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to wake from a life not worth living, is to be born into something new.

Chapter Text

Eddie woke up.

He was in a hospital. This factor wasn’t too shocking. He’d woken up in hospitals plenty of times, both as a child and as an adult. Whether it was sitting in the ER, hunched in a chair in a hospital waiting room, or lying on one of those stiff beds, he was used to the setting.

But he was also used to knowing why he was in them. Right now? He couldn’t remember a thing.

“Good to see you’re waking as expected Mr. Kaspbrak. Please, acknowledge you can hear me.”

Eddie slowly blinked. The spots from the bright lights faded a bit more. He turned to his right. The repeated exposure to doctors at an early age meant the sight was usually a comfort more than anything. They always knew what was wrong. Yet for the first time, Eddie felt he didn’t need to see the woman. He didn’t need a doctor right now. He needed to…to…

“Very good Mr. Kaspbrak. Do you know where you are?”

He almost shook his head. Better to not strain his voice. He didn’t know what was wrong. What if he hurt himself and ended up damaging his vocal cords? Or what if trying to speak was the safer option and shaking his head wasn’t? Maybe the doctor wanted that. He could have hurt his spine. Shaking his head would just—

Something trickled forward. Memories leaked through the crack. It wasn’t enough to break the rock wall, but Eddie could feel them sliding down, pooling in the base of his brain. The usual overthinking and worry was still there. He certainly couldn’t get rid of every statistical probability he had learned. However, he suddenly realized he didn’t care about those numbers as much as he once had.

Regardless of the potential damage, or the fact Eddie didn’t even know why he was there, he spoke anyways. “A hospital. Can I have some water?”

His voice was a little hoarse, but not ridiculously so. It sounded as one sounds when waking up from a particularly long nap or deep dream. It was ruff, but Eddie could already feel it clearing as he swallowed.

“Of course. Let me grab a nurse.”

The doctor was only gone for a few seconds before coming back. As they waited on the nurse, she asked a few more questions. “Do you know your name?”

“Edward Kaspbrak. But my…my friends call me Eddie.” His friends…

“And can you tell me where you live?”

The questions kept coming. They were fairly standard, meant to establish how aware he was of himself and his surroundings. He seemed to be answering them all with flying colors, right up until the end.

“Now. Do you know why you’re here?”

By now, a nurse had brought him his water. He sipped at it through the straw. He should know this one. It was connected to everything. It had to do with this new lack of fear. The fact he didn’t feel the need to focus on probabilities or why he wasn’t more worried about waking up in a hospital. Really, he just felt thankful he’d woken up at all. All this was because of it. It…It…

The memory was right there. He could feel it trying to slip out. The doctor spoke before it could.

“It’s alright. No need to strain yourself Mr. Kaspbrak. It’s normal to have amnesia of a traumatic accident like you experienced. There’s a chance you may never fully remember.”

“But remember what?” His voice felt a little easier now. He tried to push himself up a little. “What was it?”

Right. It. Every time he thought that word, it became stuck again. The trickle of memories attempted to grow. It was all to do with It. It wasn’t nothing. It was something, a thing with a capital ‘i’. A feeling, an event, a memory—

“You were in a car accident.”

“Oh.”

That didn’t sound right. And that thought in and of itself shouldn’t have felt right either. He rarely doubted doctors, but he doubted what this one said. Not to say she wasn’t credible. But he somehow felt more sure of his own thoughts and feelings, even if he couldn’t fully unlock them now. He didn’t get a chance to explore those thoughts though as the doctor began talking again.

“I must say. It’s the most remarkable accident I’ve ever seen. You ran into a construction truck. The odds say you should have been skewered alive, but you only got pierced through your chest, missing almost all vital organs and your spine, along with a cut on your cheek. I mean really. It’s like the kind of miraculous comeback you see in some movie. I would have expected at least severe bruising. At the most, a hundred broken bones. Yet here you are.”

“Here I am,” Eddie murmured. He was alive. After being skewered…and a cut on his cheek…

A little strength had returned after being awake for a bit along with the much needed water. He pushed himself up again. His hands first felt at the clean bandage on his cheek. There was only one. His fingers found no signs of other bandages, nor any cuts or slightly swollen areas in need of treatment. If what the doctor had said was right, it really was a miracle Eddie wasn’t cut up more. But that description didn’t feel right. It wasn’t the reason. It was the—

He carefully took the hem of his hospital robes. He pulled them down but only saw bandages across his midsection. At least it didn’t feel like he had a hole in him. The doctors must have already fixed most of it.

“I’d suggest keeping it covered. We’ll change it when it’s needed, and it might be good to have a physician with you when you first see it. That level of scarring can be a little much for a patient to take in on his first time.”

Eddie nodded in understanding even as his eyes stayed glued to his own chest. He kind of wanted to tear off the bandages then and there. Maybe it would tell him what had really happened. Why It was so important. Of course, exposing the area too soon could be risky. But that usual fear wasn’t there. It certainly wasn’t as big. He felt like he could breath. He could breath for the first time because ItIt was truly…

“And if you’re up for it, you already have a visitor.”

The words pulled Eddie from his thoughts and the wound on his chest. He dropped his hands and looked up. Excitement began to build up. He had a suspicion of who the doctor was talking about. He felt young again at the mere thought. He nodded, giving the doctor permission.

The flow of memories got a little heavier.

The people would come in. Everything would make sense. Eddie would understand why he felt he could finally breath, why he felt like smiling. His friends—

“Jesus Christ Eddie! I can’t believe they let you sit up like that. You need to be lying down this instant. What if you strained yourself? What if you moved your bandages? I mean really? How could you be so careless?”

Oh.

Disappointment hit him in his chest. He slumped down merely from that, even while at the same time he was basically being manhandled so he was fully lying down again.

“Ed? Eddie, you do recognize me, right? The doctors said your amnesia would only affect your memory of the accident, but I knew it could be much worse. Which speaking of, I warned you about your driving. If you had just listened to me, you would be alright. How many times do I have to say that? Just listen! And I bet they’ve been making you talk too much too. What if your vocal cords—”

“Myra. I remember,” Eddie replied, if only to shut her up for a second.

“Well then why didn’t you say anything? Were you trying to worry me for no reason?”

As Myra continued on, Eddie looked for any chance of being saved by the doctor. However, she had already left the room. Next, he looked for something more. He looked for the reason why his heart had felt hopeful, momentarily lighter. He looked for friends…

But the room was empty except for him and his wife. His mind tried to solve what had happened, but it was impossible to finish a clear thought as Myra continued to berate him from his bedside. The only defense he could muster was sinking down deeper into his bed as he hoped he would later find some reprieve in his dreams.

Chapter Text

Eddie’s eventual reprieve from Myra was when she suggested he go to bed. Finally, something they agreed on. Though that of course couldn’t be easy either. They fought over how he should sleep as he tried to roll over. Myra yelled at him that it would put unnecessary strain on one side of his wound. Eddie yelled back that he really didn’t give a shit now.

At least the outburst got her out of his room for a few seconds. Hopefully he would fall asleep before she came back in.

The arguing had been nearly constant since he’d woken up. It wasn’t exactly like this was new, but something still felt changed. It wasn’t that there was some happier time that had since disappeared. It wasn’t that he was once content and now wasn’t. It was that he was quickly beginning to realize he had never really been content. And happiness? That had been an even more distant concept for a long time. He only just now realized it.

He had been happy. Happy once…so long ago. With friends…those friends were…

As Eddie’s mind worked harder and harder to remember, he finally fell asleep. The flow of memories slowed, but those that had already slipped through were able to sit and gestate inside his brain as he stayed under. The emotions grew…an unbreakable bond…friendship…but also danger…something had…no not something…It

Eddie woke up in a panic. His chest hurt from the sudden flurry of movement, but the pain was the last thing on his mind.

“Derry! Derry!”

He remembered that place. He remembered the fear, but for the first time in his life, his panic wasn’t from wanting to run away from it. He was still afraid, so deathly afraid. But the fear didn’t matter. He wanted to run towards It. He had to run towards the fear to make sure his friends were safe. And that was the change. He was stronger than he thought. He’d always been stronger than he’d thought and his friends—

His friends needed him!

“Eddie, sit down and stop shouting about that stupid little town!”

His panic broke apart as he was effectively shoved back and against his pillow.

“I-I need—”

“You need to calm down!”

“I need to get back to Derry. There’s…there’s something—”

“There is absolutely nothing there for you. Will you just calm down? Why even go back? All it did for you was get you in that awful car accident.”

Eddie finally turned quiet. He knew…he knew now, with absolute certainty, that he hadn’t been in a car accident. But whatever had happened still wasn’t fully coming back to him. He just knew he had to save his friends. Regardless of the risks to himself, he had to save them!

But what…from what?

“I’ll be right back. The doctor should make sure you didn’t tear anything.”

Myra left, leaving Eddie a moment alone to gather himself.

Every bone in his body told him to be thankful that he wasn’t in Derry now. In fact, he should be running away from that place. But he couldn’t. Not yet! Not until he knew his friends were safe. His friends…

He was so sure that he needed to save his friends and yet he couldn’t remember any of their names. What had happened? Where were they and how could anyone possibly believe he’d been in a car accident—

“Now don’t worry Mrs. Kaspbrak. I’m sure it was only a bad dream left over from the trauma. But we’ll check him out and make sure he’s alright. Now Mr. Kaspbrak, how are you feeling this morning?”

Eddie found it hard to fully respond. He was afraid he might say something crazy if he did. He forced himself to show the occasional, uneasy smile and nodded his way through the conversation. At the very least Myra kept quiet during the doctor’s examination.

“It looks like we need to change the bandage. Do you think you’ll be ok to stand?”

“Oh, are you really sure? I mean look at him. He still needs plenty of—”

“I can stand,” interrupted Eddie. Just to prove it, he started to push himself up. He felt a little weak, but then the doctor had said he’d only been out for a little over a day. After the first step, the second step became a little easier.

“There we go. If you want to go wait in the bathroom, I’ll be right back with all the supplies.”

“Ok.”

Eddie started to make his way over. He could have easily done it by himself, but Myra grabbed him and practically carried him the rest of the way. He really didn’t want the help, but he also didn’t want to argue anymore.

He kept his mouth shut and simply pulled himself away from Myra as soon as he could. He used the sink as support while his eyes slowly traveled across his form in the mirror. His hand reached behind the back of his neck, pulling at the string that kept the backwards robe on. He pulled at it. Then he pulled the second one that was closer to his lower back.

“Eddie! You could catch a cold. Here. Let me grab a blanket.”

Myra turned away and as she did, the hospital robe dropped to the floor. He stood in only his underwear, staring at his pale image in the mirror. His eyes glanced at his bandaged cheek first. Car accident his ass. Just looking at it made a spike of fear go through him. But also…

A level of pride. It had been so long since he’d felt even a little bit of pride in himself.

And then his eyes looked at his chest.

There was a memory there too. The rock wall that was keeping him from seeing the whole picture would break eventually. The torrent of memories would eventually flood back. Maybe…maybe he just needed something to crack it a little more, something to get the process going.

His fingers toyed at the edge of the bandage. One finger slipped in between it and his own skin.

“Eddie, what do you think you’re—”

He ripped it down in one motion.

“Edward!”

His breath became lodged in his throat as his eyes went wide and his blood ran cold. As one hand kept him standing, holding the sink ledge, his other hand grabbed at the spiked claw that had pushed through his chest. He struggled to breath. His feet left the ground. The claw slid out of him as he was flung to the—

“Are you alright Mr. Kaspbrak? Like I said, seeing it for the first time can be a little shocking.”

Eddie looked down. The hand that had seemingly been holding the claw just a moment ago closed on empty air. And the hole in his chest? The stitched together area was still healing, still flushed red, but it was also a lot smaller than Eddie had expected it to be.

“I should be in there in case Eddie—”

“I think I would prefer some privacy,” he muttered. The doctor was already in there with the supplies so Eddie slammed the door shut and turned back to the mirror.

A yell of distressed annoyance sounded on the other side of the door as the doctor looked at him with slight concern. “You know…” she slowly murmured, “stress is perfectly normal after a traumatic event. I’m sure things will settle down between you and your—”

“We were having problems before now,” Eddie interrupted.

“Oh. I’m sorry to hear that.”

“Don’t be. I’m just glad I can finally see it.” And Eddie was glad for that. He just wished he could see the bigger picture beyond it. Just what had happened?

The doctor gave him an odd look but didn't waste any time before saying, “Well, if you could just sit there Mr. Kaspbrak.”

Eddie did so and then they went through the quick process of cleaning the wound. At one point, he stood up again and managed to catch a glimpse of the other side of the wound on his back. It was larger than the section on his chest, but still nowhere near as bad as he’d expected.

It had to do with believing.

Something in the back of his mind had told him that. He’d believed that It wouldn’t kill him, that It couldn’t kill him. And so It hadn’t. But that didn’t make any sense. That wasn’t how the real world worked. Your wounds didn’t get better simply because you believed they would.

And yet somehow, that felt right.

The doctor finished putting on the new bandages and went ahead and changed the one on his cheek too. When she pulled the white cotton back, Eddie flinched. There was no real pain. He barely felt the slight sting. His reasons for flinching was because he saw the glint.

It was a metal shine, a sharp image. That feeling of fear accompanied it and yet…yet he was bigger than the fear now. He still couldn’t exactly piece together what had happened, but he knew that it had to do with something batshit insane. Something…something insane that he’d done?

The doctor finished up and then helped him tie the strings of his hospital robe back together. Once out of the bathroom, Eddie could see Myra sulking in the corner. Jesus, what was her problem? He was a grown-up! He could make his own decisions and choose if he wanted privacy or not. Yet she was acting like he was her child that had suddenly decided not to listen—

“Oh, my fucking god.”

“Eddie! There is no need for that kind of language.”

He ignored her though and just laughed. He covered his mouth and laughed so hard he made a painful snort come out his nose. He got into bed as Myra looked at him like he was crazy and the doctor left after some hesitation.

The irony was a bit sad, but honestly it just made Eddie want to laugh even more. The only part that really depressed him was that he was laughing alone right now. He was so sure he knew someone who would have gotten a kick out of this too. Someone…he…they…a group of people that would have felt proud of Eddie for finally coming to this realization. They would have all hugged and then the others would have made terrible jokes about it.

But why was he still unable to remember them?

Chapter Text

Eddie’s mood had not improved since that morning. He and Myra were talking less, but she seemed determined not to leave him alone. At this point, literally any other presence would have been preferable. A nurse, some random visitor wandering the halls, just anyone!

He hadn’t had dinner last night, no telling when he’d last eaten, and the nightmare had diminished his appetite that morning. All he’d had for breakfast was half a biscuit and a spoonful of the flavorless gravy that only a hospital could sell as food. However, as lunch time went around, Eddie’s stomach growled in anticipation. Myra got up to grab it from the nurse along with some pills to help keep any pain at bay.

It would have been so easy to just take the plate and shovel the food in, but apparently Myra had taken his small appetite that morning as reason to baby him more. Anyone else and at most the action would have just been annoying. But having it come from Myra? The fact that he could fully see the circle he’d trapped himself in? Now he couldn’t stand it, and it was taking all his energy to not snap at her.

She started to continue the last conversation they’d been having. The only reason they both hadn’t ended that conversation in another argument was probably because the nurse had walked in.

Now she said, “Once your wounds fully heal, we should keep an eye out for any developing scar tissue. It would be expensive, but we could look into plastic surgery to smooth things out, help prevent any further build-up and…”

Myra kept prattling on about the dangers and future pain that could be caused by scarring and what they could do to prevent it. Normally, Eddie might have agreed with her planning ahead. Or, if he hadn’t agreed, he would have eventually given in. But looking down at his chest, he didn’t want to get rid of the scar that would be left behind. If complications arose, he would deal with them at a later date, just like everyone else. But these eventual scars? He felt proud to have them, both the one through his chest and the one on his cheek.

They were marks that reminded him he could be strong-no. He was strong! Stronger than he sometimes realized.

He didn’t say anything at the moment though, knowing another argument would undoubtably erupt. He just wanted to rest. He wanted peace and quiet and time to really analyze his memories. He wanted to find his friends, know their names again, and arguing with Myra wouldn’t accomplish any of that.

Right then, she finally put the tray of food on the sliding table and pushed it over his lap.

Not that the food would have been very appetizing anyways, he still couldn’t help but let out a disenchanted whine. As he’d been in his own thoughts, Myra had thrown out everything or cut things down to size to what she clearly saw as an acceptable amount.

And then a memory warmed its way into his head.

Almost all the food Eddie had eaten had been prepared by his mother. He was delicate, had to look out for his health, she had said. His wife had often done the same thing. But he could remember times where he’d binged a little, had actually enjoyed the food, even if only for a moment.

Chinese came to mind…

Then an older memory. Ice cream in the town square. Candies from the general store.

Other vague recollections were there and eventually Eddie said, “I want a burger.”

“Nonsense Eddie. You know how much fat and sodium and everything else can be in those. Besides, you need to be especially careful with what you eat right now.” She picked up the spoon and scooped up a wet helping of what looked like old, canned corn.

Seeing her now, so much like his mother when he’d been little, waiting there expectedly with the spoon in hand, he finally snapped.

He suddenly realized trying to avoid arguments with Myra was pointless. He would never be able to look back at his own memories while she was in the room. He could barely even breath with her right there! Perhaps he should have been a bit kinder, but years worth’s of frustrations all came tumbling out at once.

“Stop trying to play airplane.”

“Eddie, not now. Just eat your—”

“No. How about you make a course correction and shove that spoon up your ass.”

Myra dropped it onto the tray and stood back up. “How dare you! I don’t have to put up with this!”

“Then leave.”

That made her faulter a bit, like she’d never expected him to say such a thing to her. “Edward, you don’t really mean—”

“Get out before I call security.”

“I—”

“Get out!”

Eddie turned away, looking for the nurse call sign. He jabbed it just in case, but by the time he turned around, Myra was already gone. His eyes moved to the tray, then the empty room, then his own form lying in bed.

He needed to get up and move around, even if only for a moment.

Eddie carefully got to his feet and moved to the dresser on the side. He tried to bend over but had to pause for a second, his chest flaring up with pain. He moved to take the medication that had been left with the food, and then turned back to the dresser. He carefully bent his knees and looked through the drawers. At the very least Myra was predictable. There were clean clothes in there that she must have brought from home. He pulled out the pants.

“Oh, uh Mr. Kaspbrak," the nurse said upon finally getting there. "I didn’t realize it was time for your release.”

“I just need to go for a walk-actually. When am I supposed to be released?” Eddie suddenly realized that beyond the basic details of his injuries, he hadn’t been told anything else about his prognosis. Had Myra been talking to the doctor without him knowing?

“Let me check just a moment.”

“Thank you.”

As the nurse left the room, Eddie finished pulling on his pants. He left the hospital robe rather than putting on his shirt though. All he really needed was a moment to walk around and breath without his ass hanging out.

Then the nurse came back. “Um, the chart says they want to keep you one more night. Just make sure no complications arise considering the uniqueness of your main wound. But you should be good to go by tomorrow. Any longer and you would have been moved out of the ER and to a normal room.”

“Then I guess I’m leaving tomorrow,” sighed Eddie. He briefly wondered if Myra had planned on keeping him longer in the hospital despite it not being necessary. He certainly wouldn’t put it past her.

He then tried to bend back down to grab his shoes. Instead, he quickly stopped and gripped his chest again. Hopefully that pain medication was going to kick in soon because the feeling was definitely growing harder to ignore.

“Here. Since you’re just going for a quick walk.” The nurse went to a cabinet and pulled out some hospital issued, no-slip slippers. He set them down in front of Eddie. He murmured a quick thank you as he put them on. The nurse also said, “Patients should be accompanied at all times so if you don’t mind…”

“No, it’s fine. I just need a moment to get some air.”

“Perfectly understandable. Should I grab a wheelchair?”

“I’ll be ok,” Eddie replied.

He carefully started to walk out of the room. He kept close to the wall, just in case he had to grab the support bar that was there. However, at least for the moment, he felt ok. He walked in silence with the nurse behind him. The layout was standard for most hospital ERs and all the signs told Eddie where things were.

He caught a glimpse of one that pointed to the ER waiting room, and he suddenly paused.

His friends…why hadn’t they come to see him yet? Even if he couldn’t remember everything, he could feel how important they were. And yet, it had just been Myra. The doctor hadn’t mentioned that anyone else wanted to see him and yet…if they were his friends…

It was mostly a hunch, but one that Eddie felt determined to follow. He paused at the corner of the hall. Using the wall, he gave himself a moment to breath, gather his strength, and then he started to walk towards the waiting room.

Chapter Text

Eventually, the nurse seemed to realize the direction Eddie was going in.

“Oh! We try to keep patients out of the waiting room. It can be a lot more hectic since it’s the ER, and it’s best to keep a certain flow—”

“Is there some reason I absolutely can’t go out there? Like I have some highly contagious, incredibly dangerous, disease?” Eddie sarcastically muttered. He was trying to be a bit more polite, but he was so close now. If he was right about his friends, if they actually cared about him, then they would at least be in the waiting room. Right? If not in his actual room, then they were just right beyond this door.

What had exactly happened, an explanation behind the visions and vague memories, it would all be laid bare before him. No matter what the expected etiquette was, Eddie wasn’t going to let a single nurse stop him.

“I mean no. But you have to understand—”

Eddie didn’t wait for permission. He took advantage of the nurse’s hesitance and pulled open the doors. A few people stared at him with confusion, but most seemed too concerned with their own problems to pay him any notice. A nurse behind the main desk stood up, clearly ready to tell him he shouldn’t be there, but Eddie ignored her too. He turned the corner so he could see the full waiting area in front of him. His eyes quickly went over the people. Some sat with bleeding noses and broken bones, clearly waiting to be seen. Others were friends and family, waiting for some prognosis. It was easy to tell the more serious cases from the more standard ones going by facial expressions and general unease.

Then Eddie’s eyes landed on one figure to the far left.

He was awkwardly splayed out over three chairs. His legs took up one, his butt stuck right in the second, and his back and head rested over the third chair’s armrests in a way that couldn’t possibly have been comfortable. A dirty jacket that looked like it had been through a sewer and worse covered his face, clearly trying to keep the light from bothering him. There was a small side table near his head where large, black glasses lay.

It was familiar…so familiar… He almost had it! He could feel it! The rock wall was starting to break, names were forming in the back of his head, his understanding of It and what It was…

The nurse that had been accompanying him took him by his arm. “Sir, I really must insist you get back to your room now.”

The nurse tried to pull him back.

Eddie resisted.

And then it broke.

The medication still hadn’t fully taken effect because Eddie felt the flare up in his chest again. However, he ignored it as he ripped his arm from the nurse’s grip. “Richie! Richie Tozier!”

The man startled so hard it looked like he’d been shot. He hit the ground. The jacket fell from his face revealing deep circles and a slight beard that really needed to be taken care of. He desperately grabbed at his glasses and finally stood up as Eddie ran towards him at the same time.

“Richie!”

Eddie could seem him asleep on the bench ahead of him. The day had been planned out so perfectly, so of course something had come along and ruined it.

The school year wasn’t quite over, but it was already to the point where most teachers had given up on assigning homework. Any normal parent would have let their kid go to the arcade on such an afternoon, but of course Eddie’s mom had given him the third degree. He’d ended up running late because of her, and because he’d been late, he’d ran into Henry Bowers’ gang, and because he’d run into that gang, he was now running for what felt like his life.

Normally Eddie would have run home, but he’d met up with Bowers too far into town. Of course, Bill had been getting a pass because of what happened to his little brother, but that didn’t mean Eddie, Richie, or Stan got a pass, especially if they were caught alone.

That was why Eddie had decided to head for the town square where he was supposed to meet his friends. Better to be with friends than alone, even if he did get caught.

A quick look over the area showed that Stan and Bill weren’t there though. It had been a bad day for Bill so he was probably hold up in his room, and it was a tossup whether Stan’s dad would let him come out too. As for Richie, he’d probably come to the square early on and had then fallen asleep, waiting for the others before they headed to the arcade.

Normally Eddie would have walked over to Richie, poked him hard with a stick, and told him it was crap like this that led to sunburns and blisters as big as your head. However, since he was running from Henry Bowers, that was really the last thing on his mind.

Instead, he simply yelled again in a high pitched, breathless voice and with language that his mom definitely didn’t think he used. “Richie, get your fucking ass up!”

Richie jolted. He hit the ground hard and his glasses fell off. He just barely managed to pick them up again as Eddie grabbed Richie’s arm and pulled him with him. Eddie had originally just been running in a panic to a place where he’d suspected a friend would be. Now that he was with a friend, he had no idea where to go. Thankfully, Richie grabbed his arm instead and led the way.

They went off the town’s square and down an alleyway. Richie made a sharp turn and at the last second, pulled him and Eddie behind a large trash bin. Eddie was beginning to wheeze so Richie slapped a hand over his mouth. Eddie slapped his own hand over Richie’s mouth, if only to show he wasn’t the only one being a loud ass.

Otherwise, they both stayed stalk still. Even when they heard Henry Bowers’ gang run by, they still stayed, waiting just a little longer to make sure.

When they both decided it was safe, they dropped their hands and Eddie’s labored wheezing came through. His hands shook as he desperately tried to pull the zipper and get at his inhaler.

“Why the hell were they chasing you?”

“C-cause I exist. Why do you think!” Eddie yelled back after he got in two good breaths.

“Ok. Fair point.”

Richie paused, clearly expecting Eddie to finally get up so they could stop smelling like trash. He looked ready to make some stupid comment, but when he saw Eddie was still shaking, he put his arms around him instead.

“Ah come on. They didn’t even get in a punch this time.” Richie hesitated, not that Eddie noticed as he was still trying to keep his breathing in check and keep from using the inhaler a third time. Finally, Richie squeezed him a little harder before quickly letting go. “It’s ok. I got you. Now let’s have some fun at the arcade. Yeah?”

“I got you.”

Eddie said it as he gripped Richie’s shoulders. The man looked ready to hit the ground again. But then Eddie’s grip hardened, hard enough to bruise as more pieces started to fall into place.

His friends. He remembered his…

“Bill! B-Beverly and Ben and Mike—”

Richie grabbed his neck and suddenly it was him steading Eddie. “Woah. Hey it’s ok. It’s—”

“Are they ok! Oh god, please tell me they’re ok Richie! Are they—”

“Ok? They’re all fucking fine! We’ve been worried about you, dipshit!”

And then Richie reached around his shoulders and pulled him into a tight hug. Eddie’s memories were still trying to fully come back, certain things were still processing and there were still parts that he was kind of missing, but for the moment, none of that mattered. It would have been even better if they were all there, but he’d gladly take Richie over nothing.

Since he’d woken up, and perhaps for the first time in a long time, he felt loved.

Chapter Text

Eddie really wanted to continue the conversation then and there. He had so many questions. He wanted to know where the others were. However, he could feel the nurses were about to wrangle him back to his room and to be fair, having a conversation in the middle of an ER waiting room wasn’t exactly the best place or time. Because of that, when they finally broke their hold on each other, Eddie grabbed Richie’s hand and quickly pulled him towards the back.

The nurse from before finally stepped forward again and said, “Sir, I really need you to get back to your—”

“Yeah. We’re going.”

“Oh, well he can’t go with you Mr. Kaspbrak—”

“Why the hell not?” snapped Eddie as a frown set in.

“Meow.”

“Shut up Richie.” Yet the way Eddie said it immediately had a smile coming onto his face. There was no real heat behind it, and it was said in a way that made it clear the once annoying comments were more endearing than anything now.

“Well typically we only allow one person back there at a time since it is the ER, and your wife made it very clear that only family should be allowed—”

“He is fucking family. Come on Richie.”

Eddie started to head back to the door. Being the ER, he couldn’t open it from this side, and he threw a quick glare at the nurse behind the desk. He would walk out of this damn hospital then and there if they didn’t let Richie back there.

“Look at you letting your claws out.”

“Hush Richie,” Eddie groaned again, even as that smile still returned. A buzz sounded and Eddie quickly pushed through the door with Richie behind him. Eddie probably could have let go by now, but he still held Richie’s hand. He’d only just gotten back a person he truly cared about. He had to make sure he stayed by his side now.

The nurse also followed them down the halls. When Eddie made it back to his room without another incident, the nurse finally left to go back to his station. In the room, Eddie felt comfortable finally letting go of Richie and quickly went to sit down. His hand came up to his chest. He had to close his eyes as he tried to ease his breathing.

“Shit, you’re in pain. Do I need to grab that nurse—”

“No. Took some medication. Just still taking a moment to kick in…and me running at you probably didn’t help,” Eddie got out.

“Yeah, no shit. I’m surprised you risked that when you could have just walked over,” snorted Richie.

“I just…I couldn’t remember anything for so long. And then so much of it broke through. This…this happened before. Sort of. Us forgetting until we…until we all met up again. Right?”

Richie nodded.

“Did you forget?”

“No. At least not while I’ve been waiting out there for you. I don’t know if we’ll forget again either. If we all split up. But maybe you forgot because you were uh…under.”

Under. Eddie had questions about that. What had exactly happened to him that had led to him being in this hospital? What had really gone through his chest? For the moment though, he focused on the most important question.

“Is It gone?”

Richie let out a shaky breath. “Yeah.”

“Really?”

“Real fucking dead. No doubt about it this time. The entire place fell apart as we were leaving.”

Eddie couldn’t really remember that. He wasn’t sure if he wanted to. For the moment, he just asked, “And…and the others? Why isn’t anyone else here?”

“Hey! They wanted to be. Trust me. We all came running in together with me and Bill carrying you. But you were being taken into surgery and they said we couldn’t all just be crowding up their waiting room; so, I volunteered to stay.”

“Thank you,” murmured Eddie. His chest was starting to feel a bit better now, the area becoming a bit numb. Those pills were finally taking affect.

“No need to thank me. We’re your friends Eddie. Any one of us could be standing here. I just happened to volunteer first.”

Eddie chuckled at that. He pushed himself back onto his feet and took off the slippers. He grabbed his pants, ready to throw those off too only for Richie to whistle and say, “Wow! And we’re not even down at the quarry.”

“I’m getting back into bed,” Eddie replied with a roll of his eyes. As he did just that, he also asked, “And after I was out of surgery? Have you really just been sitting in the waiting room all this time?”

“I actually didn’t know if you were out. It’s why I was so damn shocked to see you. I tried to get back there, but they said only family would be allowed. I tried to argue otherwise, also tried to basically break in, but they threatened to throw me out, so I passed out on the chairs instead.”

Eddie shook his head. “I can’t believe she fucking did that.”

“Who?”

“My wife! Just Myra not letting you back here. I can’t—no. I guess I can believe it. Just…no. I’m just done.”

“You’re…done with your wife?”

“I don’t know,” sighed Eddie. “I just know that when I get out of here, it is not her face I want to see waiting in a car for me.”

Richie winced. “Jesus. Bit harsh.”

“I’m just tired of living in a lie. I’ve been living it for nearly forty years. You know?” Richie hesitated. He was biting his bottom lip hard when Eddie finally looked over and added, “Or…I guess that’s just me?”

“No!” Richie said. “I’m definitely-I mean all of us I think…I think we all kind of feel that way.” Richie stopped, like he was about to take up the courage to say something else. However, he seemed to change his mind and instead said, “Which speaking of, I don’t know, living your truth or whatever. Pretty sure Ben and Bev are a thing now. Or about to be.”

Eddie let out a light laugh. “About time.”

“About time?! Am I the only one that was clueless on this whole thing?”

“So much for the sex king, huh? You didn’t even realize there was something going on between Bill and Bev when we were kids.”

“Hey, you all were fucking virgins. I didn’t think any of you even knew how to kiss.”

“Oh, like you weren’t a virgin too.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Both Eddie and Richie devolved into giggles. Eddie was smiling and smiling and—

And then the tears came.

Richie immediately launched forward. “Fuck! What hurts Eds? I’ll go—”

“No, it’s not that.”

Richie frowned. He gently squeezed Eddie’s shoulder. “Wait…then what—”

“I fucking missed you. I missed…I missed everyone,” Eddie got out as he quickly wiped at his eyes. “And I mean, I felt that before. You know, right when we all got together at the Chinese restaurant. But when we all realized why we were here? It was hard to focus on that.”

“Yeah, I definitely get that. I almost ran off more than once.”

“Hey, don’t put that all on yourself. We all were ready to run at a moment’s notice at different times,” Eddie replied.

“I guess…hey!” Richie got closer with hopeful eyes. “When are you getting out of here?”

“Doctor says tomorrow.”

“Well that’s too fucking long. Hold on.” Richie took out his phone. It was cracked but seemed to work fine as he started up face time.

Eddie heard Bill’s voice first. He sounded worried and the stutter came out with the fear. “Richie. Did something h…h…ha…hap…change?”

“You bet it did. Look at this loser’s room they threw me into,” Richie replied as he jumped onto the bed with Eddie.

Bill’s eyes went wide before immediately watering. The stutter fell away as his entire body finally relaxed. “Eddie…” he whispered. Then the camera went everywhere as Bill must have dropped his hand. They heard him yell. “Guys! Guys, get down here!”

More movement occurred as they all tried to get into frame. Eventually Eddie could see all of them.

“Hey losers.”

“Fuck, I can’t believe you’re ok,” Ben got out.

“But we’re so happy you are,” Bev replied. “When—”

“Tomorrow,” Richie said before Eddie could. “We’ve got to do something big.”

“Wait, tomorrow?” Mike asked. “Really.”

“I know. I could have sworn…” Eddie trailed off for a second. He looked down at his chest but quickly focused on his friends again. “Just need to be careful. You know?”

“Like Eddie ever wasn’t careful,” Bill replied, and everyone laughed.

“What about the quarry?” Ben said. “We haven’t been there in years?”

“Sounds great,” Eddie responded as he rolled his eyes. “Get out of the hospital after surviving a killer fucking clown, only to die of some infection from who knows what’s in that water.”

“Point taken,” laughed Mike.

“Why does it have to even be in Derry?” Bev suddenly asked. “I mean, the quarry’s a good memory but…”

“Yeah. Fuck Derry.” Richie said.

“I second that motion,” Bill replied.

“How about this,” Ben put in. “I find us the best fucking restaurant—”

“So obviously not in Derry,” added Richie.

“We go to that fucking restaurant,” continued Ben as everyone laughed, “and we start the first day of the rest of our lives.”

“That sounds wonderful,” murmured Bev.

Bill smiled. “More than wonderful. Sounds perfect.”

Eddie nodded. “I like the sound of that.”

“Then I guess we’ll get a chance to see you then,” Mike said. “Don’t want to overcrowd that hospital room anyways.”

“Probably best to let him rest,” agreed Bev. Bill nodded in agreement.

“We’ll see you soon!” shouted Ben.

“Bye guys,” Eddie replied as they all waved and threw kisses his way before Richie and Bill ended the call at pretty much the same time.

“So now we’ve got plans,” grinned Richie. “What do you want to do until then?”

Eddie’s stomach growled just then. “Considering I ate shit for breakfast today and then nothing for lunch, food.”

Richie’s smile widened as he slapped Eddie’s leg before pointing at him. “I am going to get you the best damn meal of your life.”

“Don’t take long.”

“I’ll be back in ten. Promise,” Richie replied. He darted out of the room and Eddie was almost positive that he meant to run all the way there and back.

Chapter Text

Crumbled burger wrappers and French fry holders lay on the little hospital table. Once they’d finished the meal, the table had been rolled away so that Richie could move his chair as close as possible. They were deep in conversation, reminiscing about some of the best days of their lives. Most of the moments were set before It had even been a thing, and certainly long before adult worries had even wormed their way into their heads.

It was probably the first time Eddie had been stuck in a hospital and he hadn’t been panicking over every little detail too. It felt good.

Richie began doing one of his classic voices, though admittedly much improved from how he’d sounded as a kid. Eddie was in stitches, and thankfully his medication kept it from even hurting. He’d probably be a little sore tomorrow, but he wasn’t bothered by it. He really hadn’t laughed like this in a long time, not including the Chinese dinner before they’d understood what they were in for by returning to Derry.

He was wiping at a tear when his smile suddenly dropped. A few nurses had come in and out to check on him, possibly to make sure he stayed in his room for the rest of the day. One had come in to change his bandages. She’d shown him how to take care of the wound on his chest for when he was released. He would need help with his back, the area being hard to reach, but most of it he could do himself.

She’d also taken the bandage off his cut cheek and said the stitches would be enough going forward. Richie had grinned and said, “Planning on retiring from being a risk analyst and becoming Scarface?”

“Yeah. Just instead of cocaine, I’ll deal in placebos,” Eddie had said with a roll of his eyes.

“I think you mean gazebos.”

“Urgh! Why did I ever tell you about that?”

“Because it’s comedy gold, Scarface.”

Eddie had just groaned even louder, though the smile had still been very present on his face.

Now though, he’d hoped to see his main doctor. If he was really going to leave tomorrow, it would be good to go over any last-minute things and for him to get his prescription out of the way for the pain pills. However, the person who walked in instead was Myra.

“Who the hell are you?”

Richie whistled. “Jesus Eddie. You really—”

“Don’t.”

“Edward, I demand to know who this is.”

“Edward huh? I’m surprised she didn’t throw in a middle name—”

“Richie, please.” It was hard to say if it was the look Eddie gave him, his tone of voice, or maybe both, but thankfully Richie shut up. Eddie would have loved to laugh at Richie’s stupid remarks, but this wasn’t the time. He needed to have a serious talk with Myra, and he couldn’t do that if Richie was trying to pull a routine at the same time.

“I said, who is—”

“Hey!” Richie snapped. “Just give me a second.” He then turned to Eddie. “Sorry. Didn’t mean anything by it, and I definitely don’t want to make this harder on you. I’ll be right outside. Okay?”

“Yeah. Thanks.”

“No problem Eds.”

Richie got up and slipped out, having to squeeze around Myra as she seemed determined to stand in the doorway. It was like her anger had sprouted roots and stuck her to the floor. Eddie really hoped that wasn’t a sign that this would go on for a long time. He knew he’d really have to deal with this down the road, but right now he didn’t have the energy to get through everything that he would need to say.

“Who the hell was that?” Myra repeated once Richie was gone.

“My friend—”

“Is that why you left for that stupid little town? You got in an accident before you came here and look what happened when you got here. This place is nothing but trouble for you.”

“Well that we can agree on,” Eddie muttered sarcastically. However, Myra ignored the comment.

“He looks like he’s been living in the damn sewer! I’m surprised these people even let him in. There’s no telling how many diseases he could be carrying on his person. What if you got an infection? Really Eddie, you should have thought about that. I’ll go get someone to have him removed—”

“No!”

Myra jumped a little. It seemed she thought the last outburst had been a fluke. Eddie was determined to show her that it hadn’t been.

“You shouldn’t have limited my visitors, and you don’t get to say who sees me and who doesn’t,” he said.

“Really Eddie. This is not like you at all.”

“What is me then?”

“What—”

“Did you ever even know—” He had to stop himself. He was too tired to tired to get everything out. There would be arguments in the future. That seemed inevitable now. But for the moment, Eddie just wanted a break. A nice long break and to get back to someone who actually made him smile. “I’m sorry. But I won’t let you just kick Richie out of here.”

“Well I suppose it doesn’t matter. We’ll have you transferred to a hospital closer to home anyways.”

It really was difficult not to get angry again. He tried to focus on the fact that upping his blood pressure would do him no good right now. It was easier than just trying not to get mad at what Myra was saying. “I’m getting out tomorrow. I already talked to a nurse about it. Even if the doctor, for whatever reason, doesn’t sign off on it, I’ll just check myself out.”

“You can’t really mean that Eddie. With what you’ve been through, you still need time—”

“I need my friends.”

“Since when? When have you ever needed anyone else but me?”

Eddie had to close his eyes at that one. Everything was so much clearer now, he almost wanted to scream. But not now. Someday…but just not today. “They’re old friends. There are still things I need to finish with them,” Eddie replied. He managed to keep his voice forceful but also calm as he finally focused on Myra. He tried not to make it too harsh, if only to keep Myra from yelling again, but he needed to make sure she saw he wasn’t budging on this.

They stared at each other. The minutes were almost painful, and it was clear Myra expected Eddie to break, to give into her demands.

When he didn’t, she almost looked lost. This was uncharted territory for her, and she wasn’t quite sure how to handle it. That alone would have been a big red flag if Eddie hadn’t already cleared his vision. He waited until she spoke first.

“I’m giving you a week.”

He resisted the urge to snap at that too. It was a demand, not a suggestion or anything. But not right now. Just wait, Eddie reminded himself.

“You have a week,” she repeated, angrily stomping over to the dresser set, “to get through this-this mid-life crisis you seem determined to have! But I expect you to pull yourself together and be home by the end it.” She pulled her purse around, looking through it before dropping his wallet and phone onto the dresser.

God, he was thankful he hadn’t lost either in the sewers, and even more thankful that Myra was giving them to him rather than holding onto the items. He wouldn’t have been surprised if she had taken them hostage in order to force him to come back to the house eventually. The car keys for the rental weren’t there though. Considering he hadn’t actually been in an accident, he wondered what had happened to that. Was it still at the little hotel in Derry? Or had Myra taken it somehow?

“Is this understood?”

Eddie resisted the urge to sigh. “Yes Myra. We’ll—I’ll see you soon.” Somehow, we’ll talk about this later, seemed like it would just spark more arguments. Eddie decided to go with the safer option.

“Good. Finally something sensible,” she grumbled. She zipped her purse back up and started to head out the door. She paused though, and quickly added, “And don’t let that man to close to you Eddie. You’ll only catch something from him.”

“Yes Myra,” Eddie replied, having to choke back the sarcasm so she wouldn’t snap back at him.

And then she was gone.

Eddie let out a large groan and let his head hit the pillow. His heart rate may have increased a little, so he waited for that to calm down before opening his eyes again. Richie was already back in the room, sitting right by Eddie’s bed when he did.

“I’m not trying to be rude, but how the hell did you ever live with a woman like that?”

Eddie looked up at the ceiling. He shrugged. “As horrible as she could be, she was familiar. Maybe it’s because I thought I could only live with someone like that. Maybe because I thought only someone like her could love me.”

Richie grasped Eddie’s arm. “Hey, I-we love you Eddie. You’ve got the losers. You always have.”

“Couldn’t remember that then. But,” and Eddie squeezed Richie’s hand with a smile, “I do now. And I’m determined not to forget it.”

“Same here.” Richie let go to lean back a bit and added, “And I don’t look like I live in a sewer. Do I?”

“Not quite, but you definitely smell like one.”

“Rude!”

“You are getting cleaned up before we go to wherever Ben picked out for us.”

“OK, you may have a point there. I’ll go tonight. After you’ve fallen asleep.”

“I mean, you could go now if you want.”

“Do I smell that bad?” laughed Richie.

“It’s still tolerable. I’m just saying—”

“Naw. It’s ok. I don’t want you to fall asleep alone, and that way I know I’ll be back in time before you wake up.”

“You don’t have to do that,” murmured Eddie.

“I know. But I want to.”

“When did you ever become so generous?” chuckled Eddie. “I think I’ve said thank you more times today than I did our entire childhood.”

“What can I say. Grew up into a generous guy,” grinned Richie.

Eddie rolled his eyes.

“I also heard that whole one-week ultimatum. What are you going to do about that? You’re obviously not going to listen to her. Right?”

“I don’t know. I’ll cross that bridge when I get there. Let’s just go back to what we were talking about before.”

“Deal,” replied Richie. “So anyways…”

Chapter Text

As promised, Richie had stayed until Eddie fell asleep again. When Eddie did wake up, he jolted upright and grabbed at his chest, more specifics on the final battle coming back. But one glance over showed Richie had returned. He was clean, face shaved back down to short stubble, and had new clothes. Eddie was glad he hadn’t made too much noise as Richie stayed fast asleep and awkwardly splayed out on the chair. Eddie wondered if he knew the chair could be pushed back into a sleeping position or if he preferred to find the most awkward positions possible.

As Eddie watched him sleep, he saw that one of Richie’s hands hung loosely off the side. Eddie reached over, gently squeezing his pinky to make sure he was real. At the same time, a spit bubble burst in the back of Richie’s throat as a let out a sound between a wet snort and a snore.

Eddie had to muffle his laughter as he eased back into the bed. He managed to fall asleep again, and the next time he woke up it was morning and Richie was grumbling about an ache in his back.

The doctor came by as Eddie took his morning pills and had breakfast. They went over payments, prescriptions, and everything else. The doctor mentioned that Myra had originally requested that he be kept in care, but Eddie quickly threw that idea out the window. Thankfully, the doctor agreed that she thought the extra oversight would have been a bit much too. She simply pressed that if anything felt off, he should go to the nearest hospital as soon as possible.

