There’s this thing that has happened to Richie on and off since sometime in college, where from time to time his brain just can’t connect to his body. He can lay there and think get up get up get up for ridiculous stretches of time, and he won’t move. Sometimes, no matter how hard he tries to make himself do something, it just won’t work. It’s how he lets his apartment fall into disarray, just unable to make himself clean. It’s how he can go occasionally unfortunate lengths of time in between showers, because there are too many little steps involved or something, and he just can’t get himself to start.
It happens the first morning he wakes up in the Derry Town House, the day after they killed It. His first morning living in a world where Eddie is dead.
He lays in his bed, under the shitty starched comforter, looking up at the spackled ceiling, and he thinks get up, get up, fucking get up you piece of shit, and he doesn’t move. He blinks up at the white expanse, closes his eyes again.
It can take him a full hour to get up sometimes, depending on just how traitorous his brain or his body is feeling.
That morning, it takes him an hour and a half.
When he finally drags himself out of bed, he looks at the shower and thinks complicated , and so he just changes his clothes and ruffles his fingers through his hair, and he rubs his eyes under his glasses. He manages to brush his teeth, which feels like a win, and then the rest of the day stretches out ahead of him.
He should probably be heading back to Chicago today - but that’s a lot of steps.
Then again, maybe if he breaks it down he can manage.
First step, get dressed and leave his room.
His phone tells him that Ben, Bev, and Bill all did in fact have to leave before he managed to wake up and exit his room, so he and Mike are the only ones left in town. They’d all hugged him the day before, told him if they didn’t see him to keep in touch and all that. Ben and Bev were running off together and avoiding Bev’s soon-to-be-ex-husband. Bill had to finish his movie, still, or risk some major upset with his career and his wife. It all sounded really fucking complicated - if Richie misses a tour date, his manager will probably ream him out over the phone, but it would hardly be the first time. Plus, now he can actually have an excuse. Death of your best friend is pretty airtight - all the weird shit doesn’t need to factor in when Richie can just be honest. His best friend is dead, suddenly, and that’s gotta be a valid excuse for most people.
Anyways, everyone else is already gone, so there’s Richie, alone in the Derry Town House as he tries to figure out a way to make himself eat something.
There’s no food in his room, and probably nothing decent behind the bar.
Instead, he thinks, Eddie probably has some granola bars and shit in his bags . He realizes immediately he wasn’t thinking it in past tense, but he refuses to correct himself. Instead, he knows which room is Eddie’s, and he knows that most of Eddie’s stuff is still in there, and he heads that way. The door is unlocked, but once he’s inside Richie realizes everything is still a mess from when Bowers had been in the bathroom, so they all probably just forgot to lock the door on the way out to go kill the murder clown.
One of Eddie’s bags is over against the wall, and the other is still open on the provided luggage rack. It’s all full of those little packing cubes, neatly arranged, probably each type of clothing has its own specific place. Richie thinks about his own sad little duffel bag and the way he haphazardly threw everything in it, and he laughs a little to himself - and then he realizes he’s crying, again. He’s probably making himself dehydrated at this rate.
He goes to the bathroom and gets himself a glass of water from the sink, and chugs it.
Then he comes back and starts digging in all the packing cubes.
Of course, he was right, and there’s one with some healthy snacks in it. Richie smiles, but knows that it’s wobbly, as he takes out a granola bar.
He sits down on the bed, and eats, and tries not to do anything too pathetic like lay down on the bed or sniff any of Eddie’s clothing. Things are weird enough as is, he doesn’t need to make them weirder or make it worse for himself. He cannot go full Brokeback Mountain, he’s not hot enough to pull it off.
The thing that sets him off again, it turns out, is seeing Eddie’s shoes sitting together by the closet. He must have taken them off after his incident at the pharmacy or something, and changed into another pair that he’d brought. Of course he brought another pair.
They’re just still sitting there, though, like he might come back, like they’re waiting.
He starts crying again.
Had Eddie had both his shoes by the end of everything in the sewer? Had he lost one somewhere?
Unbidden, Richie’s own stupid fucking joke from when they were kids comes back to him - How do you think Betty feels? Running around these tunnels with only one frickin’ shoe! He made jokes about the dead kids and this is what he gets apparently. Sitting here thinking obsessively about Eddie and what kind of state his body is in. Just like Betty Ripsom’s mom, standing outside of an empty building in complete denial, her hands over her stomach like it might keep all her sadness inside somehow.
Why had they even been down in the Barrens that day, digging around in sewer tunnels? Eddie had hated it, and Richie had teased him, throwing wet shit at him and cracking jokes just to watch all the little things he did with his hands when he got annoyed.
He remembers, then. They’d been down there looking for Georgie. Bill had explained it to them once, shown them with hamster tunnels in his garage - all the sewer’s tunnels and pipes washed out to the Barrens. They said Henry Bowers had washed out there, too, after Mike pushed him down the well in Neibolt. All the dead bodies, too.
Then, Richie’s brain does something terrible to him, yet again, the fucker.
What if Eddie’s body washed out in the Barrens? If Bill was right, and if the stories are true, then anything that ended up down there, including a bunch of the debris, should have washed out in the Barrens. Including Eddie. And then Richie could at least do that, could try to get his body and make sure he’s not down in the sewers anymore, down there in the cold and the dark.
Then Richie thinks, oh God don’t be fucking ridiculous, and he makes himself stand up and go back to his room so he can throw everything in his duffel bag and start trying to leave. That’s easy enough, grab all your clothes, shove them in the bag, make sure there’s nothing else you need to shove in the bag, take the bag and go to your car. The process is pretty mechanical, but he’s managing it, and that must count for something.
He remembers, as he’s driving, that he wanted to stop by the Kissing Bridge before he left town. He drives there first, stops right before the tunnel, and finds his old carving. It’s still there, weathered but readable. No one’s carved over it or fucked it up.
He pulls out a pocket knife, leans down and starts carving back over the letters to make it clear again. While he does it, he can hear the water under the bridge. He’s still working on the E when he realizes he can’t leave without going down to the Barrens to look. There’s no way, not now, not once he’s had the thought.
He finishes the carving, gets back into his car, and starts driving towards the Barrens. Welcome to Crazytown, population: Richie Fucking Tozier! What a nightmare. It’s stupid, and there won’t even be anything down there, and still his heart is stuttering in his chest, speeding up and nearly choking him. The worst part is he’s going to be disappointed if there’s nothing there, now, but of course there’s nothing there, the tunnels were probably so collapsed nothing could get through.
Never mind that there should have been enough debris after all the kids floated down in ‘89 to keep Henry Bowers from floating out unscathed, too.
There’s nowhere to park right by the Barrens, he has to drive over and then start walking. It’s a long walk, and he spends the whole way berating himself, reminding himself that it’s both stupid and crazy to think this is going to do anything, that anything would wash out here, but none of it stops the little spark of hope burning right under his breastbone.
He turns, pushes through the woods, the barrens open out in front of him - and there’s wood and stone and shit everywhere.
One of the bigger pieces that catches his eye is a broken off piece of the fireplace mantle from inside Neibolt, that corny piece of shit that said GOOD CHEER GOOD FRIENDS and always seemed like it was laughing at them every time they walked in.
For a second, Richie just stands there, a little bit terrified of whatever he might find. Frankly, he’s still just shocked as all fucking hell that he was actually right for once - that he figured out something other than just how to run away.
Then he rolls up his pants, wades in, and starts digging. This, he can manage. This he can do - because he’s got to do it for Eddie.
He’s filthy up to his thighs and his elbows before he hears it. His shoes are ruined and he’s cold and wet and he feels like he’s never going to find anything. And then there’s a noise.
“Eddie?” he calls out without thinking.
Only then - there’s actually another fucking noise, and tears spring to his eyes and Richie practically dives into a fucking pile of wood, because holy fucking shit .
Richie finds his own jacket, first, because it was still all balled up with Eddie and pressed against him - presumably he’d used it to stay warm - and then he sees the fabric of Eddie’s shirt and moves all the debris out of the way - and there’s Eddie. And he’s breathing .
Most notably - there’s not a single fucking hole in his chest - there’s not even blood on his shirt anymore. It’s like he was never injured.
