Actions

Work Header

Interference

Work Text:

 

Eleven months ago...

He is left behind when the cistern collapses. Its walls fall into the water, splashing like the foot of the Moxie Falls. What little air is not deadly due to debris becomes unbreathably thick with mist, although he cannot, does not breathe. Here, Eds, bite on this. The mist gathers in his hair, clings to his lashes and drips down his nose. The rising tide laps over the ledge of rock, to his feet, then his knees, his chest, cold and sickening. If he was awake- if he was alive- he would hate it. Brackish and full of bacteria, exacerbating his wound. Before long it rises above his head and then he is underwater for a very long time. 

Things lose their edge, here. There are unknowable colors and voices swimming by, bleeding together. It could be two in argument, or it could be millions. They’ve waited so long for this day, yet somehow they haven’t made up their minds who’s prize this is. They each want the one much larger than him, and he is beckoned to and fro in Its wake until he loses his way, drifting through that fluidic space. The water drifts back through him as well. It gnaws on the ragged parts of him, before they realizes this is not what was intended. Our mistake.

He is very small, and not so difficult to put right again.

He is spit out, carried away by the rush of the escaping water. It batters him past weathered pipes, through roots, and crumbling banks. If it weren’t for the shattering center of his pain, he would feel every snag. Finally he catches on a sandbar and the stars overhead in the green sky fix in place, though their light offers no warmth. His fingers must be bare bone, made of ice, and his teeth chatter. He curls in on himself, clawing tight even though it hurts to move. When it doesn’t hurt anymore is what you’ve really got to look out for, he knows now.

Tighter. More pain. Cold. 

Why didn’t he just fucking die the first time?

A face.



-



They all have their own self prescribed priorities on move-in day. After supervising that none of the movers scratch their freshly painted hallways, Eddie goes from room to room, systematically checking that the furniture placement still allows for appliances to be plugged in discretely. He puts the bulbs back into all the lamps and nudges around shelves until they perfectly disguise wires and outlets without entirely blocking them. The TV ends up needing to go on a different wall then they had imagined, but he installs it and has Richie help him reorganize the footprint of the sectional. When Richie’s not doing that, he’s flitting between stacks of boxes, opening two or three of each in a frenzied search and unpacking half of it on impulse, then pulling out the one item he was looking for in the first place before abandoning the room again. First it’s a bandanna because he saw one of the movers had a bandanna around his neck and he thought it looked cool. Then its the Pur filter for the faucet and some glasses for water. Then it's the throw pillows so they can take his water break in perfect comfort on the new couch. Then it’s the tape measure from Eddie’s toolbox, though that was because Furniture Assembly Czar Eds asked for it. He wants to determine the exact center of the master bedroom, because this thing is gonna be pretty moosey when he’s through with it.

It’s still in sections now, the headboard and the matching bed frame. It’s one of those shelved ones, with two tiers, perfectly divided in thirds with built in lighting. It adds another foot of depth to the already overwhelming size of a California King, but their thinking was that whoever sleeps in the middle would appreciate somewhere to stash his phone and water bottle, and easy access to all that other crap you wouldn’t want to elbow two other people in the gut to get from a nightstand. 

As fun as it was to squeeze into one of the tiny full sized beds at Richie’s for a fuck the first few times he came to visit the guys in Chicago, they can thank the repeated overnight chaos for jump-starting the Moving In Together conversation. After the portion of the evening where they didn’t mind being on top of each other so much, somebody always wound up retreating to the guest room- then someone else would get lonesome for them in the middle of the night and migrate, then the other, too, and then they were right back where they started with too many bodies and too little bed. Since neither of the bedrooms could reasonably accommodate a king, and Eds was ready to leave New York in the dust, it only made sense to go in on a new, bigger place together. So here it is. Garage parking, two full bathrooms, three bedrooms, windows overlooking Lake Michigan, stainless steel countertops ripped directly from his wildest fantasies, and the two men who make it hard to tell if he is in fact dreaming, all contained within.

In between drilling the sections of the bed together into one unit, he listens to them bicker about whether the record player should go into the living room with the new entertainment center, or adjust to a new life in the spare room. They don’t disagree- they both want it in a room where someone could close the door if they didn’t wish to disturb the others with their music, but first they have to reassure each other that they would compromise, because that’s kind of their whole deal. It’s cute. They’re cute, his guys. Whether he agrees with a joint decision of theirs or not, Eds is always more than happy to come stir the pot just so he can splash around in the warmth a little first. Of course, by the time he’s got things to the point where he’ll need help moving the mattress, they’ve got music playing, so they must have already settled that score and moved on to the next.

Eds raps his knuckles on the door frame and leans there. “Hey, how’s it going in here?”

It’s looking the most put together of any room, so far, but maybe that’s because it’s the smallest. There’s a desk, the two-seater sofa from Richie’s old apartment, and a baker’s rack slowly filling with a small TV, the record collection, and an old, corded telephone. When he asked Eddie about it while they were packing up, he said Richie picked it out for him at an antique shop because it looked ‘the most haunted’, but Eds has to admit, it looks great with all the other outdated crap that wound up in here.

“Everything’s a-okay, under control,” says Richie. He’s balancing on the arm of the couch, with an open pack of Command hooks sticking out of his butt pocket, reaching up towards the ceiling. “No one fell off the couch and pulled down the whole string of lights the first time he tried this, no sir!”

Eddie snickers in his seat at the other end. “Before you ask- yes, he’s been climbing all the furniture to get up there.”

Like a particularly inelegant smash cut in a movie, Eds’ neck snaps to look at the creaky baker’s rack he can’t believe survived the moving truck, let alone this. “There’s a step ladder in the living room!” he says. “I saw you on it, doing the TV!”

“Sometimes I enjoy a gong show,Eddie shrugs.

Well, that’s one way to describe constant proximity to Richie, all right.

Eds huffs out of the room to go retrieve the ladder and put a stop to this before someone (Richie) breaks his stupid neck. He pulls it open and places it along the wall a few steps from Richie’s position, muttering. “Yeah, make sure you use the swivel chair to put up the curtains, next. Your blood on the fucking carpet will match really nice.”

Richie hops down from his perch and sticks the package of hooks into Eds’ pocket instead before flopping onto the couch to watch. He settles back with his fingers laced behind his head and lets Eds take care of the homestretch. 

At some point he asks, “What’re we gonna call this room anyway? The den? The study? The home office," he says, stuffily.

Eds gives the string of cactus and chili pepper shaped lights a little slack, and hangs it on the next hook. There’s a collection of Drew Struzan posters leaned against the wall, waiting to be put up, too. “Well, it looks like your shooting for ‘dorm room of the one guy so fucking smelly even the D&D group won’t meet here’.”

“I’ll have you know-”

Eddie pats his thigh. “-I don’t think telling him you prefer Fantasy Flight is the save you think it is, Richie.”

Richie sighs. “Okay, other direction! We could bolt some chains to the wall and call it the sex dungeon? Eh?” He waggles his eyebrows.

“Yeah, no,” Eds grins. “That’s not gonna work for me when I video conference on a work-from-home day.”

“And we just agreed this is where we’d banish the carpet that always gives you rugburn,” Eddie adds with a giggle.

“How about we call it the ‘man cave’?” Richie suggests.

Eds yucks. “I hate that.”

“A man what?” Eddie’s brow furrows. “No?”

What a charmed life Eddie leads, getting to skip over some cultural touchstones entirely.

Richie turns to him. “Well what do you wanna call it, old man?”

Eddie thinks for half a second. “The rumpus room,” he purrs, fully aware of himself, because out of touch or not he is a bastard, don’t let his sweet looks fool you.

Eds nearly falls off the ladder. “Fucking lethal...”

“Ahhaah! That sounds even worse than sex dungeon!” Richie cries. “I love it.”

“No!”

Eddie hmms at Eds’ objection. “Hobby room?”

“You can’t unring that bell, are you kidding?” Richie giggles.

With the lights all set, Eds climbs back down the ladder. “We’re not calling it the rumpus room. I’m not saying ‘Hey, get the extra chairs from the rumpus room’ when we have company. I’m not answering you when you ask which closet the vacuum is in fucking ‘rumpus room’.”

“I think you’re having fun saying it now.” Eddie raises an eyebrow. “Three times the charm?”

Eds glowers. “Rumpus room, rumpus room, rumpus room,” he chants joylessly, like he’s proving Bloody Mary isn’t real at a slumber party. He throws his hands up. “See? Crickets.”

“Sure, Jan,” Richie rolls his eyes. “But you’re definitely gonna think about it in the back of your head, now.”

“It’s just the ‘spare room’!” Eds decrees, and throws himself into Richie’s lap, punishingly hard.

“Woah!” That winds him. “Eddie’s the one who started it! Why don’t you body slam him!?”

“Cause he’s a sweet, skinny old coot and you’re a big asshole.”

Richie wraps his arms tight around Eds’ middle and squeezes. “Mmm, yeah, talk more about slamming my asshole.”

“Anyway,” Eds ignores him. “You guys have any thoughts about dinner? I’ve been ready to eat packing peanuts for at least an hour.”

Eddie awws. “You shoulda said. You don’t have to wait on us.”

Since Eds has only been in Chicago three days now, his appetite is still in another timezone. He shrugs. “I’ll have to adjust eventually.”

“Still,” says Eddie. “You’ve got more to adjust to than us, moving here, and we want you to be happy.”

“I am.” Eds leans and plants a kiss on top of his head. “Deliriously.”

Eddie tilts his face up for another. “Oh, good.”

“Hey, I’m part of the ‘we’!” Richie points out. He nuzzles his nose into Eds’ back and smacks a loud kiss against his tee shirt. After a day of hauling around boxes and hardwood it makes it stick to his skin.

“Ugh, I’m all sweaty back there, Rich.”

“I know.” He inhales and exhales a groan. “From bein’ all manly, building shit.”

“Is this what he’s like when you come home from the garage?”

Eddie chuckles. “Smudge a little grease on your nose sometime, he’ll go nuts for it.”

“Noted.” Eds twists and allows Richie a tender kiss, too. “You’re so fuckin’ easy.”

He turns back around and Richie nods, rubbing his nose up and down his spine for several more sniffs of him. “Mhmm!”

“I finished the bed, by the way. I did the box spring but I could use a hand with the mattress.”

Eddie starts to get up to help. “Sure, no problem.”

“Eh, let’s figure out dinner first,” Eds laughs and shifts in Richie’s lap, trying to get more comfortable, which is a little hard when Richie is... also a little hard. “Dude,” he laughs. “I’m gross right now, I can’t believe this is giving you a boner.” 

Eddie had been looking a little glazed over by the long day just a moment ago, but now he lights up. His eyes narrow mischievously. “Oh really?”

“Yeah,” Eds licks his lips. “I’m like, sitting on one of those old banana seat bikes right now.”

Richie wriggles. “If you don’t like it get off!”

Eds deliberately grinds on him then. “You first?”

“Hhnmg.” Richie’s hands slip to his waist, following his motion. “What about dinner?”

“What about it?” One yawning hunger in Eds’ stomach is easily replaced by another. “I’m a little busy riding your dick right now.”

Richie whimpers.

Eddie turns to put an elbow on the back of the couch and prop up his head while he watches them go at it. “Wow, Richie,” he grins. “Are you about to make a convert?”

God, maybe, Eds thinks. He started as a joke, but flustering Richie is one of his most treasured past times. Maybe if- if he can just control his angle a bit, it kind of does something for him too.

Eds braces a hand on the arm of the couch and at the same time, one of Eddie’s slides along his thigh, and- yeah. Exactly this. The way Richie wants it, constantly seeking the contact, pulling him like he’s magnetized to his ass is intoxicating as fuck. Eds never had anything against getting his ass fucked, per se. There’s only so much time in a long distance relationship, is all, and his role just seemed to lay elsewhere with two boyfriends who already had this particular awakening.

“This is kinda fun,” Eds admits, getting a little worked up and breathy. “I could. You know. Give it a try... If you wanted to.”

“Jesus Christ.”

“Maybe- maybe tonight-“

He did build them a new bed. That deserves a special breaking-in, right?

Richie thrusts up against him. “Oh fuck, Eds...”

Eddie leans forward in his seat and dips his hand between Eds’ legs. He nuzzles into his shoulder, always a reassuring presence when Eds is at a threshold. “We’ll take care of you, dear. Tonight. Always.”

Eds can’t not kiss him, for that.

“You could,” he tells Eddie, in the midst of their liplock. “I want you to.”

“I’ll make sure it’s so good for you,” Eddie kisses back. “Take my time. Get you ready. Maybe try you out myself, just to be sure-“

“Yeah?” Eds bounces back and forth between the hard edge in Richie’s lap and Eddie’s sure hand, creeping up on him. “You wanna fuck me, too? One right after the other?”

Holy shit. He could literally double down.

“If you’re gonna go to town, may as well go in a Lincoln, right?”

“You’d know, Dreamy.” Eds kisses him greedily, sucking in his tongue like he’d take any part of him he’d offer.

“Hey c’mon, man,” Richie groans. His hips stutter. “These are the only pants I have that match this shirt, I don’t wanna totally change for dinner...”

Eddie chuckles. “You call that matching?” He drops one last kiss on Eds then switches over to Richie, lest he think he’s getting out of this without incident.

Doesn’t Richie realize Eds has to make him come in his pants now, like, legally? On behalf of every article of his clothing Richie has ever been careless with, Eds gets vindictive, rubbing his ass so vigorously there’s a danger of starting a friction fire. “We’re ordering in,” he growls.

There’s a little choke of a noise, and when Eds cast his glance over his shoulder again, he can see that the one of Eddie’s hands that’s not burning at his thigh has snuck its way up Richie’s unmatchably awful shirt. Probably scratching at his chest hair and tugging on a nipple.

Ah, teamwork.

Eds keeps at it, circling his hips and sharing his heat, making himself inviting and wanting so badly for Richie lose himself in all this attention, no matter how clothed they may be. “Don’t you wanna put it in me, Rich?” he asks. “Give me that big hot dick of yours you can’t fucking shuttup about?” 

Richie and Eddie break their kissing with another pair of throaty sounds. Eddie a laugh, Richie a cry.

“I know you’ve thought about it... I'm thinking about it too, baby. How fucking good you’re gonna feel.”

“Hhh- Eds.” His hands tremble in their grip on him and he bucks up, hard.

“It’s okay. You can want it. You can have it,” Eds tells him.

“Shit, fuck, Eddie, pinch me again-“

“Tell Eds exactly what you want and I will,” Eddie promises, fishing under his shirt.

“I wanna rock his ass, ah fuck,” Richie pants, receiving his reward. “I wanna fuck you, Eds-“

“Then fucking fuck me.“ Eds bounces on him eagerly, ecstatic, only sorry that it’s a dry run. 

Richie tenses, arching between his heels on the floor and his shoulders at the back of the couch. “God, you’re so hot, what the fuck. Oh, hnmmff,” he grunts. He hooks a shaking arm across Eds’ chest, whines, then goes slack again.

Eds melts back too, winded and pretty pleased with himself.

“Such a good boy,” Eddie says, kissing them each. “You too.”

“You mean gooey,” Eds snickers.

Eddie delivers Richie a second, apologetic kiss. “Sorry about your pants, sweetheart.”

“Ugh. You guys totally suck.”

“Don’t you just love being showered in appreciation, Eddie?” Eds shifts around on Richie, his big pile of mushy boyfriend, until he’s sitting sideways and they can kiss easily. 

Not that Richie gives in right away. “You made me gooey and then you called me gooey, you douchebag.”

“Love you,” grins Eds.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah...”

Richie opens his arm and Eddie cuddles in too, pawing at Eds until he finds his hand to tangle their fingers together. He mouths smiling kisses at their cheeks and necks and murmurs to them both. “We’re gonna be so happy here. Whatever we decide to call this room.”

Glowing despite himself, Richie lolls his head back against the couch. “Ah, you said it, toots.”

All wrapped tight in each other’s arms, there is no room for disagreement. Eds can’t imagine a better place to be than crammed nuts to butts with them, despite their vast new apartment.

“Just as long as we don't call it the R word, I’m banning the R word,” he amends.

Richie blinks. “...My name??”

“Shh, don’t strain yourself. You’re still struck with temporary dick dumbness.”

Eddie giggles. “Finally, you’ve put a name to it.”

“We gotta be careful not to actually fuck his brains out one of these days.”

“I changed my mind,” Richie pouts. “I’ve only lived here like, ten hours and I already hate it.”

 

-

 

Eds wakes up the next morning to muscles pulling that haven’t ever pulled quite this way before. His arms, his inner thighs, his back, his neck... all primed and a little raw. Then he turns his head on the pillow and opens his eyes and comes face to face with Eddie lounging, already awake and browsing his phone and his heart stops.

Worse than stops.

It feels like it’s be punched through his chest and caught every single rib on the way out and he’s on fire and he’s freezing wet- are heart attacks wet?- so freezing cold his whole body seizes in a shudder, choking him, and he can’t breathe, he can’t move, because if he moves he’ll spill out all his organs and-

And then it’s over.

He’s as warm and dry as he was in the moments before he opened his eyes except for a tear that drips from his eye to his temple. The sensation of piercing pain is gone but-

“Whatthefuck,” Eds gasps, still struggling to breathe.

Eddie’s eyes go wide and he drops his phone on the bed to reach for him. “Hey, hey, buddy,” he says, low enough to both soothe and not wake Richie immediately. He pulls some balled up blanket away from near Eds’ face, to give him some air. “You need your inhaler? Where is it?”

Eds shakes his head and starts scrambling away, backward off the edge of the bed. “No, nuh uh...” He doesn’t need his inhaler, he doesn’t need anything, and he doesn’t know where it is anyway. It’s only been one night, and he hasn’t unpacked it yet. His foot kicks the floor at an odd angle, and he’s still gulping. His other foot lands. He’s pushing himself up. Standing at the side of the bed. Still can’t breathe.

He can feel his teeth rattling at his lip as he sucks in air, but he can’t get himself regular, because now he’s panicking, because what the fuck just happened? Like trying to get a dog to swallow a pill, Eds rubs his throat to encourage its natural behavior. He thinks Breathe Breathe Breathe at the top of his brain-lungs.

He reaches for his phone but thinks better of it. Richie and Eddie would hate that for him- starting off his morning on WedMD before he can even give himself a chance not to spiral out. Is this like, normal PTSD? Or clown shit? If he confirms one way or the other-

No phone. Take a shower. Can’t take the phone in there. Calm down. Then... talk, if he absolutely must. With the guys? He doesn’t want to freak them out, if it’s a fluke. Uhh, with a therapist, maybe? He needs a new therapist here in Chicago, he should get his phone and google-

No.

No phone.

Luckily, he wound up on the left most side of the bed last night, closest to the en suite. It's a straight shoot. He just has to hold it together for like, five fucking feet and then shut the door behind him.

As soon as he’s got the water running, he breaks down. He’s supposed to be doing better, now. He broke free of Derry and everything it ever did to him. He got out of there alive. He got fixed up. He’s knitted together so completely, new doctors think his records must have been misfiled. He got out of New York, too, and he’s got Richie who he always loved, and Eddie who taught him to finally fucking love himself. He’s happy! He’s also sobbing on the floor of a half unpacked bathroom with no rugs yet, because he’s pretty sure he just relived his death and/or resurrection there, for a minute, with all the fucking bells, whistles, and bleeding wounds.

He takes what would be an inconsiderately long shower for a three person household, if it weren’t for the fact they have a second bathroom. That calms him down enough for now, and he even finds his inhaler in his cluttered box of toiletries. Richie’s still stacking Z’s, back in the bedroom, so he takes a puff and quietly leaves it in the headboard on his way out to breakfast, just in case. 

Eddie is standing at the kitchen island in a clearing between moving boxes, slicing up a green pepper with a steak knife. Eds stops by one the boxes from New York marked UTENSILS and fishes out a nice chef’s knife for him.

“Whatcha makin’?”

“Just an omelette.”

“...Er, use this.” He knocks Eddie a kiss on the cheek and swaps for the steak knife, tossing it in the sink. “Don’t put this in the dishwasher, though.”

“Oh,” Eddie gives him a vaguely perplexed look from the side. “I didn’t- I just grabbed whatever was sharp. You know, sharp kn-”

“Sharp knife is safer than a dull knife, yeah,” Eds snorts. He leans on the counter next to Eddie’s cutting board. “Is that how Richie runs things? Chopping veggies with steak knives? Has he been depriving you, all this time?”

“Well we had knives...” Eddie clears his throat and keeps chopping, with his fingers flat out. “But to be honest, I don’t cook much.”

Eds stills Eddie's hand on the cutting board for a second and pulls over a piece of pepper. “Yeah, I think I’m noticing that right now. Curl your fingers like that and, yeah, now you’re not gonna cross the blade. Load off my mind. If you lost a finger on my watch, Richie would one hundred percent repay me in kind.”