Richie said, “No worries there. He’ll be at a hospital in seconds even if there isn’t a problem.”

Eddie hit him in the shoulder for that and focused on the doctor. “I apologize for him. Please continue.”

The planning was then finalized, and everything was put in order. Eddie went ahead and signed what he could while still in his room. Then he went to the bathroom so he could quickly wash his hair in the sink and his face. He was looking forward to finally taking a shower, but knew they weren’t going back to the little hotel in Derry so better to get cleaned up now. Instead, it seemed they were going straight for whatever plans Ben had come up with.

After cleaning up in the bathroom, Eddie then changed into the clothes Myra had left. Next, he went through his wallet and examined his phone before putting them away. His wallet seemed alright, albeit it had a slight, sewer smell to it, but his phone was completely dead. He’d have to put that at the top of his list of things to do, but he was kind of thankful for the moment. He didn’t have to worry about Myra constantly texting or calling him, or anyone else for that matter.

“Look at you. A new man,” grinned Richie as Eddie smoothed down his shirt.

“Not so bad yourself. Now you just smell like…sweaty comedian.”

Richie punched him in the shoulder. “Hey, that’s a step up from my former redolence. I call it, remnants of killer clown and graywater.”

“Classy,” Eddie replied. He walked out of the hospital room. It felt good knowing he shouldn’t have to go back anytime soon. It felt even better since he was walking out with Richie and not someone else too.

Eddie had to go up to a desk to sign some more papers, and then they went to the pharmacy so he could go ahead and get his prescription. As they waited, Eddie asked, “Was the rental car still at the hotel? Mine?”

“Right…about that—”

“What?”

“Listen, I was going to tell you, but I didn’t want to ruin the day.”

“Richie, just tell me please.”

“Well, we all drove here with you when you were hurt, so I ended up calling Mike to pick me up last night and take me back to the hotel. And that way I could also get my own car for today. Oh, and I found out the address of where we’re going to, which is still a surprise so don’t ask.”

“Ok. But what else?”

“Well um…I also found out from Mike that Myra went over, got the rental collected, closed out the bill on your room, and basically took all your stuff.” That last part came out in a rush as Richie waited for Eddie’s reaction.

It took Eddie about two seconds.

“Are you kidding me!”

“Sir?” one of the pharmacists piped up. “Could you please not yell? This may not be a library, but neither are we a rodeo.”

“Sorry. Sorry,” Eddie quickly said. When the guy turned away, Eddie let out a muffled groan and kicked the wall. The pharmacist snapped his head back in their direction. “Sorry.” Eddie turned back to Richie. “Please tell me you’re joking.”

“Sorry, I’m not.”

“She didn’t give me a week. I should have known she would never be that accommodating.” Eddie angrily took all his credit cards out and threw them in the air. “I bet she’s already put holds on most of these if not all. She wants me to go running right back to her! That was always the plan! Well guess what, oh wife of mine, I’m not going to fuckin—”

“Sir—”

“What!?”

A new pharmacist slowly put a bag on the counter and pushed it towards him with the tip of her finger. “Your uh…prescription sir.”

“Right. Right, I-I am so sorry,” Eddie quickly got out. He grabbed the bag and looked down to see Richie picking up everything he’d just thrown out of his wallet. “You-Richie, you don’t have to do that. Shit, I’m sorry.”

“Hey, I don’t mind it. Lord knows you picked up after my shit all through our younger years. Might as well help you out now,” Richie replied. He flashed his attempt at a comforting smile. It worked because Eddie’s shoulders relaxed. “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you right away. I just wanted today to be a break. You know? Not just from the shit we went through but everything else—”

“No. It’s ok. I appreciate it. Just…I don’t know what I’m going to do now,” admitted Eddie. He took his cards back and started to reorganize his wallet as Richie helped by taking the prescription bag from him.

They finally walked out of the hospital just as Eddie put his wallet back in his pocket and took his pills back. He followed Richie to his car, kind of stuck in his own head as he tried to figure out what his next step should be.

He couldn’t go back to Myra. That was exactly what she wanted. But he was also cut off from everything and-and shit! His job. He should be able to get more time off, assuming they forgave him for suddenly leaving for Derry. He would use the medical reason or even all his unpaid vacation days if he had to.

But there was his own accounts and credit cards he had to get in order, he still needed a new phone, and he had no idea where he was going to live. Because now he knew his one week apart from Myra would last much, much longer, if only to prove a point.

Maybe he should just try to go back to work and get his expenses figured out. He could get a hotel nearby. But then putting himself through that kind of stress probably wouldn’t be good for his heart and chest. Neither did he want to be that close to Myra with the potential of her just showing up at his door whenever she pleased. Yet that didn’t change that he still needed money and somewhere to stay. Just no matter what, he couldn’t go back to Myra. He couldn’t give in. But where in the world could he go from—

“You could stay with me.”

Eddie blinked hard. “Wait. You’re-did you just say what I think you said?”

“Well I mean, after this, I think everyone is ready to leave Derry. You know? Just no one wanted to leave until we knew you were ok. And I know I have tours and shit I need to get to, if I didn’t get fired from them-but that’s beside the point! I got the room and I don’t want you to feel like you don’t have an out from the situation. Because you do. And I am happy to help where I can.”

Eddie relaxed against the car seat. His lips softly turned upwards. “You really mean that.”

“Hell yeah. And I mean, if I live too far away then I’ll still help you find a place closer to your own home so you can go to your job if you need to and…”

Richie was rambling a bit, but it was all things that just made Eddie smile harder and harder. Richie was trying to think of anything that Eddie might automatically start worrying about. And to be fair, a lot of those worries had just been in his head. But now that Eddie knew he had someone willing to help him out? That he wasn’t alone in this? Most of those worries slipped away.

“I’ll take you up on the offer.”

“Really?”

“A hundred percent. Maybe…maybe this is the start of the kind of change that I need,” Eddie replied. “Though…I guess I should ask where you live. Don’t think you got around to mentioning that before.”

Richie laughed good and hard at that. “I’ve got two places actually.”

“Fancy.”

“Urgh, don’t say that yet. You haven’t seen them. And they’re pretty small. Just wanted to be able to have a home that was relatively close no matter where I was so I wasn’t in hotel rooms the entire time when on tour. Got a place in Carson City, Nevada and the other one is in Chicago. Which I realize, even Chicago is still like half a day’s drive away from where you live but—”

“I’m ok with that.”

“Really?” asked Richie.

Eddie shrugged. “Maybe I’ll end up grabbing a hotel closer to work when I go back, but I don’t think I’m ready for that yet. And I’d…I’d rather not be alone right now.”

“Same,” Richie agreed. “And you can stay as long as you want. Whatever you need Eds.”

“Thanks,” smiled Eddie. He glanced at the clock. “So, I know it’s far too early for us to be going to dinner right now. So what’s the plan?”

“Heading to the next city over. Not too long a drive from here, actually a little shorter if you went from Derry so that drive back won’t be bad. But we’re going to meet with everyone, see exactly what it’s like to live in a monster free world, and have dinner at wherever Ben found. Sound good?”

“Fucking perfect actually. Hmm, wonder what’s on the radio.”

“Oh no. I pick the music.”

“Your music sucks.”

“Says the guy who will willingly listen to ABBA.”

“So? They’re an award-winning group. Your taste in music was shit then and it’s probably shit now.”

“It’s only shit because you’re not willing to branch out more,” smirked Richie.

“Yeah I doubt that.”

They continued to argue, but it was the kind of arguing that came with a great deal of laughter and grinning from ear to ear. Despite how Eddie really didn’t know what the future held for him, he felt completely at ease as Richie drove them down the road.

Chapter Text

Eddie and Richie didn’t get a chance to listen to one full song on the drive over. They constantly changed the music, neither willing to compromise until they finally entered the city. They headed downtown and Richie found a parking garage.

As they got out, Eddie murmured, “I still can’t believe it’s only Tuesday. How the hell did so much happen in just a few days?”

Richie shrugged. “No idea. It feels like a year should have gone by already. This way. We should be meeting everyone for coffee first.”

“So less a dinner date, and more a whole day plan, huh?” smiled Eddie.

“Yeah, Ben and Bev stayed up late putting it all together. And I think I finally get what you meant when you said it was about time. I saw them for point five seconds before I jumped in the shower and they’re already sickeningly sweet.”

“Ben always was a romantic. Glad to see that hasn’t changed.”

And that comment only proved to be more accurate when Richie finally got them to the coffee shop that was there first stop. Instead of being part of a chain, it looked like one of those privately-owned places that had managed to survive largely through its unique personality. If Eddie had to guess, the art on the walls was all locally done. Some had price tags on them ranging from five bucks to a couple hundred. Eddie had never been great at telling good art from bad, so he just assumed the more expensive pieces were from better known people.

It was a cloudy day out so the little lamps that hung from the ceiling were all on, creating a pleasant glow against the gray light of the day. The place was pretty busy. However, the moment they walked in, it was like magnets being drawn together. Richie and Eddie spotted Ben and Bev in line right away, and only a few seconds later they saw where Mike and Bill were, currently talking over a painting. The two groups registered their presence before they even had to shout across the coffee shop. Ben and Bev broke their spot in line and Mike and Bill quickly weaved between patrons to get to them as quickly as possible.

“You’re here,” Bill breathlessly said. “You’re actually here.”

“Yeah I—oomph!”

Eddie didn’t manage another word as Bill hugged him. Eddie imagined he would have been hugged even tighter, but Bill was being careful because of the still healing wound. Everyone followed, Bev kissing him on his cheek, Ben bending down and burying his face in Eddie’s neck, Mike cupping his cheeks. Eddie understood the feeling. As great as it had been getting to see everyone on the phone, this was real. They could now confirm that Eddie was truly alive, and Eddie certainly felt the same as he hugged each one of them.

Eddie wiped at his face before any tears could come. “I wish there were better words than, ‘it’s good to see all of you’—”

They all laughed a bit. Mike put a hand on Eddie’s shoulder. “We get what you mean. I don’t think even Bill could find the right words for this moment.”

Bill nodded in agreement. There were too many emotions wrapped into this, too many fears of what-ifs and utter relief at what had actually occurred. They all formed a group hug. The losers were together again. They had each other.

At least until Richie said, “I realize that we’re starring in our own Twilight Zone episode and-miraculously-we just got our happy ending, but I think everyone behind us just really wants their fucking coffee.”

Embarrassed laughter escaped everyone’s lips along with quick apologies as they moved their group out of the area in front of the door.

“So I managed to get a couple of things set up,” Ben quickly said. “We can stay here and chat, or we can finish grabbing our coffee and continue on.”

Everyone looked to Eddie who quickly said, “I realize that I had the closest near-death experience here, but we’re a group. I say we take to a vote.”

They did, ultimately deciding they would grab their coffee to-go. Bev and Ben got back in line along with Richie and Eddie. Mike and Bill went back to examining some of the paintings before going near the entrance to wait for them.

When Eddie got to the front though, he hesitated. There was a chance his suspicions about Myra were wrong, but he really didn’t want to go through every single card only to find out he’d been right. Before he could worry about that though, Richie quickly said, “I got both of ours.”

“You sure?”

“We’re having a good day today damn it. You can deal with that later.”

“I just keep finding reasons to say thank you, huh?”

Richie grinned and handed his card over. Then the group headed out again, holding their coffees close as they went down the street. Ben led the way, and it quickly became clear his passion for organizing, what had once been historical pictures and documents as a kid, had continued into his adulthood. There were plan B’s and C’s and alternate choices if they took too long in one place. It may have been a bit much, but it had everyone grinning all the same.

They went into many different stores. They mostly didn’t buy anything. The whole experience was more about messing around, chatting, and really getting a feel to how everyone had changed as people. The dinner at the Chinese restaurant had involved a lot more reminiscing, now it was seeing how personalities, and likes and dislikes had changed over the years. Depending on where they were also provided everyone with their own opportunity to bring up their own expertise and what they’d learned over the years.

For example, Eddie had to get dragged out by everyone when he noticed a beam in the wrong spot.

“That? That right there is how you collapse your ceiling. What’s above this? Your apartment? You move a heavy enough couch over that, and that beam will go down. Really, you should have a whole supporting wall. Let me guess, knocked it out because you thought it would look better huh? Never a good idea. Also, there is a leak in the bathroom that has a fifty-four percent chance of leading to pretty severe water damage, and you should probably upgrade your heating system—”

“Ok, time to go,” Richie said.

“Oh, and another thing—”

“Nope, next stop,” Ben laughed, joining Richie in pulling Eddie out of the store.

Their adventure continued. They went to family owned places and clothing stores and bookstores. They stopped for ice cream and then drinks a little later, Eddie making sure to take his dose of pain meds in the middle of the day. There was even one vintage store that was eighties themed that led to a lot of fun. Most of the stuff contained things they recognized, but not actual cloths or items they ever owned because they would have been too young, or their parents never would have bought them these things.

They messed around a lot in there. A bunch of over the top, glam rock outfits led to a mirage of funny pictures too. However, the real highlight was when Bev managed to find a poster that had Ben going beet red.

“Oh no.”

Bev gave him a teasing smile and rolled up the poster. “I am getting this for you.”

“Please don’t.”

“Hey, if Bev didn’t get it for you, I would have,” smirked Richie. He suddenly found a section filled with those old, collector’s lunchboxes. He immediately grabbed the one that had New Kids On The Block printed on its metal cover. “I am saving this for a surprise holiday present someday.”

“Guys,” groaned Ben.

“I bet you’re secretly happy with this. I bet you even still listen to their music,” replied Eddie.

“Nope. Not even a little.”

“He’s lying,” Bill replied. “He totally still does.”

“Alright, time to go to the next stop.”

“Oh, I don’t know,” said Mike. “I think we could spend another good hour in here.”

“Guys, please!”

They all laughed, eventually letting Ben lead them to their next destination after he begged them to before they found anymore NKOTB merch. There were a few more stops, and then they finally ended at the restaurant Ben had picked out. It was definitely a step up from the Chinese place.

Richie blinked. “Woah there. I know you said you’d find the best god damn restaurant—”

“But isn’t it a bit much?” Bill finished.

“No worries everyone. Company card,” grinned Ben.

“Where did this come from?” Bev asked with a sly grin.

“Listen, I almost never use this for personal expenses so one little dip won’t be a problem. And hey! We all deserve it. This is five stars baby!”

“I’m surprised you managed to get a reservation last minute,” Mike admitted. He looked down. “And I feel a bit underdressed.”

Ben shrugged. “We all are. And I am part of a pretty big company. I was able to pull some strings.”

“Go Ben,” grinned Richie. “Expect at least half of the bill to be alcohol alone.”

“Someone has to drive your car back Richie,” replied Bill.

Eddie shrugged. “I’ll do it. I don’t want to mix alcohol with my pills anyways.”

“Well with that settled,” Ben spun around and walked through the front doors. Everyone followed as he went straight up to the concierge. “Party for Hanscom.”

The man gave a quizzical look first to Ben, and then everyone behind him, but after a quick check of ID and card, the man quickly changed tune. “Right this way sirs and madam.”

Bev resisted the urge to snort. Richie very loudly snorted.

To be fair, most of the restaurant was fancy business attire which meant everyone else there stared at them a bit too, but they got seated at a large, round table away from everyone else and which gave them the perfect amount of privacy. The concierge set down menus and said someone would be around soon to get their drinks. Eddie sat down between Richie and Bev and—

The circle.

The ritual.

The chant.

Richie getting caught in the deadlights.

Eddie throwing the broken bar at It.

And then It

“Woah, Eddie!” Bill desperately reached across the table.

Eddie could feel everyone grabbing on to him as he very nearly face planted.

Bev brushed his hair back. “Eddie. What do you need?”

“I…I’m ok guys. Really,” Eddie said, even as Richie carefully held his other shoulder. “I…us just now all about to sit in a circle…I remember it all.”

“All of it?” Mike asked.

“Yeah. Every detail and…” Eddie paused. He needed to word this carefully. He didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. He didn’t blame them. He knew that what had happened to him must have been different for them. He just wanted to know what that difference had been. “You…you guys left me.”

“Eds,” murmured Richie. He sounded utterly heartbroken as he slumped back into his chair. The others slowly followed.

“No! No I’m not-guys I forgive you. For whatever happened. I just—”

A waitress came in right at that moment. “Is everyone ready for drinks—”

“One moment. Please,” Bill quickly got out. He turned back to Eddie. “We’re sorry Eddie.”

“No, guys you don’t have to be sorry. You don’t. Honest. I mean, I would have rather remembered this…tomorrow or something. And not ruin today.”

“You didn’t ruin it,” murmured Bev. “You couldn’t possibly ruin it.”

The others nodded.

“I just…now that I remember…” Eddie slowly said. “What actually happened to me?”

“Well what happened from your point of view?” asked Mike. “Because I think it was very different for us.”

“Well…It got me. And I…I thought I might die. I’m not going to lie about that. It felt pretty fucking awful. But I also…I knew that no matter what happened, I wasn’t going to let a fucking clown get me. I just…I knew It couldn’t be the end of me, that after everything, my life wouldn’t go out before his. Because all It was, was a clown. A clown that didn’t hold power on grownups and that feared us in the end. It was like…my own fucking will refused to let me die to a thing like that.”

“So for you, you were there with us? Holding hands? Watching It shrink into nothingness?” asked Ben.

Eddie nodded. “I mean, I was still hurt though guys. Even if the wound somehow wasn’t as big as I first thought it was. When the whole place started to fall down, you guys went ahead. It was like you didn’t realize I was still following behind you. I-I was kind of afraid I’d get trapped down there. I lost sight of you. But then I made it out right before the house collapsed. And then I must have collapsed because everything is black after that. The next memory is me waking up. What happened from your point of view?”

Richie let out a long sigh. He took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes. “Shit Eddie. What we saw…”

Chapter Text

Richie fell on his hands and knees in the muddy water. The tears had stopped due to the shear panic that had ensued after running out of that place. But now? Now that it was over? He felt so fucking numb. Had they even really won? After…after he had just lost…

Mike was by him, trying to get him back onto his feet as—

“Y-you guys c-couldn’t wait?”

“What the fuck!?” Richie scrambled to his feet. He and everyone else turned around just in time to see a very much alive Eddie Kaspbrak fall face first in the muddy water.

Everyone stood still as statues.

Then Richie desperately lurched towards him.

“No!” Bill yelled, grabbing hold of Richie. “It’s tr…try…tr…”

“It’s a trick!” Ben screamed.

They huddled together, hearts racing, eyes wide. Mike said, “But we killed It. We actually killed It this time guys!”

“But if we killed It…” Bev slowly said. “Then that…that could actually be—”

Richie finally broke hold of their grip. Even if it was a trick, he was willing to risk it all. He pulled Eddie out of the muck and turned him around. He was still bleeding. There was still a hole in his chest. However, whereas before Richie had felt powerless, trying to cover the wound up, this one he could easily put his whole hand over. He did that now, trying to lessen the bleeding to the best of his ability.

“Guys, it’s him! It has to be fucking him!” Richie’s cry ripped through his throat. They had to see that! They had to help! His hands shook as he pulled Eddie closer and pressed harder on the wound. Panicked sobs started to escape his chest. He couldn’t lose him again! Not twice in less than an hour! As Richie desperately pulled Eddie closer and closer, his cry seemed to break the others from their shock. They still had no idea how this was possible, but it didn’t matter.

There was a chance they could save Eddie.

They weren’t going to screw up this time.

“We-we need a car!” cried Ben. “Why didn’t anyone bring a fucking car!?”

“Help!” screamed Mike. He broke from the group and started to run down the street towards the other houses. “Please! Help! My friend! My friend needs help!” He even ran up to doors and desperately banged on them, but not a soul appeared. It was like the entire street, maybe even the town, had died along with It.

Bill was down in the muck next to Richie. He checked for a pulse. “He’s still a…a…al…alive! H…ho…ow?”

“I d-don’t fucking know,” Richie gasped as he tried to get a hold of himself. His grip on Eddie tightened. “Guys we need to get to a fucking hospital!”

“Help us! Please!” Mike screamed again.

“I-I think I can hotwire a car,” Bev said.

Ben spun around “Wait, what?!”

“Hold on!” Bev ran to where Mike was. They quickly talked before rushing to an older station wagon. Mike banged on the door first, but still no one appeared. Not even a head poked out from behind a curtain, curious about all the noise that was happening outside. Bev headed straight to the slightly ajar window on the car.

Richie and Bill started to pull Eddie up. Even if he was a bit shorter, he was still a full-grown man. “Ben, help!”

“Shit! Ok, ok, ok,” Ben gasped. He got a hold of himself and ran over.

They pulled Eddie up and quickly carried him over. No one bothered to ask how the hell Bev broke into the station wagon, or how she knew to hotwire it. That wasn’t exactly important at the moment. Bev stayed in the driver’s seat as Mike jumped into the passenger’s side. Ben, Bill, and Richie helped get Eddie into the back. Then Richie and Bill climbed in with him and Ben jumped into the empty trunk.

“Keep pressure on the wound.”

“I am!”

“Bev, we’re in. Go!”

“Where’s the nearest hospital?”

“Turn left. There isn’t a proper hospital in Derry that could deal with this. The nearest one is almost forty minutes away.”

“I can make that in twenty.”

“Go Bev! Go!”

Her foot was practically flat on the floor as she sped through the town. No one had time to notice just how silent the place was. It was like not a single soul had ever lived there. Of course, if it hadn’t been so empty, Bev probably would have hit someone by now. Instead, the worst damage she did was hitting a few curbs and nicking a mail box on one.

“Hey. Hey! He stopped breathing!” yelled Ben, his hand hovering over Eddie’s mouth.

“What if-what if he’s already dead?” gasped Bill, the tears falling down his cheeks. “What i…i…if this is some sick vision left over from It? What i…i…i…”

“He’s not dead! And he’s not dying!” yelled Richie. “Move!”

In the small space, Bill tried to move out of the way as Richie got Eddie flat on the backseat. Richie checked for the pulse. He couldn’t fine one so he positioned his hands over Eddie’s heart.

He pushed down hard twice and then paused. He repeated the action.

“Bev, drive faster!” Ben yelled.

“I’m trying!”

She hopped another curb and then there was just the highway ahead of them.

“Hold on!” Mike yelled as he bent back to try and see how they were doing. “You’re doing it wrong!”

“I am trying to keep him alive—”

“I know! I know! Three times. Then break. And go at a faster pace.”

“Ok, ok.”

Richie took a deep breath and then started at it again. After a while, he checked for a pulse just as Ben moved his hand over Eddie’s mouth again.

“He’s breathing again.”

“Ok, that’s good. We just-we just need to get to the hospital. Mike how much longer?”

“About fifteen more—turn here!”

Everyone barely held on. Ben’s body slammed into the right side of the back and Richie fell into the space between the front seats and the back seat.

“Ow!”

“Fuck.”

“Is Eddie ok?!”

“I g…g…go…got him,” Bill managed. “Still breathing.”

“I’m sorry—”

“No Bev. You keep going. How much longer?”

“Turn here.”

“Ok, where next?”

“Here!”

Everyone quieted a bit, Bev and Mike focusing on the road as Richie, Ben, and Bill focused on Eddie. After a few more minutes, they finally seemed to enter the real world and Bev suddenly had to be a great deal more careful so that she didn’t hit a pedestrian. Miraculously, not a single police officer stopped them as Bev skidded onto the road where the hospital was. The panic began to set in again.

“Where the fuck is the ER?!”

“There! There I saw a sign!”

She slammed on the breaks. Bill and Richie tried to keep Eddie stable as Ben failed to brace himself in time and slammed into the back seat. She turned into the parking lot and sped up to the ER entrance before slamming on the breaks again. Everyone started moving at once.

“We gotta hurry! Come on!” yelled Ben as he jumped out the back.

“I’ll go tell them we’ll need help!” Mike quickly cried. He ran out of the car, leaving the door open as he forced himself through the automatic doors. Bev left the car running as she ran around to help them get Eddie out.

They all carried Eddie into the hospital as Mike and several people with a gurney met them right at the door. They each lingered in holding onto Eddie as they were inevitably pulled away from him. Someone else came up to them with a clipboard and quickly asked, “What happened to him?”

They all stayed completely still. What the hell were they supposed to say? How did they explain something like this—

“A…car accident,” Mike finally said.

Richie made bug-eyes at Mike. No one in their right minds would ever believe something as stupid as—

“And can you explain the wound in his chest?”

Richie resisted the urge to throw his hands up in the air. But hell. As long as they were able to patch up Eddie, that was all that mattered. Otherwise, he stayed silent as Mike managed to get out a response before the person mercifully stopped questioning them.

They all stood there, covered in varying levels of graywater, mud, and blood. Beverly was shaking. Her nerves had finally caught up with her after the reckless driving. And Richie? Richie had just lost his best friend. He’d lost his… Only to find out that Eddie was still…

Both Richie and Bev went weak at the knees and the other three quickly grabbed them and set them down on the chairs.

“I’ll go, um, park the car,” Bill said. “How…”

Bev brushed her hair back with shaking hands. “Just untwist the wires,” she whispered.

“Got it.”

Ben and Mike both collapsed next to Bev and Richie. “How the hell did this happen?” asked Ben. “We saw…”

“We all saw it,” hissed Richie. “I felt him die.”

“So how the hell is he still alive?” asked Bev.

“I don’t know. But…but maybe it was Its doing,” Mike suggested.

Ben sat forward so he could see Mike. “How do you mean?”

“Maybe us seeing Eddie dead was one last attack. One last…attempt at twisting our reality. Maybe It knew It was already losing, but It wanted to try and take one more with It.”

“It grabbed at a new fear. Maybe,” suggested Bev. “Losing our friend, seeing him die, twisting our reality again.”

“But why didn’t Eddie actually die then? Everything else It did became real. How the hell wasn’t that real?” asked Ben.

“Maybe what we saw wasn’t real. Maybe what happened to Eddie was what was actually real. Maybe the disconnect was because Its power was weakening,” Mike said.

Bev’s nerves had calmed down, at least as best as they could at the moment. She asked, “But then what happened?”

“I don’t fucking care,” muttered Richie. “I don’t care the reasoning or what the hell was real then and what wasn’t. All that matters is that he’s alive now. He’s alive and he just might fucking make it.”

“He will. He has to,” Mike whispered. He gripped Richie’s hand and squeezed. The others all linked hands too, holding onto each other for support. Bill joined them when he finally came back and at least for a moment, they all had each other.

However, eventually a nurse came over and mentioned the amount of room they were taking up. Though later they would note how odd it was that their own states weren’t questioned, and they weren’t asked more about the ‘car accident’, at the moment, all they cared about was Eddie. They couldn’t leave without knowing he was ok.

“At least tell us how he’s doing now,” begged Ben.

“I’m sorry. If you were on his emergency contacts or had proof of a relationship, then I could. But…”

“We can’t leave. We can’t just leave him,” Mike whispered.

“I understand your concern, but we really can’t have you all taking up room in our waiting area. We’re one of the best hospitals around here, but we’re still not very big.”

“Could just one of us stay?” asked Bev. “Please? Just someone to keep watch.”

“I suppose that would be alrig—”

“I’ll stay,” Richie immediately said.

“Are you sure?” asked Bill.

“I’ll…I’ll be ok. And…” Richie paused to check his pockets. “I got my phone on me and-thank fucking god. Still works. I’ll call you guys the moment I find out anything.”

“Ok.”

“If you’re sure.”

They formed a group hug again. Everyone either squeezed Richie’s shoulder or gave him a quick pat before reluctantly leaving the hospital. When they were all gone, Richie collapsed in the chair, ready to wait however long he needed to get information.

Chapter Text

Eddie pushed his hair back. He knew it couldn’t have been easy. But just hearing the panic that had returned in their voices as they retold the story? Hearing about his own dead body just…just lying there? His friend unable to do anything about it only for him to seemingly come back to life? “Jesus guys…”

“It was pretty fucking horrible,” admitted Ben.

“But…Beverly. You were covered in blood,” Eddie said. “At least more than us. I remember that. How didn’t they—”

“It was like when we were kids,” Bev replied.

“We probably still looked like absolute shit,” Richie added. “But what they saw wasn’t nearly as bad as what we’d all been through.”

“And the car?” asked Eddie.

Bill let out a long sigh. “That was the really weird part. When we took it back, there was still no one at that house. And when Mike went back again to check—”

“It was just gone,” Mike finished. “I mean, there are still people in Derry. It’s not like the whole town disappeared. But it’s like…it’s like almost half the population vanished with It. There are people who just don’t exist-or I suppose they never really existed. They were just extensions of It. But those that are left? They don’t seem to notice any change.”

“And the fact that no one questioned our weak car accident story? I don’t know,” sighed Ben. “It was like…like…”

“Some weird, remnant o…o…o…of It,” Bill finally got out. “Like the power of It lingered or maybe…maybe flowed outwards in one final burst.”

Eddie shook his head. He wanted to call the whole thing crazy. He’d been stabbed, but from his point of view, he’d been there with them. He’d watched It shrink into nothingness. Yet according to them, they’d all experienced his own horrific death. Richie had been torn from his body, thinking not only that Eddie was dead and would be buried under that fucking house, but also that he’d failed him. Of course, even now Eddie didn’t have any power over what had happened, yet he still felt fucking horrible for them. “Guys, I’m so—”

“Don’t you dare say it,” said Bev. “There is no reason for you to be sorry. We’re just happy you’re here sitting with us.”

“Well me too,” smiled Eddie. “But I still didn’t mean to bring this all up tonight.”

“We were going to have to bring it up eventually. I’m kind of glad it’s over with now. It feels like what happened with It can really rest,” said Bill.

“I suppose. Just…you know I love you guys. Right?” Eddie added.

“Of course we do. You don’t even have to say it,” Bev said as she gave Eddie a quick hug.

“We love you too Eddie,” said Bill.

The others that were sat farther away got up again and a group hug occurred. By that point, the waitress returned, cautiously coming around the corner. She was much more hesitant than before. “Is…is everything ok?”

“Yeah, we’re fine,” Mike quickly said.

“Everything is actually perfect,” sighed Ben as a weight lifted off his shoulders along with everyone else.

“I’d like four bottles of wine,” Richie added.

“Ignore him. Just, one more moment,” smiled Bill. “Just so we can look over the drinking list. If we’re still…”

“We’re staying,” Eddie quickly said. “We’re ending the day strong damn it.”

“Agreed,” Bev replied.

“And I’ll go ahead and help you out,” Eddie said to the waitress. “Just water for me.”

The others looked down, quickly ordering something to start with when Ben quickly looked up and said, “Hang on. Where did you learn how to hotwire a car?”

“It’s nothing as crazy as you think. When I left Derry to live with my aunt, there was a day when she lost her keys. Being late just wasn’t an option at work so she hotwired the car. She showed me how to do it too in case there was ever an emergency,” smirked Bev.

“The more you know,” chuckled Bill.

And from there, the dinner finally started. Though the original levity was no longer there, everyone was able to relax in a way they hadn’t before. Being all caught up, it felt like the end of It and their time in Derry was truly almost there. Just one more night and they would be gone from the place forever. The only promise they would have would be to each other. No twisted pact or pledge to fight some monster. Even Mike admitted that now that his dues were over, he was thinking of moving too.

Bill immediately jumped at the opportunity. “I could come back and help you.”

“Really? Don’t you have work to get back to? A wife?” chuckled Mike.

“I mean, the great thing about writing is you can do it anywhere,” Bill replied. “And…maybe things haven’t been going as well back home as I made it seem. I may have left out some details.”

“I know how that feels,” Eddie admitted.

“Me too,” Bev said. “If either of you need to talk…”

“Thanks Bev.”

Eddie nodded. “I wasn’t even thinking about that. But it would be good to talk to someone who can relate.”

“So we have even more reason to stay in contact with each other,” Ben pressed. “We’re not going to forget. Not this time.”

“Then let’s go ahead and exchange phone numbers,” Bill said. “I mean, we all have Mike’s but…”

They quickly went about doing that, except for Eddie who promised to get everyone’s info from Richie once he got a new phone. As they finished adding each other’s contacts, Richie said, “Hey Mike. Call us all whenever you do move. That way we know where we’re all crashing next time.”

“Why my place?”

“Because my apartments are small as shit. And this way it entices you to get a cool, big ass place.”

“Exactly what kind of salary do you think I have? I’m a librarian,” laughed Mike as the rest of the group joined in.

And with that, they managed to finish their dinner the way it was meant to be. Richie didn’t even get that wasted, though Eddie still agreed to drive them back. Since the others had all come in one car, Bill decided to join them, leaving Mike, Bev, and Ben with the other one.

The drive to Derry was shorter than the one from the hospital to the city, and it was only a little past ten when they arrived in front of the small hotel. They said their goodbyes to Mike, though it was assumed they would all see each other again for one last send off in the morning.

Eddie grabbed his pills and everything he would need to clean his wound. As Mike left, everyone else headed inside and Eddie—

Eddie froze at the foot of the stairs.

“Ah, fuck.”

“What’s wrong?” Bill asked, quickly stopping and turning around on the landing.

“My room. My clothes.” He’d pretty much forgotten about it during the day. For the most part, he’d just focused on enjoying his time with his friends. But now there was no way around it. “Myra came and already took everything.”

“No need to worry. You can use my room,” Richie said.

“And where are you going to sleep? Another chair?” asked Eddie.

“You’re still healing. That’s more important than my sore back any day.”

“You don’t have to do that,” Ben replied. “Richie, you stay in your own bed. Eddie, you can use mine. I won’t need it tonight.”

Beverly raised her eyebrow. “Oh you won’t. Huh?”

“I-I mean I’ll, uh, sleep on the couch out here so um Richie gets a break—”

She rolled her eyes. “You’re all idiots sometimes.” She grabbed Ben’s hand and pulled his flustered form up the stairs and past Bill. “Eddie, please feel free to use Ben’s room. And Richie, please sleep normally for once.”

“Never have and never will!” Richie called back. He turned to Eddie. “You ok with that?”

“As long as I’m not ruining your back,” Eddie replied as they headed up the stairs and after the others.

“Do you need anything to change into?”

“Urgh, I’ll just sleep in my underwear. I’ll worry about getting more clothes and everything else tomorrow,” sighed Eddie. “Though…actually can you help me with re-dressing the wound?”

“You know you don’t even have to ask me something like that.”

“Well, I kind of do or else how would you know I needed help?”

“Ok ass. You know that’s not what I meant.”

Eddie just chuckled and went ahead down the hall with Richie following close behind. Bill entered his own room and Ben and Bev entered hers. As Eddie entered Ben’s room, he asked, “So everyone is clearly ready to leave Derry. What’s the plan for tomorrow?”

“I don’t know. Meet up again. Say one final good-bye. Then get in the car and head home. Which I’ve been meaning to ask you. Do you want to stop by your house to grab a few things or…”

“Once I get my phone fixed, or at least have a laptop, I should be able to figure out which accounts are free from her. Then I can go ahead and buy a few temporary things and get settled for the time being,” Eddie said. He’d taken off his jacket and was in the middle of unbuttoning his shirt when he paused. “I mean, technically getting some things from home would be easier. But I…I honestly don’t know if I could leave again if I did go back.”

“Seriously? I met her for point five seconds Eds. She’s awful!”

Eddie let out a small sigh. “Don’t tell me you’ve never felt trapped by something, no matter how logic says you should be able to walk away or change your ways or tell the truth or whatever.”

Richie quieted and looked away.

“It’s just not that easy for me, even if I am willing to yell and make a fuss over it now. I’d like to say I could cut everything off now, but it’s a process I have to go through. That means staying away from her and that house just to…just to let me breath for once in my life.” A worried look crossed Eddie’s face. “Unless this is because you don’t want me to stay with you any—”

“No! No, I didn’t mean to seem pushy. I’m sorry if I came across as that,” Richie said. “I’m totally willing to work with you. While we were walking around today, I even went ahead and got you a plane ticket too. If that doesn’t say I’m down for a long ass spend the night, I don’t know what does.”

“Wait. You—seriously? I’ll pay you back Richie—”

“It’s no problem. Not having such a damn empty apartment will be reward enough. Now show me what I need to do.”

Eddie threw off his shirt and went into the bathroom. He went ahead and cleaned the front of his chest, showing Richie how to do his back while he did it. Then he turned around. He braced himself against the bathroom sink and let Richie do the rest. He was surprisingly gentle, waiting before he fully finished any motion to make sure Eddie didn’t flinch in any way.

When Richie finished, Eddie gave him the bandages to cover it up. He waited, but frowned and glanced in the mirror when Richie didn’t seem to move. Eddie couldn’t see Richie’s face, his head ducked down low.

“Do you need me to show—”

“I got it,” came Richie’s quick reply.

Eddie didn’t feel anything for a moment longer. Then, ever so gently, he felt a finger trail right along the edge of the wound. It was clear Richie was being careful not to actually touch it, but the motion was so slight Eddie couldn’t help but shiver.

“Shit. Sorry.”

He could feel Richie quickly covering up the area. Eddie shook his head. “It’s ok. I get it. It’s hard not to stare at.”

“It’s not that…I just should have fucking done more.”

Eddie waited until he felt Richie finish before he finally turned around. “What the hell do you mean? It wasn’t your fault Richie. It wasn’t anyone’s. We already established that.”

“Doesn’t change how I feel. All my big fucking talk and you really threw the first punch. You fucking hurt It before any of us even knew what to really do and I-I nearly let you die—”

“I don’t blame you,” Eddie interrupted. He took Richie by the shoulders and pulled him close. “I don’t know how many times I’ll have to say it, but I’ll keep repeating it until you believe it. You didn’t do anything wrong.”

Eddie gently hugged him, pressing his face into Richie’s shoulder and keeping him close. “If anything, I should thank you. Seeing you in trouble made me finally step up and realize what I was capable of. So thanks for that.” Eddie pulled back a little. “And thanks for helping me with my back and everything.”

“Hey, we’re going to be living together. At least for a bit. I was going to have to figure it out anyways,” Richie said.

He looked a little more at ease, though there was still clearly something on his mind. Eddie didn’t pry, but if Richie ever started to doubt his sincerity again, Eddie would simply keep repeating the truth. He would never blame Richie. He was one of his best friends.

“Do you need anything else?” Richie asked.

“I’ll be good for the rest of the night. See you tomorrow.”

“Night.”

Richie left and Eddie went ahead and undressed to his underwear. He carefully got in the bed and tried to get as comfortable as possible. As he started to fall asleep, one of his hands came up near the wound. Richie’s slight touch seemed to still linger. The feeling made him smile and he finally fell asleep.

Chapter Text

Normally Eddie would have hated wearing the same outfit twice in a row, and the fact he hadn’t had a chance at a proper bath would have driven him insane (a shower would have to wait until the wound was fully healed). He didn’t think people realized how dangerous it could be wearing the same cloths in a row. Not only did sweat and other fluids begin to collect and gather and caused you to sweat more in the long run, but if you waited too long you could even get a yeast infection—

No. Stop. For once, Eddie managed to quiet his normally loud inner voice that was warning him of every possible bad thing that could happen. Besides, wearing the same clothes twice in a day would not kill him and once he was at Richie’s place, he could borrow some of his and order what he needed.

Eddie did take a second to wash his face though before heading out. He passed Ben in the hall who was headed to his room to finish packing.

“Did you sleep ok?” Ben asked.

“As well as I could. Thanks, by the way. Richie didn’t need to sleep in a chair again.”

“That we can agree on,” Ben replied. “I think everyone else is already downstairs.”

“Thanks.”

Eddie continued to the stairs. As he passed Bev’s room, she came out with her small suitcase and followed Eddie down the steps. Bill and Richie were already down there, and Mike was there too. The three were in the middle of a pretty serious discussion that had Bev and Eddie cautiously glancing at each other.

“Everything alright?” Bev finally asked.

Bill tried to speak but Richie put his arm around his shoulders and said, “Oh, this one here is just being an idiot.”

“He didn’t think we’d want to go with him,” Mike explained. He turned to Bill. “Which we obviously will. We want to be there for you, and we want to be there for him.”

“Who?” asked Eddie.

“I wanted…I wanted to say goodbye to Georgie,” Bill murmured. “And we managed to end yesterday so well that I…I didn’t want to be the one to bring the mood back—”

“Bill, you don’t have to worry about that,” murmured Bev. She walked over and squeezed his hand. “We’re happy to go with you. Unless you want to go alone.”

“No. No, I just didn’t want to make you feel like you had to.”

“We know we don’t have to. We want to,” Eddie replied. “Besides, it’ll feel good to see him once last time.”

Bill nodded in agreement. They waited for Ben and then told him the plan. He of course agreed and they all got into their separate cars and drove to the graveyard. Today, the sun was shining and there were few clouds in the sky. It was the kind of day that Georgie would have loved. No one else was at the cemetery when they got there, leaving them complete privacy as they parked and headed in.

Mike and Bill led the way and when Bill finally spotted Georgie’s grave, he froze. “It’s—”

“A lot of families left. The ones who…who lost their kids. And everyone else in this town just didn’t understand or…or seem to care,” Mike got out. “So, I took it upon myself to make sure Georgie and the others, any who were laid to rest here, were taken care of. He didn’t go one week without a visit Bill.”

In front of them stood Georgie’s grave. It was mostly clean, freshly dusted off. Flowers had been planted by it and from their condition, were regularly cared for. Only a quick glance was needed to find the other graves of the children. Rather than being long forgotten, the headstones were kept clean and flowers also grew beside them.

“Th…th...tha…” Bill had to stop, too choked up over the moment as Mike put his arms around him.

“You don’t have to thank me. I was happy to do it.”

Bill wiped at his face. He looked ready to speak, but then stopped himself again. Instead of going forward, he murmured. “If…if you want to say something first…”

“Sure,” Mike murmured. He squeezed Bill’s arm before kneeling at the grave. “Hey Georgie. I…I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again. I wish I could have met you kid. I bet you would have been part of the club too. At least now you and the others can finally rest in peace.”

Mike moved back. He glanced at Bill, but he clearly wasn’t ready to speak yet. Richie stepped forward instead and knelt on the ground.

“Hi. I know. I know. I always got upset if Bill brought you along, but you want to know a secret? I always thought you were the cooler brother. I was just trying to be mean so Bill never realized I liked you more.” Soft, bittersweet laughter sounded at that. Bill choked up a little more. “Miss you.”

Richie was then replaced by Ben.

“I never got to meet you either. But if you were even half as cool as Bill, then I bet you would have been the coolest kid in the world. I doubt we would have hung out a lot. I always was in the library back then, but I bet I would have been more willing to go outside if I’d had you as a friend.”

The next person was Eddie.

“I don’t know what else to say that hasn’t been said,” Eddie began, “but I miss you kid. You were the only one who took all my warnings seriously.” That again brought some bittersweet laughter. “Which I’m sorry if I ever went overboard. Just trying to look out for everyone. I think you knew that. I’ll always miss you Georgie.”

Then finally Beverly came forward.

“I heard so much about you, I felt like I knew you back then. I wish I could have gotten to meet you too Georgie. You sound like an amazing kid.”

Bev moved back.

They all put their hands on Bill, holding his own, squeezing his shoulder, supporting his back, whatever they could do to physically show Bill how much they cared. That they were there for him.

Eventually, Bill walked forward. With each step, he managed to stop his shaking just a little bit more. He slowly knelt down and took a deep breath.

“You were the best damn baby brother a kid could have,” Bill began. “I wish I’d never forgotten you, but I promise I won’t forget you now. I love you…I love you so much Georgie. I always have. And…and I don’t know how it works. What’s after this. But whatever it is, I know you’ll find Stan. He’ll be happy to have a friend waiting for him, and hey. Maybe you’ll be the one to look out for him this time. It’ll probably be a while before I see either of you again. I’ve got things to do, a live to finally live. I hope you understand. Just know I can’t wait for the day I get to run towards you and swing you around in my arms in that way that always made you scream with excitement. To get a chance to carry you on my shoulders again. But until then…goodbye Georgie. Bye.”

Bill’s fingers grazed the name on the headstone before his hand slowly fell away. He let out another long sigh. He stood up and was immediately enveloped by his friends. No words were said. They didn’t need to be.

When they moved away, Mike said, “Ben, Bev, I know you’re driving back. Let me know when you make it home safe.”

“Of course,” Bev said.

“Hey, same goes for you all flying out,” Ben added. “Just let everyone know when you land safely.”

“I will.”

“Promise.”

“We’re together again. Which means all of you are going to get to deal with my two AM drunken texts,” grinned Richie.

“Urgh great.”

“Thanks Richie.”

It did get everyone to laugh though as they hugged it out once more.

“Let me know whenever you start packing,” Bill told Mike. “I’m happy to help.”

“Will do.”

“Well, until we see each other again.”

