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Never trust a man whose smile steals the breath right from your lungs.

Eddie is used to feeling dizzy. He has panic attacks, he is constantly over-stressed, worried, paranoid, and sometimes his psychosomatic asthma smacks him across the lungs and he is doubled over. None of that is anything like the feeling of seeing Richie Tozier smile after almost three decades. 

The air is sucked straight out of the room but no one else seems to notice. Eddie clutches at his chest for a split second, honestly worried he has woken from a dream to find himself on a crashing plane, ready for the oxygen masks to drop, but then the room evens out again and he looks around to see everyone greeting each other happily, fog in their eyes, smiling though they aren’t quite sure why. 

When Eddie sees Richie across the room, hair scraggly, curls pressed damply to his forehead, hands shoved in the pockets of his jacket, long legs stock straight, he wonders how he could forget such a fucking perfect dumbass exists solely to annoy and fluster the hell out of him.

Memories light up in his brain, subtle and blurry. 

Richie smiling at him from across the circle of friends.

Richie throwing an arm around his neck, cackling in his ear.

Richie pressing his glasses up, laughing.

He presses it down, sits, pretends, breathes. 

Orders food. Gets angry.

They’re all in different conversations, dipping in and out, Richie in particular can’t mind his own business, but Eddie’s got his attention for the moment and it doesn’t escape him that it’s the longest Richie goes without interrupting or losing interest. Eddie keeps forgetting to exhale and it’s getting really fucking annoying. 

“You know what, mind your fuckin’ business, that’s my answer,” he says, pointing a finger in Richie’s general direction.

“Calm down, fuck-face, I’m just asking for the laundry list of your ‘allergies,’” Richie flicks up the quotes just to fuck with him, “so I can avoid poisoning you during our lovely little reunion.” He smiles. 

“Oh, are you making the food now?”

“Who knows what might happen! This is a jolly night, we might move into barbeque territory next, fuck,” Richie’s gestures have emptied a mostly-drained glass of beer directly onto his jeans, right above his knee, and Eddie doesn’t think twice before unclenching the fist he’s had around his napkin, because he needed something to grip tightly just to cope with the whirlwind of emotions he hasn’t felt in three decades, and pressing it to the wet spot. 

He can’t look up, he knows Richie is smiling, he can see it, just the shadow of that shit-face’s white teeth and the glow in his cheeks and Eddie wonders if steam is pouring from his ears. He hides the way his breath catches with a cough and when he looks up Richie has the decency to look away, but then they lock eyes and Eddie could swear ten inhalers wouldn’t manage to fill his lungs back up.

“You’re rubbing a little too low and to the right, Eds,” Richie smirks. Eddie rolls his eyes.

“Fuck off,” he says, soaking up the excess liquid while his cheeks flush. 

“Oh yeah, right there, baby…” Richie moans, winking when Eddie looks up to gape at him. He balls up the napkin and chucks it into Richie’s face.

“I am already sick of you.” 

Richie laughs, pleased with himself, and Eddie’s heart hammers against his chest. 

“You love it,” Rich waggles his eyebrows.

Eddie takes a huge gulp of water and blames the intoxication for the way he almost panics.

*****

Never trust a man who can dance.

There are lots of drinks. Tequila, specifically. Shots. 

Richie and Bev left out the back door for at least five minutes so Eddie is willing to bet there’s even more to this picture.

Especially since Richie only realizes music is playing upon his triumphant return.

“Fuck you ALL, I am KILLING this,” comes out of his mouth somewhere between a sprinkler and a bastardized version of the Electric Slide. 

Eddie’s blush has spread far past full-body. The cognitive dissonance of simultaneously remembering and wanting to forget is overwhelming. Eddie is horrified at the intensity of the pining he can now recall while a 40 year-old brunette with coke-bottle glasses, Jesus Christ could he not change his frames in 27 years?, shakes his ass fifteen feet from him. 

Richie always putting on music when no one else wanted it.

Richie getting drunk at sixteen and dancing to Whitney Houston.

Richie grasping Eddie’s hip first whenever he tried to get him to dance.

“N-n-never! Not on your life! You’ve lost your mind, Tozier!” Bill yells, yanking his left arm back from Richie and Eddie knows he’s next. Richie wipes sweat from his brow and sets his sights on Kaspbrak immediately. Eddie blinks away the memories. His head is shaking before he even registers it. Richie’s body visibly slumps.

