the day. He turned his face away, staring down at the water, knowing full well that Eddie would manhandle him no matter what he said.

“You’re not rolling around in people’s piss and dirty dish water, it’ll definitely get infected then,” Eddie went on as he grabbed Richie’s wrist and began to clean the scrape on his left elbow.

Richie knew his face was beet red, he could feel the heat radiating off of his skin as he hid his face in the crook of his elbow. Eddie’s fingers felt like brands against his skin, searing his flesh wherever he touched, Richie couldn’t understand it but the feeling terrified him.

“D-does it huh-huh-hurt?” Bill asked as he sat down on the grass beside them and Richie shook his head, unwilling to look up as Eddie placed a band-aid on his elbow and moved onto his leg.

“You don’t have to lie numbnuts,” Eddie muttered, wiping down the large scrape on Richie’s calf, “how did this happen anyways?”

“I was running away from Bowers and guess I just came down the bank too hard, it’s nothing to get your panties in a twist about,” Richie explained, he lifted his head from his elbow but still didn’t look at Eddie.

“F-f-f-fucking Bowers,” Bill said harshly, sneering as he spoke, clutching tufts of grass between his fingers.

“Don’t get an aneurysm Bill,” Richie said, smiling at the other, but Bill shook his head as he let go of the grass and ran a hand down his face.  

“All done,” Eddie said as he patted down the two band-aids on Richie’s leg.

“It’s a miracle, I’m healed,” Richie cried in a Southern accent as he jumped to his feet. “Gee thanks Dr. Kaspbrak, don’t know what I’d do without ya,” he added, dancing around Eddie despite how much it stung.

“You’d die,” Eddie said flatly, channelling Stan, and they all fell apart laughing in the grass.

 


 

It was getting colder as they were slipping further into the November and autumn. Richie didn’t mind it too much, he’d always liked to layer up and the winters down in LA were nothing like the ones in Maine. The only change Eddie made was a light jacket while Richie wore his bomber over his button up shirt over his t-shirt. Richie glanced at Eddie in his orange windbreaker as they stepped into the parking garage of Richie’s apartment building. When they were kids and the cold crept in, Eddie would be wrapped up tightly from head to toe, it was probably his overbearing mother’s doing but Richie had always found the sight a little too cute to handle.

Eddie had brought a backpack with them and Richie didn’t doubt that there was a sweater or something in there for when they got to Nebraska. He’d always been the practical kind. Richie felt all kind of fuzzy inside as he imagined Eddie pulling a sweatshirt over his head and mussing his hair, making it fluffy. There was probably a whole litany of things in there that would leave him fuzzy inside: a small first aid kit, hand-sanitizer, maybe some toothpicks, a pack of tissues, wet wipes and gloves. Things that were quintessentially Eddie.

They climbed into the car, eager to get to the airport and see the rest of the losers again. Doors closed and seatbelts buckled, Richie turned the key but the car wouldn’t start.

 “Why’s it not going?” Richie muttered, frowning down at the dash as he turned the key again, and still nothing happened.

“Pop the lid,” Eddie said as he unbuckled his belt.

“What?” Richie asked, brows raised as blinked at Eddie.

“Pop the lid and I’ll take a look,” Eddie reiterated as he began to open the car door, one leg already out of it as Richie spoke again.  

“You’ll take a look?” Richie asked, repeating Eddie’s words back at him, as he stared dumbly at the other.

“Yeah,” Eddie said, his lips thinned out and almost disappeared as he nodded.

“Okay,” Richie said and pressed the button that opened the hood.

Eddie unbuckled his belt and got out of the car, Richie stayed where he was behind the steering wheel. He had no idea what Eddie was doing and it wasn’t like he could see either. After maybe a minute or so Eddie called for him to try to start the car again. Richie sighed and turned key in the ignition, surprisingly the engine ticked over and Eddie closed the hood, revealing a wicked sharp smile.

“What the fuck?” Richie gaped, brows pinched as he watched Eddie come back around the car and climb into the passenger seat. He was staring smugly at Richie as he buckled his seatbelt.

“Come on, let’s go already,” Eddie said, smacking the dashboard.

“Are you for real?” Richie said, blinking owlish through the windscreen as he pulled out into the road, wide eyes wider through the lenses of his glasses. Sure, Eddie had always known what to do when their bikes were coming apart and he’d helped Bill get Silver in working condition. That didn’t automatically mean that Eddie could fix cars but it wasn’t too much of a leap.

“Apple-solutely,” Eddie said with a nod, smile plastered to his mouth.

“Okay, you can’t just say things like that Eddie, I’m driving,” Richie spluttered, trying to keep his eyes open as he cried with laughter. Eddie continued to make fruit based puns as they drove to the airport, it was almost like he was trying to get Richie to crash, still Richie wouldn’t have changed it for the world.

 


 

They met at an all night diner, so they wouldn’t be kicked out just because the place was closing, they might get kicked out for being too rowdy though. As soon as Richie came through the door, Beverly was out of the booth and jumping into Richie’s arms, giggling like a much younger woman against the side of his face. Richie kissed her on the cheek, mumbling a hello against her skin as he set her down. He moved toward the booth where the rest of them were as Beverly moved in on Eddie.

Bill and Stan were on one side of the table, while Mike and Ben were on the other. His heart swelled to see them all there. Richie slid in beside Stan and bumped his hip against him, smiling as Stan tried not to smile back at him. Bill reached around Stan and tried to hug Richie with Stan in the way. Beverly slipped into the booth opposite Richie, taking her place beside Ben and that was when he saw the shimmering engagement ring.

“What a fucking rock,” Richie cried, taking Beverly’s hand in his own as Eddie crammed in beside him.

“It’s not the size that counts Richie,” Beverly said with a wink that turned Ben beet red even as he leaned in and kissed her on the cheek.

“So, how’s everybody been?” Eddie asked, hands clasped together atop the table. There was just something about the way he said it that had them all laughing. They had hardly gone a day without messaging or calling each other since they had reunited, they mostly knew how they had all been, there wasn’t much to fill each other in on.

The waitress came over, before anyone could answer Eddie’s question, and took their drinks orders. She left with a smile and a long order on her notepad. Richie reached over and plucked the menu from Bill’s hand, purposefully squashing Stan against Bill as he did so. Stan jabbed Richie in the ribs with his elbow as Richie moved back.

“I’ve been great Eddie, thanks for asking,” Beverly said, she was obviously unable to tape down the smile spreading wide across her face, Eddie smiled right back at her. “It’s been the happiest two months of my life,” she added as she wrapped her hand around Ben’s bicep, looking up at him with the open adoration of someone wholly in love.

“That’s great Bev,” Eddie said, voice thick with the happiness he felt for her, the rest of them sounded off their agreement as Ben blushed furiously into Mike’s shoulder. There was a round of congratulations on the engagement and Ben only got redder as Beverly basked in the attention.

“Things have been going really wuh-well for me too,” Bill said, smiling as he flicked his eyes toward Mike before looking around at the rest of the group, “the Maine air has been really guh-good for me, my writing’s going really well, and I’m pretty sure that I’ll be d-d-divorced by the time your wedding comes around,” he continued, his smile grew wider as him spoke.

“Me too,” Eddie said proudly, top lip disappearing as his own smile widened.

“Divorce gang!” Beverly cried as she threw her hands up in the air, making the group laugh in varying degrees. Bill gave a full throaty laugh, Ben and Mike chuckled a little, Richie sniggered into his hand as Eddie huffed out of his nose (clearly trying not to laugh) beside him and on his other side, Stan scoffed out of the side of his mouth.

“How’s the book club going?” Beverly asked, looking between Mike and Bill as she patted Ben’s arm.

“What’s the book club?” Richie asked, brows furrowed as he looked across the table at Beverly.

“It’s a subsection of the greater losers’ club,” Beverly said, giggling as she spoke, “comprised of my dear Ben, Mike and Bill, they’ve even got their own group chat,” she went on, and Richie openly gasped as he snapped his head toward them.

“We just talk about books Richie, you would hate it,” Ben said, smiling that good natured and now handsomely charming smile he’d always worn.

“I read,” Richie returned, faux offended, and Eddie scoffed beside him, “I do read,” he repeated, turning toward Eddie.

“Goosebumps does not count,” Eddie said, face serious, as though this actually meant something.

“Philistine,” Richie hissed, mock affronted.

“I take it living with Richie is just like growing up with him?” Stan asked, leaning around Richie as he directed his question to Eddie.

“He’s scarily almost the same just taller and has more responsibilities to ignore,” Eddie replied, speaking around Richie as though he weren’t there.

“Hey I take care of my responsibilities because I’m an adult,” Richie said, jumping into the conversation as the others chuckled around him.

“Paying your bills and turning up to your shitty radio show and talking for five hours isn’t exactly rocket science,” Eddie muttered, leaning forward even though he was already so close to Richie.

“Oh and what you do is?” Richie returned and instantly regretted it. It was just a knee-jerk response, he didn’t mean anything by it and he hoped the apologetic look he was sending Eddie conveyed that, but if Eddie’s sour expression was anything to go by then Richie wasn’t exactly successful. Eddie’s mouth was nothing more than a thin line, his brow was furrowed and those dimples were deep trenches on either side of Eddie’s mouth. If they were alone, Richie knew he would be teasing Eddie further. The other was just too cute.

“Have you decided what you’re going to do Eddie?” Ben asked before Richie could get his entire foot into his mouth. “You think you’re gonna stay in LA?”

“I dunno, I was thinking of changing my career, maybe going to nursing school,” Eddie murmured, looking away from Richie as he spoke. Richie swore that his heart had grown wings and was fluttering like a damn humming bird between his lungs. “I’ll probably stay in LA, it’s about as far away from Derry and New York as possible,” he went on, making Richie’s stomach flip.

“I think that’s a great idea Eddie,” Stan said, smiling softly across Richie at him.

“You’d be a great nurse,” Ben beamed, “I don’t know what would have happened if I hadn’t met you guys that day,” he continued, holding his beer by the neck of the bottle.

“We probably should have called you an ambulance, they would have given you stitches and cleaned it properly,” Eddie said, frowning as he stared at the table, as though he could see the scar on Ben’s stomach through the surface and the fabric of his clothes.

The waitress came over with their drinks and took their food orders. Richie noticed how Beverly ordered for herself and Ben. He wondered if Eddie would ever let him do that, it would probably be the other way around, if things ever got there.

“Did everyone bring their photos?” Mike asked as the waitress left again, looking around the group as he set a small photo album down next to his coffee on the table.

“Oh yeah,” Richie said and pulled his own out from the inside pocket of his jacket as Eddie reached for his backpack beside him. Everyone else, beside Stan, had left theirs in the paper folder that the drugstore gave them.

“Let’s puh-pass them to the left until we’ve gone all the wuh-way round,” Bill said as he looked around the group.

Richie had hoped that Eddie wouldn’t be the first to see his, that someone else would bring up the idea that he had mostly taken pictures of Eddie just to wind him up and not because he had never gotten over his childhood crush. He swallowed as he passed the folded package to Eddie without looking. Richie picked up the small album with Stan’s photos in and stopped on the first one, a wicked smile flashed across his face as all thoughts of being caught out fled his mind.

“Jesus Christ Stan, whose ass is this?” Richie asked, barely able to contain his chuckles as he turned the picture toward the group. It was a photo of someone’s ass in jeans.

“That’s my ass,” Bill announced, reaching across Stan to point at it as everyone laughed.

“Hey, it’s a nice ass,” Stan said, it wasn’t defensive, it was just a statement of fact.

“It should be framed,” Richie said as he turned the plastic sleeve pages.

“Oh this one’s nice Ben,” Beverly said, showing a photo to Ben as she leant against him. Richie tried to focus on the photos in front of him and ignore the useless jealous sickly twisting in his gut.

“You took so many pictures of me and they’re all awful,” Eddie bit out suddenly, waving the wad of photos in Richie’s face.

