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Husband and Husband

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Richie gets the idea at the end of kindergarten, when the teacher has everyone do projects on their families. The class talks about how some families have moms and dads who are married, and some don’t. Richie being…well, Richie, he goes straight home and asks his parents why they got married if they didn’t have to.

 

His dad takes him into the living room to have what he calls a “man to man chat”; Richie always likes having them because it makes him feel important and grown up. 

 

“Richie, I want you to become a good man, and part of that means being a good husband. Hopefully.” Went sits down in his armchair. “So go ahead and ask me any questions you have about marriage, and I’ll do my best to give you some fatherly advice.”

 

Richie adjusts his glasses and wiggles in his seat on the couch. “I guess I just wanna know why you get married. I can’t imagine liking a girl so much that I would wanna, like, kiss her and stuff. I don’t even like Bev that much.”

 

Something he loves about his dad is that when Richie takes something seriously and doesn’t use a voice, his dad does too. Went leans back in his chair and considers the question, and Richie knows he can trust him to be honest.

 

“Well, kiddo, I think the reasons are different for everyone. But the best reason to get married is because you love that person, and you want to be partners in life. Being married like having a teammate-- someone to help you out. And if you’re a good teammate, you help them too.”

 

“Yeah, but your friends can be teammates-- me and the losers love each other and help each other with everything. What makes marriage so special?”

 

Went hums in thought. “Friendship is an important part of marriage, it’s kind of like the first layer. But your spouse is going to be an extra special friend. And you’ll know by the way they make you feel.”

 

Richie gets excited; this is the stuff he came for. “How do they make you feel?”

 

“Let’s see...you might get butterflies when they’re around, which makes your stomach feel weird, or your heart will beat a little faster when you see them. God, I remember when I first started dating your mother, my hands were permanently sweaty, but all I wanted to do was hold her hand. Thankfully she’s a very understanding woman, that mother of yours, and she did hold my hand, despite the sweat. She just started carrying around a handkerchief so she could wipe off afterward,” he recalls fondly. “But despite all the weird bodily reactions, you just want to be around them, learn what makes them tick, how their brain works. You start to think that everything you do would be better if they were there to do it with you. They’re the first person you want to talk to about things, and they’re the last person you think of before you go to sleep.”

 

“Do you still feel that way around mom?”

 

“I don’t always have butterflies anymore, but if I go on a trip and haven’t seen her in a few days, or we do something special, just the two of us, yeah, that feeling comes back. And she’s still the person I want to be around and share things with. I love her so much, watching cement dry would be fun if I did it with her. I don’t think that will ever change-- that’s why I married her. Well, that and the tax benefits.” Went winks at him.

 

“So you got married to do boring stuff with mom?”

 

He laughs. “No, I married her because I wanted to spend my life with her, the good and the bad. Simple as that.”

 

Richie gets a little nervous, so he thanks his dad and runs up to his room. When his dad started talking about how you know you should marry someone, a face popped into his head-- Eddie’s face. He hadn’t realized that the way he felt about Eddie meant anything. He just thought they were on, like, friendship level 10 or something, and that’s why it felt like he wasn’t really having fun until Eddie was around. Or why, when he got a new high score at the arcade, Eddie was who he wanted to tell. Or why he held hands with all the losers, but holding hands with Eddie felt like opening a present on Christmas morning. 

 

He lies down on his bed and thinks about what to do. Does Eddie know they’re practically married already? Should he tell him? Technically they aren’t married yet; is that something Richie wants?

 

He tries to imagine being married to Eddie, being like his parents. They’d live together, and when they got home they would tell each other about their day. Eddie would make Richie watch ‘Grease’ for the millionth time, and Richie would demand that they watch ‘Star Trek’ afterwards because it’s actually cool. And at the end of the night, they would go to sleep holding hands. 

 

Richie smiles up at the ceiling, face warm from his imaginary life with Eddie. He closes his eyes and says quietly to himself, “This is Eddie, my husband.” His smile grows until it feels like his cheeks are going to fall off. 

 

That decides it. Richie knows most people wait until they’re old to get married, but why wait when he already knows who he’s going to marry? This way, they really do get to spend all of their lives together, and that sounds pretty good to him. 

 

All Richie has to do is convince Eddie. 

 

_________________________________________________________________________

 

It’s taken a while, but Richie’s got a whole twenty dollars in his pocket and he’s practically skipping down the street. He’s not only been saving up all of his allowance for the summer (okay most of his allowance; what’s he supposed to do, just not go to the arcade?) he’s also been doing odd jobs around the neighborhood every weekend. If he had a nickel for every piece of dog poop he’s had to pick up.....oh wait, he does! And now he’s using it to put his plan into action. And like every good plan, he’s named it: Operation Forever Sleepover. He came up with it when he thought about how being married is going to be like their weekly sleepovers, but everyday. Not now, obviously. He has to buy Eddie a house first, but it only took him two months to save up twenty dollars so he’s pretty sure they’ll have a house in no time. He’d pick up all the dog poop ever for Eddie. 

