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The Eyes of the Sun

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Georgia in late May was hot as balls.

Not Eddie’s terminology, but painfully accurate nonetheless.

“How is it already like a sauna in hell?” he gasped when they got out at the welcome center in Lavonia. He was a veteran of many, many New York summers, but this was different. On the one hand, he didn’t feel like there was a fine layer of grime on his skin, mixing with the sweat. On the other, the backs of his legs were already wet, and he wasn’t really a fan of feeling like he’d pissed himself.

“Why the fuck did we do this?” Richie asked, leaning against the car with his t-shirt pulled up to let the air conditioning blow under it. “Whose idea was it to resurrect Stan? Can we un-ring that bell?”

“Fuck you, Mike,” Eddie said weakly when Mike pulled up next to them in his blue Neon and he, Bill, Ben, and Bev got out. Bev, in her slim black pants and spotless white shirt and sunglasses, looked like she’d never heard of a sweat gland. “No, I changed my mind. Fuck you, Bev.”

“Dude,” Ben said.

“Eddie’s blood sugar is very low and it’s ninety degrees and I’ve had to piss for like an hour,” Richie said. “In the interest of not committing more murder, let us be silent.”

“You first, asshole,” Eddie snapped, but Richie only turned off the car and stalked toward the bathrooms.

His temper had evened out by the time he was sitting on a bench in the cool building, eating peanut butter crackers. Richie circled the blue dog statue and Eddie knew, with absolute certainty, that he was thinking about climbing on it and getting a picture.

“I’m not getting on that thing with you,” he said, dusting crumbs off his shirt.

Richie shot him a wounded glance. “I wasn’t gonna ask you,” he said, which was such an obvious lie Eddie didn’t bother to challenge it. “It’s almost as big as you are.”

“Eat a dick, Trashmouth,” Eddie said.

“Marsh, hop on this thing,” Richie said, grinning triumphantly at Eddie when Bev came out of the bathroom.

“No, I need to stay out of photos for a while,” Bev said. “But I’ll take the picture for you.”

“Why are you encouraging him?” Mike said, sitting down beside Eddie.

“No one’s encouraging him,” Eddie said. “If we weren’t here, he’d grab some random dude off the street.”

“I need to live out loud,” Richie said, throwing a leg over the statue. “I’ve been mature beyond my years for so long.”

“All right. Ride ’em, cowboy,” Bev said, holding up Richie’s camera.

It was about even odds whether Bev would go along with Richie’s bullshit. Sometimes she thought up her own bullshit and Richie threw himself after her with an enthusiasm that sometimes gave Eddie a little twinge of jealousy. It was that little twinge, irrational and childish though he knew it was, that had driven him to follow the two of them when they decided to climb onto the roof of the very nice brick hotel in Mechanicsville, which was covered in no-smoking signs, to smoke. “You’re coming with, Eds?” Richie had asked, delighted, and maybe putting that look on Richie’s face was the real reason he wanted to do it.

Or maybe it was the slow-building energy that had started gathering in him the moment he heard Mike’s voice on the phone and started to remember who he was. It was all of that, really, and he had lain on the slanted roof and looked up at the stars and let it wash over him: the warm night air, the rumble of Richie and Bev talking, the smell of cigarettes and chlorine from the pool on the other side of the building, the shiver that went through Richie’s body when Eddie turned his head and kissed his wrist, simply because it was in kissing distance and out of Bev’s line of sight. He didn’t care if she saw—it was hard to care when she’d already been present for the entire theatrical release, so to speak—but he knew Richie did.

“Let’s get the others and go swimming,” he had said, ignoring the little Sonia Kaspbrak in his head who whisper-screamed What are you doing? You just got stabbed in the face five days ago and you’re going to put your body into water that’s full of urine and fecal bacteria? Have you even thought about the kind of fungal infections you could get on your feet just by standing next to a public pool? Let’s go inside and take your pills and go to bed.

They had all gone swimming in their underwear until the exasperated manager came out to tell them the pool was closing and to please be quiet, and then they ran back to their rooms dripping and shivering and laughing. And yes, he was tired now because they had stayed up late and woken up early, and yes, he had scraped his feet on the bottom of the pool, and yes, his skin was a little irritated because he hadn’t rinsed the chlorine off very well, but how could any of that possibly matter in the face of his life, all his beautiful bright life ahead of him? He was overtaken by wild, almost explosive energy that kept rushing through him because they were alive, they were all alive, he was alive and his best friends were alive and they knew him and loved him and he got to have all of that and feel everything with his whole self. There were twenty-five years of dreary half-existence behind him, and he would probably need to face that at some point, but for now he let the unfettered, ferocious joy light him up.

Even when it was ninety degrees out and the man he loved was a goddamn idiot.

