The Neibolt house sinks into the earth so fast it’s like there’s still something down there sucking it in – Like a Slurpee up a straw, supplies Richie’s voice in Eddie’s head.
Down a straw, he corrects. Or like Richie shaking himself free of the Deadlights haze, his inhalation so sharp Eddie still wonders how much dust and mold and god knows what else he’s inhaled, in particular. There’s a lot of dust in the air, on their clothes, settling on their faces. Eddie can taste it in the back of his throat with Richie’s hand still closed tight around his wrist.
He isn’t exactly sure how you’re supposed to feel after narrowly surviving a near-death experience. Maybe he’s just had too many more than the average number of close calls, but still, this is a little different. He came close enough to getting impaled that his chest twinges just thinking about it.
That aside, though, all Eddie really feels is tired. He’s only as unsettled as anyone is when they leave a place to find that the sun has risen or set since they last saw it. Like he’s just been to the theater and seen a particularly fucked-up movie. He needs time to sit with it.
“All in favor of getting as far from this fuckin’ pothole as possible?” Richie raises his own hand and looks at Eddie first.
Eddie lets the corners of his mouth lift at the same time as his hand – the one Richie isn’t holding, although that slight motion seems to shake Richie out of his own adrenaline-fueled stupor nonetheless. He lets go and looks away without saying anything else.
Eddie kind of wishes he would, but his silence stretches on until they’re all lined up at the quarry.
It’s funny – Eddie remembers the water being a lot farther down.
Richie turns to him, already toeing off his shoes without bothering to untie them. “Looks nice and brown down there, huh?”
Eddie wrinkles his nose. It’s more green than brown, but it’s definitely murky. At least that much is about how he remembers.
“How much worse can it be than sewer water?” Beverly offers, like she can tell Eddie’s having second thoughts about jumping in. And then she jumps, way ahead of all of them, and that’s just like old times, too.
Eddie only lingers because he doesn’t want to land on top of anyone. Dying in a freak swimming accident would be beyond pathetic after the night they’ve had.
He places his own shoes right beside Richie’s while he waits for a good window to join the others at the bottom. It feels kind of pointless, because they’re already soaked well beyond repair, but he figures it’s probably safer to swim without the added weight.
As he straightens up, he opens his mouth to say something to Richie. Last one to the bottom’s a rotten egg. He stops short when he catches the tail end of Richie winking at him, his lips stretched into a toothy smile before he jumps, leaving Eddie alone at the top.
Guess that makes me the rotten egg.
The water is a little cooler than he remembers, too, but that’s probably just because the sun hasn’t been up long enough to warm it. That, or he’s already coming down with something that probably got in through the massive fucking hole in his face.
“Lighten up, Eds,” Richie says, doggy-paddling over despite the fact that his freakishly long legs can touch bottom at least as well as Eddie’s. Beads of water run down the lenses of his glasses. Eddie tries to remember if he bothered to take them off before he jumped.
“Huh,” he notices when Richie gets a little closer. “Your lens is cracked.”
“He speaks,” Richie intones. “Would you believe me if I told you I have another pair back at the townhouse?”
“No,” Eddie scoffs. “Why would you even say that?”
“Well now I kind of want to insist on it,” Richie responds. He’s stopped right in front of Eddie, close enough that Eddie has to look up at him. “Like, ‘I brought them in three styles, so fuck you.’”
“Beverly would be so proud,” Eddie says flatly. The woman in question doesn’t even turn around at the sound of her name; she’s too busy having a splash war with Ben. “Except you probably don’t even have one more pair back in your ritzy LA mansion.”
“Mansion,” Richie repeats with a laugh. “I’m gonna take that as a compliment.”
Eddie’s tempted to ask what kind of place Richie lives in now, if it’s not the mansion he’s always assumed every showbiz success story owns at least one of. He surprises himself with how much he wants to know, and not just that. When does Richie even find the time to do mundane things like visit an optometrist? Is it the kind of thing his manager takes care of for him?
Just like that, one question swells to ten, and Eddie bites back all of them because what the fuck. He can feel Richie’s eyes on him, so of course he meets them with a hard look that cracks the second he registers the sudden shift in Richie’s expression.
Richie looks as nervous as Eddie suddenly feels, and twice as serious, like he’s wrestling with something that keeps his mouth opening and closing like a fish on a rocky shore.
Eddie doesn’t know if he wants him to keep talking or shut up, but he thinks dazedly that he never really wants Richie to shut up, and he’s still curious. Hungry enough to eat up just about anything Richie has to say, down to the smallest detail. Anything to help him paint a more complete picture of the life Richie has outside of Derry.
