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in the morning

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Mike has never seen Richie cry before—not in all the years he’s known him. Richie had always said he just didn’t cry easily. He could tear up sometimes, but not really cry. 

Now that it’s happening, seeing Richie Tozier cry is something Mike wished he didn’t have to see. He wishes he could have gone the rest of his life not seeing it. 

“We can’t leave him here,” Richie sobs, refusing to let go of Eddie. “We can’t, we can’t!

“Richie,” Ben says nervously, his own voice thick with emotion. His eyes are glistening, barely visible in the dark. “Richie, we’re going to die down here.”

Eddie coughs, blood splattering across Richie’s shoulder. Beverly is putting pressure on the stump where his arm used to be. She’s using Richie’s jacket to soak it all up. Richie rocks back and forth, ever so slightly, Eddie in his arms. 

“I can’t,” He says to Beverly. She’s looking at him wide eyed and horrified, still in shock at what’s happened to her friend. Mike realizes that maybe she hasn’t ever seen Richie cry either. “I can’t, I can’t, I can’t, I can’t —”

“Rich...” Eddie’s eyelids flutter. Richie’s hand in his hair tightens. 

“It’s okay,” she says, chest heaving, looking away for a moment to calm herself down. Mike sees her blink the tears away and press the back of her hand to her mouth. 

“He’s not dead!” Richie screams when Bill tries to put a hand on his shoulder. “He’s not fucking dead!”

Mike swallows past a lump in his throat. He thinks about all those times Eddie brought him books from the library so Mike wouldn’t have to go. He did it so the Bowers gang wouldn’t see Mike. Eddie, who was smaller and shorter and weaker, protecting him when he could. 

“He’s not dead.” Mike says, kneeling down in front of Richie. “And he’s not going to die. Come on, lift him with me.”

Richie scrambles to his feet, and they each take a side of Eddie and lift. Beverly is right by Richie’s side, trying not to get in the way but reach under his arm and keep pressure on Eddie’s arm with the blood soaked jacket. Eddie’s head lolls and his eyes close, and Richie starts screaming again, wailing and feet stuttering. Mike uses one hand to smack Eddie’s cheek, and he jolts awake, looking sick and pale and dizzy. 

“It’s okay,” Mike breathes, not even sure who he’s talking to. Ben has to push Richie away and pick up his slack, cause Richie’s crying so hard he keeps stumbling. Bill grabs him and pulls him along.

 —

“Please, c’mon, Eddie, c’mon —” Richie cradles Eddie to his chest in the back seat of the car. Ben’s flooring it in the driver’s seat, Bill gripping the armrests with white knuckles in the passenger's seat. Beverly is still trying to stop the bleeding. They’re two minutes away from the hospital. “Eds, it’s okay, you’re gonna be okay, I promise. I swear, I fucking swear, okay?” 

She’s never seen Richie like this before. Eddie’s eyes keep closing, and each time Richie starts shaking him and sobbing harder. His breathing hitches and he starts hyperventilating. He’s a total fucking mess. All she can do to calm him is help keep Eddie awake.

The nurses take Eddie away immediately, tons of people rushing and shouting and wheeling him away. Ben and Bill have to hold Richie back, keep him from following. The nurses insist that he’s not allowed to go back there while the doctors are working. Eventually, Richie exhausts himself out, and literally passes out in the waiting room on Beverly’s shoulder. The whole drive to the hospital was a fucking nightmare. Beverly’s never been so tired in her life, but she can’t sleep. 

She looks down at Richie. He must be so tired. She smooths back some of his gross, dirty hair. He really did grow into his looks, she thinks, recalling a past conversation. Handsome in his own way. I think I remember seeing him in a nice suit on TV once. It’d be nice to see him in something like that again.

She starts thinking about weddings, then, and what Richie would look like in a tuxedo, and what Mike and Eddie and… and she catches a glance at Ben. He’s watching her. She smiles, shyly, and looks back down at her lap, where she’s picking at a hangnail. Then back again at Richie, watching in amusement and slight disgust as he drools on her shoulder. 

She knows there’s something going on with Richie. The way he had lost it, the way he had cried—she’s not sure if he would ever cry like that for her, or Bill, or even Stan. He had always been particular about Eddie. She pets his hair back again and rests her head on top of his, sighing and closing her eyes. Maybe it’s nothing. Maybe it’s more than she thinks. Either way, she’s sure he’ll say eventually. Richie’s never been good at keeping secrets. 

Eventually Ben has to go, at least for a little while. It’s been hours already, and he doesn’t know how much longer he can wait in an uncomfortable plastic chair while covered in dried grime and mud. He feels crusty and slimy all at once. 