“Yeah.”

“Bye.”

“See you.”

They all said good-bye in just about every possible way, right up until they were finally getting into their cars and driving out of the cemetery. They all slowed to a stop as they hit a crossroads. Mike drove back into Derry. The other four cars drove away.

Down a little way, those cars split off too, taking different routes and heading in different directions until it was just Richie and Eddie, and the others were out of sight. Eddie expected Richie would be speeding down the road, ready to get out of Derry and Maine as quickly as possible. Yet on the route they took, they went through a familiar bridge and Richie started to slow down.

“Hey, uh…just give me a quick second.”

“Ok.” Eddie’s gaze followed Richie as he pulled over onto the side of the road and got out. He walked over to the bridge. Eddie kind of wanted to get out and follow him. He was certainly curious what was so important that Richie felt he had to stop for it. However, Eddie decided to let whatever it was remain private and waited in the car until Richie joined him again. “Finally done with Derry?”

“I mean, technically not until Mike gets his ass up and leaves, but yeah. I am completely fucking done with Derry now,” Richie replied. He grinned, and there seemed to be a renewed sense of excitement about him. He pulled back onto the road and soon he and Eddie left Derry far behind.

Chapter Text

To say there wasn’t a moment where Eddie thought maybe he was just going through an extreme version of a midlife crisis would have been a lie. He definitely wondered if he’d gone insane. But every time those thoughts caught up with him, all he had to do was glance over to Richie. Maybe his choice to do this was ridiculous, but he felt that everything would turn out just a little bit better with one of his best friends at his side.

They got to the airport, and Eddie was again extremely thankful that Myra had at least left him with his wallet. Otherwise it would have been an incredibly long drive to Chicago. Of course, if she’d thought he’d have the balls to do this, she never would have left him his ID. As it was, clearly this would prove her wrong.

As they waited for boarding to begin, Richie said, “I’m surprised flying doesn’t scare the shit out of you.”

“Are you trying to freak me out?”

“I’m serious! Part of me kind of expected you to insist we drive the whole fucking way.”

“Just because deaths involving airplanes are more televised does not mean it’s statistically more likely. Driving in a car is far more dangerous. In fact, I’m more likely to die on a ladder or in the bath than on an airplane.”

Richie raised an eyebrow.

“Not that any of those hypothetical situations matter because I am…moving on from that. Statistics and probabilities are not going to run my life.”

“Good,” Richie said, for once foregoing a joke. “I think you can do it.”

“Really?”

“Yeah.” Richie paused. “Besides, you don’t really have to worry about ladder deaths if you don’t own a ladder. I’m guessing you’ve never owned one in your entire adult life.”

“Nope.”

Richie did laugh at that and Eddie managed his own grin. After that, it wasn’t long before they boarded, and the flight even managed to leave on time. Both Eddie and Richie passed out during most of it. Eddie woke up first to Richie drooling on his shoulder. He pushed him over, not that it woke him up. Instead of forcing him awake, Eddie took advantage of the quiet and looked out the window instead as the descent began.

He’d been to a couple of major cities over the years thanks to his company, but after his mom had moved him out of Derry, he’d mostly stayed in New York State. He’d never been to Chicago. He knew it had a lot of popular comedy bars, opportunities for stand-up and improv. It made sense Richie would have chosen a place like this to settle.

Richie finally woke up with a start as the wheels hit the runway.

“Are we here?” came his gruff reply as he righted his glasses.

“Actually, we’re in Canada. They asked if we wanted to get off in Chicago, but I told them it was better to let you sleep.”

“Canada?”

“Wow. You were really fucking under weren’t you.” Eddie gently slapped him in the face a couple of times. “Wake up sleeping beauty. We’ve got Canadian Bacon and maple syrup to eat.”

“Wh…you are joking right?”

“Of course I am. Get your ass up. I can’t get out until you do.”

“Well maybe I don’t want to.”

“Pretty sure this is a round flight. You really want to go back to Maine this soon?”

“I’m up!”

Eddie laughed as Richie grabbed his carry-on bags. He followed him off the plane, and they ended up taking a transit to the parking lot. When they got to Richie’s car, Eddie couldn’t help but comment, “Looks a lot like your rental.”

“Yeah, I’m pretty fond of it. Had my assistant make sure I got a rental that was similar enough to it in Maine.” Richie suddenly stopped and let out a large groan as he threw his bags into the back seat. “He’s going to fucking kill me.”

“Your assistant?”

“Well, if he’s even still working for me. I kind of ghosted him during the whole thing in Derry. I mean, I had him help get the plane tickets yesterday, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I checked my email now only to find a resignation letter from him. I mean, it is either that or he’ll show up at my place in the next couple of days and strangle me to death.”

“You’re telling me he agreed to be your assistant and he wasn’t aware of your neuroticism beforehand?” asked Eddie.

“Oh ha ha.”

“Hey. If it makes you feel better, I’ll kill him before he can kill you.”

Richie let out a sharp laugh. “You said that so straight faced, I almost believed you.”

“What? I can be your bodyguard or something. One look at old Scarface and he’ll be running for the hills.”

“Oh, so you like that name now, huh?”

Eddie nudged him. “Hey, might as well embrace the new look. Hmm…Myra never would have even joked about it. Would have said it was too childish.”

“Myra isn’t here Scarface. And having fun doesn’t make you childish. It means you know how to have fucking fun. Speaking of, what’s the plan when we get to my place? It’s only about eleven thirty here.”

“Hmm…maybe we should wait on whatever insane adventure you’re thinking up. Before anything happens, I want to get my finances in check.”

“Fair enough. I’ll help you get settled, give you the password to my computer, and then runout and grab some food for us. We can have a low thrills movie night tonight and tomorrow we can get you some clothes and whatever else you need.”

“That sounds perfect actually.”

“Cool. We can grab you a new phone tomorrow too. Oh, and you have to promise not to look at my search history,” Richie added with a waggle of his eyebrows.

Eddie made a face. “I would like to avoid bleaching my eyes thank you.”

Richie just grinned as they drove through the city. Along the way, Richie pointed out a few places that he promised he would drag Eddie to in the coming days. He also listed some of his favorite hubs to grab coffee, the best place to grab groceries, a good bookstore, restaurants, anything that could be relevant. He also pointed out a Verizon store that was only about five minutes from his place where they could grab Eddie that new phone tomorrow.

They then finally pulled onto Clark Street, drove a few more minutes, and then Richie pulled into a parking space on the side of the road.

“Sometimes it’s a bit difficult to find a space right in front of the building. It’s just down this way,” Richie explained, grabbing his bags and quickly leading Eddie down the street. They walked by some little salon, an espresso café, and then turned to a door that was sandwiched between it and an H&R Block.

“I would have half expected you to live above a bar.”

“Did so in my college days. Do not recommend it,” Richie replied as he balanced his bags so he could grab his keys. “Worked great on the weekend when I was sleeping all day and trying to get a spot at any comedy club that would let me in at night, but I never got any sleep during the week and missed all my classes. Eventually dropped out. Do have an Associate’s degree in Liberal Arts though. Gotta love a worthless slip of paper I could have printed off the internet rather than wasting thousands of bucks on.”

Eddie snorted.

As Richie opened the door for them, he asked, “What about you? You haven’t mentioned anything about college yet.”

“Do you really think I have any stories of interest involving college?”

Richie took one look at him. “Ok, point taken. Here hold this for me real quick.”

Eddie rolled his eyes as he took the bags. Richie in turn checked his mail and shoved the envelopes under one of his arms. He switched to a different key on his key ring, grabbed the bags back from Eddie, and began to take the stairs two at a time. Eddie went a little slower, just taking in the apartment building and the overall feel of the place. It wasn’t anything special, but it was still nice. They went to the third floor and Richie opened the second door.

They walked in and Richie immediately threw his bags near his couch. Eddie took one look around the living space and a quick glance through the open bedroom door.

“This is exactly how I would have expected you to live.”

“Don’t sound so god damn patronizing.”

Eddie blinked. He focused on the kitchen area. “Has your fridge been open this whole time?”

“Urgh fuck! I thought I’d closed that when I left. Though to be fair, wasn’t really paying any attention to the little things when I left for Derry. Fucking shit. Everything’s probably fucking spoiled by now.”

“No probably about it,” replied Eddie. “And your plant is dead.”

“Oh. That’s been dead for the past six months. Yeah, been meaning to throw it out.”

“Of course you have.”

“Just come here. I’ll get you set up so you can take a bath and put some new clothes on.”

“You’re just trying to bribe me away so I stop pointing out how gross you can be and then you can run around cleaning up while I’m in the bathroom.”

“Is it working?”

“Hmm, yeah.”

“Great! Bathroom is through here.”

It was hard for Eddie not to smile as he collected his pills and medical stuff. Might as well get that cleaned again along with the rest of himself. He got a better look at Richie’s bedroom and he gave his friend a pointed stare after spotting the piles of clothes everywhere.

“Ok. Listen. This better not become one of those fucking odd couple situations. The dirty clothes pile is there for a reason and I don’t want it getting mixed up with the clean ones.”

“Those are not clean if they’re on the floor.”

“They’re perfectly clean. I washed them…more recently than the others.”

Eddie let out a large groan. “I see why you never settled. I don’t know a single person who would willingly live with you like this.”

“You are by agreeing to stay with me.”

“I’m a special case.”

“That you are,” smirked Richie. “There’s the bathroom. And hey, it’s at least not as bad as the rest of the apartment.”

Eddie poked his head in. “It could be worse,” he agreed.

“A stellar review from Eddie Kaspbrak. Here’s some clothes. You can obviously use whatever I have in there. If you want your own shampoo or whatever, we can get it tomorrow.”

“Sounds good.”

Eddie put the cloths Richie gave him on top of the toilet and closed the door. He waited a few seconds and heard the panicked movements of Richie throwing every piece of trash away and at least trying to make his organized mess a little less mess. Eddie chuckled. Richie had been the exact same way when they’d been kids. Eddie had always known Richie wasn’t the cleanest and had a not so traditional way of organizing things. Yet every time they’d made plans at Richie’s house, he’d always tried to make the place look nicer. Whenever Eddie had showed up without notice, that was when Eddie would get shoved out of the room and he’d hear the frantic sounds of Richie cleaning up on the other side, just like now.

Good to know some things never changed.

Eddie focused on the shower and tub. To be honest, he could already see what cleaning supplies he would buy that Richie definitely didn’t have but needed. Still, it wasn’t exactly a space of disease and death. Eddie pushed back the slight worries in his head and simply started the water.

He went over the products Richie had. Again, it wasn’t too surprising. Most of it was cheap, standard brands with names like Wolfthorn and Timber that really didn’t smell like anything specific, just strong. It would have to do for now.

After inspecting what he had to work with, he took his time going ahead and taking the bandages off so his chest wound could breath. He treated the front and made a note to ask Richie to help him with his back later. He also took a closer look at the scar on his cheek. The dissolvable stitches would probably still be there for the next week or two. It looked good though, all things considered.

By that point the water was warm enough, and Eddie took off the rest of his clothes. He slipped in with a long sigh just as a knock came at the door.

“Yeah?”

“I’m gonna go ahead and grab some food since I now have jackshit!” Richie called through the door. “Need anything?! Or any preference for lunch or dinner?!”

“Your pick.”

“Cool! Laptops in the living room! Left my password on a sticky note! See you soon!”

“See ya!” Eddie called back. He listened to the sound of Richie walking off and then…

Ok. Maybe he should have asked Richie to wait. He was alone in a new apartment, in a new city, and Richie had basically been at his side since he’d woken up—

No. Damn it, he was a grown man! He’d been alone before. It wasn’t like he had to have someone there. It was just—

Oh.

Shit.

With Myra, with his mom, with most people in his life, he hadn’t minded not having them around twenty-four/seven. The more often he was with them, the more stress they just added, or the more they put him down. Being around people had felt like a chore for so long. He’d nearly forgotten what it felt like to really enjoy being around someone again. It was why he was already missing Richie, missing the rest of the losers, despite only being alone for point five seconds.

Perhaps in retrospect, it made his life look rather sad, but he wasn’t upset by the realization now. After all, it wasn’t like the losers were leaving him forever, and he knew Richie would be back soon. Even if Eddie was physically alone, he wasn’t actually alone anymore, possibly for the first time since childhood. Those thoughts eased his worries as he finally focused on washing his hair and body, careful not to get the wounds too wet.

Chapter Text

After Eddie was done with his bath, he just put on the pants Richie had let him borrow. He’d let his chest wound air out a bit and would wait to bandage the front when Richie got back and could help him with his back. The gray sweatpants were a bit long but comfortable, and it felt good to be in clean clothes. At least clean by Richie’s standards. But he wasn’t going to think about how long this pair had sat on the floor.

Going out into the apartment, the place was still kind of a mess, but Richie had certainly tried. Eddie walked into the living room and kitchen. The fridge door was now securely shut, and the dead plant had been dumped into the trash, the empty pot sitting on the little counter now.

In the living room, there was the couch, a nice TV set with a good collection of DVDs and Blu-Rays, and a desk in the corner where the laptop was. It looked like that was Richie’s workstation, though going by how everything but the laptop looked untouched, Eddie could guess he hadn’t used the area in a while.

Eddie sat down and pulled up the laptop, he looked at the password and started to put it in but froze. He picked up the sticky note and really looked at the password: spaghEdti. That one nickname Richie had sometimes thrown at him…

It reminded Eddie of the times when he’d seen something, or got a program on the TV, and it had…had just reminded him so much of a time he couldn’t remember…

Eddie had never left Richie, even if he hadn’t been able to remember him.

His finger gently traced the writing as he smiled. His chest felt warmer and his heart sped up just the slightest.

He paused, his attention being drawn from the moment so he could carefully feel around the wound. He wasn’t coming down with an infection, right? No, the area didn’t actually feel warm, and otherwise he felt fine. He’d been keeping the wound clean too. The feeling was probably just a fluke. He finally focused back on the laptop. He put the password in and began the long work ahead of him.

Thankfully, Eddie had all his login information memorized and he sat there for over an hour and a half, fingers quickly moving over the keys. He only paused once so he could go grab his wallet and pull out all his cards. He divided them by working ones and frozen ones and then went back to typing at the computer.

He was still hunched over the laptop when Richie came back with bags of groceries. Eddie was so focused on what he was currently typing that he didn’t notice Richie stumbling over his own feet at seeing Eddie sitting shirtless in his living room.

“U-uh this a new look or…”

“Wanted to let the wound air out,” Eddie replied, still not looking up and thus, still not noticing Richie’s slight blush. “Can you help me clean up my back when I’m finished here?”

“Sure,” Richie replied. He pulled himself together and went to the kitchen. As he started putting up everything, he added, “I talked to the others by the way. Ben and Bev are still in the middle of driving and Bill just got onto his connecting flight. I’ll make sure to give you their numbers tomorrow.”

“Thanks.”

“What have you been up to? Learned anything?”

“Well, majority of our accounts are connected and unsurprisingly, they’ve been frozen or locked from my login information. I do have a separate bank account though and my checks automatically go into that one which is good. She has control of most of our investments except for some stocks I have in my job. Not that I really care about any of that. Also been going through a few emails though. Myra’s sent about twelve. Haven’t opened them and no telling how much she’s tried to text or call me. I’ll deal with that later. I did go ahead and email work that I needed more time off though. My boss’s secretary wants me to call so she knows I’m not actually dead and my murderer is trying to cover his tracks. Can I borrow your phone?”

“Yeah here.”

Richie paused in putting everything up and took out his phone. He made sure Eddie had turned towards him before he tossed it over. Then he went back to putting up groceries.

“Passcode?”

“2367.”

Eddie typed it in and then quickly called work. It only took a few minutes before she answered. “Hey Sylvia. No, this isn’t my phone. It’s a friend’s. Been having some trouble with mine, but after tomorrow you should be able to reach me normally again. Yeah, I know. It’s a surprise to me too that I’m alive. No, I don’t mean it like that. I just-there are some very important, personal matters that I need to take-ok. Ok. That’s fair. I did leave without warning. Send the files to my email and I’ll look over them and get back to you. But after that-yes. I am being for real. I need this time off. Everything’s ok though. It really is. If he says no? If he says no then…then…I’m just not coming in. Ok? I’m in Chicago so it’s just not realistic right now on a moment’s notice. I’ll look at the files, but that’s all I can do right now. Ok? Alright, good. Glad to know we’re on the same page. Yes, thank you Sylvia.”

He let out a large groan as he tapped the end button and dropped the phone on the desk. “Urgh, I feel terrible.”

“Well you shouldn’t,” Richie shot back. “Knowing you, I bet you’ve barely missed a day for that damn corporation. You deserve the break. You shouldn’t even be doing what favors you just promised her.”

“Probably not, but don’t worry. After I finish, I’m putting my foot down. I need this break. I won’t give in if they try to shove more work on me.”

“Promise?”

“Promise,” Eddie replied. He started to log out of everything and finally closed the laptop. He looked back to the sticky note and then made his way to kitchen counter. “You ever notice your password?”

“What do you mean? It’s just some letters.”

“Just some—Eddie Spaghetti? Ring any bells?”

“Wh—” Richie froze. “That’s not my password.”

“It most definitely is,” chuckled Eddie. “Don’t look so upset. I’m flattered if anything.”

“I…huh. I guess I did. Hang on! T-that comment you made! Outside the Chinese the restaurant.”

“Which one? There were several. Mostly me wondering how the hell we managed to walk out of there after destroying one of their rooms and screaming at a kid.”

“No. The one about me not writing my own material. The only way you could know that…”

Now it was Eddie’s turn to look a bit bashful.

“You watched my specials. You did!” Richie explained.

“I mean…kind of. At the time I didn’t fully get it. Just…something so damn familiar about you. I couldn’t place you, but I kept getting drawn back.”

“I get that. Pretty sure there was a day where I passed one of Bill’s books in a store and I just stared at it for hours. Wasn’t even a genre I liked to read but something about it made it so hard to walk away.”

Eddie nodded in understanding. He wondered if that had happened to him. Or…or maybe he’d even passed Bev without realizing it. They’d both worked in Manhattan, lived around the area. It was certainly possible.

“I liked your earlier stuff more,” Eddie suddenly commented.

“Yeah, well I actually wrote it myself,” groaned Richie.

“Got in a rut?”

“Sort of. Looking back on everything, I think I just started spiraling downwards because I knew what was coming. I mean with It. I just didn’t remember, but somewhere in my head I stopped caring because I thought we’d all fucking die anyways and nothing mattered anymore.”

“It was a bit different for me, but I think I went through a similar thing. I’d felt like I’d been getting trapped in my old life, but that fight to get out of it just started to shut down. I…I don’t know what I would have done in the long run. But I was spiraling down too.”

Richie nodded. “If only that fucking clown hadn’t been a part of our lives, maybe…maybe we all wouldn’t have gotten trapped in our own personal hells. Or at least hell would have been a bit more enjoyable. Because we wouldn’t have forgotten each other.”

“We have each other now. That’s got to count for something.”

“It fucking better. Or whatever big guy is in the sky is going to get a serious talking to when I die.”

Eddie snorted.

“Want me to help you with your back before we figure out lunch?”

“Sure.”

They headed to the bathroom. This time the process went a little quicker and Eddie finally put on the shirt Richie had left for him. Again, it was a bit bigger and loser than something Eddie would have normally worn. He looked at the logo on it.

“This is the name of one of those comedy clubs in town. Right?”

“Yep. One of the first ones I became a regular at. Got a bunch of merch shit for free early on. Which hey. Starving young adult who’s trying to be a comedian? I’m not going to say no to free clothes.”

Eddie laughed in agreement. “So, what did you get for food?”

“Well I tried not to go overboard with the frozen food.”

“Richie, whatever you got I’m sure is fine. Microwave something or actually cooking, I’m good either way.”

“Ok, ok. How about I pick what we eat then and you pick what we watch?”

“Deal. Do you just have the physical copies?”

“Streaming sights are connected to the TV if you can’t find something you like.”

“Cool.”

Richie went into the kitchen and Eddie went to get a proper look at the DVDs and Blu-Rays. He slightly pulled out those that interested him so he could go back to them as he said, “I know you’ve probably already decided, but I’m really ok with sleeping on the couch.”

“Are you kidding me? You’re not sleeping on the fucking couch.”

“I don’t want to take up—”

“You’re staying in my bed damn it. And if you’re worried about me, the couch is a pull-out.”

“If it’s a pull-out, then I can sleep on it.”

“My bed’s better. You’re sleeping there.”

“The pull-out is—”

“You’re my guest, so my rules.”

“Your rule says guests sleep in your bed?” smirked Eddie.

“It does now. Take it or leave it fucker.”

“Urgh, fine! But the moment I think my wound has healed enough, we’re switching and you’re getting your bed back.”

“We’ll come to that argument when it gets here. Find anything interesting?”

“Still look-holy shit. I remember when we went to see this in theaters.”

“Which one?”

Karate Kid III. You were so fucking disappointed, said it was way too corny compared with the other two.”

“You liked it though.”

“Which is why we saw it two more times.”

“Yep,” chuckled Richie.

Apparently, Richie had all the Karate Kid movies as Eddie pulled them all out. “I forgot about the fourth one. Never did see it. I knew about the remake but never saw it either.”

“Remake isn’t half bad. Doesn’t have the charm of the original, but it takes itself more seriously. Fourth one is pretty much as ridiculous as the third one. Cobra Kai is fucking rad though.”

“You mean Cobra Kai return as the bad guys in the fourth movie too? I thought they were finally finished in part three.”

“What? No, I’m talking about the show.”

“There’s a show!?”

Richie laughed good and hard as Eddie whipped around to look at him. “Yeah. It even has the original cast all reprising their roles.”

“We are watching all of these for the rest of the day!”

“I did say we’d have a movie night. Sounds good to me.”

“Fuck yes.” Eddie went ahead and got the original movie out. He felt almost giddy, like he was a kid again going to see a movie with Richie and the others. Eddie went ahead and got everything set up as Richie got the food ready.

They ultimately decided on a frozen pizza for lunch. For dinner, they would make soup and do grilled cheese sandwiches some of the ingredients Richie had gotten. If they weren’t prepping food that night though, they were sitting on the couch together, watching everything in the Karate Kid franchise back to back.

For an entire afternoon, not a single worry crossed Eddie’s mind. He would eventually have to address work, finances, permanent living arrangements, Myra, but at least the remainder of that day proved to be the kind of paradise he’d been needing for a long time.

Chapter Text

Eddie slowly woke up. He took in a deep breath. The pillow under his head smelled like Richie, making it feel familiar and safe even though it was his first time waking up in that particular bed. He pulled the pillow closer, eyes screwed shut as he elected to sleep in for once. The night before they’d managed to binge the original Karate Kid films before deciding it was best if they went to sleep. Richie said that worked out better though, as going through the remake and then the Cobra Kai series could just be their thing for a while. The idea of already setting down a ritual, of both of them finishing a busy day, only to end it on the couch with a good meal in hand and the TV on? It made Eddie feel warm all over, though his mind told him it was probably just because he was still in bed and covered by blankets.

Eventually, he dragged himself out, and even with his lazy start, Richie was still fast asleep on the pull-out. Eddie had tried to help him set it up last night, but Richie had insisted he had it. Going by the one corner that had popped off and was now covering Richie, he either had not had it or desperately needed bigger sheets. Not that Richie cared at the moment. He was basically in one giant cocoon that he did not look ready to wake from.

Eddie went into the kitchen and headed straight for the coffee maker. It took him a moment to figure it out as the model was pretty old. After a few minutes though, he got a pot going. When it finally started to drizzle down, Richie’s head popped up from the back of the sofa. His hair was a mess and all Eddie could see of his face were his sleepy eyes.

It made him smile.

“Coffee?”

Eddie nodded. “I’ll bring you a cup when it’s done.”

“Thank god.”

Richie slunk out of the pull-out so he could grab his glasses and then his phone. He then quickly went back into his cocoon. Eddie waited for the coffee to finish, poured them both some mugs, and then went to sit on the edge of the bed. Richie took his without looking up from his phone.

“Anything interesting?”

“Just making our plans for today. You want breakfast or are you cool if we hold off and grab brunch.”

“Brunch is fine.”

“Cool. First stop will probably be that store so you can get a new phone. Care where we go next?”

“You know this city better than me. I’ll let you do all the planning.”

“K, help yourself to whatever you want to wear today.”

“Thanks.”

Eddie left Richie with the planning so he could go and look through Richie’s closet. A few cloths were hung up, but most were on the floor. It appeared that Richie had simply moved the clothes from his bedroom floor into the closet floor rather than really putting them away. It got a little chuckle out of Eddie as he focused more on the clothes still hanging. They were probably the safer option after all.

There were a bunch of bad Hawaiian style t-shirts, but Eddie left those alone to look through the plain shirts and graphic t’s. Richie hadn’t been wrong. He had a shit ton from that one comedy club. Eddie just decided to grab a cleaner one of those and a pair of jeans. He picked up his own jacket from the floor and then put his shoes on.

When he went into the living room, Richie was finally up and re-filling his coffee cup. “I think I have the day planned out. Let me get changed and we can go.”

Richie did just that and after about ten minutes, they left the apartment.

As promised, they went and got Eddie a new phone first. They were able to thankfully pull the data from his broken one and transferred it over. Unsurprisingly, about a million texts and calls from Myra began to pop up. Eddie resisted the urge to straight up block her and instead turned his phone back off. He’d deal with that later.

They then went to a Bed, Bath, & Beyond so that Eddie could go ahead and get whatever products he needed including a new towel. Considering he didn’t know how long he was staying with Richie, it was kind of daunting, just starting his whole life over like this. He imagined getting new clothes would be even more intimidating and thankfully Richie had chosen that for after brunch.

With a new phone and all bath products taken care of, they headed to Richie’s pick for a restaurant. It was small, sandwiched between some sleezy looking pawn shop and an empty space under renovations with apartments above all three. Despite its size, the place was pretty crowded. The style seemed to be going for a rustic feel, though that could have easily been because everything was aging, and the paint was dulling rather than any actual intent in it.

A young woman behind the counter left her spot stocking a baked goods display to run around the corner and through the other customers. “Richie! Where the hell you’ve—oof. Well this is unexpected.”

Eddie couldn’t help but snort as Richie hugged her before she could finish her sentence. Going by her expression, it wasn’t their normal way to greet. When Richie finally let go, she grabbed his arms and said, “Holy shit, are you dying? You’ve gotta be dying. The most I’ve ever gotten from you is a lackluster high five when you said I was only mildly annoying one day.”

“I’m not dying. Just…real fucking happy to be home.”

She raised an eyebrow and quickly looked to Eddie. “You look like a doctor. Are you following him around explaining to everyone that he is in fact dying, but he just won’t admit it yet?”

“He’s definitely not dying,” Eddie laughed. “And I’m not a doctor.”

“Honestly could have been with all you know,” Richie muttered.

“I would have been too afraid that I’d catch a disease from a patient.”

“True.”

“Richie!” the young woman whined. “You gonna introduce us or what?”

“Right, this is Eddie, an old friend that’s staying with me. Eddie, this is CC.”

“What’s that stand for?”

“Don’t know—” groaned Richie.

“And never will,” CC finished with a grin. “Usual Richie?”

“That’s fine, and for him two eggs sunny side up and…blueberry muffins fresh?”

“You know it!”

“Then one of those and a side of fruit. Also orange juice.”

“Ah, gotcha.” CC winked.

“No, I mean actual orange juice this time. He’s on medication.”

“Oh! Sorry,” CC quickly said with an apologetic smile towards Eddie. “But ‘orange’ juice for you. Right?”

“Always.”

“Cool! We’ll have it out in a second. Great meeting you Eddie.”

“You too…” Eddie trailed off as CC was already running behind the counter and into the back. “Jesus she is one ball of energy.”

“Don’t I know it,” groaned Richie. He went to sit down at one of the few free tables. Eddie quickly followed, squeezing into the small, somewhat private space as it was sandwiched into a corner. “I’m assuming I got your order right,” Richie added.

“No complaints from me. Though I am curious about your whole relationship with her. She seemed kind of shocked that you hugged her. And what was that comment about only getting a shitty high five from you?”

Richie actually looked a little guilty. “To be honest, I was always a bit snippy with her.”

“Wait. Really?”

“She just…ok so basically she’s a fan. And she’s trying to get her own name out there, wants to do stand-up too. I just…I don’t fucking know what’s wrong with me, but I hardly gave her the time of day. Never talked with her much. Only warmed up a little when she started slipping me mimosas rather than orange juice. Which are not on the menu by the way. That’s all her. But…I don’t know. I think I’m just now realizing that maybe I wasn’t as annoyed with her as I thought.”

“I don’t think you ever actually got annoyed with her. I think you quite like CC. You were just afraid to let yourself have any relationship beyond mere acquittances. Probably due to the underlying, foggy thoughts that you might die soon from a killer clown so you didn’t respond to her, but you didn’t actively push her away. I’m guessing that’s what you’ve done with most of your acquaintances around here.”

Richie blinked, honestly a bit surprised by the quick analysis. “Ok, forget fucking doctor and let’s change that to shrink. You’ve known her for less than a minute. How could you get all that?”

“Because you apparently come here often enough that you have a usual, and we came here when we could have gone literally anywhere in Chicago despite the fact that you knew full well when she usually works considering you weren’t surprised to see her behind the counter. And if you’d really been as annoyed with her as you seem to think you were, I doubt you would have come here that often anyways.”

“You have a point,” Richie murmured.

At that moment, CC ran back over with some glasses. As she set them down, Richie looked from her, to Eddie, back to her, and then said, “I’m going to ask Jim to move some things around so you can get that prime time spot at The Comedy Club that you’ve been aiming for.”

CC’s chipper demeanor dimmed a bit as she stood back on her heels and crossed her arms. “Ok, now I’m a hundred percent sure you’re dying.”

“I’m serious CC. Think of it as my apology for all the times I was a grumpy old jerk.”

That chipper demeanor quickly started to come back. “Y-you actually mean this? Oh! Will you finally look at all my notes—”

“Hey. I don’t want to be anyone’s mentor,” said Richie. However, he faltered a bit when Eddie gave him a pointed look. “But yeah, if you want, you can show me what you got when I get the date figured out.”

CC shook her head with a grin. She glanced towards Eddie before going, “Is this because—” She leaned in and whispered something into Richie’s ear.

“Really? You think that?” Richie sighed.

“Yeah, and I’m totally right going by your expression.”

“Hmm, maybe a bit. Kind of one-sided now, but we’ll see where it goes. Let’s just say this change is more about me having dealt with a lot of shit I should have gotten over a long time ago.”

“Well I’m glad to hear it,” CC grinned. “Does this mean you’ll finally let me give you my number?”

Richie groaned in a way that said, “What have I gotten myself into?” but Eddie could tell he wasn’t that annoyed. He pulled out his phone. “Business only. I do not want any drunk texts and there are only so many free tickets I can get you.”

“I won’t be a problem. Promise!” she said. She quickly gave Richie her number, put his in hers, and then added, “I like this new you Richie. Still grumpy but a little less of an asshole.”

“Only a little though, right? Can’t have my reputation completely going out the window.”

“Don’t worry. I won’t tell. Your food will be out shortly,” she added, and then quickly ran back behind the counter.

“What did she whisper to you?” asked Eddie.

“Secret between comedians.”

“Ah, come on.”

“Want the truth? Said you were cute.”

“Wha—”

“I’m joking. Though you are killing it in that t-shirt.”

“Oh ha ha. Get some new material,” replied Eddie as he kicked him under the table. Richie playfully kicked back. “So, are you going to keep doing this on the fly with everyone? Making friends I mean?”

“Oh hell no. CC’s never been half bad. You’re right. I was the grump, but that compliment does not go to everyone.”

“I don’t think that’s technically a compliment, but ok,” Eddie chuckled.

They got their food and ate with CC checking on them regularly. The way her and Richie talked really made Eddie think they’d been friends for a while, Richie had just been more or less in denial. The banter that they had definitely hadn’t come out of nowhere. The only difference, if Eddie had to guess, was that Richie was probably being a bit more responsive than he normally would have in a conversation with her.

Besides Richie’s and CC’s conversations, there was something else that caught Eddie’s attention. Mainly it was how CC kept glancing at him and then she would give Richie some type of knowing look which he would roll his eyes at. The only explanation Eddie got was again, “Comedian secret,” and he eventually gave up trying to figure it out. Depending on how long he stuck around, maybe he’d get CC to tell him, but for now he let it rest.

They eventually finished up and then went to several clothing stores over the next few hours. Eddie didn’t buy a lot as he honestly kind of went into a panic at each one they went to. Eventually, he admitted exactly why to Richie.

“Just what kind of clothes should I get? What style? How many pairs of pants? What’s the correct number of shirts should you buy when you’re living with your best friend for who knows how long—”

“Woah there. This is shirts we’re talking about. There is absolutely no fucking reason you should be worrying so much.”

“But what if I underbuy? Or overbuy? And what if I don’t get enough socks—”

“Then we come back and get more socks,” Richie said, trying to sound sincere even though it was clear he was trying to hold back a small laugh. “Listen, we know you’re staying with me for like a week total. That’s at least five more days, right? And unless you’re planning on quitting your job and finding one here, I think casual will do just fine. Though one nice outfit wouldn’t hurt. I still have a few nicer places we can go.”

“You’re seriously spoiling me. You know that, right?”

Richie shrugged with a grin firmly on his face. “Listen, just get five outfits. Who knows, maybe something will have changed by then, maybe you’ll be able to pick up some clothes from Myra’s. Or maybe we’ll decide to just get a shit ton more or maybe you’ll stick with five pairs of pants and five pairs of shirts and I’ll just do a crap ton of laundry twice a week. Trust me, you don’t have to worry about this. It’s just clothes.”

If anyone else had said that, it might not have calmed Eddie. But coming from Richie? His shoulders finally relaxed, and he repeated, “It’s just clothes.”

“Exactly. Now let’s finally finish this so we can grab an early dinner and head home.”

“Ok, ok,” chuckled Eddie. He didn’t comment that Richie had basically called his own apartment their home and had already designated Eddie’s former house as just Myra’s. Maybe something like that would happen. The fact that Richie’s assumptions didn’t bother him was probably a sign of what was to come, but Eddie pushed those thoughts aside. Myra later, what mattered now was what was right in front of him. Namely, Richie and finally buying some fucking clothes.

Of course, it still took a while, just with trying things on and wanting to get clothes that were comfortable. They went to two more clothing stores before Eddie finally decided he had enough. The bags got thrown in the back with the toiletries and then they went to an early dinner. The place seemed to be another favorite of Richie’s, but whereas CC had been the only one to really notice him at that small breakfast place, every worker here seemed to know him pretty well.

It turned out the place wasn’t far from one of the clubs Richie did stand-up in. Depending on the night, he often came to the restaurant for a late drink afterwards. The workers expressed varying levels of concern and to Richie’s credit, he stayed pretty bashful during it. Though the manager who said, “Having something happen to you would fucking suck. I don’t want to think about how big a dip in revenue that would be,” made Richie feel a bit more comfortable again and got everyone laughing.

After dinner, they agreed to go back to Richie’s place so Eddie could begin getting properly settled in. Then they could end the day watching the remake of The Karate Kid. It was basically another perfect day, and right after the last perfect one, it made Eddie feel like he could really get used to this.

Chapter Text

The third day in Richie’s apartment was the one where Eddie decided he did need to start figuring out his life. He would have loved to sit on that couch forever, watching movies and shows, eating food, making jokes and shoving each other every five seconds like they were kids again. But that wasn’t how the world worked.

When Eddie got up, he decided to stay in the new pajamas he’d gotten himself and went to make coffee as Richie was still asleep. Like the other day, the sound of it drizzling into the pot got him up. This time they made a small breakfast in his apartment. Eddie sat at the counter as Richie fried some bacon.

Richie said, “So I’ve got a few other places we could go to. I want to show you some of the clubs I frequent, and there’s plenty of sights to see. Got museums too if you’re interested and—”

“Maybe we hold off on that for tomorrow?” Eddie suggested. “I should probably look at those files work sent over. And I…I need to talk to Myra.”

“She gave you a week.”

“Yeah, but we both know she didn’t intend for me to actually take it. And I’d rather not get a bulletin sent out that I’m missing and probably dead because I feel like she’ll do that if I don’t call her sooner rather than later.”

Richie looked a little disappointed, but said, “We’ll do all that stuff tomorrow then. The day after. We have all the time in the world.”

Eddie warmed at that though.

“And I should probably get some fucking work done too now that I’m thinking about it. And I need to see Jim about getting CC that spot… Yeah. This works. And it gives you some privacy. Want anything while I’m out?”

“Can’t think of anything.”

“Cool. I’ll probably head out around ten then.”

With that decided, they continued their lazy morning. Since Richie didn’t leave right away, Eddie let him have his computer and he put on the news while drinking his coffee. He also went ahead and got all his friends’ numbers from Richie’s phone. While he was in the middle of doing it, he got another text from Myra. He avoided looking at that. He’d wait until Richie left.

The minutes ticked by slowly before Richie finally got up, took a shower, and got dressed. Eddie had remade the pull-out as something to do, and also so all the blankets weren’t bunched up in one area. When Richie was ready to leave, Eddie had everything he needed set up. Richie’s laptop sat on his lap, the news played in front with the TV muted, and another fresh cup of coffee was on the side table.

“Call if you need anything,” Richie said.

“Will do.”

Eddie was then left alone as he focused on work first. That part was easy, and a good bit of the work was pure muscle memory by this point. A lot of it involved reviewing other reports, approving a few before sending them back. It was simple, just took a while. He was almost done when lunchtime came around. He took a quick break, went to make a sandwich, and then checked his phone.

He’d sent out a few quick texts to the losers, and so far Mike and Bev had responded. They wished him well and expressed happiness about being able to stay in contact with him now. Eddie sent back a few quick replies and then got a text from Richie. It asked, Everything still ok?

Eddie replied, It’s all good. Looked through your search history by the way. You need some new hobbies.

What can I say. German dungeon porn just does it for me. There was a pause, the little text bubbles appeared, and then, You didn’t actually look though. Right?

Eddie snorted. No. Told you. Don’t want to bleach my eyes.

And there would be a lot of bleach involved.

Gross. Get—

Eddie paused in the texting. He’d almost put home. Which this was Richie’s home. But by saying it like this, then it was kind of like Eddie was implying it was his home too. Was that ok? Richie had kind of done that yesterday but was it ok for Eddie to call it his—

He took a deep breath. His thoughts calmed a little. If Richie hadn’t meant it, he wouldn’t have said it. That much Eddie knew. So…even if he wasn’t here for long, he supposed he would count the apartment as home too. He finished the text.

Get home soon.

I will. Text me if you need anything.

With that conversation done and Eddie having just finished lunch, he went back to his work. There wasn’t much left, and it took him less than an hour before he emailed everything back to them. Now came the harder part.

Eddie turned off the TV and put the laptop away. He sat cross-legged on the pull-out and stared at his phone. He’d already gone to contacts. His thumb hovered over the name.

He closed his eyes, took a deep breath, grounded himself, and then finally called. He’d put it on speaker and set the phone down, which was clearly the right call as her voice might have blown out his eardrum as it came out loud and pissed.

“So you finally call?! You finally call!? I have been worried sick Edward!? What the hell were you thinking!? I’ve called so many hospitals and then I called—”

“Myra. Myra!” Eddie finally yelled. It got her to quiet for a few seconds and he quickly said, “I’m alright.”

“Alright? You call after not answering a single text or call or email al—”

“Myra, I just want to talk. Ok? We don’t have to yell at each other. Just talk.”

“Talk? Hmph, I can’t think of anything you could say to make this better, but let’s see.”

Despite Eddie’s attempt at keeping calm, his temper was already rising. “Make better-you said I had a week.”

“Well yes, but you should have realized that was ridiculous and come home by now.”

“No. No you’re not doing that again. Do you even realize what you did? First off, we didn’t even have a conversation like proper adults should. You just gave me a week ultimatum. Then you tried to make it as difficult as possible for that one week to happen without me coming straight back to you.”

“Well I know what’s best for you Eddie.”

“You are not my mother!” The shouted words came out quick, angry, and unexpected as Eddie threw his hands up in the air.

“Then stop acting like a spoiled child! Edward, I understand you’re under a lot of stress. You’re hurting. But that gives you no right to act the way you’re acting. Just come home and I can get you the help you need.”

“I don’t need-listen.” Eddie tried to calm himself again. “I’m sorry for yelling. I still want a civil conversation.”

“Then simply agree and come home.”

“I can’t.”

“Why not?” Myra demanded.

“Because I’m not breaking this time. I’m doing what’s best for me.”

“But I know what’s best for you.”

“Do you? Or are you just trying to control me?”

“Control you? Don’t be ridiculous Edward. Just listen to yourself. Why would I ever want to do that?”

“You’re still doing it,” whispered Eddie as his anger gave way to a gut-wrenching pain. “Christ, you’re still trying to fucking manipulate me.”

“I didn’t catch that. Speak up Edward.”

“I don’t know! I don’t know why,” he said in answer to her last question. “Maybe…maybe it’s the only way you were taught what a proper relationship is like. Maybe…maybe you’re fully aware and you’re trying to gaslight me. I honestly don’t know.”

“What a horrible thing to say! I simply try to help you and you say something awful like that…”

Eddie put his hands over his ears. He had to for a moment. He tried to even his breathing. It only worked a little before he jumped back into the conversation. “You are trying guilt trip me. I know you are so just—”

“Guilt tripping? I would never do such a thing to you Eddie. I’m sorry if it comes across that way, but you really hurt my feelings. I just want you to come back home baby. You’ve never been away this long with no planning, no notice. How could you not think of me when you left?”

Eddie pulled at his own face. His eyes stayed scrunched up. “And now you’re trying to make me feel like the bad guy. Myra, I can’t come back. I can’t.”

“What about work? What about our home? I need you here—”

“Why did we get married?”

“I’m sorry. What?”

Eddie finally dropped his hands. There were tears slowly falling down his cheeks. “Answer me that, and then we can talk about what happens next. Why did we get married?”

“You really are being ridiculous. Because you asked me. What other answer could you possibly want?”

“No. That’s not what I mean. Why did you say yes? Do you even know why I asked you?”

The answer should have been simple. One word, four letters. It should have been obvious.

All Eddie got was silence.

“We…we need this time apart. And I’m starting to think it’s going to be a lot longer than a week,” whispered Eddie.

“No. No you need to come home. Come home and everything will make sense—”

“You can’t answer one simple question.”

“Because I don’t need to be berated like this from my husband.”

Eddie shook his head. “I’m not coming home. Not now. Not…I don’t know. But especially while you can’t answer that question, or at least accept how fucked up this all is, I know I can’t.”

There was another long pause of silence.

Then finally…

“You will call back when you are ready to leave this fool’s errand behind and come home. I don’t want to hear from you again unless it’s an apology.”

“Myra—”

“Is that understood?”

Eddie took a deep, shuttering breath. “I’ll talk to you again when I’m ready.”

“No, you will talk to me again when you are finally ready to come home. Good-bye.”

She hung up first and Eddie was left staring at his phone. He covered his face again. It should have been so easy. It should have been—

“I’m hooooome. Ran by Alliance, it’s this great little bakery. They’ve got some crazy good-shit. Eddie, what’s wrong?” Right away Richie put everything down and rushed to Eddie’s side. He slowly, comfortingly rubbed Eddie’s shoulders as Eddie tried to force himself to calm down, which honestly just made it worse. “Hey. Hey, you don’t have to hold it back for me. It’s ok to cry.”

“I-I’m sorry,” Eddie hiccupped.

“You don’t have to be sorry. Honest. Just let it out,” murmured Richie. “Did you…”

Eddie nodded.

“Fuck man. It’ll be ok though.”

“How can it be ok? I’m married to a woman who can’t tell me why the fuck we got married! It’s just one fucking word and it doesn’t even cross her mind and n-now-fuck! I wasted my entire adult life for her and all she did was say it was all my fault and how I hurt her and t-try to twist everything around and-and—”

Richie pulled Eddie into a hug. He continued to rub careful, soothing circles into his back, though he also made sure to avoid the wound as he did. “You didn’t ok? You didn’t.”

“D-didn’t what?” sniffed Eddie as he buried his face into Richie’s shoulder, pulling him closer in the hug.

“Didn’t waste your whole adult life. We’re here, we’ve got each other. And there are people who love you so fucking much. Ok? Fuck her for any of the shit she said because she’s wrong. I…I’m here for you. Got it?”

Richie could feel Eddie’s nod as he stayed firmly pressed against him.

“I think…I think I’m going to have to stay a lot longer with you,” Eddie whispered.

“Hey not a problem for me. If I could do more, I would.”