Eddie’s big dark eyes blink open, and he looks up at Richie.
“Rich? Is that you?”
Richie pulls him up immediately, and he’s fucking freezing, because he’s been out there all night, so Richie holds him close and starts trying to carry him to the car. “Yeah, yeah Eds, it’s me, hey.”
“Hey we- we got It, right? Before the house collapsed? We- everything’s good? I got It?”
“Yeah, yeah you got it, buddy, of course, hey. Don’t worry about that right now, let’s - you’re cold and wet and you could be hurt, I don’t - we gotta get you to a hospital, right?”
“Right, something - something might have hit me on the head when shit started falling, I don’t know, I’m kind of - I’ve been in and out since everything started collapsing, then I was under all that shit…”
Eddie’s shivering, and Richie pulls him closer. As soon as they’re back to the car, Richie sits him in the seat and takes off his own hoodie so he can put it over Eddie’s shoulders. He turns up the heated seats and the heat in the car, and he starts driving like there’s something after them.
“Rich, I’m kind of tired.”
“Hey, Eds, let’s - you remember this stuff, right? Don’t fall asleep, let’s get you to the hospital first, if you have a head injury-”
“Be bad if I fell asleep. Right. Yeah, I know, I know that - guess it’s nice to know you… listen sometimes. Kind of hard to talk, though, you talk. Keep me awake.”
“Oh you’re gonna regret that later, I’m gonna hold that over you so hard. Remember that time you actually told me of all fucking people to talk? You’re gonna wanna hit me for it when you wake up again in the hospital and I still won’t shut up and it’s all because you said that. If you were conscious I’d get you to write it down just so I had better proof - and the other losers are gonna- everyone’s gonna lose their shit, they won’t even believe it.” Richie chokes on that, because as soon as he saw Eddie, eighty different things went through his head and none of them were that, but now here they are and Richie is gonna be fucking furious once he can think about anything other than Eddie, hospital, safe. “First we gotta get you checked into Derry Memorial, though, bet that’s gonna bring back some memories-”
“Rich, wait - wh- where is everyone else? Is everybody else safe? Don’t - should you still be looking for somebody?”
Oh- Oh God. Richie tries not to let that choke him up too bad, tries not to let it sidetrack him so hard he can’t do what he needs to do, because the absolute one and only priority right now has to be getting Eddie somewhere safe and getting him help. “No, no, everybody else is safe, pal, just you left out there and now you’re good, too, you’ll see everybody later once you’re less likely to die on us.”
“Not gonna die, if I had a serious internal injury I’m pretty sure I’d - I mean it’s a possibility but I’m pretty sure this is just hypothermia and dehydration and maybe a concussion or something, maybe not even that, I just - I’m a little out of it that’s all.”
“Right well I hope you’re right, you’re probably right, you’re better at this than I am.”
Richie reaches over and grabs Eddie’s hand, and Eddie squeezes him back, a little weak, but clearly there. Eddie’s alive and squeezing his hand and if Richie hadn’t followed his stupid impulse he’d still be out there buried under debris, he’d still be out in the barrens, shit. Shit .
They pull up to the hospital and Richie literally squeals to a stop in front, not even parking properly before he grabs Eddie and practically carries him in.
“Hey, hey, can somebody help please,”
If Richie’s good at anything, it’s making a fucking scene, so a nurse comes over quickly and Richie tells her Eddie got trapped under debris in the old Neibolt house when it collapsed - that’s the best thing he’s really got. Eddie’s clearly losing his grip on consciousness, and she notices and gets Richie to put him on a bed which she rolls back into the emergency room proper.
Somebody comes over to check in with Richie, then, to talk to him and get Eddie’s information. Richie just gives his own address in Chicago, tells them Eddie’s his husband, because he knows that Eddie’s phone is probably destroyed, and he has no clue how to get in touch with Eddie’s wife, and that can all just come back to bite him after he makes sure he’s the one that gets to see Eddie as soon as he’s awake again right now.
“Right, so you’ll be next of kin, we’ll keep you updated, Mr. Kaspbrak. Do you have his ID or insurance card?”
“Those - those should be in his wallet, still in his pants.”
“Okay, we’ll have a look. Any allergies or medical conditions we should be aware of?”
“Uh - serious anxiety, particularly like medical anxiety, he’s sort of a hypochondriac. No real allergies, though, last time we checked, he just gets nervous, you know.”
“Of course. You stay out here for now, I’ll give you an update when I can.”
Just like that, the whirlwind passes. Richie is left, filthy and damp and cold in a plain t-shirt and his rolled up jeans, sitting in the waiting room and finally left to his own thoughts and emotions.
His first thought is mostly, how the fuck could this happen ? How is Eddie alive? He knows it’s a gift, knows better than to think It’s responsible somehow, because that wouldn’t make any goddamn sense and besides, It’s dead. The whole sewer collapsed, the house collapsed, the town feels different now. It’s really, really dead. There’s a few different possibilities for what could have literally happened, how Eddie could be so uninjured, but Richie doesn’t have the focus to dig in and make all the puzzle pieces fit yet.
Instead, his second thought is mostly just blinding, all-consuming fury. He tried so hard, so fucking hard to get Eddie out. He would have carried him, helped someone else carry him, but instead they all pulled him away, they physically fucking dragged him when they could have dragged Eddie instead, they could have pulled and tried and done anything, and instead, all of them made Richie leave him down there. It wasn’t his dead body, though - it was just Eddie. They left him all cold and alone, under debris, left to wash out in the barrens like fucking Henry Bowers. If Richie hadn’t gone back, Eddie might have died there. He could have been killed in the collapse - and every other one of the Losers just wrote him off.
Fueled by his anger, he paces around the waiting room until he finds a little private room with a vending machine, and then he calls Mike.
“Richie? Hey, man, what is it?”
“Mikey you’ve got some fucking explaining to do.”
“I- what? Is that like a joke, or-”
“No, Mike, it’s not a joke, if you wanna know what my fucking day’s been like, thank you for asking, I woke up today and I was miserable and I went damn, I’d better get the hell out of Dodge, time to blow this fucking popsicle stand, and I wanted to see some old sights on the way out and mourn my fucking best friend who we all thought was dead and who you guys made me leave in a goddamned abandoned collapsed house, but I was tooling around being a sadsack and I thought, maybe, maybe his body, you know his dead fucking body, is down in the barrens! You know Bill and everyone they used to say shit washed up down there. So let me go and see if my best friend’s dead fucking body washed up only guess what! Hey guess what Mike! It wasn’t his fucking dead body! He was just down there! Alive! And he was alive and cold as shit and out of it and he might have a concussion because you guys let a building collapse on top of him, so I brought him to the hospital and they took him back and he thinks he’s gonna be fine! So maybe he’s fine, but he’s sure not dead, and it’s sure not thanks to any of you fuckers!”
Richie tries really, extremely hard not to yell, so mostly he’s just sort of whisper-shouting, babbling like a crazy fuck into his phone in the weirdest tone of voice possible - probably mostly because at this point, he is a crazy fuck.
“You-” Mike starts, and stops again. “Richie, are you saying Eddie’s alive? And in the hospital?”
“Yeah, Mike, that’s exactly what I’m fucking saying!”
“He’s not - he wasn’t bleeding to death?”
“No! No he wasn’t! There’s not even like a place where anything stabbed him, there’s the cut on his cheek from Bowers and otherwise he was just kind of cold and sad and tired-looking and definitely super not dead!”
“Okay. Okay, Richie, I know you’re angry, and that’s - maybe you have a right to be. But I’m gonna come down there, okay? Don’t call any of the others yet, just let me come down to the hospital and let’s figure this out, yeah?”
“Oh, by all means, Michael, take your fucking time!”
He hangs up, and glances around. There’s no one in the room, still, fortunately, and the people in the waiting room seem to be looking at him like he’s a little strange, but that was probably all the pacing and gesturing he was clearly doing. Also, he’s still like filthy and covered in shit and dust and God knows what else, so that’s probably not helping his case.
Frankly, shouting at Mike has made him feel a little bit better.
He turns to the vending machine, gets himself a water and a pack of peanut butter crackers, and heads back out into the waiting room proper, trying not to bounce his leg too much or fidget too hard while he waits for the nurse. He eats his crackers and tries to ignore that he’s shaking a little, and he blows time.