Eddie laughs and goes a little pink. He goes slow, but he cuts up the rest of the pepper the way Eds just showed him. “Thanks. I never really had the opportunity to learn any kitchen stuff, with- well. To know one Sonia Kaspbrak is to know them all, I think.”

“Yeah. My mom never let me near the cooking either. And she wasn’t even a good cook for me to mess up! She called white rice with ketchup Spanish Rice!”

“Oh dear,” Eddie pulls a face. “My ma was all right given a recipe book, just... restrictive. Always putting us on diets when I already ate like a bird and had all these supposed allergies...”

Knowing himself in relation to Eddie, Eds doesn’t have to work very hard to imagine what transposing their many similarities back by a generation would do. His own version of the Kaspbrak Experience just had less Great Depression influence and more access to modern junk food.

“I don’t think my mom ever did a recipe that wasn’t off the back of a box- usually frozen,” he notes. “So I like, knew how to boil water, and that was it, dude. I lived off what I osmosed from college roommates until YouTube came around.”

Eddie looks thoughtful then, and pops a stray pepper into his mouth. “See, I’ve been sticking to articles, but if they’re showing the right tool in action on YouTube, I should give that a shot.”

“Yeah!” Eds steals a pepper, too. “And we could all take a class together, you know. Kind of a hot spot for the middle-aged dating scene, these days.”

Eddie shoots a coy grin over his shoulder as he goes to the fridge for the eggs. “Oh, I didn’t realize you were getting back into ‘the scene’.”

Twerp. Eds starts digging around one of the boxes of pantry items to find the salt and pepper for him. “Yeah, there’s a coupla guys I’d like to take out sometime...”

“Good looking?”

Eds scrunches his nose. “Full of themselves, definitely.”

At least Eddie has progressed as far as confidently cracking eggs, so after unpacking the Lysol wipes Eds stops hovering. There’s plenty more kitchen to organize anyway. While he does, Eddie eats, and Eds swills down one of the protein shakes he bought to tide him over in the three days between coming out to Chicago and an actual chance to do groceries. Cups go near the sink, of course. Plates and bowls follow naturally from there, and silverware. His and Richie’s cookware collections are doubled up on most essential things, but there’s enough room he doesn’t feel compelled to make his wok fight Richie’s to the death, or anything. He finds a good spot for his knife block while Eddie is rinsing his dishes. He gives the chef knife a careful scrub, then offers it to Eds' upturned palms like a knight’s sword.

“Thank you, Eds.”

“Hey, dude, my knife is your knife now.”

Eddie’s face breaks into a smile so ultra bright he could finish sanitizing the countertop with it. “I’m sure you’ll apply the same attitude to sharing toothbrushes.”

“Get real!” Eds shoots back with a grin. “Any thoughts on where the recycling bin should go?”

“Hmm.” Eddie puts finger to chin and looks around. “Cabinet closest to the backstair door?”

“On the way to the chute, yes. I like the way you think.”

Before he can go whisk the recycling away to its new home and then keep unpacking, Eddie catches his arm. “Hey, wait a second.”

And Eds just knows. The clock has run out on Eddie waiting for him to be the first to say something about this morning. He lowers the bin and gulps. “Hmm?”

Eddie keeps his hand on his elbow, thumb rubbing a circle at the crook of his arm. It’s not a bad tactic to maintain physical contact- Eds knows he has displayed a tendency to withdraw. A tendency that makes him a prickly asshole not worth trying to comfort, if you ask him. 

“You know, Eds, I- I wanted to make sure you were okay. This morning.” Try as he might to keep his expression even, Eddie can’t help the way his brow steeples in concern.

Eds puffs in nonchalance. “Oh, that was just a nightmare. It’s fine,” he waves it off.

And you know what? Hopefully that’s true. Maybe he wasn’t quite awake? Like, he fake woke up in his dreams? The anniversary of the whole Derry thing is coming around soon, and maybe he’s just processing that in the back of his mind.

“Okay.” Eddie chews his lip and looks away. “I just- you know I know what it’s like. I don’t want to baby you, I know you’d hate that-”

“Well,” Eds reaches for Eddie’s waist and tugs on his shirt- or Richie’s shirt, more accurately (Go Bayside Tigers!). As he draws nearer, the morning's moment of terror seems to fall further and further away. “I don’t totally hate it when you’re gentle with me.”

The not-so-concealed worry on Eddie’s face melts away. “Mhmm. I remember last night,” he says, smug. He kisses Eds’ cheek and lets him carry on with what he was doing.

 

-

 

They’ve narrowed down their options for a new shower curtain for the guest bathroom to two. Given the parameters of having to be mildew resistant and match the set of black towels Eds brought from New York, Richie has his heart set on some retro flamingos with black palm leaves. It’s not awful, actually, and Eds doesn't like, reject the pink out of hand because it’s unmanly or anything- he is fully aware they’re a household of three gay dudes- but he’s just drawn to what he’s drawn to, okay? His own pick has stacking rows of silhouetted pine trees, fading from black to that greeny blue faraway mountains get with atmospheric perspective. It makes him think of being at the edge of a lake. That kind of fresh, watery feeling is what a bathroom should be all about, in his opinion.

So they text pictures of the packaging to Eddie for a tiebreaker, since he had to work at the garage today rather than come on the outing to Bed Bath & Beyond.

“Lemme send both,” Richie stops him from snapping a picture of the pine trees. “No bias of who picked what.”

Eds raises an eyebrow. “You think he’s not gonna know you picked these gay ass birds?”

“I thought you liked these gay ass birds!”

“I do!” They’re very Richie! “-A lot more than any hideous thing you’d get custom printed if we shop this online!”

At least here in-store, Richie is limited to the lowest common denominator of what’s mass marketable. There’s no risk of him stumbling upon some glittery monstrosity that says ‘Fuck it, Get naked!’ in seashells.

“Ooo, I didn’t think of that...”

Eds swipes both packages from Richie and throws them in their cart for now. “Nope! Stop spinning your demented little wheels.”

“...We could get a picture of anything...”

“No.” Eds pushes them out of the bathroom section towards a display of hanging rugs.

“...Your rock hard abs, five feet high,” Richie says, following along in a wistful haze. “That’s the least hideous thing there is!”

“Eddie will say no, too. You’re out voted.”

“I dunno, I’ve watched him tongue scrub your washboard a couple times-”

“That’s two to one!”

Richie sighs. “Man, we need another Richie.”

Thankfully he gets distracted by a Big-style floor piano in the next shopping area. Eddie texts them back while he hops around.

DE I say get both, and then we’ll have a spare for when it needs washing. Maybe even pick up another for the main bathroom.

EK You’re speaking my language, Dreamy.

While he’s got his phone out, he sends a video of Richie desperately trying to tap out ‘Sweet Caroline’, with audio of himself giggling in the background, trying just as desperately to resist the instinctual New Englander’s roll call.

“So good, so good, so good!” hollers some stranger, an aisle away.

Yep.

DE ❤️

Eddie texts him again, but not in the group chat.

DE That gives me an idea for the empty wall in the spare room.

EK It’s huge there’s no way it’ll fit

Eds sighs at himself.

EK I’ll say it for Richie. That’s what she said :(

DE You know, Chevy Chase already wore that one out back in my day.

“Okay, grandpa.” Eds smiles at his phone and then checks that Richie is still occupied.

EK I didn’t even know he could play piano?

EK Like Bill’s mom gave lessons but if he took them he never mentioned it

DE Oh! My Bill’s mom, too.

EK Spooky

DE I don’t think he ever learned formally, he just has an ear for it. But he has been trying to write music for his act.

EK So you’re thinking we get him a nice keyboard to work on?

DE Bingo.

Richie catches up with him again, having made a happy spectacle of himself. He slings an arm around Eds’ shoulder, seeping heat into him and dabs the shine of his forehead. “Well, that’s my exercise for the day,” he declares.

“I took a video for blackmail purposes.”

“I would expect nothing less from you, Spaghetti.”



-



It’s been two weeks and Eds can no longer deny that he’s seeing a pattern. His unconscious might have seen it first, even, because he bullied Richie into sleeping in the middle for three nights in a row and woke up just fine. Then he went out of town for work and it was just the two of them for a stretch, and except for the day Eddie woke up and got out of bed first, Eds lost his shit every single morning.

The spike of pain, the icy near-dead feeling, and the gasping, choking fear comes for him again and again, a little longer every time. Every time that Eddie’s is the first face he sees upon waking.

He feels like utter shit. He plays it off like a nightmare and an asthma attack, and so far it’s only been five times, and Eddie was the only one who noticed because Richie slept through it. He’ll grab Eds’ inhaler for him if he happens to be closer and reserve comment, but he must be worrying and wondering. 

Eds knows he should talk to someone about this- this-

What do you call a not-nightmare, not-memory thing anyway? Because Eds definitely doesn’t remember when Eddie rescued him from the quarry. He doesn’t remember being speared through, or dying, washing up after Neibolt collapsed, or the ER, or the medevac. He doesn’t remember anything between stumbling through the caves holding Richie’s hand and waking up in a hospital, over a hundred miles away. He’s not seeing things. They’re not visions. These attacks don’t point him toward anything- if anything they push him away.

Fuck. He just moved in, he can’t let Eddie or Richie think he’s second guessing their relationship.

He has to make some kind of productive move, so while Eddie’s at the garage, he calls the one friend he has who’s in a relationship, never been divorced, and not a fellow resurrectee (though he should compare notes with Stan, too- but that’s an even heavier conversation that the one he’s looking for, right now). Ben picks up on the second ring.

“Hey, Eds!” he beams through the phone. “Sorry, I haven’t got to your emails from during our trip yet. I’m glad you’re calling.”

“Oh, yeah, that’s all right!” He’d sort of forgotten because he had so much going on, but no wonder he’s been feeling like he ought to call Ben anyway. He’s been mostly incommunicado the past three months while he and Bev were sailing up and down the Pacific coast and they haven’t caught up in a while. Occasionally Bev’s instagram would pop up with some sunbaked picture of him in a big floppy hat #bajacalifornia #mexico #BBBoatLife, but that was about it. “How was the trip?” he asks.

“Really beautiful and really exhausting,” he says. “Pretty sure I’ve got a hundred entirely different colored sunset pictures. More! And probably everyday we saw dolphins or seals and like, the cutest birds and turtles... but not at Turtle Bay, which is a rip off.”

“Get your money back.”

Ben laughs. “That’s what Bev said.”

“I’ll bet.” Nothing makes Eds happier than knowing what jokes his friends are likely to make, given a situation. It makes him feel like no time has passed at all.

“I’m writing about it while it’s still fresh, you know? That’s why I haven’t had a chance-”

“Dude, really. We all deserve a break from the inbox," Eds assures him. "I’ve been between jobs this month while moving, and like, I’m forgetting how to punctuate. It’s fucking incredible.”

“You moved!” Ben realizes.

“Yeah!”

“How’re you settling in?”

“Oh uhm, actually, it’s. You know. It’s been an adjustment...”

“Sure. I’m a walk into a wall in the middle of night because I expect the bathroom to be on the right kind of guy.”

“Haha...”

Eds roams the apartment for the perfect place to hunker down while he gets to the point of this call. The bedroom’s too vulnerable, too wide open when he’s alone, and so is the living room. The kitchen’s okay, but they haven’t found stools that work for all their varying heights yet, so there’s nowhere to sit. He winds up in the spare room, which despite its unaccommodatingly small couch has become a favorite place of his to get cozy. The clash of personality with Richie’s kitschy decor and Eddie’s more sober touch puts him at ease. He crashes into the seat closest to the shelf and instantly screws a finger into the curly cord hanging from Eddie’s old phone, like he used to when calling a friend afterschool from Mom’s kitchen.

“Yeah, I’m- I’m having kind of a weird involuntary thing? Not like that, but. Ah, kinda painful,” he admits.

Ben makes that perfectly sincere ‘I’m listening’ hum Eds had been banking on. “What’s up?”

“I don’t know exactly, if it’s like, a trigger thing, but like. Every single fucking time I wake up next to Eddie, something happens, man-”

“Eddie?”

“Yeah?” Eds’ brain trips.

“Wait, wait, wait. You’re sleeping with Eddie?”

Oh Jesus, how long has Ben been out of the loop? “Yeah? Ben, you knew we were talking about moving in together.”

“Yeah, Eddie was Richie’s roommate and then you two started dating.”

“All of us started dating."

He can hear Ben squint over the phone. “But who is Eddie dating?”

“Me and Richie!” Eds pulls his finger out of the phone cord so suddenly it pulls the receiver off and sends it flying into his lap. “Oh for fuck’s sake.”

“...Bev said... Huh.”

“What the fuck did you think was going on? You knew Eddie and Richie were a couple?!” Eds knows that came up in the group chat in between when Richie told him off and they started up their Instagram thing. He was watching it like an extremely miserable, lovesick hawk since it was the only way he ever heard from Richie.

Ben clears his throat. “I thought, I dunno- that they broke up I guess? I’m sorry-”

“No, we’re like, all together!”

“I get that, now...”

Eds realizes he’s shouting. Not a great way to open on asking someone for advice- stand down, Kaspbrak. “Ah, shit dude, I’m not like, mad at you for not knowing,” he sighs. “We don't make a big deal about it ‘cause it’s, well you know. Poly relationships aren’t super common, and Richie’s public profile-”

“No, I’m sorry, I’m not shocked by the concept- love is love, yeah?”

“Ah, yeah?”

“I’m processing," say Ben. "Richie was the only person more painfully single than me and now he’s got a home for wayward- uhm. I don't want to be offensive...”

Eds snorts. Ben could never. “Wayward twinks?” he supplies.

Ben laughs nervously. “Sorry, sorry.. So, back to what you’re trying to tell me-”

Eds sighs and determines himself to just let it slide if Ben’s gonna let it slide. “So, yeah. Okay,” he restarts. “When I wake up next to Eddie, but like, only when it’s Eddie, I-”

“-Do you have like, a massive bed?” Ben interrupts again.

Benjamin! You’re supposed to be one of the polite ones!

“Yes Ben, we all fuck! Is that what you want to hear?”

“Sorry, no, but good for you, but I mean like, do you need a custom mattress? I mean, Richie’s pretty tall, and then the standard to sleep an adult by width is 2.5 feet, but good luck finding a master lay out that could fit a 90” wide bed in a city...”

It dawns on Eds, finally. “This is an architectural problem to you, isn’t it?”

Ben swings into that inspired tone he gets when he’s got a project, like building a dam in the Kenduskeag, or planning a sailing tour of Mexico. “Is there a market in architecture that suits throuples?” he asks. “Triple closets, triple vanities- all kinds of upgrades in the bathroom!”

After telling Ben more about their set up, he eventually settles down enough to hear Eds out.

“Okay. So, you had a trauma,” Ben says, laying the table. “No shame in that, we all did. But now you’re having a bodily response to waking up and seeing Eddie’s face, because he’s the one who found you in the quarry. And it hurts, and you’re worried you’ll hurt him too, by engineering ways to avoid him. And you haven’t told him what’s going on yet because if you tell him, you have to tell Richie, and you don’t want Richie to think you’re freaking out and freak out, and you don't want to tell a therapist because you’re worried you can’t communicate the possibility that there’s some kind of existential, parallel world, clown magic thing going on and that talking it through would be a waste of time. Do I have that all right?”

“Yes,” Eds heaves a breath. “Fuck.”

“Yeah,” Ben agrees. “Fuck. That’s heavy, man.”

“So what do I do? I don’t want to hurt him.”

Ben comes back with an answer a lot quicker than Eds would expect. “So don’t hurt him. Don’t avoid him. Or if you have to pull back in one way, find something else special for just the two of you. Reinforce.”

“He’ll notice.”

“Well, yeah, but seeing that you’re trying is good,” says Ben. “Like, when we first got together, Bev had a really hard time relaxing enough to drink alone with me. ‘Cause her ex, you know?”

“Sure.”

“But she didn’t want me to quit my brewing hobby, or not be able to have fun herself, trying out a cool recipe for margaritas she saw, or whatever. She knew if we got drunk together I wasn’t going to take advantage and hurt her- but her trauma didn’t. She needed to rebuild her ability to trust.”

“That sucks, yeah.” It’s not fair, the fucked up associations the misfiring human brain wants to make between things, but it’s relatable as hell to Eds. “She wasn’t scared of you, but she couldn’t help acting like it.”

“Yeah.”

“So what’d you do?”

“We agreed to try drinking and then sleeping in separate rooms. And I’d say goodnight, and ‘I won’t come in, I’ll see you in the morning,’ and she’d get to experience me keeping my word. Being a guy she could trust. Eventually it was, ‘You can come in and leave when you want and I won’t follow you,’ then ‘I snore when I’ve been drinking, here’s some ear plugs.’”

Figuring out how he’s gonna get Eddie to agree to some kind of gesture meant to mitigate this without explicitly telling him that’s what they’re doing is escaping Eds at the moment, but he thinks he gets the point.

“Sounds like gradual exposure therapy. Maybe I could figure something out...”

“Yeah, the books said something like that,” Ben agrees. “-maybe buy some books,” he adds.

“I will. Okay. So.” Eds is starting to see a way to make sense of this. Do something. He leans forward in his seat. “Bev wasn’t reacting to you, really, she was reacting to feeling vulnerable like she had in the past. I’m reacting to...? Waking up half dead in a quarry? Jesus Christ, how the fuck do I expose myself to that, go back to Derry, OD, and have Eddie give me a fucking piggyback ride to the hospital?”

Ben clears his throat. “No, man, ah- I should tell you-”

“I’m not really gonna OD!” Eddie yelps. Fuck, he shouldn’t joke about that. “I’m doing great except for this one little thing! I do think that going back to Derry could be, I dunno, healing, though. Like, I can’t really remember what the fuck happened, but if I can just be there and maybe remember and go through it safely- you know. I’ll remember that instead and it’ll be less- less fucking awful.”

“Eds, it’s just! Agh,” Ben groans at himself. He’s really struggling to get this out, whatever it is, so Eds shuts up for a minute. “Look, uhm. When everyone else left Derry- Richie and Eddie, too- we all swore we wouldn’t go back there. No matter what.”

“Well, fuck, Ben! I don’t need more reasons to tiptoe around this shit heap!

Eds pounds his head back into the seat of the couch in frustration. Richie never told him about that promise, but he’d been adrift, out of the loop for a while there, too, and then he’d been not-quite-himself while they were getting closer again and fuck! What else haven’t they talked about that they should have talked about before getting as serious as they did?

Both he and Ben sigh. 

“I’m sorry, man. We all nearly died, and you’d just been medevaced out and we had no idea how Stan was alive or where Eddie came from, or if there was something else like It doing it, and- well. We weren’t waiting around for whatever was out there to decide it made a mistake letting us live.”

Great. Fucking great. But he gets it, the Loser’s new oath. Now that they’re safe they want to stay that way. And Eds- whatever his lying brain is saying to his body- is safe, now, too. He is safe when he’s with Eddie. He just needs to internalize it.


-

 

“Stan, can I ask you a question without you asking me a question back?”

“Why would I answer a question with a question?”

“Never mind, you fucking sphinx. How’s planning for Australia going?”

 

-

 

Richie gets back home on Monday. He sleeps in the middle on his own, without Eds maneuvering him. It gives him a chance to get his head on straight, which is doubly appreciated since this week he’s starting up at his new job. Then by Wednesday, office life presents an opportunity to make up for some of the strain he’s been feeling. To reinforce, like Ben said.

They lounge together in the living room after dinner, splitting a bottle of wine that Jeanette, his counterpart in Training, gave him when he started. It’s pretty good, so he imagines the restaurant she invited him ‘and his partner, if he has one’ to will be pretty good, too.

“So, there’s gonna be a welcome to town dinner on Friday with two or three of the managers I’ll be working with.”

“Ooh,” Richie’s eyes bulge over the rim of his wine glass. “They want to put a plate of BBQ in front of you and find out if you can process normal human sustenance or if you’re a robot, huh? Pressure’s on, Johnny 5.”

Eds kicks his foot. “How’d you know it was barbecue?”

“‘Welcome to town’ from New York? They wanna throw you in the deep end and see if you can hang. Plus, if I was in their Jimmy Choos and didn’t already have the privileged information I have, I’d wanna watch you suck the meat off a bone, too.”

“As someone who spent the better part of his day talking to HR- inappropriate.”

“Back me up, Blondie!”

Eddie casts his eyes to the ceiling innocently.

Eds snickers and eases out of his seat in the corner of their sectional. His glass is empty and there’s some very adult conversation coming their way in three, two, one- 

He kills the bottle and sits back down on the ottoman so he can face them both. Here goes nothing.