“I hate putting you out like—”

“When will you realize you’re not? Everything I’ve been doing so far is because I care. There’s no fucking underhanded, manipulative shit happening. Ok?”

“You sure about that?” asked Eddie. He pulled back a bit and wiped at his face.

“Uh. Yeah. I would never do something like that to—”

“Because something tells me you’re about to grab whatever baked goods you got, tell me we should put on The Karate Kid, and basically bribe me into forgetting about all my troubles,” Eddie said with another sniffle and a little smile.

“What? I would never! Though I did just happen to buy a shit ton of macarons in all the flavors and I do think I’m in the mood to watch another movie if you are.”

Eddie laughed. The smile that broke through was full and real and after wiping at his face one last time, all the tears were gone. Was there still shit to deal with? Yes, a fuck ton. But he needed the break, and he was so god damn lucky that Richie knew just how to cheer him up.

“Why are you so good to me?”

“Because it makes me happy.”

“You’re such a softy underneath. You really are.”

“Hey! Shh, my reputation.”

Eddie picked up a pillow and hit him with it. “Richie Tozier is a big fucking softy!”

“No, my reputation!” cried Richie as he dramatically flopped down in front of Eddie. “Whatever will I do?”

“I don’t know how to help you Richie. But I hear we have macarons in our apartment and that has to make everything better.”

“You do have a point,” Richie said, propping himself up on his elbows. “Macarons, I help with cleaning up your wound, The Karate Kid, make dinner, and then we can finally get to Cobra Kai. Sound good?”

“Perfect.”

“You’ve been saying that word a lot.”

“Everything seems more perfect with you,” Eddie answered honestly. “Now show me what flavors you got.”

Chapter Text

For the most part, things seemed to be going well. Eddie still felt a little bad at basically just taking up space in Richie’s apartment, especially considering it would almost definitely be long-term now. However, every time that kind of thought worried him, Richie seemed to immediately catch on. He would say something along the lines of, “Man, it’s nice not having this apartment all by myself.” Or something like, “It used to be so boring watching TV by myself.” It really wasn’t that subtle, but Eddie didn’t appreciate it any less for that.

The next day, Richie took him around the city again. This time, they visited more landmark, touristy type things. Most of it probably bored Richie, but he seemed to enjoy it simply because Eddie was enjoying it. Which he did. He liked learning about the feel and history of the city, especially since there was a chance he’d been in it for a while.

With this more long-term look, Eddie also brought up the idea of him continuing his work from home.

“Seriously?” Richie asked over lunch. They were at another favorite restaurant of his. “You should take your time. You deserve a break.”

“I know. That’s why I’m definitely not going to suggest it until the end of this week. But I need to keep making money. I have a fair amount saved up but it’s not enough to survive the rest of my life on, and I’m definitely too young to retire.”

Richie grudgingly agreed. “Ok. You may have a point. I just don’t want you pushing yourself.”

“I won’t. Promise. And it helps that I’m doing this out of the office since there will be just some things I can’t do. Most of it will just be me sitting at a computer. Hardly strenuous.”

“Ok…”

“Which speaking of, should I get a new laptop? I don’t want to hog yours all the time.”

“Naw, keep it. I know I have an iPad somewhere that I can basically do all I need on it. Just got to find it somewhere in my closet.”

“If you’re really ok with that.”

“Of course I am. Besides, this gives me good reason to use that fucking thing rather than it gathering dust.”

And there it was again. Just little, fairly obvious ways that Richie lowered Eddie’s anxiety with his words.

God it felt good to have someone who willingly wanted to make Eddie feel safe and ok. It had been far too long since he’d experienced that.

On their sixth day, they grabbed breakfast at the same place where they’d grabbed brunch. CC was working that morning too. She tried giving Richie a few of her notes on the set she was working on before Richie finally said, “Why don’t you just come over and show me so you’re not just breathlessly spitting it out in between serving other customers.”

“You mean it? Fuck yeah!”

“CC! Language!” yelled a guy, presumably her boss, behind the counter.

“Shit! Sorry Max!”

The guy just groaned again and face palmed. It was hard to say if CC didn’t realize her mistake or if it was a hundred percent on purpose.

“Sometime next week then?” CC asked, turning back to Richie.

“Yeah. I’ll text you in the next day or two when I figure it out. And I’m still working on getting you that spot. You may have to wait a bit but it looks like one guy may be too sick so you might get to steal his.”

“Nice.”

“CC!” her boss desperately called. He made a desperate wave towards the other customers.

“Catch you later Richie. Eddie.”

“Later.”

“Bye.”

After breakfast they went back to Richie’s place. They had tickets to go to the Music Box Theatre that night which Richie claimed was a must visit for both its personality, historical value, and the unique things you could see there. The movie they were going to see was an indie film called Holy Trinity. Going over the synopsis, Eddie was pretty sure it wasn’t something he would ever search out on his own. However, since Richie was excited about it, Eddie was too. And hey, it was good to get out of his comfort zone occasionally.

Until the showing, they planned on the rest of the day being an easy one. Richie had just been keeping the pull-out set up for ease of access. That meant they were laying on it when there was a sudden banging at his door that made them both jump. A shout came from the other side. “Tozier, I swear to god! Open the fucking door.”

Richie groaned. “He found me.”

“Found you?” Instead of getting an answer, Eddie watched as Richie jumped up and quickly pulled open the door.

A man that looked to be about their age walked in. He was fuming and looked ready to give Richie a real talking to when he realized he had company. He looked at Eddie in a quizzical way before staring at Richie.

“Really? You throw me to the curb so you can shack—”

“This is my childhood friend, Eddie,” Richie quickly interrupted, stopping whatever assumption the man was about to spit out. “Eddie, this is my assistant—”

“Wrangler,” the man grumbled.

“Jason,” Richie finished. He focused back on the man. “Before you absolutely wail into me—”

“Wail into you? First, you were late going up. Then you forgot your set halfway through. Then you were violently ill, and then!? Then you fucking leave without notice and the only text I get is several days later asking for help in getting plane tickets! I mean Jesus Christ Richie! If you were planning on shoving your career down the fucking toilet, a little warning would have been appreciated so I could look for a new job.”

“You don’t have to look for a new job. Just sit down. Want a beer?”

“Want a-Richie. Please tell me you realize just how much trouble you’re in.”

Richie gave a little smile and a shrug that said he knew exactly how much trouble he was in, but he was playing dumb just to mess with Jason. Eddie tried to hide the sharp laugh that wanted to bubble out of his throat. Jason looked like a vein was about to burst even as he reluctantly sat down at the counter. Eddie awkwardly stayed where he was since Richie didn’t seem to mind the lack of privacy, but he also didn’t want to shoehorn his way into the conversation by sitting at the counter too or anything.

“You can’t just ghost me like this. I’m serious Tozier!” Jason growled out, even as he accepted the beer. “You know they cancelled your tours in Reno. Right? I tried to convince them that you would be there but without your official word, they didn’t want to risk an empty mic.”

Richie shrugged.

“Did you just-Richie! Will you please just work with me here?”

“Hey, the set was shit,” Richie replied.

“Yeah, I know it was shit. But a shit set still makes money if you—”

“Go ahead and cancel anything official I had planned for the next four weeks.”

“That’s a whole fucking-oh god. I’m going to need another job,” the man moaned.

“You’re not going to need another job. I just need time to write my next set.”

At least at those words, Jason perked up. “Wait you-you mean you’re going to write it? You haven’t written anything in years!”

“Yeah, well I had a surge of inspiration.”

“Seriously? What the hell happened Tozier? And-no offense man,” Jason quickly said to Eddie before turning back to Richie, “but does it have something to do with the new roommate?”

“There was just some personal shit I had to deal with,” Richie replied. “Let’s say it helped.”

“And now you have a friend staying with you? Or is it a friend—”

“He’s going through his own personal shit too,” Richie quickly said. Eddie just tried to follow along. He didn’t really get what Jason was trying to get at, not that it really mattered as Richie set him straight. “We knew each other when we were kids and he’s having some trouble at home right now so he’s staying with me. That’s it.”

“Lifelong friend? I didn’t think you had any of those.”

“We only recently reconnected,” Eddie supplied.

“Ok…well hell. If it gets your creative juices flowing again Tozier, by all means. But do you really want me to cancel all upcoming dates?”

“For the next month? Yeah. Listen, help me get some spots locally for five-minute sets and I’ll start to try out a few new things. If down the road I don’t have enough for longer sets or a whole tour, I may want to cancel some of those future dates too, but I think I should have enough by then.”

“Do you still want me to get some back-up material?”

Richie quickly shook his head. “No, we’re doing a clean slate. It’s got to be all me this time or nothing.”

“Jesus. You are serious about this,” muttered Jason as he took a sip of his beer. “But…ok. We can work with this. Someone uploaded a clip of that fucked up set by the way. So staying out of the spotlight for a bit is probably for the best.”

“Then we’re in agreement. Also, considering what happened last time, Jim doesn’t have complete faith in me. I need help convincing him to get a newbie one of the prime spots.”

“Who?”

“CC.”

“Wait. That kid who you grumbled and groaned about how she never left you alone during your breakfast despite the fact you refused to just go to another restaurant or eat at a different time?”

Eddie piped up. “I told you, you always liked her.”

“Shut up,” Richie replied. “And she’s twenty-eight. But yeah. Her.”

“Why? You’ve avoided new stand-up comedians like you might catch the plague from them.”

“Yeah, and I’ll continue to do so. Giving advice doesn’t do shit if you just don’t know how to be funny. But—”

“You like her!” Eddie called.

“Hush,” Richie groaned. “She’s tenacious. Ok? Just help me out here so I don’t have to deal with her disappointed, puppy dog fucking eyes.”

“Fine. I’ll see what I can do. And you just want short set times? Because I think I could get you a thirty minute one.”

“Let’s just focus on five- or ten-minute ones. Maybe sign me up for an open mic night or something.”

“Open mic? You really are starting over.”

“Well, like you said, my career kind of was heading for a toilet. It’s change or move over for the next fucking group. Right?”

“Right. Just glad you realized it.” Jason finished off his beer. “So, I guess I should take my resume off ‘I need a job dot com slash, my boss disappeared off the face of the fucking earth and I need money’.”

“Never needed to have it up there in the first place.”

“Says you. I fear everyday suddenly not having a job.”

“Ah, you must stick around for the faith you have in me.”

“Or I’m a bigger idiot than you.”

“That too.”

“Hey, you’re not supposed to agree with me asshole!”

Richie just grinned and this time Eddie did let out a little laugh.

Jason shook his head, but the fuming anger he’d stomped into the apartment with had all but disappeared. He leaned on his elbow and sighed, “At least tell me what you’re going for so I have something to sell to people.”

“I’m thinking about stories from my childhood.”

“Seriously? You’ve never wanted to go near that personal shit. Or if you did, you just straight made it up.”

“I told you. I kind of moved past a lot.” Richie glanced back to Eddie and smiled. He smiled back. “And let’s just say I’ve started to remember and appreciate a lot of the good shit that happened back then too.”

Jason made a motion that dragged Richie’s gaze back to him. He leaned in and whispered so Eddie couldn’t here. But to Richie, he easily heard, “And this Eddie guy is seriously not a friend, friend—”

“Yeah I’m fucking sure,” Richie replied at a normal speaking volume again. “Just tell them it’s childhood related if they want to know. And if they want specifics, I may bring up that one time me and my friends killed a clown.”

“Killed a clown? What’s that a metaphor for?”

“Wait for the set and you’ll find out,” smirked Richie.

“Ok. Ok. You haven’t renewed my confidence in you Tozier, but you’ve still got me on the fucking payroll. I’ll see what I can do. Text me when you get the first set figured out. And I want to hear it too before I put anything in stone. If we’re doing this, one hundred percent, authentic you, then we’re going to make sure it’s damn good before we put it out there.”

“Good to know we agree on that.”

“And don’t fucking ghost me again.”

“No promises.”

Jason groaned. “At least some warning then.”

“I’ll try.”

“Yeah, yeah. Well have the rest of a good fucking day.” Jason got up and started to head towards the door. He paused to look at Eddie. “Considering you’re the only new thing I know about in his life, I’m going to assume most of this turn around is because of you. Make sure he doesn’t disappear again. Will you?”

“I mean, if he does, I’ll probably be in whatever undisclosed location he’s in so no promises there.”

Richie laughed as Jason just let out another groan. He mumbled, “Just a friend my ass,” under his breath and walked out. Richie went to the door, locked it behind him, and flopped down on the pull-out.

“You know,” said Eddie, “he’s pretty uptight for guy who works with a comedian.”

“Ha! You’re not wrong. Maybe I should use that.”

“I’m sure he’d fucking love it,” Eddie laughed. “You seem to have a relatively good relationship though.”

“He’s good with the technical, planning shit aspect. Definitely hasn’t let me down. But starting prep on a new skit can come tomorrow. Let’s finish this, and then we can start walking to the theatre.”

“I still don’t get why you want to walk.”

“Chicago is a whole other city at night! You’re also about fifty percent more likely to get stabbed but—”

Eddie gave him a pointed look.

“We’re not actually going to be out that late or in any dangerous areas. Ok? Just trust me on this. The city at night is a whole different beast and you have to experience it at least once. Besides, I don’t have to worry.”

“Uh, shouldn’t you be saying I don’t have to worry?” asked Eddie.

“No. It’s me who doesn’t have to worry. I’ve got my Scarface to protect me,” Richie grinned as he nudged Eddie with his arm.

“Seriously?”

“You wounded a giant spider clown with an iron spike. You can protect me against anything.”

“You think so?”

“I know so. Now come on. Finish this and we can start the walk. And I want to have time to grab coffee on the way.”

“Ok, ok. Pressing play,” Eddie smiled as he hit the button and leaned back with Richie.

Chapter Text

A few days passed, and Eddie was finally feeling well adjusted at fitting into Richie’s life. He’d had a few good days, nearly a week of nothing but fun. But it wasn’t like they could just support themselves forever on what they had saved up. Besides, Richie had sets to work on. He was even passionate about it which was the best part as Richie’s excitement bled into Eddie. But, if Richie was busy with work, then Eddie would need something to do anyways.

Eddie had already talked to Sylvia and others at his job again. They weren’t really a fan of him not being in the office, but they also weren’t willing to just let the opportunity go. They would start regularly sending everything to Eddie’s email tomorrow which meant one more unofficial vacation day.

Though Eddie had suggested a couple of places or had been the one to make a final decision on dinner or a movie, he again let Richie choose what they would do on their last completely free day. Eddie still needed to get a feel for the city and Richie seemed especially excited about his own plan, not letting Eddie in on a single detail.

It started off with both of them getting up early and walking to breakfast. They got to say hi to CC, and Richie told her that Jason had helped him get her that spot she’d been wanting for the Friday after next. That gave her a little less than two weeks and so they made plans for her to come over to Richie’s apartment next week. Richie had been a little ambivalent, but considering neither CC or Richie could pick a place, Eddie had thrown out the idea and CC had gotten so hung up on it that Richie had finally caved. To be fair, they needed a place they could move around freely but still have privacy, and talk however loud they wanted to. With that idea, the only places that really worked would have been Richie’s or CC’s. At that reminder, Richie had quickly said he’d prefer his place too.

After breakfast, Richie and Eddie continued their walk through the city. They made a detour through Lincoln Park, Eddie simply wanting to take a break from the brick buildings to the beautiful, full trees and the occasional art installation.

At one point, Eddie forced Richie to stop. Eddie grabbed his hand and pulled him towards the water.

“If this is the start of your plan to drown me and then take over my identity, you’re being a bit obvious.”

“You really think I want your identity? I would bomb so hard as a stand-up comedian.”

“But I do have a pretty sweet apartment. And I also have that other one in Nevada that I’ll have to take you to someday.”

“First dinner and now you want to fly me places?” grinned Eddie. “Only if I can buy my own damn ticket. I can make my own money. And I’m pretty sure I make more than you. At least more consistently.”

“Oh, well maybe I should hit you up on flying me everywhere, huh?”

At that point, Eddie let go. He didn’t notice as Richie tried to hold on just a little longer, his fingers grazing Eddie’s before Eddie fully pulled away. Still, it was only for a moment.

“Ok, stand here,” Eddie said.

“Stand-oof!” Richie let out a sharp exhale as Eddie pulled him close.

They were pressed shoulder to shoulder, Eddie’s arm linked around Richie’s in order to keep him there. Eddie quickly took out his phone and started to go to the right app.

“You know, I don’t think we have any photos of us. I remember all of us as kids splitting our pocket change to run into that photobooth, but I have no idea where my copies went or if anyone else has there’s. Do you?” asked Eddie.

“If I do, they’re at the bottom of a box of my parent’s old stuff in a storage locker I still need to clear out. I really have no idea,” Richie replied. “Why?”

“Because I’m determined to keep physical, tangible memories of you. Everyone else too whenever we see them again.” Eddie paused and looked up at him. “You haven’t begun to forget anything. Have you? Nothing foggy?”

“Nope. I remember every detail in perfect, horrifying clarity. You?”

Eddie looked relieved. “Yeah. Still, just in case. I’m going to need about a million pictures of you.”

“A million pictures huh? You might have to stick around a long time to get them all.”

“Then I better get started.”

“We could have just grabbed one in my apartment or something at some point. Not that I mind the detour.”

“Yeah, well it’s a gorgeous damn day, that view behind us is fucking nice, and I wanted the first one to be really special. But don’t worry,” Eddie said as he finally poised the phone, “I’ll get one of you deep in sleep, drool falling from your mouth and with your legs all tangled up in your blankets too.”

“Will you now?” grinned Richie just as Eddie took the picture. “Well jokes on you. I wake up pristine every morning.”

“Yeah, that’s a fucking lie. But not a bad first picture,” Eddie replied as he un-looped their arms. “Alright, I’ve had my fun. Lead me the rest of the way to this mystery surprise.”

“You’re going to love this. It’ll be a real nostalgia kick,” Richie said. Though Eddie didn’t notice, he almost reached out and started to drag him in the right direction. However, at the last second Richie shoved his hands into his pockets instead and just led the way.

As they walked, Eddie took in the beauty of the park, occasionally straying from Richie’s side to look at something while Richie seemed to be gunning for the secret location. While Eddie was off to the side at one point though, he did manage to get one more picture of Richie before they started to walk into the residential areas. Richie was perfectly posed mid-stride, hair slightly tousled by the wind as the sun shined in a way that perfectly accented his face. He wasn’t smiling, but definitely not frowning. He looked completely lost in thought as he let his feet be guided by pure muscle memory.

Eddie wondered what he was thinking about as he quickly caught back up to him. Eddie smiled, thumb hovering over the image. It probably didn’t compare to any professional’s eye, but Eddie quite liked it. On pure instinct, he zoomed in a little and made it his background.

“Did you just take another picture of me?”

“Nope.”

“Uh huh,” Richie slowly said. “Come on. We got about a fifteen minute walk this way.”

They continued on, moving from grassy trails to sidewalks again. Eddie kept looking around. He was trying to figure out what exactly Richie was dragging him to. However, he didn’t think it was more food, though he knew there was still a long list of restaurants Richie wanted to take him to. What could it be…

Eventually, they rounded a street corner. Just like all the others, Eddie’s eyes ran over every building, every sign. Unlike the other times though, he spotted one store and immediately knew it had to be the end goal.

“You’ve got to be kidding me.”

“What do you think?”

“I think I won’t know the first place to start. I haven’t been in one of these in years.”

“Well it’s a regular of mine. I have a deal with one of the managers that he gives me discounts if I can get him the occasional free ticket to some of the clubs I frequent.”

“Wait. That sounds like you have a lot and yet I haven’t seen a single one in your apartment-is that what all those boxes under your bed are holding?”

“At least now I have proof you haven’t snooped around.”

“Like I ever would. Is every box full?”

“Close to it. I need to find some more room.”

“Or maybe not buy as many,” laughed Eddie.

Richie scoffed as they came up to the door. He held it open for Eddie. “Yeah, fat chance of that. You’d have to burn down every comic bookstore in a two-hundred mile radius to stop that.”

Eddie shook his head with a bemused smile as he walked into the place. Right away, some guy was saying hi to Richie. Eddie let them have their own little conversation as he walked to the rows and started to flip through the comics.

He pulled out a Wonder Woman one.

After flipping through a few pages, Richie snatched it out of his hands. “Hey Beverly. This should be your first comic.”

The losers were moving around the aisles, quickly grabbing anything of interest. They’d come pretty early so that they had the store almost completely to themselves besides the underpaid teen who looked ready to fall asleep behind the counter.

“Why?” asked Bev. “Because she’s a girl?”

“Naw because whips are hot.”

“It’s a lasso you idiot,” Eddie replied.

“And what the hell is hot about it?” asked Mike.

Richie thrusted at Eddie. “Ask Eddie’s mom.”

Eddie grabbed Richie’s face and shoved him back. “That’s a lie cause I was banging your mom and you were fast asleep in your room last night.”

“Bullshit.”

“Bullshit.”

“No, you’re bullshit.”

“That doesn’t even make sense.”

They started to struggle, wrestling in the store as the teenager sighed, “You tear it, you pay for it,” before lazily flipping through a magazine in front of him.

“Guys,” Beverly suddenly cut in. “What about this one?” She pulled out a Spider-Man comic.

“Oh yeah, that’s a good one,” Eddie said, both he and Richie doing a sudden left turn from yelling to talking normally again.

“You can’t start with that one though. That’s issue eighty-seven,” Stan added.

“It can get a…a…a…little confusing,” Bill got out. “I c…c…c…c…”

“Here’s a good one to start with,” Ben quickly said, shoving a comic in between Bill and Bev. “And Peter Parker’s the best superhero to start with. He’s only a little older than us and has to deal with regular day stuff and saving people, and he has a strict moral code he follows. He’s like the best.”

“Black Panther and Doctor Strange are pretty cool,” Mike suggested.

“DC has the best ones,” Stan argued. “Green Lantern, Superman, Batman, they’re way better. And Wonder Woman is theirs too.”

“I like Guardians of the Galaxy,” Eddie said, moving to another aisle.

“No one knows who the hell they are,” said Richie. “They’re as non-existent as my virginity.”

“Shut up Richie,” they all groaned.

Eddie rolled up the Guardians of the Galaxy comic book he had in hand and knocked Richie upside the head with it.

“Ow!”

“You can’t say that. Doesn’t fucking hurt if it doesn’t exist.”

“Well it did.”

“So you’re saying you are a virgin,” smirked Stan. “I always knew it.”

“What-naw. I’m just trying to make you virginites feel better.”

“That’s a new one,” chuckled Mike.

“Well in that case, I can keep hitting you,” Eddie replied, taking another swipe at Richie.

“Hey!”

“Then admit it hurts fucking virgin.”

“Not a chance virginite,” Richie said as he dodged another swipe. Eddie and Richie started running around the store as Mike, Ben, Stan, and Bill tried to give Beverly some good first choices for comics. Eddie and Richie did pause whenever Bev asked a question, but for the most part they continued to argue with Eddie every now and then trying to hit him to prove a point.

Eddie carefully put Wonder Woman away as Richie started to walk over.

“Thoughts?” he grinned.

“I’m warning you Richie. I think this is awakening something in me.”

“It is-you mean the comic books,” mumbled Richie as he face-palmed behind him.

Eddie didn’t notice. “Lot less spandex than I last remember.”

“Not all superheroes either,” Richie said as he managed to bounce back. “Also pretty popular to adapt TV shows into comic books too. Or even continue cancelled ones.”

“Seriously?”

“Yeah, come look.”

They ended up walking around for hours. It felt like almost everything Eddie touched brought back other memories of his friends. It was hard not to smile through it all. And when it was finally time to leave? Eddie caved and purchased three issues from different series. Richie left with six that the guy behind the counter had been holding on for him.

“Alright, that was basically it for the surprise. It’s your turn,” Richie said.

“Mine?”

“Yeah, I took up most of our last pseudo vacation day. So, you get to pick dinner.”

“Hmm, I still don’t know everything this city has to offer.”

“Pick a type of food then.”

“Hmm…Mexican?”

“You hate spicy food.”

“I’m branching out. And I know you like it.”

“I said pick what you want to eat.”

“I’ll enjoy it if you enjoy it,” smiled Eddie. “So, any good places around here?”

“There is one on the way home…”

“Then Mexican it is. Lead the way.”

They walked back through the city, though obviously taking a different route from before. Along the way, Eddie started to go the wrong way at one point. He didn’t register what was going through Richie’s head, but for Richie, he took a quick chance. This time, he grabbed Eddie’s hand and pulled him in the right direction instead. He let go relatively quickly, but the warm feeling didn’t really leave him. For Eddie, he didn’t really take notice, only that he immediately missed the warmth when Richie let go.

Chapter Text

Eddie had a routine again.

As his chest wound had healed, he’d started doing minor stretching and exercises every morning. He wasn’t really a gym kind of guy, but regular exercise was still important so Eddie would stretch and then do some pushups and sit-ups. He couldn’t do as many as he once could, but he should be able to get back to his regular reps once he fully healed.

Richie was usually asleep during those parts. However, there was one day when he’d gotten up early. He’d stopped in the doorway and had still been standing there when Eddie finished his pushups and sat back on his knees. Eddie had raised an eyebrow. “What? Was my form off?”

“Huh? No. No the uh…form was great.”

Eddie hadn’t been able to decipher the look in Richie’s eyes but had chalked it up to him having just woken up. Other than that day though, Richie usually still slept through the workout. Once done, Eddie would head into the kitchen and start a pot of coffee. That was the real signal that got Richie to drag himself up off the couch. He would grab his coffee, drink it as quickly as possible, and then do his morning shower.

If they were awake enough by that point, they left to go have breakfast and say hi to CC. Otherwise they would scramble something up at home and laze about on the couch. As they ate, they would see what was interesting on TV or watch the news in the early morning until almost ten. Then Richie would start writing on the iPad and Eddie would go to work on the computer. Eddie always sat at the desk, sometimes putting in headphones if Richie was reciting or practicing lines. Richie constantly paced around the apartment as he typed up notes. He never sat down for more than a minute.

By one, Richie would then help Eddie look after his wound. Then what was for lunch got decided. If they hadn’t gone out for breakfast, then they went out for lunch. The nicer the day, the longer the detour Eddie made them take as they would either walk through a park rather or go through streets Eddie hadn’t seen yet rather than going straight to the restaurant. If they had eaten out and seen CC during breakfast, they made something quick at home, might watch or read something together, and then went back to work.

Dinner was always a tossup on if they were going out or not. However, if they were, Richie usually had something else planned too. Either a store they would stop by, maybe a movie they could see. Because Eddie had expressed interest in one of Chicago’s museums, Richie had gone ahead and bought them tickets one night to a special event.

Then whenever they got home, or if they’d eaten at home, they again might watch or read something. Richie would occasionally get a spark of inspiration and start working again, and Eddie would take his shower and go to bed. He was still sleeping in Richie’s bed despite how he said his wound really was healing now. However, Richie still insisted on the pull-out.

The ritual in general was nothing new. Eddie had led his life in many fine, specific rituals. He’d had morning and daytime and nighttime patterns that he’d rarely ever strayed from. For one, knowing the outlook of a day made everything easier to plan, he didn’t have to worry about being surprised, and yet all those moments were still only that. Just rituals. Patterns that Eddie figured out were most effective and then just never deviated from.

But this ritual? His day to day life with Richie? It made him feel good. It had him excited every morning as he went to make coffee just so he could watch Richie’s sleepy eyes pop up in anticipation. Knowing what was coming next, it wasn’t really for efficiency. It was because he enjoyed doing it. Because he wanted to have nearly every meal with Richie every day, or take walks in the park, or read through comics or whatever. It was a new feeling that Eddie didn’t want to let go, though he was unsure exactly how long it would last.

Of course, the ritual didn’t happen exactly like that every day, even if that was the intention. For example, that day they’d planned to go out and grab groceries right after they ate a quick lunch. However, Eddie had gotten distracted by a work email he’d seen pop up on the computer. He’d gone to check it, and nearly forty minutes later had finally looked around to see an empty room.

He texted Richie.

Did you seriously leave? I told you I would go with you.

What? Don’t trust my taste in food?

Eddie rolled his eyes. You have great taste. Not healthy. But great. But seriously?

I just think it’s funny it took you nearly forty minutes to notice I had left.

I got wrapped up in work.

Which is why I left. You get that done now and I know we can fully focus on finishing the rest of Cobra Kai Season 2 tonight.

Ok. Fair enough. Just make sure you get a new thing of toilet paper. And don’t forget we’re almost out of coffee grounds.

I got the list you made earlier. And I’m definitely not forgetting that.

Good. Get home soon.

Will do.

With that mystery solved. Eddie turned back to his computer. He’d pretty much figured out the issue and quickly sent back his response to work. With that all done, and no idea exactly how long it would take Richie to get back, Eddie decided to try and call Bev.

He and Richie had been texting the others regularly. Sometimes it was quick updates. Other times it was longer conversations, telling stories about their day or ranting about something. Eddie had mentioned he would try to call Bev today anyways, so he hit her name and waited.

At the last minute, she answered and quickly said, “Eddie! Hold on one moment. I have Mike on the other line. Let me merge the calls.”

A few silent seconds quickly passed and then, “You still there?”

“Still here. Hi Bev. Mike?”

“Hey Eddie.” Mike said. “Man, it’s good to hear you. How is everything?”

“Good. Chest is still healing but the stitches on my cheek are gone.”

“And living with Richie? Are you surviving that?” asked Beverly, the smile clear in her voice.

“I’m trying. Found out he brushes his teeth while taking a shower.”

“Yuck,” Bev said.

“What? It can save on time,” said Mike.

“Of course you would be on Richie’s side,” chuckled Eddie. “But no, that’s disgusting and you should stop it now.”

Beverly laughed. “How did you even find out?”

“He likes morning showers. Happened to be getting ready in the bathroom while he was taking one. You should have been there. It was fucking hilarious. I heard the weird noise, spotted that Richie’s toothbrush wasn’t there, and then just said, Are you brushing your teeth? He was silent for a solid minute and then I just heard this muffled, No? The fucking liar.”

“What did you do?”

“Just flushed the toilet.”

“You monster,” laughed Mike.

Eddie laughed too. “How’s everything with you guys? Talked to the others?”

“Bill’s actually going to come down in the next couple of days,” Mike explained. “I’ve got nearly everything packed, but he still wants to help me with the moving process. I told him I’d let him, but only if he let me help him with his move too.”

“He’s moving?” asked Eddie.

“Well, eventually. Still trying to decide on exactly where and when. He and his wife having been splitting up the assets and though he loves his house, not much reason in keeping it all by himself.”

“Oh. Is he doing alright?” asked Bev, understanding what Mike was implying.

“So far. Still stressful, but Bill’s been excited about what’s next for himself. Told me it felt like he was breaking from a cycle he didn’t even realize he was trapped in.”

“Well, as long as he knows it’s the right choice,” Eddie murmured. He could certainly understand the sentiment. “What about Ben?”

“He visits almost every weekend,” Bev replied. “And…no. No, I said I’d let him tell everyone.”

“Oh no you don’t. You can’t leave us hanging like that.”

“We promise that whatever it is, we will react just as surprised and excited whenever Ben tells us,” Mike promised.

“Ok, ok. Well, he’s planning on moving in with me.”

“Seriously?”

“Ah, Beverly that’s great.”

“I remember him saying he lives and works in Suffolk County though,” Mike added. “Are you looking for a place that’s in between everything or…”

“No. He was really insistent on moving in with me. Said he wouldn’t have to worry about his drive to work very often because he wants to stay at home and work. He certainly has the ability to, and he can just call in for most conference meetings. He said he didn’t want to put me out in anyway and knew my ability to get to work was a more pressing matter.”

“Of course he did,” chuckled Eddie. “He may be as fit as a fiddle, but he’s still the biggest fucking softy in the group.”

Bev made a noise and Eddie could just imagine her trying to cover up the extremely unladylike laugh.

“I’m happy for you,” Mike said. “Both of you.”

“You know he’s planning a trip this summer for us in Europe.”

“Fancy,” said Eddie.

“Technically, I’m not supposed to know about it yet. But I’ve practiced my perfectly surprised face for when he shows off the plans.”

Mike and Eddie chuckled at that. They continued talking for a while, at least long enough for Richie to get home.

“Oh, one second,” Eddie quickly said on the phone. He took it from his ear and put it on speaker as Richie came through with the bags of groceries. “Hey Richie.”

“Richie! Hi.”

“Hey, how are you?”

“Hey guys,” Richie said, immediately recognizing their voices. “Just you two?”

“Yeah, Ben’s at work,” Beverly explained. “Or else I’d have him on this call too.”

“And I tried calling Bill. But he’s either busy with something or has himself holed up in his writing room and forgot his phone,” said Mike.

“No surprise there,” Richie said. Eddie got up, brining his phone over so Richie didn’t have to talk louder and so he could help with putting up the groceries. As he set his phone on the counter, Richie said, “So what were you talking about? Anything good?”

“Just how sweet Ben is,” Eddie said.

“He really is the hopeless romantic out of us,” Mike added.

“Well, yeah but we knew that decades ago. Tell me what’s new,” Richie replied.

As he and Eddie put everything away, they continued talking to both Mike and Beverly. When everything was done, Mike said, “I got to go. But I’ll talk to you both soon. I’ll try to get Bill on next time too.”

“I’ll do the same with Ben. See if we can’t plan this out a little better to get us all talking.”

“Sounds good. Bye Mike,” Eddie said.

“Good-bye,” said Bev.

“Bye!” Richie called as he walked into the bedroom.

As Mike hung up and it sounded like Richie was going to the restroom, Bev suddenly said, “Is it just you Eddie?”

“Yeah. Richie’s in the restroom. What’s up?”

“I…sorry. You can say no if you want. I just didn’t want to bring the mood down with everyone else still on call…”

Eddie quickly turned off speaker mode and put the phone back up to his ear. He went to sit down at the desk as he said, “Hey, you don’t have to worry about that. You can talk to everyone you know.”

“I do. I just…”

“Is everything ok?” Eddie softly asked.

“It is. Everything…everything with Ben is wonderful. More than wonderful. But…the divorce hasn’t been going smoothly.”

“I’m sorry—”

“No. Never mind,” Beverly quickly said. “I shouldn’t put all this on you.”

“I don’t mind. Honest. You don’t have to tell me anything you don’t want to, but if you need to rant then rant. Please,” Eddie said.

There was silence for a moment as Eddie waited for a response. He almost thought Bev was going to change her mind and hang up. Instead, she finally let out a frustrated groan and jumped into it instead.

“He’s trying to take our company. My fucking husband! And that includes my line. My entire life’s work! He wants it all which is just-just fucking ridiculous! And he’s trying to tell the courts I was abusive because he has evidence of a hospital visit after I kicked him in the face. That was self-defense! I’m abusive? He’s the abusive bitch who could have-just argh!” She let out a frustrated yell on the other end. “God, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry I’m throwing all of this at you—”

“No! No Bev, it’s ok. Really. Just…Jesus Christ. Does Ben know?”

“He does, and he wants to help. Of course he does. But him getting involved would just make things worse. And his, Tom’s, fucking lawyer is already trying to spin that besides being an abusive wife, I’m some fucking adulteress whore and just-I’m sorry. I really am. I just needed to let it all out on someone. And if I tell Ben, I know he’s going to want to do something.”

“I want to do something,” Eddie honestly said. “The only reason I don’t fly back to New York and knock the shit out of him is because I know it would do more bad than good.”

At that moment, Richie walked back in. He raised a curious eyebrow but didn’t say anything and headed straight for the kitchen.

“Well the thoughts are appreciated at least. I mean…I should win this. Most of what he’s saying is conjecture and we have some character witnesses planned that should go in my favor. But just the stress… What about you? How is yours going?”

“My what?”

“Your divorce.”

“Oh…um…”

“Oh god, I didn’t mean to imply anything,” Beverly quickly said. “I just-you’re still living with Richie. I assumed—”

“No. It’s ok. I haven’t actually talked to her in over a week now.”

“That long?”

“She gave me another ultimatum and it’s just…I’m obviously not going to give in. But I just still don’t quite have the energy to deal with another fight,” sighed Eddie. “You know, she couldn’t even say she loved me? I asked her why we got married and she just couldn’t answer.”

“That’s horrible. I’m so sorry Eddie.”

“Yeah, well at least I don’t care what the hell happens to most of our assets. I…I don’t know what we’re going to do. But Bev, please just call if you ever need to. I don’t care if you need a metaphorical shoulder to cry on, want someone to rant to, or you want to pretend nothing’s going wrong and we can talk about something else. Because you can with me. And you can call me at any time. I’m sure my schedule is easier to work around.”

“Thank you, Eddie. That really means everything right now.”

“I just want to do what I can,” Eddie honestly said.

“Thanks.” There was a pause and then, “Listen, I have to go. But I appreciate you taking the time to listen to me.”

“Anything for you Bev.”

“Talk to you later?”

“Of course.”

“Ok. Later then. And hey, I love you. So do the others. You have all of us.”

“I know. Love you too. Bye,” smiled Eddie before hanging up.

As he put his phone down, Richie said from the kitchen, “That sounded like it got serious near the end. Everything ok?”

“For the most part. She just needed to rant for a bit. The divorce isn’t the easiest thing.”

“I can only imagine,” sighed Richie. “We should try to visit her at some point. I think it would cheer her up. And it would be good to see Ben too.”

Eddie nodded in agreement. He then noted what Richie was taking out. “You prepping for dinner?”

“Figured I would cook tonight.”

“You know, I’m still surprised you know how to cook.”

“Listen, you can only live on fast food and frozen meals so long. It was inevitable,” smirked Richie. “Want to help?”

“Sure. Just tell me what to do.”

Richie ended up putting some music on, and for the most part they worked in silence with Richie just pausing to take the food from Eddie and to give him another task. As Eddie focused on the simple chopping motions, his mind stayed on what Beverly had said.

How is yours going?

My what?

Your divorce?

Had Eddie been avoiding that thought? Maybe. Or maybe it just honestly hadn’t crossed his mind. But he was living away from Myra, he planned on continuing that. There was no reason to stay married, especially to a woman who didn’t even love him.

But going through the actual process of divorce? That would require a lot of talking with Myra that Eddie just still wasn’t ready for. At the very least, Eddie knew whatever happened with Myra, he would have his friends behind him, especially Richie.

Chapter Text

CC had already come over a few days ago so Richie could help her with her set. They’d worked at it for almost three hours, though there had been plenty of breaks throughout and CC had gotten plenty distracted with the apartment. Though Richie had said it was a one-time thing and reminded her he wasn’t interested in mentoring anyone, Eddie really wasn’t surprised when two days later she texted Richie that she was outside the apartment building. Without any argument, Richie went down to let her in.

When they walked into the apartment, Eddie noted that Richie actually looked amused, although he was still shooting her a kind smile as he asked, “Nervs finally got to you?”

“Yes!” she cried out, flopping down on the pull-out. Eddie paused in his work, taking out both his earbuds and leaning back, curious where this would go. “Which is fucking ridiculous because I’ve done open mic before. I’ve tried my style of stand-up. I know I can get people to laugh but—”

She grabbed the nearest pillow and yelled into. She dropped it into her lap and looked at Richie with big eyes.

“I will make you all the mimosas you want. I will buy vodka and make all the screwdrivers you want. Just pleeeeeeease help me.”

“You bring any of that alcohol with you?” asked Richie.

“Well no. But—”

This time a full smile appeared on Richie’s face. “I’m joking. We can walk through everything again. Only you have to promise to listen to what I’m working with.”

Her eyes lit up. “Wait, like you want my opinion? Mine?!”

“Well everyone gets humor differently. So better to try things out with a variety of people before showing it to a club full of them.”

“Is that our first lesson of the day Professor Tozier?”

“Ok, you start with that shit and you’re out immediately.”

“I will follow that second lesson closely,” she grinned. She glanced over and quickly added, “Hi Eddie. I think I forgot to do pleasantries while I was in my existential panic.”

“No worries. How’s work?”

“The same. Boring but currently pays the bills.”

“Did you bring your notes?” asked Richie.

“Of course I-oh shit! Argh, I can’t believe I came all this way and didn’t even grab them!” she cried as she covered up her face again.

“I honestly don’t get why you don’t have them on your phone. Or at least a laptop. Does this have to do with one of those millennial things?” asked Richie.

“I think the word you’re looking for is hipster. Which yes. It is a hundred percent that. I’ll be right back,” she said as she jumped back to her feet.

“It’s getting kind of late,” Eddie said. “If you’re coming straight back, do you want to have dinner with us? We were just going to order pizza tonight.”

“Argh! What are you doing?” cried Richie. “Don’t you know that if you feed her once, we’ll never be rid of her?”

“Oh, you weren’t getting rid of me anytime soon anyways,” grinned CC. “Pizza would be great. Extra pepperoni please.”

“You got it,” Eddie replied, grinning from ear to ear as Richie let out another groan, though Eddie still saw a quick smile from him.

As CC darted out the door, Richie said, “You are feeding into this. You realize that. Right?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Eddie joked. “And…I don’t know. It’s nice to have a friend. Outside of you and the others of course.”

“Are you telling me you don’t have a single friend at your work? Or a former neighbor you talked to a lot?” snorted Richie.

“Um, I’m sorry. Have you not noticed that not once have I said, ‘Oh, I should tell Bridget in accounting where I am because she would be worried’ or ‘Man, old man Jefferson down the road must really miss our morning chats when he went on his walks’.” Eddie made an exaggerated shrug as he put on the slightly over the top voice.

And Richie? His smile fell away. “Oh…”

“I know that look,” Eddie quickly said. “It’s ok—”

“But it’s really not,” Richie murmured. He slowly walked over and sat on the edge of the pull-out. “You realize that. Right?”

“Do I realize the fact that I could have died, and all my obituary would have said was ‘Subpar husband/Also didn’t turn in last Monday’s report’? Yes, I do. And yes, I realize how fucked up that is. I just try not to talk about it because you get like…this,” Eddie sighed.

“Any normal fucking human being would get upset hearing shit like this.”

“I guess I didn’t surround myself with normal people,” Eddie shrugged. “It’s ok. It doesn’t upset me.”

“How can that not upset you?”

“Because I have you,” Eddie smiled. “I have Mike and Ben and Bev and Bill. I wake up enjoying my god damn day instead of in some deadened daze. And there are others that I talk and chat with that feel like real people and real conversations, like CC or Megan at Chicago Comics and your neighbor Ms. Torrins.

“If I had realized how fucking lifeless my days were while still in that house? Still at Myra’s side? That…that would be a different story. I don’t know what I would have done. Only that I would have felt utterly helpless and might have…I don’t know. But my point is that I don’t have to worry about any of that now. I have you. At least for as long as you’ll have me here.”

“You’re welcomed here for as long as you need,” Richie replied.

“Even if you get tired of me?”

“I couldn’t get tired of you.” Richie lifted his hand, it wavered a bit, and then he fell on just patting Eddie’s knee. “I mean it. Stay forever even.”

“Forever, huh?” chuckled Eddie. “Doesn’t sound so bad to me.”

There was a small ding on the laptop and Eddie turned away. “Oh, by the way, what kind of pizza do you want?”

Richie stayed silent. He rubbed at his eyes under his glasses and opened his mouth. His lips moved but no sounds came out.

“Richie?”

“Pepperoni is good with me to,” Richie fell on. He mouthed the word idiot and made a motion like he was hitting himself in the head.

Eddie didn’t see, quickly ordering the pizza online before switching back over to work documents. As he finished up on some more related tasks, Richie got up and went searching for the iPad. He found it and started going over some notes again as they waited for CC to come back. It didn’t take long until Richie was getting a text from her again. He hurried down to let her in, and when he came back up, Richie said, “Pizza came at the same time. Talk about fucking perfect.”

“Nice. You have your notes this time?” Eddie asked CC.

“Yeah, all here.” She sat down and pulled her shoulder bag over as Richie grabbed plates. There were a bunch of journals and notepads in there. Eddie had no idea how, or even if, they were organized, but she seemed to know which one she needed as she pulled it out. She also pulled out a bottle of tequila.

“I did say I was joking about the alcohol thing, right? And I’m also pretty sure this is bribery,” Richie said as he put the pizza on the plates.

“Not bribery. Honest.”

“Oh yeah?”

“It’s a thank you. Like, seriously. I mean, I could have totally gotten a spot this good down the line on my own. But like, if I do well enough, it could really help me boost my career and way faster than I was expecting.”

“Which is why your nerves have gotten to you,” Eddie said with a kind smile. He got comfortable in the chair at the desk as Richie handed out pizza.

“Yes! And I mean, every other gig it was kind of like, hey, I got this gig myself so if I bomb, that’s just on me. But like, you helped me get that spot! I get it’s stupid, but I feel like if I fuck up, then I’ll disappoint you or something.”