Mike’s voice is the first thing that makes him look up.
When he does glance up, Mike is standing there, wide-eyed and frazzled. His jacket is on inside-out, which at least makes Richie feel like he tried to get to the hospital in a hurry. “Is it that bad?” Richie asks.
“You- what are you even covered in?”
Richie barks out a laugh and tries to brush off his legs a little, not to much avail. Mike has a point - all the water and shit let all the stone dust sort of cake up, and there’s gray streaks all over his arms and legs and his clothes. He probably has some of it in his hair, too. His face is probably dusty except for the tear streaks, and that’s it’s very own kind of pathetic. He rubs at his face, trying to at least make that a little less obvious. “Oh, you know. Just all the debris from Neibolt, from where it all washed out down there and I spent God fucking knows how long digging through it before I heard Eddie. He - he wasn’t even all the way unconscious. He knew who I was when he woke up. He asked me if he got It. He- Mike you know the worst fucking part? He asked me where everybody else was.”
Mike gives a sharp little exhale at that and sits down in the chair next to Richie. “Oh, God. Richie - Richie, I’m so sorry.”
“Well you - Look, Mike, I called you cause you’re here but you’re also not really the one who did most of the physical dragging or the one who kept telling me he was dead. I think I’m comfortable blaming most of this on Ben and all 37 of his abs.”
That makes Mike laugh, and then he winces like he feels bad about it. “Rich, look… Do you want to tell the others?”
“Right now I’m a little more worried about Eddie waking up again and making sure he’s not fucking bleeding internally or something, okay? If he lives, we tell everyone else. Actually, well, if he dies again we tell everyone else and I punch every one of you in the face, but let’s just assume everything’s gonna be fine and dandy, and then I don’t have to have a mental break and murder all my friends, right? So he’s gonna be fine.”
A hand lands on Richie’s shoulder, but when he looks over, Mike looks actually genuinely scared. Unfortunately, for all his attempts at joking, it’s probably obvious that he means it, just a little, even in spite of himself. “He’s gonna be fine, Rich. Yeah? You’re right, I’m sure he’ll be fine. You want me to ask?”
Richie shakes his head. “Nah, the nurse said she’d give me updates, she - I told her, uh. Well.” He leans in close and says quietly. “I told her that I was his husband? So maybe just roll with that, I realize it was maybe incredibly stupid but I was under a lot of pressure and trying to make sure I’d get in to see him and I know we don’t have a good way to get in touch with his wife right now, so. I improvised.”
Mike raises his eyebrows, but he gives Richie the dignity of not saying anything. Richie appreciates that.
There’s another indeterminate stretch of time before the nurse comes back out to see them - but when she does, she’s smiling. “Mr. Kaspbrak?”
Mike raises his eyebrows again, but Richie stands up and valiantly ignores him. “Yeah? Is he okay?”
“He’s gonna be fine. He has a minor concussion, he’s a little dehydrated, but we’re warming him up, we’ve got him on some fluids. We’d like to keep him overnight for observation, but then he’s all yours. You’re lucky he only got the cheek wound in all of that debris! That collapsing house - I’m surprised both of you weren’t more seriously hurt. That place has been a real deathtrap for a long time. We’ve gotten a lot of injured kids out of that place over the years.”
“Yeah. Yeah, we uh- we sort of grew up playing around in it, came back and wanted to check in, obviously that was a mistake. Can we - can we both go back to see him?”
She smiles and nods. “Of course. Just a couple of visitors won’t overcrowd the room. We’re not very busy, so he’s got his own. Go down that hallway, it’s room 217.”
Richie nods, and tilts his head, and Mike starts walking with him. “Thank you again!” he calls back to the nurse, and she gives him another little nod.
They get to Eddie’s room, and Richie awkwardly hovers outside, so much that Mike bumps into him.
“Richie?” he prods.
“What if he- I don’t know. I don’t even know where to start.”
“Opening the door might be good.”
Richie nods, and then does. Eddie’s laying there in the bed, but he’s already propped up and looking at the door.
“You rang?” Richie calls out, because he is physically incapable of being normal as soon as he’s in a room with Eddie.
“Well you know, I heard my husband was in the waiting room, I was a little curious to find out who that was.”
Richie flushes immediately, he knows that he does, and Mike has to shove him out of the way to go over to one of the chairs by Eddie’s bed.
Mike’s grinning at Eddie, big and happy, and it looks like his eyes have gone a little glassy. Richie knows the feeling. “I feel like you knew who it was as soon as they told you that,” Mike says.
“Oh, yeah, no, I assumed. Most of you probably would have said brother or something, but Richie goes directly to husband. You should really get some new material, man, it’s been like 27 years.”
“If I didn’t get new material it would have been stepdad, get with it, Kaspbrak.”
“You get with it, Kaspbrak,” Eddie tells him, with a soft little smirk. Just a quirk of his lips, and Richie blushes again, lain out completely by his own joke and his own stupidity. It feels like his brain is giving him an error screen, like TOO GAY: DOES NOT COMPUTE. Instead of trying to say anything else, he just sits down.
Mike just keeps his attention on Eddie. “Did they tell you anything?”
Eddie nods, a little more subdued. “Yeah. They said I have a mild concussion, pretty severe dehydration, and I was nearing dangerous levels of hypothermia when they brought me in. They have me on fluids, I’m being observed overnight.” Then his brow furrows a little, and he glances over at Richie. “And tomorrow we’re getting the fuck out of here because I still hate hospitals, and this one especially, and you know that Richie.”
“But if you hadn’t brought me here as quick as you did I’d probably be dead, so. Thanks. Again.”
Nodding, Richie reaches over and places his hand on the bed, but can’t quite make himself touch. “Yeah. Of course, man. You’d have done the same thing for me - you saved my life down there.”
“Hell yeah I did.” At that, Eddie’s little smirk comes back, and Richie resists the urge to crawl under the bed, or to slump down so far in his chair he can hide, because God it is so much . “I mean not to brag but I sort of saved everyone’s ass, final blow with the magic fence spike or whatever.”
Richie blinks, and he glances over at Mike. Mike widens his eyes. Neither of them say anything.
“What’s that face?” Eddie asks.
“What face?” Richie says back, looking over at him immediately and trying really hard not to show even a tiny ounce of panic.
“You’re making an ‘oh no’ face, like that time you spilled ice cream in my fanny pack and you tried to just not tell me about it.”
“You remember that?” It’s half a distraction for Eddie and half genuine, actually, because some things are still sort of fuzzy for Richie, memories slipping off the ends of his fingers when he tries to reach for them. Eddie’s right though - that totally happened.
“Don’t try to distract me, asshole.”
Mike turns and answers, saving Richie from having to. “We just weren’t sure how much you remembered - head injury and all. So you do remember everything up to that? Up to getting Richie out of the deadlights?”
Eddie nods. “Yeah, but everything after that is fuzzy. Cavern collapsing, shit all washing away, you know. You guys were in the collapse, too, right? Just - some of us probably got out other ways, I guess. Is everyone else still back at the hotel cleaning up?”
Richie nods before Mike can say anything. “Yeah. Showers, you know, getting all the dirty sewer shit off. All the like - Neibolt dust. I should probably do more of that.”
“Yeah you’re fucking disgusting, I think some of it’s in your hair, still, man. You wanna head back and do that? I’m not gonna be up to anything here except laying here and complaining - Mike can probably take first shift for that, you can send along anyone else when they wanna come by. Or not, whatever, I’ll see them when I get out.”
“Eddie… I hate to do this but I should probably go, uh… Round up everybody at the Town House. Will you be good here for a bit til Richie’s cleaned up?”
“Oh.” He blinks at Mike, then turns to Richie. “Yeah, no, that’s fine. You’ll come back, right Rich?”
This time, Richie can’t help it, he reaches over and grabs Eddie’s wrist, feeling his pulse and the warmth of his skin. “Yeah. Yeah, of course I’ll come back, don’t be stupid. Give me like an hour to get myself presentable and I’ll be back to bug the shit out of you. I’ll even - I’ll bring you a shitty sudoku book or something if you want. Some clothes or shit out of your bag if you need it.”