 

He can’t wait to tell him, partially because he wants Eddie to be impressed with the awesome name of the plan, but mostly so they can be married already. Richie loves all of the losers, but Eddie’s extra special and thinking about being able to call him his husband still makes his tummy feel all funny. In a good way, though, like his dad said. He can’t think about it before bed anymore because it makes him want to run around until the feeling goes away, and his mom yelled at him last time he did that. 

 

He finally makes it to his destination-- the pawn shop. The sketchiest place in all of Derry. If he wants to get Eddie to take him seriously he’s got to go all out, which means getting a real ring. 

 

Except it turns out that rings with the shiny rocks and actual gold cost way more than twenty dollars, which he learned after he went into the fancy jewelry store down on Main Street and they laughed at him. And then had security “escort” him out. Jeez Louise. But as security was carrying him out (yeah, he put up a fight-- he’s six but he knows his rights!) he saw the sign in the window of the pawn shop. Someone had written “RINGS FOR CHEAP” with sharpie on a piece of cardboard. It was the first time getting the best scores in reading lessons actually came in handy. 

 

So here he is, loaded with cold, hard cash, ready to buy a ring and ask Eddie to be his husband. Only, it’s a little intimidating going into this place, with the tall shelves stuffed to the brim and the eerie, low lighting. 

 

Why didn’t I ask one of the losers to come with me, I’m gonna die before Operation: Forever Sleepover even starts.

 

Asking one of the others had seemed like a bad idea at the time. It’s not that he thinks they’ll laugh or anything, he just doesn’t want to tell any of them before he even tells Eddie. Plus doing things on your own is a real adult thing to do, so maybe Eddie will be impressed if he tells him. Or he’ll be disgusted that Richie ever stepped foot in a place like this and will pull out one of those wet wipes he carries around and rub him down. Boy oh boy, he loves that little weirdo. 

 

Thinking about Eddie gives him the courage he needs to walk in. A bell jingles as he swings the door open and a few moments later, an old man comes out of the back. 

 

He looks irritated to see Richie there. “What the hell do you want, kid? We don’t sell any toys, if that’s what you’re looking for. That’s two doors down, “ he says in the gruffest voice Richie has ever heard. 

 

Richie takes a deep breath, reminding himself that this is important and he can’t wuss out. “I don’t want any toys. I’m here for a ring.”

 

The man sizes him up like he doesn’t believe him.

 

“Yeah? You shopping early for Mother’s Day?” he scoffs. 

 

Richie loses what little patience he had; he just wants a beautiful ring to give to Eddie so he’ll say yes and they can get old and wrinkly together. Is that too much to ask? 

 

“No, I need a ring to give to my best friend so we can get married,” he says, clenching his fists, ”and I have twenty dollars so can I please see the stupid rings that you have a sign for in the window?”

 

It seems to throw the man off, shifting his irritation into curiosity. 

 

“You’re gonna propose to your best friend?”

 

“Yeah, I have a whole plan. I named it and everything, so it’s official.”

 

That’s what finally breaks the man, and he lets out a deep chuckle as he reaches under the counter to pull out a tray of rings. 

 

“I have to say, a kid coming in for an engagement ring is a first and I don’t have many of those anymore. Come take a look at these, let’s see if we can find you what you’re looking for,” he says. 

 

RIchie steps up to the counter. He has to stand on his tip-toes to fully see the tray, but thankfully the man doesn’t say anything about it. He starts going through the rings, picking them up and assessing them. It has to be perfect

 

“I wouldn’t touch that one if I were you.” 

 

Richie drops the ring he’s holding immediately and desperately wishes Eddie was here with those wipes. The man just lets out a loud laugh. 

 

Suddenly a ring catches his eye. It’s gold, with a red gem in the center and a leaf pattern etched all along the outside. He knows as soon as he picks it up that it’s the one. Eddie loves red, and Richie thinks the color matches his personality. Plus the leaves make him think of the Romans in ‘Monty Python’s Life of Brian’, which he convinced his dad to let him and Eddie watch after they promised they wouldn’t tell. Eddie said he liked the movie just fine, but Richie thought those guys were hilarious . Sure, he didn’t really get what was happening, but he had tried doing some of the voices for weeks. And it wasn’t so much the movie that mattered, as much as getting to do something secret and special with Eddie. Every time he did one of those voices it was like having a joke that was just for him and Eddie. 

 

He holds the ring up and grins so wide his cheeks hurt. “This is the one!” he exclaims, dropping it into the man’s waiting palm. 

 

The older man whistles softly, examining the ring. “Your sweetheart has fancy taste, huh?”

 

Richie nods vigorously. 

 

“I’ll tell you what: this is a real nice ring, solid gold and all, not to mention that shiny ruby in there, and normally I’d charge a pretty penny for it. But you seem like a nice kid, got a solid head on your shoulders. I’ll give it to you for cheap, just like the sign says. How much cash you say you have?”