“So, I was thinking- and we should talk about this- uh, that I could bring one of you? To this, or another thing?”

“Oh!” Eddie straightens up as though he already has a professional audience.

“I mean, I guess Richie- you're not gonna be in town on Friday,” he says, “-but I don’t want to be super uptight and unknowable at work like I’ve always been- and closeted too, and a new office is-“

Richie scratches his sideburn. “No, no, I get it- it’s tough not being out to people you work with every day, but once you get in a rut...”

“You can start fresh with these people,” Eddie says, understanding. No one got a fresher start than him, after Derry. He lost every connection even the most reclusive people have- regular waiters, a familiar face at the Post Office, and neighbors he never spoke to, but knew on sight. Now it’s in Eds’ power to make up for that a bit.

“Yeah, exactly,” he smiles at him. “So I think it’d be good if you came with me, Eddie. Like, not just as a default choice because Richie’s not around. But I think like, as a step for all of us.”

Richie and Eddie look at him, look at each other, and back.

“I would be happy to,” Eddie says. “And- I think you’re right that we need to talk.”

“Yeah,” Richie sighs. “We sort of skipped some of the talking. Ugh. Can I lie down? I’m here, I’m here, I just-“

As he starts to wilt, Eddie leans into the vacant corner of the couch and beckons Richie to recline in his arms. “S'alright, sweetheart.”

Eds takes all their glasses and puts them aside, then leans in to give Richie’s hand a squeeze. “Look, I’ve been thinking. Here’s what I came up with- it doesn’t have to be this exactly, but it’s a jumping off point.“

“Lay it on us before I have a stroke, please-“

“I shouldn’t have said ‘we need to talk’,” Eddie hums, and kisses the top of Richie’s head.

God, the way it’s so easy for them to accept comfort from each other- Eds needs to get there, someday. It’s not going to happen over night and it’s not going to happen without a little effort. So here’s what he’s got.

“I love you guys,” he says, first and foremost. “If I could bring you both with me and not be the first guy they’d ever seen in our kind of relationship, I would do it in a heartbeat. But that’s a lot to take on, for any of us, and with Richie’s whole deal and how new this is-“

“I’m sorry,” Richie grits.

“Baby, no,” Eds shuts that shit down immediately. “You would have the brunt of it, being a fucking public posterboy, so you will get the final word on this. When you’re ready.”

“Agreed,” says Eddie. “You don’t need to be sorry. We’re doing good. We’re here together, we’re already honest with our friends, with each other...”

Eds bites the inside of his cheeks. Mostly, but one thing at a time.

“Listen- you already talk about having a boyfriend in your act and you two started loosening up about posting pictures online. I think if you two dated publicly, and me and Eddie were public to my coworkers... I mean no offense, Rich, but you’re not Jennifer Aniston, I don’t think there’s a huge swath of America that’s scrambling to know the name and astrological sign of your boyfriend. I don’t think there’s gonna be an overlap of my twenty stuffy execs and your uber fans.”

Laid out like that, it sounds reasonable to him! He looks at Richie, cradled in Eddie’s arms, thinking it over. Meanwhile Eddie watches Eds steadily, smiling.

“Am I crazy?” Eds asks.

“No,” Richie says slowly. “But I don’t want anybody to get hurt. I don’t wanna agree to this and get too comfortable and end up hiding you forever, Eds.” Richie looks up at him, helpless and a little glassy eyed.

It’s not like the wrenching dream pain he’s getting too used to being struck by, but that does make something tangible in his chest squeeze. “Richie... Would you be hurt if the people I see all the time didn’t know you by name?”

“I dunno...”

“I’ll still tell stories about you.” Eds isn’t suddenly going to become the kind of person who never lets off steam, at the very least! But he’ll share good things, too. Birthdays, new shows they’re watching, and places they plan to go. “I’ll still be telling people I had a nice weekend with my boyfriend, and that I kicked his ass at Mortal Kombat.”

Richie snorts, loosening up a toothy grin. “I’ll only be hurt if you fuckin’ lie like that, Kaspbrak.”

Eds laughs. He’s not way off base, here. What’s in a name, right? A Richie by any other epithet is still a pain in the ass.

“What if we agree,” says Eddie. “Just for a year. Then when we’re more established, we can revisit the topic.”

“Assuming our spot hasn’t already been blown up,” Richie says, starting to sit up.

Instantly, Eds scoops up his glass and makes his move to climb back in between them. He tugs Richie’s arm across him like the safety bar on a roller coaster, and waits for Eddie’s head on his shoulder. “Yeah. In a year, maybe we’ll decide we wanna come out.”

“Or we could switch Darrens! Or I’ll change my name to Eddie, too, and then we’ll really go nuts.”

“If that’s the hill you wanna die on a year from now, Richie, be my fucking guest.”

His arm around Eds curls snug. “C’mon, you guys make being an Eddie look so sexy...”

“So we’re agreed?” Eddie chuckles. “One year?”

“Okay.”

“Yeah.”

They sandwich him with a kiss on each cheek. Eddie stays at his shoulder, gently combing the hair at his temple back with the tips of his fingers. “Thank you, dear.”

“Well, see if you’re still thanking me when we’re elbow deep in sauce Friday night.”

He’s gonna pack so many wet wipes. And an emergency fork. And a spare shirt, just in case. For both of them. Would it be completely nuts to have latex gloves on hand?

“You know what else we should do?” Eddie wriggles beside him, on a relationship roll, now. “We should have a scheduled Date Night for all of us, now that you’re back at work. Where we purposely aim to be together, because that’s not as easy a coincidence with three as two. And I-”

Richie giggles. “You want a designated threesome sex night?”

“I- well. If you both felt that should be part of it. It could be, I guess, beneficial to the health of our relationship...”

“Health benefits?! He’s flirting with you Eds, he wants you to bottom again.”

“Should I be grabbing the dry erase board off the fridge?” Eds thumbs in the direction of the kitchen. “We could make a chart,” he teases.

“Saturday/Sunday- the Kaspbrak double act. Then Monday- mutual masturbation,” Richie declares. “Taco Tuesday- a day of rest. No one’s colon deserves that. Wednesday- we shoot Rock Paper Scissors for who gets to be the middle of a train...”

Eds jumps back in. “Wednesday night should probably be Date Night,” he points out. “Then Thursday- thigh fucking, Friday- face sitting?”

Eddie dissolves, giggling kisses into Eds’ neck. “See? Spontaneity is overrated.”

 

-


Jeanette comes by his office after lunch to confirm the number for the reservation, and Eds tells her, yes, his boyfriend will be meeting them at the restaurant, and she doesn’t flinch, and she says she’s looking forward to meeting him and leaves his office, and he doesn’t have a complete meltdown about it!

Not immediately.

It’s really not the gay thing. People have been increasingly assuming this about him his entire life until he caught on, and now that it’s not so bewildering, he’s not so prickly about it. Unless you have a problem with it- then fuck you.

It’s more the realization that he hasn’t had a chance to make an introduction like this in-? Maybe ever? Mom was already gone when Myra came along, and he’d been entrenched with his old firm for years, so there was no coupled Getting To Know you phase there. He didn't have a social group to integrate a new partner into, either- if anything he was absorbed into Myra’s. Then when he had the Losers back, Richie and Eddie came pre-assembled.

What does he do when they get there and he sees Eddie? Should he kiss him hello? Up until now, they mostly arrived to public places together, except for airports when they were doing the long-distance thing. Had they kissed then? He thinks they must have, since Richie usually did. Was anyone watching? Random airport people he'd never see again didn't matter, but there definitely will be people paying attention at Chicago Q. They’ll want to know his name and shake his hand and there Eds will be, standing around like an idiot trying to decide if this is a thing they do now?

He encourages Hugh, one of the VPs, to take the front seat (You’re taller, go on and enjoy that leg room!) in Jeanette’s car so he can furiously text Eddie from the back seat.

EK Should I kiss you?

EK When I see you at the restaurant I mean.

EK I mean I want to.

EK I’m just realizing I’ve never met you alone someplace and I’m going to want to put my arm around the back of your chair and call you Dreamy and kiss you.

DE Sounds like someone has the jitters.

EK ...Who, me?

DE How about I kiss you, and take that off your plate?

EK I hope there are plates and not actual pig troughs.

DE I’m already here. I don’t see any troughs. Just feed bags.

EK At least then I won’t get anything sticky on my hands.

DE We’ll see how the night goes.

EK Be there in a minute. Parking now.

Their car full of people waits two or three minutes for Alice, who insisted on driving herself, but then they all walk over together. Everyone is simultaneously pointing at landmarks and establishments as they did during the drive, which is sweet, but kind of unfollowable. He does think this must be near where he and the guys went to an arcade, though- so if the evening is a total bust he and Eddie can always go take it out on a Skee-Ball machine.

“Chicago History Museum is straight down that way, have you been there yet, Ed?” asks Jeanette. She has been desperately searching for something Eds has done in town that she’s familiar with, but being a 60-something year old single woman with a flair for crochet and the cats he’s definitely still allergic to, there hasn’t been much overlap yet.

He shakes his head a sorry no. “It’s on the list!”

“Would you say you’re more a history person, or an art person when it comes to museums?”

“Oh, I’d say art? Or at least not natural history.” He always knows where he stands with a framed canvas, but a big creepy stack of bones? Forget it.

“Well the Art Institute is incredible, I’m sure you’ve heard,” says Hugh. “But try to go on a weekday when it’s not packed.”

“I’ve been working here four days and you’re already telling me to play hooky?”

He hates to keep disappointing them with all these sights going unseen, but then they finally walk into the restaurant and he gets to turn the tables. Eddie, his spectacular sight, is leaning against the bar near the entrance looking as artful and gilded as ever. Tickets please!

As Eds comes over to him he smiles and lowers his Old Fashioned to the bar top and makes good on his promise, slipping a guiding hand to his cheek and kissing him hello. “My dear,” he says, simply, because it’s really not that complicated at all. Even if this is sort of like their first date, he loves Eds already and no sloppy dish or awkward lull in coworker conversation will change that. There’s no need to be so nervous.

“Mmm. Hello to you too.” Eds touches his mouth, not to wipe off his lips, but to bookmark it. He turns back to his coworkers and introduces- “So, this is Eddie, Eddie Kleiner. And this is Jeanette, Alice, and Hugh.”

They all shake and compliment each other on choice in glasses and restaurants and coworker/partner.

“Hi! Nice to meet you!”

“Hello, yes! Great to meet you.”

“Hi, Hugh, right?”

Hugh nods and does a double take between the two of them. “He said ‘Eddie’, right?”

“Ah, yeah,” Eds feels his face flush. “Ed and Eddie. I know it sounds like two thirds of a sitcom premise,” he says, shooting Eddie a look. They didn’t really agree if they’re allowed to obliquely joke about Richie, but how else are they supposed to entertain themselves, right? Eddie bites back a smile.

“Oh, my wife and I know a Lisa and Lisa, I hear it’s a phenomenon.”

Eddie laughs. “It certainly is...”

Their reservation should be ready, so they all head over to the hostess to be seated. Much to Eds’ relief, as they walk through he sees this isn’t a rustic Throw your peanut shells on the floor! kind of barbecue place. It’s more white tablecloth and whiskey bar, which is fine by him. He’ll find the most borderline thing on the menu that doesn’t insult Jeanette’s venue selection and unclench. He won’t even have to eat with his hands, if he gets the brisket!

“So, Eddie,” Jeanette turns to him when they’ve all sat down and ordered. “We’ve been grilling Ed, here. Haha, grilling. How do you like Chicago so far?”

“Well, I’ve been living here for almost a year, actually, but I’d say I’m a fan.”

“Oh, really?”

Eds loads up all the vague particulars. Nothing untrue, yet nothing complete. “Yeah, I moved here to be with him. We grew up on the same street, in the same town in Maine but we didn’t meet until a school reunion thing. We had a bunch of mutual friends and kept in touch online, and now-“

“Now we’re making up for lost time,” Eddie smiles.

Even Alice, who Eds gathers regrets having committed to this dinner when she had a two week long vacation on the horizon, awws. “And what do you do?”

“Mostly towing and auto repair right now, though I’m thinking about getting back into driving.”

“Like Uber?” Jeanette asks, trying to be helpful.

“I used to have a limo business,” Eddie clarifies. “But I really enjoy long distance, so right now I’m shipping the occasional car. People will move from Chicago to California, for instance, and they’d rather fly than drive over The Rockies. So I’ll drive their car out, maybe see a show in town, then fly back, or arrange another shipment back to Chicago.”

Does this side business happen to coincide with Richie’s tour schedule? You guessed it.

“That’s the way I’d want to do it,” says Hugh. “I’ve got a teenager who gets carsick.”

“Aw, how old?” Eddie asks.

“Mia is fifteen.”

“I bet when she gets driving herself, she’ll feel a lot better in cars. I was the same way.”

Eds unconsciously mimes a steering wheel. “Yeah, the control really helps your inner ear.”

Man, it would be nice to have an excuse to road trip with Eddie sometime. After his divorce, he had so few possessions in New York and all his furniture was rented, it hadn’t really occurred to him that Eddie might have come out and moved him. But it would be such a treat. Eddie’s got this big old Cadillac Eldorado that Richie gifted him, with the kind of roomy seats and roll down windows that remind him of being a kid. He plays a lot of folksy music, too, that’d be perfect for passing through forests and fields for days on end.

He’s not alone in his reverie. Everyone at dinner seems to come away with the opinion they’d like to be trapped in a car with Eddie. He gives out a few business cards, and strikes up an energetic back and forth with Jeanette about her camper van and all the work it needs to live up to her retirement plans. Then Alice slams down her drink and shares an undisguised look of Holy shit with Eds when Eddie daintily rolls up his shirt cuffs to get into his pulled pork sandwich, because yeah. He’s this very polished wisp of a thing at first, second, and third glance- because he’s so pretty you have to keep checking to make sure he’s real- but then he’ll pick something up, or pornographically roll his sleeves in neat, clean folds, and you see how fucking strong and sculpted his hands and wrists and arms are from hauling around engine blocks all the time and fucking hell. Is everyone seeing this shit?

Even Hugh, sole non-male attracted person at the table unconsciously clambers for a second look.

“I’m taking Mia to a Hozier concert next weekend.”

“Oh, I like him!”

“You should see if you can still get tickets!”

“I’ll look into it. We don’t have much else planned,” Eddie admits.

“Maybe we’ll run into you there!”

Eds puts his arm around the back of Eddie's chair. “Who on earth told you about Hozier, old man?”

That wasn’t Richie’s doing. Too maudlin, and he’s got a chip on his shoulder about how the misapplied pronunciation of ‘Hozier’ makes people flub ‘Tozier’ all the time.

“Wendy, of course.”

Oh, sure. Being a Tozier only in blood, she doesn’t share Richie’s grudge. Eds explains to the group, sort of. “Our uh, niece, I guess. She goes to Northwestern.”

“That’s nice that you have some family in town, Ed!”

Eds looks to Eddie, a little unsure. So far, he’s the only one who’s put in quality time getting to know Wendy. Eds is just boning her uncle(s?).

“It is nice,” Eddie permits, warmly. “Maybe she’d like to come with us if there are any tickets left.”

And Eds shouldn’t be surprised, really. Except for the way watching Eddie be the light of a room makes him want to rip off his own shirt and drag Eddie someplace very dark and cramped like a caveman, he always makes Eds feel comfortable, feel at home in his own skin. You are good. You are part of a family. You are loved and capable of loving. You are enjoyable to be around and not simply an object of pity. You are not so uniquely broken that there’s no precedent or hope for repair.

 

-

 

“Hey, thanks for coming tonight,” Eds tells him when they get back home after dinner.

He crashes down on the couch to take off his tie and shoes and flips on the TV. It’s an early enough night, they should have time to watch one of the list of 90’s dramas they’ve been working their way through that Richie claims are too dreary to bear. Maybe they are. He likes their little tradition though- even if some of the films are a little dated, or the intervening decades of imitations have watered down a film’s initial impact. He gets to sit and talk with Eddie about things he wouldn’t think to bring up otherwise, and think about how far everything has come since- attitudes and events and his own maturing perception of the world. Maybe things get a little self-reflective. That’s probably unavoidable when you have two people in a conversation who are... like they are.

Eddie sits down beside him to take his shoes off too, dropping a kiss on his shoulder as he lands. “Thank you for asking me. It’ll be fun to have some faces to go with names when you come home with office gossip.”

“Ha. Yeah, I don’t know that any of them will end up being my new best friend, or anything, but...” Eds lets his shoe dangle, hooked on one finger. It swings there, as precarious as he had felt earlier in the evening, but when it drops on the carpet next to one of Eddie’s, it’s all right. “It’s nice not feeling like some kind of secret double agent, between work and home. I mean. You spend so much time there, it’s fucking exhausting to fake everything. Pretending that you like watching the same shows to fit in. That you enjoyed your vacation that your wife gave you no say in planning. That you’re happy. All that shit.”

“I’m so glad you don’t feel like that anymore, Eds,” Eddie says. He looks a little glittery at the corners of his eyes. “That’s no way to live.”

“Nope.”

“Well, they seem like a good bunch who’ll treat you right. And if not...”

“I’ve got two big strong boyfriends who’ll come rough ‘em up?” Eds laughs as Eddie bares his teeth in an only slightly menacing growl.

They sit there quiet but content for a moment, wiggling their socked toes into the carpet. Eddie tucks his arm around Eds, tickling his fingers at his hip too, and leans his head against his shoulder. “You want to pick something out to watch? I’m gonna go change.”

“Unless you’d rather wipe the floor with me at Upwords again?”

“I’d rather lay around, I think.”

“Lazy.” Eds knocks his skull into Eddie’s.

“Well, and why not? I carried a lot of the conversation tonight,” Eddie chuckles. He picks up his shoes and carries them off to put away. 

Eds browses through Prime and comes up with a few likely candidates. Bridges of Madison Count Me the Fuck Out, says the little Richie voice in his head. That’s a good one. Wait- Mr. Holland’s Opus is on here!? Ooh. Depends how much they feel like crying tonight.

“Eds,” Eddie calls, from the hallway behind him. When he turns to look over his shoulder, his head is poking out of the bathroom door. “I think I’m going to shower real quick before we settle in. I just found barbecue sauce on my elbow and now it’s all I can smell.”

"Ugh.” That prompts Eds to give himself a whiff. “Yeah. I’m like, fucking sweating onions, right now.”

“Very appealing quality in a cuddle mate. Can’t wait!”

“Hint taken!”

Since they have two showers, Eds gets up and circles around the sectional to go freshen up, as well. Then they can just be comfy all evening and go straight to bed after, if they end up picking a super long movie.

Although the water is already running, when he gets to the bathroom door Eddie still hasn’t shut it. He’s lighting some candles on the vanity by the ambient light coming in from the hallway, dressed in only a towel. He shakes out a match with a sharp flick of his wrist and glances at him as he passes. And Eds stops. And he looks. And he already knows he finds Eddie attractive, obviously, they’ve had sex a dozen times now, even initiated between them the two of them- but it had always been with Richie. However gleefully X-rated his speculation of their one-on-one weekends- it’s been just chaste kissing and clothed snuggling, in fact. But tonight, things feel like they’ve changed.

They met someplace and kissed, more for their benefit than anyone else’s. They told people they were together, and that they shared a home and re-wallpapered it. They supported each other. They split a dessert and held hands in the cab. And they agreed to take this step, not just because they love each other, but because they're in love, aren’t they?

“Would you-“

“Do you-“

They laugh as they step on each other’s line.

Eds clears his throat. “Do you want me to join you?” He points at the shower, as if there could possibly be any other interpretation. Perhaps a game of ping pong.

Eddie drops his match in the sink. “I really do.”

“Cool, yeah, I thought we had a nice night and the mood lighting was maybe a signal, but-“

What is he standing around explaining himself for?

In another second, Eds is through the door and circling his arms around Eddie’s waist. Eddie cups his face in both hands and kisses him, humming into it. The instant Eds licks at his lip, he opens his mouth and welcomes him in. This isn’t the kind of sweet, standalone kiss they typically trade in- it’s a prelude. Consuming and consummating. They shuffle back across the mossy squish of the carpet by the tub, until Eddie’s heels hit its side with a thunk. Eds reaches for the curtain, making a burst of steam pour out around them.

“Shit, I should probably-“

The collar of Eds’ shirt suddenly loosens, thanks to Eddie. “Unless you’re trying to combine chores again.“

“Look, I took that bowl into the shower to hold all the curtain rings, I just forgot it because-“

Eddie kisses him again and hurries him out of his pants, letting them drop to the floor along with his towel. “Don’t forget your socks,” he reminds Eds, before stepping in.