“I think that’s just your face Eds,” Richie said, hoping that the sarcasm would hide his nerves.

“Fuck off, and don’t call me that,” Eddie returned, frowning at him.

“Come on, you know you love it,” Richie said, smiling back at Eddie as his palms began to sweet around the stack of photos.

“Jeez Muh-mikey, these are all really good,” Bill said with awe, “they should be in a m-m-museum,” he added, flipping through the album again.

Richie came to a shot of them all in the Barrens and stopped again. Eddie was looking across the group at Richie, who was looking the other way, there was something about the way Eddie was looking at him that made Richie’s stomach flip again. Further through the album, there was a shot of just him and Eddie. They were walking down the street in the dark, bathed in the orange light of the street lamps, bickering like usual. Richie bit on the inside of his mouth to keep himself from smiling like a lovestruck dumbass.

“Classy nudes Bill, very tasteful,” Stan muttered, barely smiling as he flicked through the photos.

“I’m sure he’ll give you a private session if you ask nicely Stan,” Richie said, smirking as he passed Stan’s photos to Eddie and took Bill’s from Stan.

A few photos into Bill’s stack, Richie found another picture of Eddie and him bickering. It might have been alarming if it wasn’t for the telltale signs of Richie’s smile and the ghost of one on Eddie’s mouth, it was all in good fun. Richie flicked the photo to the back before he could dwell on it for too long. Their food came as he was getting to the photos that Bill had taken of them getting dressed at the quarry, the majority of them were blurry and showed barely anything, but they were full of love and a childlike excitement that had Richie laughing as he cycled through them.

“Don’t you dare get food on my photographs,” Stan said as he set Mike’s album down next to Richie’s plate.

“I’ll be real careful Stanley,” Beverly cooed as she delicately took Stan’s album from Eddie.

Richie took a bite of his burger as he flipped through Mike’s album with one hand. Bill was right, the shots were all well framed and artsy, Richie couldn’t help but think that they should be in black and white and framed on a wall somewhere. When he was done he pushed the album against Eddie’s plate, moving it toward the edge of the table, Eddie jabbed him in the side in retaliation.

He was almost half way through his meal by the time Stan passed him Ben’s photos. Richie wiped his hands on his jeans before he pulled them out of the folder and began to leaf through them, he froze at the third photo in. It was a shot of them all in the clubhouse. Richie remembered exactly when it had been taken, Eddie had been chewing him out and Richie was just staring back at him with such open fondness that Richie was a little embarrassed staring at it. He flicked through the rest of them quickly, he prayed he wasn’t blushing, and stopped again on the last photo. It was from when he had dropped Ben and Beverly off at the airport. Beverly and Richie were caught in a tight embrace, her arms were around his neck and their faces were pressed together, Richie’s heart swelled with love as he stared at it.

“Oh, you’ve gotten to one of my favourites right?” Beverly said with glee, as she pointed her fork at Richie.

“We look like star-crossed lovers, real Romeo plus Juliet stuff,” Richie said fondly as he held to photo out for everyone to see.

“You’re fucking delusional if you think you’re Leonardo DiCaprio,” Eddie scoffed, rolling his eyes at Richie. He looked back down at Mike’s album, flipping through the photographs slowly.

“What? No, in this fantasy I’m Juliet, of course,” Richie returned, as though it should have been obvious. He was just feeding that old urge to rile Eddie up, to get him reacting, to get him to say something in return, to get Eddie’s attention back on him at all costs. Beverly was laughing into Ben’s shoulder as Stan stifled a snicker beside him.

“Oh, yeah. ‘What light through yonder window breaks? It is the sun breaking across Juliet’s tighty whiteys and her five o’clock shadow,’” Eddie muttered, frowning as he stared up at Richie. The group burst into laughter then and Richie watched as the corners of Eddie’s mouth twitched only looking away when he was passed Beverly’s photos.

Beverly’s pictures were so completely her that Richie loved each and every one of them. The majority of them were blurry and close up, one was of Richie’s teeth as he laughed at something, they were full of that wild and spirited energy that Beverly had made her own. One of the last ones was of Richie kissing Stan on the cheek in the parking lot.

“This could be us Stan, but you playing,” Richie said in a misremembered quote of an old meme, photo held over the remains of his meal as he tilted it toward Stan.

“Yeah, just let me leave my wife and I’ll run away to LA with you,” Stan muttered lowly, so no one but Richie could hear, as he smirked sharply at the other.

Richie’s throat went dry, he slipped Beverly photographs back into the folder and reached for his Coke, which was mostly ice water. Stan waited for Richie pass the folder to Eddie before he dropped Eddie’s photos into his hand. Richie swallowed thickly as he opened the folder and slid out the photographs.

Eddie’s stack of photos definitely had more variety than Richie's, but it was unmistakable that Richie appeared in more than half of them. He tried not to read too much into it, it was probably only a coincidence, he’d been hanging off of Eddie’s side the entire time so it made sense that he showed up in most of the photos. It makes sense but there was still that tiny little sparkle of hope poking at the back of his brain.

Richie shook his head as he turned to the last photo, it was another one of him, waving at Stan as he pulled out of parking lot. The sun washed out the garishness of his faded yellow/orange shirt and muted the rest of the colour out. Richie was bent over slightly, face crinkled up as he smiled wide through the glass at Stan, hand caught in the air as he waved. He didn’t look disgusting. Richie didn’t exactly have body image problems, he saw himself and recognised it as himself and didn’t think much more of it, but in this photograph even Richie could tell that he looked something approaching attractive. There was something about the open happiness and his lack of self-consciousness. He looked approachable, like he’d be fun to hang out with. Just thinking about how Eddie had taken the best picture of him out of the bunch made Richie’s stomach twist so much so that his dinner was in danger of doing a reappearing act.

He slid the photos back to Eddie without saying a word, he simply smiled at Eddie and went back to sipping at his Coke. Unluckily for Richie, Stan didn’t do the same as he passed Richie’s photos back to him.

“Someone’s got a crush,” Stan murmured, leaning into Richie, smiling at him. It was teasing sure, but there was no malice behind it.

“Stop bullying me Stanley,” Richie muttered in return, smiling back at Stan.

Chapter Text

Richie fumbled his way into the bathroom stall. The boy’s toilets in Derry High always had the vague scent of bleach and cigarette smoke, it made Richie feel sick but it wasn’t like he had any other options available to him. He just prayed that he wouldn’t be in there for too long. If he spent more than a few minutes in there he’d get light headed. Just as he was finishing up his business, Richie’s eyes slid across the graffiti on the stall walls, he paused, toilet paper caught in his hands, as his eyes stopped on his own name.

Richie Tozier sucks cock for quarters.

Fear and shame flushed through Richie’s body in a flash. He thought he had escaped this, Henry Bowers wasn’t here anymore, he thought he’d got away.

Richie didn’t have a marker on him, but he did have his dad’s Swiss army knife, he’d never given it back. He cleaned himself up, flushed and pulled his pants up. Reaching into the pocket of his jeans, Richie pulled out the Swiss army knife and began to scratch at the wood of the wall. It didn’t take long to make it illegible.

It was most likely a futile effort, that thought didn’t escape Richie. Someone would just write something similar again. There was probably already something else written in another stall that he didn’t know about. Richie scratched a harder, making a dent in the wall, working at the stall with gritted teeth.

He sighed and tucked the Swiss army knife back into his pocket. Even though he knew the words were gone, they were stuck in his mind, like a brand on his brain. Someone knew or they thought they knew or they just hated him that much. Richie didn’t know which and it probably didn’t matter. He stepped out of the stall and did a half-assed job of washing his hands. He just wanted to be out of there.

When he finally got out into the hall, Richie almost instantly wanted to turn around and go back into the toilet. He felt like everyone was watching him, even though he knew they weren’t. Richie moved down the hall as though nothing had happened and started to whistle because that was a normal thing to do. He slid his hands into his pockets and made a b-line for his usual hangout.

Someone laughed as Richie passed them. Richie tried not to stop, tried not to freeze, but he flinched as though he had been shocked. They weren’t laughing at him. Richie knew they weren’t laughing at him, but it sure as hell felt like it.

Richie rushed to the back of the school, around an equipment shed and leant heavily against the wall. With shaky hands, Richie pulled the pack of cigarettes out of his jacket pocket and lit one as he tried desperately not to cry.

He didn’t have anyone to talk to. His new friends were just a bunch of stoners who liked Richie’s jokes mostly because he was the only person around them coherent enough to make them. They weren’t friends, not really. They were only friends in the way that you had to have someone to hang out with in high school and in a small shit-hole of a town like Derry, well Richie’s options were pretty damn slim, he couldn’t be picky.

Not for the first time did he wish that he was still on talking terms with Eddie. That thought had the tears coming and they came hard, Richie bit his lip to keep the sobs in his mouth. He needed Eddie, but he knew that he didn’t deserve him. His breath came out in a quivering rush as he let up on his lip. He took a long and deep drag on his cigarette.

It was probably good that Eddie wasn’t hanging around him anymore. He’d have been guilty by association if anyone saw him around Richie, then there would be writing on the stall walls about both of them. Things were better this way, Richie told himself, it was easier with if he could just make himself believe it.

 


 

Everyone put their photos away, promising to send each other copies. Mike started going on about how people didn’t really develop photographs anymore, photo-frames were missing from people’s homes and he lamented that it was a dying art, like the home video. Richie thought of his own home and its empty walls.

“We should get the waitress to take a photo of all of us,” Richie said suddenly, cutting Mike off mid-sentence.

“What?” Eddie asked, brows pinched as he stared up at Richie.

“Come on, we don’t have one of all of us together right?” Richie returned, “I need something to frame,” he added, smiling back at Mike.

“I’ll ask her when she comes back around,” Ben said, he pulled his phone out of his inside jacket pocket and held it in his hands as he watched out for the waitress.

They didn’t have to wait long. The waitress came over and was about the start collecting their plates when Ben asked, in that sweet and gentle voice of his, if she would take a photo of them. Richie tried not to laugh when the waitress blushed and nodded, she giggled as she took the phone and then Stan was splitting up beside Richie. She stepped back a little and held Ben’s phone up.

Everyone leaned in a little and Richie put his arm around Eddie, it felt like the most natural thing in the world. The waitress asked if everyone was ready and snapped a few photos before passing the phone back to Ben. Ben thanked her earnestly and she blushed again.

“Could we get the desert menu please,” Mike said, flashing a winning smile at the waitress as she began to collect the plates and she flushed again, she nodded and quickly scurried away with her arms full and her cheeks red.

“Jeez Haystack, you didn’t have to go so hard on the poor girl,” Richie chuckled and Ben smiled sheepishly back at him. “You were giving me the vapours,” he added, he fanned himself and fluttered his eyelashes at Ben, Beverly and Bill barked their laughter.

The group tried to keep it together when the waitress came back and passed a few desert menus straight to Ben. Eddie hid his mouth behind his hand while Richie muttered sweet nothings about Ben into his ear, Bill was pretending to look at his phone and Stan was pretending that there was something very interesting on Bill’s phone, and Beverly and Mike were looking at the waitress with open compassion as though they were saying ‘I completely understand what you’re going through’.

“You are a taken man Benjamin,” Richie said sternly, in a stage whisper, smacking his hand down onto the table.

“This is very irresponsible Benjamin,” Stan chimed in, using his stern adult voice, “you haven’t even asked us for our daughter’s hand in marriage and you’re flirting with waitresses in front of us,” he went on, the corners of his mouth twitching as he spoke.

“In front our daughter,” Richie added, hand on his heart, “you scoundrel!”

Ben was shaking with giggles as he hid his face against Beverly’s shoulder, Beverly was laughing into her hand as she patted Ben’s arm, Bill was chuckling in that bubbling way that made it sound almost like he was choking, Mike smiled one of those toothpaste commercial smiles as he shook his head and Eddie simply scoffed.