 

“Twenty dollars. Sir.”

 

He laughs. “Oh it’s sir all of a sudden, is it? Well now, let’s say you give me fifteen of that, and you consider that extra five a wedding present.”

 

Richie feels like his face is going to fall off from smiling too much. He bounces on his feet a bit and drops the cash onto the counter, carefully counting out five of the bills and putting them in his pocket before sliding the rest across the glass. 

 

“Thanks a bunch! You’re way cooler than those guys across the street!”

 

“You went to that place? With just twenty dollars?”

 

“Yeah!”

 

The man just shakes his head. “You’re a crazy one, I’ll give you that much.” 

 

Richie pockets the ring, giving him one last smile, and heads out. He’s almost at the door when he remembers something the man had said.

 

“Hey, you said the money was a wedding present. Is that normal? People giving you stuff for gettin’ married?”

 

“Oh yeah. People make whole lists and shit.”

 

“Sweeeeet.”

 

This just keeps getting better and better.

 

_________________________________________________________________________

 

Richie gets home and realizes he didn’t think this through completely. Why did he get Eddie a used ring?? He’s going to say no if he finds out someone else wore it before him! Okay, this is fine, everything is fine, he’s just got to figure out how to clean it and then Eddie won’t even have to know. Except he doesn’t know how to clean jewelry…

 

But he knows who does!

 

“Moooooom!” he screams, running down the stairs and into the living room where Maggie is quietly reading. 

 

“Inside voice, Richie,” she reminds him. She doesn’t even bother looking up from her book. 

 

“Mom I really, really, really need your help. For something super duper important.”

 

“Mmm, that sounds serious.”

 

“I’m getting married.”

 

Maggie finally looks up from her book. “Married...”

 

“Yeah, I got a ring and everything.” He grabs the piece of jewelry from his pocket to show it off. He bought this fancy ring! With his own money!

 

Maggie slowly reaches out and holds the ring up to the light. Her eyes move to Richie’s face and her mouth parts slightly in surprise. 

 

“Richie, honey, this is a very nice ring. Where did you get it?” She stands abruptly. “Oh god you didn’t steal this did you? It’s one thing to take some loose pieces of candy from the store, but this could get you in a lot of trouble, Rich!”

 

“Mom, I bought it, jeez! I saved up all my allowance during summer, and remember I picked up all the poop from Ms. Jones’s yard? I think she felt bad ‘cuz she’s got like a million dogs and it got super hot, so she paid me real good.”

 

“She just wanted you off her property...,” Maggie says distractedly. She’s staring at the ring again. “You want to get married…”

 

“Yep,” Richie says, popping the P at the end and giggling at himself.

 

She steps closer to him and runs her fingers through his hair, pushing it out of his face. He leans in to rest his head against her body, soaking in the affection, while she quietly strokes his head. “My little boy is growing up so fast. I thought I’d have a few more years before marriage came up. Silly me, thinking anything would go to plan with you.”

 

He’s too calm to do more than huff a laugh, and nuzzle into his mom’s chest a bit. And then he remembers why he needed her help.

 

He snaps his head up to look at her, wide eyed. “Mom you gotta help me clean it, though. I got it from the pawn shop and it’s so gross in there. Eddie will never take it if--”

 

“Eddie?”

 

He gives her a confused look. “Yeah, Eddie. Who else would I marry?”

 

Her eyes roam over his face. She smiles slightly and murmurs, “Who else, indeed.” 

 

She smacks him on the butt. “Alright, you big sap, lets go get this thing sparkling.”

 

_________________________________________________________________________

 

Richie is sweating . And yeah, part of that is because it’s hot outside, but mostly it’s because today is the day. The big day. Possibly the biggest day of his life, depending on how it goes.

 

He’s going to ask Eddie to be his husband. 

 

The losers are all meeting at the quarry to get one more day of swimming in before the weather cools, and Richie decided it was the perfect opportunity. They’ll be surrounded by their best friends in the whole world and the sun will be shining on Eddie and making his freckles stand out. That’s Richie’s favorite. 

 

So Richie is sweating. He showed up early with the ring tucked securely into his pocket, and now he’s just pacing as he waits for the others to show up. Normally he’s a pretty cool guy; he’s six, who cares what happens? It turns out Richie cares, at least when it comes to Eddie. 

 

He hears his friends coming through the brush and quickly tries to act natural. He ends up just standing there stiffly, his hands awkwardly by his side. 

 

“Oh, there you are. We thought you weren’t coming when you didn’t meet us at the library.”

 

“Are you okay, Rich? You look kinda green…” Eddie says, coming closer. He puts his hand on Richie’s forehead. “You feel a little hot.”

 

He weakly swats Eddie’s hand away. “I’m good, dude. I’ve just been standing in the sun, waiting for you guys. What took you so long?”

 

“Oh don’t be such a baby, we’re barely late,” Bev says. She’s already laying out her towel, and Eddie’s pulling out his sunscreen. Richie feels his courage draining the longer they’re there, so he has to act fast.