In the car, watching out of the corner of his eye as Richie attempted to eat a Krispy Kreme donut and check his phone at the same time so he could prove to Eddie that the lyrics were “with a manicure, mister” not “with a manager, mister,” the windows down and the highway rushing past, he thought maybe his happiness was especially crazy and big when it was ninety degrees and the man he loved was an idiot. He could sit with discomfort and irritation because they were temporary instead of permanent, the way they had been before. But mama, that’s where the fun is, Eddie thought, and sang it along with the song to make Richie smile his big dorky surprised smile before he went back to Google and was forced to admit Eddie was right.

*

Eddie didn’t know what he had expected to happen after he told Richie he loved him. They were exactly the same, except they had said the words aloud; none of the other Losers knew anything was different when they met up with them for lunch, but to be fair, they were still recovering from both killing a clown demon and what Richie insisted on calling the Resursexion.

“No? Sexurrection?” he asked.

“That just sounds like sex erection,” Eddie said.

“No, it’s like sexur,” Richie said, holding his fingers up as he drew out the syllable like he was instructing a language class. “Sex-urrrrrr.”

“If you’re g-gonna call it anything, it should be the Resurrecstan,” Bill said.

“So we’re all agreed that we want to go see Stanley, right?” Mike said as Eddie opened his mouth to complain about the fact that people actually paid Bill to be a wordsmith.

“Yeah,” Ben said. “How are we getting there?”

“I don’t know about you all, but I’m driving,” Mike said, and Eddie realized he hadn’t even considered flying.

“I want to drive too,” he said. “And, uh, I feel like a douche saying this, but I need a new phone before I do anything else.”

“Me too,” Bill said. “I have some things I need to t-take care of before I leave.”

He was staring down at the metal lattice of the table with his eyebrows drawn together. Eddie wondered if the things Bill had to take care of were similar to his own things, or to Bev’s. He hadn’t said anything about his wife, but he had stayed with Mike the night before, and Eddie had definitely seen Bev and Ben going into a room together. Not that that necessarily meant anything, because he had shared Richie’s bed and the most salacious thing that had happened was that Richie had woken him at four in the morning by rolling over and slapping his arm. But he knew as well as anyone that the meaning underneath the actions was more important than the actions themselves, and that it was more than just sharing a room regardless of whether they touched or not.

“There’s a store over by Target,” Mike said. “I don’t want to stay another night in Derry, so I might head out this evening.”

“You know I’m with you, whenever you need to leave,” Bill said.

“It’ll take me like two minutes to pack,” Richie said. He was leaned back in his chair, enjoying a margarita. They had requested an outside table, and the breeze flipped the little wispy, curling ends of his hair and made Eddie’s stomach twist with a warm flood of affection and not a small amount of lust, which was ridiculous because Richie was wearing a gray t-shirt with a bulldog on the front, a pair of black pajama pants that showed his hairy ankles, flip-flops, and prescription sunglasses.

“Maybe when we’re at Target, you can buy some pants,” Eddie said.

“It’s like the surface of the sun in Georgia,” Richie said. “I’m getting a bikini and you all can fucking suck it.”

“I for one am just glad you your d-d-dick will be covered,” Bill said.

“And my nipples,” Richie said. “I don’t want them to burn.”

“Drink faster and give me your keys,” Eddie said, nudging him under the table. “Let’s get out of this fucking town already.”

Once they had made the decision to leave, it was a mad dash to see who could get out of Derry the fastest. Eddie had already returned his rental and realized he wouldn’t be able to fit all his luggage in Richie’s ridiculous dick-mobile, and spent ten minutes sorting through one suitcase to find the few things he actually cared about, shoved them into the other suitcase, and tossed the rest in the dumpster. He already knew exactly what kind of phone he wanted, so the trip to the phone place should have been quick, but he still ended up taking three times as long as Ben and Bill because he didn’t want rose gold, which he had said twelve times already. Finally, Richie said, “Eds, do you wanna set up residency here or something? You know you’re just gonna put a gigantic concrete case over it. Hurry the fuck up and skidoo, you.”

“Skidoo?” Eddie hissed, shoving the rose gold phone at the kid who was helping him without even looking. “How’s 1920 treating you, granny?”

“Pretty well actually. I got the cat’s pajamas right here,” Richie said. He had been staring out the window and tapping his fingers on the counter, but suddenly focused on Eddie, grinning brightly. Eddie had spent the greater part of his childhood trying to get the full sunshine force of Richie’s attention on him and was still startled when it happened, ducking his head and smiling and rolling his eyes all at once.

“Weren’t you gonna buy some normal human clothes?” he asked.

Richie shook his head. “Figured you could help me pick something out,” he said. “Not that I don’t love it when you complain, but what if you liked my clothes? This could be a new thing for me.”

Eddie was distracted for a moment by the phone kid asking for his card. He’d been putting everything on the one that was just in his name, and every time he saw the joint account debit card tucked neatly behind it, the boulder of dread in his stomach grew larger. You need to take care of that, he thought, and pushed it away for later.