“I don’t like it when you two team up,” Eddie muttered, shaking his head as he stared down at the laminated menu.  

“It changes the c-cosmic balance of the yuh-universe,” Bill agreed, although he was smiling when he said it.

“Are you trying to say that whenever me and Stan agree the universe is out of balance?” Richie asked, crowding Eddie’s space.

Eddie stared up at him with one of Richie’s favourite faces, Eddie was giving him the look that said ‘I’m real sick of your shit Richie and I’m two seconds from chewing you out.’ Richie waited with baited breath for whatever Eddie was going to throw at him. But Eddie didn’t get to answer as the waitress returned, she seemed to have calmed down a little, and took their desert orders. She still blushed when she took Ben’s order though.

“So how’s the suh-search for a decent man g-go-going Trashmouth?” Bill asked, as the waitress trotted off again. Bill was draped across the table, face propped up with his hand as he smirked at Richie.

Richie swallowed as Stan stiffened beside him, Richie noticed and it kind of made it easier to deal with.

“Uh, poorly,” Richie returned, “I’m sure people would be lining up around the block if they knew about it though,” he added, smirking back at Bill.

“There’s no rush honey,” Beverly said softly, she reached out across the table and wrapped her hand around Richie’s forearm, and began to rub her thumb against his skin. Richie smiled back at her.

“He doesn’t even have a Tinder,” Eddie announced, sneering as his hands gestured sharply in the air.

“I distinctly remember you saying Grindr when we spoke about it,” Richie said, turning on Eddie, and Eddie flushed. The look on the other’s face reminded Richie that Eddie still hadn’t come out to the rest of the losers. There was a moment where they just stared at each other, both clearly floundering for something to say.

“We should make you a Tinder,” Beverly said, saving both Richie and Eddie from having to come up with anything.

“No, no, no,” Richie said, shaking his head as he spoke. “I’m too famous anyway, people will think it’s a joke,” he explained, scrambling for an excuse that would hold.

“You’re not that famous, hotshot,” Stan muttered and Eddie snickered on Richie’s other side. Richie shot him a look at the blatant betrayal.

“We’re not making me a Tinder or a Grindr or whatever, I only just managed to order a drink in a gay bar last week,” Richie said to the group at large, hands splayed out before him, he felt a little pathetic at the confession but they needed to know just how not ready he was for any of this.

“And no one recognised you?” Mike asked, smiling that knowing smile at Richie.

“Ha ha, I fucking hope not,” Richie returned. His heart kicked double time in his chest, he really hoped no one had recognised him, he doubted that he’d been in there long enough for anyone to notice but the thought drilled into his brained.

“When you’re ready for Tinder, call me,” Beverly said, making the phone gesture against the side of her head.

“With all due respect my darling Beverly, what would you know about the courtship of gay men?” Richie asked, smirking as he took her hand again and the rest of the group began to laugh.

“Hey, I’m offering my help asshole,” Beverly gasped, she smacked Richie’s arm with the hand he wasn’t holding, but she was smiling too.

“And I’m very thankful for it,” Richie returned and kissed the back of her hand before letting go.

Their deserts arrived along with another round of drinks. Richie got a large milkshake, one with whipped cream and a cherry on the top, to go with his sundae. Both Stan and Eddie winced at the sight of it.

“If you have a heart attack on the way home and we both die because you’ve crashed the damn car, I’m gonna kill you in the afterlife, I’ll haunt your fucking ghost,” Eddie muttered, clearly working himself up. Everyone burst into laughter, Bill had to spit his drink back into the glass.

Richie had heard this one before and it was kind of one of his favourites. If he ignored almost everything else, Richie could pretend that Eddie was his well meaning nagging boyfriend, it was kind of one of his fantasies. Richie knew he was beyond too far gone when he was fantasying about being yelled at about his diet.

“Your teeth are going to fall out of your head and you’re gonna get dentures before you’re fifty,” Eddie went on. The veins in his neck were standing out as his mouth thinned into a firm line. “Your blood’s going to be like treacle by the time you’re finished, you’re gonna get diabetes.”

“Alright Dr. K, your advice has been noted and I’m ignoring it,” Richie said, smiling wide back at Eddie. He kept his eyes on the other and took a long sip of his milkshake. “Y’know yolo and all that,” he added, Eddie’s face tightened up and Richie knew he was trying not to laugh. Beverly howled with laughter across from him, Bill was crying into his forearm, Ben and Mike gave their own sensible chuckles while Stan closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose.

“I fucking hate you,” Eddie grit out, but the corners of his mouth were twitching as he struggled not to laugh.

“Love you too Eds,” Richie returned and made a kissy face at Eddie.

“Stop calling me that,” Eddie yelled, pressing the heel of his palm against the side of Richie’s face, pushing the other away as Richie laughed.

Richie was having the time of his life. He didn’t know how he’d lived all these years without them, his best friends. He supposed that he’d been going through his life like a lot of people did, always moving forward without giving anything too much thought because if he really thought about it then that would make him feel things and strongly, and Richie had never been any good at dealing with his emotions.

Now he was feeling a lot and all the time, but they were mostly good things so they were easier to deal with and not analyse, which was probably just as bad as ignoring the other things. He was getting to it though. When they had reunited, Richie had been flooded with a metric fuck ton of realisations and they kind of hadn’t stopped since.

“We should do Secret Santa!” Beverly cried suddenly, smacking her hand on the table as she skewered her cherry pie.

“Yes!” Eddie replied enthusiastically, eyes alight as he stared back at her.

“I’m down for that,” Ben said, smiling the same damn smile he’d been smiling at Beverly since they were thirteen, it was downright charming.

“You guys remember that I’m Jewish right?” Stan asked, looking between them with a glint in his eye that Richie knew meant that he wasn’t being entirely serious.

“Shit, sorry Stan,” Eddie said quickly, head snapping in Stan’s direction.

“Did you actually forget that Stan ‘my dad might have killed Jesus’ Uris was Jewish?” Richie gaped at Eddie who only glared back at him. Richie had absolutely lost it when Stan had said that, they were introducing themselves to Ben and they had all started laughing with Stan, even Ben who’d only just met them and had been bleeding a few moments ago.

“Definitely one of my finest moments,” Stan said, chuckling lightly.

“What should we do then?” Eddie asked. He was obviously embarrassed, they all knew that he didn’t actually forget that Stan was Jewish, it was just something he hadn’t thought about because he was just excited. Richie was sure that Stan knew that.

“Don’t worry about it, let’s do this,” Stan said, still smiling as he looked over at Eddie.

“We’ll call it something else,” Mike said simply and Eddie seemed to relax a little.

“Secret Gift Giving Between Friends During The Festive Time!” Beverly announced, throwing her hands into the air again. They all laughed at that, perhaps Stan the most.

Beverly took a pen out of her purse and began to write on a napkin. She tore the napkin into seven pieces, placed the pieces face down in the middle of the table and spread them around, shuffling them.

“Everyone take one,” Beverly urged as she excitedly snatched up a piece of napkin for herself.

They each scrambled to take a piece and all surreptitiously peaked at the name written on the tissue paper. Richie sighed through his nose at the sight of the name, he hoped that no one heard him, he’d gotten Bill.

Maybe it was for the best, he thought. He knew that he’d just go overboard if he got Eddie. He would probably get something too personal and nice, go way over whatever budget they might set just to get Eddie a gift that he wouldn’t forget. Then things would be weird because Eddie might not get him anything at all or would get him some sort of joke gift, which would be way worse.

He would probably still get Eddie something because he already knew what to get him. Richie had known what he would get Eddie for Christmas ever since they had started the group chat, it had been in the back of his mind ever since, he was just that big of a sap.

Stan started to poke Richie’s thigh under the table, he was holding his chin on his other hand as he spoke to Bill and Mike, Richie figured that Stan was trying to be surreptitious. Richie made sure that no one was watching him, Ben and Beverly were intently listening to Eddie tell a story about some angry middle aged ‘can I talk to the manager’ woman that he’d fought for the last pack of Oreos that Richie had heard before.

For a moment Richie listened in, even though he’d heard the story before, and found himself smiling at the amount of times that Eddie said the word ‘fuck’. Stan’s finger dug harshly into Richie’s side, gouging him just under the ribs. Richie stifled a yelp and turned to Stan who was still looking intently at Mike as the other spoke.

 Richie slid his hand under the table and curled his fingers around Stan’s, Stan slipped a piece of napkin into his hand and Richie instantly knew what was happening. He smirked as he took the napkin from Stan and passed his own, with Bill’s name on it, to him. Richie leaned back a little against the booth seats and stared down at the torn piece of napkin in his lap.

Eddie’s name was scrawled in Beverly’s loopy writing.

 


 

They parted in the parking lot and it was very much like the last time. Richie received tight hug after tight hug and a few threats that he should call more often, Beverly kissed him sweetly on the cheek and said that she was proud that he didn’t smell like cigarette smoke. Stan gripped him the tightest and murmured something downright horrifying into his ear.

“Maybe you should talk about your feelings Rich,” Stan muttered and kissed him on the cheek.

“Yeah, yeah, eventually Stan, I’ll get there eventually,” Richie replied stiffly. He offered Stan a smile that felt like a promise and patted the side of Stan’s face as he stepped away.  

They were all acting as though they weren’t going to see each other for months, but it was only two until Ben and Beverly’s wedding and it wasn’t like their group chat was ever quiet, so far they hadn’t gone a day without messaging each other.

As soon as they got into the car, Richie’s whole world narrowed back down to just him and Eddie. It would have been a little worrying if Richie hadn’t already realised that he was head over heels for Eddie. By now, Richie was kind of resigned to the fact that he’d be pining for Eddie for the rest of his life, it might lessen if he had someone else to channel that energy into but he didn’t expect it to ever really go away.

He could feel it in the way his heart had stuttered when Eddie had pulled on his sweater as they stepped out of the diner. Eddie’s head had popped out of the neck hole with mussed hair, the muted pastel colour of the sweater clashed awfully with the bright orange of his windbreaker, he looked soft and Richie just wanted to wrap his arms around him.

“So you wanna be a nurse?” Richie asked, smiling smugly as he pulled out of the parking lot.

“You were right, I think it’s a good fit,” Eddie replied evenly and Richie could just feel Eddie not looking at him.

“Of course I was right,” Richie said, smiling as he stopped at a red light. “You’re gonna have to go back to school right?” He asked, looking over at Eddie.

“Yeah,” Eddie said with a short nod. His face was washed in the red of the traffic light, it wouldn’t take much for Richie to lean over and press his lips to Eddie’s.

“So that’s gonna be like a couple of months or something yeah?” Richie muttered dumbly as he snapped his attention back to the road.

“It takes two years,” Eddie said, frowning back at Richie, “but you have to work alongside proper nurses in a hospital and stuff so you’re still working I guess, I haven’t figured too much of it out just yet,” he explained, toying with the zipper of his jacket.

“Whatever, you can stay with me still, you don’t need to get a job on top of studying or anything,” Richie said reflexively and instantly regretted it, he turned his face away and winced, if he’d been alone Richie would have been smacking the steering wheel. He knew he should have let Eddie bring it up, that it was too much to just offer up something like that almost unprompted.

“You’re sure you’re fine with handling the bills and everything while I go to school because I can just take night classes and get a day job, it’s not a big deal Richie,” Eddie said, words bumping in each other as he spoke, clearly uncomfortable.

“I said it was fine and I meant it but you do whatever,” Richie said with a shrug as he begged every single deity he could think of to stop the embarrassed blush from showing on his skin, “I don’t want you getting all stressed out and it’s not like I’m paying more rent or anything, it’s fine, honestly,” he went on, over explaining himself.

“You’d really be fine with that?” Eddie asked, still not accepting Richie’s offer which only made Richie squirm in his seat.