During this brief moment of clarity where Eddie disappears into the faux forest of the curtain, Eds scoops everything into the hamper and closes the door to complete the dim, candlelit effect. He lays his watch on the counter beside Eddie’s, and then he follows him in, stepping up behind him as he wets his hair. The water slides down his neck, freckled like pebbles in the bottom of a stream. Eds refreshes himself there with a long kiss.

Eddie combs his hair back to the nape and then catches hold of Eds’ nearby cheek. “Don’t let me poke your eye out back there.”

“Mmm. Only word I heard was ‘poke’,” says Eds, fitting his hips to Eddie’s slippery ass. The height he has on Eds puts his dick at a sort of perfect level to tuck beneath his cheeks. He bumps in close and lets Eddie feel him, warm and wanting.

“It’s a shame you’re not listening. I was gearing up to tell you what a dish you are, starting with your eyes and then working my way down.”

Eds sputters a wet laugh. “You’re not even looking!”

The bathmat squeaks underfoot as Eddie turns around and shifts Eds too, so as not to blast him in the face with the shower. “There,” he says, looking down at him, smirking. “You’re just like I remember.”

Water drips from his chin and collects his eyelashes into charming pinking-sheared shapes. Something about the treeline printed on the curtain beside them, the dark, the color of Eddie's hair when wet, more like honey than flax...

“Do you remember?”

“Hmm?” Eddie bends his neck to kiss each of his shoulders.

Maybe this isn’t the time to bring it up.

“Tell me what you were gonna say, Dreamy. About me.”

Eddie laps at the hollow at the base of his neck, distracted. “...Good face?”

“That’s all you got?”

“Very good face.”

Eds snorts and scratches his fingers into Eddie’s wet hair. “You have very good face, too. And hair. Want me to shampoo you?”

“I’ll do you back.” He straightens up and kisses Eds again while he feels around the caddy for his Curl Please- which by name alone would seem like a Richie purchase if it weren’t for the fact that this bathroom has long since been ceded to Eddie’s sole control, with his most meticulous routines.

The clinging air tastes woody as they lather each other up. It smells like that blue throw blanket on the couch, when he’s too happy and lazy, locked up in his love’s arms to go get his own. Like his loaned out shirts after they’ve been worn all night. Like Eddie.

They rinse and then soap each other too, and it’s easily the most attention anyone has ever paid to Eds’ back. Eddie rolls his fingers along every muscle, finding those that won’t budge and wringing the tension out. He always had a knack for finding Eds’ toughest parts and making them tender. It gets him hard, hearing himself groan, hearing Eddie groan back as he kneads deeper. When it’s his turn to repay the favor, he does a very slipshod job.

Quick scrub of the shoulder blades, then down. Back of the ribs, then down. Lumbar curve, then-

Eddie slaps both wet palms to tile. “Oh, Eds,” he sighs at the slip of a finger inside him.

“Mmm. Bend a little, yeah, there you go,” Eds guides him, so he can get the angle right. Eddie’s spine bows in the middle to stick his gorgeous ass out.

“Oh,” he moans as Eds drags at his rim. “Oh, you’re getting so good at this, ah!”

“I had a fucking great teacher.”

“Didn’t learn that mouth from me...”

“Everything else, though.” Eds presses several kisses in the middle of Eddie’s back. “How to make it so good.”

“So good,” Eddie agrees, sounding a little delirious. “Who taught you to love so good?”

“You, Dreamy, you.”

“Good thinking, me,” he congratulates himself. 

Eds rubs at his hole, preparing him for more. “So fucking full of yourself- you got any room left?” 

“Uhn, yes, yes.”

He slows his pace to fuck Eddie with two fingers, and hooks his other arm around front. Splayed at Eddie’s chest, his hand finds an already hardened nipple. He plays with it, tugging as he talks, as steady as a heartbeat. “I can’t believe we haven’t done this before, Dreamy. Just the two of us. Can you? Mmm. Have you been waiting for the day when we’d be ready? Waiting for me?”

Eddie swallows a little cry. “Yes. Oh, Eds-”

“I’m ready now, Eddie. You too, almost, huh?” 

“Huhh, yeah,” Eddie jolts at another tug. He dips dramatically and snaps his head back again, narrowly winning over the impulse to collapse against the tile. “I dunno if I can keep going, in here.”

“Sure you can. One more. You can take it. You always take it so good for me,” Eds tells him. He cuts Eddie some slack by easing off on his nipples and gripping his waist instead. He swipes through some suds on his own chest for a little more leeway and puts three fingers at his entrance.

“I can, I can.” Eddie shudders and dips his head again, trying to sink Eds’ fingers on his own.

Eds can’t look too closely at this point if they want to make it out of the shower. He focuses on wiping away errant suds from Eddie’s shoulders so they can get out soon, instead. “See? My fuckin’ hero. Just a little more. Then I’ll lay you out, and dry you off, and get you wet all over again.”

“Okay, oh good god, that’s- that’s enough.” Before he can bring too quick a conclusion to Eds’ plan, Eddie pulls away from his hand and turns around to wrap his arms around his neck. They kiss and stagger back into the stream of the water, and a good thing, too. “My conditioner!” Eddie realizes.

“Shit,” Eds laughs and clears the way so he can rinse. “Those would’ve been some slimy pillows.”

They shut the water off and grab two towels off the rack before stepping out again. Eds pats himself down while Eddie squeegees off with the edge of his hand as much as possible, down the length of his arms, his chest and flank, the sides of his thighs... It’s mesmerizing.

“You gonna make me wait while you get your hair bone dry, too?”

“No,” Eddie says, wringing at his hair and peering from under the towel with a smolder. “I don’t want to wait, either. I’ve been thinking about this all night.”

Eds’ heart skips a beat. “Really? Come on then, dude, what the fuck are we waiting for.”

He grabs Eddie’s hand and leads him away, out of the tub, the bathroom, down the hall and into their room. The towel at Eddie’s shoulders falls to the bed as he pulls Eddie in, on top of him. Who knows where the other one went? There’s a wet towel on the hardwood somewhere and candles still burning in the bathroom, but Eds has a beautiful man he’s in love with in his arms, so fuck it.

Before he kisses him again, Eddie tucks a damp lock of hair back behind his ear. I don’t want to wait, either. “Watching you at dinner-” I’ve been thinking about this all night. “You’ve come so far, Eds. I’m so proud of you, I just want to show you.”

Eds crashes their mouths together, beyond receptive, chest bursting in an enjoyable way, for once. “You were so fucking great at dinner,” he murmurs to Eddie. “Everyone loved you. I love you. You know I love you, right?”

He loves Eddie so much. He loves the sweet, strong man he is, and the way he inspires that in others. In himself. They have it so good, don’t they? Better than good. Good, better, best- the best of each other with all that they bring out.

“I know, Eds,” Eddie kisses back. “I love you-”

“-My Dreamy- my fucking gorgeous- charming as fuck- oh fuck,” Eds gasps. His dick is in Eddie’s warm hand, being stroked ready. Right, right, they’re about to fucking do this.

Eds frees himself from their tangle just long enough to get some lube and a condom from their headboard and scrambles to catch up with Eddie, already kneeling his way up his body. “Like this?” he checks. It's not often Eddie seeks a position where he’ll have more control, but he does seem very certain of himself tonight.

“I’ll get a better air dry up here,” Eddie jokes, sprunching his hair. Once his knees are where he wants, he bends down to kiss Eds more while he smears his ass slick again.

“Well. If you need a blow after...” Eds snorts.

He has never known Eddie not to come from getting fucked- a lot of the time that’s all it takes- but that’s with the three of them. This may be different. He holds himself still as Eddie lowers his body, a determined fire in his eye.

“Oh good god,” he exhales as they start to push together. He winces at the initial breach until he adjusts. “Eds...”

“You’re good, buddy, you got it. All the way,” Eds encourages him as he sinks down. “It’s all for you.”

“Hhn, that’s- what I was about to say.”

Once he’s comfortable, Eddie rides him, sitting back with his hands braced on Eds’ knees. Very deep, and very slow. When Eds looks up at him, his body stretches on for miles at this angle. His hands move along Eddie’s slender thighs, then up his creamy soft stomach, scattered with freckles, and his chest. He’s turning red from belly to face as they fuck and oh that face. That brow that lifts like a drawbridge as Eds is granted travel through his waters. His bottom lip, shiny and bitten.

“Eddie.” Eds pants. He does his best to contribute, bucking his hips, but Eddie is a force of nature up there. It’s like spitting in the rain. “Thank you, oh fuck, thank fuck. I can’t fucking believe I get to know you.”

“Get to do more than that,” Eddie huffs, enjoying himself.

“I know, I know, gfff, I can’t think too hard about it, or else.” There’s a thrilling, filling feeling in his stomach and if he breathes too deep it’ll burst, and he wants to hold onto it for as long as he can, it’s so fucking good. Eddie is so fucking good.

“Think about it, darling, come on. Want you. Love you. Oh god- so mm-much.”

“Eddie, holy fuck.”

Eddie saving his life. Eddie opening his eyes to love. Eddie becoming his champion when he had turned against himself. And fuck- Eddie writhing on top of him, taking his dick like it fucking belongs to him- Eddie with whom he would happily share- does share- everything most precious in his life.

For once Eddie outlasts him, though Eds thinks that's the point, as much as he can think while losing his senses. Just the sight, sound, and feel of Eddie as one surrounding existence. Eddie finishes on his stomach, then folds them together face to face. They hold each other’s heaving bodies with shaking arms until they’re still again.

“Always be here for you,” Eddie promises, kissing his face. “Whenever you need me.”

“No, you,” Eds says, stupidly. He’ll always be there, too. He won’t keep Eddie at bay. He’ll try harder.

Eddie laughs and kisses him even stupider.

After they clean up a second time, they spoon on the couch and get misty to some mid-90’s melodrama until Richie calls to say goodnight. Eddie puts him on FaceTime and holds the phone so Eds can be seen, too, over his shoulder.

“Hey honey,” he says to Eddie. “Sir,” he intones more deeply, and salutes to Eds.

“How was your show?”

“Ugh, it sure was,” he yawns. “Let me just...”

The image of Richie tumbles around as he situates his phone on a solid surface so he can settle into his post-show recuperation. In this case, it’s a plain brown delivery bag and a container of dumpling soup. It swirls with bright bits of carrot and other greens their own dinner so sorely lacked.

“That looks good,” Eds hums into Eddie’s shoulder.

“Smells even better. I had it in my hand in the green room for like, an hour while trying to get out of there, ‘cause people kept coming over to ask me where it was from. That’ll teach me to think ahead and order before the show.”

Eddie chuckles. “Besides that, it went all right?”

Richie slurps at the container without a spoon, just chugging it like a mug and chewing when he catches a solid. “Oh yeah. I just shouldn’t have let Steve talk me into doing a photo-call on a travel day. I was already wiped. Pictures looked good, though. What about your dinner?”

“Eddie is their new favorite employee. They’re firing me and giving him my office.”

“Aww,” Eddie squeezes Eds’ hand, tucked around his waist. “I’ll write a letter of recommendation for you, to your next employer.”

"To Whom It May Concern,” Richie says, formally. “It's my absolute pleasure to recommend Edward Kaspbrak for a top position with your company. Edward and I- also Edward- have worked in this dynamic at Trashmouth LLC for several months. I thoroughly enjoyed my time getting railed by Edward, and came, a lot of times, to know him as a valuable asset... Sincerely- Edward Kaspbrak- no no, the other one.”

“Signed!” Eddie laughs.

“So it went good?”

“The dinner?” says Eds. “Or the passionate sex we had afterward?”

“Yeah, I’m sure all that talk of hot sauce got your Spaghetti noodle goin’-”

“No really,” Eddie purrs. “We did it.”

Richie chokes out a mouthful of soup, splashing back into his bowl. “Holy shit! For real? Oh em eff gee!”

Eds kisses Eddie just behind the ear, where that woody smell clings so deliciously. “We just- we’re there, you know?”

The little Richie in the phone bounces where he sits in his hotel bed. “I hope there’s champagne in the minibar! Shit! Congratulations, I’m so fucking happy for you guys!”

“Yeah, all right, Tozier. Get it all out of your system-”

“I mean I always hoped, I mean, you’re both such major babes and like, hot as fuck lays. Like, cream of the cocksucker crop. Eddie’s ass, your dick- I assume, I don’t know. Tell me everything! Or, wait,” he reconsiders. “You don’t have to, if it’s like, just for you. That’s romantic shit, love that. Love you! And if I don’t know that just gives me fantasy options...”

“It sounds like he’s set for the night,” says Eddie.

“Our work here is done.”

Richie sloshes his soup perilously to cover his heart with both hands. “I love this. I feel like I should send a fruit basket! Who delivers at this hour...”

 

-

 

He wakes without opening his eyes the next morning. Everything becomes that embryonic orange, back of the eyelid color as he turns his face away from the pillow. He can hear Eddie sniff, beside him. If it’s supernatural bullshit- if it’s about them more than his brain- maybe- maybe it will be different this time.

But things should get brighter when he opens his eyes. There should be sunlight from the windows, and white sheets, and Eddie’s pale hair. He is there, in front of Eds, but he looks half drowned, surrounded by stormy night. He’s dressed, not like how they went to bed, but in a suit and tie and glasses. The moon hangs up above him, just cresting the treeline at the top of the quarry, in a sickly green sky.

He aches with only a shadow of the pain from before, but this is still plenty alarming.

“Eddie?!”

A voice he doesn’t know calls back.

“Who is Eddie?”

Then there’s a touch on his shoulder, and the darkness blinks away.

“Eds?” Eddie looks down at him, still, but clean and dry, pushed up on an elbow beside him in bed. He’s got his glasses on so he can do a crossword, but otherwise he’s just as he was when Eds kissed him goodnight. His worried eyes search his face for explanation but he asks for none.

“Oh geez,” Eds sighs in relief, feeling that his lungs are not in their usual unusual panicked state after one of his episodes. He loops his arms through the space between Eddie and the bed and cuddles into his chest, shutting his eyes again before they can try and show him anything else. “Nightmare,” he snuffles.

Eddie makes a surprised noise, because it’s not like him to demand comfort. They both know this. He folds Eds into his safekeeping anyway, and kisses his head. “You’re all right. Can I get you anything?”

“No.” Eds breathes in the smell of him and feels fine. “Just hold me.”

“Mmm.” The arms around him shift a little as Eddie makes himself comfortable for a long haul. “If you want to talk, I’m here,” he says softly. “...but you don’t have to.”

He will, he will, if this sort of thing keeps up- but this seems like an overall improvement. Maybe it’s almost over.

And Eddie is warm.

And he’s still tired.

“Thanks Eddie,” Eds mumbles, and he wills himself back to sleep.

 

-


Who is Eddie?

-


Eds has it set up so that his work-from-home day is Monday (Tuesday on a holiday weekend), since that so often overlaps with one of Eddie’s days off and Richie getting home from out of town work. At the very least, they can all do lunch together on this schedule, and every so often Eds can work in the living room and sort of hang out. Today happens to be one of those occasions where he set up camp on the far end of the couch with his laptop, while Richie and Eddie cuddle to some bingeable TV.

He’s seen it before, so Eds is half tuning it out, half watching. He just needs to keep an eye on his inbox until the end of the day.

“Well, I've got a great job, lots of money, get to travel the world. Why wouldn't I be happy?”

“Have you ever been in love?”

“Thousands of times.”

“That's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about-“

There’s a new email from Kraft Music that sticks out, wedged in the midst of a dozen PDFs from Hugh. He checks it and then surreptitiously as he can, he texts Eddie.

EK The Yamaha is here. You wanna run interference so I can pick it up from the mail room and get it set up?

Eddie’s phone buzzes on the coffee table and Eds pretends not to be the cause, glancing up at the TV.

“I wasn't aware that love looked like anything.”

“I've seen it, mate. On the plane back from Sydney.”

Eddie checks his phone, reading it quickly and then laying it face down again. Rather than settle back into position on his side in front of Richie, he rolls to his back. Laid out like that, his toes reach all the way to Eds’ thigh and give him an affirmative prod.

“Sounds familiar,” Eddie says.

“Mmmwhat does?” Richie asks.

“‘Spectacular, consciousness-altering love’,” Eddie quotes, with a sincerity that goes above and beyond what’s necessary for his ploy.

Richie bends to kiss him and Eddie kisses back, wrapping around his neck and making that tender little noise he makes that makes it impossible to pull away, in pursuit of hearing it again. Before long Richie is half on top of Eddie, with one blond haired thigh slotted between his jean clad legs. They move together in increasing desperation until Eds realizes Eddie’s plan was not so much to lure Richie away as it was to give Eds an excuse to kick them out.

“Would you two get a fucking room? I’m still working.”

One of Richie’s feet jackknifes and nearly flips his laptop off his knees, then. Finally he comes up for air. “Do you wanna come join?”

“No.”

“You suuuure?”

Despite the treacherous stir of interest in his pants, Eds ices him with a well practiced glare.

Eddie whines and hikes a leg around Richie’s hips. “I’m sure I want to, come on.”

“Ahrighty,” Richie says, gathering Eddie into his arms and heaving them both to a sitting position. “Last call, Eds.” He waggles an eyebrow. “I can throw one of you over each shoulder!”

“Go ahead and try. Your chiropractor will love that.”

As he slides off of Richie’s lap, Eddie shoots Eds a wink. “Come on, sweetheart,” he offers a hand. “Let’s take it to the bedroom.”

Obedient as the needle to the pole, Richie takes his direction, leaving Eds in peace. When Eds is sure the door is shut behind them, he slips his laptop to the coffee table and grabs his ID for the mail room.

Unfortunately, once he gets down there he discovers the delivery is not one, but two unwieldy boxes. He’ll have to bring them back up to the apartment one at a time. That’s all right. Eds has faith in Eddie’s powers of seduction.

He takes the elevator up with the first package, then down again, and up once more, humming along to the muzak Burt Bacharach and Richie’s superior lyrics.

You couldn’t really have to fart, and hold it
Like you hold it, so just too-oot

By the time he’s dragging the second box through the living room unobserved, it sounds like they’re really getting into it.

“Pow! Right in the kisser,” Richie giggles. Because Ralph Kramden impressions are so sexy, don’tcha know.

“Ugh, I’m sorry...”

“Do not apologize. Mmm!”

Eds snickers and hauls his box the rest of the way, kicking the door to the spare room shut behind him.

It doesn’t take all that long to set the thing up, once he has all the plastic wrapping and styrofoam out of the way. Thanks to their research, the X-style stand and the keyboard itself fit perfectly beside the baker’s rack, with some room to breath. They bought a bench and two pedals, too, which will tuck away nicely without choking up the room when Eds wants to use his office desk. He stacks a few learner’s songbooks on the shelf below Eddie’s phone, along with a pair of headphones, and then plugs it all in. He flips through the manual to make sure he’s turning it on correctly, sets the volume low enough not to be overheard, then strikes a key right in the middle-

And Eddie’s old telephone rings.

“What the fuck?” Eds jumps about three feet, losing his balance. He keeps a hand on the wall a moment and catches his breath, half expecting Richie and Eddie to come rushing in to investigate, but they don’t.

It sounded just like a shrill, actual hammer-on-bell landline ring! He hasn’t heard a phone ring like that in at least twenty years.

Eds opens the door and checks down the hall that the guys didn’t react, but they’re just chatting indistinctly behind the bedroom door, undisturbed.

He must be imagining it. He’s been, you know- a little out of it lately! The Derry anniversary coming up, adjusting to Chicago, the dreams... he’s just feeling a little jumpy.

“Fucking... already have a haunted phone, don’t need a fucking haunted keyboard,” Eds mutters, going back to the piano. He hits the same key again, and it sounds like it should. Nothing weird.

But Eds sort of wanted it to happen again. He glances back at the phone. It’s kind of a fun turquoise color that makes him want to prank call the principal, but otherwise unremarkable. Just old. It doesn’t even have it’s original cord to plug into the phone jack.

“Hey wait a minute...”

Fully aware how ridiculous he is, Eds picks up the receiver and holds it to his ear.

No dial tone.

“Okay. Yep. Never mind.” 

After stashing the boxes for the keyboard and all its accessories in the guest room, just in case, Eds goes to knock on the bedroom door.

“Hey Buttinski!” Richie cries. “Don’t come in! My dick is fully out and it’s like a fucking Spider-Man fight scene in here.”

He’ll take that as an all clear.

Eds opens the door to discover the two of them cozied up in their underwear, pants strewn across the floor along with a few telltale crumpled tissues. Richie lays with Eddie’s head pillowed on his naked belly, and idly winds his fingers into his curls. It looks inviting. Richie wanted a train, right? He’ll get a train. Eds crawls up into bed with them and picks Richie’s head up to lay it in his lap and pet his hair, too.

“You horndogs have fun blowing each other?”

“Yeah, you want in?”

“I’ll bank it for later.”

