Eddie felt his bleary eyes getting heavier as he continued watching Richie sleep. It was only 6:15pm and he was exhausted.
He had gently woken Richie a couple of times now just to make sure he was still alive. The nurses had done their share of that too, when they had come to check his vitals. Eddie decided to just let the man sleep and he could hear Richie's soft snores mixed in with the beeps from the machines he was hooked up to. Richie's eyelids twitched as his eyes moved in sleep. Eddie wondered briefly what amnesiacs dreamed of. Would Rich even remember his dreams or would they fade away just like his other memories?
The door opened slowly and Eddie turned to see Mike and Bill standing there. Mike waved at him, as they quietly stepped into the room.
"Eddie, I'm here to take you back to the Inn." Bill saw Eddie about to protest, "Just for food, a quick shower, and a real change of clothes. Mike will stay with Rich. You need to take care of yourself, if you're going to take care of him, too. Come on, Eds."
Eddie sighed, reluctant to leave, but knowing Bill was right. He could finally wash all this nasty crap, no pun intended, out of his hair. And another bath might be refreshing since he had doctor's orders not to shower just yet. He nodded, slowly, standing up from the chair with a low groan.
"I'll be back soon, Rich, I promise." He ran a gentle hand over Richie's soft dark curls. "Thanks, Mikey." He patted Mike on the shoulder as Mike took his place in the chair.
"Any time, man. You know that." Mike gave him a soft smile. He nodded at Bill as he and Eddie headed out.
"How's he doing?" Bill asked, worried eyes fixed on Eddie's face.
"Not great but the doctor is optimistic. There's no bleeding and he's going to be sore for quite awhile. He has a mild skull fracture at the point of impact. Dr. Baynes says he'll be fuzzy for a few days as well. Of course, he doesn't remember anything that happened." He paused as they reached Bill's car. "She said he may not remember some stuff on his own. We have to be careful what we disclose. It may be overwhelming."
"Get in the car." They looked around the parking lot and climbed into the car before continuing. Bill waited until they'd both buckled up before pulling out of the lot. " May be overwhelming?" Bill scoffed, shaking his head. "Can you even imagine trying to explain having to defeat a million year old demon space clown to him now? Jesus Christ on a stick, Eds! We can't tell him that. His brain is already scrambled."
"No shit, Billy! Except now I can't even tell him that I'm not his husband! How the fuck do I keep on lying to him? This was such a bad idea! I was going to come clean once he woke up and now he's got fucking amnesia! So, now, I have to pretend to be married to him and just what the fuck do I tell my wife? 'Oh, hi, sweetie. No, I can't come home right now. I'm nursing my sick fake husband back to health?!' Christ!" He shoved a hand through his hair, grimacing at the texture of it. Agitated, he dropped his hand in his lap.
"I didn't have time to think of that! I should have said it was Ben or Mike. They're not married…"
"Not really the point, Bill! We're lying...to Richie! He has a brain injury and we're lying to him! I don't even live here! I don't have a home to take him to, after he's released. Well, not one without Myra. She'd love that. She's already pissed at me. I wasn't even sure I was going back. I sure don't want Rich to have to recover here. There's a reason I left Derry years ago, Bill. I hate this place."
"Trust me, I get it. We'll have to put our heads together with the others and figure this out. You don't have to do this by yourself. We've made it this far. We can do this." Bill said. "We have to."
"You know you don't stutter anymore? You haven't since we left the Neibolt House. Did you even notice?" He asked, eyes on Bill's face.
Bill jerked in his seat, flashing his eyes over to Eddie for a second. He looked stunned.
"No, I...are you sure?" Bill's forehead wrinkled.
"Not once, dude. Not when you told the nurse I was Richie's husband, not when you came to see him, not now."
"He thrusts his fists against the posts and still insists he sees the ghosts." Bill recited perfectly. "Holy shit, Eds!" Bill laughed, "I'm not stuttering!"
"Told you." Eddie yawned, covering his mouth.
Bill pulled up in front of the Derry Townhouse. He parked and looked over at Eddie.
"Here we are." Bill said needlessly. They went inside, not really surprised that there was still no one there to greet them. Eddie headed for the stairs.
"Thank God. I can finally wash my hair. You'll have to help me though, so I don't get my stitches wet. Doctor said no showers, it'll have to be a bath. Wait...Bowers broke my shower curtain when he attacked me." He sighed, rolling his eyes.
"You can use my room. I'll wait for you there until you call for me." Bill offered.
"Ok. Thanks, Billy." Eddie smiled and they hurried up the stairs. He went into his room first, to get clean clothes and some toiletries.
He sifted through his suitcase and pulled out a pair of soft, worn blue jeans, cotton briefs, and a gray polo. He also grabbed his tea tree shampoo and conditioner. His brush was still in the bathroom. He grabbed that too and then headed to Bill's room. Bill had unlocked the door and flipped on the light. He was sitting on the edge of the bed.