“Losers gotta stick together right?” Richie said, hoping that it would be enough to sweep away the strange air of forced intimacy that he’d brought into the car. His hand slipped on the wheel, his palms were getting clammy.

Silence followed and Richie swallowed the urge to make a joke about repressed gays sticking together and a billion other jokes that would probably make Eddie yell at him. Usually, he’d love for Eddie to yell at him, but right then Richie wouldn’t be able to take it. He had a feeling that Eddie might actually be mad at him.

“Are you doing all this because you feel guilty?” Eddie asked. His voice was low and quiet, Richie almost missed it.

“What?” Richie returned, brows furrowed as he kept his eyes on the road. He didn’t want to look at Eddie, didn’t want to face whatever he would find there, he swallowed thickly as he waited for Eddie to elaborate.

“The last time we spoke, before we left Derry and lost touch and everything, you wouldn’t tell me why you were avoiding me at school and you were pretty torn up about it then and I know it’s just like you to still feel bad about something like that,” Eddie said, he was staring straight ahead, again fumbling with his jacket zipper.

Richie’s throat went dry and he went stock still, as though he’d been struck by lightning. He hoped that Eddie wasn’t thinking that Richie would come out and tell him what he wouldn’t/couldn’t say twenty five years ago because he still couldn’t say it now. At least, not in a rental car in Nebraska as they were about to be stuck together on a flight where there was no escape.

“I do feel guilty about it Eds, but that’s not why I’m letting you stay with me and it’s definitely not why I wanna support you,” Richie said, it was as honest as he could let himself be and he hoped that it was enough for Eddie. Maybe it was too much, maybe he was showing too much of himself to Eddie, maybe he wasn’t showing enough. He didn’t know, but at least he was trying.

“I don’t know Richie, I’d feel pretty bad if I didn’t at least get some sort of work from home kind of job or something,” Eddie said and Richie could hear him shifting beside him.

“Do what you want Eds,” Richie said, “I just want you to know that I’ve got your back,” he added, although he kind of always thought that Eddie never really needed anyone to have his back, he’d be there anyways.

“I know you do,” Eddie murmured.

 


 

The light was dying and the way it was bouncing off of the surface of the water in the quarry made the whole place feel magical. Richie felt the light breeze drift over him, softly caressing his skin and shifting through his hair. He sighed and sunk further into the grass. It was maybe the most perfect moment and he was sharing it with Eddie.

The smaller boy was laid out in the grass beside him. Eddie had bitched and moaned about the dirt and the bugs and how unsanitary it was, but he had still lied down with Richie and that made Richie’s heart soar. They were watching the sky as the sun set, breaking dying colours over and around the clouds. He could feel the heat coming off of Eddie beside him. Richie couldn’t remember the last time he’d been this happy and Eddie would have to leave soon. His mom would want him home even though Eddie was fifteen.

“What do you think is gonna happen to us? I mean like in the future,” Eddie asked, softly pulling Richie back into the moment and away from his souring thoughts. He could feel Eddie looking at him, eyes heavy on the side of his face.

“I’ll be a wicked radio DJ on an alt rock station, hanging out with rock stars and getting the sloppy twelfths of their groupies and you’ll be something actually important like a doctor or a vet or whatever,” Richie said, painting a picture as he reached his arm around Eddie’s shoulders and held the other close, pretending that it was something conspiratorial when he was just revelling in simply holding Eddie.  

“You think so?” Eddie asked, smiling as he continued to stare at Richie.

“I know so,” Richie said, finally looking back at Eddie, smiling at the other. He hoped to hell that Eddie couldn’t feel the way his heart was pounding, stuttering beats in his chest.

“We’ll still be friends right?” Eddie asked, round doe eyes staring innocently at Richie, so earnest it hurt. Richie swore that his heart grew wings in that moment.

“Uh, yeah Eds, I mean who do you think is gonna pay my rent?” Richie said, unable to stop himself from making a joke as intense feelings swept over him.

“I’m not paying your rent while you fuck third rate groupies and smoke weed with washed up rock stars,” Eddie squawked and lightly smacked Richie on the chest with his tiny little fist and Richie laughed, the sound bubbled up from deep within his chest.

“So you’ll leave me destitute?” Richie asked, brows raised as he gaped at Eddie in mock horror. “Who’s going to look after me, you know I can’t look after myself, I’ll end up sticking a fork in a toaster or watching television in the bath without you yelling at me,” he added, shaking Eddie a little as he faux begged into the other’s ear.

“It’s what you deserve,” Eddie barked, “maybe you’d actually learn something then,” he added, fierce eyes alight as they burned into Richie, his hair was mussed and his cheeks were ruddy.

“I know how to do all that stuff Eds, I just don’t because you’ll do it for me,” Richie said, smiling wide as he held Eddie close.

“You’re the worst and don’t call me that,” Eddie groaned, rolling his eyes as he tried to turn away from Richie.

“You love me really,” Richie said and kissed Eddie on the top of his head, Eddie squirmed against him making fake gagging sounds and Richie couldn’t help but laugh.

They laid there in silence for a while. Richie was far too content to feel the itch to say something stupid, to fill the silence up until it was no longer oppressing him, instead he was smiling into Eddie’s hair watching the sky burn orange. Eddie’s warmth was seeping into his bones through Eddie’s wool knit sweater and Richie’s faded garish button up and Talking Heads t-shirt. Everything was so perfect that Richie desperately didn’t want this moment to end, he wanted to stay suspended in this moment forever.

“We’ll always be friends right, Rich?” Eddie asked, face pressed into Richie’s shoulder. The tentative sound of it damn near broke Richie’s heart.

“Always,” he promised.

Chapter Text

It was already December and Christmas was fast upon them. Richie hadn’t exactly participated in the last few Christmases. He had been alone, without a significant other, any close friends or any family, he didn’t have anyone to spend it with and he didn’t see the point in celebrating it on his own. Eddie was there now though and Richie figured that they would be celebrating it.

Eddie had started working from home, Richie didn’t know how he’d picked up a job so quickly but there he was, sat on the couch with his fingers flying over the keys of his laptop. It was something like what he’d done before, that was the most Richie had gotten out of him. Eddie really seemed to hate talking about work. On the other hand, he loved talking about his studies and all the new things that he learned about and were going to kill Richie. It was nice, Richie had always loved to listen to Eddie’s ramblings.

Of course Eddie was very much into the whole Christmas thing. It probably had something to do with his new found freedom or something, Eddie had been pretty enthusiastic about everything since he’d moved in with Richie, it was pretty damn adorable.

“Where’s your decorations?” Eddie asked, turning on Richie the moment he stepped out of his bedroom.

“What decorations?” Richie returned blinking at Eddie. Richie was barely alive and he hadn’t had his coffee yet, he couldn’t have figured out what Eddie was talking about if he tried. Eddie stared back at him, long and hard before he spoke again, it made Richie squirm.

“Passover,” Eddie said and Richie continued to stare at him dumbfounded, “Christmas decorations you jerk-off,” he added, throwing his hands into the air sharply.

“Oh,” Richie said, at length, “I don’t have any.”

“You don’t have any?” Eddie repeated, hands on his hips as he continued to stare at Richie.

“That’s what I said Eds,” Richie replied flatly and ran his hand through his hair. He didn’t know what he was doing still standing in front of his bedroom door, he desperately wanted (needed) coffee and to go to the toilet, but he felt pinned to the spot by Eddie sharp gaze.

“Fine, can I borrow your car?” Eddie huffed, dropping his hands from his hips as he spun around, probably looking for Richie car keys.

Without Eddie’s eyes on him, Richie could finally move. He made his way toward the kitchen, got the coffee going and eyed the counter for his keys. He usually threw them there when he came home.

“Uh, sure,” Richie said, brows furrowed as he plucked his key from the counter and held them out for Eddie, who’d been trailing him.

“Thanks,” Eddie muttered as he took the keys and moved around the counter to stand by the door as he pulled his shoes on.

“Where are you going?” Richie asked, watching Eddie from over the counter.

“To get decorations,” Eddie stated, as though it should have been obvious, and it probably should have but Richie’s brain still wasn’t working.

“Oh, okay,” Richie said and with that Eddie was gone.

Eddie came back two hours later. He opened the door with his arms full of bags and boxes as he squawked for Richie to help him, kicking the door closed behind him. Richie scrambled to his feet and left Columbo playing on the TV. 

“How much stuff did you get Eds?” Richie exclaimed as he took some of the stuff from Eddie and placed it on the kitchen counter. There was, quite frankly, a lot.

“There’s more in the car,” Eddie said, he set the bags down in the hall, spun back around at left the apartment.

“Holy shit,” Richie said, trailing after Eddie to offer his help. 

They spent the rest of the day putting up the decorations. Richie did most of the leg work as Eddie guided him, mostly muttering that he’d done it wrong and ‘a little to the left’. He put together the fake Christmas tree and Eddie set about decorating it, Richie wasn’t allowed to touch it after he’d tickled Eddie’s face with tinsel one too many times. Once they were done, the apartment was ridiculously festive. It made Richie feel warm inside and he suddenly got a craving for mulled cider. He settled for an Irish coffee as Eddie took photos of the living room all lit up, Richie couldn’t help but smile to himself. It was a little tacky, there was just too much stuff, but it was nice and the sight of it filled Richie chest with warmth.

If only there was more to the bare faced glee on Eddie’s face, he thought. Richie strangled that thought until it grew quiet enough to deal with and made his way over to the couch. The instant he sat down, Eddie had snapped a photo of him. He groaned as his phone vibrated against his leg. Of course Eddie was posting of the pictures in the group chat.

“We should binge bad Christmas movies,” Richie said, he flicked through the channels on the TV as Eddie dropped down onto the couch beside him.

“They’re all bad,” Eddie said without looking up from his phone and Richie scoffed.

“You won’t be saying that when you’re crying at Muppet’s Christmas Carol,” Richie said, smirking at Eddie as the other finally looked away from his phone screen. The room was dark, lit only by the Christmas lights and the television screen, it felt so cosy and Eddie looked so cosy in his burgundy sweater.

“Okay, we never watched it together, but little frog puppet Tiny Tim was adorable and I know you, I bet you welled up too so I don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about,” Eddie said, sitting up straighter as he waved a hand in front of Richie’s face.

“You’re still so cute Eds,” Richie said, laughing.

“Don’t call me that,” Eddie replied, but it was clear that he was fighting a smile.

They spent the night watching Christmas movies. They watched Elf first, which went down fine since it was one of their favourites, they were quoting the movie as they ate cookies instead of a real dinner. Richie figured that Eddie was having too much of a good time to worry about their diets. When they got on to The Santa Clause, Eddie went ballistic and Richie struggled to stay on the couch with how hard he was laughing. Eddie started in on how the clause was awful and just meant that any old murder could become Santa if they wanted to and how much of an idiot Tim Allen’s character is and how it’s weird that everyone is saying that Santa isn’t real when he’s provably real. Veins were pooping on Eddie’s forehead, temple and neck. They finished off the night with Home Alone, which they both loved, Richie teared up a bit at the end and Eddie got a real kick out of that.

Richie couldn’t stop thinking about how nice the day had been, even as Eddie was badgering him to brush his teeth, but there was something beneath it all. The day had been so domestic that it left Richie feeling strange and restless. It almost felt like he could reach over and touch Eddie without anything happening, like he could kiss Eddie and it would be totally normal, it felt like Eddie was his boyfriend.

Suddenly, Richie had an urge to go off to some club, pick up a random guy and work out his frustrations in a shitty motel that smelt like mould. He didn’t want to call Stan. He’d already unloaded so much on him, it wasn’t fair, so he called Bev instead, even though that wasn’t fair either.

“Hey honey, it’s pretty late right? What’s up?” Bev answered, concern clear in her voice.