“Eddie Spaghetti! Forsaking me??” Richie gets down on bended knee, clutching at his heart, mocking sobs and grasping Eddie’s hand in his. Eddie lets the touch linger for a moment before pulling back.

Richie repays him in a blinding smile. Eddie blinks again. 

Richie pivots on his knee, stands and shimmies toward Bev, who macarenas on instinct.

The rest of them groan. 

Eddie scrubs a hand over his face and remembers to breathe. 

*****

Never trust first impressions.

Eddie assumes it’s all anger. Frustration, irritation, developing a migraine from the endless chatter. 

There’s always been a low thrum of anger running through Eddie Kaspbrak, as far back as he can remember. Which he realizes now is… not that far. When he really tries, he can hardly remember meeting Myra. Deciding to marry, buying their house, settling into his current life. He can’t even recall what he feels when he looks at Myra, when he touches her. All that comes to mind is… numb indifference. Was that what he felt on his wedding day? He can’t even call up those memories anymore. 

After being back in Derry for a few hours, childhood memories are touch and go. They spring on him intermittently, choosing their moments to surprise him. They come in fragments. Eddie knows there are huge gaps. Doors still locked in his brain. But the suffocating ache of his old feelings for Richie helps him recognize the pit of anger resting in his stomach. It’s as if Richie has pulled some sort of stopper from his body, draining him slowly of pent up resentment and bitterness and leaving him hollowed out and vulnerable, like when they were kids.

Richie seeing through him, calling out his bullshit. Eddie feeling a deep pang of fear in his chest and stomach until Richie cracks a dumb joke and it’s suddenly soothed, like balm on a wound. 

Richie protecting him from letting it all build up. Richie insisting on forcing it out of him, poking holes in his defenses and prodding until Eddie lets it all fly, full of expletives and emotions he didn’t even know were there. Patching him back up with jokes and touches.

Eddie sighing, relieved.

Richie smiling.

He returns to the room at the Inn and can hear Richie rummaging around next door. Peeking into the bathroom to confirm he didn’t leave any toiletries, he catches a glimpse of himself in the mirror. He’s fucking blushing . His fingertips tingle. He feels light-headed and not in the way he’s used to. Spending an evening with the gang again was thrilling, but it had all gone south so quickly and so badly he couldn’t help joining Richie in bailing. 

Regret washes over him for a moment. He loves the Losers Group, he knows that now, he remembers with startling clarity, unlike anything he’s felt in the last thirty years. He wonders how he went so long without truly feeling anything. The sharp contrast between then and now grips at his throat like a vice. The sheer terror he felt at the restaurant flashes before his eyes. He stares straight into his own reflection and nods. He’s got to get the fuck out of here. Just then, Richie appears in his doorway.

“Primping before heading home to the missus?” Richie smiles, a duffel bag slung over his shoulder. Eddie sighs.

“Don’t you know you should scan every room before checking out, dipshit?” Eddie pushes past him and heads toward his two giant rolley suitcases. “How much stuff have you forgotten in hotels?” Richie scoffs.

“What can I say? I’m an expert at forgetting.” Eddie stops in his tracks and looks up at Richie. The serious note in his voice throws Eddie sideways, but Richie moves on quickly. “Hey, Eds. Wanna grab a drink once we’re safely outside of the terror-shit-fest that is Derry? I doubt I’ll be able to find a flight to LA immediately, and I figured since we’re both here…” Richie trails off and Eddie gulps audibly. 

He should really head home. He should get the fuck out of here as fast as possible. But Richie looks so genuine and hopeful and the anxiety that usually settles deep in his bones starts to dissipate when he thinks of leaving here to sit across from Richie at some bar, flinging insults and catching up. Eddie nods. 

“I’m gonna need a drink before my flight and I don’t trust anything they hand you on planes. Do you know how many shit particles are floating in the air on those big, flying death-traps?” Eddie shivers in disgust and Richie smiles again, the bastard. 

“And the semen that’s in those little bathrooms?” Richie scrunches his nose up and Eddie sighs. “Joining the mile-high club comes with consequences, people,” he shakes his head solemnly and Eddie considers pushing him down the flight of stairs outside his room. 