“I do like your clothes,” he said, and immediately regretted it. “I mean, they’re…terrible. But they’re yours. I’m not gonna tell you how to dress.”

Richie’s face was unreadable for a second while he chewed on his lip. “Huh,” he said, and Eddie felt it was honestly his own fault when Richie bought six pairs of board shorts in various flower patterns, but they drew Eddie’s attention to his ass and thighs in a way that made him feel like he was crawling out of his own skin. He didn’t know if it was just because he had felt that way from the moment he saw Richie again or if he was genuinely into ugly early-2000s fashion, but when they were in the car he looked down at the steering wheel, working up his courage, and then stretched across the center console and pulled Richie close by the back of his neck and kissed him. Richie made a surprised noise into his mouth, and then another when the kiss turned hot because Eddie wanted to push everything out of the way and climb on top of him.

He pulled away, breathing hard, when he realized he had slid one hand under Richie’s shirt and was digging his fingers into the broad, firm muscle of his back. Richie blinked slowly, looking like he’d just woken up, and licked his lips before he shivered and flopped back in his seat with a little laugh. He reached down to pull at the front of his shorts, and Eddie saw the thick bulge of his cock beside his fly and almost dove back in to kiss him again.

“Jesus,” he said in a shaky voice that didn’t sound like his own at all.

“Sorry,” Richie mumbled, turning red.

“No, I like it,” Eddie said, starting the car. “And your stupid fucking shorts.”

Richie gave him an uncertain look and was quiet for a while, putting Stan’s address into his phone’s GPS and setting it on the dash.

*

They stopped for the night outside of Boston. Eddie and Mike were the only ones who had voted to keep going, and while Eddie thought that the ones doing the driving should get more votes than the passengers, he finally gave in when Bev asked him the statistics on tired driving. He didn’t feel tired, although he had only slept about four hours the night before, and not at all the night before that. Driving always energized him, and it was not because he secretly wanted to fuck Richie’s ridiculous car, as someone wearing ugly board shorts claimed. Mostly.

“I need to call Myra,” he said after they had checked in and split off automatically into three hotel rooms.

“Oh,” Richie said, in a voice utterly devoid of emotion. His face—colorless, flat—matched the tone, and Eddie stared at him, alarmed. He had never imagined Richie could sound or look like that, and he was pretty sure he knew all Richie’s voices.

“I don’t think I can put it off any longer,” he said, still staring warily at Richie. “I have to tell her I’m not coming back.”

Richie gasped, his face collapsing a little, and sat down hard on the big ugly orange chair in their hotel room, clutching his heart. “Fucking fuck, Eds, be gentle with me. I’m so unhealthy.”

“Shit.” Eddie scrambled to kneel in front of him, grabbing his wrist to check his pulse. “I didn’t think you’d—why the fuck would you—I’ve told you I’m going to call her and tell her like fifteen times, dude. Why else would I be calling?”

“Because you forgot everything again, or you decided you prefer how your life was before, or you actually specifically just don’t want me, or some other reason I haven’t thought of yet.” Richie gave him a weird, wobbling smile. “I’m really fucked up, Eds.”

“Are you?” Eddie asked, kissing his knuckles. “It seems like you’re just scared.”

“I’m not scared,” Richie said. “Scared is for fighting a clown. I’m terrified out of my fucking mind.”

“What would it take to make you stop being terrified?”

“I don’t know.” Richie closed his eyes, his leg jiggling. “Time. Divorce paperwork. Sex that’s not part of a ritual.”

“I can give you all those things,” Eddie said. He kissed along the back of Richie’s hand and all the way up the inside of his arm—his big, strong, weirdly sexy arm, which Eddie had ignored until he really couldn’t anymore and had thereafter allowed himself to experience the full force of what felt like twenty-five years of abject, knee-weakening horniness. Jesus fucking Christ, I think I want to bite him, he thought, bewildered.

Richie’s face twisted and he seemed bare to Eddie in a way it had never been before, totally uncovered. There was a lot there—fear and hope and love and a strange sadness that Eddie wanted to erase forever, whatever it took—and he got the sense that Richie was forcefully pushing down some internal barrier and allowing Eddie in.

“Do you actually want to deal with me?” he asked. “Eds? With all of this?”

Eddie thought about trying to explain the way he felt like a rocket set free from the atmosphere, but he knew he wouldn’t be able to get it right. Instead, he stood up, staying close between Richie’s legs, took a deep breath, and tried to let Richie in too. He pictured it—a door to a house, maybe, although Richie had always been allowed inside in a way no one else was. A gate opening? It was more like a wall being slowly destroyed without violence, disintegrating into nothing in the face of this one man. It should have been ridiculous. Love like this, eternal and unbreakable and greater than a universe, shouldn’t exist for someone like Eddie Kaspbrak, who had a spreadsheet that let him know when it was time to buy new socks and underwear. 