“I need a therapist, I’ve been meaning to look for one, Eddie’s already got one for fuck sake, but I just haven’t got around to it but holy fuck Bev, I think I’m losing my fucking mind,” Richie rambled, pacing up and down his bedroom, along the wall that wasn’t attached to Eddie’s room, so he wouldn’t be overheard.

“Did something happen Rich?”

“It’s just so fucking domestic, it’s like we’re married or something but we don’t touch, we don’t kiss and it’s messing with my head, Bev,” Richie went on as he dragged a hand through his unruly hair.

“You know what I’m going to say right? Because it’s exactly what Stan would say,” Beverly said, voice almost chiding.

“Don’t,” Richie whined, pausing in front of the window to bite at his lip.

“You need to tell him Richie,” Beverly said, saying exactly what Richie didn’t want her to say, he sighed into the phone, “it’s not good for you to keep this all inside and I’m sure it’s not helping with your big gay awakening,” she continued, saying the last part with a flair.

“You know, I thought about going out and picking up some rando just to, I don’t know, to stop myself from exploding, but in a fucked up way it feels like it would be cheating,” Richie said, completely ignoring Bev’s statement. “I am so fucked,” he added with emphasis.

“Honey,” Beverly sighed softly, “you need to tell him.”

“Yeah, I know,” Richie said and dropped down onto the edge of the bed. “I-I kind of have a plan, but I don’t know if I’ll actually be able to pull it off, it’s hard,” he went on, stammering quietly as he stared at the street lights through the window.

“I know it is, but isn’t never knowing worse?” Beverly returned.

“I guess it is, I’m trying to work up to it,” Richie groaned, he slipped his fingers up under his glasses and rubbed at the side of his nose, closing his eyes.

“And you’ve got the rest of your life to say it, but are you willing to wait the rest of your life not knowing?”

“Damn Bev, straight from Nebraska and into my freaking heart,” Richie said with a dry laugh.

“Well, you chose me and Stan, so I guess you’re a sucker for getting it straight,” Bev returned, Richie could hear the faint smirk in her voice.

“I don’t like getting anything straight,” Richie shot right back, even in his distressed state, he was never one to ignore the opportunity to tell a joke and he’d always loved the sound of Beverly’s laughter.

“Richie,” Beverly chuckled. “You’re gonna be fine, I know it,” she added and Richie knew that if she was there with him, she’d be rubbing his arm and staring at him with her soft loving eyes.

“Thanks Bev,” Richie said, voice rough.

“No problem, goodnight Rich, love you.”

“G’night, love you too.”

Richie hung up and went to bed. Without his glasses, the room was hazy. He knew that he had to do it, he didn’t need Bev or Stan to tell him that, but it was nice to have their support and to know that they were there. Richie closed his hands around the sheets. He would do it, he made that promise to himself.

 


 

Christmas day came as fast as a freight train. Richie stayed in bed for as long as he could, staring at the ceiling until the buzzing of his phone grew too incessant to ignore. Hanukkah had started the day before, and they had barraged Stan with good wishes and a load of ‘get lit’ memes, mostly from Bill, Bev and Richie himself. He’d sent Stan the famous novelty sweater and had cracked up when Stan sent a picture of him wearing it. Now the chat was full of Christmas pictures and memes and the general greetings.

Beverly had already posted a picture of Ben and his gorgeous German Sheppard in front of a tree that was the size of Richie’s kitchen, Ben was smiling that damn sweet smile and Richie couldn’t help smiling too. There was another picture of the dog biting a present. It was blurry and hilarious, Richie tapped it to leave a ‘crying laughing’ emoji. Bill sent a picture of him and Mike sat in front of a tasteful Christmas tree, smiling with their arms around each other. Richie smiled as he thought that Ben and Eddie owed him, Stan and Bev fifty bucks each. Stan had sent a photo of him and Patty in their backyard with a regular tree in the background. Richie couldn’t stop the bark of laughter that burst out of him at that, bent over still in bed, hand clutched to his stomach.

That was when Eddie decided to burst into the room.

“I’ve been up for hours asshole, get out of bed already,” Eddie was saying as he came into the room. He stopped in the doorway, frowning deeply as his eyes stuck to Richie like glue.  

 “Whoa, Eds you ever learn how to knock?” Richie exclaimed, he resolutely stayed where he was even as he felt self-conscious about being shirtless. “I could have been knocking one out or something worse,” he added, fingers clutched tight around his phone.

“Something worse?” Eddie asked, face scrunched up in disgust, he shook his head and got back on track. “Whatever, I could see you liking Bev’s photos, get up,” he said testily, arms crossed over his chest as he stared hard at Richie.

“Fine, I’ll be out in a sec, Jesus Christ,” Richie muttered, he waited for Eddie to leave before he climbed out of bed. He put on a pair of sweatpants and a sweater with the Grinch on it. Richie grabbed the small present out of his bedside drawer. He paused at the door, took a deep breath to steel himself before he left the room.

Eddie was sitting on the couch with a present on his lap. Eddie seemed eager, like a little kid, so Richie skipped over to the couch and sat down beside Eddie. Present in hand. Eddie eyed the small package, going a little red at the other end of the couch.

“I guess we got each other, huh?” Richie said, a little too loudly, trying to cover up the awkward tension that had suddenly fallen between them.

“The universe just hates me,” Eddie groaned, pushing one of the mugs of coffee on the table toward Richie, obviously he wasn’t that torn up about it.

“Ouch, I have feelings you know,” Richie returned, fist closed over his heart as he fell dramatically back against the couch.

“Really?” Eddie asked, brows raised in mock shock and Richie pushed him back against the arm of the couch.

Silence fell over them again, and being the resident trashmouth, Richie felt that it was up to him to remedy the situation. It was Christmas, neither of them needed to be trapped in this awkward silence, like they were kids stuck with family members they couldn’t stand. Richie looked down at the small box still held in his hand.

“I would have given you this whether I got you or not, anyways,” Richie admitted, hoping against hope that he wasn’t blushing when he looked up at Eddie.

“Okay, but I have to go first,” Eddie said quickly, pushing the present onto Richie, as though he hadn’t heard what Richie had said at all.

“Why?” Richie barked, smiling at Eddie’s strange desperation. He was kind of thankful that Eddie hadn’t taken notice of what he’d said.

“Because,” Eddie replied petulantly as he continued to press the present into Richie’s lap.

“You are so bossy,” Richie said in a laugh.

“Just open the present Richie,” Eddie said, teeth gritted as he smacked Richie lightly on the shoulder.

“Alright, alright,” Richie said and grabbed the present, yanking it out of Eddie’s hand.

It had been so long since he’d got a present from Eddie. If he remembered rightly, the last thing Eddie had got him was that joke book, Richie smiled to himself as he thought of it. Richie tried not to let it show just how much his hands were shaking as he carelessly tore open the wrapping paper. The complete series boxset of Goosebumps sat in his lap. He couldn’t have stopped the smile that was spreading across his mouth if he had wanted to. Richie had been meaning to get it for a while, he just forgot, most of it was available to stream anyways so he hadn’t been in a rush. Eddie had noticed, that thought shot through Richie and he just sunk further into the couch.  

“I thought it was kinda weird that you had all of the books and none of the DVDs or whatever,” Eddie rambled as Richie looked up at him, hand on the back of his neck as he ducked his head sheepishly.

“Thanks Eds,” Richie said, smiling wide and goofy at Eddie as he knocked his shoulder against the other’s.

“No problem Richie,” Eddie replied and Richie didn’t miss how Eddie didn’t saying anything about the nickname.

“You’re turn,” Richie murmured and held the box out to Eddie.

Eddie didn’t say anything as he took the box from Richie’s hand. Richie watched with baited breath as Eddie tore open the festive paper. He sipped at his coffee, sinking into the taste, savouring it even as his clammy hands slipped against the mug. Eddie opened the small box, Richie’s heart began to beat a thunderous rhythm against his chest.

 


 

It had taken Richie so long to make it, he had spent all week listening to the radio and calling in to make requests just to get everything right. If he was going to do this then he was going to do it right. He knew it was driving his mom up the wall. His allowance was going to be docked for how much he’d used the phone, how long he’d stayed on the line with radio stations.

Making a mix tape was one hell of a pain in the ass, but Richie had done it and was damn proud of his work if he did say so himself. It had all of Eddie’s favourite music. Songs that they had listened to together, in Richie’s bedroom because Eddie’s mom would throw a fit if Eddie listened to music you could actually hear, lying on his bed and singing off key and out of tune together. Those were the best days of Richie’s short life. Sat in his bedroom with the boy he loved, having the time of his life, singing his heart out.

Richie dumped out all of his coloured markers onto his cluttered desk and got to work on the sleeve. He drew rainbows, puppies and kittens, a terrible unicorn, planets and stars, a spaceship, aliens, using every single colour he had. Once he was done, Richie looked over his handiwork. It was pure chaos, scattered nonsense, it was perfect. He smiled as he placed it down gently onto the desk.

Lying in bed, excited and scared, veins alive with electricity, he stared blearily up at the ceiling, trying not to let his hopes run away from him.

He was going to do it, he was going to stop being a coward. He would give Eddie the mixtape, a classic romantic move, and finally tell Eddie how he felt. If Eddie rejected him then that would be that and Richie would just have to fucking suck it up. At least he would have closure. At least this would be over and they could get on with their lives, together or apart.

The tape sat in the inside pocket of his denim jacket for a solid three weeks before Richie gave in and put it in a draw, not to be forgotten but just to hide it from himself, to hide his shame and cowardice. He had fully intended on doing it, he had planned it out anything. But every time he saw Eddie it just never felt like the right time.

Eddie was always surrounded by other people, smiling and laughing, happy as can be without Richie. Each time, Richie had frozen to the spot and his voice just wouldn’t work. His mouth had a habit of clogging up when he needed it most and running off when he needed it least. Maybe it was for the best, maybe this was how it was supposed to be. Eddie obviously didn’t need him anymore and that was all the response Richie needed.

 


 

He hadn’t done it, but he was going to do it now. Richie steeled himself as he watched Eddie and waited for the other to say something.

“What the hell is this?” Eddie murmured as he turned the tape over in his hands. Richie’s stomach churned awfully as he stared at Eddie, he swallowed and it felt like there were a thousand tiny shards of glass in his throat.

“It’s a mixtape,” Richie said, hoping to hell that none of the hurt tearing at his stomach lining showed on his face or in his voice.

“I see that, I mean,” Eddie dragged a hand down face as he continued to stare at the tape, “what’s this all about, Richie, I can tell you didn’t make this recently,” he said, those doe eyes rose up to meet Richie’s, the Christmas lights made them shine so delicately. Richie had to swallow again before he could continue.

“I meant to give it you, after our last fight, it was supposed to be an apology but I just never worked up the courage to actually give it to you,” Richie said, he forced himself to look at Eddie as he spoke, his face felt aflame and his hands were slippery with sweat.

“Jeez Richie,” Eddie said at length and looked back down at the tape with awe. “This is so sappy,” he added, chuckling lightly.

“Yeah it is,” Richie said, he licked his lips and tried to get the words he wanted, desperately needed, to say into his throat and out of his mouth. Eddie was staring at him, expectantly. The words wouldn’t come though and they ended up just staring at each other. 

“You got a way to play it?” Eddie asked and it almost felt like the moment had passed.  

“Oh yeah,” Richie said and scrambled for the box he’d hidden under the couch, his fingers slipped over it once before he was properly able to grasp it, he sat up and passed the box to Eddie. He watched as Eddie opened it and pulled out the cassette player and earphones. “I already loaded it with batteries so it’s good to go,” he said, awkwardly fumbling with his words.

Eddie said nothing as he took the tape from the case, opened the player, slid the cassette inside, closed the player and plugged the earphones in. He held one of the earbuds out for Richie between them. Richie took it and scooted further up the couch and closer to Eddie. Their knees were touching and, not for the first time, Richie felt fourteen again.

