Darling, he said. Oh darling, don’t die in my arms.
So he died alone instead.
“Hey, Richie. Today’s drink is gonna burn!”
Richie sat at the barstool with his name on it (literally, that’s how often he was there), James turning to fix him whatever drink was up today. He was trying to make his way through the menu. It’d been three hundred and sixty five days, a whole year today, and he really did need something that would burn.
“Awesome, bring it on.”
James hadn’t been lying, the first sip was searing hot and set his throat on fire. It felt like the flame in his chest, burning a hole where his heart should be. He missed the feeling of loving someone, he missed the feeling of loving someone who was alive.
A chill went down his spine, the fire in his chest turning to ice. That voice belonged to someone he loved, but someone that should be very, very fucking dead. He turned slowly, wordlessly, and there he was.
“God, I finally found y- Wait, where are you going?”
Richie wasn’t sure who or what the fuck that was, but he was out the door and away from that fucking bar. He was running, fumbling with his phone and wishing that his life was normal enough to be able to call 9-1-1. But no, his problems couldn’t be that simple and he was stuck punching in Beverly’s number as well as you can punch buttons on a touchscreen. He prayed that the mix of pure adrenaline and fear racing through his veins would stick around long enough to keep him alive.
“Bev,” He gasped the moment she picked up. “We didn’t kill It, It’s not fucking dead.”
“Richie? Slow down, what are you talking about?”
“I’m talking about Eddie chasing me through the streets of Los Angeles!” Richie hissed, panic lancing through him at the thought of that stupid goddamn clown still being alive. “What the hell do I do in this situation!”
“Richie!” As if on cue, Not-Eddie’s voice called out from behind him, and he glanced back to see him pushing through people to get to him. Shrieking, Richie ran faster. “Where the fuck are you going?!”
“Bev, he’s catching up, tell everyone you get everything I own when I die. God, I’m sca-”
A familiar hand on his shoulder made him come to a total stop, his phone slipping from his hand onto the cold concrete. That bitch was definitely dead now. Breath catching, a sudden sense of calm washed over him, and he turned to face whatever the fuck was posing as his best friend.
“I swear to fucking god Richie, I’m not the clown,” Not-Eddie said. It had the same big brown doe eyes Actual Eddie always had, and while his heart tried not to melt, it failed miserably. “I promise.”
“Dude, do me a favor.”
“A favor? I’m the one who just died and came back to life!”
“Just don’t eat my friends, that’d be super fucking rad,” Richie giggled hysterically. He asked himself what the hell was up with his life on the way down to the floor as he passed out.
So, back to the beginning. The bar wasn’t the beginning, his bed was. It was a completely normal day. He woke up, showered, ate breakfast, even ironed his shirt before he put it on. He was fine and just wanted his morning drink before going to the fucking farmer’s market to get actual fruit like a functioning adult. But no, then he had to run into someone who looked just like Eddie, except it was probably a homicidal clown demon.
Obviously, he booked it. Which had been a fantastic idea, as he now had an ugly cut on his forehead with a matching concussion and a broken phone. Apparently, nobody gave a fuck if you dropped like a rock in the middle of the sidewalk in Los Angeles.
“Sit closer to me, I need to dab at your fucking forehead,” Not-Eddie nagged. Pennywise had been good enough to include a fanny pack with antiseptic wipes in his intricate disguise. “Dude, you know you can come closer, right?”
“Then can you scoot closer?” Not-Eddie said evenly.
“Nope. Don’t want to get eaten today.”
“You’re such a fucking dumbass, Rich.”
“Hey, I’m not!” Richie lied.
“You are the dumbest of all asses. A total fucking moron.”
“Yeah? At least I’m not an ugly clown demon!”
Inhaling deeply, Not-Eddie took a moment to clench and unclench his jaw the way Actual Eddie would have, raising his hand up the way he would before a very angry sentence. “For the last time, I am not the stupid fucking clown! ”
“Yeah? Then how the fuck are you alive?” Richie asked with far less poison than he’d intended.
“I don’t know!” Eddie yelled. “I’ve been wandering this fucking city for the past week trying to find you, and when I do, you go and get concussed because you think I’m what? A clown! Well guess what? The only fucking clown here is you, Tozier!”