It makes sense – they’ve been apart for so long, and they used to know each other so well. They’re just like old times, too, only a little to the left, and Eddie… hates that.
But Richie’s already pulling away, his expression morphing into a wide smile, and Eddie knows even before he says anything that it’s not what he wanted to say.
“Bet you can’t outswim me with those short little legs of yours.”
Eddie lets out a relieved sigh of his own. “I work out, dipshit. I will murder you.”
“He did always beat you in high school, Rich,” Mike adds.
“So?” Richie starts to say. “I was all gangly and uncoordinated and shit, like”—
Eddie doesn’t even blink. The world doesn’t tilt or warp or go dark one second and light the next, but his knees buckle and he jolts, feeling for all the world like he did after all-nighters in college, coming within an inch of passing out in class only to snap awake before his head could hit the desk.
One second, he’s waist-deep in dirty water with his eyes fixed on Richie, and in the same second, he’s scraping his palms up on sticks and gravel, looking out over an entirely different body of water, one that looks less like the quarry and more like a swamp covered in lily pads and lined with tall grass and taller trees.
In the time it takes Eddie to catch his breath, he registers a chorus of surprised exclamations, questions and, finally, a hand pressed to his shoulder.
“Uh, who the hell are you and what did you do with Spaghetti Man?”
Eddie smacks the stranger’s hand away and scrambles to his feet. He’s in such a hurry to turn around and get a look at his unexpected company that he nearly topples into the pond; the only thing that stops his fall is the closest man to him, a hulking guy who has to be even taller than Richie – maybe taller than Mike.
He catches Eddie by the wrist and pulls him back to safety, but there’s nothing friendly about the way he looks at him.
“Who the fuck are you?” Eddie retorts, snatching his hand back as soon as he’s recovered his balance.
The man squints at him; Eddie squints at his baggy blue jacket and outdated mustache. The guy looks like he just crawled off the set of a low-budget 90s sitcom.
“I asked you first!”
Another guy tries to get between the two of them, starting with one leather-clad arm. The woman beside him places a cautioning hand there, her expression tight.
Leather jacket guy gives her a reassuring pat on the back as he looks between Eddie and the outdated asshole who’s still glaring daggers at him. Eddie inches away from the hand he tries to put on his chest. “Hey, just – let’s calm down, alright?”
“Richie,” yet another guy says in warning. Eddie nearly jumps out of his skin; he hadn’t noticed anyone on the ground with him a second ago, but of course there is someone, a scrawnier man with long hair tied back into a ponytail and an unconscious woman held tight in his arms.
Eddie does a double-take the instant he realizes she’s not unconscious at all. Her eyes are wide open, unblinking and unseeing.
He’s seen that look before.
“Wait,” he says, backtracking. “Wait, wait – you said Richie?”
Bad mustache guy takes a half-step toward him. “Sorry, bud, you might know me, but I definitely don’t know you.” He pauses with one finger raised toward Eddie’s face; Eddie’s almost tempted to take a bite out of it. “Well, maybe I’ve seen you around, but that doesn’t explain”—
“I have, too,” Leather Jacket says. He eyes Eddie a little more carefully, probably noting how drenched he is compared to the rest of them. He doesn’t even have shoes, or his fucking jacket. “In the Deadlights – Bill, you remember?”
“The Deadlights,” Eddie repeats slowly. “Bill?”
“That’s – that’s me,” the guy on the ground says. “William Denbrough, you might have seen my books at the library?”
“No fucking way,” Eddie snaps. “I know Bill. Next this asshole’s gonna say he’s Richie Tozier, right? Who the fuck are you, actually?”
When no one answers him, Eddie throws up his hands and starts walking into the trees. Either he’s dead and in a soon-to-be very surreal rendition of hell, or he has to find a way out of another clown-induced hallucination and get back to his friends. Whatever the case may be, he wants absolutely no part of this, whatever this is. A gathering of local thirty-something nerds with a raging hard-on for celebrities born in Derry, Maine? Eddie’s seen weirder, but not much weirder.
He makes it a few yards before he’s stopped by another hand on his shoulder. He shakes this one off, too, and only feels a little bad when he sees the woman draw back out of the corner of his eye.
“Wait,” she insists. “Please.”
“Nope,” Eddie says. “Not real. Not fucking happening.”
“The Deadlights,” she repeats, stopping Eddie short again. He turns reluctantly to see that the whole group of them has followed him into the deeper shadows of the trees, and Eddie is suddenly painfully aware of how hard it’ll be to outrun three people – four, if the bespectacled ponytail guy puts his catatonic friend down.
Right – because someone who wants to kill you would totally take that kind of care with a woman who looks a lot like Beverly did when she got caught by Pennywise.