Richie looked a bit surprised as he finally sat down on the pull-out with CC. “Jesus. Does my word mean that much to you?”

“Yes just…listen. This is going to sound really corny,” started CC, “but when I was thirteen, I was at a thrift store and bought a CD. You know, when those were still a thing. The cover said it was Beyoncé’s first solo album, and I totally should have checked to make sure it was the right CD, but I had my mom get it because I definitely couldn’t afford it new but when I put it in, it turned out to be your first published album instead.”

Richie let out a sharp laugh. Eddie tried to hold it in, but only succeeded for about five seconds longer. His chest began to hurt as his breath came in quick and sharp. He was pretty much wheezing right away.

“A fucking Beyoncé album?!”

Richie was crying as he breathlessly got out, “At least they threw it away in that and not a Limp Bizkit one.”

That one made Eddie practically cackle.

“Ok, I feel like you’re both teasing me.”

“I’m not. I’m really not,” Richie said as he quickly wiped at his eyes and Eddie shook his head. “Just…wow I started so low they didn’t even want to advertise my work at a thrift store. That…that is actually pretty fucking funny. Might not be as funny for the general public, but I would recommend trying to spin that into a joke.”

“Wait, really?”

“I mean, if you find the right words and the right inflections, you can make a good joke with just about any situation, but that one is especially good.”

Broken coughing escaped Eddie’s throat as he tried to keep himself from laughing again. “Beyoncé.”

“Sorry. Sorry,” Richie quickly added. “Continue.”

CC rolled her eyes. “Anyways, needless to say I was very disappointed.”

Eddie and Richie started laughing again.

Guys!”

“I’m sorry! I’m just never going to get over this!” gasped Richie. It took him a moment to get his breathing back under control again. “Also, good timing and inflection there. That really got me.”

CC let out a little huff, but it was clear she wasn’t actually annoyed. “My point is that instead of throwing it straight into the trash—”

Richie snorted. Eddie quickly covered his mouth again. CC gave them both pointed looks.

“I decided to listen to it because there really wasn’t anything to do that day besides homework and who wants to do that. Right? So, I did and just…it was the first time I was really introduced to stand-up. I started to branch out from there obviously. But just…that first album still means a lot. I definitely would not be here, trying to be a stand-up comedian and wasting my bachelor’s in journalism that my mom made me finish if it wasn’t for accidently convincing my mom to purchase that CD in the first place.”

“That is actually very sweet,” Eddie said as he finally managed to stop laughing.

“Sweet?” asked Richie. “She basically just told me she wasted almost forty-thousand dollars on a degree because of me. I’m surprised her mom hasn’t hunted me down and killed me for that.”

CC laughed.

“But seriously that is…I don’t know. Kind of weird? But in a good way? I mean, all I’ve ever done is try to make people laugh. Thinking that my comedy actually inspired someone though…”

“Sorry if that made things a bit weird,” CC winced. “I remember the first time I admitted I was a fan you kind of got—”

“I was being a bit of a grouch then, and the only thing that’s weird is hearing that you listened to the album at age thirteen. It’s kind of making me realize how fucking old I am.”

“You’re not even forty-five,” chuckled CC.

“Listen, you start getting old when you start making unintentional noises every time you’re trying to get out of a seat that was too low for you.”

“I make those noises already.”

“Welcome to being old!”

CC rolled her eyes as Eddie laughed again.

“Uh uh. You can’t call me that until I at least reach thirty man.”

“Fine. Fine. So is there a specific part of your set that has you worried?”

“I mean sort of…”

CC opened up her notebook and she and Richie began going over it again. Eddie mostly just ate, watched, and listened. He enjoyed seeing Richie in his element, and it wasn’t until he’d actually seen Richie work that he’d realized just how much effort went into a single joke and how difficult it could sometimes be to find the right words.

Even though Richie gave her some advice, he also eventually said, “And hey, if all else fails, just know you can’t be as bad as my first open mic night was.”

“Why?” asked CC.

This sounded interesting so Eddie asked, “What happened?”

“Well I walked onto stage, young twenty something with my usual cockiness thinking I could outdo every act that had come before me.”

“And then?” asked CC.

“I immediately threw up on my shoes.”

“You’re joking!” gasped Eddie.

“I wish,” said Richie as he winced at the memory. “Before that, I’d always thought I didn’t get stage fright. Turns out nope. I had just never gotten stage fright before because I had never actually cared about whatever I was doing in front of a crowd. You don’t care about what you’re doing, then you don’t care what the audience thinks, and you don’t have to worry as much about stage fright. But don’t worry. Whatever happens CC, you’ll do fine. And it’s not like this is your first time up there. Just on this particular stage. Now, it’s your turn to listen to what I’ve got.”

They continued into the night, Eddie just sitting on the side and listening to them for most of it. Richie even double checked that he wasn’t getting bored, but Eddie assured him he wasn’t. Watching CC and Richie banter was entertainment enough, and honestly, Eddie just enjoyed listening to Richie talk. It was a little ironic considering how easily Richie’s bad jokes when they were kids had made Eddie groan in annoyance. Now though? He couldn’t get enough of Richie’s voice.

Almost the entire time, Eddie sat with a smile firmly planted in place as he kept his head propped up with his hand.

Chapter Text

After the second work session, Richie had agreed to one more before CC’s big day arrived. It ended up being three days before CC was supposed to go on and again, she and Richie were pacing the room, throwing ideas back and forth at each other and practicing. CC didn’t want to burn herself out on her planned set though, so she also was practicing a few others and letting Richie go with his own.

Eddie went back and forth between doing his own work and taking out his headphones for a few minutes so he could listen to what they were doing. Though Eddie would never want to put himself through the stress of writing a set, he did learn about a lot of really interesting rules that could be followed, and he learned to appreciate the art of it even more.

One rule that specifically drew Eddie’s attention was when Richie was talking about numbers. “Now you have to be careful when throwing out numbers because for the most part, you want to make sure it’s a number a person can visualize.”

“Is one hundred not a good number?”

“Can you visualize one hundred people? One hundred rocks? It’s hard. The higher the number, the more general the blob is and the harder it becomes for the audience to understand what you’re trying to get at, especially if the number is important to the joke and not just a flavor word you’re throwing in. And one hundred? Don’t go in multiples of tens or fives. Everyone rounds to those, at least in Western cultures, to the point that hearing those kinds of numbers doesn’t leave the same kind of impact as a random number does.

“For example, saying you told a hotel concierge you needed thirty key cards is pretty ridiculous. But thirty-three? That extra three can catch the audience’s attention because a) you don’t hear the number thirty-three as often as you do a multiple of five or ten, and b) you make the audience think thirty is so much, what ridiculous reason could you possibly need three more for and have to include those three in the joke rather than rounding to thirty. And adding that extra syllable gives you something to really put emphasis on as well.

“But you still can’t choose just any random number besides the fives and tens. Too low and it won’t get the intended laugh. Too high and it could be so ridiculous that it takes the audience out of the moment. There’s no specific rule to where which is the lowest or highest number you can pick though. It’s all about context.

“Ok. Yeah,” said CC, “that makes since. Let me try that again.”

About an hour and a half into their back and forth, there was a knock at the door. Besides the other people that lived in the building, Eddie now knew of only one person who did not live in the building but also had a key for it.

Because of that, when Eddie grabbed the door and opened it, he wasn’t too surprised to see Jason. The man had stopped by for a few quick visits to talk shop with Richie before then. He was usually gone as soon as he came, but something about his visits always struck Eddie. It had to do with this look Jason would just give him, seemingly without reason. Eddie hadn’t brought it up with Richie yet simply because it wasn’t a nasty look or anything. It didn’t make Eddie upset or uncomfortable. It was just confusing, and he wondered why he deserved so much of Jason’s attention. As it was, Jason at least didn’t look him over for too long this time as he took note of CC and stopped.

“You’re the one,” he said, starting to walk over. Eddie closed the door and went to sit back at his computer.

“Fancy title. I like it,” CC said.

Jason stopped mid stride and gave Richie a pointed look. “Don’t tell me she’s a mini-you. I can only handle one of you.”

“Excuse you, I’m a mini-me,” said CC. “Except the opposite. Cause I’m almost six feet.”

Jason gave them both a look.

“Makes sense to me,” said Richie.

Eddie snorted.

“Why do I work with you? I don’t have a single other stand-up comedian on my list. I should have none,” groaned Jason. Still, he walked over and put his bag onto the counter. “Still, guess this works. I needed you to sign some things.”

“What for?” asked Richie. “Is this for my last set? Because I swear if this is about damages, I made every drop of vomit go into that bowl.”

“No, it’s not that you moron. I’m talking about her,” Jason said. “I was just going to have you give it to her and then return it to me, but this works too.”

“Wait, what things?” asked CC.

“Standard paperwork. Remember, this isn’t just signing your name on a sheet for open-mic,” Jason explained. He took out a couple of sheets and set them down. “Basically, it’s making you obligated to show up unless in case of emergency issues so they don’t have an empty ten minutes or so in the night. Also, some things about settling how you’ll get paid, tax information, all that. Take all the time you need to look over it. The Comedy Club is pretty straight forward. But you should always double check when you work for a new club. Sometimes they can have some pretty dick requirements.”

“That is true,” said Richie. “And you usually want to be careful of anything that gets handed to you to sign. But I will say you can always trust Jason over here.”

“Maybe I should get you as an agent,” grinned CC.

“Assistant,” Eddie replied.

“Wrangler,” Jason corrected. “And I only have enough time for one crazy son of a bitch. No offense.”

“None taken,” she grinned.

As she started to read through everything, Jason pulled out a sheet and put it in front of Richie. He added, “I do have this for you to sign though.”

“Which is?” questioned Richie.

“I thought you said you could always trust this guy,” smirked CC.

“Most of the time,” amended Richie. “Jason?”

“Well speaking of emergency situations, their usual presenter who does the opening slash closing stand-up sets and introduces the people can’t be there this Friday or Saturday. Jim wants you because a) you owe him for that shit show last time, b) you’ll do it for less than some of these fuckers who would try to extort him for a last minute gig like this, and c) I think you should do it. I know you don’t have a full set planned out, but it’ll do your improv skills some good.”

Richie hummed to himself as he looked over the paper.

“I think you should do it.”

The three of them looked up to see Eddie who had turned away from the laptop again.

“You think?” asked Richie.

“Jason makes some good points. And after seeing you practice so much, I’d like to see you really in action,” smiled Eddie.

He hadn’t even finished that sentenced before Richie was already agreeing and signing. Jason raised an eyebrow and silently said a long drawn out, “Wooooow.” Richie hit him in the chest as Eddie added, “And I figured we would be going anyways. To see CC.”

“Yeah, yeah. Already signed and done,” Richie said, sliding the paper back to Jason.

“Wait, so that means you’re introducing me?” asked CC with wide eyes.

“Pretty much.”

A tiny noise escaped the back of her throat.

“You’ll do fine,” Richie reminded her. “Well, it’s set then. I’ll see you in a few days Jason.”

“You better. And thank you,” Jason said as he took CC’s papers and carefully folded everything up. “I’ll see you both this Friday.” He gave a quick nod to Eddie and then left as quickly as he’d come, same as usual.

“Holy shit,” CC immediately said. “This is going to be so awesome!”

“I know I’m excited,” Eddie said. “Especially if you’re going to be improvising Richie.”

“Oh yeah, that’s the best part. Specifically when you start to get a little too dirty and you can see the manager desperately trying to signal you to move on to a different joke.”

“Let me guess. You rarely listen?” laughed Eddie.

“Usually, but I’ll mostly play nice for this one. I’m just the presenter, not one of the headliners for this,” Richie said. He gestured towards CC. “And I want to hear your set again. From the beginning to the very end,” Richie told her. “No stops this time. No advice. Let’s just hear it and see how it goes. Improvise if you have to because you should be ready for any situation up there anyways. But first I am going to run to the restroom.”

“Sounds good to me.”

As Richie went into his bedroom, CC quickly grabbed a glass of water. She downed it and then walked around and sat on the pull-out near Eddie. “I’m glad you want to come. And thanks too. I don’t think I said that before.”

“You don’t have to thank me for it. Like I said. I’m excited,” smiled Eddie.

“I know. Just…know it’s still appreciated. I haven’t known you long. But you’re pretty cool.”

“I’m cool?” snorted Eddie. “Yeah, not a word normally ascribed to me, but I’ll take it.”

“Good, because you’re stuck with it. You’re officially cool from here on out.”

Eddie rolled his eyes.

“By the way, sorry if this is prying, but I was curious how long you’re staying,” CC added. “Because it is nice having you around. And you definitely manage to get the grouch to smile more.”

“A while I think. At least that’s how it’s looking. Besides the uh…accident, my wife and I have been having problems.”

“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that.”

“Don’t be. Staying with Richie has definitely been good for me too,” said Eddie.

“Well, I’m glad I got the chance to meet you either way. You’re definitely better and more interesting than Richie’s other friends.”

“Other friends? I’d thought I’d met every one of note by now.”

“Well, you know. Not friend friends. But friends? Sometimes after a late night, Richie and the person would end up at the restaurant. So I mean, I met a few just by coming around and serving them breakfast. Richie liked to keep it on the down low mostly, though I could always tell. Not that it mattered much. None ever really lasted long.”

“Ah,” Eddie said, finally catching on. “Is he seeing anyone now?”

“Wouldn’t Richie have told you that?”

“He’s been pretty much focused on me considering what uh…happened. And if he did have a love life, I’m sure he’d probably be afraid that bringing it up would make me feel like I was overstaying my welcome,” Eddie replied.

“I guess that makes since. But as far as I know, there’s no one special. Last person was Taylor and that didn’t last long, same as the others.”

“What was she like?”

“He actually.”

Eddie stared.

CC stared back.

“Oh fuck you didn’t know!”

“No, no, no, no,” Eddie said in quick succession. “I knew. I knew.”

Eddie and CC stared at each other again.

“You didn’t! Oh, fuck me!” cried CC.

“It’s ok! It’s-it’s um-I um—”

“What the hell are you two going off about?”

Eddie and CC shut up immediately.

Richie rolled his eyes. “I realize this is a bit ironic coming from me, but the silent treatment? Real fucking mature guys. Spit it out.”

When neither immediately said anything, Richie’s humorous look started to ebb down. “Guys…”

“Nothing happened,” Eddie quickly said.

“Right,” Richie slowly replied. “So why the sudden silence?”

“Shit,” muttered CC. “Richie, I’m sorry. I really thought he—”

“I don’t care. Honest,” Eddie suddenly said. “I…if anything I feel kind of bad you didn’t think you could tell me.”

Eddie wasn’t sure if he was thankful or not that Richie caught on quickly, but he did. The look on his face clearly said, ‘so I guess it’s time for this conversation now’. Richie stayed silent for a moment. He shifted and leaned up against his doorframe.

“It just…didn’t come up,” Richie murmured. He watched Eddie’s reactions carefully. “And I just…don’t really flash it so…”

Eddie hesitated, but then an idea came to mind that would hopefully get Richie to smile. “What do you mean you don’t flash your sexuality around? You were flashing your sexuality around when you were like twelve. Virginite? Remember that bullshit term you came up with? Or all the times you apparently fucked my mom? Guess I should be glad my dad died early on or you would have been fucking my whole family.”

CC gave a look like, ‘what the hell does any of that even mean’? But for Richie, it was exactly the kind of ice breaker he needed. He let out an unexpected laugh. He covered his face, cheeks going a bit red, and Eddie quickly jumped up. He pulled Richie into a hug and after a moment, Richie moved his arms around Eddie’s shoulders and pulled him closer.

“I’m serious. I don’t care,” Eddie said as he pulled back a bit. “Like I told CC, the only thing I was worried about was taking up too much room for you to have a love life. This just changes the pronoun.”

“Well I’d rather have you than any fucking love life,” Richie said. “Honest. I meant what I said about you staying as long as you want.”

“Then I stand by my ‘forever’ comment. You’re going to be stuck with me for a while yet.”

When Eddie and Richie finally pulled back from the hug, CC said, “And I’m seriously sorry Richie. I didn’t mean to let this slip out or anything.”

“I’m not mad CC. It’s not like I’m fucking nineteen and you ruined my stupid coming out plans. It happens. And it’s not like I was in the closet. Just…”

“Keeping it on the down low. Yeah,” CC said. “So…all good?”

“Yes,” Richie stressed. “It would be pretty shitty of me if I did get mad at you. And I mean, Eddie has a fair point about the flashing it bit. It’s not like I wasn’t dropping hints.”

“Wait, so that one comment was a hint?” Eddie suddenly asked.

“Which comment?” asked Richie. He looked just a little bit hopeful.

“The one when you said you couldn’t understand why Ralph Macchio was the heartthrob of the decade. You thought Billy Zabka was hotter, which I thought was just you making a joke at the time, but I guess you were serious…”

“That’s the hint you remember?” Richie asked with an incredulous look.

“Were there others?”

“Were there-yeah. But it doesn’t matter,” sighed Richie as he tried to keep the tortured feeling out of his smile. “Now are we done talking about my sexuality? Because I have a set I need to prepare for and less than three days to do it. And I still want you to run through yours for us.”

“Right,” CC quickly said. She jumped up as Eddie and Richie sat on the pull-out at the same time. “Wait-ah shit. My mind’s gone blank. Where are my—”

“Nope, can’t look at your notes,” Richie said.

“Are you serious? I feel like I just forgot everything after freaking out that I might have outed you.”

“Doesn’t matter,” smirked Richie, maybe taking just a little bit of glee in the power he had just now. “Shit can happen literally seconds before you walk on stage and you just have to deal with it. You forget a part? You snowplow on through as best you can.”

“Right…use this as a learning curve,” muttered CC. “Ok, here goes…”

She turned around, shook her hands out, and then turned back around and started. Richie focused on that, mentally taking notes as CC forced herself through her routine.

Eddie on the other hand wasn’t fully hearing her words. He was thinking about Richie and just…it didn’t matter to him. It really didn’t. He was more focused on just how hard it would have been for Richie, just wondering when Richie had known. Derry had been the opposite of welcoming for anything slightly different. It would have been horrible, living with that as a secret and not having anyone he could confide in.

Eddie wished Richie could have trusted him and their friends sooner, if only so Richie wouldn’t have had to worry now, even for a second, when Eddie found out. Of course, Eddie wasn’t sure what his reaction might have been as a kid what with most of his world and thoughts having been controlled by his mother. But the world had changed considerably, and Eddie had certainly grown up since then.

Either way, the most important factor, and one that Eddie was sure he would have still held onto as a kid, was that Richie was still his best friend and always would be. Eddie still loved him, just as much if not more than how much the others cared about him too. And Richie still loved him…though…

Eddie glanced from CC to Richie, though again, he wasn’t really paying attention to her set. His mind started to worm its way to a thought, but then it fell away. It was a stupid idea. They were best friends. That was what their relationship was. There was no way Richie thought of him like that. Really, Eddie wondered if anyone could think of him like that. Considering the person he’d been married to hadn’t even been able to say, ‘I love you’, he doubted it. That was ok though. Having Richie’s friendship was better than any romantic partner Eddie could possibly think of.

“Was it that bad?” CC asked, her voice bringing Eddie out of his head.

“Huh?”

“Oh, god it was that boring!?”

“What? No, no you were-ok I wasn’t listening. But not because of you. I just got lost in thought. Honest,” Eddie quickly said. He sat up a little straighter and crossed his legs on the pull-out. “You have my full attention now.”

Eddie’s previous thoughts slipped away. At least for the moment, his focus turned towards listening to CC and Richie prepare for the rest of the afternoon.

Chapter Text

It was Thursday, the day before Richie and CC were going to perform. Eddie was cleaning up the apartment when Richie came home and said, “Catch.”

Eddie did and looked down at the key.

“I’ve been forgetting to do that for a while, but now we don’t have to share one.”

“I feel like this is a sign I’ve officially moved in.”

“That’s a good thing I hope.”

“Definitely,” Eddie replied. He put the key away and started to finish up what he was cleaning. Richie was going through his mail when he suddenly had a sharp intake of breath. Eddie looked up. “What is it?”

Richie opened his mouth. His lip trembled before he finally gave an uneasy swallow. “I-it’s…come look.”

Eddie hurried over. The letter was clearly addressed to Richie and the sender—

“That’s-it’s his last name so-so that’s his wife then?” whispered Eddie.

“I think so.”

They looked at each other before Richie was quickly ripping it open and pulling out the paper. They silently read it together, both what Stan’s widow had written and what Stan had written himself. The moment Eddie moved back, signaling he’d finished reading it, Richie folded the letter up and pressed it against his forehead.

“Oh Stan,” he whispered.

Eddie wiped at his face. He turned away, hands on his hips as he slowly breathed through his nose.

“He must have sent everyone a letter,” murmured Richie. “Well…his wife did for him.”

“He wasn’t a coward. Not to me. Not to any of us,” Eddie whispered. God, he wished…he wished Stan was still with them. Of course, he’d had these thoughts before, but with the letter, they were all bubbling up again. Eddie wished he could have known what Stan had looked like. All grown up. What he’d been like. It was a depressing thought that Eddie hadn’t gotten to learn anything about Stan. He didn’t even have anything of Stan’s to remember him— “Oh fuck.”

“What’s wrong?”

Eddie wasn’t listening though. If Stan had intended for everyone to get a version of this letter, then…

Then…

His hands shook as he pulled out his phone. He went to the M’s and hit the name. Richie came over and tried to put a comforting hand on his shoulder, but Eddie pushed him off as he started to pace. It only took a few seconds for her to answer.

“Finally,” Myra said. “When are you coming—”

“I need you to look for a letter.”

Silence fell on the other end. Eddie started to pace faster.

“Myra, I need—”

“This is not what we agreed on.”

“No, it’s not what you agreed on. I never agreed to anything. Now, there should be a letter—”

“Edward—”

“The last name is Uris! It’ll be addressed to me. Please, I need to know if you’ve—”

“Days upon days of nothing from you, and you call over a stupid letter?”

“It’s not stupid! Myra, I am begging you. Please just find that letter and promise me you won’t throw it away. Please Myra.”

Richie tried to stop Eddie from restlessly moving. He even grabbed him by the shoulders to try and keep him in one spot. “Eddie,” he whispered. “It’s ok. Just calm—”

But as soon as Myra spoke on the other end, Eddie was pushing Richie’s hands off him and pacing again.

Her voice came in terse and upset. “Yes, you do have a letter.”

“Ok, ok! Save it for me—”

“No.”

Now Eddie did stop pacing. Now it wasn’t just his hands. His body, his voice, everything shook. “No?”

“You are coming home right now—”

“Myra, all I’m asking is for you to keep that letter safe.”

“Why do you care? Why care about that and not me? No, I won’t do.”

“Please! It was my fucking friend’s. Just please.”

“Another friend? Remarkable how you suddenly have so many that have popped up!”

“Myra, just save the letter!”

“You can’t tell me what to do!”

“Like how you demand that I come home?”

“Yes, and now if you don’t, I will put this god damn letter through the shredder!”

Eddie snapped.

“Don’t you fucking dare!”

Richie had to jump out of the way as Eddie spun around, pacing in a circle as he continued to yell into the phone.

“This is the last fucking thing I have of Stan’s! Don’t you fucking throw it away!”

“I can rip it apart if I want to because you’re not here!”

“Don’t you fucking dare! I swear to god! That’s the last thing I have of my fucking friend! My fucking friend do you understand me!? God damn it! I swear to fucking god Myra I will-I will—”

The line went dead.

“Myra…n-no. No! You fucking bitch!” Eddie threw his phone across the room, only to suddenly grab at his chest. His breathing was coming in fast and erratic. It hadn’t been this bad since he was a kid. “I…I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe I can’t breatheIcan’tbreatheIcan’t—”

Richie grabbed a hold of him and when Eddie’s legs started to give, Richie helped them both to the floor.

“In and then out…in and then out…” Richie quickly said. “It’s ok. It’s going to be ok—”

“B-but it’s not. I don’t care if he wrote one and then fucking photocopied that letter five times! He sent it to all of us and i-it’s the last thing-it’s the fucking only thing that I would have of Stan’s and s-she-she-I swear to god if she fucking—”

“Hey, hey. You’re gonna send yourself into a panic attack,” Richie said. He brushed Eddie’s hair back and kept him still. “Just keep breathing.”

“I can’t let her just throw it away. I-I can’t—”

“Breathe.”

Eddie finally stopped. His shoulders shook as he buried his head against Richie’s chest. After a moment more of labored breathing, he managed to get out again, “I can’t let her throw it away.”

“She’s in New York. You’re in Chicago. What can you do?” whispered Richie. “You have mine. You have Stan’s words. You still have a piece of Stan.”

Eddie shook his head though. “I can’t let her do this. Not…not just the letter. I can’t keep having conversations where she can just hang up and keep any progress from being made.”

“It’s not your fault. She’s made it so you can’t win. But it’s ok because you have—”

“I need to go to New York.” Eddie was a little breathless, but he said it with full confidence as he moved back to look at Richie.

“Ok, that’s not what I was really going for—”

“I’ve been delaying the inevitable.” Eddie’s voice started to quicken. He wasn’t going into a full-on panic again, but there was definitely a feeling of desperation now. “I have. And talking to her over the phone clearly won’t work because she’ll just hang up every time I say something she doesn’t like. I need to go there. I n-need to get my stuff. Everything that’s mine. And I need…I need to end my marriage. And I can’t convince her of that here.”

“I’m going with you then,” Richie immediately said.

Eddie hesitated. He wanted to say yes. More than anything he desperately wanted Richie at his side for this. So, what did he say? “You can’t.”

“You’re my best friend though! I can’t let you deal with this shit by yourself.”

“Richie, you already made a promise.”

“I don’t care. I’m coming to New York with you—”

“I’m not saying you can’t ever. God knows how long this will take. But you signed a contract. And even if that wasn’t at play, think about CC! No…no you need to go through with tomorrow and Saturday and then you can meet me in New York. But you can’t just throw this all away last minute. Promise me you won’t Richie.”

“I don’t want you going there alone.”

“Listen, Richie. You just gave me a key. A key like I’m welcomed to come and go as I please. A sign that this is as much my place as it is yours.”

“Because it is. This is your home for as long—”

“But it’s not. It can’t be until I finally say goodbye to everything, including Myra for good. And I have to go to New York for this. I-I have to end this before I lose my courage again.”

“But you’d be alone.”

“Ben and Bev are there. I’ll call them up,” said Eddie. “I won’t be alone.”

“I still don’t like this. And this is so sudden…”

“I want to be free Richie. I thought I could be that with you, but not yet. Not u-until this is all behind me. I can’t put it off anymore. Not for another second. And I can’t-I can’t risk her tearing up that letter. I know it probably says the same thing but it’s mine. It’s supposed to be the last thing Stan gave to me and I can’t…”

“You don’t have to explain it,” Richie softly said. He gently brushed the tears away from Eddie’s cheeks. “I understand. I just…I really want to go with you for this.”

“I know,” whispered Eddie. Then he hugged Richie as hard as he could. He could feel Richie’s grip keeping him there, his fingers getting tangled in Eddie’s short hair as best he could. A part of Eddie didn’t want him to let go. He grounded him so well, made him feel so warm. But Eddie knew they couldn’t stay trapped in their embrace forever. Richie thankfully knew that to. He let out a deep sigh and then finally let go like the motion physically hurt him. They helped each other to their feet.

“At least let me help. I’ll get the plane ticket.”

“I don’t want you to buy that for me Richie. Please.”

“I won’t then. Just let me go through the stress and annoyance of finding a last minute flight for you while you pack. Ok?”

Eddie hesitated, but eventually nodded. “Thank you.”

Richie reached out and squeezed his hand. “If there’s anything else I can do for you, I will. Just tell me.”

Eddie nodded. He didn’t want to let go, but he reminded himself that he couldn’t really hold onto Richie. Not while a part of his life was still tied to New York in the way it was. They both reluctantly dropped their hands. Richie picked up Eddie’s phone, and after a quick thank you, Eddie headed to the bedroom to pack.

As he folded every piece of clothing, his heart hammered away in his chest. He didn’t think the beating would slow down again. At least not until he could hold Stan’s letter in his hands again. This sudden trip was of course about much more, but the fear of losing the last thing Stan had given him was certainly the main fuel that was supporting the fire.

Richie came in. He went under his bed and pulled out a duffle bag for Eddie to use before turning back to his phone, still trying to book a damn flight. Eddie got all the necessary clothes into the bag and then went to grab his toiletries. He collected them and then went to the kitchen. He grabbed a plastic sandwich bag and shoved everything into it. He then went back into the bedroom and dumped it into the duffle bag.

Eddie sat down next to it and pulled out his phone. A crack had formed over its screen, but Eddie was just thankful it still worked. He’d thrown it as hard as he could.

Scrolling through his contacts, he tried to call Bev first. However, when she didn’t answer, he tried Ben. He picked up after the second ring.

“Hey Eddie. Bev told me she talked to you recently. Sorry I wasn’t able to get on that call.”

“It’s ok. I—”

“What’s wrong?”

Despite the situation, it made Eddie smile. Just a couple of seconds and Ben understood something was wrong. He of course couldn’t know the details, but Eddie could already hear the want to help in his friend’s voice. “A lot. A fucking lot.”

“Richie’s alright. Yeah?”

“He’s ok,” Eddie quickly said.

Ben let out a relieved sigh. He sounded a bit calmer now, but no less concerned. “So, what happened?”

Eddie gave him a quick overview. As it turned out, Ben had already received Stan’s letter too. So had Bev. When Eddie explained what Myra had threatened, he could hear Ben’s sharp intake of breath.

“Do you want me to-god, I don’t know. Try to go to the house and—”

“No,” Eddie quickly said. “That would probably only make it worse. I’m actually planning to come tomorrow anyways.”

“Are you going to try to get the rest of your things?”

“I’m going to get everything. I—” Eddie hesitated. He thought back to Bev’s words. “I’m going to get a divorce. Or at least try and convince Myra we need to start the process.”

“I’m proud of you Eddie. Proud of you for getting to this place,” Ben said. “Do you know where you’re staying in New York?”

“No. That’s why—”

“You can stay with me. Of course,” Ben quickly got out. “But Bev is closer to where you originally lived so that might be better. I’ll give her an update on everything. She’ll say yes of course.”

“Yeah, I figured as much. Called her first but she didn’t answer.”

“I think she’s in a meeting with some lawyers right now. I’m glad you called me though.”

“Me too.”

“Is Richie coming?”

“Not right away. He’ll probably come out Sunday.”

“Well he can obviously stay with either of us too. Wherever works best for you. And listen, text me when you figure out what time you’re flying in. I’ll pick you up from the airport or I’ll get Bev to. You don’t have to be alone for a second of this Eddie. We’ll go with you to Myra’s if that’ll help.”

“Thank you.”

“Anything for you man.”

Eddie smiled. “I’ll text you then. Thank you for answering Ben.”

“Again, anything for you. Even if I don’t pick you up, I’ll see you soon. Ok?”

“Ok. Bye Ben.”

“Bye.”

Eddie hung up. He felt a little better as he went into the living room, maybe just a little calmer. Even though he wanted Richie with him through it all, having Ben and Bev at his side would help immensely too. Speaking of Richie, he was now on the phone with someone so Eddie waited until he finished.

“I think I finally got something,” sighed Richie as he hung up. “Departure time would be at nine tomorrow morning. We’ll probably want to get to the airport by seven at the latest.”

“Thank you, Richie.”

“You don’t have to say that. Did you get a hold of Ben or Bev?”

“Ben. He said one of them would pick me up tomorrow. Let me text him the estimated arrival time then.” After Eddie quickly did that, he looked up to see that Richie was quickly rummaging around in the kitchen. “What are you doing?”

“I want to try and cheer you up. At least on the night before you go.”

Eddie’s face softened. “Richie, you don’t—”

“I want to,” he interrupted. “Now don’t even think of helping here. I’ll do all the cooking. Your only job is to pick a movie.”

“Ok.”

Eddie sat down. Going through the streaming services and reading the synopsizes at least helped his mind go blank for a bit. Richie added, “What do you want me to tell CC?”

“That I’m incredibly sorry.”

“I know that idiot,” Richie kindly said. “I mean…do you want me to give a reason or just…”

“I already told her I was having issues with my wife. You can just tell her that.”

“Will do.”

As Richie started to organize everything and cook, Eddie continued to look through the movies. For the most part, he and Richie liked to see movies or spin-offs that connected to their childhood, but Eddie wasn’t really in the mood for some adrenaline-fueled thrill ride or one of the many horror movies they’d snuck into as kids. Since the only real comedy movie Richie had was Hot Fuzz, a great movie but not exactly what Eddie wanted right now, he continued flipping through the different streaming services.

Eventually, he ran across one that caught his interest in the romance and comedy section.

“What about this one?”

Richie paused and leaned on the counter to look at the movie. He raised an eyebrow. “You realize that just because I came out, I can still love The Expendables, right?”

Eddie blushed. “I didn’t mean—”

“Sorry. Just teasing you Eds. May not be the right time for that.”

“No, tease away. Makes everything feel at least a little bit normal.”

Richie smiled at that, then looked back at the film. “In & Out is a nice, feel good movie though. And obviously not your typical romcom.”

“You’ve seen it? I can pick something else—”

“No, it’s fine. Haven’t seen it in a while and it is fucking hilarious. Also, the small town it’s mainly set in is like, the most idealistic, great little town you can think of. So trust me. It won’t remind you of Derry.”

Eddie chuckled at that.

“Also, has Tom Sellick without the mustache. Which is ten times better.”

“I think there’s a couple million women in this country that would disagree with that, but I’ll take your word for it,” laughed Eddie. The fact that Richie had managed to make him laugh made the pain in his heart that much more bearable. He clicked the movie and left it ready before getting up.

“Uh, uh. You’re not helping this time.”

“Don’t worry. I won’t. I just enjoy watching you cook,” smiled Eddie. “Are you making a stew?”

“Yeah, figured something like that is a perfect kind of feel good dinner, even if you’re not sick. And it’s more filling than soup.”

“Sounds good enough for me.”

Eddie stayed at the counter until Richie was done. He poured them both bowls and then they sat on the pull-out and settled in for the movie. Tomorrow, Eddie would be going to New York. He would be facing Myra for the first time in weeks. But that was all in the future. For the moment, he enjoyed the food and laughed so hard he nearly cried at the film.

About halfway through when they were already done eating, Eddie leaned up against Richie. He didn’t notice how Richie tensed before very slowly relaxing again. For Eddie, he needed that contact for their days apart. At most, it would only be two, but Eddie knew he’d be missing Richie like hell all the same.

Chapter Text

Eddie had insisted that all Richie needed to do was drop him off. They would see each other in a couple of days and there was no point in him waiting for an hour or more as Eddie slowly got up to the first check point. Richie still got out of his car though just so he could hug him goodbye. They lingered, and Eddie tried to hold onto that feeling of warmth. He would need it when he finally faced Myra.

He then walked into the airport and went to get comfortable standing in line for an ungodly amount of time. Since he’d slept plenty the night before, he didn’t sleep once he got on the airplane. He was bouncing his foot about the entire time, feeling anxious more than anything. The only good part was that once he arrived, he would have a buffer with Bev or Ben before he actually went back to the house. It was a three-hour flight, but because of the time difference, Eddie got into New York just after eleven.

He’d only brought the duffle bag which had counted as a carry-on, so he walked by the luggage belt and headed outside. He walked past all the yellow taxis, eyes scanning for Ben or Bev and occasionally glancing at his phone to see if he’d gotten a text from either of them.

Then he felt the pull. It was just like when he and Richie had walked into that coffee shop in Maine. It was like he felt them near before he actually saw them. When his eyes actually landed on Bev and Ben, he could tell they’d already felt that he was there too. Eddie’s pace almost doubled. He threw the duffle bag around his shoulders so that as he came up to Ben and Bev, both his arms were free to hug them.

“You’re both here,” Eddie grinned. They all stayed in the semi-hug, maintaining any kind of physical contact they could.

“Of course,” Bev said.

“I had to move some things, but it was a hundred percent worth it,” smiled Ben. “Your cheek really looks good.”

“And your chest now?” asked Bev.

“Went through all the medication. Don’t have to actually bandage the area but still been keeping an eye on it,” Eddie replied. He paused, thinking about it for a second. “I should probably do a check-up since my primary physician is here. Fuck, and then work—”

“Hey,” Ben said. “Lunch first before you start panicking. Ok?”

“Yeah. Yeah, no I’m good,” Eddie managed. “Honest. Thank you. Both of you.”

“Anything for you Eddie,” Bev replied. “So, how’s Richie doing?”

As Eddie threw his bag into Ben’s car and they got in, they all focused on talking about the good things. At least for now. Ben drove them to a restaurant that it turned out Eddie had once frequented when he’d still been in New York.

“Work is literally about twenty minutes in that direction,” Eddie said, gesturing down the street.

“That’s crazy. Bev showed me this place,” Ben replied.

“I used to come here. Always by myself to just take a break from life. You know.”

Eddie nodded in agreement. “I always came alone too. I tried to bring Myra here…once. Maybe? But she didn’t take to it. I just started coming here by myself.”

How strange to think he could have sat down at a table. Maybe some noise had drawn his attention up, or maybe he had just gotten bored looking at his phone and had looked around the restaurant to see what the other customers were like. Maybe he had just seen a shine of red hair that had made him feel nostalgic. Maybe they had even locked eyes. How strange to think he could have held the door open for Bev on the way in or out, and not even realized it was her.

Considering how none of them talked, it was fair to say they were all kind of thinking of other what-if scenarios. They’d lived the closest to each other compared to everyone else after all. Had all three of them happened to be waiting on the same street corner, waiting for the first person to step out and for everyone else to follow?

The waitress knocked them out of their own thoughts and after ordering drinks, Eddie asked, “So how is work?”

“Oh, you know. Had to go to a couple of mandatory sessions with our company therapist,” grinned Ben.

“Seriously?”

“I mean, considering the responsibilities I have and the fact that I basically disappeared without a word? And my sudden splurge on the company card when we went to that restaurant? It’s understandable,” Ben said with a shrug. “Though I do have this one rival who—”

“Rival?” asked Eddie with a sly grin. “Do you sit in big rooms and compare business cards too, Bateman?”

Bev laughed as Ben kicked at him underneath the table. “Ok, maybe rival was a bit much. You get what I mean. She tried to use my disappearance to make a play. The plan was to get promoted above me, but thankfully everyone likes me more.”

“What did you tell the therapist that got you a free pass?” asked Eddie.

“Nothing major. Just all the parts that wouldn’t have gotten me thrown into a psyche word.”

“And how’s yours?” Eddie asked Bev.

“Kind of in the middle of a civil war,” she answered honestly. “Considering Tom usually dealt with the financing aspects, it makes it all relatively difficult. But the people that truly make the ideas and carry the spirit of everything are more behind me. It’s…difficult but not impossible. I swear, every other meeting is just me surrounded by a room full of lawyers either trying to analyze the business and its next steps or my marriage. It took some major rearranging in order for me to be here today.”

“Well thank you Bev. I’d say you didn’t need to do that,” said Eddie, “but I think I’d rather go back to Derry than deal with a room full of lawyers.”

They all laughed, and Ben and Bev talked a bit more about work, Bev obviously focusing on the better parts and talking about some of her co-workers/employees that she considered friends. After getting their drinks, they went ahead and ordered their food. The conversation about work continued up until they got their food. After a moment, Ben asked, “And what about you? Are you still working as-what was it-risk analyst?”

“I am. I obviously took a break for a while, but I’ve been working from Richie’s apartment.” And then Eddie hesitated.

Despite some of the issues they had mentioned, especially Bev, they still enjoyed their work. They still loved what they got to do each and every day. There were people that cared about them there. But Eddie…

There was no denying he was good at his job. He was really good. But it suddenly hit him that there was no one at his own job that actually cared about his sudden disappearance beyond worrying that he could have missed an important meeting. Thinking on every day he’d stayed late in the office, sitting at a computer or listening to some boss drone on, he now realized his own work had never brought any joy to him. If anything, he was now realizing it had done the opposite. It had only helped reinforce the idea that Eddie had grown up with. That anything bad could and would happen. Jesus, he’d mainly been thinking about how he’d trapped himself in his marriage, but he’d trapped himself in every aspect of his adult life, hadn’t he?

“Earth to Eddie,” Ben said with only a slightly worried look. He was waving his hand in front of Eddie’s face.

Eddie gently knocked it down and murmured, “I have to quit my job.”

“Well, considering you’ve basically moved in with Richie, you were going to have to do that eventually. Right?” asked Bev.

“No. I don’t mean…I mean yes my current job. But also, just what I do. I don’t enjoy it. I-I’ve never enjoyed it. It’s only been reinforcing this idea that I should be careful and fearful of every little detail, but all that’s done is add to my own anxiety. I’m good at it. I’m good at numbers. But-and Jesus-I’m just now realizing I fucking hate my job.”

Ben groaned.

“Huh?”

“We were trying to keep you from going into any existential panic,” Ben said.

“It’s not your fault. And…I think I only just really understood how I feel about my job by hearing how much you guys praise your own.” Eddie suddenly covered his face with his hands. “I am too old to be starting a career change.”

“No, you’re not,” Bev stubbornly said. Eddie peaked between his fingers. “I believe in you. You’ll be able to find something that you actually enjoy. And hey, you have a hell of a lot of experience and a good degree backing you. If you put your mind to it, you can do anything.”

“Thank you,” murmured Eddie as he put his hands back on the table. “But besides just taking everything from my house and somehow convincing my wife to have a divorce, now I need to return anything I had at work and turn in a two weeks’ notice and then go job hunting and that doesn’t include the fact I have to change my primary care provider which I’ll need to search—”

“Ok,” Bev quickly said. She put her hand on Eddie’s and squeezed. “I am glad you realized you need to find a better job for yourself, but I am determined that you will not stress out for at least the rest of this meal.”

“You think you’ll succeed?” chuckled Eddie.

“Yeah, we’ll only talk about Richie from here on out,” Ben grinned.

“Don’t you think that subject will run dry pretty quickly? I already told you both a lot,” said Eddie.

“Well what about this CC you’ve mentioned before. How did she and Richie become friends?”

“Oh, well Richie…”

Their conversation continued as they really dug into the meal. They managed to sit for over an hour and when the plates had already been cleared and taken away, Ben and Bev broke into giggly laughter.

“What?” asked Eddie.

“Nothing. Just that we definitely succeeded in distracting you,” Ben said.

Bev leaned against the table with a soft smile. “And you said you would run out of things to talk about when it came to Richie.”

“Pfft, I haven’t been talking about Richie for a fucking hour-oh.”

Bev threw her head back with a laugh as Ben tried his best to hide his laughing. In order to do so, he hugged Bev and hid his face against her shoulder.

“Well, it wasn’t just about Richie…ok maybe most of it was…but it’s not like I could keep talking about Richie. Oh! Though there was this other time that we—”

Ben and Bev started laughing again.

“I’m shutting up now,” Eddie said with an embarrassed smile. “Check please!”

Ben was practically grinning. Eddie gave him a quick kick under the table.

Bev pulled out her wallet and put her card on the table. She gave them both a pointed look. “I’m going to run to the restroom but make sure our waiter takes my card. I’m getting lunch.”

“I thought I was getting lunch,” Ben said.

“You always get lunch. It’s my turn,” replied Bev. “And Eddie, you have my full permission to tackle Ben to the ground if he makes a move for his wallet.”

Eddie glanced at Ben’s stature. “You really think that’s going to go well?”

Bev got up and leaned into his ears. “Just go for the knees.”

Eddie laughed as Bev hurried off. He then looked to Bev’s card on the table and back up to Ben. “You going to go for it?”

“No, no. I’ll let her get it. Besides, I’m planning a surprise for next summer. Here, I actually want your opinion on this.”

Eddie quickly found that it was taking all his willpower to play dumb as Ben started to show off some of the hotels he’d been looking at. After the ninth set of pictures flew by on Ben’s phone, Eddie said, “And I thought I was the worrier of the group.”

“I just want it to be perfect. You know? I’ve tried asking coy questions about things to get an idea of what she would prefer, but I still don’t know.”

“Ben, she’ll be with you. Everything else is just icing on the damn cake.”

“You sure?”

“I’m positive. But if you want my personal opinion, I think hotel three was the nicest.”

“Hotel three. Got it. Marking that down.”

Eddie chuckled as Bev came back. She double checked that it was her card sitting in the little tray with a pen for her to sign. When she saw it was, she quickly signed and gave Ben a kiss on the cheek. “Thank you.”

“Hey, as long as I can get dinner.”

“No, I am getting dinner. I’m allowed to spoil you too.”