“I’d say I’d text you, but my phone is fucked.” Eddie gestures to his ruined phone, still sitting on the bedside table in his personal item bag. “Just come back. I’ll see you soon. If anyone else wants to come with you, they’re welcome.”
“If nobody else does, I’ll come back later, too,” Mike says.
Eddie smiles. “Alright. Thanks, guys. I, uh- actually, Richie, write your number down, would you? They said I can use a hospital phone if I need to, so. That way I can call you.”
“Yeah, yeah of course.”
So Richie leaves his number, scribbles it on a napkin on the table beside Eddie’s bed.
Mike leans down and gives Eddie an awkward sort of hug, just because it’s hard to hug anyone laying down, and says, “It’s… really good to see you, Eddie. I’m glad you’re okay.”
Eddie pats Mike on the back, but gives him sort of a strange look. He raises an eyebrow at Richie, too, behind Mike’s back. Richie, unsure where to even begin to explain, just shrugs.
He doesn’t go back to hug Eddie, scared that if he gets too close or slows down too much right now he’ll break down completely. Plus, like Eddie said, he’s fucking gross. Instead, he just waves from the door once Mike is done with his prolonged horizontal hug. Then Richie heads out the door, Mike behind him, and they make their way back out into the lobby and out of the hospital.
Mike is the one that stops them in the parking lot, grabbing onto Richie’s arm. “So he really doesn’t remember-”
“Dying? No, apparently not. To the point that I’m starting to think, you know, he didn’t, but I don’t-”
“Oh God,” Mike says, startling like he’s just realized something. “It’s like- it’s like what happened to Ben. When you were all in the kitchen, in Neibolt, me and Ben and Bev were in the other room - Pennywise, It… started carving into Ben’s stomach, letters, like Henry Bowers did, but we could only see It in the mirror. Then It started to slit his throat, and Ben could feel it, like it was real, but Bev shattered the mirror and it was like it never happened. The whole thing - the whole thing was like an illusion.”
Richie blinks, anger rising again. “You’re telling me all three of you saw this happen and none of you thought to mention that?"
“He had a hole in his chest, Richie! It felt different, in the moment, and we thought - I can’t speak for everybody. I guess it seemed like It could get us this time. Like one of us was bound to get seriously injured after what had already happened to Stan. And we all thought he wasn’t breathing anymore, you included!”
“So what! So fucking what, Mike? We never should have left him down there. Alive or dead. We wasted more time arguing about it than it would have taken for a couple of us to carry him on the way out, and then - then he would have been fine. And now he’s still fine and thank fucking Christ, but how- how the hell do we tell him that we left him down there? Sorry, buddy, we thought you were dead and we were just gonna leave you in the sewer to rot.”
Richie’s crying again now, which was probably inevitable. Mike pulls him into a hug, holding him close as he sobs, which Richie really does appreciate. He’s still a little bit mad at Mike, but he’s mad at himself, too, mad at that fucking clown, mad at everybody, whatever - there’s plenty of anger to go around.
“Come on, Rich. Let’s get you back to the Town House so you can clean up. We’ll have to call everybody, too. It’s gonna be fine.”
So Richie gets back in his car, and Mike follows him over to the Derry Town House, and he’s back where he started, sort of.
Mike tells him. “Go take a shower and I’ll start making phone calls. I don’t think anybody needs you to - Well.”
“No, you’re probably right, don’t think anybody needs the Richie Tozier treatment. I’m kind of uh- kind of crazy, right now. Crazier than usual. I’m gonna go be less disgusting so Eddie won’t kick me out of his room again.”
With multiple people having told him explicitly to do it, getting in the shower is easier. He washes off all the grime, washes his hair enough to make sure it’s clean, generally makes sure he doesn’t look gross or smell even worse. Once he’s out, he dries off, puts on new clean clothes (still something comfortable and soft, nothing that requires too much effort), and he tries to sort of fluff his hair in the mirror.
When he goes back downstairs, Mike is still on the phone, but he gives Richie a once-over and a thumbs up.
“Bev- No, Bev, I don’t think anybody’s gonna hate you. Look, Richie is here right now, he just came back downstairs, do you want to talk to him?”
After a moment, Mike holds the phone out to Richie. Richie’s a little surprised by the offer but he takes it, not really sure what kind of conversation he’s getting into.
“Richie, honey, I’m so sorry,” she starts, and she’s obviously crying, and Richie blinks but he seems to be just so dehydrated he can’t cry anymore at the moment. Maybe for the best. “If I’d had any idea, I just - I feel awful. Are you sure he’s okay?”
“Yeah. Yeah, Bev, he’s gonna be fine. Look, I’m not-” He stops himself, not wanting to lie to her. “I know you thought you were just making sure you were getting me out, and all of you just kind of agreed to prioritize me, or whatever, I just. In light of this I’m sort of - you know. It’ll be fine, though.”
“I’m just so sorry, Rich. And tell Eddie I’m sorry, too, I- Ben and I, with all the stuff with my husband, we flew out here and we’re on his boat and I don’t know if we can get back before Eddie’s going to want to leave. I don’t know what you’ll tell him, just tell him I’m sorry. I’m - it’s all my fault, or I guess it’s Tom’s, I just had to get somewhere he couldn’t get to me so I could start the divorce proceedings, and it all happened so fast and now I wish more than anything we could just turn around and come back but we can’t. I want to see him.”
Richie nods, processing. He expects to be angry again - but he’s not. He can remember the bruises on Bev’s arms, and the way she’d behaved when all of them sort of accidentally ganged up on her when she told them about the dreams. It makes enough logical sense, that she can’t backtrack right now. But Ben… “Yeah, okay. I’ll tell Eddie. Am I gonna - am I gonna explain that the new Mr. Marsh is probably the one that could have carried him out, though, and he’s not even gonna show?”
“Richie, for fuck’s sake,” Bev says quietly, a little shocked. “I know that we may not all love Eddie the way you do, but we love him just as much. Ben especially.”
“And yet he was the one that was dragging me out when he could have just carried Eddie’s body instead and not had to drag me.”
“And you expect anyone to be able to think logically when the ceiling is falling in on all of us and the only thing in our veins is adrenaline? Richie, Ben is your friend, too. Don’t - don’t just put this on him, please. He feels bad enough.”
Sighing, Richie scrubs a hand over his face. “I’ll work on it, I’ll try, but I’m not making any promises.”
“Right. Well. I’m not telling him you said any of that. And just - don’t be too hard on yourself, either, yeah?”
He passes the phone back to Mike and puts both his hands over his face again. He didn’t really expect Bev to cry - and then he almost feels bad that he didn’t expect it. There’s a lot going on in his head, and he’s feeling a little nauseous with all the guilt piling up on him, and all he really wants to do is tell all of it to fuck off so he can go back to the hospital and see Eddie again.
Mike hangs up, and comes back over. “So Bev and Ben aren’t coming, but Bill is on his way back. He was still waiting for a connection in North Carolina, so he’s booked another flight to come back now.”
“Right. Okay.” Richie nods, but mostly everything is just kind of in one ear and out the other. “I’m gonna go back to the hospital, I guess.”
“Have you decided what you’re gonna tell him?”
Richie frowns. “Tell him? Like what? I’m not gonna lead with ‘Hey we all left you in the fucking sewer,’ like. I’m gonna go in there and distract him til they decide to let him out, God knows I can talk enough shit for that, Mike. If you wanna tell him sometime that we all suck and we’re the worst friends on the planet, be my guest, but give me a heads up first so I don’t have to be there, yeah?”
“Don’t you pull that shit with me like I’m overreacting. He would have died, and every one of us would have been responsible. Now he’s not dead, and I’m gonna take care of him until he figures it out and he hates me. Okay? So can I please go back now?”
Mike sighs, and shakes his head a little. “Yeah. Alright, Rich. Text me if you want me to come by or if he needs anything.”
So he goes back to the hospital, easy enough. Get in car, drive over, park like a normal fucking human this time, go inside and go back to the room. He hesitates outside Eddie’s room again, though, and this time Mike isn’t there to push him through. Instead, he hears Eddie arguing with a nurse, and he has enough sympathy to go in just to interrupt.
“Hey, Eds, what is it?”