Eddie reaches an arm across the bed to take his free hand. “You done with work, Eds?”

“Mmhmm. One of you wanna pick out a record to put on? Then we can make dinner.”

Being his perfect accomplice, Eddie catches on right away. “Richie, it’s your turn to pick.”

“Is it?”

Eds gives Richie’s hair a playful tug. “Just not Alvin and the Chipmunks. That was only funny the first time.”

Eddie squints up at Eds skeptically. “Was it, though?”

They snicker amongst themselves until Richie is finally persuaded to restore his record-picking honor. Or seek revenge. Either way gets him into the spare room, unsuspecting. Eds and Eddie follow along behind him and hang back as he takes a sharp turn through to the door to face the shelf full of his music library.

“What’s- woah!” He points at the keyboard. “When did this get here!?”

“Half an hour ago,” Eds grins, and steps into the room.

“For me?” Richie hovers a hand over the keys and looks at them in slack jawed wonder.

“Of course.” Eddie crosses his arms and stands back, looking pleased with himself. “We thought you’d enjoy having your own to write on.”

Richie pulls out the bench for himself and takes a seat. As soon as he does, he lets his hands fall to strike a chord- or what Eds assumes is a chord, at least.

“Wow, you guys!” He keeps tapping around in little experimental sequences.

“It’s supposed to be touch sensitive,” says Eddie. “So it’ll play louder depending on how you hit the key, and everything, like a real piano.”

“And it’s got headphones,” Eds adds. “You can go nuts whenever you want without waking up the whole floor. And we got you some learner's books, and there’s pedals down there...”

“Oh my god, you guys- this is literally the nicest thing anyone has ever got me and it’s not even my birthday,” Richie rambles. “You’ve raised the bar so fucking high, this was such a mistake...”

“Nah,” Eddie shakes his head and laughs. “You deserve it, sweetheart. Just use it responsibly.”

Eds grins at him. “What are you, a PSA?”

“I’m gonna figure this thing out,” Richie promises, still poking around exuberantly. “And then like, I’ll get so good- I’ll have to get a baby grand so you can sit on it in cocktail gowns while I play-”

“Uh- something to look forward to for your birthday, I guess.” Eds gives Eddie a wary side eye.

“-And then learning piano should translate to playing accordion, pretty easy, right?!”

Eddie grimaces. “Uh oh.”

“What’ve we done?”

Richie springs up from his seat just enough to grab Eds around the middle and drag him back down again. “Thank you thank you thank you,” he kisses sloppily at his neck. “Eddie, honey!”

Eddie comes over too, and gives Richie a kiss. “Mmm, you’re welcome. I’m gonna go start chopping veggies, so you can have at it.”

‘It’ meaning Eds, apparently. Before Eddie even makes it out the door, Richie’s hands are scheming their way into the waist of his pants. “You wanna cash in now, buddy?” he asks, continuing to gnaw on him. It’s hard to resist his big, nearly naked body clambering to undress him, no matter how it makes their tiny bench teeter.

“Woah, fuck!” Eds tries to get his feet planted on the floor again. “There’s no way this thing is rated for the weight of two people!”

“Fine! I don’t want your jizz all over my gift, anyway,” growls Richie. He launches Eds out of his lap by standing up and muscles him over to the little sofa instead, kissing him all the way.

“That’s what you’re calling your face, now? ‘Your gift’?”

“It is if that’s what you want,” Richie huffs at his neck. He pushes Eds to sit down in front of him and claws into his pants to pull out his dick. “You fuckin’ sneak.”

“It’s not my fault you’re so easy to trick.” Eds ruffles Richie’s hair as he lowers his head into his lap. His sweet, idiot man. “I like to surprise you. You don’t mind do you?”

Richie gives his dick a lick and then looks up at him, making a meal of it on his lips. “Usually works out pretty good for me, I’m not complaining.”

“I want you- ugh, fuck- I do want you to feel like we’re a team, though. It’s not me and Eddie versus you, or-“ Eds grunts. “Oh fuck, your fucking mouth...”

After momentarily engulfing him, Richie uses the wet, pumping him until he’s fully hard. “Eds, I’m like, so fucking happy, believe you me,” he says. “Is jumping you not an indicator?”

Eds lets loose a moan. “Yeah... Maybe let me fuck your face a little bit, then- then I’ll believe you.”

“Pull my hair?”

“Yeah, fuck-”

“Tell me I’m dumb but in a nice way?’

“You’re smart, Rich, you’re like, fucking Mozart sometimes, you’re just being a dumbass.”

“Exactly like that.” Richie grins and swallows him down for real, then, yelping happily as Eds keeps his word.

He scratches Richie’s scalp and locks his fingers in the curls at the back of his head as he bobs. “Who cares if you’re a little stupid, when you suck dick like a rock star, huh?”

Maybe because he’s already gone a round with Eddie then had a break, Richie is at that perfect level of determined but sloppy. All tongue and enthusiasm. And almost naked, and Eds didn’t even have to work for it! He watches the muscles in his neck relax and pull as he sucks down on him, working so hard to make him feel good. Because Eds made him happy. Makes him so incandescently happy all the time, apparently, that he doesn’t see it coming when one boyfriend very obviously texts the other in the middle of watching LOST and then suddenly he’s being finessed to a second location. 

“Moron. I love you so fucking much.”

Richie gives him an extra appreciative squeeze.

“‘Tell- tell me I’m dumb but in a nnn-nice way,’” Eds quotes Richie back to himself. “Haven’t I always? No wonder you’re so- so- hnfff- fucking in love with me, you jackass.”

He’s getting so close and squirmy, he needs more contact. More Richie. He latches his bare feet around back of Richie in a sort of leg hug. He digs his heels down, trying to drag his boxers right off his ass, his stupid, stupid ass that he loves so very much. 

“Uhn, baby. Baby-” he pulls on Richie’s hair in warning. “Want me to come on your face? You’ve been fucking begging for it.”

Richie nods right off and just laps at Eds as they jerk him the rest of the way, fingers entwined in spit and come. He paints a few pretty stripes on Richie’s lips and chin and then nearly passes the fuck out.

“Jesusfuck, look at you.” Eds watches in a daze as Richie licks and wipes his face off enough to kiss him.

“Mmm. How’s that for a thank you?”

“It's a start," Eds puffs. "I still want ten percent of your- your- uh?”  The word escapes him.

“Royalties?” Richie laughs, and eases himself back to his feet. He hikes his boxers back up to his hips and staggers on those shitty knees of his, ultimately deciding to take a seat on the bench until he gets feeling back. He starts to play around on the keys again, absentmindedly at first. “No, really though. Thank you dude, this totally bangs.”

“Of course, man.”

Richie nails a note that he must find familiar, because he starts searching around for another key to pair with it. “There she is.” He plays both at once, giggling to himself. Suddenly he grabs Eddie’s old telephone. “Chuck, it's your cousin Richie. Richie Berry!? You know that new sound you're looking for? Well, listen to this!” He drops the phone back on the cradle, then he pounds the chord a few times right into a slide down the keys.

It’s not exactly right, but it’s pretty close. Eddie wasn’t kidding- he’s just got an ear for the way things sound. Like-

“Hey Richie-”

“-Stop playing the same slide ten times in a row?” Richie reverts to the Imperial March. “Dun dun dun, dun dun dun, dun dun duuuh.”

“This is my life now, huh?”

“You bet.”

Well, this is why they preemptively bought headphones.

“Eds, if you’re done in there-” Eddie calls from the kitchen.

“Yeah, be there in a minute!” Eds tucks himself back into his pants, still a little sticky. “Ugh. Wash your face before you come to the kitchen, Richie. Please.”

“Yessir, Mr. Poison Control, sir.”

He gives Richie a kiss on the top of his head before he goes.

 

-


“Can you hear me?” a voice asks.

But Eds feels too weak to speak. Barely awake. Is he awake? He’s not sure if this a dream dream or one of his not-dreams. He’s so bleary it’s hard to tell if his eyes are open- if that would even matter.

He squeezes at something wet in his hands.

“Hey, hey hey. What happened here? What’s happening? You’re all right.”

Now that voice he knows.

“Eddie.”

He’s scared and wet, but still so pretty as he kneels at his side. He takes Eds into his arms, and that’s where he wakes.

“Shh, dear,” he hushes, holding him close. Safe. He’s as he should be, dappled in morning sunlight. He rubs his hand at Eds’ back, without needing to worry about a wound.

“Thank you,” Eds whispers. “You saved me.”

Eddie presses a crisp kiss to his forehead. “Anytime.”

Eds gets his arm free from the blanket so he can hold Eddie back. Living, whole chest against chest. He sleeps shirtless, but he pushes up Eddie’s tee to really feel them together. Breathing. He puts his lips to Eddie’s to taste it too, and then they’re kissing. Chests touching leads to hips connecting, rolling anxiously. Their hands hold fast at each other’s backs, keeping them as close together as one second is to the next. Next thing Eds knows, Eddie muttering something like Do you think-? into his mouth and he’s saying something back like Do you want-? and Eddie is wriggling out of his pajama bottoms. Richie does not hear Eds drop the bottle of lube on his own face and swear as he pulls it off the headboard so, oh well. You snooze you lose.

“C’mere Dreamy.” Eds settles back down beside him. He parts his thighs by hand, enjoying the surrounding warmth of his body and kissing him again and again. He brushes at Eddie where he’s hottest and his eyes fly open.

“Do you want to move? We’re gonna wake him up?”

Hell yeah, they are.

The bottle cap snaps. Eds grins as he coats his fingers. “As if he isn’t literally dreaming about this right now.”

Eddie gets that ruthless look in eye that Eds so loves him for. The bastard. He shuffles closer and bends his leg to let Eds in.

He gets Eddie on his fingers, head thrown back, whimpering his name. That doesn’t do it. He gets him sweating, captive in the pocket of heat made by their blankets and bodies. Still Richie sleeps. Even occasionally elbowing him as he works to make Eddie shudder from head to toe doesn’t do it. Finally Eds gets himself between Eddie’s legs and it’s his own grunting that breaks through.

“Unh, fuck, Eddie-”

“Fffffwhat?” Richie snuffs a deep waking breath and starts to roll over.

They’re all still under the blankets, so he squints at them, at a complete disadvantage to figure out what’s going on. Just some blob people in bed next to him, same as usual. The sounds of kissing might be a tip off, though. He paws around the headboard for his glasses and puts them on, yawning and smacking sleep-dried lips.

Eddie giggles first and then Eds is a goner. He stops midthrust and just snorts into Eddie’s chest.

“Uhh,” says Richie. He hoists up the blanket, checks underneath, then puts it back down. “Good fucking morning, to me.”

“Kind of you to join us,” Eddie teases.

“Yeah, yeah, uh, who’s party am I crashing?”

Eds looks down at Eddie, and he looks up, not as worried as when he first woke, but still very caring.

“Eds.”

Richie lifts the blanket again. “Looks like it. Well! Don’t let me interrupt.” He does not lower the blanket again, of course. He sticks a hand down his shorts and touches himself lazily, waiting for them to resume.

“Richie,” Eddie rolls his eyes. “If you’re gonna do it, do it over here.”

“Eee!”

Together, Richie and Eds get rid of the covers, then Richie crawls over to give Eddie a kiss.

“Whatchu thinkin’, Blondie?” he consults.

“Get me another pillow. Then sit facing Eds-“

“That mechanical mind at work,” Eds grins. He sits back on his heels for a minute, while Richie grabs a spare pillow and stuffs it under Eddie.

“Done and duh-”

“Boxers off!” Eddie commands.

Richie halts, mid leg lift. “You gonna play with my ass?”

“Try and stop me.”

“Dreams do come true,” Richie sing songs as he strips. Eddie gives him an approving nod and then he kneels back into place, straddling Eddie’s body. It takes a little nudging to get his and Eds’ knees comfy, but it’ll definitely be worth it. Both his and Eddie’s erections stick out in front of him now, and he’s in kissing range.

Eds pulls Eddie’s thighs to him and eases himself back in. “Hhff. Okay.”

With those big hands of his, Richie gives himself and Eddie a stroke that makes Eddie quake beneath them both. “All good, honey?”

“Oh. This is- wow. Wait. Let me..." One of Eddie’s arms reaches around to find the lube again. He lets out a bracing exhale. “All right, boys. Where were we?”

In a dream, all right. A beautiful fucking dream.

“Kiss me,” Eds says, and he leans into them both, slowly rolling his hips. He can feel Richie’s breath on his lips before he pauses.

“Wait, does this count towards Date Night?”

“Oh my fucking god, Rich.”

“It’s morning!”

Eddie’s hand claps on Richie’s flank. “Not for long if you keep stalling.”

No one- not even his boyfriend- can keep his other boyfriend from getting the sweet and tender fucking he deserves. So Eds shuts Richie up, kissing him deeply and tangling a hand into his hair, sweaty from sleep. He sets them all into motion, pushing into Eddie as he slides his tongue with Richie’s.

“Oh, Richie, Eds...” Eddie gasps at the dual sensation- Richie touching him, Eds inside him. It makes him tighten for an exquisite moment. “My loves,” he releases, breathing out, breathing easier as they begin to set a pace. “You- you feel so good. So good for me, my loves.”

Eds mumbles back, nibbling as he does, and imagining. “We should try this switched some time.”

Eds spread for them- Eddie putting those talented fingers in his mouth, getting them wet to open him up. Richie squeezing both their cocks together until there’s no telling whose come is dripping down Eddie’s belly. Or Richie fucking him- shaking between his thighs, and Eddie’s tight ass riding his tongue. Every other combination and variation, too. It all works for him so long as it’s them.

His kiss with Richie is only broken when Eddie finally gets enough of a hold on himself to make good on his threat to Richie's ass. His head drops to Eds' shoulder as he takes it. “Fuck. Where’s the fire?”

Sounds like Eddie is trying to catch Richie up to speed. Eds waits until they’re both getting breathy, both yelping broken little pleas before really putting his back into it. Once one of them goes, the rest are sure to follow- they get too much enjoyment from each other’s pleasure to resist.

“Eds, ah, please, ah, Richie!”

“Just- right- fucking- there,” Richie chokes out. He kisses Eds, panting and crazed, then drops his head again. As he looks down he moans. “Eds, fucking look at this its so fucking hot. Let me come, Eddie. Let me. Fuh-huh-uck.”

Eds looks down at the mess Richie has made, spattering all their bodies where they’re joined. He watches him use his own come to finish Eddie off, and that’s pretty much it for him.

“You guys- hhh- are the fucking best.” Hands down.

After, he crashes down to one side of Eddie, and Richie to the other. He lays a hand to his chest to feel his own heart racing, then the other to Eddie’s. He rolls closer and reaches to Richie, too. All alive and well. All his. He and Richie lock hand to elbow over Eddie’s stomach and kiss him, until like their own Sleeping Beauty, his eyes open again.

He flits to look at Eds first. “All right?”

“Yeah,” Eds kisses him. “You’ll have to add that one to the list for future reference.”

“You two’ll have to come up with a name, I’m beat.”

Eds looks across him to Richie. “Uhh, Reverse Brokeback.”

Richie looks like he might still burst into tears. “No! That’s too sad!”

“What’s Brokeback?” Eddie asks feebly.

“It doesn’t matter, I forbid it!” To comfort himself, Richie burrows into Eddie’s neck.

“Reverse Cowboy With An Extra Cowboy?” Eddie tries.

Richie hums. “Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy.”

“That’s already a slogan.”

“We’re not taking out a fucking copyright!”

Eddie chuckles with them, low and deep. He tries to riddle it out for himself. “Well the horse isn’t- oh, that’s disturbing...”

Richie grimaces. “Reverse Cowboy Helping Stud a Mare?”

“That’s a mouthful.”

Eds doesn’t even go there, since there are no literal mouthfuls involved. “...Horse’s Revenge?

“Horse’s Revenge!?” Richie and Eddie wheeze.

Sounds like they have a winner.

When Richie masters himself again he gives Eds a squeeze. “Not that I’m complaining but what the fuck brought that on? Was my snoring that inspiringly orgasmic, you two fuckbunnies just couldn’t help yourselves?” He rips a fake snore and mimes the obvious.

Eddie give him a soft shove. “If anything, Eds being able to get it up with you sawing away over there is worthy of clinical study,” he smirks. Eds gives him an appreciative kiss.

“Oh sure, when I say I want to bottle your jizz, it’s ‘Richie that’s disgusting.’”

“I just-” Eds catches himself about to make a joke, but really, it’s time to come clean. “I had a kinda nightmare,” he tells them honestly. “I’ve been having it a lot, actually... About Eddie.”

Eddie blinks up at him. “You didn’t say- oh, Eds.” He touches his cheek. “Whatever it is, it’s not real. We’re here and we’re safe, and I love you.”

That's the thing, though!

“I think it is real, or it was,” Eds insists.

Richie furrows his brow. “What do you mean?”

“You know I don’t really remember most of it- most of It,” he emphasizes. “Or after...”

“You’re starting to? Fuck, Eds.” Richie looks a little green at the thought, like he’s in that nightmarish light. “That was- that was scary shit. And who fuckin’ knows what happened after I... left you.”

Eds looks down at Eddie. “Well. You do, sort of.”

He’s patchworked together an account of the battle from the Losers, and he knows that Eddie was the one to find him- but he’s never directly asked Eddie about either of their resurrections. It’s daunting shit! When they first met in person, or, the second time- when he came to Chicago to give Eddie his paperwork- there were a hundred things on his mind. How alike were they, really? Did they have the same birthday? The same parents? Allergies? What did Richie like so much about Eddie that made him want to be lovers, when he claimed he was already in love with Eds? Could Eddie really love Richie back, like he deserved? Could Eds? That was pretty much as far as a two hour lunch and the Xanax he took for the plane got him, and he didn’t even answer all those questions, then.

“I see your face when I wake up,” he tells Eddie. “And it just- it does something to me. At first it was like. I could feel it. I could feel myself- my chest, the choking, the dying, or- undying? Like, this fucking insane pain, and it was like I was wet and cold in the water- and then it would be over in a second! But it freaked me the fuck out and I couldn’t breathe after and it hurt so much I thought I was having a heart attack-”

Richie shifts suddenly. “What the fuck?”

“No no, Richie- it doesn’t- not anymore, now it’s like-”

“What’s happening, why didn’t you tell us!?”

Eddie puts a hand on Richie’s shoulder to stop him from sitting up. “He’s telling us, love,” he says. “It’s so hard for him- you know how hard it is for him to need help.”

Eds’ throat starts to constrict. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, Richie...”

“Eds, don’t cry, you don’t have to, I’m sorry-”

Too late.

“I just thought- if I made it so Eddie’s face wasn’t the first one I saw when I woke up, it wouldn’t happen,” Eds sputters. “And that mostly worked, except when you were out of town- and then after we had sex it changed. Like, instead of it being just the feeling, just the pain- I could see it. I see the quarry, that night. And I see Eddie. And I hear a voice and I can’t get it out of my head. When I’m awake even, I hear things- I heard Eddie’s old phone ring and it’s not even plugged in! And like- there’s something in Derry, whatever was there when- well, whatever it is, it’s like it’s trying to get my attention.”

“Well, it has mine,” Richie says. He huffs and rolls back on the bed for a second so he can grab his phone. “I’m not waiting another thirty years for us to be happy, Eds. If this is in the way of you finally living your life...”

“I know what you’re gonna say. Get a new therapist, already- I will, I just definitely had to tell you guys first, because I feel like I need to go back, and I know! I know what you’re gonna say to that, too-”

Richie nudges Eddie. “Did we stay at the Hilton or the Hyatt in Rochester?”

Eds stops. “Rochester? What the fuck’s in Rochester?”

“It’s the half-way point between here and Derry if you make it a two day drive,” Eddie tells him.

“I’m making a booking, I’m pretty sure it was the Hilton...”

A strange mixture of terror and love floods Eds, making him feel tense and lightheaded. “You swore. Ben told me you both swore you’d never go back to Derry. Ever. There’s a fucking reason for that!”

Richie flashes his order confirmation screen at him and then shelves his phone again. Before Eds or Eddie can say anything more, he climbs over them, pushes Eds onto his back, and blankets him with his body.

“Eds. That was when you were as good as dead. And we were scared. And the only thing we ever knew about Derry and the weird shit that goes on there was that it was super bad. But dude, I’ve had time to think about it since, and I dunno, man. I just don’t think it’s all evil. There’s gotta be something good there, too.” He looks down at Eds, as serious as Eds has ever seen his professionally unserious face. “You coming back- both of you- that was good. That was the best thing that ever happened to me in my life.”

“All our lives,” Eds corrects him, very softly. He relaxes into Richie’s grounding touch.

Eddie rolls to his side, too, and lays a kiss at his shoulder. “If you need to go back to Derry so you can figure it out, we’ll take you. No question.”