Eddie put his clothes next to Bill and took his other things into the bathroom. He had a moment of panic after stepping in there and turning on the light. As if Henry Bowers would suddenly jump out at him again, swinging that fucking knife.
"He's dead, dumbass. Richie put an ax through his fucking skull. Bowers can't hurt you anymore. Neither can that fucker, Pennywise. Relax, Eds. Jesus Christ." He muttered to himself.
Eddie put the brush on the sink with the towel and pulled back the shower curtain. Empty, like it should be. He blew out a breath and put the shampoo and conditioner on the side of the tub. He adjusted the water temperature and began to undress. He folded the scrubs, making a note to wash them and return them to the hospital. He groaned as he stepped inside the tub, pulling the curtain back around him. The hot water felt amazing. He turned the knobs off.
A knock sounded on the door. Eddie jumped, almost forgetting that Bill was there.
"Eds, you ready?"
"Uh, yeah? I mean, I guess so." Eddie flushed. He'd been mostly naked around the other boys several times when they were kids but they hadn't seen each other for years now. It wasn't like this was sexual. It was only Billy Denbrough, for crying out loud, his oldest friend in the whole world.
Bill slowly pulled the curtain back. Eddie blushed, sitting up a bit. Bill had a plastic cup. He handed it to Eddie, who dipped it in the water and handed it back. Bill gently tipped Eddie's head back, putting one hand up to keep the water off of Eddie's face and slowly poured the water to wet his hair. They repeated this a couple of times before Eddie grabbed the shampoo and began to lather up his hair.
"Let me…" Bill took over the lathering, making sure to keep the suds from spilling down Eddie's cheeks. Bill's hands in his hair were gentle and efficient. Eddie made a pleased sound and arched into Bill's touch like a cat. Bill smoothed Eddie's hair back. Eddie dipped the cup and handed it back to Bill and the process continued. Finally, after the suds were rinsed away and his hair had been conditioned, Eddie sighed. Bill patted his back and stepped back.
"It's nice not to have that shit all in your hair, isn't it?" He asked. Eddie hummed in agreement. Bill smiled at him and pulled the curtain back, giving Eddie privacy to finish his bath. He went back into the room to finish packing his things.
Eddie rinsed himself off and opened the curtain. He grabbed the towel and gave himself a brisk pat down, wrapping it snugly around his trim waist. He grabbed a hand towel and scrubbed it over his hair. He hung the hand towel back up and picked up the brush. He started running it through his hair, smoothing the crazy wet strands into his usual style. He put the brush down and stared at himself in the mirror. He looked exactly the same as he always did, except for the bandage on his cheek. He felt as if he'd gone through a complete transformation the last few hours but the mirror only showed one minor difference.
He shook himself and went out into Bill's room. Bill was sorting through his carry on bag. Bill paused and raised his head. Eddie flushed as he saw the way Bill's eyes slid over his half-naked body. Bill blushed and quickly looked away.
"I'll let you get dressed." He said, quietly. He turned and walked out of the room, closing the door behind him.
Eddie stood there for a second, wondering what the hell had just happened. He snapped himself out of it and grabbed his underwear and jeans. He dropped the towel on the bed and pulled on his briefs and then, his jeans.
He had forgotten his deodorant in his room. He sighed and picked up his shirt. He walked out of Bill's room and back into his own. He dug through his bag and found his Old Spice. He applied it generously and then pulled his shirt over his head. He found some socks and groaned as he realized he'd ruined his only decent pair of shoes. He'd have to wear his old, worn out penny loafers. They were in okay shape but not nearly as comfortable as one would think. He slipped them on.
He went into his bathroom and took his toothbrush out of it's holder, smeared some Colgate on it and brushed his teeth, careful of the left side of his mouth. He only winced a couple of times. He spit and saw a tiny bit of blood. Grimacing, he grabbed his Cool Mint Listerine and swished it around his mouth. It burned but Eddie didn't mind. That meant it was working.
He spit and wiped his mouth on a hand towel. He gathered his items from the bathroom and he walked back into his room. He started packing just like Bill had done earlier. He packed a suitcase and a toiletry bag. He would stay at the hospital with Richie. The others were probably going to head back to their respective homes soon now that Richie was, for all intents and purposes, on the mend. He heard Bill come in the room. They locked eyes.
"Hey, did you want to stop at Bailley's Lunch and grab a sandwich? Ruby told me it's open until 9 o'clock on Saturdays." Bill asked, sounding a little shy.
"Sounds good, Bill. Have the others eaten yet?" Eddie ignored the elephant in the room. Bill followed his lead and they fell back into their usual rapport.
