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Kings of the Mountain

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The road is winding and bumpy, and Eddie's eyes are locked on the skyline, trying not to spew the contents of his McDonalds lunch all over the inside of his car. Well, their car, really. But Eddie knows she prefers him to Richie. She definitely wasn't made for this journey, and when this hell-week is over he'll have to fix something, he just knows it.

Eddie would've driven, but Richie seems determined to keep their destination a secret, and far be it for him to burst his husband's bubble. That being said, it doesn't stop him from bitching excessively.

"Are we almost there, Richie?" Eddie whines, trying not to look to his right. Every time he does, he's reminded of just how high up they are, and how long it's taken them to drive up the side of the mountain. He doesn't even want to think about how far away the closest hospital is. He would check in his phone, but he has no service. Stupid internet. Stupid mountain. Stupid Richie.

"Only a few more miles to go, babe," Richie chirps, "Just enjoy the scenery! Look at these trees! Look at that view!"

"Look at the road!" Eddie snaps. "We could've gone the rest of our lives without camping, you know. We could be back home, watching season two of Mindhunter and drinking that wine Bev and Ben got us for our anniversary."

"I brought the wine with us, Eds."

"That's not the point. Do you know how easy it is to avoid lyme disease in West Hollywood? Easier than it will be at the top of Mount Suckmore."

"The last time you said 'suck more' in my presence it wasn't a complaint."

"Hardy har har. The last time i felt this sick to my stomach I was looking at your face."

"Princess, do you hear what he says about me?" Their Pomeranian looks up from where she's sprawled in the backseat, ears perking when she hears her name. "The man he claims to love? Your daddy?"

"See if she's still daddy's little girl when she's eaten by a bear, man." Eddie huffs.

"She's not gonna be eaten by a bear," Richie says with conviction, "She'd rip that motherfucker to shreds. Look at those cold, dead eyes. I pity the fool that fucks with her."

Eddie looks at Princess. Her tail thumps against the seat at the attention and she lets her tongue hang out.

"Yeah, she's terrifying," Eddie deadpans, a la Stanley.

"That's why we call her Princess 'The Killer' Tozier."

"When was the last time we called her that?"

"Have you ever heard of something called 'comedy'?"

"Yes, but it's clear to me that you haven't."

"Zing. We're here, by the way," Richie announces as they drive past a sign welcoming them to Panther Lake Campground.

"Finally. We couldn't have gone anywhere closer to home?"

"Nah, Mount Shasta is special. It's where my grandfather did Entomology research every summer. He'd bring my grandma and my mom and my uncles and their dogs up here and they'd stay in cabins on a research site. I always wanted to visit."

"Entomology means bugs, Richie. Bugs." Eddie glares at his husband.

"He was just studying beetles."

"Oh thank God. That must mean there are only beetles on this mountain."

"Good, good. Now call me a dumbass, I'm so close, baby," Richie says breathily as he pulls into a parking spot close to a wooden picnic table and a campfire.

"Shut up, jerk."

Richie parks the car and rests his head on the steering wheel. "Ohhhh God, I'm coming."

Eddie rolls his eyes and grabs his all-natural bug spray made with eucalyptus. He sprays a generous amount all over his body before passing it to Richie.

Richie takes a good look at the bottle before tossing it in the backseat. "Won't be needing that."

"Because the bugs will sense that you are truly one with nature."

"Bingo." Richie grabs Princess from the backseat and hops out of the car.

Eddie sighs heavily and gets out of the car as well, slinging his backpack full of medical supplies onto his back. He steps out onto the dirt ground, pine needles crunching under his converse, and the first thing he notices is how easy it is to breathe.

Let it not go unstated that breathing is not always something that comes natural to Eddie. A childhood full of what he thought were asthma attacks and then an adulthood full of what he now knows are panic attacks often leave him, for lack of a better word, breathless.

Here, surrounded by trees that seem to scrape the sky and the sounds of birds twittering to each other, the wind caresses Eddie's body and flows in and out of his lungs with ease. He closes his eyes and breathes in deeply, noting how similar it feels to drinking a glass of ice water on a hot day. The air is crisp and cool and pine-scented.

Eddie doesn't know how long he stands there, breathing in and out with his eyes closed, but when he opens them, he shrieks at the sight of Richie grinning down at him. He didn't even realize that his husband was in front of him, he was so caught up with just breathing. "Richie! Don't scare me like that!"

"Sorry, sorry! You just looked so cute, standing there and smiling. You usually only smile like that after a good ride on my hog, if you know what I mean." Richie waggles his eyebrows.

"What an appropriate name for your penis. That's exactly how I'd describe it." Eddie scowls. "Should we unpack?"

"No need. I did all of it."

Eddie looks over to the table to see that indeed, most of their stuff, except for the cooler and the rest of their food, which they'll be keeping in their car in case of wild animals, is already out. Princess is leashed to a leg of the table with one of her bones to keep her busy. "Wha- how-"

"You were standing there for a long time. We do need to set up the tent, though." Richie holds up a large duffel bag.