“Mr. Kaspbrak - your husband is concerned about staying an additional night, but the doctor believes-”
“It’s just completely fucking unnecessary! Just because you obviously aren’t filling beds around here, you don’t need to charge my insurance-”
“Dr. Young just thinks-”
“Eds.” Richie says, looking at him, and both Eddie and the nurse pause. “Babe, if they want to keep you for one more night, what’s one more night? Plus - I mean if he’s really right as rain in the morning you’ll let him go, right? It depends a little on how he is tomorrow?”
The nurse nods. “Of course. But Dr. Young is struggling and may not be able to check him over thoroughly until a little later, so if he wants to get fully signed off by his official doctor…”
“Oh. Right, yeah, well - Eds, is it really that bad to stay another night?”
Eddie huffs. “I mean I’ll probably live, assuming people want to keep visiting me - but if I’m not out of here after two nights, I’ll just get up and walk out, I swear to God-”
“And I’ll try to keep him from doing that. Sorry,” Richie says, flashing the nurse some kind of attempt at a charming smile. She gives him an unimpressed sort of look as she leaves, and then they’re alone again.
“Wow, I miss all the fun,” Richie quips as he sits down by Eddie’s bed.
Eddie groans. “No. Opposite of fun. I fucking hate this place, it’s just the same.” After a moment, though, he blinks, and shoots Richie a sly little smile. “I will say, though, they gave me a phone call, and you - you will never believe what I did. Or what I told the hospital staff. You’re gonna lose your shit.”
“What? What’d you do?”
“I called Myra. I got the nurse out first, obviously, but I called her and told her I wanted a divorce. She’s - I know this probably makes her your ideal fucking woman or whatever, but she’s exactly like my mother. They could be sisters, seriously, and now that I remember, and I went in that sewer and I saved everyone, you know, I feel like I can do anything. So I’m getting a divorce. And I told the nurses - I told them if someone shows up pretending to be my wife, that obviously they already know I’m married to someone else, and to turn her away.” Eddie’s fully grinning by the time he’s finished, his eyes sparkling, because somehow they can genuinely fucking do that, and Richie feels like his heart is just going to come up out of his throat and land in his hands so he can just give it directly to Eddie. He feels like his own expression is doing most of the work already.
“I didn’t even know you wanted a divorce,” Richie says instead, because he’s an idiot.
“Well I did. As soon as I remembered. I tried to tell her when I left but it wouldn’t stick, and she kept screaming and crying and basically told me not to come back anyways, so I- you know, now it’s real. But it feels pretty good, actually. Unpleasant hospital aside, I’m feeling pretty good, ever since you found me. You were right - I’m braver than I thought.”
And boy isn’t that just a kick in the ass. Richie makes himself sit down before he starts pacing or tries to run away or something. “Well, clearly I’m always extremely right and you should listen to me.”
“Fuck off,” Eddie replies, but he’s still smiling.
“You do seem… good. You sure you’re good?”
“Yeah, man, I feel great. I mean you look worse than I do - the shower helped, but you look - did something happen to somebody else? Is that why you guys were being so fucking weird earlier? Because you should definitely tell me if something happened.”
“No. Bill and Bev and Ben are fine. Bev and Ben are busy being super fucking into each other, but Bill should stop by tonight or tomorrow, if you need proof.”
“So nothing happened in the sewer, to any of you.”
Fortunately, Eddie just keeps giving Richie ways to lie by omission. “Nope. Not unless you’re counting my whole deadlights experience, which, you know, I would love to never think about again as long as I’m alive.”
For one long moment, Eddie squints at him, like that’s a good way to discern whether Richie is lying through his teeth or not. “Right. Okay. I’ll believe you, then. But if you’re lying to me, I will find out, and it will be the ice cream in fanny pack situation all over again.”
“Please, Eds, I would never,” he says, mostly out of habit, but then he is lying to Eddie, basically right at that very moment, and he feels like he’s only hurting himself. “Anyways, I’m here to entertain you so come on, let’s play cards or watch a movie or do a crossword puzzle or something. Tell me where to start or I’ll just start using you to practice my new standup act.”
“They already sent you material for a new standup act?”
Of course that’s what Eddie gets stuck on. Richie sighs. “No, I’m - I was thinking of trying to write my own stuff, maybe.” He’s really expecting Eddie to laugh at him or say something snarky.
Instead, Eddie smiles at him, soft and genuine - oh be still his shriveled little heart. “That sounds good. Glad you finally figured out you’re funnier than your shitty writer.”
Richie feels like he might cry. “Oh, uh. Yeah. Thanks.”
“Rich, are you okay?”
“You keep asking me that,” Richie says, but he knows he’s quickly losing the thread of not looking like a complete weirdo, because it’s really hitting him that this is Eddie and he’s back and he’s fine, whole and happy and smiling at Richie. “I’m fine, I just.” He tries to stop, but he can’t - well he isn’t really crying, not all the way. “I’m just really glad you’re okay.”
“Oh.” But Eddie doesn’t shove him off or laugh at him or whatever, instead he reaches over and grabs Richie’s hand, puts his hand on Richie’s head when Richie tries to hide his face in the side of the hospital bed. “Hey. Rich, it’s fine - I’m fine. How- how long were you out looking for me?”
“A while,” he tells Eddie in a small voice. And now would be a good time, explain what happened, tell him the truth - but Richie can’t do it.
“Well now we’re all good. I’m fine, we made it out and we killed It.”
“I know. Sorry.” He sits back up, wipes at his face under his glasses, and tries not to look at Eddie’s face.
“Richie. Hey. C’mon, man, look at me.”
So, finally, Richie does. Eddie’s still looking at him all gentle and concerned and it fucking hurts, it hurts like someone is twisting a goddamn knife inside of his stomach to know what he’s doing, what he’s done, and that Eddie is still trying to take care of him. “Eds, I’m fine, don’t - I should be the one worrying about you, you’re the one that got trapped and shit. Don’t worry about me.”
“Easier said than done, asshole. You’re like a walking cause for concern.”
Richie snorts. “Well hey I took a shower at least.”
“One very small step in the right direction. Is Mike gonna come back tonight?”
“I think he was gonna wait until Bill got in, so you’re stuck with me. Remember when you asked me to talk when I was driving you over? You regret that yet?”
“No, actually.” Eddie says, and he’s a little quiet, but it’s terrifyingly genuine. Richie doesn’t know how to respond to that, so he flounders completely, gaping at Eddie open-mouthed until Eddie just clears his throat and pushes onwards. “Did you say something about watching a movie?”
Richie nods, embracing the subject change. “Yep, great idea.”
So he flips around the hospital television until they find an old black and white movie, but they discover the sound doesn’t work. Typical Derry Memorial. Richie ends up doing replacement voices instead, but he’s filled with utter delight when Eddie joins in, covering the characters that Richie’s characters are talking to.
If anyone looked in on them, they’d look utterly insane - two grown men, sitting in a hospital room, watching a shitty old television and doing voices with old fashioned Trans-Atlantic accents. Still, they keep cracking each other up, and Richie’s leaning on the bed and Eddie’s got a hand on his head again, and it all feels perfect. For those two hours, everything is great.
After the movie, they go back to talking about stupid shit until Richie dozes off.
He wakes up to the sound of his cellphone, and Eddie shaking his shoulder.
“Rich, I think you should probably get that.”
It’s Mike, so he does.
“Mikey, hey, what is it?”
“Bill’s back - I think he needs some sleep, though, before we try to head over there. You want us to just meet you there in the morning?”
Richie looks over at Eddie - at his lingering smile, at the stitches on his face, at the sparkle in his eyes, because they’re doing it again, what the fuck. Richie looks at him and knows that some time soon, Eddie will figure out the truth, or someone will tell him, and he’ll know Richie’s been lying, and it will be so much worse than the fannypack incident. He’ll probably never speak to Richie again.
He’s not going to waste the time he’s got.
“Yeah. Yeah, just come over in the morning. Text me or something when you get here.” He hangs up the phone, and fills Eddie in. “Bill and Mike are coming in the morning. You want me to stay the night?”
Eddie’s brow furrows. “That chair is gonna be hell on your back.”