“You know what they are,” the woman says.
Eddie swallows and nods. “So?”
“We saw you in them,” Leather Jacket starts to tell him. He’s interrupted by Fake Richie, who looks less pissed, now. More placating, or just desperate.
“Just tell us how you managed to appear in a puff of smoke right in front of us and we’ll leave you alone, okay? Is Spaghetti Man just pulling a weirdly elaborate prank, here, or did we not kill that fucking spider as well as we thought? Where did he go?”
“I don’t know how I – who the fuck is ‘Spaghetti Man’ supposed to be?” Eddie says. “And maybe you assholes could tell me where my friends are while we’re at it.”
Fake Richie opens his mouth again – probably not to elaborate on the bizarre nickname he keeps dropping, if his unhelpfulness up to this point is anything to go by – but Wannabe Bill Denbrough beats him to the punch.
“W-what are your friends’ names?”
Eddie glares. As if they don’t already know. “Mike,” he says anyway. “Bev, Ben”—
“…Ben, Bill, Richie, Eddie… Stanley?”
Eddie’s chest aches. “Not – Stan wasn’t there.”
“He’s not here, either,” Fake Richie says, and that’s all he has to say; Eddie feels some of the fight run out of him like blood from an open wound, like the grief is a physical weight on top of the exhaustion he already feels. He does his best not to let it show, but that just feels like a disservice to Stan.
“What about Mike?” he asks, drawing his arms a little tighter around himself.
“What about Eddie?” Leather Jacket challenges.
Eddie scoffs. “You’re seriously going to list everyone’s names at me and then act like you don’t know mine? What is this?”
“You?” Fake Richie repeats.
“Yeah, me – Eddie Kaspbrak.”
“Ooookay,” Leather Jacket says. He comes up to stand beside the woman, who’s giving him the same intense once-over her – partner? Husband? – gave him just a few minutes ago. “I’m Ben. Ben Hanscom.”
Eddie takes a step back when he offers him his hand to shake, but it doesn’t seem to faze him.
The woman reaches up to push a few flyaway strands of brown hair back behind her ear. “Beverly Marsh,” she says with a smile.
“Why the fuck not,” Eddie mutters.
“Mike’s in the hospital,” Wannabe Bill supplies. “He was attacked by”—
“Bowers,” Eddie finishes for him. “And I’m supposed to believe you took that guy out?” he adds, glancing back at Not-Richie.
To Eddie’s surprise, he shakes his head. “Eddie did. Our Eddie, not…” He flutters his hands at Eddie like he’s a particularly disappointing steak. Eddie raises an eyebrow at him.
“He doesn’t believe us,” Beverly’s impersonator sighs. She locks eyes with him, her eyebrows drawn up in concern. “Can we help somehow?”
“‘Help?’” Fake Richie repeats. “Help this guy? What about the real Eddie? I mean, shouldn’t that take priority here? This guy should be helping us. He’s the one who popped up out of nowhere, unannounced! He’s like a rude houseguest from another fucking planet!”
“Just – point me in the direction of Derry,” Eddie says, opting to ignore the loud idiot entirely. If he’s lucky enough to still be on planet Earth, he can put up with being called fake, himself. “Derry, Maine? Look, I don’t know how to help you find… whoever, so just…”
The gaggle of strangers exchange a few uneasy looks.
“…Don’t even say it,” Eddie groans. “Seriously.”
Leather Jacket Ben frowns at him. “If you were from here, wouldn’t you recognize this spot?”
Eddie glances around. Sure, it’s not like he memorized every square acre of Derry forest even as a kid, but he’d definitely remember a giant pond smack-dab in the middle of it.
“You’re bullshitting me,” he says, broken-record stubborn. He holds out a hand in a universal ‘gimme’ gesture. “Let me see your location then.”
That, maybe more than anything else any of them has said to each other so far, stumps them, and fine – it’s not that Eddie can’t sympathize, but he’s missing all of his friends, not just one, and how hard is it to let him take a peek at Google Maps?
A thought occurs to him.
“Is there not a signal out here?” he guesses.
“Whoa, there, guy, a signal to what? Your spaceship? You gonna ask Scotty to beam you back up?” Mustache Asshole is looking at him like he’s crazy, which is just… unbelievable. It’s such a simple request, and what good does it do any of them to make a joke of it?
“A cell signal? You know, GPS tracking? Jeez, what fucking year is it, 1980?”
“Nineteen-ninety,” Ponytail corrects matter-of-factly. He’s in the process of lowering himself and the woman on his back to the ground, and if he weren’t so caught off guard by the answer, Eddie might be kicking himself a little more for not bothering to ask who she’s supposed to be.