“I want everything with you,” he said, running his fingers over the stubble on Richie’s cheek to feel the rough edges of it. “I'm pretty sure it's permanent.”

“Infected for life?” Richie asked wryly.

“For life,” he agreed, and reached for him.

The pull between familiarity and newness made him nervous. It was Richie, and he was old hat at touching Richie, but it was Richie, who loved him and who had quite seriously fucked him so well he thought he’d never recover from it. He had hugged Richie all the time when they were little enough that no one was alarmed when he wanted to be cuddled by his friends 24/7, and then he kept on doing it well after he knew they weren’t supposed to. It never seemed wrong to want to touch Richie, and Richie might have teased him for every other thing but never for that. If he pulled up one image of his youth, it was fighting with Richie while wrapped around him in ways his body couldn’t even dream of contorting into now.

But it was different, feeling Richie’s arms slide around him. It was charged with difference, with intent. Richie’s shoulders were big and tense under his hands until he bent his head and kissed him.

“I’m scared too,” he said, and kissed him again.

“Of what?”

“Sex. Well, no—not sex. That I’ll be bad at it.” He smiled down at Richie, who had turned his face up to Eddie’s, looking puzzled. “I’m out of practice. I was never really in practice.”

“Eds, you were at that orgy, right?” Richie asked, loosening his hold but keeping his hands on Eddie’s hips. “That was next level.”

“Oh my god, it really was,” he breathed, leaning against Richie. He was getting hard just thinking about it—that moment when Richie looked up at him, his mouth dropped open in shock, his breath speeding up so unmistakably, and Eddie realized they were both about to come without even fucking. “It was so fucking good.”

“Right?” Richie asked. “So why do you think you’ll be bad at it?”

Richie’s hands slid under his shirt, making his skin light up with pleasure. It was almost unbearable, the way Richie’s fingertips traced along his back, and he writhed against him, whining into his neck. “Richie, what the fuck. Why does it feel so good?”

“You really want me?” Richie said, his voice open and naked and needy. Oh, you really are fucked up about this, Eddie thought, and was overwhelmed by tenderness for a moment.

“I really do,” he whispered. “I just don’t want to be bad at this.”

“I don’t think you could be,” Richie said. “You could throw me off a cliff and I’d be like ‘Ah, sexual fulfillment.’ You have no idea how much I—I just. I can’t believe you want me. That’s all. I don’t want to piss you off by needing to be convinced all the time, but that’s, uh. That’s where I’m at.”

“Rich, I want you so much I feel like I'm going insane,” he said, and took a slow, shaky breath. “I wasn’t gonna tell you this because you don’t need any ego boosting, but dude. Your dick.”

“My dick…”

“It’s really nice,” Eddie said.

“Nice,” Richie said. “Like a small piece of light cheese nice, or nice like the lady at the bank who always says ‘Have a blessed day’ nice?”

“I don’t know what you want me to say. You were there, man. You saw how I reacted.” He was getting worked up just thinking about it. “It’s really big and I, like…”

Richie rubbed his shoulder and he shivered. “You what?”

“I can’t stop thinking about how good it felt,” he blurted out. “I knew I liked having something, you know, in me, but I came so hard.”

“I thought.” Richie cleared his throat. “I thought maybe it was the ritual.”

Eddie gave a short laugh. “Uh, no.”

“You liked my fingers too,” Richie said. His voice was soft, uncertain.

Yes,” Eddie groaned. “Every time I look at your hands I get hard. It’s fucking embarrassing.”

“You want me to do that to you again? Finger you?” Richie asked, and Eddie leaned into him, groaning again. “What if I sucked your cock?”

“I want you to do anything to me,” he said. “I think I’m little messed up about blowjobs, though.”

If he had to be completely accurate, he was very, very messed up about blowjobs, in that he had never made it through one. In the back of his mind he’d always vaguely wondered if he’d like it better than penetrative sex, because as far as he could tell, that was a big dud, but every time either he or Myra had ever broached the idea of oral sex, it ended in an asthma attack. Actually, sex often ended that way. They were both virgins when they were married, and Myra liked to think of it as romantic—which Eddie supposed it might be, if sex was something he had looked forward to instead of something that filled him with panicky dread. They were both too tired on the first night of their honeymoon to attempt anything, and on the second night, when he took a hit off his inhaler first and thought about nothing at all, just closed his eyes and doggedly put himself to the task of orgasm like he was on the treadmill, he was so upset afterward that he cried in the shower and told himself it must be relief.

One day several months later, he and Myra were discussing the divorce of one of Eddie’s coworkers, who had been cheating on his wife with another coworker. So dumb, he had said. I don’t understand how anyone could want sex that much. Myra had agreed immediately. Who would ruin their whole life for that? she had said, and they both laughed. It was the closest he had ever felt to her.