Richie’s heart was hammering so hard that he was almost worried he wouldn’t be able to hear the music, but when Eddie pressed play, he heard it loud and clear. The quality wasn’t so good, but what did you expect from a nearly thirty year old tape. As long as they could hear Taylor Dayne it was fine. Eddie’s face split open as the music continued to play.

“You were going to apologise to me with this?” Eddie asked, looking coyly at Richie, the case of the cassette tape clutched tight in his hand.

“That was the plan, yeah,” Richie said with a nod.

“Do you think anything would have changed if you had, you know, apologised?” Eddie said, he looked vulnerable, deep brown puppy dog eyes staring at Richie, waiting for his reply.

“I don’t know Eds, maybe, but then we both moved away not long after that. So even if we did make up, would we have been able to stay in touch? Would we have been the only ones to do it? I don’t know,” Richie rambled, it was kind of hard to speak as ‘Tell It To My Heart’ turned into ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody’, his mind flooded with memories of them spinning around in his bedroom as they sung along.

“I guess we’ll never know,” Eddie murmured and looked down at the cassette player. “I’m glad I got to hear it though, even if it took you nearly thirty years,” he added, gently bumping his shoulder against Richie’s. He looked up again and those browns were back on Richie. It looked like he was waiting for something, something that Richie had been trying to say since Eddie had unwrapped the damn tape, and still the words wouldn’t come.

“Hey, now you can never say that I don’t apologise for anything,” Richie said instead, smiling back at Eddie as he rubbed his clammy palms on his sweats. Eddie rolled his eyes but he didn’t say anything further.

They sat there, listening to the rest of tape, sipping at their coffee from time to time. It was intimate. It was so painfully intimate, but it didn’t feel strange or oppressive like it had been, it felt right like it used to when they were kids. It felt like this was exactly where Richie was supposed to be.

The rest of the day passed by in a flurry of cooking under Eddie’s strict supervision, watching bad daytime TV, listing to Christmas music, dancing around to ‘Last Christmas’ and butchering the high notes in ‘All I Want For Christmas is You’. They went for a walk around the block, jackets and scarves, Eddie kept checking his phone to see how much time they had before they had to take the turkey out of the oven. As they ate dinner, they watched Muppet’s Christmas Carol and Eddie didn’t cry. Instead they sang along with the songs and Richie did his best Kermit impression, Eddie really cracked up at that and it made Richie’s heart soar. They finished off the day with It’s A Wonderful Life and Eddie really got crying at that, Richie didn’t make fun of him. Eddie was right up against him, face pressed into Richie’s shoulder, hands clasped together. When the movie was over, neither of them said anything about it and they went off to sleep in their separate rooms.

Again, it was so domestic, it made Richie’s chest ache. He felt completely off kilter. If he could close out the world, shut the doors on reality, it really was like they were together. It was messing with his head. They couldn’t keep acting like this, things would give eventually and Richie was really worried about what would happen then. Would Eddie decide to start dating? Finally goad Richie into getting on a dating app? Make Richie go out to a bar with him and watch as guys hit on him? Richie smothered those thoughts and climbed into bed.

He kept the shame and guilt under wraps, he knew that Stan and Bev would be to be disappointed, he was disappointed. Richie went to bed with his stomach twisting. He had to do it before the world started moving forward without him, before Eddie had moved on.

Chapter Text

Richie still hadn’t done a damn thing about confessing his feelings to Eddie by the time that Ben and Beverly’s wedding came around. He was mad at himself, he was absolutely fucking furious. His therapist, sweet and rainbow friendly, had told him not to be so hard on himself. He was trying but it still felt like he wasn’t getting anywhere.

It wasn’t the time to be thinking about that, he was there for his friends and dwelling on his shortcomings didn’t do anyone any good.

The service was beautiful and Richie wasn’t ashamed to admit that he had cried, a lot, through the entire show. He wasn’t the only one though. There wasn’t a loser with dry eyes in the building. Eddie had passed Richie a tissue during Ben’s vows as he wiped his own eyes, while Mike sniffled into a handkerchief on his other side. When it was finally over and the bells were chiming, Richie’s eyes stung as if he’d squeezed lemons directly into them.

They spilled out of the church and onto the snow sprinkled grass around the grounds. Throwing paper confetti in the air as the happy couple came out into the thin snow and bitter weather, the wind caught Beverly’s hair as she laughed, January embers. Richie couldn’t believe how beautiful they looked, how right they looked together.

He turned toward Eddie to stop himself from crying again. Eddie kept frowning down at his shoes, so Richie took it upon himself to distract Eddie as they waited to take their photos with the newlyweds.

“Hey Eds, you think some hunk’s gonna be lifting you up like that one day?” Richie asked, he elbowed Eddie’s side and nodded in the direction of Ben and Beverly. Ben was holding her up bridal style, appropriately, and Beverly had her hand in the air as she waved the bouquet around.

“I fucking hope so,” Eddie murmured as he looked from Ben and Beverly to Richie, brown eyes deep and never-ending. Richie felt like he was being challenged, to do what, he didn’t know but he suddenly had to loosen his tie.

 


 

Sat around a large table, just for the losers, in the opulent hall holding the reception, they ate conversation flowed easily between them like always. Richie had whistled when they’d entered the hall, he was pretty sure that renting out the place for one day cost more than six months of his rent. For all the difference it made, they might as well have been in an Olive Gardens.

Richie caught Eddie staring at the way that Beverly’s dress was dragging across the floor, that familiar frown appeared and Eddie’s dimples deepened. Before Richie could comment on it, Stan and his wife Patty rejoined them at the table with full plates.

“So Patty, we’ve heard from a little birdy that you’re not a fan of our Bill’s books,” Mike said, smiling as he watched them take their seats. Bill shook his head from where he sat next Mike, smiling fondly at the man.

“I’m sorry Bill, I don’t know what to tell you, I just don’t like them,” Patty said, white wine held between her fingers as she looked apologetically at Bill.

“Savage,” Richie barked and Eddie smacked him on the shoulder.

“Duh-don’t worry about it,” Bill laughed and Patty seemed to relax, whoever she had expected Bill to be, it certainly wasn’t this.

The conversation flowed like cheap wine from there as they got to know Patty, and Patty got to know them. She slipped into the group easily. She had the same kind of strange and dry humour as Stan, and instantly took to teasing Richie about how unfunny he was much to the table’s delight. Just like Ben and Mike, she was an avid reader, and a conversation started up between the three. Richie caught Stan watching Patty fondly. For a moment, Richie wished that was him, he wished that he was allowed to look at Eddie that way before he swept the thought away.

At some point, when Richie wasn’t paying attention, Bill’s hand had found its way around Mike’s arm. They seemed awfully comfortable and Richie was infinitely jealous of the way it seemed so easy for them.

“Hey Bill, nice catch earlier,” Beverly smirked, glass of wine swaying wildly in her hand as she dropped into Richie’s lap. He laughed into her shoulder as Mike sent her a wink and Bill merely shrugged as he sipped on his beer. Bill had caught Beverly bouquet when it had gone wide as she threw it over her shoulder, they had ribbed Bill about it then, but now it seemed like a compliment. It seemed like Bev was saying ‘Mike’s a nice catch’ and he really was. “What should we do next time, where should we meet?” She asked, looking around the group for suggestions.

“We should visit Stanley’s zoo!” Richie said, smiling around Beverly at the rest of the group.

“I don’t own the zoo Richie,” Stan returned flatly and Patty giggled into a bite of her garlic bread.

“Well why don’t you Stanley?” Richie returned, face pressed against the side of Beverly’s arm as he stared sideways at Stan.

“I’m not nearly inebriated enough to battle against your ignorance,” Stan said and took a long drink from his wine glass.

 “Oh, Stanley thinks he’s too good for me,” Richie moaned, pouting up at Beverly as she laughed at him and softly patted his face.

“I know I am,” Stan said in that same flat tone as he placed the glass back down on the table, the group burst into short laughter, typical Stan. Patty stroked the back of his hand fondly as she smiled warmly at him.

“I think he’s drunker than he pretends,” Beverly said, clearly tipsy herself, Stan only shrugged and sipped at his wine.

Ben came over, kissed the top of Beverly’s head and she giggled. Their eyes met and Richie had never seen two people more in love, he melted at the sight. He couldn’t have been happier for them. Richie desperately kept his eyes forward, despite how much he wanted to look at Eddie, he didn’t want to hope to see something he knew wouldn’t be there. Ben took Beverly’s arms and slid his hands down to her wrists and took her hands in his own.

“Sorry guys, but I’m gonna have to steal my wife away from you,” Ben said, smiling charmingly as he helped Beverly up from Richie’s lap.

“Hey, nuh-no fair, you g-g-get her for the ruh-rest of your life,” Bill said, smiling back at Beverly as he held his nearly empty pint glass aloft.

“I’m sorry my darlings, but my husband awaits,” Beverly said with the flair of a golden age movie star, blowing kisses at them as though they were her adoring fans.

“Okay, that’s just too corny,” Richie said, even as he smiled up them, he couldn’t stop thinking about how good they looked together.

“You should really try those thighs out Eddie, they’re real cushiony,” Beverly said to Eddie, leaning down to pat Richie’s lap as she held onto Ben for leverage.

“I’m good thanks,” Eddie replied without missing a beat, even as the blush spread across his face, he would just blame it on the wine if anyone pointed it out. The group laughed at his flat faced frown.

Richie patted his lap like Bev had just done, “If you want a ride Eds, you just gotta let me know,” he said with a wink, smiling wolfish at Eddie.

“I said I’m good thanks,” Eddie said, louder and slower, as though he was talking to someone with bad hearing.  

“Suit yourself,” Richie said with a shrug and turned to the rest of the table, “anyone else wanna go, there’s some prime real estate here, raving reviews from Mrs Beverly Hanscom,” he said, gesturing at his lap. It was a joke, he didn’t actually expect anyone to take him up on his offer, so he was extremely surprised when Stan slipped from his seat beside Richie and dropped into his lap.

“It’s alright,” Stan said, shifting about as he got comfortable. Richie buried his face into Stan’s shoulder, crying as his bodies shook with laughter, the rest of the group laughed light-heartedly.

The night slid away faster than any of them wanted it to and soon they were going back to their separate hotel rooms, already promising to meet up for breakfast before leaving for the airport and their homes. Richie felt light. He felt like he could float away, riding off of everyone else’s happiness.

Eddie walked with Richie, their rooms were side by side since they’d booked them together, chatting about how beautiful the wedding was and how cute Ben and Beverly’s kids were going to be. With Eddie stood at the door next Richie’s, it was almost like they were back home, back in Richie’s apartment. Then Richie felt hollow again. He could just come out and say it, he could open his mouth and force the words out, he could but he knew he wouldn’t.

“Good night Eds,” Richie said, smiling at Eddie as he put his key-card into the door.

Eddie stared back at him, eyes overshadowed by the way the overhead lights in the corridor were beating against his brows, making them deep dark pits that Richie felt like he was falling into. It made Richie’s skin itchy. He shifted slightly, blinking at Eddie, wondering how rude it would be to just slip into his hotel room without waiting for Eddie’s reply. But it felt like Eddie was waiting for something from him and was beginning to think that he knew what that was.

“Night Richie,” Eddie said eventually, and disappeared into his room, the door closed with a clack behind him.

Another opportunity missed.

 


 

What felt like hours later, but was probably only one, Richie awoke from where he’d been sleeping fully clothed (minus his suit jacket, tie and shoes) laid diagonally across the bed and over the sheets.

 There was a wild knocking against Richie’s door, he knew exactly who it was instantly, there was no one else it could be. Richie flicked the light on and ripped the door open, he watched as Eddie stumbled inside. He slipped against the wall and closed the door as Richie continued to hold onto the handle. Eddie’s eyes were all over Richie’s face, searching for something. It looked like he was struggling to get something out. Eddie was still wearing his dress shirt and pants, almost mirroring Richie, he tried ignore it even as Eddie’s eyes looked him up and down.