“I’ll be back.” He says softly. A promise. “I’ll bring food on the way back, okay? You want anything?”

Bill shakes his head, and Mike asks for a coffee. Beverly asks for something through a drive through. Just anything. Simple.

“You want something, Rich?” Ben gently lays a hand on his friend’s shoulder.

Richie startles, blinking rapidly for a moment before looking up at Ben. He’d been staring off into space. “What? Oh. Uh…” his eyebrows furrow and he looks away again. “Uh, no. No. I’m fine.”

Ben won’t push. He just offers a smile and says, “Okay.” 

He ends up bringing everybody coffee and sandwiches anyways. It’s easier to convince them to eat when the smell of warm food is right in front of them. 

Richie only takes a couple bites of his sandwich before he takes off the top bun and starts removing the pickles. 

“I’m sorry, did you not want them? I would have ordered you one without if I’d known.” Ben says. It’s odd, though. He swears he could have remembered Richie liked pickles. 

“No. It’s okay.” Richie murmurs. He’s so quiet. Ben doesn’t think he’s ever seen Richie so quiet before. “Eddie doesn’t like them because of the sodium.” He rewraps the sandwich in its paper and puts it back in the bag, which he keeps in his lap. Ben notices he hasn’t touched the fries in the bag, either. 

He catches Beverly’s eye. She’s got the same, wondering look.

“Friends of Eddie Kaspbrak?” 

Richie shoots up out of his seat so fast he nearly knocks it over. Bill catches it before it tips. Already, tears are springing to Richie’s eyes, and Bill doesn’t know if he can handle seeing Richie sob like that again. He’s not sure if he can handle the news about Eddie if it’s bad. 

“Is he dead?” Richie’s clutching onto the fast food bag like a lifeline, so hard Bill thinks it might rip in two if he doesn’t ease up some. “Is he okay?”

“He’s not dead.” The nurse says. She looks between the five of them, slightly taken aback. They don’t exactly look great, the bunch of them. They’ve cleaned up in the bathroom. It took some convincing, but Bill had gotten Richie to come with him earlier, and they’d washed as much of the grime off themselves as they could in the bathroom sinks. 

“He’ll make a full recovery, but it’s going to take a while. If he’d arrived any later we might not have been able to save him. He lost a lot of blood. He’s on a lot of painkillers right now, and might not be entirely coherent, but you can come see him for a little while. He’s been asking for you.” She smiles. Relief washes over the group. It feels like the clouds are finally parting.  

The nurse leads them to Eddie’s room. The entire time, Richie is at her heels. He’s still crying, Bill notices, but not as hard as before. He’s not making any noise, either; just wiping the tears away quickly, letting out an occasional shaky breath. 

Bill remembers the first time they tried to kill It when they were kids; when Eddie broke his arm. He remembers Richie yelling in his face in a way he’d never yelled at Bill before. Or at any of them, now that Bill thought about it. 

Eddie could have died!

Bill thinks it over. He tries to go back, to when they were in school. Days at the Barrens, at the arcade, at their houses, in their backyards, in the woods, at the park, riding bikes down the street, in the clubhouse—he’d thought he’d maybe imagined it all those times.  

When he looks up, Mike is looking at him. And then Beverly, and then Ben. And they all look between each other, and to Richie, who’s ahead of them. Right on that nurse’s heels. And Bill’s steps start to slow. When Richie looks back in confusion, seeing all his friends stopped, looking at him all in the same way, Bill smiles at him. 

Go on, Trashmouth. Be brave.”

Richie’s jaw clenches for just a moment, and he wipes away another tear, nodding. Richie’s eyes say everything Bill knows he’s not ready to say out loud. Thank you. I love you. I’m scared. I’ll try. Instead, he keeps walking and doesn’t look back again. 

“He’s in here.” The nurse says, opening the door for him. Richie mumbles thanks under his breath and steps in, the door clicking softly behind him. It’s just him and Eddie now.

Eddie blinks tiredly at him. “Richie…” he closes his eyes, smiling. “Hey. Hey, man.”

Richie sits at the chair by Eddie’s bedside. He looks so pale. His right shoulder is bandaged up. His hair is in disarray, wildly sticking up in some places. Eddie looks fairly clean otherwise. They must have washed all the grime and blood and dirt away. 

Richie doesn’t realize he’s sobbing until Eddie’s touching his cheek. He leans into the touch. Somehow, despite everything, Eddie’s hand is warm.