Eds swallows. “When? How? What the fuck do we even do when we get there?”

“Well the room in Rochester is for tonight, so you Nine-to-Fiver putzes are calling in sick.”

Eddie snorts. “I was only on call for the tow. I’ll cancel the next few days, though.”

“What about you?” Eds asks. “Don’t you have a show this weekend?”

“On Sunday night. We’ll either be back by then, or we’ll be dead!”

“Don’t say that.”

Richie apologizes with a kiss and then snuggles them both in tighter.

“Huh,” Eddie frowns, thinking to himself at Eds’ shoulder. “So,we'll have Thursday night in Derry...”

“Yeah,” sighs Eds.

The actual anniversary.


-

 

With action underway, the nerves don’t really hit Eds again until after lunch, when they’re about an hour out from Cleveland. His food coma induced urge to take a backseat nap is doing battle with his anxiety of what he might wake up to, the closer they get to Derry. He snipes at Ohio Expert Richie’s anecdotes and tries not to look at his phone too much, instead keeping a look out for a Walmart where they can pick up some things they didn’t have at home. Since Richie went to college here, he asked to drive this leg for old time’s sake and give Eddie a chance to rest. He’s in the backseat with Eds, feet kicked up in his lap, looking similarly droopy. As they were in a hurry to get out of town before morning rush hour, he didn’t bother to blow dry after his shower, and his hair puffs against the window like the clouds in the wide open sky. 

At the end of another episode of some RPG podcast Richie’s into, he switches over to the radio. He scans through the fuzz, catching only occasional spikes of recognizable music. “We should be able to get WOBC by now.”

“Is that the station you worked at?” Eddie asks.

“One of ‘em. We could stop there, you know. It’s summer so a lot of campus will be empty but we could check out the ol’ Richie stomping grounds.”

As charming as it is to imagine twenty year old Richie in his natural, liberal arts habit, drawing out the day any longer than it needs to be feels unwise.

“Do you wanna waste an hour trying to remember which dorm you got your first aborted handjob in, or do you want an actual handjob at the hotel tonight?”

“This feels like a trap,” says Richie.

Eddie kicks Eds in light reproach and chuckles. “How?”

“If I agree to a handjob now, do I miss out on getting plowed over an armchair later?”

“That’s a risk you’re just gonna have to take,” Eds grins. “And seeing as the alternative is eating into our shopping spree time, I don’t see your dilemma.”

“Oh!” Richie perks at that. “Right, the shopping...”

Eds isn’t really sure what either of them had in mind by a supply run, because for as long as he’s been living with his near-death nightmares, his plan for what to do to stop them when they actually get to Derry only goes as far as: Don’t Die Again.

“I hope you’re buying something other than candy,” he tells Richie.

“Don’t worry, Eds. I already brought Scandanavian Swimmers from TJ’s when I raided our pantry on our way out.”

“What's that?” Eddie asks.

“Swedish Fish for assholes.”

Richie sniffs. “More for me...”

“Well if it’s sweets you’re after and we’re going to camp out in a quarry all night, we may as well have ‘smores,” says Eddie.

“Can we do ‘Smores nachos?!” Richie nearly rockets through the roof of the car in excitement.

Eddie looks at Eds like he doesn’t know what to make of that either. “Uh, maybe?”

“Have you never had 'smores nachos? Oh, guys,” Richie moans. “I thought I had shown you all the ways of carnal pleasure, but apparently I missed a spot.”

“All right, so ‘smores fixings, fine. What else?” Eds asks. “What’s the plan? What are we doing? Are we monster hunting? Are we like, retracing my steps? Because I really don’t want to go into fucking Neibolt again...”

Richie stops fussing with the radio and leaves it on some light static. “I mean. Are you expecting monsters? It’s your weird nightmare thing we’re working off of, here.”

Something about the static catches Eds’ ear. 

“Did you just hear that?”

“What?”

“The radio. I thought I heard-”

Richie cranks the volume up, but the only intruding voice is that of Brian Wilson. Eddie loves himself some Beach Boy harmonies, so Richie tunes it clearer and leaves it on.

“I was thinking we’d get some boots, lights, and a tarp and wait it out where I found you,” Eddie supposes. “If there’s something you need to see or hear- well I don’t know. I think it will find you.”

“Yeah, exactly. We head to the quarry. Chow on some ‘smores nachos. Chant around a campfire-”

Eds squints at Richie’s reflection in the rear-view mirror to see if he’s been replaced by a tie-dyed, bandanna wearing camp counselor. “Chanting...”

“We chanted before and it worked out,” he shrugs.

“I died.”

“You’re fine now,” Richie points out.

“Am I?” That’s kind of debatable given the cause of this road trip.

“Fine as hell.”

“Fuck off.”

“I’m just trying to pay you a compliment!”

“I don’t care if you’re driving, I will smack you, Richie.”

His eyebrows bounce in the mirror. “So... if I pull over will you still do it?”

Eddie giggles. “We probably should switch, anyway, I’m getting a little green back here.”

Eds sighs and gives his foot a sympathetic squeeze. “Yeah, I could use a turn up front, too.”

“You know,” Richie says, laying his arm along the back of the front seat. “-This is a bench seat. We could all sit up front.”

For a moment, Eds imagines being tucked and protected in Richie’s arm as they make their perhaps ill advised return to Derry. Richie was so quick to let love for him overrule self preservation, again and again. The way that kind of devotion feels, up close... maybe it will take the edge off. In fact- Eds is sure of it. 

“Yeah. Okay,” he grumbles. “But I’m not taking the middle, though, there’s no seat belt.”

“No problem. My lifetime offer to be the middle of any Eddie sandwich stands.”

“We’ll just have to hold you down,” Eddie smirks to Eds. “...if I make any shorts stops, I mean.”

 

-


Six hundred miles, eleven hours, and four exclamatory sightings of Horse Revenge!! from home, they stumble into their hotel room in Rochester. It’s two smaller beds than what they have, but that’s what you get when you get a last minute room during summer’s final hurrah. Conditioned by years of life on the road, Richie immediately reaches for the room service menu and then dives directly into the closest bed while they unpack.

“Good thing you’re used to sharing a queen, huh? Huh? Guys?”

“One time. We laughed at that joke one time and now we’ll never live it down,” Eds sighs to Eddie.

He gently nudges Eds aside so he can get his suitcase onto the desk and unzips it slowly. “Do you want to share with me? You can share with Richie. Or have your own.” 

“I’m cool with whatever,” Richie throws in.

Eddie trips over Richie’s duffel on his way to put his toiletry bag in the bathroom. “Or Richie can sleep on the floor and then we both get our own beds,” he grumbles, still a little punchy from the road.

Eds doesn’t know how to answer his question, though. They’re here to face whatever’s going on with him head on, and that probably should include deliberately having another dream. But on the other hand- what if when they get there this turns into a shit show? What if this is the last night he has alive, for real this time?

He plugs in his electronics, takes off his jeans, and then climbs onto Richie’s bed. The only light they bothered to turn on is the one in the bathroom, but even in the low visibility his worry must show. When Richie lowers his menu his face falls to mirror his expression.

“Eds?”

He slumps into Richie, burying his face in between his side and the surface of the bed and clamping an arm over him. “Can I fall asleep with both of you?” he muffles. “Please? Then after I’m out you can have your own bed.”

Richie lays his arm along top of his and sweeps a hand at Eds’ shoulder. “Of course.”

“If I even can sleep...” Eds lifts his head to look up at Richie and his triple chins, at this angle. He sort of wants to lay awake and keep an eye on them both for as long as he can. He worms his way up Richie, kissing each of his chins along the way to his face. 

“Mmm, you stink,” Richie notes. Pretty rich, coming from him.

“Only ‘cause I was sitting in your armpit all night.”

“I was marking you.”

“Mark this.” Eddie noses his way to a tender part of Richie’s neck and sucks at the skin, hard. “You’re fucking mine, you skunk.”

“Mon cherie! Mwah mwah mwah,” Richie laughs, summoning Pépé Le Pew. He clumsily bundles Eds in his arms and kisses him without aim repeatedly. “Come wiz me and we will make ze love tu jour amour!” 

“Ugh!” Despite a particularly sonic smacking kiss in his ear, Eds doesn’t fight to get away. He claws into Richie’s harder, if anything.

“Mah leetle kitten, eet eez too long zince I held you in mah arms! Mwah mwah mwah!”

“He doesn’t know she’s a cat, dipshit!”

“Ze heart wants what eet wants!”

Richie finally kisses him on the lips properly and then sighs, throwing his arms back against the pillows and lacing his fingers behind his head. Their long day in a car does not make this particularly appealing.

Eds fans his nose. “The heart wants a fucking shower.”

Already through with his own shower, Eddie is in the process of drying off and brushing his teeth when they get into the bathroom. He watches them strip and plays hard to get while they fool around a little, but he’s the first one on the bed, arms spread, once they’re out.

After some sleepy but satisfying canoodling, Eds winds up tucked between them just like he wanted. Eddie mutters, barely conscious in his arms, about some hole in the wall place in Derry he wants to verify the existence of. Whether it's a restaurant, a store, or what they can’t get out of him.

“It’s got- the yellow out front?”

“A yellow door?” Richie asks behind them.

“Maybe an awning?” Eds suggests. Just the shape of the word makes him yawn. It’s hard to keep his eyes open.

Eddie nestles deeper into their shared pillow. “Name was somethin’ like ‘dangle’?”

“Spangle.”

“Mmnno...”

“Wrangle?”

“Tangle. Jangle. Mangle,” Richie rattles off. “New fangled? That sounds like an Eddie place.”

They don’t get any closer to the answer before Eds falls asleep. 

He dreams of being underwater, floating through the green, and it flowing back through him. There is no lit surface above, no rocky bottom, no sign of escape, and he can’t breathe- but he doesn’t need to. Dead or not- there is something living about this place. It’s full of presence. The sensation of being beheld is inescapable here, even if he can’t pinpoint by whom or from what direction. All around him sound waves sped through the water to use his whole skull like an ear. It’s churning and directionless and gargling, like a ventriloquism trick, and the same voice as before.

“Do you really know him?”

Eds startles awake, sure for a moment that he heard someone’s phone go off. He looks around the shadowy room, curling up his toes protectively, but it’s all quiet and still. Their trio of phones are dark on the nightstand. The back of Eddie’s head is asleep beside him, and Richie is snoring, having since lumbered off to hog the other uncrowded bed.

Watery dreams though, man. He’s gotta pee.


-



MASSACHUSETTS
Welcomes You

They get caught with their hands in the cookie jar just a few miles past New York. It’s not all that surprising. The cell service up here isn’t great to begin with, and none of the three of them can look at a phone screen for long without getting carsick. But, today of all days, their absence will be noticed in the group chat.

BD I hope everyone’s doing all right today. I know it might be tough.

BD I planned on writing but I’m not getting much done.

BH Yeah, I understand that. Don’t push yourself.

BH Getting through the day can be the accomplishment!

MH I’m thinking of everybody ❤️. If anyone wants to talk I’ll be around all afternoon.

SU Thank you for checking in, Bill.

BM yes! thanks for checking in! we’ll be around after 6 our time. i love all you guys.

BD Has anyone heard from the three amigos?

“Err, we should probably have some kind of consensus about what we’re doing today if anyone calls us?” Eds realizes.

Richie strains his belt to lean from the backseat up to the front head rest, grasping between them conspiratorially. “Beach day.”

“It’s noon on a Thursday,” Eddie points out.

“So? You’re allowed to take personal days. Is Bill your booking agent now?”

Eds cranes his neck to give Richie the glare he deserves. “We don’t have agents in office settings, you know that, right?”

“If we all say we took the day off, they’ll wonder why we’re not available for a phone call,” says Eddie. “Better yet, they may try to Skype us in the quarry.”

Richie sits back in his seat and taps at his phone, dictating out loud. “Hey... Mystery Inc... We’re all... Doing great... Busy getting... Romantic full body... Wax... Including buttholes. Send.”

“Richie you did not.” Eds clutches at his own phone in terror. He did not. Whew.

RT hey mystery inc we r doing great

RT the three of us r gonna try to keep it easy breezy lemon squeezy today tho if u dont mind

EK We’ll catch up with you guys this weekend. Thanks everybody.

BD That’s good, take care of each other. Love you guys.

EK Love you too!

RT blondie is driving rn but he says

RT he wants u each to venmo him $50 so he can buy a gopro to document our throuples waxing

EK He says everybody take care. Richie.


-

 

Eds isn’t sure exactly what he expects when they finally drive into Derry. Maybe caution tape strung up across the road and traffic cones? Or sandbags maybe, like the ones they used to keep the school gym from flooding during Hurricane Gloria. As they enter, it seems like any other town, any other night. No one is dying, decaying, wielding a knife, or dressed like a clown. There are people walking down the main drag carrying bags of takeout. Other people are trying to parallel park. Flower pots are hanging from lamp posts, and it’s just about dinner time, so everything is bathed in that gold light of a summer evening that makes you want to linger over frozen dessert and shoot the shit on the patio. They find what used to be the D’Angelo’s that Eddie was trying to tell them about last night, and do just that.

“Maybe we should get another bottle to bring with us,” Richie suggests, grabbing their empty wine bottle by the neck. “Maybe that’s where we went wrong last time. We just made a really shitty impression on It by storming into his lair without a hostess gift.”

They’ve tucked themselves into a corner table where the trellis is grown over with hydrangeas that blush the same pink color as Richie and Eddie, each a little sun-kissed and tipsy. Despite everything, Eds can’t help but be charmed. “Do you think river gods that wield the power of life and death go more for whites or reds?”

“Well, being river gods- nothing too dry,” Eddie grins. 

Richie gives the bottle a light swing like a baseball bat. “Shit hits the fan, you could do worse than a broken bottle for a weapon.”

Eddie keeps smiling easily. “It won’t come to that.”

“I wish I had your optimism, dude.” Eds grabs a fork to savagely fish the cherries out of his lemonade. He’s not sure it wasn’t a mistake to come back, but coming back here together feels only about a third as awful as it did last time- and he feels about a quarter awful about most stressful things, so really that’s practically a normal day.

“You have the next best thing,” Eddie finds his hand on the table and gives it a squeeze.

“It’s swag, isn't it?” Richie guesses and steals Eds’ cherry.

Eds shakes his head. “Ugh, you two.”

Whatever’s coming, this time around he has two dorks he loves and who love him that he’ll fight like hell for.

 

-

 

There’s no caution tape at the Townhouse either, when they return to the scene of the crime. Eddie the Optimist says the place has been completely remodeled since his day, and looks great! But even he seems to be keeping an eye out for ghosts around every corner.

They don’t wind up in either of the rooms he or Richie had last summer, which helps to keep this all from feeling too cyclical and inescapable- but they all agree, they aren’t staying for long, anyway. They fold away the cot the Townhouse insisted on providing in addition to their king, mostly to have room to regroup for the quarry. While the sun goes down outside the window, they change some layers, add some layers, put on boots, and put their phones in waterproof pouches, all very seriously. Then Richie flips open Eddie’s suitcase to steal a pair of his socks and comes out holding something entirely else.

“Is this in case you trash your iPhone in the quarry, grandpa?” Richie cradles the old rotary phone from the spare room in both hands.

Eddie looks up from tucking his pants into his boots, unreadable. “I- I know it’s strange. But when we were packing up yesterday, I... just had this impulse to pack it.” He looks quickly to Eds, stuck in place, standing at the foot of the bed. “After what you said. That you heard it ringing.”

All the blood feels like it drains from his face. Eds needs to sit down.

“The ringing last night...” he pants.

Oh, it’s fucking happening again. They were getting closer, weren’t they? And now they were here.

“Plug it in.”

Richie’s eyebrows shoot up. “What?”

Eddie scoots over on the bed to come sit by Eds and rub his back. “Take a deep breath. It’s all right.”

“It’s- I heard it? Right? And you brought it with you- and, and Richie- you picked it out, its-” Eds struggles to make sense of it, to breathe. They all had a hand in getting it here, it can’t just be coincidence. With the same severity he felt like he’d been wounded before, he feels like life depends on this. If not his then someone’s. “Plug it in!”

Richie doesn’t need telling again. He rushes over to the nightstand to figure out what’s going on with the existing phone in their room. He pulls the cord out of its back and pushes it aside to be usurped by their own. Once it’s hooked up he stands back, eyes darting nervously between Eds, still hyperventilating, and the expectation of something worse.

“Uhm. Eddie, you-”

“Yeah, I’ll find his inhaler.”

They each pat a reassuring hand at his shoulder, Eddie on his way to find Eds’ toiletry bag, Richie to the bathroom to fill a glass of water.

The phone rings.

“Ho, shit,” Eds breathes. He twists from his seat and grapples his way along the edge of the bed to pick it up. His heart is hammering in this throat, it’s incredible that he can croak anything out. “Hello?”

He strains, forcing himself to hold his breath so he can hear- maybe too hard. Instead of a voice or static or anything one might expect to hear on the other end of a phone, all he gets is a watery rush from within his own head.

“Are you there?” Eds asks, blindly.

His whole brain sloshes like the glass of water Richie forces into his hand. He hears nothing, nothing at all. Disoriented, he drops the phone back on it’s hook.

“What the fuck just happened?” Richie falls back on the wing chair opposite him. “Wait, don’t answer- drink.”

Eds does, staring out the window behind Richie. The leaves on the tree beyond rattle, going pale as the wind flips them to their underbellies.

Eddie comes to sit beside him on the bed again, having found his inhaler. “If you need it, you’ll have it,” he says gently. While Eds gets a handle on himself, he watches the phone warily. 

“I wasn’t- I couldn’t breathe, I wasn’t ready for it,” Eds apologizes. He hands off his water and trades it for the inhaler.

“I get the feeling they’re gonna call again, dude.” Richie swipes his glass and attempts a sip, giving himself a bath when he is immediately proven right by another shrill ring.

Eds barely lets it ring once before snatching the receiver again. “Who is this?” he demands. “What do you want!?”

There’s still no answer, but at least this time there’s no unsettling, palpable sensation either. 

He hangs up again. For a long moment no one says anything, looking at each other in turns.

The line of Eddie’s mouth has gone very thin. “How many times do we do this? Do we still go to the quarry?” he asks.

A fair question. They’re all wearing jackets and rain boots which is kind of overkill for sitting around indoors not talking on the phone, like a pack of grounded teenagers. 

Eds goes ahead and shrugs back out of his jacket for now. “We could ride this out for at least an hour, right? Maybe next time, don’t hang up, just wait?”

The phone rings again while he’s still tangling with his sleeves, so Richie launches out of his seat this time. He scoops up the phone and white knuckles it.

“Listen up motherfucker! I’ve been in a car with A/C older than I am for two days and you’re freaking everybody the fuck out!” he shouts. His face screws up in frustration, and then he adds, inexplicably- “My fucking boyfriend!”

Eds jerks to look at Eddie. “Uh?”

Richie slams down the receiver. As soon as he does, his eyes blast wide open. “Oh shit.”

“You heard-“

“What did it say?” Eddie stands up and goes to Richie. “Sweetheart...” 

Richie doesn’t blink, doesn’t move his hand from just above the phone. “He- he said. Who is Eddie Kaspbrak?”

Eds can feel, more than see, their attention turning to him, holding him like a squeeze. They can feel it, that he knows more than he’s been telling.

He couldn’t say, because he couldn’t allow himself to entertain the implications. It was Eddie who saved him, and it's Eddie’s face that kickstarted this.

Who is Eddie?

No really! Does Eddie really belong here? Is he interfering with the natural order of things, straining and contorting the world by living in it, making it weak, vulnerable to another monster like before? Is it completely fucking insane to want to keep him here forever? And Eds does. But at what cost?

“It’s uhm, it’s not me he's talking about.” Eds clears his throat and forces himself to look Eddie in the eye.

“Oh god.” Eddie steps back from Richie, like his touch might be toxic. “Me? Do you think he knows about me?”

Eds immediately regrets saying anything, seeing the frightened look on his face. “I’m sorry, Eddie.”

“Oh hell...” He darkens. And Eddie is supposed to be their bright eyed believer.

When the phone rings again, Richie picks it up, much more somber than before. “Uhm. Hello?” He pauses, audibly swallowing. “...Yeah, I do.”

Eddie’s hands knot up in front of his chin as Richie listens intently to whoever is on the other end. “If this is all my fault...”

“Eddie, no,” Eds’ heart breaks. He sticks out a hand to draw Eddie to him, down on the bed. “You didn’t do anything.”

“This is hurting you. I’m hurting you,” he warbles, resisting Eds’ pull. “What if-”

Eds seizes him into a hug. Absolutely fucking not. He shushes him and scruffs the hair at his nape. “You wouldn’t. I know that.”

“Wait,” Richie says, on the phone. “Where are you?...New York? I thought you’d be, you know. In Derry... Dude, of course I know Derry, I’m fucking from Derry.”