“Everything okay Eds?” Richie asked, as he let go of the door handle and took a step closer, “you been drinking from the mini-bar?” he added with smirk, prodding Eddie with his words.

“No,” Eddie said and shook his head.

“Then what’s this all about?” Richie asked, face falling as he realised Eddie was being serious and he didn’t seem all that drunk up close, maybe a little tipsy from the night’s drinking but no more than Richie was himself.

Before Richie could react, Eddie had caught his fist in the front of Richie’s shirt and pulled him down, capturing Richie’s lips with his own.

Eddie’s lips were soft and Richie felt as though he were sinking into the touch. In response, Richie did what he usually did when he was suddenly forced into a situation he didn’t exactly know how to deal with and was having strong emotions about, something that he would regret.

“Look, Eds, Eddie stop,” Richie said, he put his hands on Eddie’s shoulders and held the other away from him, “I don’t know what you think you’re doing but I have something I really need to tell you before you do whatever it is you’re doing,” he went on, heart pounding like a sledgehammer against his ribs as he stared straight into Eddie’s wide doe eyes. “I don’t know what to do with my feelings, but I know that I’ll never be able to move forward if I don’t say it so I’m just gonna fucking say it I guess ‘cause you’re still as oblivious as you were when we were thirteen,” he added, he felt like his brain was dripping out of his ear.

“Fuck you!” Eddie spat, frowning back at Richie.

“Fuck me yourself, you coward,” Richie replied flippantly, this was all a little too much for him, he was trying to say the thing he’d been avoiding saying for nearly his whole damn life and Eddie was making it difficult. He wasn’t good at being vulnerable, he wasn’t good at handling his emotions. Richie had never learnt how to deal with it in a mature way and now he was fumbling in the dark, trying to find the light switch.

“Fine, asshole,” Eddie said and took Richie’s hand in his own, lacing their fingers together.

“Wha-“ Richie didn’t get to finish as Eddie pulled him down against and pressed his lips to his open mouth. “What?” He repeated, blinking down at Eddie as the other pulled away.

“And you’re calling me the oblivious one,” Eddie scoffed.

“I was about to say that I’ve been in love with you since I was thirteen and you’re kind of stealing my shine,” Richie said, one hand still on Eddie’s shoulder, thumb pressed against him as though Richie had to remind himself that this was real, that Eddie was really there.

“Oh, yeah, because this has been the most romantic moment of my life so far,” Eddie said, rolling his eyes as he kept hold of Richie’s hand.

“Hey, I’m trying,” Richie returned, mock affronted.

“I was trying before you flipped out on me,” Eddie squawked and smacked Richie on the chest, cheeks a ruddy red.

“Oh,” Richie drew out. Eddie had kissed him, twice, as a confession. Richie was pretty sure that his mind went blank as he blinked dumbly at Eddie.

“Yeah, oh, you fucking jerk,” Eddie said with a sharp smile, “now shut the fuck up and kiss me,” he added shortly but with feeling.

“Okay,” Richie said and closed the distance between them with boundless eagerness. He nearly knocked his glasses off in his excitement. Then their lips met again and it felt like this was meant to happen, that his whole life was leading up to this point, to this exact moment. This was exactly where he was supposed to be. He knew he was smiling into the kiss and Eddie was almost just kissing his teeth, but Richie couldn’t have cared less.

Eddie started to manhandle him, pushing him further into the room. Richie slipped his hand into Eddie’s hair. He scraped his blunt fingernails against Eddie’s scalp, sighing into Eddie’s mouth. It was pure bliss. Richie wouldn’t have been surprised if he found out that he’d died somehow and that this was heaven, he wouldn’t have cared.

Eddie pushed him all the way to the bed without breaking the kiss. The back of Richie’s knee knocked against the mattress and then he was falling, still smiling even as they broke apart, Eddie laughed at him as he bounced slightly against the mattress.

“I’ve wanted to do this for as long as I’ve known you could do this,” Richie muttered as he pulled Eddie down, hands on Eddie’s arms, leaning up to kiss the side of Eddie’s face.

“Me too,” Eddie murmured, smiling as Richie kissed all over his face, getting a purchase on the bed.

“Why’d you never tell me?” Richie asked, he leaned back to properly look at Eddie, leant up on his elbows.

“Well, I kinda, sort of didn’t know that was what I wanted, you know I was repressed, remember, I married a woman, so..,” Eddie said in a meandering sort of way, face flushing as his eyes darted around Richie’s face.

“Right, yeah, sorry,” Richie muttered and swallowed down the rising guilt. Eddie had come further than he had and in such a short amount of time, it shamed Richie, he really should have got his shit together. It should have been him making the move and not Eddie, he’d have to do a whole lot of making up for that.

“Nothing to be sorry for Rich,” Eddie sighed and pushed his hand through his hair, “I think, even if you had asked me back then, I probably would have just freaked out,” he added, smiling sheepishly at Richie. He moved forward, on his hands and knees, lips finding Richie’s mouth again.

“I wasn’t going to tell you, I kept trying to, but it was never the right time or I was too scared,” Richie said, mouth moving against the side of Eddie’s face, he kissed at the corner of Eddie’s mouth. “Even after we all got back in touch, I still couldn’t do it and then you stole my thunder,” he continued, smiling as he pressed kisses along the length of Eddie’s jaw.

“I think we both knew it was leading here,” Eddie returned, his fingers slipped into Richie’s hair, nails scraping against Richie’s scalp making the other groan.

“Tell that to me two weeks ago,” Richie muttered, mouthing at Eddie’s neck.

“Ugh, shut up and let me kiss you,” Eddie groaned. He pulled Richie’s head back, fingers still caught in his hair, and kissed him deeply. Melding their bodies together, sighing into Richie’s mouth.

Richie could feel the press of Eddie’s erection against his hip. He knew that Eddie could feel his own, hard against Eddie’s thigh. His hands were all over Eddie, touching as much of the other as he could reach, trying to make up for lost time. Eddie wasn’t the best kisser, but he was enthusiastic and Richie wouldn’t have traded it for the world. These were the lips he’d been dreaming about since he was thirteen.

Eddie shifted against him, knees sliding either side of Richie’s thighs, and their erections brushed together. Richie groaned openly against Eddie’s mouth. He could come from just that, dry humping like teenagers. Richie figured they had a lot of catching up to do.

Richie’s fingers fumbled with the buttons of Eddie’s shirt. He was shaking too much to make any kind of meaningful progress. Eddie pulled away, climbed off the bed as he unbuttoned his shirt, folded it and set it down on a chair near the window, he did the same with his dress pants. Richie watched the way Eddie’s lean muscles moved beneath his skin. His eyes caught on those tattoos again, his fingers twitched to touch.

There wasn’t an ounce of shyness or hesitation as Eddie came back to the bed. Richie quickly scrambled out of his trousers, fingers fumbling with the belt and the buttons, and threw them off the edge of the bed. Eddie climbed atop the bed again and Richie couldn’t move as he watched Eddie crawl toward him. They way those lean muscles shifted drove Richie up the wall. He wanted to touch every inch of Eddie’s body, he sighed as soon as Eddie was within reach and he was able to put his hands on the other again.

Eddie straddled his hip and Richie ran his hand up Eddie’s thigh, remembering the way he’d gone crazy for those short shorts that Eddie used to wear. Richie couldn’t hold back his smile as he thought about how he was finally doing everything that teenage Richie had dreamed about. Soft hands that smelt like nothing but the hand-sanitizer that Eddie always carried around with him cupped his face. Eddie leaned down as he kept Richie’s face in place and kissed him, slow and cloying like he was savouring the moment. Richie was savouring every second.

Those hands slid down to the collar of his shirt and alighted on the buttons. Eddie made quick nibble work of opening Richie’s shirt, even as they continued to kiss, lip locked like they’d never let each other go. They worked together to break Richie free from his shirt, and that too disappeared off of the bed.

Eddie’s hands were on him and Richie didn’t have any room to feel self-conscious as Eddie’s palms pressed down against Richie’s stomach. He smiled against Richie’s mouth and Richie melted into the touch. Those hands moved downward until Eddie’s delicate fingers were wrapped around Richie’s straining clothed erection, Richie gasped into Eddie’s mouth, hands groping at Eddie’s thighs.

Moving down Richie’s body in stuttered waves, Richie watched as Eddie kissed his way down his skin. Richie thought the he was supposed to be the confident one, the comedian that bared it all on stage and wasn’t afraid to tell embarrassing stories about himself. But Eddie had always been the bravest of them and Richie had spent the last six months being terrified of being found out. The sight sent a wave of arousal down his spine and straight to his erection, twitching between them.

Fingers around the waistband of Richie’s underwear, Eddie’s chocolate browns flicked up to meet Richie’s blues, and his hips lifted up automatically. His erection was freed, dropping back against his stomach. Eddie stared at it for a moment.

“I don’t want to say anything because I know it’s just going to fuel your ego and you’ll never let it go, but fuck,” Eddie groaned as he sat up, yanking the boxers off of Richie’s legs and throwing them off the bed, before he settled back between Richie’s legs.

“What?” Richie said, laughing as Eddie left feather light kisses against his hip, fingers on Eddie shoulders as his thumbs ran over the dice under Eddie’s collarbone.

“It’s just a fucking nice cock Richie,” Eddie said as he curled his finger around it, Richie groaned as Eddie gave it one long stroke.

Richie felt fourteen again, jerking off in his bedroom while he thought about his friend, but now that friend was atop him, fingers wrapped around the length of his aching erection and Richie could hardly believe it was happening.

“What’s with the goofy look?” Eddie asked, smiling as he pressed his lips to Richie’s thigh.

“I’ve been waiting practically all my life for this,” Richie murmured, gasping as Eddie twisted his wrist and thumbed over the slit of Richie’s cock, smearing pre-cum over the head.

“Don’t go expecting too much, you know I’m an amateur,” Eddie said, mouthing at Richie’s thigh as he continued to stroke Richie in long languid motions.

“I don’t care, I don’t care, I could come from the way you’re touch me alone, Eddie Spaghetti,” Richie rambled, the fingers of one hand sliding into Eddie’s hair as the other gripped at the sheets.

“Don’t call me that when I’ve got your dick in my hand,” Eddie groaned with a roll of his eyes, “and don’t you dare come before we’ve even done anything, I know we’re both forty but fuck sake Richie, I swear to god-“

“Whatever you want just keep touching me,” Richie muttered, cutting Eddie off, pulling gently at Eddie.

Eddie crawled back up Richie’s body, hand still around his leaking dick, to kiss him again. Richie kissed back with fervour. He slid his hands up from the backs of Eddie’s thighs, dipping into Eddie’s ribs and moving up his back, hands on the back of Eddie’s head as he held the other close. Open mouthed kisses, they breathed into each other. They anchored each other in the moment, keeping each other in the present.

Eddie’s hips slid against Richie’s again, knocking the air out of the both of them.

“Need you inside me,” Eddie murmured, lips moving against the side of Richie’s mouth.

“Ugh,” Richie groaned, turning his head away, “okay, okay,” he nodded over and over as he scrambled out of Eddie’s hold and instantly missed his touch.

Richie clambered off the bed and went over to his duffle bag, he rooted through it as Eddie stayed there kneeling on the mattress breathing hard and dick stand to attention. Shifting through the bag, eventually Richie found what he was looking for and quickly made his way back to the bed, back to Eddie. He dropped the tube of lube and the condom onto the sheets as he sat back down, pulling Eddie to straddle him again.