“Rich…” Eddie’s eyebrows turn up. His voice is so soft. The same voice, same eyes, same face after all these years. Twenty-seven of them. How could he have forgotten him? Eddie, out of everyone? 

Richie takes Eddie’s hand in both of his own, holds it to his mouth. He squeezes his eyes shut, trying to stop himself from crying. “Sorry,” He chokes out. He takes a shuddering breath and removes his glasses and just presses his face to Eddie’s hand. “Sorry, I—I’m okay.” 

“Richie.” Eddie says again. He wipes a tear off Richie’s cheek. “We killed It, right?” 

“Yeah.” Richie holds onto Eddie’s wrist. “Yeah, Eds, we killed It. You figured it out, man. We killed that motherfucker for good.”

Eddie sinks into his bed a little more. “And everyone else is okay?”

“Yeah. Everyone’s fine. You’re the only one who looks like shit.” Richie manages a smile, finally feeling some of the normalness come back. It’s setting in, now. Eddie’s okay. Eddie’s okay. He’ll make it out of this alive. He’s okay. God. Fuck. Fuck. Richie rubs his face with his hands, feeling more tears gather in his eyes. It’s all so much. “I thought you were going to die,” he admits, voice shaking. “I thought you were—”

“I’m right here.” Eddie says. “I’m okay, Rich. Really.” 

“Does it hurt?” Richie sniffs. He swallows the snot running down his throat. He must look pretty fucking gorgeous to Eddie right now, of all people. 

“No.” Eddie closes his eyes. “I can’t feel my—“ he opens his eyes again and looks down at where his right arm should be. ”Well. I mean, I guess I wouldn’t be able to even without the meds. But I’m okay. Really.”

“Aren’t you, like, depressed?” Richie asks worriedly. “I mean, it’s your arm, man. It’s gone . Like, not even just your hand, it’s your whole —”

“I get it, asshole.” Eddie snaps, and then sighs. Richie can’t help but smile. “It’s… yeah, it fucking sucks, okay? I’m just happy to be alive right now.” Eddie looks down at his left hand, and then, quietly, “I thought I was going to die, too.”

Before Richie can respond, Eddie looks up and smiles. “But you carried me out of there. You didn’t give up on me.”

“I actually, well, Ben and Mike carried you cause I was—” Richie laughs, then coughs lightly. “I was crying so hard I couldn’t carry you right.” 

Eddie takes his hand again. “Yeah, but you didn’t leave me. You… you know I would have hated it down there. It was so dark.” His eyebrows furrow and he stares at where his and Richie’s hands are clasped. “Richie… You know I… I…”

It’s then Richie notices something. “Eds, where’s your wedding ring?” He asks. It’s not there. There’s a tan line and an imprint to where it used to be, but the little metal band is gone. 

Eddie blushes. Richie wouldn’t think it possible, considering all the blood Eddie’s lost, but his face pinks.

Eddie’s mouth goes in a tight line. “In the sewers, when you were telling me I was brave. Afterwards, I took it off. You made me feel brave.”  

“You are,” Richie says quietly. “You always have been, Eds. The bravest of us all. I swear it, man. I swear.”

Eddie smiles at him, looking grateful. That same smile. Twenty-seven years. “Thanks, Richie.”

Richie glances back down at Eddie’s hand; at the imprint of the missing ring. He remembers Bill’s words. Be brave. Richie almost jolts up in his seat. 

R + E

The arcade, the hammock, school—

“Eddie, I…” Richie can feel everything bubbling up. 

Hours spent on Richie’s bed, reading comics. Their fingers brushing as they shared, turning pages—

“I want to be brave.” He whispers. “You make me brave, too.”

Don’t look anywhere but me. Look at me! Look at me! Eddie! Richie grabbing his best friends face, begging him to not look. If he was going to die, Richie wanted the last thing he saw to be Eddie looking right back at him. Look at me! Eddie!  

Richie rubs his thumb over Eddie’s knuckles. He takes another slow breath. “That summer…” 

Years and years and years of hiding, and covering it behind jokes and remarks. Lies between his teeth. So much time wasted, so much time without him—

“I wrote our initials. I carved them into the Kissing Bridge.” He looks up momentarily, just to see the flicker of emotions go through Eddie’s eyes, and then back down to their joined hands. His leg jitters, bouncing up and down nervously. “R plus E. On the left side, on the top board. Near the middle. R plus E.”

Richie closes his eyes. “I… I can’t lose you again. Not again, Eds.”