“Eds, come on, like my back isn’t already fucked anyways, gimme a real reason-”
“If you want to stay, then stay. Fine. Please. I- I really do hate this hospital, that is not a joke.”
Richie reaches over and grabs Eddie’s hand. “Yeah. Yeah, I know. Sorry I couldn’t get you an airlift to a different one or something.”
“Looks just like it did when my mom used to bring me here, it’s fucking uncanny.”
“Annnnnd it’s time for another distraction! Look over there, it’s - wow man how about those fucking hospital gloves, huh? What’s the deal with those?”
Eddie laughs, but it’s one of those little god you’re a fucking idiot laughs. Stil, there’s something unshakably fond about it, and Richie gives him a little shit-eating grin in response.
“Very subtle there, trashmouth,” Eddie says.
“It’s what I do best.”
In the end, he falls asleep in a sort of cot rigged up from a few artfully arranged chairs, using his hoodie as a blanket. He and Eddie bicker mindlessly about the next old movie that comes on as they fall asleep, trying to figure out who the murderer is in the film noir without any sound - which is basically impossible, but they both get super into it regardless.
“No, no, it’s definitely the tall guy just look at his face-”
“It’s the guy with the gloves! He’s wearing the gloves to cover his tracks it’s so obvious-”
In the morning, his phone wakes him up again, buzzing insistently against his leg.
He groans a little as he fumbles for it, then slaps a hand over his own mouth and looks over at Eddie.
He’s still sleeping. Richie lays there, just for a moment, and watches him. His chest moves with each breath. There’s stubble starting to come in on his face, just a little, and Richie just stares at it, wonders what Eddie would look like with more of a beard, wonders if he’s ever grown it out, wonders what it feels like to the touch.
Then he looks at his phone.
We’re out in the parking lot, just come out here and meet us.
He doesn’t want to wake Eddie up. Instead, he gets up as quietly as he can and sneaks out of the room, heading out to meet Bill and Mike in the parking lot.
They’re both out there, and Richie just shoves his hands in his pockets at the sight of Bill, at the sight of both of them joking and laughing, because the anger’s bubbling again and he’s starting to recognize that’s mostly on him and he might have a problem, but there’s not really a good outlet for it at the moment.
“Hey, guys.” Richie says. “He’s still asleep right now.”
“But he’s okay?” Bill asks, obviously worried. It helps a little.
“Yeah, man, he’s fine. Happy, good. Called his wife and asked for a divorce, he’s really just. He’s really, really good.”
Mike sighs. “That’s why Richie doesn’t want to tell him.”
At that, Richie’s eyes narrow, and he glances between the two of them. “Uh, yeah. Have you guys been talking about that? Of course I don’t wanna fucking tell him, he feels awesome right now because he thinks he killed it and saved all of us and he doesn’t know all his friends fucking left him for dead!”
“Richie, you can’t be serious,” Bill says.
Richie bristles at that, can feel his shoulders push up towards his ears, feels his heart beat faster in his chest. “Bill, I need you to take that shit and put it somewhere else real fucking fast. Mike stayed and he’s cleared the air but you don’t get to show up and tell me I’m doing it wrong when I’m the only person who tried to stay with him or get him out and I’m the only fucking person that bothered to go down to the Barrens and look for him. Even if I did steal your idea.”
Mike puts a hand on Bill’s shoulder, but Bill ignores it and steps closer, squaring up with Richie. “Eddie is a friend to all of us, Richie. And so are you. We were all gonna get you out of there, and we all thought Eddie was dead, you included. We all had shit to get back to! You don’t have exclusive rights just because you’re in love with him Richie, and you can’t blame all of us for caring about each other getting out of there when you only ever care about Eddie-”
It’s at that point that Richie brings his fist up and punches Bill squarely in the jaw, knocking him backwards so hard he stumbles into Mike.
Richie’s knuckles hurt immediately, and he cradles his fist in his hand, cursing under this breath.
“Jesus Christ, Rich,” Bill says, bringing a hand up to his jaw.
“Yeah, okay, fuck, this is not my proudest moment.”
Bill starts laughing as he stands up, shaking off a still very clearly concerned Mike. “To be fair I guess you still owed me one from that summer.”
Richie looks at him, blinking, and huffs out a little laugh. “I mean - I guess, maybe. That’s - you’re not mad?”
“You don’t hit very hard. And I was… Maybe also a little out of line. I’m glad you found him. I’m glad you got him back. And I’m glad you’re both okay. After the quarry - we were all worried about you, Rich. I feel like you’re gonna be fine, now.”
His knuckles are red already, starting to swell. Richie looks from his hand back up to Bill’s face. “Okay. Thanks, I guess. I should - probably go back to the Town House. You guys should go in and see him. Sorry again about your face, Bill.”
“Text me if you’re gonna come back,” Mike tells him, clearly having a vested interest in trying to keep Richie and Bill apart now. Maybe that’s fair. It’s not really Bill, though. Richie didn’t mean to punch him. It’s just complicated. He could probably use some more sleep, or more food, or coffee, or maybe just a better fucking brain or something.
When he gets back to the Town House, Ben of all people is sitting on the steps. Richie parks his car and gets out, squinting at the figure on the steps like it’s going to disappear.
It’s still Ben, though, when Richie gets closer. Richie blinks at him. There’s no immediate anger - he’s still tired, after all, and he’s taken most of the recent anger out on Bill’s face. This is shaping up to be a very long day.
“I thought you weren’t coming,” Richie tells him.
Ben shrugs, his hands shoved in his pockets. “Bev’s safe without me - she can take care of herself, which she told me about eighty times because she said I was moping. Which - is maybe fair. I was really worried and I wanted to… I wanted to apologize, Rich.”
Richie narrows his eyes. “You’re apologizing? For the dragging, or the-”
“Yeah. For- If it was...” Ben glances at Richie and then away again. “If it had been Bev down there, I probably would have fought all of you off so hard we all would have gotten killed just trying to get her out, you know. And I didn’t even - I was worried about you, but you’re right I should have just helped you carry him, I don’t know why I didn’t think about it-”
“Haystack, come on, it’s not-” Richie walks closer, huffs out a breath through his nose. “Buddy, none of us were thinking about much. I was busy, you know, feeling like someone punched a hole in my chest instead of his, he was apparently unconscious, you and everyone else were more concerned about the whole fucking place caving in, it’s not… Don’t. Don’t let the fact that I need to go to therapy about all this sit on you too heavy. Okay? Did- Did Mike tell you I punched Bill in the face?”
Ben looks back up then, and he almost laughs, but stops himself. “You punched Bill in the face?”
Richie nods. “Full on like, very embarrassing attempt at a right hook. In the hospital parking lot. Like twenty minutes ago. We’re lucky it’s Derry so nobody called the cops.”
He laughs properly, then, Richie is relieved to see. “Well I guess you still owed him one.”
“That’s what he said!”
They both laugh a little, then, together. It feels good to get that back.
Ben comes closer and sticks out his hand. “Are we good, then?”
Richie swats his hand out of the way and pulls him into a hug. “Yeah, come here, nerd, none of that lame ass office worker handshake shit.”
There’s another laugh pressed against Richie’s shoulder, and Richie hugs Ben a little tighter, enjoys his presence and the fact that nothing is irreparably broken, even in spite of his own stupidity.
“How’s Eddie?” Ben asks as soon as he pulls back.
Richie grins. “Oh, you know, an absolute menace. Standing up to his wife, terrorizing the hospital staff. Apparently killing It really brought back all that firecracker mojo he had when we were kids."
“I remember that from the rock fight. A lot of pent up anger for somebody so tiny.”
“Mm, I guess he’s not the only one, though,” Richie mutters, feeling like that strikes a chord where his hand’s still throbbing. Then, that brings back the shadow, too, hanging over all of this, over his own head and Ben’s and - everybody’s. “He- he doesn’t remember, though. Anything about - getting stabbed or… He doesn’t know we left him down there. He thinks he was the one that killed It. And he feels so good about it, he’s so happy, I don’t know how to- Mike says he’s gonna tell him. I don’t know when.”
“Oh.” Ben frowns, his eyes going all concerned. “Well if he’ll see me after - if he can… I’ll apologize to him, too.”
“I guess we’ll see if he’ll see any of us after.”