Or if she’s okay.
“You look a little shell-shocked, there, wanna sit down?” Leather Jacket offers. “What year did you think it was?”
Eddie can’t answer at first, but for the first time since he met these people, he doesn’t shake them off when they try to touch him. Still, it’s definitely for the best that they withdraw as soon as they’ve got him struggling to catch his breath from the relative safety of the leaf-littered forest floor.
“Asthma?” Fake-Bev guesses. Her hand hovers not far from his back; Eddie finds he trusts her a little more for not coming any closer than that.
Mustache crouches in front of him. “Don’t you have an inhaler?”
Eddie glares. “Burned it.”
“Seems a little extreme.”
“Fuck you, alright, it was part of the fucking ritual!”
“You did a ritual? For what, summoning demons? Kidnapping strangers who were just minding their own business?”
“Did you fight It too?” Ponytail – Bill, maybe – wonders. He looks weirdly hopeful about it. “You just… did it a different way?”
“Come on, Bill, how could he have done it? We did it! We just did it!”
Eddie would kill to be asleep. Or awake, as the case may be.
“We did,” he says, “I did. With my friends, in 2016.”
In a Derry that looked nothing like this back in 1990.
“And you killed It too?”
Eddie nods. It really seems like too much to hope that one of these people will have an abrupt eureka moment and explain to him in simple, easy steps how to wake up or… un teleport. He’d even settle for just understanding what’s going on.
All he gets is a theory from the stranger who calls herself Beverly.
“Maybe it has something to do with the Deadlights,” she suggests, looking at him like she expects him to have an informed opinion about that.
“I never got caught in them.”
“But we did,” Leather Jacket says, gesturing at himself, Mustache and Ponytail, who holds the woman in his arms a little tighter in response. “And like I said before, we saw you in them.”
“In a cave,” Ponytailed Bill supplies. “Throwing something.”
“…The fence spike?”
“Looked like a spear,” Mustache says. “Went into the mouth of the world’s ugliest crocodile. Ring any bells?”
Eddie pauses. Unlike the names of his ultra-famous best friends – or, hell, even what they look like, which is, in a word, nothing like these assholes – a little detail like that isn’t the kind of thing you can just Google to fuck with someone. He crosses his arms, uncrosses them, stuffs his hands into his lap and mulls that over. If Bev remembered seeing anything like this back in 1989, he’d like to think she would have said so, even if it doesn’t hold a candle to also seeing all their deaths.
He wonders what Richie saw. Just enough to get Eddie out of the line of fire?
He would have said something if he’d thought Eddie was about to be flung 26 years into the past, wouldn’t he?
“I think we broke him,” this year’s dime-store version of Richie says. God, Eddie hates his fucking mustache.
“I’m thinking,” he retorts. “If I’m here, and you’re… maybe who you say you are, then do you think the guy you know, who has my name…”
“Might be with your friends?” Ben’s not-so-identical twin says.
“Like a swap,” alt-Beverly says. “You switched places?”
“So switch back,” Mustache demands.
“Don’t you think I would if I could?!”
“Maybe Mike will know how,” this Bill suggests. Before Eddie can get too excited about that possibility, the smile falls off of his face and he carefully repositions the woman in his arms so that her limp head is better supported against his shoulder. “Maybe he’ll know what to do for Audra, too.”
“Audra Phillips? Audra as in Bill’s – your – wife, Audra?”
Bill just nods miserably.
“You brought her with you?” Eddie wonders. “Here?”
“I didn’t. She followed – god, she followed me. This wasn’t supposed to happen, either.”
Oh. More differences, Eddie thinks. Feeling like enough of an asshole already, he lets himself push his luck just one more time before he gets himself punched in the face or abandoned in the middle of the woods.
“She got caught too, right?”
“Longer than the rest of us,” Ben confirms quietly. “It wasn’t his fault.”
“No, I know,” Eddie shakes his head. “Look, you probably… know this already, but did you try, uh, kissing her?”
Another round of bewildered stares. Seriously?
Before Eddie can say anything else, Bill lowers his head to press his lips to Audra’s. Nothing happens for long enough that his expression has time to shift from hopeful to crestfallen, but then she draws the same gasping breath Beverly and Richie both did, like coming up for air after too long spent underwater, complete with jerking upright so fast she inadvertently headbutts her husband.
“Oh my god,” she breathes when they’ve both recovered from the impact enough to get a good look at each other. “Bill, what…”
Jesus, she’s British? Somehow, Eddie thinks Richie – his Richie, not this mustachioed douchebag – would have had a field day with that. Probably would have wanted to try his British Guy out on her for some expert feedback, in which case, well – hopefully he’s gotten better at it than he was when they were kids.