They made time for sex once in a while and Eddie tried not to feel guilty about how long it had been, or about the fact that they always used condoms, or that every time he had clumsily tried to ask her what would make her feel good, she told him to stop worrying about it. He thought Myra saw sex as a comfort for him, and could not tell her it was more like a vaccination. During the last year, his asthma had been particularly bad and they hadn’t had sex at all because every time he thought about being touched, his mind called up an image he couldn’t explain, red balloons popping, and the thought It’s almost time to float! would begin to echo through his head. Once he mindlessly Googled it to see if it was something from a movie he didn’t remember, and only got a bunch of hits on flotation therapy.

“I don’t know if I’ll like that,” he confessed to Richie. “I—it kind of scares me.”

Richie didn’t quite flinch, but there was something so wary and somehow resigned in his face that Eddie reached for his hand. “It’s okay,” Richie said, very carefully. “We don’t have to do that.”

“The clown,” Eddie said, taking Richie’s hand and placing it palm down over his heart, breathing slowly in and out, the way he had done during a hundred asthma attacks. Richie raised his eyebrows and Eddie gave him a short nod to let him know he was all right before he let go. “The leper. It was something he said to me. I’ll blow you for a dime.”

“Wow.” Richie blinked. “He was a lot more straightforward with you than he was with me.”

“He probably knew he’d have to be very specific if he wanted to torture me.” He sighed. “I have no idea how I feel about it now.”

“Um.” Richie’s hands tightened on Eddie’s hips, and he leaned in close, his eyes hot and serious. Like he was telling a secret, Eddie thought, and shivered again. “We never have to do it, if you don’t want to. But if you did, I could make it good for you. I mean, I want to.”

“Oh,” he said breathlessly. “Do you like it?”

Richie leaned forward, forehead resting against Eddie’s chest. Through his t-shirt, he felt how warm Richie’s face was as he nodded, and ran his fingers through his hair, loving the sight of his own fingers smoothing Richie’s hair away from his temples. It was soft and fine and felt exactly the way it had when he was younger, when he had imagined touching Richie like this almost as much as he had imagined kissing him.

“So let’s do that, then,” he said, pushing Richie away by the shoulders. “If you want to. I won’t be scared with you.”

Richie reached up and tucked his fingers into the waist of Eddie’s pants, rubbing against his stomach just under the elastic of his boxers. “Yeah?” he asked, his thumb toying with the button of his fly.

“Yeah. I know you’ll stop if I freak out,” he said, and took a deep breath before he added, feeling like an idiot, “I bet you’ll be good.”

“I will be,” Richie promised, looking up at Eddie with his eyes wide. “I want to make you feel good, Eds.”

“Okay,” he said, shakily reaching for the hem of his shirt to take it off.

“Let me, okay?” Richie said, standing, and yeah, that really did something for Eddie.

He kicked his shoes and socks off and then stood still, and Richie moved behind him and kissed his neck while he clenched his hands and let the heat of Richie’s mouth send little jolts down through his abdomen and between his legs. Richie slipped his hands under Eddie’s t-shirt and pushed it up and off, bending down and kissing a line down his spine and making Eddie’s hips jerk when he put his arms around him from behind and undid his pants. He was pressed all along Eddie’s back, heavy hard cock against his ass, lips just brushing along the skin of his neck, and then his pants and underwear were pushed down and off and he was naked with Richie fully clothed behind him.

“Jesus Christ, you’re so–” Richie choked out, his hands light and reverent on Eddie’s skin, which was so sensitive every touch made his cock jerk, and when he began to gently play with one nipple Eddie stiffened under him, moaning and leaning his head back on Richie’s shoulder. He reached back and grabbed Richie’s shorts and held on, forcing Richie tight against him. Richie’s other hand teased along his thigh before he wrapped it around Eddie’s cock, long fingers squeezing one slow stroke and then another.

“Hold on,” Eddie said, dizzy, turning around in Richie’s arms and pulling him down for a kiss because he’d barely gotten to kiss him at all, and he liked it so much, Richie’s mouth on his and his arms around him. There was something in it, like the pull between old and new, that he loved, something in the contrast between the slow, languid way Richie kissed him and the protective way he held him. Eddie stood on his tiptoes and kissed him and kissed him, wanted to fucking climb him, while Richie’s hands ran over his back and his ass.

“Here, get on the bed,” Richie said, leading him backward to the bed and pushing back onto it.

He climbed up far enough that Richie could stretch out between his legs, propping himself up on his elbows on either side of Eddie’s thighs. He was breathing hard, Eddie saw, his eyes heavy and dark and focused not on Eddie’s cock, even though it was so close to his mouth, but on his face.

“Do you want this?” he asked. He hadn’t taken off his glasses and Eddie realized he wasn’t going to, that Richie intended to watch him the entire time. The thought made him squirm under Richie’s weight, and he made a little whining noise, so turned on he was lightheaded, when he couldn’t move him.