 

“Hey, um, Eddie can I talk to you for a second?”

 

Eddie’s busy wiping the white goop on his face. “I have to put this sunscreen on, Richie. You’re supposed to let it dry for thirty minutes before getting into the water. You’re next, by the way. I know you hate how sticky it is, but the sun is really bad for you. And you always complain for days when you get sunburned, I don’t want to listen to it.” He turns towards Richie. “Did I get it all?”

 

Oh god, Richie has to say it or he’s going to explode. 

 

“Eddiewillyoumarryme?” he blurts out, the words blending together. 

 

Eddie’s hands drop from his face, his mouth open in a little ‘o’. He’s still got a strip of sunscreen on his forehead that hasn’t been rubbed in. “Did you just ask me to marry you?”

 

All the losers have stopped what they’re doing and are staring at the two of them.

 

“Yeah. Yes. I think we should be husbands. Please.” Richie finally remembers the ring in his pocket and hurries to pull it out. “I got you a ring?”

 

Eddie takes it, staring in awe. “This is like a real ring, Richie. I don’t understand…”

 

Okay, now’s the truth time. He has to get this right or his dream of being gross and old with Eddie are going to get flushed down the drain. 

 

He takes a deep breath. “Okay, so remember how we talked about families and stuff in class last year? Well it got me thinking, and I asked my dad about it--marriage, you know?-- and he started telling me why he married my mom and the important things about marriage. And then I realized that it’s basically me and you already. We’re best friends, and tell each other everything, and it’s always better when we’re together, right? So if we get married we can be like that forever. We’ll share everything and hold hands all the time and stuff.”

 

“We already hold hands all the time,” Eddie says, confused. 

 

Seriously? That’s the bit he focused on? “Okay but it’ll be different because you’ll be my husband. And we’ll get tax benefits!”

 

“I don’t know what those are?”

 

“Me neither but my dad said it’s a good thing. Look, Eddie, I’m just saying that I love you and I want to live in a big house together-- like our sleepovers, except you won’t have to go home the next day. We’ll be teammates; you help me, I help you. And I promise I’ll be a real good husband.”

 

“You want to marry me? You really mean it, you’re not pulling my leg?” 

 

“Definitely not pulling your leg. I saved all my allowance and picked up poop every weekend this summer so I could buy that ring. I wouldn’t do that if I was just messing with you,” Richie points out. He’s getting less hopeful about Operation: Forever Sleepover the longer he stands there. 

 

“And you’d take care of me? Like husbands do?” Eddie says shyly, glancing up at Richie. 

 

Aaaand there’s the fast heartbeat his dad talked about. 

 

“Yeah. I want to.”

 

Eddie looks down at the ring and fiddles with it before a slight frown comes onto his face. “I don’t know, Richie. All of that sounds amazing--like so amazing, you have no idea-- but we’re only six. Isn’t that way too young?”

 

“People only wait because they haven’t met their special person. But we’re kinda perfect for each other, don’t you think?” 

 

“Yeah, I guess we kinda are,” Eddie agrees, his smile coming back.

 

“Yeah, so let’s not wait! If we get married now and live to be a hundred, then we could be married for like...a ton of years! Oh man, I bet we could even get in the Guiness Book of Records or something.”

 

Eddie reaches out and holds Richie’s hand between both of his, turning to hide his face in Richie’s shoulder. “You’re so stupid. But I want to be your husband, so let’s do it,” he says sweetly. 

 

“Yeah? You really want to?”

 

“Yeah, Rich, I want to.”

 

Richie feels a flood of emotions he can’t even name, so he matches Eddie, hiding his flushed face in Eddie’s shoulder. “Thank you,” he whispers quietly. 

 

“Uhh, what just happened?”

 

They both jump at the sound of Bev’s voice. He had forgotten that the other losers were watching the whole thing and he tries to play off his embarrassment. “Me and Eddie just became husbands!” he shouts.  

 

“Congratulations, but you can’t just say you’re married. You have to have a wedding. Or that’s how it works in the books, at least.”

 

“Ben, what would we do without you? You’re the king of romance. No! The god! Is there a god of romance?”

 

“Actually there is!” Mike perks up as he starts explaining. “Me and my dad have been reading this book all about greek gods, it’s super cool. The god of romance, his name is Eros.”

 

“I tell ya Mikey, you and Ben are a match made in nerdy heaven.”

 

“If we weren’t nerds, we wouldn’t have met at the library and we wouldn’t be the lucky seven. We’d be, like...the unlucky six, “ Ben says. 

 

“Even your jokes have math, Haystack. Lame.” 

 

Bev flicks him in the ear. 

 

“He’s not the one who always gets 100 on his math tests, Richie. Yeah, Eddie told us,” Stanley interjects. 

 

“Eddie!”

 

“What! They wanted to know why you were helping me with my homework, since you act so stupid! What was I supposed to say? ‘No he’s really dumb’?”

 

“You say that half the time anyway!”