Eddie dipped down to kiss him and Richie had a feeling that they’d be kissing a lot in the future, Eddie was obviously enjoying it and Richie was enjoying it, it was suddenly all he ever wanted to do. He pressed his hand hard against Eddie’s chest, fingers sliding over the heart that dotted the ‘I’ of his tattoo, and Eddie pressed back against him. Eddie worked his hand between them to touch Richie again. Richie gasped softly, shivering as Eddie’s fingers twitched over the head of his cock. He slid his hand down Eddie’s front, fingers running over Eddie’s toned torso on their way down, he pressed his palm against Eddie through the other’s underwear and started to palm at his straining erection. Eddie whined into Richie’s mouth as his hips canted into Richie’s hand.

“This is your first time right?” Richie asked, lips against Eddie’s pulse as he continued to palm at Eddie through the thin fabric of his underwear. Eddie nodded, squeezing Richie’s shoulders.

Richie curled his hands around the waistband of Eddie’s underwear and slowly began to slide them off. His eyes followed his hands, trailing the expanse of skin he exposed until Eddie’s rigid cock sprang free, flushing in the stale air of the hotel room. Eddie grimaced as Richie licked his palm but said nothing as he wrapped his hand around Eddie’s erection. His other hand was gripping the front of Eddie’s thigh, he’d wanted to touch them from the first moment he saw them to the last time he caught Eddie stretching after a run with his hand braced on the back of the couch.

He moved his thumb up the inside of Eddie’s thigh until the pad was pressed to Eddie’s perineum, brushing tantalisingly close to his hole. Eddie gasped and shuddered above him.

“Has anything ever been in here?” Richie murmured, tongue flicking out against Eddie’s ear, “have you been being naughty in my apartment?” He went on as Eddie breathed into his hair.

“Yeah, I’ve been imagining that it’s you, waiting for you to walk in on me but you never do,” Eddie said, effectively drying out Richie mouth quicker than the suction at the dentist.

“Fuck,” Richie breathed harshly, face buried into the crook of Eddie’s neck, twisting his fingers around Eddie cock.

“I want you inside me,” Eddie groaned canting his hips forward, raking his nails down Richie’s back.

“Yes, yes, of course,” Richie said, scrambling for the lube. He squirted a decent amount of lube onto his hand and spread it over his fingers.

Richie watched Eddie’s face as he slipped his hands between Eddie’s legs, they were quaking either side of Richie’s hips, and slowly pressed a finger against Eddie’s entrance.

He opened up Eddie slow and careful even as Eddie bitched and moaned above him. Biting words muttered into his hair and against his lips, but Richie wanted to make this as enjoyable and easy for Eddie as he could, so he’d take his time.

Finally he pulled fingers out and Eddie hissed, closing his eyes as his own fingers flexed around Richie’s shoulders. Richie tore open the condom and rolled down his length, gritting his teeth against the teasing sensation. He poured a generous glob of the lubricant into his hand and spread over his erection as Eddie kissed his forehead, pushing his soft fingers through Richie’s hair.

“You wanna stay like this?” Richie asked, hand smoothing up and down Eddie’s side, kissing as the arch of his cheek.

“Huh?” Eddie murmured, eyes hooded, hands still on Richie’s shoulders.

“This position Eddie, I mean your thighs have gotta be feeling it by now,” Richie elaborated as he ran his hand down to Eddie’s thigh and squeezed it softly.

“Hey, I may be forty but I do squats for a reason,” Eddie bit out, smacking Richie lightly on the chest as Richie laughed, “I wanna do it this way,” he added defiantly, and Richie knew better than to argue with that.

“Okay Buckaroo, climb aboard,” Richie said, smirking as he leaned back on his elbows, thumbs making circles on Eddie’s knees.

“Shut the fuck up,” Eddie muttered as he shifted forward, Richie held his cock at the base and put his other hand on Eddie’s hip as he began to guide Eddie downward.

Richie closed his eyes and tried not to move as the blunt head of his erection pressed against Eddie’s hole. The little whimper Eddie released didn’t help either. Slowly, achingly slow, Eddie descended down his length. The both of them squirmed and shifted. It had been so long for Richie, but he couldn’t forget that this was Eddie’s first time.

Eddie leaned down, pressing his forehead against Richie’s, sighing once Richie was fully sheathed inside him. Chest heaving as he tried to catch his breath.

“How’s it feel Eds?” Richie asked, he rubbed his hand against Eddie’s thigh, trying to comfort the other.

“Different, good different though,” Eddie murmured, eyes blown out wide as he stared down at Richie. He shifted experimentally making both of them groan, but he quickly got used to the sensation.

Eddie rolled his hips again and started a slow and careful rhythm. Richie let Eddie take the lead, find his comfort zone, and Richie was more than happy to just watch Eddie move over him. Eventually Eddie settled into a decent rhythm and just watching him made Richie’s toes curl.

“You like what you see?” Eddie asked, lips curving into a smile as his eyes flickered shut for a moment, moaning between his closed lips as he pressed down against Richie.

“Uh-huh, I like it very much,” Richie said, nodding dumbly up at Eddie. Eddie giggled, his insides squeezed around Richie, making Richie throw his head back against the mattress.

Richie figured it was about time that he became an active player and shifted his hips up into Eddie. Forcing Eddie forward, taking him off guard. Eddie’s hands scrambled against Richie’s chest, moaning into the open air between them. Richie’s fingers were gripped around Eddie’s hips, his nails left crescent moon marks on Eddie’s skin, as he rocked up into Eddie.

“Fuck, Richie,” Eddie drew out in a low whine, trying to move with Richie. “Give it to me,” Eddie groaned and bit at his bottom lip.

“Yeah, anything Eds,” Richie nodded, pulling Eddie down to kiss him, changing the angle and making Eddie whine against his mouth.

“Harder,” Eddie urged and Richie obliged, fingers digging into a bruising grip on Eddie’s hips. The thought of leaving a mark on Eddie’s skin drove him wild, and he dug his heels into the mattress for better leverage.

Richie knew he was close, the noises Eddie was making were the sweetest sounds that Richie had ever heard, even the harps of angels couldn’t have sounded so sweet. He closed his fist around Eddie’s weeping cock and tried to match his strokes with the pumping of his hips. Expletives tumbled out of Eddie’s mouth, thighs quaking as they clamped around Richie’s hips. He came on a long whine of Richie’s name, brows pinched and eyelids flickering open and shut, shaking as came in thick ropes over Richie’s hand and stomach.

Watching and listening to that sent Richie straight off the edge and he quickly followed Eddie, muscles straining as he rode the waves of his orgasm. Muttering incomprehensibly as he came.

Eddie’s arms gave out and he slumped down against Richie, groaning wearily at the feeling of their slick bodies touching. It was kinda gross, even Richie could admit that, but Richie couldn’t have cared less. The cum and sweat smeared all over their bodies just didn’t matter. Richie had never been so happy in his life.

Finally he was here, finally, his feelings were out in the open and the best possible outcome had happened. Eddie felt the same, Eddie wanted him, had wanted him for a long time. Richie’s heart wasn’t filled with blood, it was filled with helium, he felt so damn light. Tears spilled out of his eyes. He wasn’t sad, he was the absolute opposite of sad.

“Are you crying?” Eddie asked softly, Richie supposed that Eddie could feel his broken sobs.

“Yeah, what about you?” Richie returned, it was hard to feel self-conscious with your dick still inside someone else.

“Yeah,” Eddie replied and sniffled as he looked up at Richie. Those large chocolate Labrador eyes were shining wet as tears slipped down Eddie’s cheeks.

They stared at each other for a moment and Richie lost himself in the unreality of it. He was still struggling to believe that this was real, that Eddie really felt the same way that he did, that Eddie wanted him, that Eddie loved him. He just couldn’t believe his luck. Then Eddie started laughing, with Richie still inside him and that made Richie laugh too.

Once their laughter died down, they cleaned up, all the while Eddie whined about how gross it was and how disgusting it smelt. They showered together. It wasn’t entirely romantic, especially the way Eddie shuddered as he watched Richie tie off the condom and drop it into the trash. But it was them and Richie still couldn’t believe his luck even as he was slipping into bed beside Eddie, turning the lights off.

If Richie died then, slipped away in his sleep and never woke up, he wouldn’t be too sour about it.

 


 

Nothing changed, but everything was different. They were as domestic as they had been before, but now Richie could act on all his impulses and it seemed like Eddie had a whole lot of his own. Richie had never thought that he’d be part of one of those irritating couples that never stop touching each other, the too much PDA couple, but they were probably the most insufferable couple Richie had come across and he just didn’t care.

The first night they’d come back, Eddie had taken all of his stuff out of the guest bedroom and moved it into Richie’s, their, room. After that they had been inseparable, like they were making up for lost time. Richie supposed they were. They were making up for nearly thirty years of lost time.

He’d been too giddy, too in love to give a fuck or worry about his career when he’d posted a picture of Eddie passed out and drooling on his chest after a long shift shadowing another nurse to his Instagram with a caption that was very clearly gay. His social media had blown up after that and he’d had to answer several serious phone calls from his agent and the people he did his podcast with, but it hadn’t been anywhere near as bad as Richie had fear. Mostly, people wished that Richie had told them before hand. He officially came out in an interview a few days later. After that Richie had really come into his own and had worked jokes about how two extremely repressed forty year old gay men got together, which was slowly and awkwardly, the crowds love it. Sure there had been some backlash, but Eddie had logged on and come to his defence. Richie couldn’t feel bad about homophobic comments when he was laughing at Eddie’s all caps irate replies.

Richie had let Eddie be the one to announce their relationship to the losers, coming out without entirely having to come out. Mike, Ben and Beverly congratulated them with warm words and at least one finally. While Bill and Stan sent their joking condolences to Eddie, but also sent messages that were so sincere they had Eddie crying and Richie would admit that he’d teared up too.

Stan called Richie straight away and told him that he was an idiot for waiting so long, and when Richie said that he didn’t actually say anything Stan groaned directly into the phone. Still Stan had said that he was happy for Richie, happy that he could finally get on with his life. Richie couldn’t agree with him more.

Bill had called Eddie, Richie didn’t listen in, but when Eddie emerged from their bedroom eyes red as he sniffled loudly, he’d been there to lie atop him on the couch like an over excited Husky. They watched My Own Private Idaho and Richie wished they had watched it together, back when they were kids. Maybe it would have awakened something inside them, maybe it would have given Richie the push he needed, and maybe it would have made Eddie bolder. It was nice to imagine but now that he had Eddie where he wanted him, he wouldn’t change it for the world.

Everything was different, but nothing changed.

“You can’t climb Mount Everest, it’s covered in corpses and piss and shit and there’s garbage everywhere and besides that you’re in no shape to climb a fucking death mountain are you fucking insane?” Eddie rambled, irate, as the tendons in his neck stood out.

Richie pressed his lips together into a firm line, struggling to keep the laughter inside. He’d only said he was going to climb Mount Everest for charity to see how Eddie would react, just to get that sweetly harsh reaction out of him, and Eddie never disappointed.

“You’re fucking with me again, aren’t ya?” Eddie said sharply, his face dropped as he watched Richie come apart at the seams. “I’m gonna be late for work,” he muttered as he looked down at his watch.

“It’s not my fault you’re so fun to wind up Eds,” Richie wheezed between his laughter, doubled over the couch, holding onto the arm for dear life.

“Don’t call me that,” Eddie muttered, smacking Richie’s shoulder on his way out of the living room.

“My cute little Eds,” Richie said, trailing Eddie, smiling all the while. It felt like he hadn’t stopped smiling since they got together, Stan had told him that if he wasn’t careful his face would get stuck like that and Richie sure as hell hoped so.

“Shut the fuck up,” Eddie cried without bite as he got into the hall, he bent over pulling his shoes on. Richie followed him to the door and wrapped his arms around Eddie as he stood.

“I love you so fucking much,” Richie muttered into Eddie’s hair, kissing the top of his head.

“I love you too, asshole,” Eddie said, laughing as he tilted his head up to kiss Richie back.

Everything was different and everything had changed, Richie finally let himself be happy, smiling wide as he kissed Eddie again.