Eddie tried to back away from his body far enough to think about the clown. It had never been a struggle before—the fear was always there, shoving its way comfortably into all the spaces he left between himself and Myra—but even when he dragged it out of wherever it lived in his mind, forcing himself to think of the leper limping after him and grinning while he whispered I’ll do it for a dime, it had no power over him. It was a deflated balloon.  

“Yes,” he said, and looked down at his cock, a little embarrassed by how much he had dripped all over his stomach. “Obviously.”

Richie gave him a small, intense smile before he bent his head and licked up some of the come that had pooled there under his belly button and then didn’t stop, sucking his skin for a moment before he slid his mouth over the head of Eddie’s cock.

He cried out, fast and alarmed, at the heat of Richie’s mouth and the shivering, sweet panic of losing control, because he was losing control, right away. The suction and pressure and warmth and exquisite, focused pleasure wrestled away whatever remnants of control he thought he had, and it was terrifying to realize it was happening and that he liked it. He’d felt the same thing the night before, sliding down onto Richie’s cock, overwhelmed by the knowledge that all the discipline he exercised over his body was nothing when Richie was making him feel good, and that he liked it that way. Because it was Richie, he thought. Only Richie, who could take him apart and keep him safe at the same time.

“Rich,” he gasped.

“What, baby?” Richie asked hoarsely. He looked drunk, his mouth red and wet.

“I love you,” he said.

Richie’s face tightened into something that looked like pain for a second, harsh longing, before it smoothed out again. “I love you too,” he said, and rubbed his nose against Eddie’s hip. “Can I suck your dick now?”

“Yes, please,” he said primly, and Richie laughed and kissed the head of Eddie’s wet, slick cock before he went back to work. He seemed to like it as much as he claimed, however, because in short order he was moaning around Eddie’s cock, deep and choked and needy. Eddie propped himself up on one elbow to look at him and saw first his face, dazed and slack with pleasure, and then his body, his hips shifting because, Eddie realized, he was fucking against the bed while he sucked. Eddie’s entire body tingled at the sight of it, and the liquid heat spreading through his abdomen began to tighten into fear and pleasure at the same time, tumbling toward the edge even as he shook his head and kicked like he was trying to get away from it.

“Rich,” he gasped. “Richie, if you—if you need to pull away, I don’t think I can stop. I’m—”

Richie’s hands pulled him even closer, further into his mouth, and Eddie completely lost it, shoving his hips up hard again and again, unable to help the wild uneven movements or the broken, sobbing cries he made, digging his fingers hard into Richie’s shoulders as he came—in his mouth, he thought, his eyes squeezing shut at the enormity of the pleasure pushing its way through him. Distantly, he felt Richie press tight against the bed and felt the vibrations as he moaned, quiet and low, but his thoughts were scattered for what seemed like a long time, spread out so far that for a while he was only sensation, the pulse of his heartbeat through his body. 

When he could put two ideas together again, he realized Richie’s head was resting on his stomach, breath panting against his damp skin. He’d taken his glasses off, Eddie noticed, patting Richie’s hair tiredly.

“You asleep?” he asked after a few minutes.

“Almost,” Richie mumbled, then lifted his head and shook it, taking his weight off Eddie’s hips and legs. It was a relief, but Eddie perversely wanted it back again. He had liked the sight of Richie wrapped around him like that and wondered if he could be persuaded to sleep close to him. Richie sat up and grimaced. “I haven’t come in my pants in like twenty years.”

“Oh,” Eddie said, without thinking. “I wanted to make you come.”

“Sorry,” Richie said, his shoulders hunching up.

“Don’t be sorry.” He thought of the hot, desperate noises Richie had made while he was sucking and felt like he was melting. “I like that. I like that you liked it so much.”

He reached out and touched the side of Richie’s face and Richie closed his eyes and rubbed against Eddie’s palm before he felt around for his glasses and put them on.

“I wish I’d gotten you naked, though,” Eddie said, plucking at his shirt. “I can’t believe I let you suck my dick while you were wearing those shorts.”

“You already said you like the shorts. Can’t take that back,” Richie said, standing up and going to his suitcase.

“Want to shower with me?” Eddie asked hopefully.

Richie froze with his hands somewhere deep in his suitcase. “Really? Don’t you have an hour-long shower regimen?”

“Yeah, but it’s not like I need to be alone while I do it,” he said, ignoring the fact that he had never, not once, allowed Myra near the bathroom while he was in the shower, and that she had never asked him to.

“Then I would be honored to wash my ass with you,” Richie said, and would not allow Eddie to rescind his offer.

*

He was so tired he almost fell asleep with his head on Richie’s shoulder in the shower, but once they were finished, he was wide awake and knew it was time. He had to call Myra.