“I am not a clown, I just have a concussion.”
“No, you’re an idiot. You’re just an idiot clown with a concussion,” Pinching the bridge of his nose, Not-Eddie sighed deeply. “Do you have an apartment?”
“Are you asking if I’m homeless?” He asked, slightly offended.
“I’m asking if you have a place we can go that isn’t covered in piss, because you cannot tell me we are not sitting in a place where someone has pissed before.”
It was definitely the concussion that made him give Not-Eddie his address. That, and maybe there was a part of him that wanted to pretend he was actually showing his Eddie the place he’d worked so hard to get.
“Wow, this actually isn’t a fucking pigsty. I didn’t think you had it in you, Richie,” Not-Eddie said, eyebrows nearly merging with his hairline.
“Don’t call me that.”
“What, your name?”
“Yeah, that,” Richie grumbled. Was it too late to kick Not-Eddie out? If Richie did kick him out, could he just walk right back in? Or was he like a vampire, where Richie would have to welcome him in? “I started cleaning in case my best friend came back, but apparently I can’t even have that without being paranoid that you’re a monster.”
“Shut the fuck up, oh my god! You’re saying I’m not me that now even I’m wondering if I’m me!”
“Dude, I haven’t heard Eddie’s voice go that high since he was like, thirteen.” Richie wasn’t even sure if he was being serious or joking at this point. He grabbed a pack of frozen peas and flopped down on the couch, wincing as he pressed it to the bump on his forehead.
Could it really be Eddie? “This good, doc?”
“Perfect,” Eddie said dryly.
“So, why now? It hasn’t been twenty-seven years yet. Are you just pissed we tried to kill you?”
“Oh my fucking god.”
“No, seriously, why come back now? I’m not even scared of you anymore,” Richie lied. “Hell, I don’t even want to be alive, I just don’t want you to hurt my friends.”
The problem was that he wasn’t lying there. Richie wasn’t going to kill himself, of course, but he certainly wasn’t actively keeping himself alive either. Passively suicidal, he liked to call it.
“Oh, Rich…” Not-Eddie said, sounding a little broken and actually sad. Richie didn’t like hearing that in Eddie’s voice, even if it wasn’t really him. “I don’t know why I’m here either. I don’t know why, all I know is that one day I was dead, and then I was standing where the Neibolt house was supposed to be.”
“Yeah, sounds totally legit.”
“I have a scar on my stomach. Where Pennywise got me.”
His blood ran cold, remembering the squelch of a claw going through Eddie’s stomach. The feeling of warm wetness spreading over his chest, Eddie’s blood coating him in sticky red that he could still feel. “You have a what?”
“A scar, dipshit. The things you get when you get hurt? One of those,” Eddie rolled his eyes and pulled off his shirt before Richie could tell him to stop. To please stop, he couldn’t stand to see proof of his failure. “See?”
But there it fucking was, right before his eyes. Big and ugly and twisted, a mess of scar tissue marred Eddie’s stomach. “Oh.”
“Yeah, oh,” Eddie mocked. “Believe me yet?”
“Still no, but cool scar.”
“You are fucking impossible! ” Richie’s head throbbed. Apparently Eddie screaming at him wasn’t very conducive to helping with a concussion. “What do I have to do to make you believe me?”
“When we were thirteen,” Eddie started.
“I’m not going to believe anything you say right now,” Richie said. Nothing he could tell Richie would change his mind.
“ Don’t interrupt, you fucking degenerate,” Eddie hissed. “When we were thirteen, we all went camping. Right before Bill moved, remember?”
Richie froze. He remembered. Of course he fucking remembered, how could he forget this?
“Everyone was asleep, but not me. I was too sad, because I didn’t want to have to tell you I was moving too.”
“I was crying, and I think you thought I was dreaming, because you-”
“I said stop it.”
“-kissed the top of my head and held me. You told me you loved me, Richie.”
“ Stop it,” Richie yelled. “Please, stop.”
“I wanted you to say it again to me in the morning, but you never did,” Richie was crying now, and Maybe-Eddie was walking towards him. He wanted to reach out and hold him, Richie wanted him to be real so badly. “You still look at me the way you did back then, right?”