 

“Yeah when you’re being dumb, like right n--”

 

Beverley sighs loudly. “Guys, the wedding.” 

 

“Thanks, Bev, always keeping us on track.” Richie looks at Eddie. “You wanna have a wedding today?”

 

“Sure,” Eddie says casually, still holding Richie’s hand. 

 

“Alright, who knows anything about weddings? Big Bill? Didn’t you go to one with your parents this summer?”

 

“Yeah. It was kind of confusing.” He grabs a stick and kneels on the ground. “Here. We can make a game p-p-plan.” He starts drawing figures in the dirt. 

 

“Here’s Richie and Eddie.” Then he makes a small circle above them. “And this is the person who does the m-m-marrying.”

 

“I wanna do that part!” Mike says quickly. 

 

“So then there are people s-s-standing by Richie and Eddie. My mom said that the man and lady picked who they wanted. I think she called it a b-b-best guy or something.” Everyone turns to look at Eddie and Richie. 

 

Eddie considers all of them before his eyes land on Bill. “I’d really like it if you would stand with me, Billy.” Bill smiles, blushing slightly, and nods.

 

“Well if Bill’s taken, then I guess I have no choice. What do you say, Stan the Man? Wanna be my best guy?” Richie asks.

 

Stan looks surprised for a moment, but tries to hide it with an eye roll. “I guess I can’t say no on your wedding day.”

 

“That’s the spirit!”

 

“Okay, so us five will be standing here, and then...hmm, lemme think….the w-w-wedding started and...oh, a girl came down and threw flowers everywhere.” This time everyone turns to Bev. She huffs and rolls her eyes but says she’ll do it. “After that, a b-b-boy came down with the rings.”

 

“I can do that,” Ben says agreeably. 

 

“Then…oh shoot, at the wedding the lady’s dad w-w-walked her to the front. Whose g-g-gonna do that if Bev is throwing flowers and Ben’s holding the rings?” 

 

“Ooh ooh! Let’s get Georgie down here! He can throw the flowers! It’s so simple, even a baby can’t mess it up,” Richie proposes. 

 

“He can barely stand, Richie.”

 

“Yeah, that’s what makes it fun-- we get to watch him fall,” Richie laughs. He holds his hand up for a high five and everyone ignores him. Losers.

 

“I have a better idea,” Bev says. “Instead of me throwing the stupid flowers, how about Ben does. And then I can walk with Eddie and hold the rings.”

 

“Why am I the one getting walked?”

 

“Yeah and Bill said it was a girl that threw flowers at that wedding.”

 

Bev crosses her arms and gets that look on her face. Uh-oh. “Eddie, Richie asked you so you should be the one to walk. And who cares if it was a girl at that other wedding. It was a boy and a girl who got married in that one, and it’s two boys now. We should do it how we want to, it’s our wedding.”

 

Technically it’s Richie and Eddie’s wedding, but he isn’t going to correct her. Besides, she has a point. 

 

“Sorry Bev,” Eddie apologizes, ”I would love it if you walked me.”

 

“And I like throwing the flowers more, anyway. It’s more romantic,” Ben says, blushing. 

 

“Alrighty,” Richie rubs his hands together. ”We've got a plan. Step 3 of Operation: Forever Sleepover is a-go.”

 

“You named this whole thing?” Eddie asks.

 

“Yeah, it’s official, you have to give it a name. It’s like what I said earlier, we’ll be married and get to have one long sleepover until forever,” he explains.

 

A smile lights up Eddie’s face. “That’s so cool, I can’t believe you came up with that yourself.”

 

Scooore.  

 

“Okay,” Bill gets their attention again. “Does everyone know what they’re doing?”

 

“Marrying my best friend!”

 

“Not you, Richie. Everyone that matters.”

 

“Wait, wait!” Eddie yells suddenly. “Richie, I don’t have a fancy ring to give you.”

 

“That’s okay, Eds, you can get me one later.”

 

“Just because we’re getting married, doesn’t mean you can call me that. You know I hate it.” He hasn’t stopped frowning. “And that’s no fair if I have this perfect ring and you don’t have anything. We’re not going to start our marriage with no fair,” he says, stomping slightly at the end. 

 

This, this right here, is why Richie is marrying him; he loves when Eddie gets mad on his behalf. Yeah, he gets grouchy when something doesn’t go his way, but nothing makes him angry like his friends being mistreated. He’s like an angry, protective little goblin. And now Richie has that protection for the rest of his life. He can’t believe none of these other chumps thought of this. 

 

“Eddie, you don’t have a ring at home you could use?” Bev asks.

 

“No, not unless I steal one from my mom and that’s-- oh! Oh I have an idea, thanks Bevvie!”

 

“Okay so how about me, Ben, and Mike go pick some flowers and figure out what Mike is gonna say.“ Bill points at Stan. “You go help Richie sneak some of his dad’s ties for everyone to wear, we have to look serious. And don’t let him get into trouble.“ Finally he points at Bev. “And you go with Eddie to get his ring. And keep him from freaking out--”

 

“Hey!”