“What the fuck, Rich?”

“Uhm, uh. Maybe. Give me a minute,” he says to the phone, then he muffles the receiver against his chest. Richie looks at Eds, eyes wild with alarm. “This dude says he’s had Eddie’s business card for like, years- and he’s been calling the number every time he’s in New York, and he doesn’t know who he is, but he- he fucking knows Derry, man.”

“Years? What?” Eds feels his breathing getting stressed again, but with Eddie held tight to his chest on the verge of tears, he doesn’t want to give him any more reason to fear. He takes a steadying breath. “Richie, he’s only been here-”

“I know, fuck...”

“Does this dude sound like, scary?” Eds grimaces. Richie’s been disconcertingly civil in his phone etiquette, just now. “Like a, uh, a-?”

“Buhhh. Just sorta sounds like a fucking dad, I dunno?” Richie glances down at the phone in his hand like he forgot he was holding it. “He wants to talk to Eddie.”

Eddie lets loose a held breath, sagging in Eds’ arms. “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry if I did this to you, Eds.” He pulls back from his shoulder and sits up straight, hand held out for the phone.

Richie pauses. “I’ll tell him to fuck entirely off, if you want me to.”

Eddie shakes his head and takes the receiver.

He sniffs, and then answers. “Hello. This is Eddie Kaspbrak.” He stares at nothing in particular, brow knitting, frown deepening. “Well you wanted to talk, talk!” Another pause. “Hello?”

“Are you fucking kidding me, right now? Did he ghost you?” Richie grabs the phone back. “What the fuck, dude? I thought you wanted to talk to Eddie?”

Eds frowns at Eddie. “You didn’t hear anything?”

“Nothing.”

“You didn’t hear like, water or anything though, right?”

Eddie shakes his head. “No?”

“Well I hear you just fine!” Richie squawks indignantly. “...How the fuck do you know about Spaghetti?”

“Richie,” Eddie gasps. “-I gave him my card at the restaurant.”

Richie raises a hand. “Yeah hon, maybe stop handing your contact info out to lunatics-”

“No!” Eddie stands up again. “My Richie. My- the Richie I grew up with!”

Eds is fully lost now. “What? The fuck?”

Shouldn’t he- well shouldn’t he be in an entirely Other universe?

Eddie takes the phone from Richie. “Richie, it’s me, it’s Eddie! Your Eddie. I’m here. I- I still can’t hear you,” he shrinks. He looks to their own Richie pleadingly.

“Uh, fuck, right. Shit.” Richie sits Eddie down between him and Eds, taking the phone and keeping the ear piece to himself, and turning the other end out for Eddie.

“Wait, Richie- the Richie here will be your voice-”

Richie scrunches his face and squeezes the bridge of his nose. “We’re all gonna need a CAT scan after this, I can feel it. Okay, okay. He says- ah Jesus is he fucking right - just how many Richie’s you got over there, Spaghetti Man?”

“This is it, this is the most horrifying turn of events possible,” Eds wheezes, trying not to bust a gut. Two fucking Richies trying to tandem a conversation. Good luck, asshole.

Eddie clutches at the other end of the phone, laughing in disbelief. “Wait til you hear how many Eddies there are. Oh, Richie...”

“What in the name of all that is guacamole is going on?” Richie-via-Richie says. It’s a struggle for him not to respond himself, but he goes on for Eddie’s sake. “Why didn’t I remember? How could I forget? You died to save us and I... buried you.”

Eddie takes a sharp breath. “It was It. I- died there, but here It wasn’t dead yet. We think- we think that when It was gone everywhere he must’ve sort of... choked on his last meal.”

“Where’s ‘here’? Can I-,” Richie clears his throat. Eds can feel him tense through the bed springs. “Eddie, he wants to come see you.”

“Richie,” Eddie sniffs. “I wish you could. I- I miss you,” he breaks in a sob. “I never stopped remembering, thinking about you. Oh god...” He chokes and wilts miserably, head held in his hands.

The way he weeps is shattering. Eds scoops an arm around him, desperate to help hold him together. If things had been reversed- if he had woke up in Eddie’s Derry, it would have killed him wondering. The kids in the streets would be all wrong. Everything he’d built in life would be gone. Would he even know what sort of a future he had lost? Not just fucking smartphones and running shoes you can customize online with odometers and microfibers. Fuck all that. Would he know he ever loved his lost Richie? Would he still love Eddie? He was so fucking blind until Richie said something, and he would never have existed. 

He looks at the two of them, needing the answer more than air.

Well of course, his heart pangs. Because if there’s one thing that’s fundamental about reality- one thing It can’t kill, it’s love. He holds tight.

Richie flips the phone back to his own face. “Hey, OG Richie. Uh, quick question- what’s the date?... Cool, cool, same. Okay. Listen,” Richie draws a deep breath. “Eddie’s not like, in your world anymore. We’re somewhere else, somewhere where it’s all the same people but everything with It happened like, thirty years later. And we’ve looked. We’ve checked for older Michael Hanlons in Derry, and other Beverly Marshes, and they don’t exist and- I mean, I know I’m the only Richie Tozier in SAG!” he exclaims. “...Oh don’t tell me you’re only just remembering them. What the fuck.”

Why wouldn’t he know who they were? Then Eds realizes.

“It made them fucking forget again? They killed It, and it still made them forget!?” Eds could fucking spear that clown all over again. “Oh fuck that, that’s fucking bullshit!”

“-Then write all their names down. Google them. Tattoo them fucking Memento style,” Richie snaps at the phone. “Mike Hanlon. Bill Denbrough. Beverly Marsh. Ben Hanscom. You need them. Stanley Uris, too, he came back here, so maybe- no- I guarantee they’ll want to find you-”

Eddie looks up. “Richie,” he bats at the phone for Richie to let him speak, but gets caught up on finding his own words. His shoulders heave with a fortifying breath. “I love you,” he says. “I love all of you so much. Do you hear me? I love you. I need you- all of you- to be loved. So I need you to find them for me. Bring them back together.”

There’s a long pause. Richie bites his lip, nodding.

“But what about you, Spaghetti Man?” he asks for the other Richie. He turns to get a good look at Eddie and speaks into the receiver to answer something the other Richie must ask. “No. No, he’s not frowning at that, I promise.”

There are a million emotions splashed across Eddie’s face, right now- complicated ones. Probably even more complicated than the ones Eds can imagine, putting himself in this position. There are tears too, but certainly nothing so simple as a frown.

“Maybe, maybe I could talk to him? Try to explain.” Eddie asks. He starts to reach for the phone. “Uhm.” He hesitates. “Maybe alone, if you don’t mind.”

Richie balks for just a moment. “Uhm, yeah, of course,” he says. “Uh? Hey OG- Eddie wants to talk to you alone for a bit-”

“I’ll text you,” Eddie promises Eds in a whisper.

Eds presses a consoling kiss to Eddie’s temple. “Sure, Dreamy.”

They unrope themselves from the cord and stand in front of Eddie, cradling the phone between his shoulder and ear like he never lost the habit. It was so recent for him, his native time, and the people who belong to it. He knows Richie is thinking the same thing.

“Eddie-” he wavers.

Eds takes Richie’s hand. “C’mon, c’mon dude. It’s okay. Let’s go. Let’s go down to the lounge.”

Richie lets himself be led away, out of the room while Eddie returns to the call. “Hey, I’m here. I know you won’t be able to say everything you want, Trashmouth. For once in your life, you’re just gonna have to listen to me...”

 

-

 

There’s another couple loitering in the Townhouse’s lounge when they get down there. They’ve got terrible one-size-fits-all haircuts and the tell tale fashion of hunters biding their time with fishing and ATVs. They stare at Eds and Richie coming down the stairs holding hands. But Eds figures he can run them off. They could use a little privacy, too.

“Hey, baby, c’mere,” he beckons Richie. He pulls his hand, slides his grip up his arms, and wraps around his neck to kiss him right there in the middle of the lobby. There was a time they would have been afraid of this, he wants to remind Richie. If they can be unafraid of one thing, they can leapfrog right on to the next. “It’s gonna be okay.”

Every wrinkle in Richie’s forehead is working overtime. “Is it?”

Eds tip-toes up to smooth his brow with another soft kiss. “Come sit.” He glances over his shoulder and yes, those bumpkins are clutching at their belongings, getting a taste of Fight Or Flight for themselves. Oh, Maine. 

Richie nods so tragically, Eds drops another kiss on his cheek before taking his hand again. They aim themselves towards a love seat, and Richie wastes no time cozying into his arm. 

“Well. I’d rather this than another spider,” Eds says cautiously, watching the other couple depart.

“How?” Richie chokes. “He might go home.”

“Richie.” Eds turns into him and puts a hand on his knee. “We don’t even know that’s possible. Don’t get-”

“Well, who knows!?” Richie pulls off his glasses and rubs his eyes. “There’s some kind of permeability thing going on right? With the anniversary? Like another cycle? You started having these dreams and they brought us here. And I think it’s like- Derry is some kind of portal. And it was plugged up for a long time by It, but now maybe there are times where it’s travelable. How else do you think Eddie physically got here?”

“I literally never think that hard about this, dude,” Eds admits. “Every time Mike gets into it, I just check out and stare at his face and hear saxophones. Like, demonstratively, the less I think about how I came back to life, the better I sleep.”

Like this is 2+2, Richie scoffs as he puts back on his glasses and waves him off. “Well, that’s just electricity. Your body didn’t go anywhere.” He taps his head and snaps his fingers. “This? Is all fucking electricity when you get down to it. Your life, your brain, dreams, a fucking phone call?”

Eds brrs his lips to the tune of the sax riff in ‘Baker Street’.

“This is basic science Eds, oh my fucking god!” Richie throws his head back in agony. “The man who discovers six new biological terrors a day doesn’t know shit about electricity...”

“I have no fucking clue what you’re talking about, do you know what you're talking about?” Eds checks.

Glaring, Richie huffs and holds up a finger on each hand. “I think it’s like, the two of you- you and Eddie- are halves of an antenna. When you were apart and not in position, the antenna was broken, but trying to receive a signal. It hurt you like any shock would.” He then stacks his two fingers into one line. “Then you straightened your shit out, and you came here, and voilà!” He throws up jazz hands. “We get the signal.”

Has sex conditioned him to like it too much when Richie runs his mouth, or he is he actually starting to make sense? Eds tries to wrap his head around applying what Richie’s saying to everything that happened.

“Oh my god, and the radio,” he remembers. “I thought I heard that voice in the radio-”

“Mr. Moviefone up there?” Richie points upstairs.

“Yeah. Why are you the only one who can really hear him?”

Richie shrugs. “Same frequency? Maybe if you guys are the hardware, we’re the software?”

If he’s gonna keep being like this, all smart, Eds is either going to jump him or need another drink. There was unattended booze around here last time, right? Eds pushes himself up out of the love seat, on a mission.

When he’s cooled down some and found two glasses and whiskey he comes back to Richie, still looking troubled. He takes the glass from Eds and swirls it rather than drinks it, his expression churning just as anxiously.

Eds sighs. “What do you know about him? I’ve never really asked what he was like.” 

Of all of Eddie’s past life, he always assumed it was among the sorest subjects. Eddie had known what he was for so much longer, like Richie here. He would have been wide awake for every painful moment of repression and bigotry that passed between him and his first Richie- inadvertent or outright... God, the shit Eds said to Richie, in their own time. Add that to the laundry list of things that gave him insomnia.

Sitting next to Richie again is reassuring, at least. Probably for Richie too. He finally takes a sip.

“Welp,” Richie pops his lips. “He’s taller than me, apparently.”

Eds can’t help it, he snorts. “Those fucking taller boomer Losers, what the fuck!”

“I know! Buncha post-war overgrown atomic freakzillas, they were all smoking a pack a day at ten-”

“-And we had better nutrition-”

“And still!” Richie raises his glass in an anti-toast.

“God.” Eds sips his whiskey. “What else?”

“Uhh. I gather his comedy style was more free form/improv, whereas I'm more like, observational/surreal-”

“I’m definitely not asking about genre, Richie.”

“Well, I dunno,” Richie shakes his head. “It sounds like he’s not as much of an asshole as me. He’s lovable.”

“You’re not that big an asshole,” Eds relents. “And you’re definitely lovable.” Very pointedly, Eds cuddles himself closer to Richie and lays his head at his shoulder. “Dick.”

Richie turns his nose into his hair with an appreciative sigh and kiss. “I’m still not his Richie that he loved forever, though.”

Eds lays his free hand at Richie’s chest, because he needs to speak directly to Richie’s heart, which knows better. “I’m your Eddie that you loved forever and you didn’t drop him for me. You know it doesn’t work like that. Not for us.”

“I hope not,” Richie says, covering his hand.

They sit for a long while, and finally Eds’ waterproof baggied phone gets a text from Eddie at 10:25.

DE Thank you.

DE I think I’ve explained everything I can.

“Come on, Richie.”

When they get back up to the room, Eddie has shed his jacket and boots, and sits in the middle of the bed, hunched over the phone. He twists the cord in his hand lazily, recounting a story about Wendy. He doesn’t seem nearly as drawn and ill at ease as he had when they left. Eds might even describe him as cheerful.

“-had a Snapchat streak going for fifty-four days until I lost track of my phone charger in a checked bag. She’s a sweet kid so I think she forgave me right away, but I’m still kicking my own can! Hey Richie- hang on,” Eddie says to the phone, then looks up at them, returned.

“Can you hear him now?” Eds asks. Beside him, Richie puts a hand to his face, shielding himself.

“No,” Eddie smiles. “But- I can always imagine what he’d say.”

“Ugh, fuck,” Richie groans.

Okay, this is not something they should drag out. Not for Richie’s sake, not for any of their sakes.

“Eddie,” Eds licks his lips, trying to formulate his thoughts. “We were talking downstairs, about how it might be possible for you to go back to your own, uhm- whatever the fuck it is. And we don’t want to make that decision for you, or force it, but like, there’s probably a closing window on-”

Richie wracks a sob into his hand.

“He’s pretty upset about it so, uhm, we should probably talk.”

Eddie drops the phone to the bedspread and immediately starts climbing off the bed toward them. He takes hold of Richie’s wet cheeks, shaking his head. “Oh, Richie. No, no, sweetheart.”

“We can go to the quarry,” Richie blubbers. “We can just see- maybe there’s a way- with the water- if you want-”

Before he can keep arguing against himself, Eddie kisses him, starting to cry himself. “I don’t, shh, no,” he presses to Richie.

Eds gives them both a rub on the back and a kiss on the shoulder, then goes to get the phone. He sits facing the window and watches the green night sky.

“Hello? Uhm, it’s the other Eddie again. The one who- you can try and say something to see if I’ll hear you but I’m not expecting it-” Eds waits, listening hard, but there’s no acknowledgement. He’ll just have to take it on faith. “Yeah. Uhm. I don’t know if you know I heard you in my dreams? Probably not. But I- I don’t know what he told you about us.” Oh geez. Hi Richie, I’m alive and gay and shacking up with our Gen Xer doppelgangers, really making up for lost time. Eds clears his head of the inessentials. “But I love Eddie. I love him so much, and I would do anything for him because he already did just- everything for me, man. If we can, we’ll find a way for you to talk to him again, I promise. But please believe me. I know how special he is and I’ll take care of him.”

Without hearing a response he doesn’t know what more to say than that. He thinks maybe- maybe he’s having another one of his visceral attacks again, because he feels sort of chokey and wet- but it’s just his face doing what a face does when it’s overflowing with feeling, this time.

He lets the receiver go and there’s a hand on his shoulder then. When he turns Eddie is sliding into his lap.

“Darling, thank you,” he says. As comfortably as ever before, his arm winds around Eds, and he scratches into his hair. The only difference from one their usual embraces is the still damp cheek against his forehead.

Eds puts his arms around Eddie’s waist. “I didn’t do anything?”

“Of course you did.” Eddie nuzzles him. “I never thought I’d get to tell them I’m all right. I already made my peace with being here. I want to be here, with you and Richie-”

“Yeah?”

“You know I do,” Eddie kisses his head. “You two jamokes are gonna have to find another spider clown if you want to get rid of me.”

“Shh,” Eds chins up to kiss Eddie back.

It’s all good. The same as before. Better, even. This might be gearing up to be the best kiss they’ve ever shared, he’s so fucking relieved-

“Guys,” Richie interrupts.

“Oh my god, I let you make out-”

Richie rolls his eyes. “You might wanna know, I can barely hear him now.”

Eds twists to look at the alarm clock on the nightstand. “Oh, shit. You might be right about the annual cycle thing, Rich. It’s like, an hour to midnight.”

“What?” Eddie looks to Richie, holding the phone to his face.

He sighs into a sympathetic smile. “I think you’re gonna have to say your goodbyes. Until next year. I really think we can do this again, but like, on purpose.”

“Really!?” Eddie perks.

Richie dips his head, addressing just the other Richie. “Yo, OG. Call again, a few days before this date... Maybe. Yeah. We’ll come back to Derry, and you know...” Richie snickers. “Yeaas, Doctor,” he wheezes in an unmistakable Igor. “Recreate the con- dee- shuns.”

“I hate this,” Eds grits his teeth. And he’s not even hearing both sides of it.

“Do you?” Eddie smirks at him. 

“He says- I’ll find those other guys and talk you up so high you’ll need a spacesuit.”

“Richie, tell him I’m-”

“Go ahead-” Eds half-pushes, half-lets Eddie off his lap.

He arranges himself with Richie and the phone like before, clinging tight to both. “I’m really happy here, Richie.”

Richie snorts. “He says- it sounds like you got a coupla hot tomatoes there, Spaghetti Man.”

“Are you? Are you happy?”

“He’s so happy he got to talk to you, honey.”

“We’ll talk again,” Eddie says, urgent. “I know it-”

“If you believe it, he does-”

“-and when you find the others,” Eddie insists, “-tell them I love them.”

“Tell them yourself!”

Eddie’s jaw gets a little wobbly and he wipes his nose with his wrist. “Richie... I wish I could hear you.”

Richie takes a breath. “Eddie, I can barely hear him...”

This is it then. Eds reaches around Eddie, all the way to Richie so they can bundle him in.

He’s sniffing back tears, gone fully putty between the two of them. “I love you,” Eddie says, cupping the receiver so tenderly, he might kiss it.

There’s really only one polite answer to that, Eds has learned. Whether Richie was really able to hear him say it through the fading connection or not, he doesn’t doubt that it’s true.

“I love you, too.”

Eddie smiles to himself, despite the trickle down his cheeks.

After a long moment, Richie clears his throat and slowly lowers the phone to his lap, and then hangs it up entirely. They hug Eddie between them, for a long time. When Eds lays his head on his shoulder so that it’s facing the window he can see that the night sky has deepened back to its normal black. If that means what he thinks it means, this cycle is over. It’s nice to think, though- one year or thirty- as long as they’re here it’s never too late, is it?

When their collective breathing has evened out again, Richie lets go of his arm. He eases away from their huddle enough to see both their faces. “Everybody okay?”

Eddie nods. “Yeah,” he sighs. “If you’ll excuse me a moment, I could use some water.”

He slips away to the bathroom and Eds gets hold of Richie’s elbow again. “You okay?”

“Oh, totally weirded out,” Richie says, eyes bulging. “I don’t know how you cope with the whole doppelganger thing-”

Eds scoffs. “I definitely didn’t at first! I lost my shit for weeks. You remember when you told me!”

“At least no one's conspiring to commit identity fraud, this time. Fuck, you’re a badass for not totally losing your marbles.”

“You know what? I’m gonna just take the compliment.”

“Jesus, Eds,” Richie melts into him, wrapping both arms around the one of Eds’ and sagging into his side.

“Yeah...”

He twitches to look up at Eds. “You’re okay, right?”

“Me?” Eds could laugh, but he’s pretty tired and starting to crash now that all sign of danger has gone. “Compared to yesterday, I’m like ninety-eight percent sure I’m gonna live through the night, I’m fucking killin’ it right now.”

Richie snorts at his shoulder. “Hey, Happy Killing It-iversary, by the way.”

“We should have cake.”

“We do still have the shit for ‘smores...”

The bathroom door creaks back open behind them and Eddie crawls on to the bed and lays on his side. He’s done away with his sweater and khakis and looks heavy lidded and ready to pass out, but he’s smiling.

“We could still head down for a campfire but at this point you might have to carry me.”

Richie touches his nose. “Not it.”

“N- damnit!” Eds turns around to flop on the bed too. “No offense, Eddie.”

Eddie lays back and chuckles as Eds comes over to smush a kiss to his nearest body part- in this case his knee. “And I was just gushing about what gentlemen you are.”