“I love you,” He whispered, and Eddie was right there, right in front of him, alive and well. “I still love you so much and I almost never told you, and I’m just so sorry.”
Then Eddie was holding him, and Richie was crying into his arms, bag of frozen peas forgotten. “It’s okay Rich, you’re okay.”
“Eddie, Eddie, is it you? Really?”
“For the love of- Yes Richie, it’s me. Alive, not dead, I’ve got a pulse.”
And he did. Richie could feel it, he could feel Eddie’s heart pumping blood through his veins, keeping him alive and okay and right there next to him in his own fucking house. “God, it’s actually you.”
“Yeah, fuckhead. It’s me.”
Crying apparently also did not help with concussion headaches. He took one good look at Eddie, then proceeded to stumble off of the couch before throwing up on the floor, earning a surprised “Richie!” from his best friend.
“Eddie?” Richie slurred. “I think I’m gonna pass out again.”
“Shit, shit, shit, get to the car, we’re going to the fucking hospital right now this second,” Eddie said, his face blurry and voice far away. “Oh please don’t pass out again, I’m not strong enough to carry you downstairs.”
He puked all over himself, then promptly passed out again.
Richie woke up in a hospital bed to the sound of Eddie bickering with the nurses.
“What the fuck do you mean I don’t exist? I’m standing right here, you fucking morons!”
“I’m sorry sir, your social security number just isn’t showing up. If you could just-”
Richie was terrified for a second that Eddie’s neck had snapped, what with how quickly he turned his head. “Oh thank fuck.”
Running into the room, Eddie came over to inspect him, make sure he wasn’t completely dead. “I literally cannot believe you made me carry you down to the car. I didn’t even have time to clean up your fucking vomit.”
“Yeah, that’s definitely the worst thing going on here, not the fact that I’m in the hospital,” Richie groaned, rubbing his eyes. “Dude, my head is killing me.”
“They say you have a concussion, which is absolutely shocking ,” Eddie sneered in the voice of a man who’d been talked over by a doctor one too many times. “Not like it was fucking obvious or anything.”
“So I’m not going to die?”
“Not unless you say I’m a clown again.”
“I’m a clown again.”
Eddie huffed out a laugh, trying to hide a smile. “You’re a fucking idiot.”
“I’d totally have a good response to that, but I’m concussed and can’t think,” Come to think of it, he was still dead fucking tired. “Think we can go home? I want to take a nap somewhere that doesn’t smell like hand sanitizer.”
“I’ll go talk to the nurses about it,” Eddie said, mouth pressed into a thin line. He didn’t look too jazzed at the idea of talking to the nurses again. “If they stop insisting I don’t exist.”
“Technically, you don’t.”
“Thanks for the reminder, asshole.” Eddie snapped. “Problem is, I actually do and I’ve spent the past day having my best friend tell me I don’t, so I really don’t need this shit from the nurses too.”
He was halfway out the door, and Richie may have been admiring his actually real ass before a thought occurred to him. “Hey Eds, how long have we been here?”
“Since yesterday, how come?”
If you listened really hard, you could probably have heard Richie’s wallet softly weeping. Hospital bills were going to be a bitch. “Oh, no reason.”
Rolling his eyes, he walked out, leaving Richie by himself. It took precisely five seconds before he became incredibly bored, his very limited attention span already having spent enough time looking at the incredibly boring room. Walls painted peeling white and mint glared back at him, reminding him of just how old this place must be. The least they could do was give it a paint job, right?
Somewhere in the background, he could hear Eddie bickering with the nurses. He recognized the tone of voice he was using, it was the one he used whenever he was about ready to murder someone right then and there. His heart would have gone out to the nurses if not for the fact that he was kinda trapped in the hospital and greatly resented the powers that be for it.
“Eddie, honey?” Richie called out, trying to sound as distraught as humanly possible. It’d been long enough, he’d decided to take matters into his own hands. “Babe? Where are you?”
Both Eddie and the nurses went silent outside of his room, and he heard footsteps that definitely did not belong to the person he wanted right then. A nurse peeked her head in the door, looking confused and slightly annoyed at his yelling.