“Fine, fine. I yield,” smiled Ben. With that done and the receipt signed, they finally got up.

Despite the joviality they managed to end lunch on though, the moment they walked out of the restaurant Eddie had to stop and just take a deep breath. Softer smiles showed on Bev’s and Ben’s faces. Bev gripped Eddie’s hand and squeezed. “Are you ready?”

“Nope. But I’m not letting that fucking stop me now.”

They headed back to the car. Eddie gave Ben the address and he merged into traffic at the first chance he got. As typical for New York, Eddie probably could have gotten there faster by walking. However, he welcomed the mostly quiet car ride as Bev put on some music.

At first, Eddie tried to think of every possible way it would go. However, he realized that no matter how many different contingencies he tried to plan for, it would all just turn into a shitshow the moment he got to the house. That thought would have led his mind into more of a panic, but Eddie managed to turn his mind to Richie instead. He thought about what he was doing now, imagined him and CC practicing for tonight, just anything that helped distract him. Even if only for a second.

And then, after the long drive was over, Bev was pulling up in front of the house that was sandwiched between all the others. Eddie glanced around and managed to spot his car, still parked in the same spot.

“Thank you both,” Eddie sighed, “but I think it’ll be better if I go in by myself. And um…if you give me your address, I’ll just meet you at your place. I was meaning to get my car back anyways.”

“Of course, Eddie. Whatever makes this easier,” Bev said.

“And we can take your duffle bag,” Ben quickly added. “Don’t want to give her the wrong idea. Right?”

“That’s actually a good idea. Thanks,” Eddie said. He slowly breathed in, then out. “Here goes nothing. See you both soon.”

Eddie got out of the car. He walked up the stairs and his hand carefully traced the edges of the doorbell. He liked to think this would be his last time ringing it, but he somehow doubted that. He practiced a few more deep breaths and then…

Chapter Text

Eddie rang the bell.

He waited a couple of seconds before hearing some type of noise grow behind the door. It became just a little harder to breath. He heard both locks being undone, and then—

“Oh Eddie, you came back! I knew you would.”

He immediately tensed up as he felt her arms come around him. He kept his eyes tightly closed. His heart felt like it had wormed its way up into his throat.

“Oh, these aren’t the clothes I brought to you in the hospital. Of course, you must have had to purchase more. But where’s your bag? No, no it doesn’t matter. You’re home. That’s what matters.”

She kept on talking and Eddie was just thankful when she finally got off him. He didn’t like how the door thudded behind him though. Had it always been so loud? Had that lock always been so sharp, like someone was shoving a fucking icepick through his heart?

As Myra continued to talk, a thumping sound started behind his ears. He put his arms around himself as he looked around the hall. Had it always been this small? It felt like it was getting smaller and stretching out all at the same time. And every piece on the walls, every little knickknack or picture or—

It all felt like props. He couldn’t even pull up some sweet or simple story to put behind the objects. It was like the place wasn’t even real.

Then his eyes lighted on the neat stack of mail. Stan’s letter! That would ground him. Myra abruptly stopped stalking as he flipped through the mail. It wasn’t there. Eddie’s throat started to close up. “M-Myra—”

“Are you still worried about that stupid letter?” she let out a tired sigh. She opened up a small drawer and started to rummage through it. “That’s today’s mail. Here.”

Eddie snatched it from her. He held it close to his chest as he was finally able to breath just a little bit easier. He had to do this. He could do this now. He’d been so fucking terrified leading up to this point. But as he held Stan’s letter and thought of what he’d sacrificed for his friends, Eddie knew he couldn’t waste his second chance. If not for himself, he had to do this for Stan, for Richie and everyone else who had saved him when he’d been on the brink of death. He refused to get trapped in a cycle again.

“Jesus, you act more pleased to see that rather than me. I mean really Eddie, after everything you put me through, those horrible words you said, and you haven’t even apologized—”

“We need to get a divorce.”

Eddie was still incredibly stressed. His heart was still hammering, now even faster that he’d finally said what he’d come here to say. However, holding Stan’s letter in his hands at least made everything seemingly stop spinning. He no longer felt like the hallway was going to crush him and he knew that if he really needed to, he could just turn around and unlock the door.

Myra stood there in shock, mouth slightly ajar. Eddie glanced around and saw his keys. He quickly went for them, knowing that Myra would have eventually tried to grab them to keep him from leaving again. As he put the keys in his pocket, the shock seemed to finally leave her.

“Do not joke with me Edward.”

He wanted to keep his calm. They needed to have a conversation. But from her tone of voice, he could already tell it wasn’t going to lead in that direction. Still, he tried. “It’s not a joke.”

“Y-you can’t tell me that. After nothing, absolutely nothing but harsh words you only come back to say that? That?!”

“You wouldn’t have let me tell you over the phone,” Eddie replied.

“Because I would have said no then and I’m saying no now! This is ridiculous Eddie. Why in the world would you want a divorce?”

“You really have to ask why?” asked Eddie. His own calm was starting to break despite how hard he was trying to hold it together. Was this all on purpose or was she really as blind as Eddie had once been? “Open your eyes! All we’ve been doing is yelling at each other.”

“Well that’s just because you were away. Now that you’re hear we can—”

“Are you seriously ignoring all those times before? What about the car accident before I even left for Derry? We were yelling then!”

“Well that was your fault.”

“No, it wasn’t.”

“Eddie, if you would just—”

“No.” He wasn’t quite yelling yet, but his voice came out harsher than intended. Should he leave now? Try again tomorrow? No, nothing would change by then. What he needed was for her to agree now, but even if she didn’t, he could at least send a message that this was truly over so she would hopefully come to her own conclusions. He carefully folded Stan’s letter and put it in his pocket. “I am not letting you twist my head around with your words. If you can’t see how horrible our lives have been, then that’s on you. Not me.”

“Horrible? I have taken care of you for years Eddie—”

He started to break. “You couldn’t even say you loved me!”

“I-I-I of course I-of course I do!”

“Then why did we get married?!”

“We-you know why we—”

“Why did we get married!?” Eddie finally yelled.

Myra blubbered at him, trying to come up with anything to say.

When she couldn’t, he tried to reign it back in. “We’re getting a divorce. There isn’t any fixing this and if you can’t see that by now, I don’t know how else to make you. But a divorce is the only option.”

He waited. For a split second, it looked like she was going to break down. Her eyes watered a little and a small bit of guilt began to creep its way into Eddie’s heart. He didn’t like to yell. But he’d thought that would be the only way. He tried to pull his own heated emotions back in—

She hardened. “No.”

Eddie bristled back tenfold. “We’re getting a divorce.”

“I said no! I don’t want a divorce.”

“I don’t fucking care!” yelled Eddie. He pushed past her and started up the stairs. If she didn’t believe him with words, he would show her with further actions.

“What the hell are you doing?! Eddie, get back here! We’re not getting a divorce!”

“Yes we fucking are!”

“No, we aren’t! I don’t know what the hell is wrong with you—”

“Wrong with me? What the fucking hell is wrong with you!?” Eddie went into their bedroom as he yelled that. He planned to grab his suitcase and fill that up with clothes along with getting any physical work documents he had. He would come back when Myra had calmed down and hopefully seen how god damn fruitless her denial was. However, taking these things would at least send a message that Eddie hoped would stick.

He found his suitcase and threw it on the bed.

“Edward stop! I command you to stop!”

He didn’t say a word. He grabbed everything that he could and started to throw it in without care. Myra rushed forward and tried to start pulling items out, but Eddie pushed her back and threw more in. He got a majority of everything, even grabbed a few random items off the bedroom side table, and then again had to push her back just so he could zip the suitcase up.

“No! You’re supposed to be listening to me! Listen to me!”

Still Eddie didn’t respond. When she tried to completely block the door, he did hesitate. But he wasn’t a child, and this wasn’t his mom. When she struggled to stop him, he put a little more force into his arms and also used the suitcase to get her out of the way.

“You can’t leave me! You are my husband!”

He went into his office. He grabbed his shoulder bag and threw his laptop into it. Then he grabbed a box and started to shove work files into that. With the bag over his shoulder, the suitcase in one hand, and the box carefully shoved under his other arm, Eddie went back to the stairs.

“Eddie stop! Stop! Please j-just talk!” Myra had gotten more and more desperate as it seemed to finally become clear that he’d meant what he’d said.

Eddie paused. He almost didn’t recognize his own voice as it came out cold and hardened. “Then you agree to a divorce?”

“No, but—”

He started to go down the stairs.

“Eddie stop!”

She grabbed his arm. He stumbled and the box of documents fell. Papers slipped out of folders and clips. They slid down the stairs and floated over the banister into the small hall. Eddie almost bent down to start picking them up, but…

“You know what? You can pick them up,” snapped Eddie. He stepped through the mess and got to the door.

“Eddie! Eddie! This isn’t what we agreed on! This isn’t—”

“No, you want an ultimatum? Here’s an ultimatum! When I come back, you are agreeing to a fucking divorce!”

He unlocked the door and then slammed it behind him. He hurried down the steps and dodged pedestrians as he arrived at the car. He took his keys out and unlocked it. He threw everything into the back and then went around to the driver’s side. He hesitated, glancing back at the door. He’d half expected Myra to come storming out after him. But…

Nothing happened. Finally, Eddie opened the door and got in.

His heart finally started to slow. He wished he could say he felt better after all that. And in a way, he did. He’d finally said what needed to be said and yet… He hadn’t planned on everything devolving into quite the shitshow it had become. He hadn’t intended to sound so god damn cruel. It was that part that was making him feel worse rather than better. Of course, Myra had pushed him to this place, and yet still…

Eddie pulled out the letter. He carefully opened it, not even wanting to tear the envelope. The letter itself was mostly the same. There were a few differences in phrases, and it was obviously addressed to himself rather than Richie. Still, reading through it again had him breathing just a little easier, feeling just a little better.

After he folded it up and put the letter in his glovebox, he looked back again. He expected Myra to at least have come out by now. Maybe her fists would already be held high, ready to start banging at his window and yet…

Still nothing.

She’d pushed him to say those things. Years of helplessness and anger and depression had all spilled out in one go and yet…

Was it because he’d just been yelling at an idea? At this point, he’d stopped thinking of Myra as Myra. She’d become more of a toxic cocktail, made up of the trauma of It, his mother, and his own inability to escape a destructive cycle. But she was still a person. And the things he’d just said…

He couldn’t further think on this. Not now. And he definitely couldn’t bring himself to go back inside. No, he’d let her stew with what had happened and see where this would go from here. With a tired sigh, he pulled out his phone and put in Bev’s address. He carefully pulled out of the parking spot and headed down the street.

Traffic was terrible as usual, but Eddie made good time and finally pulled up in front of Bev’s house. It was in a different area of the city, but the street honestly looked a lot like his own. He grabbed the bag with his laptop in it but left everything else in the car. He double checked the number and then went up the steps and knocked.

The noise behind the door brought excitement rather than anxiety this time. When the door opened, it looked like Bev and Ben had literally raced to it. They didn’t even waste time asking what had happened. They just hugged him right away.

At least for a moment, Eddie managed to push all his worries to the back of his mind. When he pulled back, he looked around and said, “Care to give me the grand tour?”

Bev gave him a kind smile that had never looked more beautiful. “Of course.”

She quickly guided Eddie around with Ben following close behind. It was the momentary break Eddie needed as he turned all his focus on looking at Bev’s home. It overall fit her style though some parts seemed a little empty. Eddie imagined anything that had belonged to, or reminded her of, her husband had gotten thrown out. He also got shown the guest bedroom where he would be staying and where they’d already put his duffle bag.

Of course, the tour wasn’t exactly a long one. When they ended up back in the kitchen, Ben finally asked, “So how did it go?”

Bev got out drinks and they all sat at the dining table.

“Not well. She said no, which I figured she wouldn’t agree right away, but it just devolved into this awful shouting match immediately after I said it,” sighed Eddie. “But I grabbed most of my clothes, my laptop. The car is my car and it’s in my name so it’s not like she can call the police for theft on it. I…I think I’ll focus on working through some other things. Like work, getting my banking information settled, medical information, all that before going to see her again. Unless she calls first, but I doubt it.”

“I’m so sorry Eddie,” murmured Bev. “You know you can stay with me for however long you need to. The guest bedroom is yours.”

“Thank you. Having you both here makes it just a little bit easier.”

“So what’s the plan?” asked Ben.

“Well, I have my laptop so I’ll try to get all banking issues done today, not including anything Myra has to sign off on for our joint accounts. If I have to go to the bank physically, I can do that tomorrow. I’ll try to get an appointment with my doctor, have a check-up and see about changing my primary physician. I’ll go to work and get everything sorted out either before or after the doctor’s appointment.”

“Then we’ll give you time to set up and get comfortable,” Bev said. “If you feel like eating out again for dinner, Ben and I already have a place in mind in the next few hours.”

“Sounds great,” Eddie said as he finished off his drink.

They put up the glasses and then Eddie headed back to the guest bedroom. Before he started to get anything out, he sat on the edge of the bed and took out his phone. He went to his messages and moved over to Richie’s name.

He thought about texting Richie just to know what he was doing. But he would probably be going to the club soon and Eddie didn’t want to distract him now. He hadn't fully told Ben and Bev what had happened, or what was going through his head. He hadn't wanted to put them off, make them feel like they had to carry his own issues. But with Richie, he felt he didn't have to worry with that. He needed to know Richie's take on the situation, needed to just hear his voice.

But no, Eddie ultimately decided he would talk to Richie tomorrow. God, he wanted to hear from him now, but he wasn't going to risk taking Richie's mind off his own work. With a tired sigh, Eddie put his phone away and then went for his laptop.

Chapter Text

Richie grabbed his jacket. He walked out of the waiting room they often threw the entertainment into before the night actually began, only to immediately run into a woman. He didn’t recognize her as an employee and she definitely hadn’t been one of the people he’d introduced on stage. It made Richie wonder how she’d gotten into the back. She didn’t look like a typical fan. In fact, her gaze was making him feel like he was a kid who’d just been sent to the principal’s office.

“Mr. Tozier?”

“Yes?” he cautiously said.

“I believe you know my daughter.”

“Who?”

“She was inspired to waste a college degree because of you?”

“Oh! CC. Um, very nice to meet you… I hope you enjoyed the show,” Richie quickly changed to seeing as he still didn’t know CC’s full name.

“Hmm, it was interesting. I’ll be honest. I figured she would find herself a real job before ever getting to this point. I’ve been told that’s thanks to you.”

It was impossible to tell if the woman thought that was a good or bad thing. Jesus, whereas CC literally exuded every single emotion she felt at once, her mother was unreadable. “Well, she would have made it eventually. I just wanted to help her out.”

“I see.”

They stood their awkwardly. The woman almost looked like she expected Richie to say more, though Richie honestly didn’t know what else she wanted from him. Before he could try to awkwardly give a reason to run in the opposite direction though, CC came to the rescue.

“There you are mom! And I see you’ve met Richie. What did you think?”

“You did quite well,” her mom said, her expression not changing. “Though you began to go a little fast at the end dear. Just because I can hear how quickly you talk doesn’t mean others can.”

“Yeah, got a little nervous at the end. Thankfully still landed the joke,” CC said with a wide grin.

God, it was like yin and yang watching them talk.

“Are you headed out Richie?” asked CC.

“Yeah, was going to meet Jason at the Shamrock. You can…come too if you like.” Richie glanced to her mom. Please don’t invite yourself along. Please don’t come. Please don’t—

“Yeah!” CC said. “Just give me a second with my mom. You can go on ahead if you want.”

Well at least CC hadn’t invited her along. “Ok. It was nice meeting you…” Again, he didn’t know her name so he just repeated. “Yeah, it was nice meeting you.”

Richie turned and started to walk away. He was almost down the hall and near the back door when he heard a laugh behind him. He glanced back and noted the mom’s cold exterior had softened as she laughed at something her daughter had said. Looking scary definitely seemed to be a more natural look for her, but hey, at least she and CC seemed to have a good relationship.

Richie headed outside and walked down the street. The bar was only around the corner, yet he hadn’t even gotten halfway there until CC was running behind him to catch up.

“That was quick,” commented Richie.

“She’d said she wanted to talk to me after the show. I wasn’t sure what she wanted,” replied CC. “But she was just worried you were taking advantage of me or something. Ha! Can you imagine that?”

“Urgh, considering I literally just met her and I’m more than a decade older than you, understandable. But I’m guessing she was just acting cold towards me because of that,” Richie said.

“Oh no, her students call her Stone-Cold Jackson all the time. She only smiles around me.”

“Well, she definitely gives off the scary principal vibe.”

“Probably because she is one. Was mine too.”

“I’m assuming you didn’t have the movie, picturesque high school life where you were the principal’s kid and got away with everything?”

“Yeah, no. If something went wrong, she assumed I was at the center of it. Which I always was so fair assumption but…”

Richie let out a slight laugh at that as they arrived at the bar. He opened the door for her. It was just past one and anyone that was out this late to party had moved to the clubs and bars that were more that style. Now the place was pretty quiet. Regulars sat alone with only a few small groups scattered about. The TVs that usually were playing sports or the news were on mute, and though the music wasn’t loud, it was difficult to hear any kind of chatter coming from the other parties.

Most of the people were at the bar rather than the tables and booths and there was only one bartender around along with another worker who was sweeping up. Richie sat down and waited for the bartender to come over. He ordered a shot of tequila while CC just grabbed a beer.

“This a ritual of yours?” asked CC.

“Something like that. Jason will show up soon with the check, probably yours too. But really, it just helps me wind down for the night.”

“Hmm…you know what you really need?”

Richie raised an eyebrow.

“To text Eddie.”

Richie groaned. He’d of course already told her Eddie’s reasoning which she’d been very understanding about. She’d also dropped the matter after one curious question, likely because she’d had a set to work on. Now, with the night over, curiosity seemed to be back. Richie mumbled, “It’s twelve in New York right now. He’s probably asleep. And why do you think I need to?”

“Uh, because no offense Richie, but everyone could tell you were distracted the whole time. Not that you did awful, but clearly your mind wasn’t on the set.”

“Still doesn’t change the fact that he’s asleep right now, so doesn’t matter.”

“Richie, can I ask you a question?”

“I have a feeling I know where this is going, so no.”

CC ignored him. “Why aren’t you just straight forward with him? I mean I was freaking there when you told him he could stay as long as he wanted to, and he literally was like ‘forever’. Clearly whatever flirting you’ve been doing hasn’t caught on considering you didn’t kiss then and there. Just tell him.”

“I don’t think you realize how much courage it takes me to simply flirt with him. And right now, I’m realizing I’m happy he doesn’t understand so we can just leave everything as is. I’ll continue coyly flirting with him, and he’ll just be my best friend who lives with me.”

“You’re seriously ok with letting your feelings wither into that? I thought you were building up to some grand profession of love or something!? You can’t really plan to just keep living like this. Can you?”

“Oh, I most certainly can. Every day I’ll just roll all my feelings into a tight little ball. I’ll collect them within my chest and then one day all those feelings will die with me.”

“Jesus Richie. What if he feels the same way? Ever thought of that? I’m telling you. He was making heart eyes at you every time we practiced.”

“The shit I saw…you couldn’t understand. The point is, I want to hold onto him for as long as possible and I can’t risk fucking everything up.”

“Well you could—”

“How about we talk about your sex life. Hmm?” asked Richie. “What about your boss at your day job because I’m pretty sure you have him whipped.”

“Oh, I totally do, but it’s an open relationship kind of thing. He has girls on the side, I have girls on the side, just casual stuff. But,” and here CC really grinned, “don’t think I don’t notice you deflecting the topic at hand.”

“Well I’ll keep on deflecting until you give up,” Richie replied. He finished off the rest of the tequila and gestured for a refill. At the same moment, Jason came through the doors. He sat down and the bartender automatically gave him his usual.

“Here you go,” Jason said, sliding the respective checks to CC and Richie. “And Richie, please do better tomorrow.”

“I told you,” CC said.

“Is this about the roommate?” Jason shook his head. “At least I now know why you screwed me that one time.”

Richie threw his hands up in the air. “We were just moving past my god damn sex life! Also, we screwed because we were horny. What other reason is there? And why even bring that up? It was one time nearly five yea-oof!”

CC grabbed Richie’s face and pushed him back so she could better see Jason.

“Holy shit. Look at me dead on.”

Jason did with a raised eyebrow.

“Ok, now profile.”

He turned his head.

“Oh, I can totally see it!”

Jason turned back to her. “I know, right?”

“Not perfect, but yeah, there’s definitely a resemblance.”

“What the hell are you guys talking about?” asked Richie as he started to sip at his second shot.

“Nothing much,” said Jason. “Just that you stuck it up my ass ‘cause I look like Eddie.”

“Urg-glu-ack!” Richie made a sound like a duck being strangled as he choked right before tequila shot out his nose. “Oh it burns! That fucking burns!”

CC offered a napkin as Jason hid his sly smile behind his drink.

“You’re fired,” coughed out Richie before blowing his nose.

“No I’m not.”

“I hate you so much right now.”

“Why?” asked CC. “Because he told the truth?”

“I’m telling you,” sighed Jason, “if this is going to happen every time he leaves town, then your attempt at remaking yourself is not going to go well.”

“It’s not about him not being here. If it was just him visiting a fucking friend, I would be ok.”

“I still say you need to just tell him,” CC said.

“What? That he’s over the moon about him? Please do,” Jason groaned. “I honestly thought you were fucking the moment I walked in. Now that I know you’re not despite those fucking looks he gives you every god damn second, well it just makes the whole thing damn insufferable.”

“Heart eyes. Told you,” CC sighed.

Jason took another sip. “Please, for my own sanity and job security just…” His voice fell away. He leaned over a little. “Richie?”

“It is not that simple,” whispered Richie as he wiped at his face one last time.

“Sure it is. You like a guy. You tell him.”

CC nodded.

“No. You don’t-ok. Listen close because I am saying this once and one time only,” Richie sighed, his voice trembling just a little bit. No offense to either of them, but he had a feeling they wouldn’t let up without a reason and Richie really didn’t need someone egging him on in the background right now. “When I explain why Eddie is staying with me, I typically just say there was an accident or he’s dealing with some issues. That’s what I told both of you. But you want to know the truth? The fucking truth? Eddie died. He died in my god damn arms before we got him back so if there is any chance that me admitting to him that I have been in love with him since we were god damn kids drives him away now, I am not doing it. I can’t.”

Now Richie was on a tired, pained rant as he sunk lower and lower against the bar. “And, yeah I won’t lie. I thought about coming out and telling him. There’s a reason I was keeping up the fucking flirting even if he didn’t seem to notice. But you weren’t there last night. I thought his wife was a piece of shit already but you didn’t have to fucking hold him so he didn’t just collapse after everything that came out of her fucking mouth.

“I was just thinking of me because Eddie hides it so damn well. Because he is happy here. I’d like to think I make him happy. But there is still so much fucking shit he has to deal with before he can even be his own man again. The whole physical healing process, the mental healing process, his god damn divorce, if Myra even fucking agrees, and all the shit that is involved with moving from one god damn state to another that he still has to do. I’ve realized I can’t risk confusing him and making things more stressful for him by being fucking selfish and putting my feelings before his. If I ever tell him, it’ll be when he’s in a stable place, but even then, if there is a single chance I could lose him, I won’t. Above everything else, I just can’t lose him. I can’t go through all that again.”

By the time Richie finished, his head was on the counter and his arms around his head. Silence filled their little group for a few moments as Richie gripped his jacket so hard that his knuckles were turning white.

“Shit Richie. I’m sorry,” CC eventually whispered. “I won’t push anymore. Honest.”

Jason was silent for a moment before finally falling on giving him a semi-comforting pat on his shoulder. “Then I’m guessing the only reason you’re here right now is because Eddie insisted you go through with the contract, hmm?”

Richie gave a little nod while still keeping his head down.

“Well I’ll have to thank him for that. The fallout would have been fucking hell to deal with considering you already screwed Jim over once.”

“If you’re trying at humor, you suck,” mumbled Richie.

“Sorry. I’m guessing you’ve already booked a flight to join him?”

“Sunday,” Richie whispered from underneath his arms.

“Fuck. I’d say get over him and find someone else…but you are in fucking deep,” Jason sighed. He finished his drink. “Just tell me when you’re back in town. And please, fucking text him, call him, whatever you need before going on stage tomorrow so the audience at least thinks you care about them. Please?”

“Yeah, yeah. Will do,” Richie said as he finally lifted his head. “Night Jason.”

As Jason left, they fell into silence again before CC murmured, “You meant every word. Right? He…he actually died?”

Richie nodded.

“Christ Richie, I am…I’m so fucking sorry. Sorry I made you feel like you had to throw all that out on the table too.” CC squeezed his hand. “Do you want to be alone?”

“Not really,” Richie honestly said.

“I’ll stay then. And no more talk about any of that stuff. Promise,” CC said as she gestured for another beer and for Richie a replacement for his second shot. They stayed at the bar for nearly an hour, sipping their respective drinks in quiet, yet still comforting silence.

Chapter Text

Eddie had managed to get a fair amount done both Friday and Saturday. Ben had left to go to his apartment in Suffolk after dinner on Friday. Saturday he didn’t plan to come over due to work issues, not that it had mattered as Bev had dealt with work and lawyers all day while Eddie did his own work at her home.

The only big thing of note were the texts with Richie Saturday evening. Bev had recently gotten home by then. They were hanging out in her kitchen when Eddie opened the first text from Richie.

Everything going ok? How’s Bev and Ben?

Eddie’s slight smile immediately brightened up even more. Going as expected. But being with Ben and Bev make it better.

I wish I could be there.

I wish you were here too. I miss you.

Miss you too. Got the earliest flight I could. I should arrive by about nine thirty in New York tomorrow.

I got my car back. I’ll pick you up. Not much I’ll be able to do tomorrow since it’s Sunday anyways. Means Ben and Bev will be free though. Most of the day can be ours.

All we’re missing are Bill and Mike.

Depending on how long we’re here, they could come visit. Bill has been up in Maine helping Mike.

Would be a nice break from everything.

How did you and CC do last night?

Good. She did fucking great. Fought through her nerves, just like I knew she would. Felt nice being in my element again too. Wished you’d been there.

Me too. I will for the next one. And whenever you get enough for a whole tour, you should invite the entire gang.

I like that idea.

Eddie then hesitated. There was something he really wanted to say but he wasn’t…no. Richie would appreciate the words if anything. He’d already given him a damn key after all. He texted, I miss home too.

I miss you being home. Feels way bigger than I thought it was now that you’re gone.

Yeah?

Yeah. Don’t think I’ll get used to not having someone with me now.

You won’t have time to. You’ll soon be in New York and then we’ll be back in Chicago together.

I love the sound of that.

Me too. Good luck tonight. I’m sure you’ll do great.

Thanks. Tell everyone I say hi.

I will. Miss you.

Miss you more.

I think I miss you more.

No, I miss you fucking more.

Ok, listen you little shit. I miss you more. The end.

I don’t think so. I miss you way fucking more.

Not as much as I miss you bitch.

Bullshit. Miss you more.

Bullshit right back. I miss you more.

“Eddie!”

He jumped a little and looked up to see Bev trying to hide her laughter.

“What with how quickly you were texting, I would have guessed that you were upset, but you’re grinning from ear to ear.”

“Just arguing with Richie about who misses who more.”

“Of course you are,” laughed Bev. “Well hurry up and decide so you can help me with dinner.”

“Ok, ok.” Eddie texted Richie again. I have to go. Bev’s ready for dinner.

Ok. As long as you know I miss you more.

I miss you more. Then Eddie quickly turned the phone on mute and flipped it over so he couldn’t see Richie’s likely continuing texts. If he did, he might not be able to stop himself from yelling back that he definitely fucking missed him more.

“Sorry. All yours,” Eddie quickly said.

“It’s ok. If anything, it made me smile. Makes me think of all those times you and Richie would get into the stupidest fights.”

“We did, huh?” laughed Eddie. He got off the barstool and walked over to look into Bev’s fridge with her. “So dinner then?”

“I confess, I was thinking of just doing sandwiches.”

“Sandwiches are good,” Eddie assured her.

“If Ben’s over or I’m at his apartment, he usually cooks,” Bev said. “I always tried to get the hang of it, but it just never came naturally.” Her face momentarily darkened, eyes getting lost in the past. “Daddy always said I needed to be more like mom. Tom always got upset if I burned anything.”

“Hey,” Eddie gently said. “That’s behind you. And you want to know a secret? I can’t cook for shit either.”

Bev managed a small laugh, her face brightening up just a little. “I would have guessed Richie would be even worse off if all your stories didn’t mention you both making food together or him just straight up cooking for you.”

“I know right? Out of everything, cooking is the one thing Richie has together.”

“I guess miracles do happen.”

As Eddie helped Bev gather everything and order it on the counter, he paused and went for his phone.

“Eddie,” she warned with a teasing smile.

“I promise I’m not texting Richie,” snorted Eddie. “Just give me a second.” He went through the apps and then, “Ok. Look at me.”

“Are you taking a picture?”

“Yes.”

Bev gave a light chuckle and Eddie caught it perfectly on his phone. “Why do you want a photo of me?”

“I don’t know…just taking pictures makes it feel like I can’t forget anyone. I haven’t forgotten anything yet, but just in case. It’s…a comforting thing.”

Beverly smiled. “You need to capture at least one good one of Ben while you’re here then.”

“Oh, I definitely will. Maybe of you two together.”

“Have any good ones of Richie?”

“Do I have any good ones of Richie? Pfft! You should see all the early morning photos I’ve taken of him.”

“Oh, I absolutely want to see all the early morning photos you have.”

They finished making up their simple dinner. They sat down on the same side of the dining room table even though it wasn’t actually large enough for two to be sitting there. Their knees knocked together as they ate sandwiches and Eddie showed off photos of Richie.

Overall, the day managed to be pretty successful. Eddie had gotten a lot done, he’d texted Richie, and he and Bev had managed to simply have a nice moment together. After Eddie had finally put his phone away, they’d moved to the couch in her living room.

Bev brought up, “I sadly don’t have another guest bedroom, but I can make up the couch for Richie when he gets here.”

“Are you sure you’re alright with both of us crashing here?”

“Of course! Ben’s apartment doesn’t have a spare room anyways and I’m sure Richie would like to be nearby at all times.”

“Well in that case, I’ll take the couch.”

“Are you sure? Your back—”

“It’s fine,” Eddie assured her. “Besides, Richie has continuously refused to take his bed back. At least this way he gets a break from being ousted from his own bedroom.”

“He’ll probably argue that you deserve the bed more.”

“Well he can keep on arguing. If he tries to force himself onto the couch, then I guess we’re both just going to be stuck sleeping on this couch because I’m not changing my mind.”

“Just promise me you won’t stay up all night arguing about it,” laughed Bev.

Eddie grinned. “No promises on that one.”

They continued to talk for a while before both decided to retire. Bev had a lot she needed to get done in the early morning so that way she would have the rest of the day free for Richie. And Eddie would have to leave relatively early so that way he actually made it to the airport on time and didn’t get stuck in traffic.

Eddie got ready for bed and then as he got in, he pulled out his phone again. He’d seen Richie’s reply before but had swiped by it to focus on dinner with Bev. Now he read it.

Miss you more.

Then there was another text about three minutes later from that one.

Ha! Bet Beverly dragged you away. I win.

It made Eddie smile. Richie was probably in the middle of his routine or waiting on the sidelines for the current act to finish so he could introduce the next one. He wouldn’t see anything Eddie texted him until he was done for the night, but Eddie liked to imagined it would make him smile before he went to bed.

Yeah right you won. I miss you more loser, Eddie texted back. Text me when your flight leaves so I have an idea of when to start heading to the airport. See you tomorrow.

With that done, Eddie put his phone on the side table. He settled into bed, ready to go to sleep as quickly as possible so he could see Richie tomorrow.

Eddie slept well for the most part. When he got up, there was a new text from Richie waiting for him. Eddie checked the time and then got up quickly to get ready. He and Bev briefly said hello in her kitchen as they prepped coffee for themselves and then she was hurrying out the door. Eddie took a bit more time, watching the clock carefully before he finally hurried out and jumped in his car.

He turned on the radio as he inched along in the morning traffic. He flipped between music and news when he got bored of something and then carefully made the right exits so that he was parking where the pickups were.

Eddie got out and waited. He occasionally glanced at the other travelers, mainly just looked at his shoes. He checked his phone a couple of times…

And then he felt it. He was already walking in the right direction, even before his face came up and his eyes lighted on Richie. Eddie hugged him as hard as he fucking could. His throat trembled as he pressed his cheek to Richie’s. He’d been holding in how much his fight with Myra had affected him, but with Richie, he felt like he could be just a little more honest.

“That fucking bad. Huh?” Richie murmured, rubbing soothing circles into his back.

Eddie slowly breathed in. He only pulled back enough to see Richie’s face. “I told Ben and Bev. But I…I don’t know. I didn’t want them to worry more.”

“It’s ok. You can tell me. Or not. Totally up to you,” Richie murmured.

“Thanks. How were the sets?” Eddie asked, wanting to momentarily focus on something more positive.

“Good. Like I said, CC killed it. And she sends her best wishes too.”

Eddie smiled at that.

“Her mom was also there.”

“She as bubbly as CC?”

“The opposite.”

“Really?” Eddie said with a light laugh.

“Yeah, think scary school principal,” Richie said as he told more about the night.

As he continued to talk, Eddie only interrupted to say, “You hungry? We can grab breakfast while we wait for the others to text me they’re done with work.”

“Sounds good. And yeah, so all the acts were fine enough except this one guy who just really bombed. Doesn’t happen often since most of the people were there through auditions, but that was a fun one to do damage control for in the moment,” Richie said, continuing with his stories.

Eddie let Richie talk until they found a place. They went in, grabbed a table, and ordered food. As they waited, Richie said, “You can at least get some stuff done. Even if she didn’t agree. Right?”

“Yeah, that’s what I did yesterday and I kind of have a game plan for everything else going forward,” Eddie said. He rubbed at his eyes and took a quick sip of coffee. “Just talking to Myra did not go how I wanted it to.”

“Well obviously. She won’t allow anything reasonable because that’s going against her whole schtick. She’s going to make this as difficult as possible for you.”

“I don’t know,” murmured Eddie. “I just…you weren’t there. I fucking snapped Richie.”

“You’ve been through a lot. No one can blame you for that.”

“I feel like it could have ended differently though. If I’d just held it together and pushed through it all…”

“Hey, don’t blame yourself. There’s no reason for that.”

Eddie let out a slight sigh. “But I’m going to have to face her again. Not right away obviously, but it’s probably only going to be worse now.”

“You just have to stay positive. And you have us backing you at every moment,” said Richie. “Whatever happened is not your fault.”

Eddie squeezed Richie’s hand. “Thank you. Having you here does make it seem like this whole thing will be a hell of a lot easier.”

“I’m here to help,” Richie replied. “Now, today is Sunday and Bev and Ben are going to be free in a couple of hours. So let’s at least make the rest of this day a fucking break from everything. Ok?”

“I think I can manage that,” smiled Eddie. As Richie took a sip of his coffee, Eddie quickly pulled up his phone and snapped another picture.

“Are you still doing that? At least tell me you’re starting to balance it out with pictures of Bev and Ben.”

“I have one picture of Bev. Still need to get one of Ben.”

“Oh, just one huh?” laughed Richie. “That doesn’t exactly balance out with the million you have of me. You’re going to make me feel like I’m special or something.”

“Well I am living with you. Though now that I think of it, Bev’s home is pretty killer. Maybe I’ll just stay there,” teased Eddie.

“Might get a little crowded when Ben finally moves in.”

“You can just move in too then. Like the Brady Bunch.”

“I am sure Bev would be thrilled,” laughed Richie. “Ah, perfect. Food’s finally here. We eat and then just kill time until others can meet up, right?”

“Pretty much,” Eddie replied before they both dug into breakfast.

Chapter Text

Since Richie didn’t exactly have a job or anything he needed to worry about, he was Eddie’s constant companion when traveling around the city. Some things were obviously just easier if Eddie had an hour or two of silence and could sit at his laptop. However, when it came to going places and waiting for god knew how long in lines or waiting areas, it was nice to have someone by his side to talk to.

The first night when it had come to settling down, he and Richie had of course argued about who would sleep where. Bev had already thrown a sheet over the couch and put a pillow along with some folded blankets at one end. Eddie had stubbornly sat down.

“I’m sleeping here.”

Richie had shoved himself onto the other end and kicked Eddie in the face. “What a coincidence. So am I.”

“Go sleep in the god damn bed Richie.”

“I like couches actually. Maybe I’ll just sleep like this.”

“You think I’m going to cave first? I can easily sleep sitting up.”

“Oh really? We’ll see who ends up breaking,” Richie replied as he hit him in the face again.

“I can’t tell if I’m more thankful you took your shoes off first or not.”

“If you don’t want to be tortured anymore, just go upstairs and sleep in the bed.”

“No way. What if I slap you around? Hmm?” Eddie tried to get at him, but Richie just grabbed his feet and forced his legs down.

“Go sleep in the fucking bed Eddie.”

“I like couches. You go.”

“You can’t say that. I already said I liked the couch first. Go on the damn bed.”

“I will push you off this couch.”

“Then I guess we’ll both sleep on the floor tonight.”

“Will you just go?”

“Absolutely not, I’m sleeping here.”

“No, I’m sleeping here.”

“I swear to god—”

“Guys!”

They both jumped, Richie accident kicking Eddie in the chin. They looked up and saw Bev leaning over the railing on the stairs with a desperate look on her face.

“I have work tomorrow?”

“Sorry Beverly,” winced Eddie. “Though I did say no promises.”

She let out an exasperated sigh.

“It’s his fault he won’t sleep in the damn bed,” Richie replied.

Eddie kicked him in the chest.

“I don’t care who sleeps in the damn bed. Trade every night. Both of you sleep in it. Just please come up with a compromise.”

“Ok, ok. Promise,” Eddie quickly said. As Beverly headed up the stairs, he turned back to Richie. “You’re sleeping in the bed.”

Richie shot him a glare. He glanced back towards the stairs. “Ok, for Bev’s sake. I’ll sleep in the bed.”

“Yes!”

“But, no more arguing about you giving my bed back to me at the apartment.”

“Seriously?”

“Yes.”

“I’m pretty much all healed up. It’s not like I need the extra comfort now.”

“I don’t care. Agree, or we’re sleeping here folded in half and with our feet in each other’s faces.”

“Fine,” groaned Eddie. “You’re impossible. You know?”

“And yet you’re still living with me.”

“Well, if I had a better option…”

“Rude.”

“Naw, I’m lying. Even if I had every option in the world, I’d choose you,” smiled Eddie. “Now go get a good night’s rest in an actual fucking bed.”

“Ok, ok. Night.”

“Night.”

So with that settled, Eddie moved some of his things to the living room. Every morning, Richie and Bev usually found him awake and at his laptop, or in the kitchen and prepping coffee for everyone. During the day, Richie followed Eddie around as he started to get things sorted, or Richie would keep him company while he did research on his laptop or just took a break from everything.

They obviously hung out with Bev more than Ben, him still being nearly two hours away. However, he almost always called if he didn’t come and have a meal with them or hang out. Occasionally, they met halfway to make it easier on Ben’s travel.

Besides simply spending time together though, both Bev and Ben invited Richie and Eddie to their respective work environments. It was fun getting to see what they actually did. Ben was especially proud of his sketches and showing off his office. It got Richie to officially invite them to a show when he had one fully planned out. Ben and Bev of course promised they would go.

Moments like that were the perfect kind of distractions that Eddie needed. However, going to his own work turned out to not be quite as enjoyable as it had been when visiting Ben’s and Bev’s.

If he had gone alone, it probably would have been boring at best. At worst, he might have felt like his boss was fucking trapping him in his office, trying to force him to stay as Eddie tried to stay afloat above the pressure. But he didn’t have to worry about either. Richie was with him and he at least made the entire experience a little bit better.

And to be fair, the beginning of the visit started off well. Walking into that building had never been more enjoyable as people noted his casual clothes rather than a suit, and eyes were very clearly following Richie’s messy style and ugly Hawaiian shirt that trailed behind him.

The usual security guard guided Richie through the metal detector before just doing a quick ID check with Eddie. “It’s been a while Mr. Kaspbrak. Everything alright?”

“Turns out I’m moving. Just coming in to give my notice and clear out my desk.”

“Really? If this is a ploy for a pay raise, Mr. Watson will give it to you.”

“No ploy. I’m really leaving.”

“Well, to better pastures then. And your guest?”

Richie spoke before Eddie could as he was given the all clear to walk over to where they were. “I’m his emotional support clown.”

Eddie groaned. “I apologize on his behalf.” He grabbed Richie’s hand and started to pull him away. “Have a good day Mr. Logan.”

“You too Mr. Kaspbrak.”

“You’re not helping,” Eddie mumbled under his breath as he let go of Richie’s hand.

“Hey, I saw a small smile from you. I think that means I deserve a raise.”

“Yeah right. You’re a volunteer emotional support clown. And I’m thinking about returning you.”

“Going to shove a bow on me and send me back?”

“Oh, you came with a bow huh?” Eddie asked as they got into the elevator. “Wonder where they stuck that.”

“Can’t you just imagine it sat on my head just so?” Richie mimed.

Eddie laughed as he held the door for three others before he pressed the floor he was going to. Richie leaned against the wall beside him and said, “You know, if I had to imagine where you would work, this is pretty much it.”

“That bad huh?”

“Even the elevator feels like a fancy coffin.”

“Don’t jinx us.”

“Sorry, but I’m glad you agreed to getting out. Even just sitting at our apartment, I could tell the work bored you out of your mind. Whatever you do next has to be better than this.”

“Thanks,” smiled Eddie. “I need to polish up my resume and CV, but I think I’ll do a quick search around Chicago. Just see what’s being offered now. Still, it could be a while before I find anything concrete.”

“I know you’ll find something. And I can go in with you to your interviews. Who wouldn’t hire a guy with an emotional support clown?”

“You’re still on that? Abso-fucking-lutely not.”

The other people that were still in the elevator with them widened their eyes at the use of language.

“Oh, I’m sorry, we should be using proper business language here,” said Richie as he put on a faux, uppity voice.

Eddie fucking lost it as he hit Richie in the chest. “Stop that now.”

Richie swung an arm around Eddie and pulled him close. “Don’t worry sirs and madams, this is my colleagues’ and mine’s stop.”

“Colleague of fucking what?” asked Eddie as the elevator doors opened.

Richie tutted his finger at him. “Now, my fellow man, where did your proper business speak go?”

“I swear to god Richie,” snorted Eddie as he hit him again.

They walked out of the elevator and Richie dropped his arm as Eddie walked ahead. He went to the main desk where Sylvia was. She understandably looked shocked to see Eddie.

“Is Watson in?” asked Eddie.

“U-uh yes! But he’s in a meeting—”

“Just tell him I’ll be in my office. This way Richie.”

Richie gave a little wave at Sylvia as he went around.

“Wow, all glass. Was that really their only design choice?”

“It’s modern.”

“It’s boring.”

“You suddenly a genius on design and architecture? I think Ben might fight you on that.”

“Ok, fair enough. Don’t want to fight Ben. You got your own office?”

“Well, I soon won’t. But yep,” said Eddie as they moved past the cubicles.

Of course, Eddie recognized all the faces. However, if the people weren’t just outright ignoring him, then all they gave him was a passing, uncaring look before turning back to their own work. God, he had never felt happier knowing he was getting out of here.

“Hold on real quick,” Eddie added. He rushed over to the mail guy who was just then handing everything out. Eddie managed to get a box from him and then walked into his office, Richie still right behind him.

“Cool view,” Richie said. He glanced back to the desk. “You actually going to keep any of that?”

“Mostly no, but it’s the polite thing to clear out your own desk.”

Richie looked over it. They both noted the picture frame that had already been facing down when they’d come in, but neither touched upon it for the moment.

Richie looked at one of the few non-work-related items on the desk. “Of course you would have one of those clack and ball things.”

“Did you just call Newton’s Cradle a clack and ball thing?”

“Totally.”

Eddie rolled his eyes. “I am thinking of keeping that though. I like simple machines like this.”

“Well I guess I have an idea of what to get you for your birthday then. Too bad it just passed.”

“You could do it for Christmas. Or I guess Hanukkah if you wanted us to celebrate that. You haven’t mentioned if you’re still practicing, though I guess that would have come up by now.”

Richie pulled one of the balls back and watched it go back and forth a few times. “Kept it up while my parents were alive. Didn’t want to deal with their disappointed faces every time I visited. You know? The only reason I didn’t complain too much as a kid was so Stan could have a friend. Best damn day was when he stuck it to his old man though.”