"Alright, uh, we should probably find some place flat, right?" Eddie takes a quick survey of their camping spot, walking over to a relatively flat piece of ground.

"Excellent deduction, Mr. Holmes. I knew when I came to you that the case of my un-pitched tent was in good hands. Hey, hey. Maybe we can pitch this tent, and then later, we can pitch our tents, if you know what I mean." Richie

"Unfortunately, I think I do." Eddie kicks rocks on the ground and sweeps pine needles out of the way with his feet until he has a respectably sized patch of cleared ground.

Richie covers his nose and mouth with his forearm. "Ack, babe, you're kicking up dust right at me," He complains, coughing.

Eddie turns to his husband, hands on his hips. "Maybe if you actually helped instead of just standing there, you wouldn't get dust in your face."

"You were doing such a good job. I would've just gotten in the way." Richie plops the duffel bag on the ground, unzipping it and pulling out the yet-to-be-assembled tent and its poles.

"Okay, how do you set it up?" Eddie crouches down next to Richie, looking for instructions, of which there appears to be none.

"Uh, I dunno?" Richie scratches the back of his neck. "I've never set one up before."

"Seriously?"

"Well, yeah. I've never been camping before," Richie admits.

"Oh my fucking God, Richard! I can't believe you! If I had known that I wouldn't be here at all right now! You don't know what you're doing at all, do you!"

"I didn't tell you because I knew you wouldn't agree to come! And I wanted to go camping with you at least once before we die." Richie pouts. "I'm sorry, baby."

Eddie huffs, hands going to his hips. "Unbelievable. And I have no service so we can't look up how to pitch this stupid tent. Alright, asshole. Start working on the poles while i unfold this little tarp hut we're supposed to sleep in. A bear could claw right through this thing."

---

After a good thirty minutes of arguing, dirty tent jokes, and one hammer injury after Richie missed the tent stake by a few centimeters, The tent is finally up, and Eddie has thoroughly examined Richie's battle scar. They congregate around the picnic table, Princess in Richie's lap while Eddie starts preparing dinner.

"It said the water was potable, you know," Richie says as he leans on his arm, watching Eddie boil the water he collected from the spigot nearby.

"Like I trust that. I don't even trust the tap water at home." Eddie glares at the water like he can scare it into being drinkable.

"Well yeah, LA water is shit. This is mountain spring water, baby."

"Let me fucking live. I have to boil the water anyways for pasta," Eddie gripes.

"Yeah, but I know you, and I know you'll only wash the vegetables with some of the water you're boiling," Richie points out, petting Princess and picking out some of the burs she's already collected in her luxurious coat.

"Im sorry I don't want us to catch typhoid, cholera, dysentery, flukes, giardia, or cryptosporidium." Eddie collects some of his boiling water in a cup and sets it aside, then pours some spaghetti noodles into the pot.

"I'm one hundred percent positive cryptospor-whatever you said is a Harry Potter spell."

"They're apicomplexan parasitic alveolates that cause a respiratory and gastrointestinal illness that involves watery diarrhea and a persistent cough in immunocompetent and immunodeficient people."

"I love it when you talk dirty to me," Richie sighs.

"Whatever. I'm looking out for us and that's what matters. Without me you'd probably be dead of some rare disease."

"Once I went to Mexico, and when I came back I had something in my foot. I went to the doctor and she told me that it was a type of parasite that had never been seen in the US before."

Eddie stops rinsing off the tomatoes to stare at Richie with frightened deer eyes. "What. The fuck."

"Also I didn't have health insurance at the time so I had to pretend I was Nancy's husband to use her insurance."

"Why were you in Mexico! Did you fucking drink the water there?"

"Spring break, baby. The beer-goggled men who spend their CEO daddy's money on roofies love the OG Tozier routine. You know. I'm a hetero horndog who resents women for not sleeping with me but judges them when they do. Classic shit."

"Don't remind me. I love checking my twitter just to see people complaining about how ever since I turned you gay you've been a little bitch boy. Little do they know, you've always been a gay little bitch boy."

"Mmm, but your gay little bitch boy."

"Yeah. All mine. Now chop these vegetables."

---

The ground is a lot more comfortable than Eddie expected. Maybe he needs a firmer mattress, because his back feels great. Richie, however, keeps shifting and huffing.

"Richie, stop wiggling."

"There's a fucking root poking me. I can feel it. When I said I wanted something poking my backside this wasn't what I meant."

Eddie sighs and scoots himself and his inflatable mat over, tugging Richie to make him move to the space Eddie just inhabited. Princess, who was lying in between them, doesn't even wake up when Eddie lifts her up, then sets her down, still between the two of them. "Now will you stop complaining?"

"Yeah. Thanks, baby. You're the best."

"I know." Eddie smiles as he rests his head on Richie's chest. "Now go the fuck to sleep."