“Thank you,” Bill cries. He has his very confused wife wrapped up in another hug, but now that it’s actually being reciprocated, Eddie suspects that his first impression of this new, different version of Bill was probably a lot bleaker than it should have been.
Richie – or whoever, Eddie can’t help but tack on – looks, if anything, more petulant than he did before. How he manages that while also offering Bill and co. a genuinely relieved smile, Eddie isn’t sure, but clearly he doesn’t want anyone’s opinion about this newcomer to change just because he had one piece of good advice to offer.
Fine. Eddie doesn’t exactly expect any in return.
He lets the couple have their moment while he forces himself back to his feet. Walking anywhere is going to be fucking horrible with only socks to protect him from rocks and broken glass, so he might as well brace himself for it now.
It’s only then that it occurs to him he might have a problem finding himself a replacement pair of shoes, let alone a place to sleep off the night’s activities. Because he’d had the good sense and lack of foresight to take that shit out of his pockets before he went trekking through the sewers and swimming in gross water, he has no phone, no wallet, just the slowly-drying shirt on his back.
“So,” a voice interrupts his worrying. Eddie has to look to see who it is: Ben, giving him yet another appraising look. Eddie wants to tell him to mind his own business and keep his eyes to himself, but then where the hell will he be – stranded somewhere no one knows him, with no way at all to prove his identity or take care of his basic needs?
“Do you think you can manage a quick stop at the hospital before we head back to the inn? Kinda seems like you should get that looked at.”
He taps his own left cheek to illustrate his point.
The decision is hard, but not that hard; there are only two things Eddie wants more than a shower and clean change of clothes, assuming those things are included in the promise of an inn, and that’s, a) to avoid death by sepsis and b) to get the hell back to his Derry and his friends.
On both counts, this Derry’s hospital and the version of Mike that’s apparently waiting for them there are his best and only bet.
“Like a baby deer or a stick insect or whaaaat the fuck.”
There’s words and noise, but Eddie doesn’t actually hear them. The first outside sensation Eddie registers is cold , because he is very cold all of a sudden, even before wet , which he also is. One second he’s got his feet planted on solid ground, Richie at his side, and the next he’s – he’s not got any of that at all.
“What –?” Eddie says, or at least he tries to say it. He tries to say something; to say anything at all.
“Eddie?” There’s someone saying his name, but he doesn’t recognize the voice; and why do they sound so terrified, even angry?
“Eddie! Fuck! Where is—”
“ Eddie! ”
The voice multiplies; turns into voices, plural. Eddie curls into himself; his head pounding with a budding headache; his breath starting to catch in short gasps. He’s submerged from the waist down; trousers, socks, everything – entirely soaked through. It’s very uncomfortable; he tries to move but his boots have sunk into the mud and he can’t fucking budge them, and it’s horrible.
“H-hey man, are you okay?”
He is not okay. I am not okay! Eddie thinks. There is no part of this that is okay or alright ; not when he’s standing, waist deep, in cold muddy water. He wants to cry, or scream, but – mostly he just wants to breathe.
“What the fuck happened? Eddie?” The voices are all around him and they sound – they sound like they should sound familiar, but they don’t. They’re talking to him like they know him, but they don’t; they can’t. They definitely don’t, because – somehow – somehow even though Eddie thought everything was over, everything was done, he’s – been taken, transported, somewhere.
It’s wet and that’s still all he can think about, and he’d been prepared for unpleasantness when he entered the sewers, but this is – it’s not right, it’s not what he expected, and –
“Richie, what the fuck?” And that – oh, that – Richie –
“Richie?” Eddie says. Because he knows Richie. He always knows Richie.
“Holy-fuckin’-shit,” the man in front of him says, succintly. Eddie manages to blink up at him through tired eyes. He’s got messy dark hair and glasses, and he’s taller than Eddie but his posture is sort of hunched-over, almost shy.
“Richie?” All of apparently-Richie’s friends say – except that maybe it is their friends? Maybe what’s happening is some impossible alternate universe, like in Star Trek?
“Eddie,” Richie – he guesses that’s Richie, because who the Hell else could it be – says. “You’re Eddie. Hol-ie shit. You’re Eddie, aren’t you?”
Eddie is focusing on trying to breathe, and it’s taking – it’s taking more effort than he thought it would, that’s all.
“Eds?” Again with that! With whatever nickname that is – it’s – well – suddenly and very keenly, so deeply it cuts through the terror and confusion, he misses Richie, because he just got him back , dammit, and –
The real Richie. His Richie. He wants to be called ‘Spaghetti Man,’ even though it’s stupid as all-Hell, because, because he thought he was going to die under Derry, and he really had wanted to tell Richie something –
Eddie gasps for breath.