Eddie shot a bittersweet smile Richie’s way. “I remember you wouldn’t stop talking about it.”

“It was a fucking badass day,” murmured Richie as he stopped the swinging motion with his hand. He looked over as Eddie finally picked up the picture.

A small tired sigh escaped Eddie’s throat. Had he really been unable to find a better picture to set on his desk? Had they always looked so god damn unhappy? He tossed the picture and the frame into the trash.

“Fancy pen,” said Richie, trying to distract Eddie.

“Boss gave it to me for my last promotion. Though I have a feeling he’s going to try and take it back.”

“Why? It’s a pen.”

“Just the principle of the thing. I think Mr. Watson was looking at me as a successor some day when he retired. He’s going to be fucking pissed when he comes in. And it’s also lined with gold and has a diamond on the top of it.”

“Huh.” Richie looked it over. “Well we’re keeping it.” He unceremoniously threw it into the box.

“I can’t believe you just fucking did that,” laughed Eddie.

“Believe it,” replied Richie as he threw his legs up on the desk.

Eddie put a few more things away or into the trash until he glanced out into the rest of the building. “Shit, well here he comes.”

Richie quickly took his feet back off the desk. Before the man actually walked into Eddie’s office, Richie added, “Wilford Brimley called. He wants his mustache back.”

Eddie started laughing hard and was still laughing when Mr. Watson walked in.

“Kaspbrak, I want to know the meaning of this now. And why the hell are you packing up your office?”

“Well I’m leaving sir.”

“That’s preposterous. Sit down and we’ll talk about this.”

“We can talk, but you’re not changing my mind,” Eddie replied. He gestured towards Richie. “Give us a moment?”

“No problem.”

Eddie’s boss slammed the door behind Richie and then closed the blinds on one side. Richie popped his face over to the other side and waggled his eyebrows. Eddie snorted just as Mr. Watson quickly closed those blinds too.

“Listen, it was hard enough agreeing to you working from…wherever the hell you’ve been, but you are not leaving like this.”

“I am happy to finish any files you’ve already sent my way but after that, I am done. I’ll gather any physical documentation as well and send it your way. I do want to make this as amicable as possible, but I really can’t do this job anymore.”

“If you leave now, then you’re basically saying all the time and money I put behind you was wasted. How do you think that will make me look to the board? I won’t have that kind of reputation thrust upon me just because you’re having a midlife crisis and have run away with your-your gigolo!”

“You think Richie and I—” Eddie let out a loud laugh. “You’ve got it all wrong.”

“I don’t care what the hell it is. You’re not leaving.”

Eddie blinked hard at that. “Do you even realize how awful that sounds?”

“Awful-you can’t talk to me like that!”

“Well, you’re not my boss anymore, so yeah I can. Listen, I really thought this would go smoother, but if you want to get upset about it, go ahead. I have enough to worry about without this,” Eddie said, gesturing at him. “I welcome my last paycheck.”

“I’ll dock it!”

“Fine by me. Keep it, in fact.”

“Jesus Kaspbrak! What the hell happened to you? You were my most trusted man and then you do this shit to me?”

“Like I said. I’ll finish up what you’ve since given me. I’ll even write something up so the next guy has an easier time getting acquainted with the position. But after I walk out of this office today, I’m never coming back. I’m sorry for the last-minute notice, but you’re the one who is making this turn nasty. Not me.”

His boss gave a disgusted sniff. “I liked you better when you just shut the fuck up and did as you were told.”

Something in Eddie chipped away at those words, something painful and sharp. However, he managed to keep his head high rather than falling away to anger or something else like he’d done with Myra. “Well I like me now. So agree to disagree. Sir.”

Mr. Watson let out a few more irritable and upset noises before he finally threw open the door again and marched out. He did take his time to painstakingly rip Eddie’s name off the door though before marching away.

“He looked happy,” smirked Richie as he walked in.

“I know, right?” sighed Eddie. He shook his head. “Well I’m nearly done here. Want lunch?”

“Sounds great. But I could tell he really started yelling near the end. Couldn’t tell about what though. You sure you’re ok?” Richie hesitated.

“Of course. Besides, you’re here. What do you want to grab? There’s this great Ethiopian place in Hell’s Kitchen that I highly recommend,” Eddie replied, flashing Richie a confidant smile.

“Ok…yeah, that sounds good. We can take the subway, right?”

“Yep. There’s an entrance right around the corner from this building,” Eddie replied as he finally shoved the box under his arm.

He walked out of his office feeling good.

He did feel good.

He swore he did.

He could mark quitting his job off his list and yet…

A person didn’t just suddenly say such vitriol like that from nowhere. Which meant Eddie had dealt with his boss’s need to control him. And looking back, he could remember times when his boss had taken Eddie’s own concerns out the window and forced him through things for his own benefit. Eddie just…he’d never fought back. Of course, he had fought back now. He’d quit. And yet despite how he’d managed to keep his calm this time, Eddie honestly felt worse now that he was really thinking about it. He of course didn’t express that and it wasn’t like the smile he put on was fake. Richie certainly made him smile.

But all these realizations were getting to Eddie and he honestly wasn’t sure how well he could continue keeping it together.

Chapter Text

Almost a week had gone by and Eddie had gotten a lot done. He’d also finally gone to a doctor’s appointment. It seemed he’d healed up fine and at least for now, there was no serious sign of scar tissue build up. However, his doctor had said, “Everything else ok? Because you didn’t come in here with a ten page paper and cited sources like you usually do.”

“Right, just um…been trying to do a bit of reinventing of myself,” murmured Eddie with an embarrassed glance down. “And I’m moving actually.”

“Must be headed for a less stressful place than New York if you’re this calm about it.”

“It’s Chicago.”

“Never mind then.”

Eddie snorted. “No, I suppose it’s not much calmer compared to New York. But I was wondering if you had any recommendations of doctors in the area.”

“Sure, let me see what I can do.”

So that was at least one other thing done with, and he was pretty much healed with only a recommendation to have another checkup in three months’ time before returning to a usual once a year pattern. So much was done. Pretty much everything besides the aspects that needed Myra’s approval and the beginning of the divorce itself.

Eddie was so god damn close to it, to being able to go home finally.

She hadn’t called, no surprise there. And Eddie still hadn’t gone back to the house. He would have to eventually. He didn’t want to impose on Bev for too long after all, and it had already been longer than a week. However, before he could finally face his last obstacle, one more surprise distraction seemed to get in the way.

Ben was over so they were hanging out in her kitchen when Richie got a call. “Hey, it’s Bill,” he said. He automatically put it on speaker. “Hey, Bill what’s up?”

“Hi Bill!” Everyone else quickly threw in.

“Hi guys. Is that Ben I hear too?”

“Yep.”

“Yeah,” said Richie, “like I told you. He said he was going to come over today. Though I still don’t know why you wanted to know—” Richie suddenly stopped talking as a loud knock sounded at the door. Everyone’s hearts felt automatically tugged in that direction. “Oh you cheeky fucker!”

“What can I say? We wanted to make sure everyone was available before we came.”

They all rushed to the front door. Bev opened it to see Bill and Mike standing there with large smiles on their faces. Bill hadn’t even put his phone away before everyone was getting pulled into a hug.

“I thought you said you wouldn’t make it in time before Richie and Eddie left,” said Bev as they pulled everyone out of the doorway.

“Things just happened to fall into place perfectly,” Bill said.

“We have a truck that’s driving everything to Florida,” Mike added. “We fly out tomorrow to meet it down there.”

“Hold up,” said Richie. “You could have moved to any state in America and you picked Florida?”

“What can I say? Maine’s always been too fucking cold for my liking. Sandy beaches, palm trees, it’ll be a nice change. But does this mean you’re not going to come crashing at my place every chance you get?” Mike finished with a smirk.

“Nope. Still visiting constantly once you finish moving in if only for the principal of it,” snorted Richie. “But it’s not my fault for whatever happens. Florida is fucking crazy. I once did a show there and some guy in the front row brought his pet baby alligator.”

“Awe,” said Ben.

“No! Not awe! It nipped my god damn ankles.”

“You’re making this up,” Bill said. “You have to be.”

“Have I ever lied?”

“Yes!” everyone said in unison.

“But would I lie about a baby alligator snapping at my ankles?”

Eddie rolled his eyes. “Probably. But Mike, you’ve officially left Derry behind?”

He nodded. “It feels like I’m finally breathing again. And Bill’s been incredibly helpful.”

“You say that now,” smiled Bill. “It took a crap ton of convincing you to let me come and help at all.”

Mike gave him a pointed look. “Because I didn’t want to add more work to your plate—”

“And as I said, it’s not work when it’s helping a friend,” Bill smiled.

“Hang on,” Bev said. “You said ‘we fly out tomorrow’? Are you both going to Florida?”

“Well I’m not going to leave a man to unpack his entire life by himself,” said Bill.

Mike rolled his eyes. “I just can’t seem to get rid of him, huh?” He said it though with the fondness of someone that definitely didn’t want to get rid of said person, and Bill certainly gave Mike a similar look.

“Well I’m glad you’ve been keeping busy,” Bev replied as she looked to Bill. “I’m sure it’s helped made dealing with homelife easier.”

“It has. I’ve been writing too. And I think I finally have an ending Mike approves of,” Bill said with a kind smile shot Mike’s way.

“Maybe I’ll pick this new one up when you publish it,” said Eddie.

“Or we could all crash a book signing and embarrass him in front of all his fans,” smirked Richie as he playfully pinched Bill’s cheeks. “How does that sound?”

“How about I come heckle you at one of your shows then, hmm?”

“I’d say that would be great. I could throw out some spot on improve lines and everything. Have the clip go viral. But something tells me you couldn’t heckle me for shit,” Richie grinned.

“I-I can heckle you. Your jokes suck. There. How’s that for a heckle.”

“You did say you were a writer, right?” whispered Ben before everyone burst into laughter.

“Listen, I’m not great when it comes to the heat of the moment,” Bill sighed.

“Which is why you would suck as a heckler,” replied Richie.

“You just need to learn to be more like Richie and Eddie,” said Mike. “They can zing out one-liners at each other without any trouble.”

“Please no,” sighed Bev. “Just the two of them rounds out our group well enough. They already kept me awake because they were arguing over who would use my guest bedroom.”

“Hey, in my defense,” Eddie said, “Richie is a stubborn shit.”

“Stubborn shit? Excuse you, it was me who finally caved to your madness of insisting you sleep on the couch.”

“Oh, that’s right. So I won.”

“Just because I gave in—”

“Means I won,” smirked Eddie.

“I swear,” sighed Ben. “We could shove you two in a broom cupboard for a year, open up the door, and you’d still be arguing about the same thing.”

“You think there’s a Guinness world record for that?” asked Richie.

Bill groaned at the thought. “Lord knows you’ve probably already beaten it.”

“Probably,” agreed Eddie.

“Oh most definitely,” Richie replied. He then grabbed Bill and Mike and pulled them in for a hug again. “It’s so fucking great you guys are here though. Where are you staying?”

“If you say here, you’re all sharing the fucking bed together. I don’t care how crowded it gets,” Bev quickly said.

“Don’t worry. We have a hotel already for the night,” Bill laughed.

“Oh thank god.”

“I don’t know,” Richie said. “Might have been fun getting to kick Bill in the face for a change.”

“Hey, you’d have to get through me first,” teased Mike.

“Two for the price of one? I can do that,” Richie replied. “So what’s the plan? Walk around like we did back in that city in Maine? Find some place to eat?”

“Well, considering we did kind of throw this on you,” chuckled Mike, “I say you all get to choose. Besides, I’ve never been here.”

“Wait, you never once visited New York? But you lived so close!” said Ben.

“I never left Maine, remember? Ever. Just in case.”

They all grew somber for just a bit, but Richie managed to bring everyone’s mood up as he said, “Well, then I guess I’ll just have to let you crash at my place and see Chicago before I crash at yours.”

“It’s a deal,” Mike grinned. “So the plan?”

“What we did before still works for me,” said Ben. “Any objections?”

“None at all,” Bev said. “We go several blocks to the east and we can hit Central Park.”

“Now that would be cool to see. Only visited New York once and didn’t get to do much sightseeing,” Bill added.

“Then just let us grab our things and we can go,” Richie replied.

They grabbed their jackets, Bev got her purse, and then they were off down the street. For the most part, they all went in twos, Ben and Bev, Richie and Eddie, Mike and Bill, just so they weren’t hogging up the entire sidewalk. Of course, they switched partners regularly. Everyone wanted to take a chance to talk to each other and catch up on the latest information after all.

When they got to Central Park, they huddled more closely together, partially just because the paths were wide enough, and it was getting colder, but also because it just felt nice to be near. They went all over the place, grabbed snacks and coffee rather than getting a proper lunch, perused a number of stores once they were out of central park, and saw some more landmarks. All through it, Eddie took advantage of the moments and took as many pictures of his friends as he could, some more flattering than others but all of them loved. Then they finally found a pizza place where they all squeezed into the large, round, corner booth.

They ate and laughed and talked for over two hours before finally deciding to go. It was understood that as the night continued to darken, the time to say goodbye again was upon them. However, it was even less bittersweet than last time. They hadn’t forgotten, nothing had gotten foggy, and they had all managed to come see each other despite the distances between them. They would stay in contact and they would see each other again. There was proof to back up that promise now.

However, before final goodbyes could be given, Mike and Bill told everyone, “Before we go, do you guys still have time to come to our hotel?”

“Did you get a suite or something? Cause I think it’ll be a tight fit,” said Richie.

“That’s not what we mean,” snorted Bill.

“Just come with us and wait in the lobby for a bit. We have something for you guys,” Mike explained.

“Ok then. We’re all yours for a little longer,” said Ben.

They ended up hopping on the subway and made it back to Mike’s and Bill’s hotel. While they both hurried to the elevator, the others lounged in the lobby as guests came and went.

Richie of course theorized about what it could be. All his ideas were absolutely ridiculous. Bev’s ideas were a bit more grounded. Ben and Eddie both agreed that it wasn’t anything they’d guessed so far. Still, that didn’t stop them from throwing out ideas, right until Mike and Bill came out of the elevator again.

“This was Mike’s idea,” Bill immediately said.

“But Bill certainly helped. I couldn’t have made all this on my own.”

With that, they carefully took out bulky picture frames from a large bag and started to hand them around.

“Some are photocopied obviously,” Mike added.

Bill nodded. “We wanted to make sure everyone had a version. We kind of made it random as to who has what originals.”

“And then we just added what else we could. Little things that fit each of you individually, organized it in ways that we thought would be aesthetically pleasing to you.”

“Figured it would be better than just emailing everyone a bunch of files.”

Eddie flipped the large picture frame he’d been handed over. What he saw was a collage of the photobooth images they’d taken as kids along with other pictures and small stickers that filled everything out. Eddie looked at himself, at all of them.

“This is-this is wonderful,” Ben murmured.

“Like I said. I figured everyone would appreciate it. I managed to hold onto my pictures, but I wasn’t sure if any of you would still have yours. Well now you do again,” said Mike. “And it gives us all just a little something extra of Stan to hold onto.”

“We’re planning on making one for Stan,” added Bill. “We wanted to maybe leave it at his grave, one last goodbye. But we want to make sure we can plan it so everyone can easily get there. We know it’s not the easiest time right now.”

“That sounds like a wonderful idea,” Bev said. “And yeah, just give us a timeframe and we can all see what works best.”

Eddie nodded. He carefully moved his fingers over the pictures. He wasn’t sure where he would put it, but he knew he would cherish it forever. He was the first to hug Mike and then Bill. The others quickly followed.

“You’ll have to send us pictures when you finally have your place set up,” Richie said.

“I will,” Mike replied.

“And just keep giving us updates with whatever,” Bill said. “It’s always great to hear from you guys.”

“You too,” said Ben.

They all hugged each other again and finally wished Bill and Mike a good night and a good flight down south. Everyone else ended up sharing a cab back to Bev’s so they could lessen the chance of them damaging the collages. When they got there, Ben had to immediately get into his car and head back to his apartment. Eddie, Richie, and Bev all went inside and took off their coats.

“That was exactly what I needed,” Bev smiled. “It was good to see them. I just wish Mike wasn’t moving so far away.”

“I still don’t get Florida. Literally anywhere else,” muttered Richie with a dramatic huff.

“It’s not as bad as Washington,” said Eddie.

“Let’s see, hostile winds—” Richie flipped one hand out. “Or crack addicted alligators—” He flipped his other hand out. “I just can’t decide.”

Eddie rolled his eyes. “I bet that when you finally visit him, you’ll end up complaining the entire god damn time about sand being everywhere. Won’t you?”

“What? No, I wouldn’t be that rude to Mike. I’ll complain to you on the plane ride home.”

“Glad I know I have something to look forward to,” smirked Eddie, though it did warm him how Richie just automatically included him in the plans. He stretched with a tired yawn. “I don’t know about you, but today was long. I’m going to get a little work done and then I’m going to bed.”

“Sounds like a plan,” said Bev.

“Ditto. I’m going to take a shower,” Richie said. “You need it first?”

“No, go ahead. If you don’t come back down before you go to sleep, I’ll see you tomorrow morning.”

“Sounds good. Night you two.”

“Night.”

“Good night.”

With that done, Eddie used the downstairs bathroom to get ready for bed before camping out on the couch again. He’d already polished his resume and CV off and had been looking through job listings in Chicago. He’d mostly kept his eye open for any accounting type jobs. Again, he was good with numbers and he couldn’t stray too far from his degree and experience. The kind of work probably would have bored Richie to death, but Eddie didn’t mind it. He just wanted to look for a place that had more personality than Wall Street type goons.

After marking a few of interest, he shut off his computer and got comfortable on the couch. He was almost asleep when his phone vibrated against the coffee table. It kept vibrating, so he could tell it was a call and not a text. Eddie reached over and peered at the bright screen.

It was Myra.

Chapter Text

Eddie pushed himself up and looked at the phone with wide eyes. He looked towards the stairs where Bev and Richie were likely already in bed. He almost didn’t answer. But then on the last ring, his thumb hit the green button and he put it up to his ear. There was silence on the other end. He couldn’t even hear Myra breathing. Eddie readjusted himself so he was sitting up. He threw the blanket off him and sat properly on the couch.

The silence ticked by.

It became more and more painful after each second. Maybe she hadn’t meant to call him. It was just an accident. Eddie should just hang up now and try to have one more restful night—

“If you hadn’t asked me to marry you, I wouldn’t have said yes.”

Eddie felt his heart clench up. It was harder to fall towards complete anger since she wasn’t in front him. She also wasn’t threatening him with anything, like the destruction of Stan’s letter. Not yet at least. Eddie didn’t want to fall back on anger, but it was difficult to find another defense mechanism without it.

He rubbed at his eyes in the low light. The only one still on was in the kitchen. It was farther away from the stairs so Eddie walked in there and leaned his back against the counter.

“So, you’re basically saying it’s my fault,” murmured Eddie, keeping his voice low so as not to alert Bev or Richie.

“Isn’t it?” Myra spoke equally softly, though Eddie wasn’t sure why. He doubted she was trying not to alert someone. Maybe it was just because of the time of night. Or maybe she also was tired of yelling, even if there was still an unmistakable harshness to her tone. “You keep asking me why I said yes, but you won’t tell me why you asked. Did you ask because you loved me?”

Eddie hesitated. She had a point. That feeling that he’d stopped seeing Myra as a person, despite how she absolutely was, came back. He’d demanded her to answer for so much, but he hadn’t been completely honest yet either.

“No,” he whispered.

“Have you ever loved me?”

Eddie sunk down against the cabinets until he was on the floor. “No.”

“How fucking arrogant of you.”

“Myra, it’s not what you think. I thought I—”

“You haven’t even noticed. You didn’t notice in the god damn hospital. You didn’t say anything when you finally came home only to say horrible things to me and cause a mess.”

“You grabbed me—”

“You don’t care,” she spit out.

“I haven’t thought about this from your point of view,” Eddie admitted. “I understand this must be incredibly hard for you too. But you have to understand you were trying to force me to stay. You weren’t thinking of what I wanted or even giving me an option—”

“Look at your fucking hands Edward.”

He jolted at the tone, but his eyes glanced down all the same. “I don’t understand Myra—”

“I had it in my hands when you woke up. Do you realize what that’s like? Waiting for your husband to ask for the inevitable, only he never does? They took it off during surgery. They gave it to me when I arrived. That was the first thing I expected from you. I waited, but you could barely even look at me!”

Her tone was harsh but in a different way. She wasn’t exactly desperate. Instead, she sounded like she knew she’d already lost the war, but she’d be damned if she didn’t inflict some damage before she went. Eddie should have hung up then and there. But he was so confused and honestly didn’t know what she was talking about.

“Myra, please—”

Her voice broke at this moment as she had to force the words out. “Your fucking wedding ring.”

And then Eddie really looked. He turned his left hand back and forth. It was something he hadn’t taken off for well over a decade. He should have noticed right away and yet in the weeks afterwards…he hadn’t…

“I-I don’t know what to say.”

“I’d ask for an apology, but you seem to think you’re the victim here.”

“Myra, just because I-I forgot doesn’t equate to what you’ve—”

“You’re upset with how things have gone? You put yourself into this situation. Everything that’s happened is because of you.”

“Me?!” Eddie asked in an angry, hushed whisper. “You threatened to rip up a letter that you could tell was important to me because I wouldn’t listen to you. You twisted your god damn words so that I wouldn’t struggle or fight against what you wanted. I went to every stupid event you wanted to go to, and I stayed home and avoided anything you didn’t approve of no matter my own feelings. I ended relationships. I changed what I enjoyed, what I watched, what I ate. I took the job offer that you approved of. Not me. All of it. It was all because of you. If I did anything that didn’t fit inside your own little world, you put me down and at the very least guilt tripped me into backpedaling. You can’t just suddenly put this all on me—”

“Can’t I?” interrupted Myra. “You asked me to marry you when you weren’t even in love with me. When I hesitated, you convinced me of it. Or did you conveniently forget that part?”

“T-that’s not the full story. You have to understand, it’s not like I did it on purpose—”

“And yet you say you never loved me.”

“I know that in retrospect. I-I know why now, but at the time I thought it was the closest thing to—”

“You convinced me to fucking marry you despite from day one you never loved me and then you cry victim when you realize you don’t like it anymore? No, you know what I think? You like this. You’re enjoying all this attention.”

“N-no—”

“You put yourself into this situation!”

Tears were falling down his cheeks as even then, he tried to keep his voice down. “I-I didn’t realize—”

“Didn’t realize what? How marrying a person you didn’t even love would hurt them? No, everything you’ve had an issue with is of your own god damn making. This is the life you chose.”

“I-I mean I did, b-but—”

“So you admit it.”

“I d-didn’t do it on purpose. I didn’t r-realize—”

“Bullshit Eddie. You chose this life. You could have done anything else, but you married me. You could have left this state, but you stayed. You could have made a hundred decisions, but you put yourself through all this bullshit. I don’t know why, but you need to know that this is all on you.”

“I-it’s not—”

“Everything you have an issue with, you indirectly inflicted upon yourself. You wanted all of this.”

“That d-doesn’t mean I-I wanted—”

“I hope whoever you’ve shacked up with realizes just how god damn manipulative and horrible of a human being you are.”

Eddie’s attempt at keeping quite broke as that comment was like an icepick through the heart. A sob escaped his lips as he shouted. “I’m sorry! I’m fucking sorry but I never intended to—”

“I never intended to marry a man who didn’t love me. But look what you forced me into. You wanted to know what the fuck was wrong with me? Well I married you, so that answers that question.”

“M-Myra please I—”

But she’d already hung up.

Panicked, broken sobs escaped his lips that were only made worse by his attempts at keeping quiet. She had a point, a point that broke through all other defenses and reasoning. He’d wondered about this when he’d gone to the house. He’d even thought about it at work. Had he really been that blind to the people he’d chosen to associate himself with?

Maybe…maybe he had chosen it. He certainly had never fought it before.

And the things he’d yelled at Myra? He’d thought it had been him breaking under the pressure. But that was because he’d been thinking of himself as the victim. But…but maybe he wasn’t. She was right. He had chosen—

No! It hadn’t been an intentional choice. If he’d known what he did now, he never would have asked. He wouldn’t have!

But despite how fucking cruel her voice had been, it hadn’t all been for show. He’d heard some of the words break, the way her breath caught. He’d hurt her. She was still a real human being and her pain was his fault-maybe this was all his fault.

He’d been the one to ask.

But he’d thought he’d loved her! He hadn’t understood his own emotions at the time and had just thought—

She wouldn’t be hurting right now if he hadn’t. He wouldn’t be hurting if he hadn’t done that. W-which meant it was on him. It was all on him…

The phone had since clattered to the ground. Eddie’s hands covered his face, another fruitless attempt to cover up the noise he was making. Low pitched, breathless, wails left his throat, the kind where you wanted to scream but so much energy was being used up just trying to get a single breath in that the only noise that was left were tortured moans.

“What the-Richie! Get down here now!”

Eddie just tried to hide himself more, ducking his head down and pulling his knees in close even as the noise he was making just became louder. He could feel Beverly pushing him forward just a little. Then a blanket was draped over his shoulders. He felt her arms add pressure to the weight around him, and then another set of arms, Richie. Eddie could feel how Bev brushed at his hair, even as he still sobbed. Richie pressed his face against Eddie’s back, staying as close as possible as he whispered over and over, “It’ll be ok. It’ll be ok.”

They stayed there, huddled on the floor of Bev’s kitchen for who knew how long. But, as with all bodily functions, there were only so many tears Eddie could cry. There was only so much energy that could be used for his sobs before they began to break up more, decrease in noise, and then all but stop so there was nothing but trembling left.

Eddie still hadn’t lifted his head up. Richie was rubbing circles into his back now. Bev kissed his shoulder, continued her soft, petting motions through his hair.

His voice was hoarse when he spoke. “It’s my fault.”

“What is?” whispered Richie.

“M-Myra called and—”

Richie bristled. “Hey. Whatever she said it isn’t your fault—” However, his voice fell away when Bev quickly shook her head at him. She mouthed, Let him speak first.

“It is. I-I asked her to marry me. She didn’t even say yes right away but I-I convinced her and h-how did I repay her?” Eddie’s voice continued, hoarse and low. Every now and then a low moan broke up the words, but for the most part he continued repeating everything Myra had said, everything he had done.

Richie tensed at every word. It was clear he wanted to say something, but every time he almost did, Bev stopped him again. They both stayed silent, right until the end where Eddie began to more softly cry again.

Bev continued her careful motions through his hair until those noises began to fade too. She whispered, “You are not some manipulative, horrible human being. You know how I know? Because you feel bad now. You can acknowledge you made a mistake in the past, but that doesn’t mean you did it out of any ill-intentioned reasoning, no matter how Myra sees it. And however you hurt her does not negate how she hurt you, or how she clearly, intentionally used her words against you. Even now, she could have carried that conversation in a number of ways, but she chose the one that made her the only victim in the scenario, which she isn’t. What she did in your marriage was manipulative. What you did was make the only rational choices you could out of the trauma that you thought defined you. It’s a lesson I’ve had a hard time learning, but you all helped and we’re here to help you. It’s not your fault Eddie and you’re not the same, and certainly not worse than her. You’re not.”

Richie broke contact, but only for a moment to grab a roll of paper towels. He broke off a few and handed them over. Eddie quickly blew into them and wiped at his eyes.

“I’m s-sorry I dragged you both out—”

“Nope. Don’t say another word of that. You drag me out of whatever if you need me,” interrupted Richie. “I don’t care if it’s the best sleep of my life. You drag my ass up the moment you need someone.”

“It’s ok Eddie. It is,” Bev murmured.

For a moment, Eddie could breath—

Then the emotion just caught up with him again. It wasn’t the wails from before, but the noise still came out broken and pained as he started to cry again without even meaning too.

“You’re not sleeping alone tonight,” Richie said. He waited until Eddie’s tears had subsided a little again. “Come on. You’ll feel a little better if you’re not on this hard floor.”

Bev picked up Eddie’s phone and put it on the counter. Then she and Richie pulled Eddie up, though Eddie almost immediately turned into Richie, hiding his face from both of them.

As they went upstairs, Bev broke off for a moment. She came back with a warm washcloth for Eddie to wipe his face with. She also grabbed an extra blanket as they guided Eddie into the guest bed. After Richie pulled the comforter over Eddie, he backed up and turned to Bev.

She gripped his arm. “You want me to stay too?” she whispered.

“I got this. You get some sleep,” Richie whispered back. He squeezed her hand before going to the other side of the bed and carefully getting in.

Bev had already slipped out the door as Richie laid down and gently touched Eddie from where he was trying to hide his face.

“Hey. No need for that.”

Eddie sniffed, but still moved the blankets down. “It’s so fucking embarrassing. And I was trying so hard not to wake you.” His voice cracked. “You’ve all done so much for me and then I just fucking break—”

“Stop that now,” muttered Richie. “Don’t even finish that thought. You’re not a burden and when I signed up for you living with me, I agreed to all of it.” He gently took Eddie’s cheeks and brushed at some of the new tears. “Including this. And it’s nothing to damn well be embarrassed by. Sometimes you just have to fucking let it all out.”

Before Richie could remove his hand, Eddie reached up and covered it with his own, keeping him there. “I’d say thank you,” whispered Eddie, “but I know you’d rather be here than anywhere else right now.”

A kind smile graced Richie’s lips in the dark. “Now you’re getting it.”

Eddie finally let go of Richie’s hand. He shifted in bed, but didn’t try to cover his face again. Richie lay there, watching and waiting until Eddie fell asleep first. Only then did he allow himself to close his eyes and relax as best he could into his own pillow.

Chapter Text

Eddie felt exhausted when he finally woke up. He wiped at his face and rolled over a bit, but Richie wasn’t there. He listened, and it didn’t sound like he was in the bathroom. Eddie pushed himself up into a sitting position. He breathed in…

And then he managed to breath out. The crying didn’t return. However, he still felt horrible, both physically and mentally. It had been…

It wasn’t his fault. No. He dredged up the words Bev had said. He couldn’t remember them perfectly, but he remembered the essence of the message. He wasn’t manipulative, certainly not how Myra was. But that didn’t mean he was free of all blame. He could carry the responsibility and his own pain, but that still didn’t negate the extreme nature of what Myra had done to him.

He continued trying to keep his breathing slow and even.

Eddie couldn’t deal with this again though. He hated doubting himself, hated how she had managed to tear him up inside for no reason other than to cause damage. He’d heard the defeat in her voice to though. This time if Eddie could keep it under control, if they both could, he had a feeling it would finally end.

Pushing himself out of bed felt harder than when he’d first woken up in the hospital. He managed it though, first going to the bathroom to just wash his face. He checked the clock on his way out of the room. Had he really slept that long? It was nearly eleven in the morning.

He walked up to the top of the stairs and paused. He could hear noises coming from the first level. He slowed his descent, pausing and leaning on the banister when he could get a good enough view into the kitchen.

“Ok, now you do it just so.”

“Richie, I swear to god if that ends up on my floor, or worse my ceiling—”

He flipped the pancake and it managed to land safely back in the pan.

“Alright, mark me impressed,” Beverly said. “Just please tell me we’re not risking it a second time.”

“You can’t make a pancake and not flip it. Nope, we’re doing it every time.”

“I swear.”

“I know. I know. I’ll clean it up,” Richie promised. “Now, that omelet is almost ready to get folded again. You want to try?”

Eddie stayed as quite as possible as he walked the rest of the way down the stairs. He paused in the doorframe. He leaned against it and watched them for a second.

Bev picked up the spatula. After a second, she muttered, “Oh shit.”

“Hey, no worries. Here,” Richie said, guiding her hand this time. “There, we’ve managed to save it.”

“You are good. Definitely more chaotic than Ben though. I’d like to try and see you make something together. I think you would give him an aneurism.”

“Let me guess. He follows a cookbook’s rules religiously?” asked Richie.

“It’s like a battle plan,” Bev chuckled. “He would lose it at the way you measure ingredients.”

“Hey, a pinch is a perfectly fine way to measure things,” said Richie. He checked the underside of the pancake and then slid it off. He poured the next cup into the pan. “Alright, get ready for round two in a few.”

“I fear for the cleanliness of my kitchen, but to be honest you have already turned this place into kind of a shit show—oh. Hey Eddie.” Midsentence, Bev had finally turned around. Richie put the pan down and quickly turned too.

“Sorry,” Eddie murmured, quickly straightening his posture. His voice still sounded raw. He tried to clear it as best he could. “Didn’t mean to sneak up on you guys. Just…enjoyed watching you.”

“We can always turn around and pretend we didn’t see you,” Richie said, trying for teasing, at least for the moment. “Give you another specialized viewing of the Bev and Richie show.”

“At least I get top billing.”

“Anything for you Bev.” Richie’s eyes turned back to Eddie. The smile softened. “How are you?”

“Better. I…I’m s—”

“Nope, not another word of that,” Bev said.

Richie nodded in agreement. He moved forward first and hugged Eddie hard. Bev joined in and they stood in the kitchen like that for a while. At least until Richie went, “Shit, the pancakes!”

“If you burn my house down, you’re getting a second roommate,” warned Beverly. It gave Eddie a reason to finally form his lips into a smile.

As Richie dealt with breakfast, Bev gave Eddie another quick hug and said, “We thought about getting Ben over. Even calling Mike and Bill to cancel their flights. We didn’t want them coming over and doing the opposite of helping though. Thought it might be a bit overwhelming for you. Or make you feel like you inconvenienced everyone.”

“Yeah,” murmured Eddie. “I wouldn’t have wanted them to see me like this. Even…even though I know they wouldn’t have minded.”

Bev nodded and comfortingly rubbed his shoulder. “We have a pot going. Want a cup?”

“Water first. And then yes please.”

Eddie walked up to the island, leaning against the countertop. There were a lot of ingredients scattered about, but his phone was still on the counter from where Bev had put it last night. He pulled it towards him. He pulled up the call log, looking at the most recent one. He then backed out of that and went to messages.

“Eddie,” murmured Bev as she put a glass of water in front of him. “Whatcha doing?”

“I’m texting Myra,” he whispered.

Richie froze. “You think that’s a good idea. Literally just after last night…”

“I just want this to be over,” whispered Eddie. “I think she finally does too.”

“Do you want me to go with you if you go over there today?” asked Richie.

Eddie hesitated. He put his phone back down and thought about it for a few seconds, weighing the pros and cons. “I…would like that. Please.”

“Sure. Anything that could help,” Richie replied. Him and Bev carefully watched as Eddie picked his phone back up again.

He texted, I’m coming today and getting the rest of my things. We need to talk. To really talk this time.

Eddie sent it and then pushed his phone to the side. “So, you’ve been cooking this entire time?”

“Not the entire time. I mean, I had to buy a lot of the ingredients since Bev just didn’t have anything,” said Richie. “But we’ve been up for a while. Wanted you to sleep.”

“Thanks,” murmured Eddie.

He watched as Richie checked that the current pancake wasn’t sticking before he took the pan off the stovetop and looked back to Bev and Eddie. “So, round two?”

“Richie please—”

Eddie laughed. His throat still hurt, but it felt good to have a reason to laugh again. “Do it.”

Richie flipped it, this one just barely making it back in before he set it back on the stovetop.

“You are getting dangerously close here,” said Bev.

“Still landed it. I’ll have this one since I burnt the top though. Alright, now let’s check the eggs again…”

Eddie watched as Richie focused on breakfast, making three plates for them. He split up the omelet, gave everyone a pancake, and finally cut up an apple and split that amongst them. By this point, Bev had set a cup of coffee in front of Eddie too.

“You really didn’t have to do all this,” murmured Eddie. Richie already looked ready to defend himself, but before he could, Eddie quickly added, “But I know you wanted to. And thanks anyways.”

Richie brightened at those words alone. “I’m glad you’re still catching on. And anything to make your morning a little better.”

“Thanks,” Eddie said again.

With the plates prepped, they went to the dining table. Bev ate quickly and then gave Eddie a kiss on the cheek. “I’m sorry. I postponed as much as I could, but I have to get to a meeting.”

“It’s ok Bev. I’ll see you tonight.”

“You sure it’s ok?”

“Yeah, you can only do so much,” replied Eddie with a small smile.

“Alright. I’ll get Ben over too. We’ll all have a nice night in.”

“Sounds good.”

Bev left after a moment and as she did, Eddie’s phone went off. Richie shot him a worried look as Eddie pulled up the text.

It just read one word. Fine.

A small sigh escaped Eddie. “She said ok.”

“I swear to god. If she starts some shit—”

Eddie shot Richie a pained expression.

“Sorry. I just hate seeing you hurt.”

“I know. But I agreed to you coming because I think it’ll help keep us both in check. Please don’t escalate things.”

“I promise. Mouth shut,” Richie said.

“Well we know you won’t be able to keep to that promise,” Eddie murmured, his lips twitching upwards. “Just don’t be too harsh.”

“It’ll be hard not to.”

“Please?”

“Don’t worry, I won’t actually do anything too bad. That I will promise.”

“Thanks Richie.” Eddie ate his last bite and then rubbed at his face again. “I’m going to take a shower. I’ll tell you when I’m ready.”

“Hey, you do this at your own pace. You’re not inconveniencing me,” Richie replied.

“Thanks,” Eddie replied. He started to pick up his dishes, but Richie came around and grabbed them.

“You get cleaned up. I’ll take care of everything down here.”

Eddie nodded. He paused to grab some clothes from downstairs and then went to the guest bedroom. He quickly found taking a shower was possibly the best idea right now. He felt cleaner right away. He leaned against the tile for a second, the coolness of it a nice counter to the heated water. Then he rubbed at his face, ran his fingers through his hair.

He would talk to Myra this time. Even if she tried to stop that, he would at least do an honest conversation on his part. He would make sure he left that house for the last time now. He would break away for good.

The shower was long, Eddie taking his time before finally shutting it off. When he got out, he shaved and noted his hair length. He would have to remember to book an appointment somewhere. It had gotten a lot shaggier than he usually allowed it.

He carefully brushed his hair into place and then got changed. Richie was downstairs and had done a pretty good job of restoring Bev’s kitchen. He noted Eddie looked ready and immediately put his coat on. However, he paused as Eddie started to pace by the front door.

Richie didn’t interrupt. He just let Eddie take all the time he needed. Eddie practiced breathing, deep and slow. He kept his steps timed, an exact pattern that helped keep his heartbeat low. He spun on his heels, one, two, three—

He finally stopped.

“You ready?” murmured Richie.

“Ready.”

They walked out and locked the door with the spare key Bev had been letting them borrow. Eddie decided to drive, and Richie got in beside him. It was midday meaning hundreds upon hundreds of people were probably out to lunch, running errands. Certainly all the tourists were up and out by this point. Richie mumbled random, short comments about what he saw, but Eddie stayed silent as he focused on the road.

When he pulled up to the house, he paused to rub at his face again. “I can do this. I can.” He really believed the words though when Richie squeezed his hand. Eddie’s lips quirked up before he focused on keeping a carefully neutral face.

He quickly took his keys out and got out of the car. Richie followed close behind. Eddie went up the steps and rang the doorbell before he could over think the situation. However, after a few seconds, no response came.

Eddie glanced to the street, but Myra’s car was still there. He looked at his phone but there were no new texts from her. Of course, he had a key on his car key ring. But going in without warning would probably only cause trouble. He rang the doorbell again. This time he managed to hear a distant shout.

A moment later the door was shoved open. “I said I was coming,” Myra growled out.

“I’m sorry. I couldn’t hear…” Eddie trailed off as Myra was already walking away. She’d barely given Richie a second glance, though it was clear she’d recognized him. Behind him, he could feel Richie taking in a breath, but Eddie quickly reached back and gripped his hand, interrupting whatever comment he wanted to say. “Please?”

“Sorry,” mumbled Richie.

Eddie let go and led the way in. Richie closed the door.

A quick glance into the kitchen showed Myra sitting at the kitchen table, her back turned away.

“Myra, I—”

“You came to pack. Pack already,” she bit out.

Eddie hesitated. However, considering he didn’t know how the conversation might turn out, he decided it was best to get all his things first. At least that way there would be one less thing to do in the long run.

“This way,” murmured Eddie, leading Richie upstairs first.

Going through everything took a while, but from the very beginning, Eddie noted the lack of things that actually needed to be packed. He got the rest of his clothes into one small bag. There were other, smaller things that he grabbed. Headphones, another book that he’d been in the middle of reading. But there was just so much he didn’t need, and the rest just wasn’t his.

So far, at least on the second floor, most of his things that he wanted to take with him were in his own study. It seemed all the files from before Myra had gathered into the box and put back in the room. Eddie was tempted to throw it all straight into the trash now, but no, he would probably mail the important bits to his former work. Maybe in the heat of the moment he might have done something like that, but there was no reason to cause unnecessary problems.

With at least a bag and two small boxes filled, Richie said he would take them down to the car. Eddie gave him the keys, and then grabbed everything of his in the bathroom that he wanted. He put those away and then headed back downstairs. With Richie at least needing a moment to get everything situated outside, Eddie took advantage of the privacy to go back to the kitchen.

Myra hadn’t moved yet, and now that Eddie was slowly approaching her, he could see she had some kind of album in front of her. She slowly flipped through a page.

“Are you already done?”

Eddie flinched a little at the words. “O-only the upstairs but…not quite.”

He paused, waiting to see if she would tell him to hurry up and finish. Instead, she just muttered, “Well you’ll be done soon. There was never much of anything here that could be considered yours.”

Eddie nodded in agreement. Her words were said bitterly, but Eddie hoped she was also realizing just how broken their marriage had always been, how much she had always controlled it. He finished his approach. He walked around and finally saw what she was looking at. Guilt weld up in him, but he didn’t let the feeling completely control him this time. He sat down opposite her.

“Our wedding album,” murmured Eddie.

“I want to burn the whole damn thing.”

“If it makes you feel better—”

She gave him a harsh look.

“I’m not trying to be condescending,” Eddie whispered. “I just…Myra, I’m sorry. I—”

“You don’t mean that—”

“No,” Eddie interrupted. However, he managed to keep his voice low and only put the slightest hint of authority into his tone. Just enough to get her to stop. Richie came in at that moment but quickly stopped by the doorframe. He looked away. Having him just within Eddie’s line of sight helped though. He could get this out without turning nasty or breaking down. Eddie focused back on Myra and murmured, “You said your peace last night. It made me feel horrible. It made me doubt how much agency I did or didn’t have in this relationship. It made me feel like every aspect of this was my fault.”

“Good.”

“No, no not good,” whispered Eddie as he shook his head. “You’ve been doing that in all our time together. You realize that. Right? Not just last night, but you’ve always made me feel like I had no control. I’m a grown man and it felt like I would get yelled at for choosing the wrong god damn socks around you. Do you understand how dehumanizing that feels?”

She didn’t respond. Eddie hoped it was because she understood, but she didn’t show it.

“I’m sorry I asked you. I’m sorry I never loved you like a husband should. I’m sorry for everything I’ve said to you in the past weeks. I never should have stooped to that level.”

“You wasted my life.”

“Now that you can’t just put on me. You can’t Myra because I may have asked you, but you said yes. Sure, I convinced you. But do you remember what I did to convince you? It was simply asking you twice more. I didn’t hold a gun to your head. I certainly didn’t make you feel like marrying me was your only option or something worse like if you didn’t say yes then and there, you would never get married.” At that point, he reached across the table and took her hand. She didn’t pull back, but she did seem surprised that he’d reached out at all. “But even so, it doesn’t mean your life is wasted. I know my life isn’t wasted. We all can have a second chance.”

She looked from his hand on hers, to him. “Why say that? Why not just demand a divorce like you’ve been doing?”

“Because I’m sorry I did that before. And because I am using every ounce of energy in my body to be kind right now, even if that’s a courtesy you never showed me.”

Those words did make her sharply draw her hand back like she’d been stung, but she didn’t outright deny the accusation either. Her eyes focused back on the album. She turned the page. Her fingers grazed a photo. “I loved you. At least at the start.”

“Myra…”

“I don’t want to hear it,” she snapped. She slammed album shut and pushed it to the side. She pulled his wedding ring from her pocket and then took off her own, throwing them both at him. “Take them. Just take them, take your things and leave.”

“Myra, I…”

“I’ll have a lawyer write everything up and send it to you. I never want to see you again.”

Eddie pushed his chair back and slowly stood up. He looked around and then grabbed a pencil and paper. He wrote down Richie’s address. “Here. This is where I’m staying if anything needs to be forwarded to me in the coming weeks.”

He set it down in front of her. She didn’t look, ducking her head low. Eddie finally started to leave her be—

“I said take the rings Edward. Take them and don’t ever fucking come back.”