“Oh thank god, do you know where my boyfriend is?” Grabbing the nurse call button, he looked her dead in the eye and pressed it a couple hundred times. “Have you seen a very short, very angry little man? He said he’d be right back but he’s taking a while. I’m so very, very worried about him.”
Finally, Eddie squeezed past the nurse into the room. The confusion on Eddie’s face quickly gave way to faux concern and an overabundance of all too real frustration. “See? He’s asking for me, so can you hurry it up?”
“Baby, I missed you so much!”
“It’s alright, sweetheart. I’m here.”
The look of fake love and affection on Eddie’s face was so realistic, the sound of it in his voice so tender that Richie simply melted. He knew he was staring, cheeks going rosy pink and a dumb smile appearing. He knew, but he couldn’t help it.
Richie was the type of person that expected almost every outcome in situations, as one should after having to fight an evil clown as a child. He expected the good and the bad, the happy and sad, all that shit. Never in a million years did he expect Eddie to walk across the room and kiss him.
It was a soft and gentle thing, something that drew a broken noise from his chest and brought tears to his eyes. Part of him knew he should be acting normal, that it was fake, but the warm hand cradling his face and the mint chapstick lips on his were everything he’d ever wanted.
All it took was one of the nurses clearing her throat for the moment to be over, the kiss broken and leaving Richie choking back tears. “Sorry, his breath is just terrible.”
Rolling her eyes, she walked out of the room and called Eddie over to check him out. The whole situation may have been a tad bit overkill, but it had gotten the job done and him out of the goddamn hospital.
“I forgot how flashy your car is,” Eddie grumbled, snatching the keys out of Richie’s hand. “Oh, fuck if I’m letting you drive.”
“I’m fine!” Tripping over a rock, Richie wondered why the floor had just tilted.
“Sure, and I’m not gay.” Huffing, Eddie simply kept walking as if he hadn’t just dropped a life-changing bombshell. “I just came back to life, I’m not going to die again because you’re a dumbass.”
It took him until he was in the car, seatbelt on, for him to properly process what had just been said. “You’re married.”
“Thanks Sherlock, I hadn’t noticed. Plus, I’m not even sure if that’s still valid now that I’m technically dead.”
“But you’re married to a woman. ”
“So was Ricky Martin, and look at the man now.”
“You’re like,” Richie managed to get out. “Actually...gay?”
“That’s literally what I just said, you drooling idiot. Why, do you have a problem with that?” Getting progressively angrier and louder over the course of his sentence, Eddie revved the engine and pulled out of the parking garage at the speed of...a snail.
“I’m gay too,” Blurting it out, Richie covered his mouth with one hand afterwards, as if he’d just yelled the filthiest and most awful thing anyone on god’s green earth had ever heard.
“Really?” Richie couldn’t do anything but nod. “Cool, I figured.”
“Nobody talks about fucking chicks as often as you do without being a total prick or so closeted they’re living in Narnia.”
“Oh,” Richie said, eloquent as ever. “You’re the first person I’ve ever told.”
“I’m- what?” Swerving, Eddie glanced over at him with the strangest look on his face. “Seriously?”
“I’ve never even said it out loud before,” Laughing nervously, he wiped his disgustingly clammy hands on his pants. “So, we’ve got a few firsts happening over here.”
“That’s alright. Thank you for trusting me, Rich.”
He only ever called him that when he was really serious about something, when he really and truly meant every one of the words that came rushing from his mouth.
“Also, I’m in love with you,” Richie managed to get out, hoping that this time he wouldn’t pass out.
“Yeah, I’m in love with you too, dumbass.”
“Seriously?” He said, not sure whether or not to believe him.
“If I wasn’t, I would have killed you around the fifth time you called me a clown,” Eddie paused to think, then continued. “And I wouldn’t have used tongue when I kissed you.”
“Now, do you believe it’s me yet?”
“Oh hell yes I do,” Richie leaned over and kissed him softly, thankful they were at a red light. “And I love you.”
Darling, he said, Oh darling, don’t die in my arms.
So he didn’t, and lived a good life instead.