“Hey, Rich, come on. You were the one fighting for him. You can’t tell me you honestly-”
“I don’t wanna talk about it, Ben. Okay? I should have fought harder, and that’s on me, you - like you said. If it were Bev, you would have gotten us all killed. But I just let you guys drag me out. I wasn’t strong enough. If he had died, it still would have been my fault. So don’t - just don’t, okay?”
Ben opens his mouth, but then he closes it again, sighing. “I’ll leave it alone. But that doesn’t mean I’m agreeing. Just - that’s probably how I’d feel, too.”
Richie nods and starts into the Town House. “Right. Well, come on, then, let’s get drunk or something.”
Ben finally looks down and spots Richie’s hand. “Well. Maybe let’s patch up your hand first.”
So they go inside, and Richie helps Ben find the first aid kit in Eddie’s bags and Ben very gently helps Richie wrap up his knuckles.
“You remember how Eddie patched me up when Bowers got to me when we were kids?” Ben asks while he’s still unrolling the bandage.
Richie looks up and pushes his glasses back up his nose. “Yeah. Of course.”
“Right. Yeah. I just - Bev was right. He always took such good care of all of us when we were kids. He always had stuff in his fanny pack, he was always worried about all of us getting sick. And we just- we should have gotten him out of there.” Ben’s getting choked up, and tears are clinging to his ridiculous eyelashes.
Sighing, Richie pulls him in for a hug. He’s still not crying again - maybe it’s just because Eddie is fine now, and Richie knows he’s fine. Still, he should probably text Mike or Bill and see that Eddie is still fine.
“Ben, dude, he’s okay. I’m - I was really pissed off. I still am. Eddie - Eddie might hate all of us for it, but it’s done and there’s nothing else we can do. Except just be really fucking glad he’s alive and he’s gonna be fine.”
“Yeah. You’re right.” Ben’s voice is tiny and still choked with tears.
“You want me to call Bev or something?” Richie asks him.
“No, I’ll - actually, no, she’ll just get mad at you for making me cry, probably. Have you eaten yet?”
For a minute, Richie genuinely can’t remember. He’s bad at time and food and shit on a normal day, and now he spent his night sleeping on hospital chairs and has no regular schedule to help him keep track of the days. “Uh. No? No, I haven’t.”
Ben gives him a little concerned look. “Okay, well. Let me buy you apology breakfast or something.”
They track down a diner within a couple of blocks of the Town House, and when they get their food it turns out that Richie is starving. Which, he’s pretty sure he only had crackers and a granola bar and some shitty hospital food the day before, so that makes sense. He orders one of those big breakfast platters and actually eats all of it, the pancakes and the eggs and the hashbrowns. It’s possible he’ll regret it later, but in the moment it’s delicious and it makes him feel better than he has in days.
When both of them are finished and walking back towards the Town House, Richie texts Mike.
hey man ben made it after all, you guys wanna trade out shifts so me and him can get in there to see eddie?
The problem is, he was feeling pretty good, and almost happy. Things seemed to be going okay.
The problem is, his phone rings, and Richie can immediately feel his blood freeze in his veins because there’s no good reason for Mike to call him to respond to that.
“Mike?” he says when he answers the phone.
“Look, don’t get pissed off again.”
“Not a great way to start, Mike!”
Ben is staring at him, already concerned.
“He was - they were letting him out, and he was gonna figure out something was wrong when Bev was already gone. You know he’s smart enough to figure it out, Richie.”
Richie’s crying again, probably because he’s actually hydrated enough, fuck. “You told me you would tell me before you told him, Mike, you promised me - I mean I guess technically you didn’t promise but it was fucking implied!”
I didn’t even get to say goodbye, his brain is screaming, and he wants to just fall down on the sidewalk, in the street, he wants to get on his knees and pound the pavement and ask why the fuck he can’t ever have a good thing for more than 24 hours.
He snuck out of Eddie’s room this morning like an idiot. They fell asleep bickering over a fucking film noir. Richie didn’t tell him anything, didn’t say anything of note, he had his one second chance and he blew it all over again.
“Rich, man, come on, look, he’s coming back to the Town House-”
Richie hangs up the phone, clutches at it and resists his impulse urge to throw it on the ground. Instead he shoves it in his pocket so hard he hurts his knuckles again, and then he just shouts, “Fuck!” in the middle of the street in Derry, in the morning.
“Richie?” Ben says, and Rich spins around to face him.
“Mike told him - he told him everything, I guess, I don’t fucking know, they were letting him out of the hospital, and Mike thought he was gonna figure out something was wrong, so he and Bill told him, and I asked Mike to tell me before he did, but he didn’t, so now Eddie’s coming back for his shit and he’s probably gonna leave, and I don’t - I’ve gotta get out of here.”
“I can’t - I can’t keep staying here right now, and I can’t - I don’t wanna hear what he has to say, okay? Talk shit if you want, but I’m leaving.”
So Richie starts walking double-time back to the Town House, leaving Ben utterly in the dust behind him. Ben’s still saying something behind him, but Richie ignores it, partly because he can hardly hear over the rushing in his own ears. He’s mostly packed, still, but his bag ended up back in the Town House after he had to shower yesterday - fuck, that was only yesterday.
He goes up to his room, shoves his shit back in his duffel, and doesn’t even bother to zip it up before he goes running down the stairs.
Of course because he is at this point God’s own fucking personal chew toy, he runs full speed into someone, drops his fucking bag, and then looks up to see that it’s Eddie.
Eddie’s looking at him, all wide-eyed and confused, and Richie feels like he might throw up. Literally his throat closes up a little, and his chest aches, and he looks away as quickly as he can, bending down to pick up his stuff.
“Are you leaving?” Eddie asks.
Richie still can’t look at him. “Yeah, I’ve got - tour dates and stuff, places to be, you know.”
“You weren’t even going to say goodbye?” Eddie asks.
Grabbing the last of his things and shoving them back in his bag, Richie forces himself to stand up, but he can only glance at Eddie’s big eyes before he has to look away again. It is impossible, literally physically impossible for him to make himself say what he needs to say. He does it anyways. “C’mon, man. Mike told me that he told you. You don’t have to - we don’t have to do this, whatever you’re trying to do. You don’t have to pretend with me right now. I’m just trying to get out of your hair.”
“What the fuck?”
“Sorry, was that like the wrong-”
Eddie reaches out, his hand moving quickly, and Richie flinches a little. It’s not like he doesn’t deserve it, if Eddie wants to hit him, but it doesn’t mean he’s excited about it.
Again, Eddie stops.
“Okay. Come on.” He takes Richie’s wrist, gently, the one above his injured hand, and pulls him along up the stairs.
It’s possible that Eddie’s just taking him up there so he doesn’t hit him on the stairs, but Richie’s so tired at this point, he’s just letting it happen.
They go into Eddie’s room, and Eddie blinks at his open suitcase. “Was someone in here?”
“Just me. I needed food and I figured you probably had some that was - that was yesterday, before... so I- sorry. Just being honest, I’m assuming I probably can’t make this any worse.”
“Richie, what the fuck do you think Mike told me?”
Eddie’s sitting on the bed at this point, and he’s looking at Richie with something that appears to be genuine concern. Richie’s still very skeptical.
Eddie’s shoes are still sitting by his closet.
“I don’t - I’m not gonna be able to actually say it, I don’t know why you think I can, that’s the whole fucking reason this happened like this, if it wasn’t for everybody else I probably never would have told you because I literally cannot do it, Eds.”
“He told me that you all saw me die in the sewer. That you tried to stop the bleeding, and you used your jacket, and that you stayed with me until you couldn’t anymore, and then they all had to physically drag you out because you wouldn’t leave me there, and then they had to hold you back outside the house so you wouldn’t go back into the collapsed building for me.” Eddie pauses, and Richie makes himself look at him. There’s this look on his face, something like awe and disbelief. “They told me all of them, including you, thought I was dead, and you went out there in the Barrens looking for me anyways.”
Richie swallows. “I was looking for your body. I thought - I thought maybe if Bill was right about how all that worked, and what he thought would have happened to Georgie, maybe I could… find you and make sure you weren’t down there in the sewer.”
“And I would be dead if it wasn’t for you.”