"Yeah, Bev and Ben brought food back earlier. Mike and I ate with them. I know you've been taking care of Rich. I figured you'd be starving by now."
Eddie nodded. Hefting his suitcase, he followed Bill back to the car. Bill helped him put his suitcase and toiletry bag in the trunk. Once in the car, Bill cast a sideways look at him. Eddie slowly looked back.
"You work out. You look really good, Eds." He stated, matter of factly. He started the car.
Eddie blushed. Bill had been his first crush ever. Handsome Big Bill who was a confident, fearless leader even with that horrible stutter. Originally, Eddie had assumed his affection was hero worship. It wasn't until later when he fell hard for smart-mouthed, crass, and unapologetic Richie Tozier that he realized what he had been feeling for Bill.
"Thanks, man." He mumbled, ears red. "I don't eat a lot of red meat and I follow a strict regimen." He cleared his throat, watching as the streets passed.
"Does Richie know?" Bill asked, curiously.
"That I don't eat red meat? No, I don't think, well, he might…" Eddie sounded confused.
"No, I mean, does he…did he know how you feel about him?" Bill watched Eddie out of the corner of his eye.
"How I feel ?" Eddie's voice was higher, the tone bewildered.
"Eds, don't get mad at me if I'm reading this wrong, but I think you're in love with him. I think you've always been in love with him. And I think he's in love with you, too. The bickering, the way you two always turned to each other, the whole thing with you guys and the hammock…"
"He's my best friend! He always has been!" Eddie said, his voice shaking and tight.
"I know. And I saw your face when he was brought out of Neibolt. Eddie, your heart was in your eyes. It was breaking, it was scared. You didn't want to imagine losing him..."
"I'm married! To a woman!" Eddie cried, interrupting Bill. Bill could feel the agitation rolling off of him.
"So am I." Bill smiled softly, mysteriously.
"What?" Eddie stared at him, "What does that mean?" Bill pursed his lips but didn't answer right away. "Billy? What does that mean?"
"I...was in love and I didn't say anything and now I can't say anything. It's too late for me, but it might not be for you."
"It's not the same thing, Bill. Beverly…" Eddie scoffed, one hand waving through the air.
"No, not Beverly. I mean, yes, I've been attracted to her and she's an amazing person but that's not who I meant." Eddie wracked his brain trying to figure out who Bill was referring to.
"Well, who..?" He watched Bill press his lips together. It hit him like a sledgehammer. "Stanley?! Bill, you…?"
"He's gone, Eds. Richie is here and you have to tell him! Not now, not right this minute, but soon, before it's too late." Tears slipped down Bill's face.
"Billy…" Eddie whispered, sadly. He watched Bill wipe his face with one hand.
They drove in silence until they reached the cafe. Eddie left Bill in the car and went inside.
A curly haired blonde girl stood at the counter, her name tag read Stacey. She smiled at him and he walked up. He recited his normal spiel of what he could and couldn't eat and she offered some suggestions. He decided to go with the grilled chicken wrap with lettuce, tomatoes, turkey bacon, and light mayonnaise. She brought him a bottle of water to finish his order.
He paid and thanked her. Heading out to the car, he thought about what Bill had said. Bill had been in love...with Stanley. Stan Uris, straight-laced, tidy, uptight, sweet Stan who had been so terrified that summer. Stan, who had taken his own life because he couldn't face coming back and dealing with that evil clown-spider from space again. Fucking Pennywise!
He thought about Richie, his best friend and equally, the bane of his existence. Richie, with his bigger than life personality, his horrible and annoying jokes, his sweetness, his sarcasm, his adorable laugh, and his protective way of always looking out for Eddie no matter how dire the situation. Eddie's heart skipped a beat. He, then, thought of Richie laying there so still and unmoving, his handsome face bloodied and bruised. Tears welled up in his eyes. He had to remind himself that Richie was alive and was going to be fine. He couldn't imagine a world without Richie Tozier in it. He didn't want to.
He climbed into the car and put on his seatbelt. He looked over at Bill, a new determined expression on his tired face. Bill looked back at him, saw something in Eddie's eyes, and just smiled a happy smile.
"Good for you." Was all he said. He started the car and drove them back to the hospital. Eddie asked if he could hear some music and Bill nodded. Eddie flipped on the radio.
"Tell him that you're never going to leave him…tell him that you're always going to love him..." a girl group was singing. Eddie quickly changed the station. "At last my love has come along...My lonely days are over and life is like a song…" Etta James crooned. Eddie flipped it one last time. "When the rain is blowing in your face, and the whole world is on your case, I would offer you a warm embrace to make you feel my love…" Garth Brooks purred, Eddie sighed and let it play.
"Sounds like the universe is trying to tell you something, Eds." Bill sounded way too smug. Eddie flipped him off without looking and Bill burst out laughing.