 

“And we meet back here in--” He looks at his watch. “Two hours?”

 

“Aye aye, Captain!” Richie salutes Bill. “Let’s do this!”

 

_________________________________________________________________________

 

Richie is standing near the quarry’s edge, sweating once again. This is the easy part; they already got the ties and the flowers, now they just have to say yes. He’s excited and scared and that feeling in his tummy is back, full force. And just like at home, he can’t run it out because the wedding is about to start. Why does he suddenly have to pee? Is that normal? He should really ask Eddie afterwards, he’ll know for sure. 

 

Stan is standing next to him and they make eye contact. Then Stan’s eyes drop to Richie’s outfit and he starts giggling. And yeah, okay, he’s wearing a tie over a t-shirt, but Stan’s polo/tie combination isn’t much better. When he points that out, Stan only giggles harder, causing Richie to join in. Mike gives them a look, but it doesn’t help. In fact, it does the opposite: now all three of them are giggling like mad, clutching at their stomachs. 

 

They hear Ben clear his throat and that seems to do the trick. Seeing Ben is the sign that the wedding is officially starting. He catches sight of Bev running over and placing a tiny portable stereo off to the side; she clicks play and some guy starts singing smoothly. Richie thinks it’s pretty nice.

 

“We borrowed my dad’s cassette,” Mike says, leaning in. “It’s this guy named Al Green, and my dad says he’s the most romantic singer ever.”

 

Richie gives him a thumbs up and turns back to watch as Ben walks towards him, throwing daisies out of the little pouch he’s made with the front of his hoodie. 

 

Bill’s up next, and he comes to stand across from Richie. Which means now comes the person who matters--his husband, or at least he will be when this wedding is over.

 

The Green guy starts singing a song about staying together and being so in love and that’s when Eddie and Bev step out. They’ve got their arms linked and both have on borrowed ties, but Eddie is actually pulling it off. It looks like he changed when he went home and is now wearing his church shirt. He still has on his tiny shorts, though, which Richie is grateful for. It wouldn’t be Eds without tiny shorts. 

 

Eddie is giving off more nervous energy than usual, and Richie hopes he isn’t regretting this at all. But when he finally reaches the front, he drops Bev’s arm and grabs Richie’s hands in the blink of an eye. Richie gives him a smile, hoping it’s comforting, and Eddie beams back at him. He lets out a breath he didn’t realize he was holding and they just stand there, hand in hand, grinning at each other, until Mike clears his throat. 

 

“Dear lovers,” he starts, “we are..um...we’re at the quarry right now to marry these two together...in uhh...holy….mattress homie? Um...” He looks down, and Richie finally notices the words he’s got written on the insides of his arms. “Sorry guys, we found a book at the library with the right words in it, but we couldn’t take the book, and we didn’t have any paper to write it down on. Plus, some of the words were really big.”

 

Eddie releases one of Richie’s hands to pat Mike’s arm. “That’s ok, Mikey. It all sounds perfect to me.”

 

Mike gives him a small, relieved smile and continues. “So there was a part about letting people say something if they think you shouldn’t get married, but I’m pretty sure we can just skip that.”

 

“Oh, don’t take away Stanley’s last chance to confess his buuuurning love for me!”

 

“Speaking of last chances, Eddie you can still say no.”

 

The teasing between him and Stanley loosens the last of Eddie’s tension, and he smiles at them fondly. “That’s okay Stan, I really want the ring, so...”

 

The other losers all laugh, and Stan nudges him with an elbow.

 

“Okay, okay,” Mike says, ”now I think you guys get to say nice stuff to each other, like why you wanna get married. Richie, you go first.”

 

Yeesh, he hadn’t planned for this part. He adjusts his glasses and just goes for it.

 

“Eddie I think you’re the coolest person alive. You always laugh at my jokes, and trade lunches with me, and share your comic collection. And you’re really nice, like when I first got glasses and everyone laughed, you told me you thought I looked like a bug but in a good way, which is, like, the best compliment. And then you threw sand in Henry’s eyes because he tried to break them. And later that day when I tripped on the blacktop, you didn’t say anything when I cried, and held my hand while the nurse cleaned my knee up. You’re always looking out for me like that. And I have so much fun with you, even if we’re just watching Star Wars again, or I’m helping you with homework. It’s like nothing is boring when I’m with you. And all that stuff makes me want to hug you and hold your hand all the time and my dad said that’s how you know you should marry someone. And yeah. Thanks for being my best friend. And also I love you.”

 

He can hear a sniffle and he’d bet good money it’s coming from the big softy, Ben. 