“Someone help him!” Comes a stranger’s voice again. Eddie hopes, vaguely, that someone will listen to him.
“Yeah, I’m fuckin’ trying ,” Richie says, and then there’s hands on Eddie’s shoulders. He squeezes his eyes tight-shut and he tries – really he tries – to breathe and to be calm and focus on the hurt of now, not the possibilities of later – little techniques he’s learned from self-help therapy books.
He doesn’t have his aspirator. He used it to help kill the Spider, and now he’s defenseless.
“But it’s dead ,” Eddie says, when he finally manages to be calm long enough to breath out some words. “We killed it.”
“Oh my God –” a woman’s voice, high and scared and not sounding really anything at all like Beverly’s voice, but when he looks up at her, at the red hair slicked back by dirty water, at her wide, pale, face, he thinks – It could be. It could be her.
“Where am I?” Eddie says, and he means it to be demanding, but his voice is pitched high, a little scratchy, so it doesn’t come out that way really. “Right now,” he tries again. “Where am I!”
“Hey, man, calm down,” one of the other men says, wading towards Eddie with his arms raised in placatingly. “You’re in…” he pauses. Thinking over what to say. “You’re in Derry, Maine. Where do you think you are?”
Eddie can’t help it, he starts laughing, enough though there’s still tears squeezing out of the corners of his eyes. “I think I was in Derry, Maine! And I’m not anymore! But how did you – we killed It, God I swear we did”—
“It?” the man says. “Did you hear –” He’s close now, very close, looking like he wants to reach out and touch Eddie, but he’s scared to.
So Eddie says it, as clear as he can manage with anxiety’s vice-grip around his throat, with his ribs still aching from where the beast had got a hold of him, “My name is Eddie Kaspbrak. I think you know who that is.”
“Eddie?” The woman says. Eddie wants to reach over, instinctively, to the two men standing by her, and Eddie puts the pieces together easily enough. Bill, Mike, Beverly. Ben, trying to talk him down. Richie, wearing his glasses like when he was a kid and looking – looking about as bad as Eddie feels.
“Something went wrong,” Eddie says. Hell, this really is like every sci-fi comic he and Richie used to read. “It was supposed to be over!” He’s angry, so angry, and he feels a tear finally manage to slip its way down his cheek.
“Another Eddie,” Beverly says, and she steps closer to him. “Oh, God, do you think that Eddie –” She gets right up close to Eddie, but then she pulls back, just like Ben had.
“Do you –” she says, suddenly awkward.
“I know you,” Eddie says, and he raises a dirty-wet hand to wipe at his face, and tries not to think about how gross that is. “Beverly.”
“Holy shit,” Mike says, behind her, as Beverly raises one hand to cover her mouth.
“You too, Mike,” Eddie says, but he chokes on Mike’s name, and then he’s back to cry-laughing.
“What the fuck, man,” Richie says. “How’s this – is Eddie okay?”
“I was with you,” Eddie says, because he has absolutely no idea how to answer that. “I was...with Richie and everyone, except Mike’s in the hospital”—
“Mike’s in the hospital?” Bill says, alarmed, glancing over at this new Mike, and both of them step forward. Eddie’s starting to feel a little crowded, but he can’t move; if he tries to move he’ll collapse.
“Henry Bowers attacked him,” Eddie says, as if that isn’t an absurd thing to say to strangers. As if this entire situation makes a single lick of sense.
Mike and Bill share a wide-eyed look. “It’s the s-same,” Bill says. “It’s...how is this possible?”
“Alternate realities,” Mike says. “Shit. I always thought...I mean we just messed around with something way bigger than any of us. Maybe it unbalanced the universe...or the timeline, at least –”
“How the fuck are you all being so calm about this?” At that, Eddie looks over at Richie, and so does everyone else. Richie’s still a little hunched over, and he’s...he’s shaking. Eddie thinks of Richie – his Richie, the proper Richie – snapping and arguing and so scared underneath, and he almost steps forward, but – this isn’t the Richie he knows. So he doesn’t.
“Rich, we have no reason to think Eddie is in danger,” Beverly says.
“Yeah,” Bill adds. “He and…” Bill gestures vaguely at Eddie. “You know, this Eddie, probably switched places. He’s s-still with us, just...another us…”
“I know, I fucking saw it! But like – switch them back! ”
“How am I supposed to do that, Richie?” Bill says, just as Beverly says “Wait, you saw –” and everyone stares at Richie again.