“I’ll do one last scan and then I’m good to go,” he says, zipping up one of his suitcases and setting his sights on the other. Richie nods, pushes up his glasses and heads downstairs.

They never make it to the airport, but Eddie and Richie manage to gulp a glass of scotch each before they head out to explore Derry. They clink their glasses in some sort of morbid toast. Eddie thinks maybe it’s not anger this time. Maybe it’s just feeling

*****

Never trust your tongue when your heart is bitter.

“Sit the fuck down, Eddie,” Bev points a firm finger at the queen mattress in front of her and Eddie presses his eyes closed. He takes a breath through his nose and tries to ignore the seething pain when the air hits the wound in his cheek. 

He sits.

Bev sits alongside him, pressing their thighs flush on the bedspread. She has gauze, disinfectant cream, a paper towel roll and a needle and thread in her hands. She lets out a low squeak, almost of determination, and pushes a piece of hair from her face. Eddie notices she looks pale, but he knows he looks far worse. He curses himself for leaving his inhaler in the bathroom.

“Do you know what you’re doing?” Eddie asks, not really wanting to know the answer, but Bev nods, semi-confidently. He’ll take what he can get. 

“Yeah, I’ve… I’ve cleaned up my fair share of wounds. This is nothing.” She waves a hand absently and winks, but she’s still pale. Her lips are a pinched line and Eddie knows someone has hurt her. Eddie loves her, he can feel it settling deeply in his stomach. He’s so glad she’s here with him it almost hurts. He suddenly misses Richie with a vengeance. “You okay?” Bev asks, dabbing him gently with the paper towel. 

“No,” he says quickly, shaking his head, “what about this situation would make you think I’m ok?” He wrings his hands and glares at the needle Bev is currently threading. “You’re about to stick a needle in my face, I just stabbed a man, and it looks like Richie really did cut and run.” He doesn’t realize he’s going to say the last part until it leaves his mouth. Bev watches him carefully. 

“The man stabbed you first, so sounds to me like you did good there,” her hands shake but her voice is steady and light. “And Rich’ll be back. He wouldn’t leave us.” She nods, as if trying to convince herself, too. 

“You’d know, you’re his best friend,” Eddie says, hissing at the shock of pain as Bev applies the cream. Bev scoffs and lightens her touch.

“You’re kidding, right?” She gets the needle ready and takes a breath, all with a smile. Eddie thinks perhaps he abandoned his signature anger too soon. 

“Hmm?” he asks, the pain of speaking getting to be too much. Bev puts her hands up, a passive warning that the needle is coming. Eddie closes his eyes. 

“You’re Richie’s best friend, Eddie,” she says, sticking the needle into the skin of his cheek. Tears sting at the corner of Eddie’s eyes and he grips the bedspread tightly. “You don’t see the way he looks at you?”

His eyes snap open. He would shake his head if he could. 

“Stay still,” Bev says anyway, “and quiet.” 

Eddie clenches his eyes shut again. Every move of the needle is agony and he is one second from panicking, but not from the pain. 

Richie had always gravitated toward Eddie when they were with the Losers, but Eddie always assumed it was because he loved bothering him. And Eddie was always the most affected. Richie loved to be noticed, and Eddie definitely noticed Richie.

Richie pushing a curl of his hair behind his ear and brushing his arm against Eddie’s.

Richie laughing, bright and flying, his eyes shining and only for Eddie.

Richie blushing when Eddie shoves him gently and says, “Of course we’ll keep in touch, Rich, you’re my best friend.”

Richie, already fading from Eddie’s memory, calling him from back in Derry, saying he missed him, and Eddie feeling angry and sad and hollow and like his heart had crumbled all at once.

Bev is watching him again.

The stitches are finished, and she stops halfway through ripping another piece of tape off the roll to keep the folded paper towel against his cheek.

“You didn’t know, did you? Or did you just forget?” 

Eddie feels trapped in his mind, unable to speak or move. He can’t even begin to process what any of this shit means. Not after getting vomited on, stabbed and stitched up in such a short period of time. And now… Richie, and he… no. Too much. 

He looks down at the supplies sitting on the bed, having finished their duties. He glares at Bev. 

“You better have dipped that needle in alcohol first.” 

All she can do is stare.