The silence that follows makes Richie’s heart match his twitching leg. For the millionth time, he cries again. His vision is blurry when he opens his eyes to look at Eddie. “When I moved, it didn’t hurt, because I couldn’t remember, but I don’t want to forget again. I can’t. I can’t forget you again. Not you, Eddie.” Anyone but you. 

Eddie is looking at him hesitantly. Scared. A little confused. But there’s something there, too. Slowly, slowly, slowly, his fingers move, and he intertwines them with Richie’s. “When… when I saw you in the deadlights, all I could think about was you telling me I was brave. And I wanted to be, and I was. And when I saved you, I just wanted you to wake up, and be happy to see me, and be proud of me. You’re the only one who’s ever thought I was strong, Rich. Even since we were kids. And the Losers, too, but not the way you did. You’re the only fucking person who’s ever really believed in me.” 

Their eyes meet, then, and Eddie smiles slightly. “I don’t want to forget you, too.”

Richie laughs, soft and broken through the tears. He leans forward in his seat and lays his head on Eddie’s bed, by his hip. He pushes his face into the blanket and keeps his grip tight on Eddie’s hand. For the first time that day, he cries because he’s happy.

“Since when were you such a crybaby?” Eddie teases, but his voice is fond. “You never cried this much when we were kids.” He recalls a memory; Richie sneaking into his room when they were in high school. He’d been crying over a nightmare he’d had. Eddie had let him crawl into bed with him, even if it was way too crowded. Richie fell asleep pressed against Eddie’s back and had left in the morning, before Eddie’s mom could find him there.  

“Shut up.” Richie laughs again, lifting his head. “You cried all the fucking time. Every movie we ever watched made you cry, even if it wasn’t even sad.” 

“That’s not true!” Eddie makes a noise of protest. “You cried way more than me!”

“You’re the only one I ever really cried around.” Richie admits after a while. He sniffs, wiping his face on Eddie’s blanket, who groans in disgust, trying to push him off. “I guess I just felt more safe with you. To cry around you.”

Eddie awkwardly shuffles the blanket so the snotty part is hanging off the bed. “Yeah, well. I wish you’d cry less, now. Your fucking snot is all over my blanket, you shithead.”

“Expect more of it, spaghetti. You’re gonna see my snot in a whole bunch of other places starting now.”

“That’s—that’s literally disgusting. I don’t even know what that means.” Eddie cringes, watching Richie wipe his face on his sleeve. “Ew, Rich, seriously, stop, that’s so fucking nasty. There’s tissues over there. You’re gonna get me sick. Can you back up? Christ. I’m not kissing you with—” 

“You want to kiss me?” Richie looks up, a grin splitting his face. His eyes are red from crying. He looks like a freak, Eddie thinks. Shit. I want to kiss a freak. 

“No!” He says quickly, looking away, although he doesn’t know why. Slowly, he turns back to Richie. “Well... Maybe, but—hey! Wait!”

He brings a hand up to stop Richie, who’s leaning over to kiss him. “Stop, I’m not divorced yet. And you’re still disgusting. I’m not kissing you when you’re like this. When did you last brush your teeth? You probably still have fucking grey water germs in your mouth. You literally have trashmouth.”  

Richie seems to ignore most of that. “You’re gonna divorce Myra for me?” He sighs dramatically, trying to look like he’s swooning dreamily. God, he’s annoying. Eddie’s lip quirks. “Oh, wow. You really do care, don’t you? I thought you’d just make me your side hoe. You know, your man for the weekends. On the down low.” 

Eddie rolls his eyes, sighing. He’s starting to feel a little woozy and sleepy again. “Shut up.” His eyes feel heavy. Richie’s antics were keeping him awake, but now his body is taking over. “Hey, I’m getting tired.” 

Richie’s eyes shine with panic, and Eddie smiles at him. “It’s okay, Rich. I’m not going anywhere.” He holds out his hand and Richie takes it.  

“I didn’t even get to give you the sandwich.” Richie picks up the paper bag he’d set on the ground by his feet earlier. He pulls out a half eaten cheeseburger. “Actually, it’s probably not that good. It’s cold now.”

“The sentiment is appreciated, but yeah, I’m not eating that.” 

Richie puts the sandwich away. He squeezes Eddie’s hand lightly. “So, um… goodnight, I guess.”

“Will you stay?” Eddie asks softly, eyes already closing. “Just till I fall asleep.” 

“Of course.” 

Eddie sighs. Richie’s warm hand in his own, solid and strong and big against his, helps reassure him. “Mm. Thanks, Rich. Night.”

“Night, Eds.” Richie says, and barely after he’s finished saying it, Eddie falls asleep.