At that, Richie turns again, facing the wall. “You were almost dead anyways! We all - we all left you down there, me included, I didn’t fight hard enough and all five of us left you down there, so I don’t know how you can be here acting like this is okay when it isn’t! We all fucked up! We are not off the hook just because you lived!”
“Richie, I’m okay!” Eddie stands up, crosses the room and puts a hand on Richie’s shoulder. “I’m okay.”
“But you weren’t! You were dead! I woke up yesterday and you were fucking dead, Eddie, and me and all of our friends we just left you down there, we left you behind-”
“Not you. You didn’t.”
Richie turns around, and he’s fucking crying again, Jesus Christ will it ever stop? But even through his blurred vision, he can see Eddie’s face, and it’s all genuine big-eyed emotion again, and there’s not even an ounce of anger in it. “How can you not be angry? How can you be this calm?”
Eddie sighs. “Because I’m tired of being angry. I’ve been angry and scared for 27 years, Rich, and I’m really fucking tired. Our friends are our friends and they were trying to keep each other safe. Trying to keep you from doing something stupid that might have killed you. Even if it was - nice of you.”
That makes Richie huff out something like a laugh. “Is nice the word we’re using for that time I almost tried to die with you in a collapsing building?”
“I couldn’t think of a better word, shut up, asshole.”
“I’m… I’m really angry, Eds.”
Looking down, Eddie takes his injured hand, and brushes his thumb gently over Richie’s wrapped, swollen knuckles. “Yeah. I kind of got that from - the things Mike said and the giant fucking bruise on Bill’s jaw. You really socked him pretty good for someone who spent most of their life having noodle arms.”
Richie snorts. “Yeah I basically still have noodle arms. I mean - compared to Ben.”
“These are not noodle arms,” Eddie says, squeezing at one of Richie’s biceps. “Plus you carried me to your car when you found me, I wasn’t so out of it that I forgot that part.”
“Adrenaline. That was like, at least 80% adrenaline,” Richie insists, even as he realizes he’s babbling because of the way that Eddie is still touching his arm.
“Were you leaving because you thought I was gonna be pissed at you?”
Richie nods, still struggling to speak and without just blurting out something that will just continue to make him sound even more like a stupid asshole.
“I’m not. I’m not and I wouldn’t be, not after what you did. I’m actually not mad at anyone, because I get it. I do think we all need like, extensive amounts of therapy, but that was going to be true regardless of all this. I… appreciate that you’re angry, but I’m okay. And I don’t think it’s helping you, so I think maybe you should let some of it go. Okay?”
Richie nods again. “I’ll try. If you want me to.” And there he goes, giving entirely too much away, especially when his voice is still all choked up and hoarse from crying and yelling and God knows what else. “I’m just - I’m so sorry, Eds. I’m so glad you’re okay. I don’t know - when I woke up it took me an hour and a half just to get out of bed, and I came in here to try and deal with your stuff and get some food and I cried and I just-”
“Richie.” Eddie puts a hand on his face, forcing him to make eye contact. “I’m right here.” He takes Richie’s hand, places it on his chest, right where the fake wound was. “Nothing actually happened. I’m fine. We’re both fine. You saved me.”
Richie forces himself to take one deep breath, and then another. He looks at Eddie’s big stupid sparkly eyes. “Sorry I told the hospital I was your husband,” is what comes out of his mouth, unbidden.
Eddie bursts into a giggle, leaning forward a little as he laughs, ending up with his forehead pressed right against Richie’s collarbone. “Really? We’re talking about that right now?”
“Sorry, I just - it just kind of came out but I am sorry, I just didn’t have your wife’s phone number - ex-wife’s?”
“Right. So like, I knew they wouldn’t let me back if I didn’t do something and I felt like maybe with your phone fucked up and you still unconscious maybe I could get away with it at first. Admittedly I did not really think about you finding out, and I definitely did not think you would like, lean into it and play along so they would keep letting me back.”
“I don’t know how you’re still surprised when I lean into a bit with you, we have literally always been like this.”
Eddie’s still smiling at him now, and Richie has finally stopped crying. Things are looking up. He brushes his thumb over Eddie’s hand, where their hands are still resting together on Eddie’s chest. “I dunno. Guess I just always feel like someday you’re gonna come to your senses because you’re always saying I’m not funny.”
“And yet I’m always laughing at your jokes anyways, dipshit, because you are actually funny. Stop being fucking obtuse.”
It’s such a fucking ridiculous thing to say. It’s exactly what Richie has missed. “I missed you,” Richie says, surprising even himself. Maybe it’s just the sleep deprivation and the mood swings and shit. It’s certainly not intentional bravery.
“Yeah, I missed you, too, asshole. And you almost left without telling me goodbye, which is the one thing I actually am mad about.”
“Sorry. Sorry I’m a dumbass.”
Eddie lifts his head up and makes eye contact again. “Yeah. Apology accepted.”
Only then, Eddie’s leaning closer again, and Richie opens his mouth to say something, to crack a stupid joke or ask a question, but then Eddie is kissing him instead.
Like full lips on lips, mouth to mouth, actual proper kissing for which there is no possible other explanation.
Just to live up to the title of the worst and dumbest idiot to have ever lived, Richie pulls back out of shock. “Wait, what?” he asks.
Immediately, Eddie drops his hands and pulls back, looking shocked, too. “Sorry, was I - was I reading that wrong?”
“I - uh. No? But I didn’t know there was anything to read? And I didn’t think you- uh. Gay? I mean I’m… I obviously am… into dudes but I didn’t really think you were, because you were married until like yesterday, to a woman, and that’s-”
“Sorry. Sorry. I just thought it was- I mean I thought we were - anyways, this has been great-”
Now Eddie’s the one not looking at him, and he’s trying to go over to his luggage and make himself busy, and Richie can at least be smart enough to not fuck this up. He goes over and grabs Eddie firmly by the shoulders, holding him in place. “Eds, Eddie, come here.”
Eddie stops and looks up at him. “Yeah? What?”
“Come here.” And he leans down and kisses Eddie this time, really and properly, and he doesn’t pull away.
Instead, after a few moments, Eddie pulls back and glares up at him. “Okay so you’re just terrible at this - I can’t believe you pulled away and made me freak out!”
Richie gets to lean in again and kiss him to make him shut up. It is, in every imaginable way, fucking fantastic.
“That’s not gonna work every time, asshole,” Eddie mumbles as they pull apart again.
“Worked that time, though,” Richie tells him, starting to grin.
“Okay, some of our friends have not even seen me alive, and this is all great and I love you-”
“You love me?” Richie asks, his voice cracking in a deeply embarrassing way.
Eddie blushes. “Of course you had to actually pay attention to that.”
“You love me.”
“Yes, yes, I love you. Don’t get fucking weird about it.”
Richie laughs, at that, and realizes as he does it that he hasn’t laughed this loud or this big in days, maybe not since the Chinese restaurant - God, maybe not since he was a kid. He leans forward and presses his nose against Eddie’s hair, against the top of his head. “I love you, too Eddie Spaghetti. Love you more than words can say, love you more than you love fucking packing cubes.”
“Packing cubes save space and I had a lot to pack because I was trying to fucking leave my wife, asshole, will you please, just-”
Eddie shoves at him, but Richie just holds him tighter, and laughs even more, and eventually Eddie breaks and starts laughing, too, even as he’s still trying to shove Richie off.
“Fuck off, oh my god,” Eddie says through laughter, and he finally stumbles away from Richie, still smiling. Then, grinning, he grabs Richie’s jacket and pulls him back in again. “Come here.”
They kiss, one more time, messy and off-center and full of teeth because they’re both still smiling and giggling, but it’s good. It’s really good.
“Now can we please go let Ben see I’m not dead? And Facetime Bev or something? Can you share me for like ten minutes?”
“Ten minutes?” Richie asks, brushing a finger gently over the stitches on Eddie’s cheek. “Think I can do ten minutes.”
So Eddie takes Richie’s hand and tugs him forcibly out of the room, just in case he needs it. For the moment, at least, Richie isn’t angry anymore. It seems like he might actually really be okay. More than okay. He might actually get to be happy. And maybe when it’s all said and done, maybe they’ll all be happy.