*****

Never trust people from what they say, trust from what they do.

Eddie’s bleeding heavily. 

He’s floating in and out of consciousness, but the others are doing their best to hold him up, keep him talking, bring him along. 

When Richie tells him they beat Pennywise he thinks it’s probably a dream, one last lucid thought before death begins greying out his vision, but then he’s lifted off the ground and he manages to blink away the fog. 

He sees Richie, glasses cracked and covered in blood, probably his blood, and he doesn’t want to think about that right now, but he feels strong arms carrying him and once he puts two and two together it smacks him upside the head.

Richie riding next to him, his hair blowing in the wind as he pedals as fast as his legs will go.

Richie watching him with a smile as he glides down the hill, shaky and panting.

Richie’s strangled cry as he watches him lose his balance, flying over the handlebars.

Richie carrying him to Bill’s house, setting him on the porch, crouching down, getting him a towel, all with a pinched crease between his eyebrows.

Richie’s look of relief when he cracks a joke and Eddie paws at him with a small, “fuck off.” 

“Almost there, bud,” Rich says, almost too quietly to hear, but Eddie is still there with him, hanging on by a thread. 

“Rich,” he says, less than he wants, but it’s all he can give before everything goes dark.

****

If you want to be trusted, tell the truth.

Eddie wakes up in a hospital room.

Richie’s face practically explodes into a beautiful, wide, vulnerable and completely Earth-shattering smile. 

Eddie could kill him.

Fuck you, Richie,” is all he can manage, his voice thin, which he can’t entirely blame on injuries or disuse. Richie balks. Eddie can’t stand his stupid, beautiful eyes or how he pushes up his glasses and stammers out a response. 

“Y… how are you already mad?” 

“Because you’re an asshole .” 

Their eyes are locked. Eddie feels himself shaking. 

“I don’t trust you, Trashmouth. I’ve got a hole in my chest and your goddamn smile is going to kill me.” 

Richie smiles again. Eddie could punch him. 

“Well fuck you too, asshole.” 

“At least come up with something original, Rich.”

“Oh yeah, what did you have in mind?”

“How about I love you?”

Richie’s smile practically drops off of his face. Eddie groans. He certainly didn’t mean for that to come out with quite so much hostility, but he figures at this point Rich knows what he’s about.

“Eds,” Richie starts, and Eddie makes a string of angry, unintelligible noises.

“Don’t,” he says, his voice small, “how about. Not. Just c’mere.” Eddie crooks a finger toward himself. Richie still looks dumbstruck, but luckily, the dumbass doesn’t let that stop him. 

Richie sits at the edge of the hospital bed. He presses his palms to his thighs, hesitating before turning to face Eddie. Eddie is done with his bullshit, with his own bullshit. He almost died. He practically did die, and this asshole was by his side the entire time. Sleeping in shitty hospital chairs, not showering, probably worried sick. Now he looks at Eddie like he’s the one who carried him out of a collapsing house and gave him a second chance so Eddie grabs his hand, quickly and messily. They’re both messes, so it’s appropriate. 

“Can I, uh,” Eddie says, stumbling, not making eye contact and grimacing, but Richie knows him well enough to laugh and save him from himself.

“Wow, you are really bad at this, “ Richie cocks his head to the side and Eddie can feel the heat coming off his body, “Almost as bad as you are at dying.” Eddie snaps up to look at him.

“Oh my god ,” he breathes, so sick of Richie’s stupid jokes and his face and his smile and his lips and before he knows it he’s grabbing the front of Richie’s blood-shit-piss-stained shirt and pulling and kissing him before he thinks better of it. He can hear their teeth click with the collision and he hopes it hurts, but instead Richie moans into his mouth and Eddie thinks this might be the best thing that’s ever happened to him. Richie brings a hand up to cup his right cheek, the un-gashed one, and Eddie feels safe for the first time in two days. 

The intensity slowly burns from the kiss and is replaced by such softness that Eddie could cry. He probably will, later, but for now he grabs at Richie’s waist and digs in his thumb to stake some sort of claim. Richie pulls away for a moment to press a kiss to his chin and breathe out something that sounds like a broken laugh.

“Your breath is absolutely horrible,” he says, but his eyes sparkle. Eddie can’t bother to be angry when Richie’s already leaning back in for another kiss.