 

“Wow. Okay, I guess it’s my turn. Richie, you’re my favorite person in the whole galaxy. No! The whole universe. Mike taught me that the universe is like everything, ever. So, like, you’re my favorite person out of everything. You always take care of me when I get scared and stuff, which is pretty much always. But you never make me feel bad about it, even when you joke. I know when you make the jokes you’re just trying to make me feel better, and you do. Also you make me do things I wouldn’t do on my own, like race down that big hill on Maple Street on a skateboard. Which was totally scary, but the most fun I’ve ever had. I don’t have to worry so much about how scared I am when I’m with you, ‘cuz even if, like, an evil clown came to kill me, I know you wouldn’t let anything happen to me. It’s kinda like when you’re scared of the dark and you use a night light-- you’re my night light.”

 

Holy moly. For the first time Richie can remember, he’s speechless.

 

I’m his night light!!

 

“Oh and I love you too!”

 

At this point, it’s just icing on the cake. Eddie could straight up murder him right now and he’d still be floating in happiness. 

 

Richie isn’t the only one affected; Mike’s using his tie to wipe at his eyes and Richie’s pretty sure Stan just turned his head so no one would see the tears that came out. 

 

“Okay,” Mike says in a watery voice, ”the last part, now. Bev, you got the rings?”

 

Bev takes both rings out of her pocket, and hands them to the boys. 

 

“So this is the bit where you say ‘I do’ and put the rings on.”

 

They both nod.

 

“Richie, do you take Eddie to be your husband?”

 

“I do.”

 

Eddie holds out the ring and Richie realizes that it’s his silly decoder ring that he got from a cereal box. 

 

“Eddie--” He feels his eyes well up which is stupid , after everything else, but he knows how long Eddie wanted that little plastic ring. When he’d finally gotten it, he came running to the barrens to show them, gasping for air but so excited that he didn’t even reach for his inhaler. “But you love this thing.”

 

“And I love you. Besides, once we’re married, my things and your things become our things, which means it’s still technically mine. We’ll just have to decode stuff together,” Eddie says easily, and slips the ring onto Richie’s hand. 

 

“Eddie, do you take Richie to be your husband?”

 

“I do.”

 

Richie puts the too large ring on his finger and they both giggle at how badly it fits.

 

“I now declare you husband and husband.”

 

The losers all cheer around them.

 

“You have to kiss now, that’s how you make it legal,” Mike smirks at them. Richie can hear the rest of the losers snickering, but he can’t look away from Eddie whose eyes have widened. Richie thinks about making a joke, but he desperately wants Eddie to know that he’s serious. He knows they’re only six, but he really does want to be married to Eddie and be best friends forever and teammates. So he keeps the jokes to himself and quickly leans forward to peck Eddie on the lips. Eddie lets out a little squeak and blushes bright red, but he doesn’t hit him so Richie figures that’s a good sign.

 

All of a sudden they get hit with what feels like tiny pebbles. 

 

Bev and Bill are standing there with bags of rice and mischievous grins on their faces. “At the w-w-wedding I went to, everyone threw rice at them after they kissed,” Bill says, grabbing a fist full of rice. 

 

Someone must have gone and changed the music, because suddenly ‘Hungry Like the Wolf’ is blasting and just like that, it's on. 

 

The losers all run around and scream, pelting each other with rice, and taking small breaks to dance to the radio. Richie’s favorite is when ‘Africa’--the best song ever --comes on and they all sing along while he spins Eddie around. 

 

After they’ve run out of rice and are breathless from dancing, they lay on some blankets Mike brought and eat a bunch of junk food. 

 

“Thanks for throwing us the best wedding ever, guys.”

 

Stan sits up. “I actually have one more surprise for you.” He reaches into his bag and pulls out a camera. Like a real, good camera. “I...borrowed...this from my dad. I thought we would want some pictures, since it’s a special day and all.” He says it casually, but Richie can feel the love behind the gesture, clear as day. 

 

“Woah, Stan, that’s awesome!” Eddie says as everyone passes around the camera. 

 

“Yeah, but seriously, be careful--no Richie, you aren’t allowed to touch it--if anything happens to it I’ll be dead meat. My dad uses it to take pictures of the birds he finds.”

 

“Amazing. Such a lame use for such a cool camera.”

 

“Do you want pictures or not?”

 

They all get up and bicker over where to stand, finally deciding on the same place they stood for the wedding. Stan had clearly thought this through; he even has one of those stand things to 

put the camera on. 

 

“How do you know how to do all this, Stan?”

 

“My dad taught me,” Stan says, smiling as he sets the camera up and looks through the little lens. “We go bird watching together a lot. It’s nice. Alright, I think this is the right way…” He runs over to join the group by the cliff’s edge. “We have about ten seconds until it takes the picture.”

 

“Okay, everyone smile.”

 

“Richie if you make that face in our wedding photo, I’ll divorce you”

 

“No fair!”

 

“You guys, it’s gonna take it any second.”

 

The bright flash surprises them all. There’s no doubt that the photo it took is ridiculous-- all of them in his dad’s ties, mid-argument. Richie wouldn’t have it any other way, though. 