“Yeah,” Richie says. “I...you know. Fuck! When I was...floated. Or whatever. I saw shit, like Bev did, I guess.”
They’re all stepping closer to Richie, now. Eddie watches, quiet and scared and curious.
“Richie, why didn’t you say anything?” Bev says.
“‘Cause I didn’t think it was real! I saw all sorts of shit, Bev!”
“Me too! And some of it was pretty relevant to this situation!”
“Well, okay, sorry for not sharing with the class! I was just a little stressed, and I only saw flashes and I saw Eddie die! Okay, Beverly? I saw him fucking die, and that’s how I knew to push him out of the way!”
Eddie stays quiet, because Richie looks like he’s about to cry, and because he’s thinking about how when It dropped him, and he fell, Richie was there to catch him. He’s been thinking of it ever since, of Richie’s arms under him and around him; how Richie was able to carry him and set him down, and how he ran his hands over Eddie to make sure he was alright.
“You good, Spaghetti Man?” Richie said, his hands gentle on Eddie’s chest and sides, and it hurt because everything had hurt and he couldn’t breathe. “Hey, you’re good,” Richie had said like he realized Eddie was panicking and couldn’t get a single gasping breath in.
“I got you,” Richie said like it was a promise or a prayer. “You fucking saved us, Eddie, I –” and maybe he was going to say thank you or maybe he was going to say something else, but that’s when Beverly had said, “It’s not dead yet,” in this deep and serious voice and she was right, of course she was right, so they had to turn and follow her and Bill and kill the Evil of Derry once and for all.
But before they had, Richie had looked at him, just – really looked, and handed him his glasses that he had folded-up in one hand. Eddie took them, his fingers curling over the delicate frames.
“Richie,” he had said. “Thank you.”
Richie hadn’t said anything in return, but his steady gaze hadn’t left Eddie’s eyes, and that was something, at least.
“Oh,” Beverly says. “Oh, Richie, shit, I’m sorry –”
“No, it’s – it’s fine –” Richie points at Eddie and Eddie is forced back into the truth that he exists now in this strange universe. “I saw him. I just didn’t know he was Eddie.” And as he says it, he turns towards Eddie and he takes a step forward. Then another step. He’s so close now, close enough to touch, and Eddie is still paralyzed.
“I am,” Eddie says, because he doesn’t – he doesn’t know what else to say; he has no way to prove it, but – “Rich, I’m Eddie.”
“You called me ‘Rich,’” Richie says. He raises a hand towards Eddie, but midway towards touch, he drops it. “I guess we’re friends in your world, too.”
Eddie’s heart is beating fast, so fast. But he can still breathe. In fact he feels – vibrant; alive. “Of course. Richie, of course we’re friends.” How could Richie ever doubt that?
“This is fucking crazy,” Beverly says, and that snaps Eddie back to reality. This Beverly is very foul-mouthed. He actually finds it kind of charming. “Rich, I understand why you didn’t say anything –”
“I said I didn’t know –”
“Yeah I get it – just –” Beverly gestures at him, and Eddie does not know what to do.
“Fuck!” she says, eventually, and honestly? Eddie thinks that about sums it up.
“Can we,” Eddie starts to say, and then everyone stares at him, so he staggers to a halt. “Uh,” he says, eventually. “Can we...get out of the water?”
There’s a beat of silence as everyone continues to stare at him. It’s awkward as all-Hell.
Then, Richie laughs. It’s a sweet, genuine sound. “Yeah, Eds, ‘course we can.” Then: “Shit, is it okay if I call you Eds? Sorry, I –”
“It’s fine,” Eddie says. He doesn’t know why he says it. He picks at Richie so much for his nicknames, but this new man just seems so… sad. He seems sad and Eddie is terrified and alone and he wants – he wants to be gentle and friendly to this new Richie. He has to.
Eddie takes a step forward. He stumbles a little on the uneven mud, and Beverly and Richie both lean in to grab his arms. He laughs, overwhelmed and so-scared and just happy to be alive.
“We got you, Eddie,” Beverly says, and absurdly, he almost believes her. He’s not sure why, but then – maybe he does know. These are the Losers, after all. If anyone can get through this, it’s probably them.
It’s sort of a beautiful view. There’s certainly nothing like it in the Derry that Eddie knows; they’re standing high over a quarry; sunlight glinting off the water below, and it doesn’t look as dirty as it is when you’re this far away. He can’t blame the Losers – the alternate Losers – for coming here, after everything. He’d want – he does want, right now – to see some beauty, too.
