Eddie finds him on the bridge.
The sight of him is enough to make Richie jump— for years, he remembers, he lived in terror at the thought of Eddie discovering his secret, putting two and two together, rejecting him. It was a recurring nightmare in middle school all the way to tenth grade: one day Eddie would look at Richie and he would know, and he’d look back on all the times Richie had touched him, hugging him too tight and putting his hands all over Eddie’s body, pulling at his clothes when he wished he could touch skin. Eddie would know, and he would hate him.
Now, this Eddie is looking at him sadly, watching Richie re-carve faded letters into hardened wood with a pocket knife, and almost slicing off his thumb. He doesn’t say anything, and that somehow makes it worse.
“You’re not really here,” Richie says, accusingly. “You’re— Eddie would say something. He couldn’t fucking shut up, even when he was wheezing he’d find a way to be fucking annoying.”
“That’s a bit harsh.”
“Well, that happens when you’re dead, you asshole. People can say whatever they want about you, you kind of lose the right to complain.” Unnecessarily, he adds, “Because you’re dead.”
“I’m sorry,” not-Eddie says. He looks sad. He looks heartbroken, like he cares that he’s left Richie a fucking mess, and he’s here with two splinters on his hand and his huge gay crush displayed embarrassingly in front of them, and he’s looking at Richie with— longing. Like he wishes he could touch him, just as much as Richie desperately wishes he could grab Eddie back from the dead and never let him go.
Richie turns away, a sad man crying alone on a bridge.
“I can’t look at this. I’m sorry, I can’t—” He doesn’t know what it’s worse, that he’s going insane or that this is actually Eddie’s ghost in front of him, anchored by whatever creepy magic still permeates Derry.
He wonders if he’ll disappear into the winds once Richie’s gone, or if he’ll be stuck in this sad corner of nowhere for the rest of eternity. And the thing is, it’d be so easy to stay here with him forever, haunting this town and each other, until there’s nothing left of who they once were but creepy stories and old bones.
The thought sickens him. There’s a life outside Derry, however scary it may be, and maybe he’s going to fuck it up spectacularly and be absolutely miserable, but it’s still better than rotting here, chained by his old fears and surrounded by his childhood monsters.
“I can’t,” Richie says, again. “I’m— You were the best thing that happened to me. I love you.” He thinks: Goodbye, Eds.
He turns around and heads off the bridge, and he makes it twenty miles out of Derry before he’s crying so hard he can’t see the road. He sobs for what feels like hours until his throat is raw and his head dizzy, and then he wipes off his nose on his sleeve and puts his glasses back on.
Tomorrow, he’s going to be in Nevada. After that, he’s going back home and finally get the kitchen sink fixed, and maybe he’s going to call his agent and see about workshopping that personal material he'd always vehemently refused to share. He’s going to hit up Bill once they’re both in L.A.; he’s going to see the Niagara Falls. He thinks about Eddie at the Jade, short-tempered and prissy and gorgeous, and his heart aches; it feels like losing a part of himself.
Eddie thought he was brave, and perhaps it’s time to be that for him. He owes it to thirteen-year-old Richie, who’d been terrified out of his mind and still carved his big stupid love out there for everyone to see. At forty, Richie wishes he could be that gutsy, but maybe there's still time.
He presses down on the gas pedal and drives on.