“We didn’t tell you to lie!” Richie snorts. He bellies over to join them, kicking his heels and propping up his head with both hands. “So, uh, you told your little mid-century mister about us, huh?”

“Wipe that smirk off your face.”

Richie can’t. “I’m just proud of you-”

“He’s proud of his dick game,” Eds corrects.

“I just want OG Richie to know we’re ballers in every reality!”

Eddie yawns. “I’m sure he’d like you both. Now boots off the bed, fellas. Then come cuddle me.”

 

-

 

The next morning, Richie wakes them up, banging through the door to their room with a tray from the continental breakfast downstairs. It’s light and just this side of muggy, where you can tell there's either a body of water nearby, or it stormed overnight. Eds misses their apartment’s central air, but the birds are chirping outside which you don’t get so much in a Chicago highrise, so that’s nice. It’s a nice morning. Eddie’s face across the pillows is the first he sees when he opens his eyes, but he doesn’t feel anything extraordinary except for love.

“Wausagey wausagey, eggs and sausagey!” Richie bleats. “...They sadly did not have bacon.”

Eds sits up and pulls his legs out of the way for Richie to settle himself and his tray at the foot of the bed. “Do they have turkey sausage?”

“These barbarians? You kidding?”

“The restaurant formerly known as D’angelo’s had brunch,” Eddie reminds them, stretching his arms overhead. He steals a piece of sausage from Richie’s plate anyway, before getting out of bed.

After their various trips for morning refreshment they regroup in bed, where Richie is being extremely obvious. Having slept to recover from the more distressing parts of last night and the general strain of their trip, he’s back in his usual, flirtatious form. He forgoes the pretense of dressing after his shower entirely and lolls around the bed in a towel while they sit at the foot and chat. Anytime one of them leans close enough, he’s walking his finger tips up their spine and all but batting his eyelashes.

Ignoring him, Eddie shoots Eds a look. “So, what do you want to do today, Eds?”

“What were you thinking we do, Mr. Driver?”

“Mmm, indeed!” Richie aggressively lounges, trying to look appealing. Me! Do me!?

“Well we’ve gotta get this pumpkin back to Chicago by 7 o’clock Sunday, but we could spend another night here if we get early enough starts driving back. Do a longer day tomorrow, stop overnight in Ohio. Or-”

“Or?” Richie purrs.

“Or we could put him on a plane in Boston,” Eddie continues.

“Then we could waste some time in Boston,” Eds points out.

“Here, or there,” Eddie shrugs, demure. “What would we do?”

“Something fun.”

“Hey, you know what’d be fun?” Richie grins.

Eddie thumbs out the window. “We could go walk on the tow path by the canal.”

“Oh yeah,” Eds leans towards Eddie. “It’d be nice to get a little physical activity in the middle of all this driving, wouldn’t it?”

Eddie leans in, too. “Very nice.”

“If you want some exercise...” Richie splays out his naked arms.

“Or you know what, Dreamy?” Eds leans more, until they’re just a breath apart.

Eddie kisses his cheek and draws the tip of his nose at the bone. It's shiver worthy. “What, dear?” 

“I’ll lend you a pair of sneakers and we can go for a run on the school track.”

“You guys are so mean!” Richie whines.

Eds tosses a look over his shoulder. “You don’t have to come unless you want to.”

Eddie giggles and shifts, turning a knee up onto the bed. Eds is close behind as he crawls up the bed, up Richie’s body. They lay on either side of him, each brushing their fingertips around his chest in lazy circles. Eds catches hold of Eddie’s hand over Richie’s anxiously rising belly then guides their joined touch down to his towel.

“Do you wanna come, Rich?” Eds nibbles at his ear.

“And you’re hot. Mean and hot.”

Eddie rubs at him, hand slipping under Eds’. “Didn’t answer the question, Richie.”

But they don’t let him. Eds already has his tongue in Richie’s mouth, while Eddie starts unwrapping him.

“You’ve been such a sweetheart,” he says, fondly. “Taking care of Eds by bringing him here. Using your voice for me. So good.”

One of Richie’s knees knocks Eds as his legs fall open. He breaks free from their kiss and watches as Eddie kneels into the white area of the undone towel, like a spotlight. “You want me to get you the lube, buddy?” he asks, helpfully.

“Sure,” Eddie smiles, pressing it to Richie’s knee. He pets down his inner thigh, from knee to ass, and follows his fingers with his lips. “But first... I think...”

“Oh fuck,” Richie realizes as Eds get out of bed to go pay their toiletry bags a visit.

He rounds up the necessary paraphernalia in the bathroom and drops it on the foot of the bed beside Eddie. Not that he notices, with his tongue buried in Richie’s ass- and not that Eds minds. The hungry little noises they both make are thanks enough, as open and undone as Richie’s towel. Eds bends to kiss Eddie’s neck before he climbs back into bed alongside them.

“Look at you,” he hums to Richie. He’s got his eyes closed and a hand sunk into his hair, not pulling, just stuck in the quicksand of sensation. “And he only just started,” Eds tsks. “Think you can hold off if I play with you?”

Richie puffs. “Hold off how long?”

Eds takes hold of Richie’s knee, pushing it up to his chest and keeping him spread. “Til you get everything you want, baby. You’ve been so good.” 

“Uh, uhm, maybe?” Richie says, uncertain. His eyes squeeze tighter. “I want so much. I want you so much.”

”We know, baby,” Eds kisses his shoulder. He gnaws at the contour, where the damp of his shower still clings in the hallows between bone and muscle. All of him, the strong and the delicate, still whole and unbroken. Thank god. Eds doesn’t know what he’d do if this hadn’t gone so well. “We know how bad you want us,” Eds says, low. “We want you too. Can’t stand not to have you.”

“And you’d never leave me?” Richie is absolutely one to fish for compliments, Eds is used to that, but the sheer vulnerability voiced by this question staggers him.

Eds turns Richie’s face to him, and his eyes flutter open. His brow draws up and he looks less than smug. Eds wants him smug. He doesn’t want Richie to have any doubt about this. “Never,” Eds swears. “We want you forever. And we’re gonna show you.”

Richie whimpers. “Please.”

They kiss, open mouthed and breathing heavy. Richie gasps as Eddie eats him out, sucking the air right out of Eds, sealing them tight then gasping apart again. Eds gives him his lip to suck on instead of his own as Eddie fits knuckle after knuckle- then his own fingers. Richie sucks two of them, forcing his hot tongue between and then tightening his lips to squeeze them out, over and over. His chin is dripping when Eds pulls his fingers away for good so he kiss him again.

“So eager,” he tells Richie, using his wet fingers to toy with the head of his dick. “What do you want, baby? Any way you want it. Against the wall. On top. Pounded over the bed,” he kisses Richie between every option. “Just like this, with Eddie sitting on your face, maybe? He must have your ass open and begging by now...”

Richie makes a strangled sound. “Both of you. Fuck me on both ends.”

“You got it.” Eds starts kissing him again, thriving on his gasps as he teases back and forth between giving Richie’s dick a pull and rubbing his nipples. “You like that? A little bit of everything? Everybody gets a piece of your ass, you get teased, you get fucked, you gag on some pretty dick...”

“Richie buffet,” he nods. “Oh!”

Eds glances down between Richie’s legs, where Eddie is twisting two fingers into him. He grins with every tooth as Richie moans, then dives back in to shove his tongue in between. Talk about coming to Derry at the risk of being eaten alive.

“That feel good, Rich?”

“So good,” he wheezes.

“You can come if you want to- I’ll flip you over and fuck you senseless anyway, you know I will.”

“Oh god, fuck me fuck me now,” he begs.

Eddie pants a laugh, still buried in Richie’s ass. He pulls back and wipes his face on his thigh, leaving a streak for his cheek and nose, each. “You heard the man,” he says to Eds. “Let’s get this sweet thing taken care of.” But he can’t resist one more lick before he gets up off his elbows to stand at the foot of bed

Eds watches Eddie adjust himself, grasping at the crotch of his pants, and reaches down to do the same for himself. Fuck, he’s so hard, and he hasn’t touched it.

“Richie, look what you did,” Eds chides, pinching his nipple, because his shirts too obscuring to play with his own. “Dreamy, come show Richie how bad you want him.”

“Please, Eddie, honey,” Richie looks up.

Eddie raises an eyebrow at Eds. “You too, dear. Unless you’re only smuggling a leftover banana from breakfast, over there.”

They both start grappling with their pants then, opening their flies and shoving their underwear down so Richie can have his pick. They each reveal a hard, bobbing dick so ready and willing, he doesn’t know where to look- especially as they trade places, with Eds climbing off the bed and Eddie about to get in.

“Wait, wait,” Richie pauses them, when they’re both momentarily standing at the foot. He scoots down the bed and takes one of their dicks in each hand. “I gotta-”

His mouth envelops Eds first, making him hot and wet, then Eddie. They come in closer together for the inevitable, when Richie tries to stuff them both in his mouth at once. Not the most elegant of tasks, but it gives Eds the chance to take Eddie into his arms and kiss him, too. 

“Unn, I love tasting you on him, Rich.” He loves it when he can read the sign of them on each other. This is a no-brainer, of course, he just watched Eddie stick his tongue up Richie’s ass- but he loves to put his hands on Eddie underneath one of Richie’s shirts, or to have Richie hum a love song to him that Eddie has been overplaying. “I love being in love with you,” he tells them.

“Mmm,” Eddie kisses him in agreement. “Me too, darling.”

They suck and bite at each other’s lips and push at the rest of their clothes, barely worn this morning before they’re already coming off again. As they become bare, Richie winds his arms around each of their backs, trapping his face in the corner made by their stomachs, and kissing indiscriminately- Eddie’s dick, Eds, belly, hip. His glasses nearly pop off in the haphazard huddle.

“I just love you so much,” he groans, hugging them tight. “What if you never came back? What if you were both over there driving OG crazy instead of me, and I never got to tell you- you never got to really hear me? I love you. I love both of you.” He sniffs and looks up between them, fully puppy-dog eyed.

Eddie drops a hand to the back of Richie’s neck and bends to sit with him, first. “We hear you, Richie. Now listen to us.” He kisses Richie softly, soothing him and drawing him into his lap.

Eds crowds up behind him, wrapping an arm at his chest and pressing his own to Richie’s back. Can he feel his heart beating? The one that Richie had in safekeeping for so long, so loyally, perhaps so permanently that he couldn’t be untethered from him because- “We belong together,” he tells Richie. “All the ways it could have gone- this is how it is.”

“This is how I want it,” Eddie adds. “Wherever you are.”

As they kiss, Eds dotes on Richie’s neck. All the soft curls at the back of his head. The strong slope of tendon that draws from just below his ear to his shoulder, tensing and releasing as he moves, rocking in Eddie’s lap. Before long, they blend from reassuring touches to urgent grasping, and Richie starts to push back down to the bed. As they lower, Eds follows the line of Richie’s back with his lips, down, between those powerful shoulders, to the downy hair at the small of his back, then the cleavage of his ass. He finds himself crouched and lapping at Richie’s already slippery hole while the others embrace.

“Fuck, Eds,” Richie groans, pushing back. “Ugh, hello!”

Eddie’s hands appear on either side, prying him apart, making it all the easier to urge the muscle open. “You didn’t forget he was back there, did you?” he teases Richie as Eds tongue fucks him. “My big sweet lug,” he kisses.

Eds replaces his tongue with his fingers and Richie really goes blank.

“Uhhuh I’m your- hkk!"

Now that his mouth’s free, Eds kisses Eddie’s knuckles appreciatively for the assist. “Hold that big dumb ass open for me so I can come fuck it, mmm.”

“My pleasure.”

“Ohggfuck.”

“Can you take it, Richie? Our big tough guy, ready to crack some skulls with a fucking wine bottle, shouting at haunted phones?”

“So tough,” Eddie giggles.

“I can do it. I want you so bad, gimme-“

Eds gives Richie’s ass a slap. “Sure you’re tough enough to dicked down on both ends, big guy?” He grins at Richie’s unbridled grumble. “Or is both of us at once too much for you?”

“No, no, oh Jesusfuck, get in me. And can you both fuck me? Please? Just this once?”

“That’s up to Eddie, if he wants sloppy seconds. Eddie?”

It’s a rare mood that’ll get Eddie on top, but they’ve all been through an emotional Cuisinart the past twenty-four hours.

“As long as you leave me some gas in the tank,” Eddie sighs a laugh. “Why not?”

Even though Eds has pulled his fingers away, Richie moans bottomlessly, like he’s already being fucked. “Ugggyess. Eddie, use all the gas in my tank!”

“Gross,” Eds protests. “‘Gas’ already has a meaning in the context of your ass. No riffing.”

“No ripping either.”

“Eddie!” Not him too!

Richie snickers, spurred on by Eddie. “Fill ‘er up, bio-diesel- I’m going green. This wagon’ll blow your hair back, Eds! You know me, I’m a real guzzler.”

Speaking of which. Eds glares at them as he rips open a condom. “Eddie, would you mind shutting our little guzzler up already?”

Eddie has laughed himself completely pink, but he nods and slithers backwards up the bed. He gets a grip on himself, a little sticky looking at the tip, and strokes. As he does, Richie’s head charms like a snake, following the motion. “Come get it, big guy,” he grins. 

Both Eddie and Richie lick their lips, and then finally he pounces, swallowing Eddie down and sticking his rear up to do so, near where Eds wants it.

“Look at you two,” he says, giving himself a slicking.

Eddie sits back on one hand, knees trembling open and close around Richie. His other hand tenses in Richie’s hair as he sucks. “Ah! Sweetheart. Your mouth- ahh-”

“I could just stand back and jack it, you’re so fucking gorgeous.”

Not interested in that particular offer, Richie reaches back for him, grasping.

“Don’t worry, Richie.” Eds rubs his back some, until the heels of his hands find just the right spot on his hips to take hold. “I gotta have that ass. Come here.”

“Mmff, mmf, mmmmm,” Richie grunts as Eds pushes in with three rolls of his hips.

Eddie’s head falls back at the humming buzz of his mouth. “God, Eds, make him do that again.”

They get into an energetic, unsustainable loop like that, Eds targeting Richie, getting worked up, Richie moaning around his mouthful, Eddie twitching like he can’t take it but pleading for more. It always goes quick like this, with them feeding off each other. This is why they often prefer to pair and share, rather than try to get all three of them engaged at once- but its fucking good while it lasts.

“We’re so fucking lucky we have you, Richie. You think anybody else is batshit crazy enough to handle two of us? No, baby. Just you,” Eds huffs, thighs smacking to Richie’s, balls aching. “Look at you. Mmnn. Taking- ah- two dicks like that. You’re so- fucking hot. So tight. You’ve got Eddie practically crying, you suck him so good. Gfff. You’re g-gonna make me come. Squeeze that stupid hot ass, Rich, I love it. Show me you want it. Ahgghhgod. Oh, ohfuckbaby-” Eds rants, swearing and humping until he comes so hard he loses traction on the floor and face plants between Richie’s sweaty shoulder blades.

It’s quite a contrast to the slow, steady way Eddie runs the show. When Eds is capable of moving again he lays with Richie strewn across him chest to chest, and strokes his hair. He props up Richie’s tiring hips with the height of his own, and welcomes Eddie between both their legs. He feels like he’s slotted in a toaster with Richie’s dense, warm weight on top of him, and he’s not so used to winding up as the bottom most slice thus far in their relationship- but still. Delicious.

“Shh, baby,” he coos and combs Richie’s hair. “We got you.”

“You’re suh-so good to me,” Richie whimpers.

“Well, Eddie is, anyway,” Eds teases.

“Pshh!” says Eddie. He has one hand braced on Eds’ shoulder, and he rubs his thumb at him. “You’re both sweet. Couple of softies. Nothing I love like having you in my arms-“

“Your top secret super jacked arms,” Eds chuckles.

“Quiet, you,” Eddie smirks. He folds himself to Richie’s back and kisses his neck, gently rocking into him. “I can’t believe how good you feel, Richie. It’s like I’m feeling everything about you. Inside and out. You feel so loving. And strong...” He chuckles to himself. “And you definitely make me feel funny.”

Eds smiles, knowing that Richie-induced bellyflip feeling well. He scratches his head affectionately. “He’s good at that. Never funnier than when I’m with you, Rich.”

“Mmm, true,” Eddie hums, deep and rhythmic as his love making. 

In. Mmmgood. Out, dragging and making Richie shake. Mmmyes. In deep again-

Richie gulps so hard, Eds can feel his throat move against his chest. “Do you feel like- mmm- you're gonna cry?”

“Maybe my vision’s a little blurrier,” Eddie laughs. 

“I’m either- mmm- gonna cry or I’m gonna come- mmm! Or, both,” Richie trembles.

“Both,” Eds urges, sneaking a hand between them. He wraps his hand around Richie, already wet against his stomach, and lets him just fuck into it at will. “That’s it, baby.”

Richie finds Eds’ face in his love-addled haze and lips a row of kisses from his ear to his mouth. His soft, aching noises echo there until Eds is making them, too.

“So good for us, sweet thing.” Eddie heaves back up to his arms, pushing hard into Richie as he does.

“Ah, Eddie, please-"

He adjusts, always so attuned to them. “Like- that?”

“Hhuh!”

He repeats this deep, steady thrust for Richie, and by the third time his chin hits his own chest in effort, it doesn’t disconnect again. “Oh, Richie, love-“

Richie tenses too, angling himself to just take it. “Yeah! Honey, more- ffffuck- so- so good, ah! Please-“

“Richie, Richie-

“So fucking gorgeous,” Eds pants. The red flush of him, twice fucked, the jumble of his expressions, broadcasting every peak of sensation as he falls over the edge, the shining tears in his eyes... Eds takes over control of his hand on Richie’s dick and he starts spilling, dripping down and pooling on him in hot bursts.

“Gghha, ah, guys- fuh-uck,” Richie sobs, swaying on all fours. With every jerk of his dick he tips forward until he’s riding out the rest of Eddie’s orgasm with his face buried in Eds’ neck.

He catches the combined, ecstatic weight of them greedily. “Hff! Love you,” he wheezes and wraps as much of them in his arms as he can. “Like, fucking crazy amounts, Jesus.”

Bent to Richie’s nape, Eddie lets out a windy exhale and breathes back in sharp through his nose. “God,” he swallows. “Was that all right?”

Richie can only nod and sort of growl, totally spent and mashed into Eds’ neck. “M’loved. Verrmuch.”

Eddie kisses his head. “I’m so happy we can make you feel that way, my love.” He kisses Eds on the cheek, too. “Together.”

Lovely as the sentiment is, It’s getting to be a little too much physical togetherness, so Eds topples their pile, depositing Richie into the middle of the bed between them. Whatever the plural Eddie foodstuff metaphor, he’s their favorite filling. Sweet and occasionally unsavory. Always a treat. They stroke the least sticky parts of him and nearly give Richie a perm, curling his hair around their fingers.

Richie keeps his eyes closed for a bit, just taking it in. “Mmmm boy, put the Do Not Disturb sign on my dick, I am out for the night.”

Eds cranes his neck to check the nightstand, where the alarm clock sits crammed between two phones, in its own little threesome. “It’s not even eleven!”

“Is the sign on the door?” Eddie wonders, eyes open wide in alarm. This place is so old and janky, remodeled or not, it’s definitely not soundproofed. “I certainly didn’t think to hang it...”

“I did, after breakfast,” Eds pats his arm.

“What, you didn’t want housekeeping getting in on this triple X action? Spice things up?”

“‘Knock knock, housekeeping’ is only funny when Eddie does it,” Eds mumbles, snuggling his face back into Richie’s chest. “I’m not trying to get a fucking lifetime ban from the only hotel in town because we gave some poor maid a heart attack with our mid-morning threesome. We need to come back next year.”

“Do you think we just had the Townhouse’s first threesome?” Richie asks. “I mean- besides you, me, and your mom, Eds.”

Eds nips his teeth at Richie, but seriously considers his question for a moment. “Ehh, I dunno. Our physics teacher junior year seemed like kind of a pimp.”

“Gay threesome, probably,” Richie decides. “What three homos of age would ever come to Derry recreationally? We deserve a historic landmark.”

“That’s not a nice thing to call Eddie.”

Eddie giggles. “I don’t mind. As long as you come lay a wreath on me.”

“That’s what we should do today,” Richie says. “Lots of ceremony and flowers, some photo ops and fancy music...”

Eds winks across to Eddie. “Maybe next year.”



-

 

There's something kind of solidifying about returning from a long, out of town trip. Their Chicago apartment welcomes them back with it's elevator muzak, central air, and sheets that already smell like them. However far away they originated, however long it took to get here- it really is home, with all their favorite things, and most favorite people.

When they unpack, Eddie's phone once again sits on the shelf in it's home in the spare room. It has a cord to the jack in the wall now, just in case it feels like ringing. That is- if they can hear it over the keyboard.