It had been—he looked at his watch—somewhere around forty-eight hours since he had last talked to her, a low, frantic conversation just after he’d gotten stitches and he and Beverly and Ben were on their way to the library. A pretty long stretch of time by any measure, he thought, trying to be fair. He wasn’t sure he had ever gone longer than a night’s sleep without at least texting her while he was away.

“Eddie, thank god,” she gasped, picking up before the phone had even begun to ring on his end.

“Hi, Myra,” he said, squeezing his own arm firmly, digging his nails in. As if from outside himself, he could hear how his voice softened, how the cadence changed. Regressed. He became such a baby when he talked to her, he thought, and was hit with such a fierce stab of shame that he sat down beside Richie on the bed, then stood up again and started pacing.

Edward Kaspbrak,” she said. “I’ve been going out of my mind worrying about you. Where have you been? What on earth have you been doing that you couldn’t call me?”

“My phone was broken, and I got a new one,” he said, and shook his head. He was getting caught in the explanations, and getting caught in the explanations was how he always fucked up. Take a stand, he thought, and breathed in through his nose and out through his mouth. “Myra. I am not coming back to New York.”

“You what? What? Eddie, what do you mean? What does that mean, you’re not coming back?”

“It means I’m not coming back, because I’m l—”

“Where are you right now?”

“Massachusetts,” he said automatically.

“Massachusetts,” she hissed, as if he had said the third circle of Hell. “Stay there and give me your address. Right now. You shouldn’t be driving.”

“No, M—”

Right now,” she said. “Eddie, you’re not thinking straight. You wouldn’t even go to the doctor to check for whiplash or concussion, and I think it’s pretty clear that was a mistake. I can be there in the morning. Where are you so I can come get you?”

He almost did it. The habit of obedience, no matter how resentful, no matter how reluctant, took up so much space inside him that he almost said the words that would allow her to come collect him like a sulky child, even with Richie sitting on the bed no more than five feet away. He wondered for a second why Richie wasn’t touching him, wasn’t encouraging him, and looked over his shoulder to see that Richie was staring intently at the bedspread, picking at it. His mouth was twisted up like he might be about to cry, and Eddie realized Richie was probably more scared about this phone call than he was.

“No,” he said, and his voice wobbled and it sounded a little more like a question than he had meant it to, but he said it without gasping or crying, and that was something. That was a lot, actually.

“What do you mean, no?” One of the things he admired about Myra was that she wasn’t a person who generally let a no stop her. She pushed objections, especially Eddie's objections, out of the way because they were ridiculous, and then she kept at it and kept at it and kept at it until Eddie finally conceded. She was usually right; even as he fought to stay calm, he realized that from her point of view, everything he was doing seemed insane. He had crashed his car, then told her he was leaving for a hometown and childhood friends he had never spoken about, for an unspecified amount of time and reasons he couldn’t explain, and now, after two full days of radio silence, he had said he was not coming back. It was ridiculous. He was being irresponsible and stupid.

I killed It, he thought, covering his eyes. With my own two hands, with their hands. We killed It, but It took twenty-seven years of my life from me and I won’t let it happen again, I can’t. I’m sorry, Myra, I think It stole some things from you too and we deserve to have them.

“No,” he said again, still wobbling. “I’m not coming back, Myra. I’m sorry.”

“Eddie—”

“I’m sorry,” he said over her, until he was almost yelling. “No. I’m sorry.”

And he hung up just as her raised voice had begun to say it was dangerous to go without medical attention for a brain bleed.

He shoved the phone into his pocket so he wouldn’t see it light up again and left his hand over his eyes, shaking.

“Jesus Christ,” Richie breathed. “You sounded exactly like you did when you used to talk to your mom.”

He nodded miserably, his face already crumpling. Richie made a startled noise and reached for him, pulling Eddie right into his arms on the bed and making a space where Eddie could completely lose his shit, which he did. He curled up into a ball and shoved his face into Richie’s hoodie and tried not to cry, and failed.

“Eddie,” Richie whispered fiercely. “God, you’re brave. You know that, right?”

Eddie did not know that, but if Richie wanted to think he was brave instead of a scared little boy, he wasn’t going to disabuse him of that notion. He clung to Richie and shook apart almost silently. Everything hurt; he kept rubbing the side of his face against Richie’s shoulder and pulling on his stitches, his throat and sinuses ached, and between killing the clown and jumping into the quarry and staying awake for three days straight and getting fucked and driving for hours, pretty much all of him was sore. But Richie’s hand running up and down his spine was slow and warm, and eventually it calmed him.

“I fucking hate crying,” he said, wiping his nose and trying to stop his heaving breath from catching and breaking his words.

“It sucks,” Richie agreed. “Makes me look like I’ve been dead for like a week.”

“I don’t care how I look,” Eddie said, tightening his fingers in Richie’s hoodie just in case he had any ideas about pulling away. “I hate how it makes me feel. I associate it with—”

Mommy. Myra. Manipulation.