He looks at the sign that prohibits swimming and diving, and he can’t blame them for ignoring that, either. Their shoes and jackets are all bundled up in the dirt beside the bars trying to protect the good people of Derry, and Eddie can’t stop looking at the blood and dirt on their things; objective proof of the risks these people took. They really are his Losers, even if they aren’t the same. He watches as they all lean over, gathering their clothing into their hands, preparing to return to real life. He watches Bill pull a bloodied flannel over his t-shirt and Beverly slip wet shoes onto wetter feet. Richie’s now layered up with another shirt and a jacket, but he’s holding a separate bundle in his hands, one that must belong to the other Eddie. No one says anything about it. It’s not like it’s Eddie’s fault, but he feels weird and almost guilty, for standing in their friend’s place.
There’s someone else missing too, though, and he hasn’t said anything about it until now, but –
“Bill,” he says, “I – I don’t mean to be presumptuous, but – where’s Audra?”
That gets funny looks from the whole crew.
“Audra?” Bill says, and Eddie has a scary moment when he thinks he’s totally miscalculated everything, and maybe he doesn’t know these strangers at all.
“Uh,” Eddie says. “Your wife?”
“Yeah,” Bill says, clearly baffled. “My wife. Why would she be here?”
Oh. Well, okay then. “I’m sorry,” Eddie says, awkwardly. “In my – uh – universe she was here. She got taken by It.”
Bill, to his credit, looks absolutely horrified at the thought. “God no,” he says. “Audra is safe, in California. She doesn’t even know where I am, beyond Maine.”
“Oh,” Eddie says, and actually, it’s a relief to know that she’s safe and not trapped in some… bad ending; some ending where the protagonist doesn’t get the girl. Because Bill is the protagonist, right? He’s always sort of been. “Oh, I’m really glad, Bill.”
“Is she… that Audra, is she…?”
Eddie shakes his head. “We got her out with us, but she was… I’m sorry, Bill, she was catatonic. Maybe if we just get her to a hospital she’ll be okay, though. It was the Deadlights. She saw too much.”
“The Deadlights?” Beverly says. There’s a definite anxiety in her voice, and Eddie remembers in the chaos of his first moments here, they were talking about seeing things, too. And if a lot things are the same –
“Well, obviously I’m not catatonic,” Richie says to Beverly. “Maybe his universe is different. And you were fine, all the way back when.”
“Yeah,” Beverly says, watching Richie closely. “…Fine.”
Eddie’s beleaguered mind tries to piece some things together. “Beverly, you got caught in the Deadlights? As a kid? And Richie, did you face it alone? ”
“What?” Both of them say simultaneously, clearly lost in whatever spiral they’re headed down.
Then, Richie laughs. “Of course I didn’t face the clown alone, what the hell, that’d be crazy! Don’t tell me I had some big-damn-hero moment in your universe?” He sidles closer to Eddie while he says it.
“No,” Eddie says. Everyone’s looking at him and he feels his face flushing a little. “Uh, I guess not.” It’d felt pretty fairy-tale, though, when Eddie was falling and he’d thought he was going to die but then Richie caught him. That probably didn’t happen, in this version of things.
“You and Bill and Ben all looked into the Deadlights,” he tries to explain. “I think because you were together, and because Bill is so strong, you were able to fare better than Audra.”
Beverly looks pointedly at Richie again. “So maybe we should get this one checked out, huh?”
“Meh,” Richie says. “I’m literally fine. Mike over there is totally getting an infection on that cut, like, as we speak, though, so if you wanna insist on a hospital visit we should make it a team field trip.”
“That’s not a bad idea,” Bill says. “We can all go.”
Mike nods, obligingly, but he’s still looking at Eddie in particular. “I’m just curious,” he says, eventually, as Ben and Beverly lead the group down the path that presumably will take them back into town. “Your Ben, Bill, and Richie were all in the Deadlights, and your Mike was injured. So you and Bev…” he pauses pointedly.
“I didn’t know what to do,” Eddie says, quietly. He’s still sort of embarrassed about the whole thing, but – at least he did something . He tried, dammit. “I used my aspirator to hold It off, while Beverly went behind and attacked it. She hurt it bad enough that it dropped everyone.”
“Holy shit!” Richie says, laughing; he’s stopped walking and is turned fully to face them. “What the fuck? Why wouldn’t you lead with that, man, it’s badass!”
“I didn’t do anything,” Eddie says, knowing his ears are going pink but unable to stop it. “It didn’t even work. I just gave Beverly time to do something better.”
“Hmm,” Richie says. “Well. If you’re anything like the Eddie I know, I bet you did more than you think.” After he says that, Richie turns back around and keeps walking, and Eddie is tired and wet and scared, so he doesn’t say anything; he just follows them down into the unknown.