 

They mess around and take a few more photos as the sun lowers in the sky. The grooms are pushed together to get one picture of just the two of them. Richie pulls him close, and Eddie rests his head on his shoulder. He tries to make a silly face, just because he knows it will annoy Eddie when they see the photos, but he feels gooey, holding onto his new husband, surrounded by his best friends. When the camera goes off, Richie can tell he’s going to look like a sap in that one. It’s alright, he supposes. If a boy can’t be sappy on his wedding day, when can he?

 

The sun is fading quicker and they all agree that it’s time to head home. After giving hugs and lots of congratulations, the losers club all head in different directions. Except Richie and Eddie, who grab hands and head towards Richie’s for the first night of their forever sleepover. 

 

“Hey, thanks for, um, thanks for saying yes,” Richie says, pushing his glasses up slightly. 

 

Eddie pulls them to a stop and stands in front of Richie. He’s got this determined look on his face, but he doesn’t move. 

 

“You ok--” 


He’s cut off by Eddie grabbing his face and smacking their lips together. Richie’s too stunned to do anything, and it’s over as quickly as it started.  

 

They’re both red as tomatoes, but Eddie manages to say “thanks for asking,” before grabbing his hand again and continuing their walk. 

 

They spend the whole trip to Richie’s house in comfortable silence, with Eddie gently swinging their joined hands. 

 

Operation: Forever Sleepover will officially go down in history as a huge success.

 

_________________________________________________________________________

 

Richie told Eddie about the wedding presents and they spent all of last night coming up with a list of requests. It’s an extensive list, and they’re wildly optimistic about what they can get, so when morning comes, they race downstairs, hand-in-hand, to stand in front of Richie’s father. 

 

Went’s eyes go from their hands to their faces. “Can I help you, gentlemen?”

 

“We need presents, Dad.”

 

“Oh yeah, why’s that?”

 

“We’re newlyweds!”

 

Richie can hear his mom snort into her coffee in the kitchen, but he’s too busy beaming at his dad to focus on it.

 

“You guys wed, huh? And where was the invite for your mother and I?”

 

“Sorry Mr. Tozier, we anteloped.”

 

This time Richie can’t ignore his mother’s laughter. He elbows Eddie and whispers, “it’s just elope you goob,” out of the corner of his mouth. He’s trying to make a good impression here; his dad’s got to see that he’s a real big kid who knows lots of words and has a husband!

 

“Sorry, Rich,” Eddie whispers back. Louder, he says “I mean we just eloped Mr. Tozier. But that doesn’t mean we can’t have presents, does it?”

 

Went sets his newspaper down and strokes his chin, pretending to think it over. “I don’t know, this is all so sudden. And you know how I love a good party, Richard, so no invitation really stings. I just don’t know...”

 

“C’mon Dad, we’ll even take cash. We’re gonna save up so we can buy the house next door someday when we’re bigger!”

 

His father hums and then puts a finger in the air. “I have a solution that I think will please everyone.” Maggie comes out of the kitchen and leans against the door way, watching them with fond eyes. “We’ll just have to throw a reception here, a private family affair. How does that sound to the newlyweds? Pizza and cake, listen to some music, play some games?”

 

Richie is so overcome with happiness that he can’t do anything but run around the kitchen, whooping with joy. Eddie sits at the kitchen table, watching him and giggling uncontrollably.

 

When Richie finally gets out all the extra happiness, he sits at the table next to Eddie. “Dad, that would be the most fun ever! Right, Eddie?”

 

Eddie, who hasn’t stopped smiling, nods his head quickly. “That would be super duper awesome Mr. Tozier.”

 

“Please, you’re married to my son now, Eddie, call me Went,” he says, picking up his newspaper once more.

 

“Okay. Hey, um, Went?”

 

“Yes Eddie?”

 

“Can I read some of the newspaper too? Please?”

 

Went peeks at him over the Derry Tribune, hiding his smile behind the paper. “And what section would you like, son?”

 

Eddie practically glows when Went calls him son. “The part with the jokes. So me and Richie can share.”

 

“Hmm the part with the jokes...I don’t think they wrote about Reagan today...”

 

“Dear...”

 

“Only joking, dear. Eddie, of course you can read the comics,” he says, flipping to the back of the paper and handing over the page.

 

Maggie comes up behind them, placing a couple plates of breakfast down. “Eddie, do you need to call your mom to let her know you’re staying over another night?” 

 

At the mention of his mother, he seems to shrink in on himself. “Oh, I didn’t think about that. I’m not sure I’ll be able to stay again, my mom gets really worried about me.”

 

“Tell you what, I’ll call and see if I can’t convince her, mother to mother.”

 

“Okay!” he agrees, bouncing in his chair. “Only please don’t tell her what we’re celebrating. I don’t think she’d take it so well.”

 

She smooths his hair down, sharing a look with Went. “That’s fine, honey. No need to ruffle any feathers.” She sits down and joins the rest of them. 

 

Richie stops shoveling food into his mouth to look around the room at all his favorite people just existing together. This is his family now. And just like that, he knows: marrying Eddie is going to be the best decision of his life.