“—all the times I was weak. All the times I tried to be brave, or take care of myself. I always cry when I get upset, and then if you cry, you lose. I feel better when I’m angry. I don’t feel weak then.”

“That’s how you have a heart attack before you’re fifty,” Richie said.

He laughed, in a damp sort of way, and shook his head. “I know. It’s healthier or whatever, but it doesn’t feel healthy. It feels like giving in.”

“I don’t get it,” Richie said. “You’re the most stubborn little asshole I’ve ever met.”

“Of course you don’t get it. I’m not like that with you,” Eddie sighed. “You’ve never tried to convince me I can’t take care of myself. You would never yell at me.”

“I’ve yelled at you so fucking much, dude,” Richie said. “Yelling is like eighty percent of our communication.”

“No,” he said, frustrated. “You argue with me, or tease me, or what the fuck ever. You don’t belittle me.”

“You’re already so little,” Richie murmured, stroking a path along Eddie’s wrist and over the backs of his fingers, still clenched in his sweatshirt. “I really fucking hate your mom, Eds.”

“The feeling was mutual.” Eddie smiled, remembering how they had kissed in front of his old house. If his mother had still been alive, the sight of her baby being kissed by Richie Tozier would have made her faint dead away. She’d never have believed Eddie wanted it more than anything—she’d have blamed it all on Richie, foul-mouthed and dirty, not the right kind of company for a boy like Eddie. She remained resolutely uncharmed by Richie’s sweet, goofy, buck-toothed, freckled face, maybe because she had always had some inkling, however buried it was, of how much her son was charmed by it, how much Eddie liked being foul-mouthed and dirty right along with him.

“No, I’m being serious here. I didn’t give a shit if she liked me or not. I hated her because she tried to diminish you so you could stay in her pocket forever. You never let her, though, firecracker.” Richie’s eyes and smile were soft when Eddie looked up, startled. “It was always amazing watching you go off.”

“I had a lot of feelings when I was a kid,” he said, playing with the zipper on Richie’s hoodie. “I think they’re sort of coming back now.”

“Yeah, I feel like my entire brain is waking up and it’s all pins and needles,” Richie said. He yawned and leaned back on the bed, Eddie still tucked against him.

“Hmm,” Eddie said, and fell asleep in the middle of trying to think of something to say about Richie’s dumb brain.

He woke sometime in the night and rearranged them so they were under the blankets instead of on top of them. Richie protested, mumbling nonsense, and Eddie told him to be quiet and get comfortable, for fuck’s sake, which seemed to pacify him. It took Eddie longer to fall asleep again, and he lay listening to the air conditioner turn on and off, blowing against the curtains and making the chain rustle. Richie was turned toward him, but his head was resting on Eddie's arm so his breath blew down rather than right into Eddie's face, because Richie was much less annoying asleep than awake. He kissed the top of Richie's head, smiling in the dark and wishing he could let his tired mind rest, but there was something he kept turning over and over again and the phone call to Myra had only exacerbated it.

There was a part of him, and at this point he had no clue how big a part, that had always liked being a mama’s boy. There was great satisfaction in pleasing his mother, and he didn’t think he’d ever be able to admit it, especially to Richie, but he really liked being babied sometimes. As much as he had fought against the suffocating blanket of his mother’s and then his wife’s affection, there was comfort in giving into it. Yes, that part of him said, I do want someone to pay attention to me and look out for me and keep me safe. I want someone to love me so much that they know what I need and try to give it to me.

This part of him knew very well that whatever attention he wanted, it wasn’t the kind his mother and Myra gave him, but it was the only kind out there, as far as he knew. It came close but never quite scratched the itch of need that was there in him, and he kept coming back again and again because it was almost what he wanted and yet so far away from it, he would almost rather have had nothing. But then, everything in his life was fogged over with low-grade disappointment; why would that be any different?

When you’re a little kid, all you want is for everything to be satisfying, but that’s not the point, he would have said if someone had asked him whether he was happy. That’s the trade-off. You get to have excitement, or safety. Safety is better. Maybe it’s a little boring and unsatisfying, but only immature assholes care about being happy every second of the fucking day. Who wants those kind of emotional ups and downs all the time? There’s a reason we forget about that shit when we get older and we learn to compromise. That’s being an adult.

And now here he was, running after those ups and downs and realizing he didn’t want to fucking compromise because the part of him that was Eddie Kaspbrak from Derry had woken up, and he had remembered Richie, the basis for everything he wanted without knowing he wanted it, who had modeled the kind of love he needed without even trying.

I kind of feel like maybe this is going to end in disaster, he thought, feeling for Richie's hand and hooking their pinkies together under the sheets. But even if it does, I'll be glad we had this. I'm glad I ran away with you. I'm glad, I'm glad, I'm glad.