Eddie quickly picked up both and pocketed them. He walked towards Richie who had thankfully not said a thing during it. Eddie was still happy he’d come along though, even if he had just been in the background. Even now just glancing at Richie made Eddie feel a little better.

“Let’s finish up here,” Eddie murmured.

Richie nodded in agreement and they quickly went through the remaining rooms. If Eddie had left anything else, he didn’t care. He had all he needed now and soon he was walking out the door for the last time. He’d made sure to take his key off his car key ring and put it by the stack of mail. It made carrying his car keys lighter, like now he really could drive just about anywhere he wanted.

As they got in, Richie let out a hefty sigh. “I’d almost feel bad for her if I hadn’t seen the shit she put you through. You know, you didn’t have to be that kind to her. She was a bitch before, and she was a bitch in there too.”

“You’re right. She probably didn’t deserve it. But I feel better for it. That’s what I care about now. And hey, I was honest with her. It’s not my fault she couldn’t be honest with me,” Eddie said with a shrug. “I can’t do anymore. I don’t owe her anymore.”

“No you fucking don’t,” agreed Richie. “So, Bev’s?”

“Not quite. There’s one more stop before heading back I need to make.”

“Oh, ok.”

Richie was clearly curious but didn’t ask. He messed with the radio, started commenting on the people that drove by them or that walked on the sidewalk again. Eddie focused on getting as close to Central Park as possible. When he found a parking spot, even though it was a way’s away, he took it.

“You don’t have to come with me,” Eddie quickly said.

“Do you not want me to?”

“No, I just don’t want to drag you—”

“It’s no problem. I’ll follow.”

Eddie’s lips quirked up a little. He got out and locked the car, guiding Richie down the street. They got into Central Park and walked for some time before coming across one of the bridges that went over a section of water. Eddie went to lean against the railing, Richie coming up beside him. He took out both rings, and his own slipped from his fingers. It hit the water without much bravado. He hadn’t meant to drop it yet, but he honestly didn’t care, his focus completely on Myra’s ring.

“This was where I proposed,” murmured Eddie.

“Figured,” Richie said. “Surprised you didn’t care more about your own ring though.”

Eddie shrugged. “It was just a ring. And one that Myra had fitted and designed exactly how she wanted it without ever asking me. If I’m being honest, which I now am, I never felt connected to it. This ring though? It was my mom’s.”

“Oh.”

Eddie managed to find a little bit of humor out of the shocked sound that came out of Richie’s throat. He leaned more on his elbows, looking up at Richie with a half-smile. “Didn’t see that coming. Huh?”

“What a twist.”

Eddie snorted.

“At least I get why she wanted you to take it. You going to keep it?”

Eddie’s gaze turned back to the ring. He flipped it over a few times, fingers running over its edges and curves. Finally, he shook his head. “She was my mom, and as a kid, especially when we moved out of Derry, I had no one else. I loved her. But I also really hated her at times. In retrospect, she wasn’t that great of a parent, and the last thing I want is for any relationship, no matter what kind or who with, to remind me of her again.”

With that, Eddie straightened up. He took two steps back and then chucked the ring as hard as he could. He managed to get it so far, he could barely see the ripple it made when it hit the water. He took in a deep breath and—

“Hey! That’s a fifty dollar fine for littering!” yelled a passing cop.

“Run!”

“Run? Just-woah!”

Eddie grabbed Richie’s hand. He booked it and Richie was dragged along, stumbling slightly before he managed to pick up the pace on his own. Behind them, the cop took two steps before letting out an irritated sigh and deciding it wasn’t worth it. Eddie kept holding Richie’s hand though as they ran across grass and down the paths.

They slowed eventually after the bridge was far behind them. When Eddie finally let go, Richie walked to the side and leaned his entire body against the nearest tree.

“Why the hell did you say run?” gasped Richie. “You could’ve just paid the fine. Or explained. Bet he would have…have given you a pass if you’d just explained.”

“I don’t know. Just spur of the moment thing. And come on. Don’t tell me that wasn’t a little fucking fun,” Eddie replied, adrenaline still coursing through his veins as he bounced on the balls of his feet.

“Wait until I catch my breath, then I’ll decided.”

Eddie laughed as Richie doubled over for a second. He then pushed his hair back and stopped being quite so dramatic.

“Ok, maybe it was a little fun. Definitely never would have expected that from you,” Richie said with a shake of his head. “Don’t tell me this is the start of you spiraling down into some mad crime spree.”

“Ah yes. Today it’s littering. Tomorrow, the world!”

Richie laughed and draped an arm around Eddie’s shoulders. “You finally feel free?”

“I do,” smiled Eddie. He didn’t push Richie off and they both walked back through Central Park, pressed together as they talked about what they would do that night with Bev and Ben.

Chapter Text

Even with Myra finally agreeing, there were still a few things Eddie had to take care of before finally leaving New York. The first was getting a lawyer of his own and figuring out the fastest way to get a divorce. Most versions required a year of living apart or some kind of evidence of cheating, abuse, etc. Because of that, citing irreconcilable differences would be the easiest way, especially since it would be an uncontested divorce now with hopefully no risk of needing to go to court.

Eddie would wait for Myra’s own lawyer to write up how all finances and ownership would be split. If there was anything completely unreasonable, he might have to do a revision with his own lawyer which could cause some back and forth, but for the most part, he would let Myra have what she wanted. He didn’t need the house or anything else. He had what he wanted and would soon be getting a new job anyways.

Getting everything written up would take a little while though, and Eddie expected he wouldn’t get an email detailing everything until he got back to Chicago anyways. Ideally, they would only have to talk through mail after this point. Then, assuming everything got sent into a judge and they found no issues, they would sign off and Eddie would get confirmation of the divorce in a few weeks’ time. He wouldn’t even have to go back to New York from then on, unless he was visiting Bev and Ben of course.

Everything was on track to being right.

Once the issue of a lawyer was settled, Eddie’s formally combined accounts were finally terminated. Since for many of them Eddie had already done what he needed, all he’d needed was Myra’s own agreement and she’d done just that. Though he had no idea what her intentions were afterwards, at least now she seemed as ready to get through this divorce as him.

With those parts done, Eddie finally made it known that he was ready to leave New York. Of course, Bev said they had to plan something special, and on Eddie’s and Richie’s final night with Bev, Ben of course came over and he and Richie took to making dinner. The process of making dinner had gone mostly well, and they’d already eaten. Now Bev and Eddie sat at the kitchen table, each with a wine glass in hand as they watched the new chaos ensue with dessert.

“No, look. It says it right here,” Ben said. He held the cookbook like it was a sacred text and stabbed at a line. “This is already a very sweet recipe. See, it calls for half a cup of brown sugar and half a cup of granulated sugar. Anymore and the whole thing will be way to-Richie!”

Richie was leaning against the counter in the laziest of fashions. One very over full cup was balanced in Richie’s hand before he flippantly dropped it backwards into the bowl. “Oops.”

“There is a balance to these things. Now we need more lemons to balance out the kick with all that sugar you threw in there. Or I guess we could just put less brown sugar in there now. That should be ok—”

“More brown sugar you say?”

“What? No! Give me that cup.”

Richie threw the cup Ben’s way and grabbed the entire bag of brown sugar. “Fine with me.” He started to haphazardly pour the bag into the bowl.

“Richie! Richie, I swear if you poor one more grain of sugar, I am flipping that entire bowl on to the floor and we are starting from scratch again.”

“Yeah right. You wouldn’t willingly make that kind of mess in Beverly’s home. Now let’s see, this should be just enough sugar…”

“God damn it. We need more lemon now,” groaned Ben.

“No we don’t. You just got to trust me.”

“When has that ever gotten me anywhere good?”

“You’re alive, aren’t you?”

“Are you referring to the time you suggested you lot suck the cuts on my stomach? Because one, you didn’t end up doing it, and two, it was a stupid idea and everyone fucking agreed-stop putting in ingredients before I tell you how much!”

Eddie was very happy he’d already gone through his medication and he could drink again. He sipped at his wine as he commented, “This is better than cable.”

“You’re telling me,” snorted Bev. “It’s a shame we didn’t get them to cook together until now.”

“You’ll have to come visit us,” Eddie suggested. “Make a mess of our kitchen.”

“It’s a deal.”

They clinked their glasses together while Richie was smearing flour on Ben’s face and holding the bag of lemons out of reach. Ben of course took the mature route and responded by trying to manhandle Richie into submission.

Watching them make dinner had certainly been wild enough, but the attempt at dessert was definitely the highlight of the night. When the pie finally got put into the oven, Richie and Ben cleaned up as best they could, though the entire area was still a mess when the timer dinged. Then they started arguing over just how much caramel they needed to drizzle over it before cutting slices and setting them down in front of both Eddie and Beverly.

Ben's hair was completely tussled, his shirt’s top two buttons undone, and his collar uneven with one side stuck up and the other folded down. He still had flour on his face. Richie had lost his Hawaiian shirt at some point. Eddie honestly had no idea where it had ended up. Maybe in the pie for all he knew. Richie’s plain, under shirt was an absolute mess and covered in stains. Some caramel had managed to get in his hair, a few clumps of it stuck together. His glasses sat crooked on his face and he only just now righted them.

When they both sat down, Eddie couldn’t help but laugh. “You sound like you both just got out of a cage match.”

“Next time Tozier, I don’t care if I have to tie your limbs so you’re a god damn puppet. We’re doing it by the book.”

“Jokes on you. I’m into that.”

“God I hate you.”

“I don’t know Ben,” Bev suddenly said as she cut into her piece. “I wouldn’t sell his method short. This pie turned out pretty good.”

“What!?” cried Ben.

“Really?” asked Eddie. “It’s a little too sweet for my liking.”

Richie gasped in mock despair. “Traitors! The both of you!”

“I guess you know what that means Richie,” sighed Ben. “Eddie, you’re mine now. Bev, I hope the rest of your life with Richie is as wonderful as our short time together was.”

Bev snorted as Richie said, “Excuse you, Eddie is his own man and will not just be passed from me to you.”

“Well in that case, sorry to disappoint Ben,” laughed Eddie. “I still choose Richie.”

“Well, I guess I’m ok with that arrangement,” replied Ben as he gave a dramatic sigh and leaned his head on Bev’s shoulder.

“Well I definitely don’t think it’s so bad a deal,” she said, giving him a quick kiss on the top of his head before taking another bite. “At least all the fighting really started with dessert and not the main course.”

“That is true,” Richie agreed. “Though I don’t know. I think gravy would be easier to get out of hair rather than caramel.”

“That is all on you,” said Ben.

“How? You squirted it in my hair?”

“Because you thought using your head was a great way to block the pie!”

“I mean, it did work.”

“I just don’t get why you wanted to pour a shit ton of sugar in but then a drizzle of caramel was too much.”

“Don’t like caramel.”

“Urgh!”

Richie grabbed a fork and forced his way into the piece he’d sliced for Eddie. “Well I think it’s perfect,” Richie said after he took a bite. “And I’ll acknowledge the slight contribution you made.”

“Slight? I made the biggest contribution. Keeping you in check.”

“Pfft, like someone has to keep me in check.”

“Eddie,” begged Ben. “Help me out here man.”

“I hold no power over him. Unless it’s in the morning and I’m blocking the coffee pot,” snorted Eddie.

“Bev?”

She shrugged. “I just know that whenever we meet up again, I can’t wait to see you try to cook something more complicated than this.”

“I can only imagine the chaos then,” laughed Eddie.

They finished eating dessert. Eddie and Bev helped with cleaning up and that night, Ben stayed over to wish them well in the morning. Before that, Eddie had reorganized all the things he was bringing in the car and had thrown away anything he didn’t need. They were driving back, and the plan was to try and get to Chicago in a day.

Eddie went to bed knowing he would miss Ben and Bev, but still the happiest he’d been in a while as he looked forward to going home.

The next day, there wasn’t much time for breakfast what with the twelve hour drive ahead of them. Eddie simply got the coffee going, they all shared a quick cup, and then Bev and Ben were finally hugging them goodbye.

“Thank you for everything,” Eddie said.

“I’d say anytime, but…” Bev replied.

“No, I do not plan on a repeat,” chuckled Eddie. “But I’ll still miss the time we had.”

“Text us when you make it home,” Ben said.

“You got it,” Richie replied. “Good luck with everything.”

“You too. And let us know when you go on tour again. I’m looking forward to seeing you keep that promise,” said Bev.

“I’ll make sure of it. Even though I’m sure my assistant will lose it when he hears I need to free up at least five seats in the front row.”

Eddie laughed, just imagining it.

“Good luck on the drive over. Bye guys,” said Ben.

They all hugged again and then got in the car. Eddie chose to drive for the first part and Richie got comfortable in the passenger’s seat.

As they drove off, Ben nudged Bev. “I still don’t get why Eddie was determined to sleep on the couch pretty much the entire time. Do they really think we couldn’t tell?”

Bev shrugged. “Let them come out in their own time. Though I wouldn’t put it past them to not say anything specific until it’s their damn wedding day.”

Ben laughed. “I doubt we’ll even hear of that. It’s going to be some spur of the moment thing in Vegas or something.”

“I can see that,” admitted Bev before she gave him a quick kiss and they both went back inside.

Back in the car, Richie had already pushed his chair back and put his feet up on the dashboard. With a long sigh, he said, “No offense to the comfort of Bev’s guest room, but I am so ready to be home again.”

“Me too. I haven’t been there long, but it’s felt more like home than any other place I’ve lived.”

“Want to watch a movie when we get back?”

“I should probably unpack so the place isn’t too crowded with random boxes and bags.”

“Save that for tomorrow,” Richie said. “You deserve a break.”

“Ok, ok. What movie are you thinking of?”

“Well, Halloween’s coming up soon. Prometheus?”

“Isn’t that the Alien prequel that no one was sure if it was actually a prequel until after it came out?”

“Pretty much.”

“I only ever saw Aliens.”

“Hang on a second, I snuck us both into that film because you convinced me you had seen the first one,” said Richie.

“Ok, I may have a confession to make—”

“You never saw the original!?” cried Richie. “Well at least now it makes since why Aliens fucking terrified you. Why the hell did you lie about that?”

“You said you didn’t want a cry baby to go with you and ruin the experience. And you wouldn’t believe I wouldn’t cry unless I’d seen the original movie. But I just really wanted to hang out with you so…I lied?”

“That is fucking adorable. I hope you realize that.”

“Naw. What’s cute is you letting me crush your hand into fucking pieces for two hours because I thought I was going to have a heart attack,” snorted Eddie.

Richie shot him a teasing smile. “Are you going to need to hold my hand again?”

“I think I’ll manage this time,” laughed Eddie. “But I guess we should watch the original, right? I’m what? A few decades overdue?”

“That’s an understatement. But yeah. Let’s do the original. And order in?”

“Sounds perfect,” smiled Eddie as he continued to make his way through New York traffic and finally left the island behind.

Over the next several hours, they switched every time they made a major stop, bathroom break, food, gas, and they finally agreed on the third hour mark that whoever was in the passenger’s seat would pick the music and the driver just had to shut his mouth so they weren’t arguing the entire time.

When they finally reached Chicago, because of the time change it was almost ten thirty. Eddie and Richie did their best to get everything they could once they’d parked. The few things that got left behind, they decided to grab in the morning.

After Eddie walked in and dropped everything he was carrying, the first thing he did was pick up the key Richie had made for him. There hadn’t been any reason to take it with him to New York, but now he could really appreciate how good it felt putting it onto his keyring. Then he looked around and, ignoring the items they’d just put down…

“Did you…did you clean before you came to New York?” It wasn’t perfect, but there had clearly been a hell of a lot more work put into everything than Richie normally did.

“I wasn’t sure how long we’d be in New York but…yeah. I don’t really care, but I figured you would appreciate it. Even managed to put most of my clothes up on hangers rather than crowding the floor of the closet.”

“Thank you, Richie.” It was such a small, seemingly inconsequential thing to do. Yet for Eddie, it made his already good mood brighten tenfold. He had a feeling he would get used to this feeling of someone thinking about him and doing little things just because. Eddie looked forward to the day when such small acts of kindness were no longer so surprising. “So, Alien then?”

“I’ll grab the popcorn.”

Chapter Text

After the first few days of being back, Eddie finally felt settled. He’d unpacked so that his items were truly mixed in with Richie’s now, not just a few shirts and a towel. Though Eddie had been thinking of it as home, now it no longer looked like just Richie’s apartment. It looked like theirs.

Then a fresh haircut, some interviews set up, and Eddie felt like he was finally putting his roots down in Chicago. He and Richie started up their usual routine again, only instead of Eddie spending several hours a day doing work on his laptop, he was looking at job listings or going off for interviews. It also meant they started their usual breakfast routine and on the fourth day back, they met CC at the restaurant during brunch. She was at the cash register when they came in, but the moment her eyes caught sight of them, her face lit up.

“You’re back! Max take over.”

“What—”

CC literally jumped the counter and dodged the customers so she could practically tackle Eddie with a hug.

“It’s so great you’re back! And back for good, right?” asked CC.

“I am fully moved in. Actually, I’m looking for a job now.”

“Nice! And Richie,” she punched him in the shoulder leading him to mouth a dramatic, faux ‘Ow’. “You look good too. Jason know you’re back?”

“Already texted him. I have a meeting with him later today. You?”

“I managed to kill a couple of open mic nights. Also did a few auditions for some nights in the next couple of weeks. Haven’t gotten a call back yet, but one of them is looking promising.”

“Well done,” smiled Eddie. “Tell me when you know for sure. I promise I won’t miss this one.”

“Hey, it’s no problem about the last one. Things get in the way. You know? So I know, mimosa for you Richie. Eddie? Come on, I know you said you finished up on your prescription before you left.”

“Yeah, why not.”

“Yes! I’ll be right back. And the usual?”

They both nodded.

“Cool!” CC hurried back, dodging around a few people so she could get back behind the counter.

Eddie and Richie sat down. They talked about their plans for the day, Eddie had two interviews lined up, and CC dropped off food and drinks during it. At one point though, Eddie got up to use the restroom and while he was away, CC took advantage to slide into his empty chair and shoot Richie her classic, big puppy dog expression.

“So…”

“If you’re about to ask if I’d told him, no.”

“Damn it. The way you were looking at each other, I thought you had. But things went well right? Eddie got through it all?”

“I wouldn’t say went well is the way to phrase it, but it ended great. Now he just needs to wait for the divorce papers to come through so it’s official in the eyes of the law. But yeah, he’s fucking free.”

“So he’s stable. Right?”

Richie easily saw what she was trying to get at. He looked down. “I mean, he still has to actually get a job, then there’s the time it takes to get accustomed to that job, make sure it’s what he wants to do, finding a new routine—”

“Richie.”

“Yeah?”

“You really still aren’t going to tell him. Are you?”

He shrugged.

“You realize you deserve to be happy to. Right?”

“I am happy. I have Eddie back and I managed to help him get through his shitty divorce. If I have to be fucking blue balled for the rest of my life, so fucking be it. But I got him back. He smiled and laughed before, but now? There’s a weight off his shoulders that was crushing him before, even if he hid it well. Now that weight is gone though. He’s truly happy now. It’s all I could ask for.”

“God damn. You really fucking mean that. I don’t think I could ever promise something like that for someone.”

“You’ve never been in love before.”

“Fair enough. Just…no. I did promise I’d stay out of it. Just know I support whatever you decide to do, whether that’s say something or not.” At that moment, CC paused and glanced back. She saw Eddie headed their way so she changed the subject. “By the way, wanted to know if we could throw around some jokes again? Go over sets?”

“Yeah. Sure. I’ll text you a date.”

CC pumped her fist into the air. “Yes! I am totally your little protégé.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” smirked Richie.

“Don’t worry. I’ll keep it on the downlow. Don’t want to let the other comedians get jealous,” she said with a quick wink before hurrying off.

“You agree to another work session between you two?” asked Eddie as he sat down.

“Yeah. I don’t know what is wrong with me,” Richie replied.

Eddie laughed, knowing he didn’t mean that one bit.

They finished eating, said bye to CC on the way out, and then continued with their plans.

Over the coming days, Eddie went in for nearly every interview he was offered. He made sure to stay on top of calling back for information, constantly checked for other job listings, and then finished solidifying things like his car insurance policy, going around and choosing a new doctor, changing his address on anything official, things like that. He thankfully didn’t have to follow up much with the divorce. After reading through Myra’s terms, he pretty much agreed right away and now it was just a matter of waiting for a judge to formally sign the papers.

A few of the jobs he went in for a second interview. He had a couple where it looked like they were going to hire him. If one asked, he would take it, though his current list wasn’t exactly the change of scenery that he’d been hoping for.

However, before he had to go through the process of weighing the pros and cons of just going ahead and accepting a job offer or waiting, one job that had particularly intrigued him finally called back.

After he answered the phone and the woman on the other end introduced herself, she said, “We were hoping for a smoother transition, but some personal emergencies meant our former head accountant had to quit before his intended notice. Would you mind starting this week?”

“N-no. No, not at all!” Eddie had to keep himself from sounding too excited as he tried to keep his voice professional.

“Oh, that’s wonderful. Would the day after tomorrow work? I’d like to get you in and caught up to speed as soon as possible, though I’m sure it won’t take long for you considering your own background.”

“I mean, if sooner means better I can come by tomorrow.”

“Really? Oh thank god. Yes, perfect. How does ten fifteen sound?”

“I can make that. Where would we—”

“Oh, the lobby in the public entrance is fine. Just go to the first desk and tell them your name. I’ll see you tomorrow Mr. Kaspbrak. Thank you again.”

“Thank you. And what was your name again?”

“Dr. Eason but Jordan is fine. You’ll learn we’re a very welcoming bunch. Thank you again. See you tomorrow.”

“See you.” Eddie put the phone down— “Fuck yes!!!”

Richie’s head popped around the corner. He’d just gotten out of the shower so his hair was wet and slicked back and he hadn’t grabbed a shirt yet. “What happened?”

“I got a job! I go in tomorrow.”

“Nice! Where at?”

“The Natural History Museum here. In their interviews, they’d talked about their current head of accounting leaving due to health issues. I think they might have planned to ask me in this week anyways to get acquainted with him, but he had to take sudden leave so they need someone right away. And I got it!”

“That is awesome. Not the health issues thing obviously but you. You getting a job. Now you just have to promise me that if you find a magical tablet and the statues and skeletons come to life at night, you are dragging my ass over there immediately.”

“I promise I will?” questioned Eddie with a laugh. “I don’t think I get that reference.”

“I know what we’re watching tonight then!” Richie called as he headed back into the bathroom.

Eddie smiled at that. He then spent the rest of the time picking out what to wear for tomorrow. He got an email from Jordan as well. Reading through, it gave him official confirmation of the time, who he would meet with, and that he just needed to bring identification for the first day.

Eddie was admittedly so excited it was kind of hard to sleep. If all went well, the job was a perfect mix of a new atmosphere with familiar work that he’d been looking for. Despite his excitement, he managed to get some sleep though and got up early. Richie wished him good luck as he headed out, and Eddie used his car to drive over to the museum.

The place hadn’t originally been his first pick, but after sitting down at the first, then second interview, he’d really liked the people there and the whole personality of the place. It certainly offered to be more lively than any place he’d worked prior too.

He’d gone early, then waited in his car for almost ten minutes, and then finally jumped out and hurried up the steps so he would be a perfect five minutes early when he got inside.

There were two large groups of school children that Eddie had to wiggle his way through until he got to the first desk. One glance at the tired, underpaid teachers that were just barely keeping everything under control certainly didn’t make Eddie envious.

“Hi, my name’s Eddie Kaspbrak. I’m supposed to meet—”

“Yes! I remember you. Talazia Waters. I was there at your first interview.”

“Of course, it’s good to see you again,” Eddie said, quickly putting two and two together as she was one of the main board members for the museum. “Pardon me for asking, but do you usually run the front desk like this?”

“No, not usually,” she said with a tired laugh. “We’ve had several call outs today. Flu season, you know? And it does get so cold here in Chicago.”

“And it probably doesn’t help that it’s clearly school field trip day,” Eddie kindly said with a glance back to the mass of children.

“No, but it is what it is, and we’ve dealt with far worse. Because of everything, Jordan can’t meet with you. Not right away. Instead I have-ah! Here he comes, David Cheung. He’ll actually be working in your department so some of the more basic details he can show you and at the very least get you settled.”

As the man in question came up, Talazia introduced them before running off to where she was needed. David gave Eddie a quick once over.

“So, I guess you’re technically my new boss. You know, I was going to get the position.”

“Oh, I um…”

David hit him hard on the shoulder with a laugh. “I’m just messing with you. I mean, the pay raise would have been nice but the change to hours and added responsibility? Wouldn’t have gone over well with the wife and three kids,” he said as he started to direct Eddie away from the lobby. “So I turned it down. If anything, I’m pretty happy we’ve got you. I took a glance at your resume and I got to say, you’re pretty overqualified. What made you choose a place like this compared to a big cushy, New York job?”

“Mostly just because of the moving. And no matter the pay rate, when the people you work with are so lifeless, it’s hard to want to come into work every day,” Eddie answered honestly.

“I hear you there. Well hopefully you’ll learn to like this place. And if the more professional attire is what you’re in to, go for it. It’s whatever you’re comfortable with.”

Eddie blushed. “Is that your nice way of saying I’m overdressed?”

“Well, I mean unless there’s an official meeting or you suddenly have to replace one of the tour guides, you don’t have to worry about any official standard of appearance here. And the only way you or me would end up as tour guides is if literally everyone else in this building disappeared first.”

That managed to get a laugh out of Eddie.

“But no. You at least scored some extra brownie points with Waters coming in like that, but Roberts, one of the archivists, literally wears flip flops, cameo pants, and kitty sweaters every day without fail. Seriously, business casual, a graphic tea, suits, sweaters, whatever you want to wear short of a speedo or going nude, do it.”

Eddie laughed. “Thanks for the advice.”

“No problem. Now, before we really get into all the magic that happens behind the displays, let me show you the usual employee entrance. It’s fine to come in through the front, but this way will be faster on a typical day.”

David took him around, introducing Eddie to people as he went and first just showing him some of the main rooms and spaces. He then guided him into the office that would be his. It was underground and was a stark contrast from the high-rise office he’d had with a wall of windows. Yet somehow, it felt far homier and more welcoming. David sat him down, gave him log in information, showed him some of the basics. By that point, Jordon was available. She came and replaced David and was able to show Eddie everything else.

“I realize that’s a lot,” she said by the end of it. “But…”

“It makes sense so far,” Eddie smiled. “And I’ll ask for help if I need it.”

“That’s exactly what I like to hear. Now I set up a few small tasks for today,” she set down several files on his desk. “It would be great if you can get them done, but again no pressure. I realize this is your first day. And come to me when you’re ready to go. These first two weeks you’re on hourly pay, just to see how things work out. Though between you and me, I think you’ll stick around for a while. After that you’ll go to salary and in the next couple of days I’ll probably get you the necessary documents to sign for health insurance purposes, bonus policies, all that riveting legal work. But again, just call if you need anything. There’s a list of numbers for all the internal phones and David is also right down the hall if you have any immediate questions. And I also realize that was a lot. Still all good?”

“All good,” assured Eddie, though he appreciated her want to make sure he was comfortable. “It feels good to already have a reason to keep busy.”

“Great. And ideally, you won’t have to be here every day for work. Some of it, once you get all your accounts and everything set up, can be done from home. We just ask that at least four of your five workdays you come in. And for you, you’ll only need to come in on the weekend if there’s an emergency. I’ll try to come check in before you’re ready to go. Have a good day.”

“Good luck up there,” Eddie said, noting her slightly frazzled tone.

“Thanks, I need it,” she said with a kind smile before darting out of the office.

Eddie quickly went looking through everything again and also went back over everything David and Jordan had shown him just to make sure he had everything remembered. To be fair, most of the processes were ones Eddie was familiar with. The only real difference was the names of any items, people, or labels.

Going through everything, Eddie honestly found himself enjoying it. The work itself had never bored him, but the setting was already more welcoming and he hadn’t met a person yet that he disliked.

Eventually, Jordan came back.

“I honestly expected you to have asked to leave before now. You have a special hobby in history and the past or something?”

“Not really,” Eddie said after he finished typing in one last thing. “Why do you ask?”

“Just curious if that’s why you wanted to work here. Not every job here obviously requires a degree in history, but most have some type of passion for it.”

“Sorry to disappoint but no,” smiled Eddie. “I’ve just missed working regularly, and you were some of the first people that finally gave me an offer. Still, I’m enjoying it so far.”

“Well I’m glad. And I know you’re new, but we do an annual Halloween event for the public. I know I just said you won’t usually have to work weekends, but extra hands from all the departments is great at that time. And we’ll obviously give you a day off during the week to make up for it. And most don’t mind working on the day as we have a private, work Halloween party immediately after we shut everything down to the public. Anyone you haven’t met in the next week of so you can meet there, and you are more than welcomed to bring a guest. Most do. Now, let me go ahead and show you how to mark your time before you get put on salary.”

Eddie quickly logged out of everything, grabbed his coat and followed her out. After signing off his time, he also got his identification badge and left. Since he was parked closer to the public entrance, he went through the lobby again, taking a moment to just stare at the large structures they had there before finally going out the main doors. He headed down the steps quickly and started to take his phone out to tell Richie how it had gone.

However, he quickly saw he didn’t need to do that.

“Richie?!”

He was leaning against Eddie’s car. He grinned and gave a quick wave.

“How the hell did you get here?” asked Eddie as he walked over and gave him a quick hug.

“Just took public transportation. Wanted to surprise you on your first day and take you out to eat, but it didn’t make sense to drive my own car here since you did. You know? So, how was it?”

“It was good. Really good.”

“So, going to come back for day two?”

“Definitely.”

“And did you happen to see a magical golden tablet while you were in there or a really hot mummy?”

“I still have no idea what you’re talking about,” laughed Eddie.

“Fair warning, if you happen to have three old janitors, one who looks suspiciously like Dick van Dyke, they’re going to try and steal it.”

“This is all going right over my head.”

“Don’t worry, you’ll get it after the movie tonight,” grinned Richie as he got in the passenger’s side and Eddie followed.

They drove out of the parking lot and Eddie managed to end a great workday with a wonderful dinner and a perfect movie night.

Chapter Text

If there was one word Eddie would use to describe living with Richie, it would be domestic.

It had felt good before, but now that Eddie was truly settled, he felt like he was really living again. He did miss getting to just stay and watch Richie practice and write up jokes all day, but it was nice to have even more people in his life and to have a work environment he truly enjoyed going to everyday.

He’d even agreed to going to his work’s private Halloween party after they egged him on for a bit, and of course Eddie had asked Richie to be his guest. Richie had agreed right away. Besides the work affair though, Richie also had a private party at one of the clubs that he usually went to that would be even later that night. Somehow, he managed to convince Eddie to go with him too. Then on top of all that, CC also got confirmation she would be preforming for a special Halloween show the night before, meaning that entire weekend was going to be a busy but fun one.

Then, as if to make everything better, a few days before that weekend, Eddie got some mail.

Richie had since gotten him a copy of the mailbox key. Since Eddie was the one who usually got home later, he always went ahead and grabbed anything if Richie hadn’t.

That day, he shoved everything under his arm. He headed upstairs into the apartment, flipped through the mail, and then—

Excitement and trepidation shot through Eddie as he yelled out, “Richie!”

“Woah! Yeah? What? What is it?”

Richie scrambled from behind the kitchen counter and rushed over. Eddie had already thrown the other mail to the side. He opened up the one, eyes quickly scanning over it.

“What? What is—oof!”

The paper got crumbled up in Eddie’s hands as he hugged Richie as hard as he could. The final piece was in place. Or more accurately, had been removed. “I’m divorced!”

“Holy shit. That’s so fucking great,” Richie said as he finally hugged Eddie back. “We need to celebrate tonight.”

“Tonight? Well I do have tomorrow off since I’m working this weekend for Halloween.”

“See? Come on. Your first night of being a damn bachelor in years. We can’t stay cooped up in here.”

“I wouldn’t call myself a bachelor,” chuckled Eddie. “Certainly not if I’m living with you. But…”

“Come on. When was the last time you drank without a care in the world?”

“Probably never.”

“Exactly! Think of it as celebrating and getting to recreate the classic college night out you never had.”

“If the night ends with me puking into a toilet…”

“I’ll hold your hair back.”

Eddie snorted. “We’re not getting that bad. But…”

“Yes?”

“Ok! Yes, we can celebrate,” laughed Eddie. “But I am determined to only get slightly tipsy.”

“Deal. And we can go to that bar near us so we can walk there and back without worrying about grabbing a cab.”

“Ok, ok,” laughed Eddie. “Let me take a shower first and then we can go.”

“Yes,” grinned Richie. “And hey, I know you like paying for your own things, but I am paying for everything tonight. Food, drink. You decide you want a pony, I’ll fucking get it for you.”

“Ah yes, because that would fit so well in this already small apartment. But ok. I’ll let you spoil me this once as long as you know this is a onetime thing.”

“Ha, that’s what you think. Just wait until your birthday comes around.”

“You wait until your birthday comes around,” Eddie warned. “Then we’ll see who can spoil who more.”

“You’re on.”

Eddie laughed as he quickly went into the shower and then got changed into more casual clothes. With it already feeling like winter, he pulled a sweater over his shirt and then sat on the bed to tie his shoes. As he came out, he noted how Richie was waving his hands around and mumbling under his breath as he stared at a wall.

“Practicing a new set?” asked Eddie.

Richie jumped a little. “Yeah, um…something like that.”

“Will I get to hear it?”

“Probably not. I don’t think I’ll ever perform it,” sighed Richie. He almost looked disappointed, like there was something more to what he was saying. However, he quickly cheered up again and said, “Come on, let’s go make some memories.”

They headed out the door and were finally out on the street. The bar that was just a couple of blocks down had been an occasional place to hang out when they felt like leaving their apartment but didn’t want to go too far. They’d obviously gone more often once Eddie had healed up. However, even before then, they’d gone a couple of times, the place having some of the best fries in town. As they sat down, Richie said, “So, how was your day?”

“Got to go into the maze that is the archives searching for Liz so she could sign off on something. They’re trying to digitize a lot but they obviously still have all the physical copies and their computer system isn’t completely up to speed. Not that I mind. It’s nice knowing my day isn’t just me sitting behind my desk.”

“And what about-what’s his name-David? He finally catch on that you’re not a bro and stopped punching you in the shoulder every time you have a chat?”

“It’s changed to a slap on the back. I honestly don’t know which one is better,” laughed Eddie. “I don’t mind though. He’s nice. Talks a lot about his kids. Also just talks a lot in general. Might be as talkative as you are sometimes.”

“I better step up my game then.”

“There really is no need for that. Though I do enjoy listening to you more so I guess if you really want to try and out talk David, that’s ok with me.”

“I guess I better get to talking then.”

Eddie snorted. “And your day?”

They continued to talk, and to be fair, it wasn’t much different from any other time they’d gone out. The only big difference was that there was definitely more drinking involved and Richie was determined to pay for every last cent despite the fact that they usually went back and forth on paying for things and Richie had paid last time.

The night continued on and though Eddie had said he would only get tipsy, knowing he wasn’t going to work tomorrow and just the excitement of finally being divorced kind of caught up with him. They stayed for hours and no amount of fries and glasses of water were completely going to displace the alcohol in his system when they finally stumbled home with Eddie leaning on Richie the entire way.

“I think it was that last shot. That last shot did me in,” mumbled Eddie before he erupted into giggling into Richie’s shoulder.

“Shot? How about those three fancy cocktails? Anymore and you’d be on your ass right now,” laughed Richie. He was equally drunk. However, he just had a bit more control over his hand-eye coordination. Though when they reached the door to the building, it was clear that coordination only went so far. He missed the lock three times before getting his key in which had Eddie in stitches.

They used each other completely for support in order to get up the stairs.

“I think I drank more than all my days in…what’s that place?” mumbled Eddie.

“What place?”

“The school place.”

“School?”

“No, the school place. Adult school place.”

“You mean college?”

“No, not that. The adult school thing.”

“University.”

“No. I think the word I’m looking for is…college.”

Richie laughed hard at that and again had trouble getting his key into their individual apartment door. Eddie was leaning up against it when Richie finally pushed the key in and turned it. With a slight sound of surprise, Eddie went down hard, though he of course grabbed Richie at the last second and they both hit the floor with a loud thud.

“You did that on purpose,” Richie slurred as he rubbed his head.

“Did not. You opened the door.”

“Doors are meant to be opened.”

“Or are they meant to be closed?”

“Hmm, that’s a good point. What is…the purpose of a door?” mumbled Richie who let his arms fall to his side and partially drape over Eddie.

“Who invented doors?”

“Guy named Doormen?”

“No, that would be like…the guy who first waited at a door,” Eddie responded. He pushed himself back so his feet were out of the way. He waited for Richie to get up and grab the keys from the lock. When Richie had them and then fell back onto the floor, Eddie kicked the door shut. His head hit the floor again and he looked back at the inside of the apartment. “I am not making it to the bed.”

“Why not the pullout?”

“I can probably make it to that.”

Eddie sat up way too quickly. He leaned on his hand to steady himself which happened to be pressing against Richie’s face. Richie knocked him off. Eddie fell back on his elbow before pushing himself up again and finally managing to pull off his shoes.

“I’m gonna pass out,” Eddie mumbled. He got back to his feet and managed to somewhat gracefully get on the pull-out. He shoved the pillows together and fell back against them.

Richie got up, tripped, and landed across Eddie’s stomach.

“Smooooth landing,” Eddie said with another laugh.

“You can’t pass out yet.”

“Hmm?”

“Got something to tell you.” Richie rolled over so they could actually look at each other.

“Is this a funny voice thing? Don’t do a funny voice. You can’t do a funny voice drunk.”

“Sure I can.”

They both stared at each other for a hot second before Eddie finally said, “Oh, that was one of your funny voices?”

“Yep.”

“Richie, that was just your voice.”

“No it wasn’t.”

“Was too.”

“Nope. Now stop distracting me. Gotta tell you something.”

“Should have said it when we were sober. Not gonna get out shit now,” snorted Eddie.

“Probably. But…liquid courage and all…all…you keep playing with my hair and I’m gonna keep losing my train of thought,” mumbled Richie.

He pulled himself up and slumped against Eddie’s shoulder. Eddie just shifted positions and kept running his fingers through Richie’s hair. Richie had already forgotten what he was going to say next as he let out a contented sigh.

“Have I ever said I liked your hair?”

Richie shook his head.

“I really like your hair. Always liked your hair. Wasn’t sure if it was alright to do this though.”

“It is completely alright. You can do this forever,” sighed Richie. He didn’t really think about how he threw an arm over Eddie. He just did it and pulled him closer. A moment passed and as Eddie was still running his fingernails gently along his scalp, Richie mumbled, “I feel like you’re searching for fleas.”

“You’ve got a clean bill of health.”

Richie snorted.

“I really like your hair. And your eyes. You’ve got pretty eyes too,” sighed Eddie as he leaned his head back.

“That’s gay Eddie.”

“Is it? Always thought you had pretty eyes.”

“That’s always been pretty gay then,” Richie replied as he looked up at him.

At the same time, Eddie took Richie’s glasses off him and put them on his own face. “How do I look?”

“Don’t know. Can’t see.”

They both burst into laughter again. Richie’s arm sunk lower, practically holding Eddie’s waist as Eddie moved one leg in between Richie’s.

“I really like your eyes though. Really, really fucking blue,” sighed Eddie as Richie’s glasses fell, resting on the tip of his nose.

“Blue how?”

“Really blue. Blue like…like that liquid thing.”

“The ocean?”

“Minty mouthwash.”

Richie laughed again as Eddie tried to smooth out the slight laughter lines around Richie’s eyes.

“So pretty…”

“Ow! Well you poked my pretty eye with your finger.”

Eddie’s hand-eye coordination was still severely off. “I’m sorry,” he laughed as Richie covered up his eye with one hand. “If I kissed it better, would that help?”

“You can always try and find out.” Richie rubbed at his face, trying to get back on track with that original train of thought. “I still need to tell you something though.”

“Yeah?”

“Really, really important. Just…never mind. Probably better if I shut up now anyways…”

Richie trailed off as Eddie pulled his hands down. Eddie carefully held Richie’s face and smoothed out any slight wrinkles. He gently touched Richie’s eyelids so he would close his eyes.

“Whatcha doing?” mumbled Richie, his eyes now closed.

“Still need to kiss it better. Right?”

“Well, I mean…”

Richie trailed off again. Eddie went in and completely missed the mark, kissing Richie lightly on the temple.

Then Eddie kissed him just a little lower, near his cheekbone.

Richie’s eyes fluttered open. “This…is real. Right?”

“Yeah. You know. Kissing it better,” murmured Eddie. He pulled back slightly. They were almost nose to nose. “You feel better?”

“Still kind of hurts.”

“How about this?” Eddie kissed the corner of Richie’s mouth first. The second time he managed to hit his target.

Eddie gently pushed against Richie’s lips. One of his hands stayed cupping Richie’s face, slowly dragging his thumbnail along his chin as Richie shivered against him. Their mouths opened slightly, and then Richie gently put a hand between them and pushed Eddie back.

“Do you know what you’re doing?” murmured Richie as he struggled to pull every logical process to the forefront rather than the fog that it so desperately wanted to fall back under.

“Hmm, don’t know,” sighed Eddie. “But I’m happy now.” He pushed against Richie’s hand and gently kissed him again. Then Eddie fully relaxed against him.

Richie relaxed too. He was too tired and too drunk to try and further the conversation and his mind still wasn’t completely sure if what had happened had been real or his mind playing tricks on him.

Eddie just hummed softly, nuzzling against Richie as they both slipped into sleep.

Chapter Text

“Wow, you look like you had a long night. I’m assuming you want water as a starter today.”

CC already had a glass and set it down in front of Eddie.

“So, where’s Richie?”

“Still asleep,” murmured Eddie. He downed the glass of water in one go and then looked up. CC cocked her eyebrow. He opened his mouth. Then closed it. He tried to dredge up the blurred memories and then… “I think I kissed him.”

“Seriously! What the hell are you doing here then?” asked CC as she sat down in front of him.

“I just…I don’t know. Trying to think things through.” Eddie rubbed at his face, trying to drag some life back into himself. He hadn’t planned to come here. His legs had just kind of moved on pure muscle memory. He’d tried to remember finer details, but they hadn’t been coming through. He’d kissed Richie. He was almost positive of that, but everything else had him utterly confused. He’d planned to just stop in to take a break from walking, but CC had spotted him right away.

Eddie’s mind came back to the present as CC asked, “What needs to be thought through?”

“I mean, he’s my best friend and I kissed him.”

“Yeah. You also live together.”

“So?”

“Ok,” sighed CC. “I can tell this is going to be a long conversation, but I am willing to strap in for you. Now, obviously you love Richie. Right?”

“Well yeah. I love all my friends.”

“Ok. But if you had to choose one to live with, to literally start a life over with, that would be Richie. Right?”

“That’s literally what I’ve done with him. So…yes?”

“And you enjoy being around him. You have rituals. I’m guessing just seeing him smile lights you up. Makes your day better,” suggested CC.

“Well yes.”

“You enjoy walking side by side too. Yeah? You certainly never fight him when he has an arm thrown over your shoulder.”

“I do like being close to him. But that still doesn’t answer why I would kiss him. I mean, I enjoy the company of all my friends.” Eddie was glad he’d come here, even if he hadn’t meant to. Talking to CC at least felt better than being locked up in his head, but he still felt just as confused.

“Yeah, but it does feel different with Richie. Right?”

Eddie was silent for a moment.

“Like, ok. What are some things you notice about Richie that you don’t really take note of in your friends? How about that?”

After a moment, Eddie murmured, “His eyes. I think…I think I talked about his eyes a lot last night. I’ve never told him how much I like them. Actually, kind of always tried to shut those thoughts down before they even occurred. But if I’m admitting it now…I always have.”

CC flashed a comforting smile. “Just knowing he’s looking your way makes you feel good?”

“Well sure. He makes me feel safe. Even a stupid comment or joke from him can cheer me up. And his hair… The curve of his lips… The few times he’s grabbed my hand… Or I’ve grabbed his…”

“And you haven’t hyper focused on any of these details with any of your other friends.”

“Not really. Certainly not to the same degree.”

Now CC resisted the urge to groan. “And you’re still trying to figure out why you kissed him?”

“Well he’s my best friend.”

“Eddie, it’s ok to love your best friend.”

“I already love him—”

“No, I mean be in love with your best friend.”

Eddie stopped again. He leaned his chin on his hand. He opened his mouth a couple of times but just couldn’t find the right words. He finally just repeated himself. “He’s my best friend.”

“Yeah, relationships can be built on that,” CC tried.

“Well I know that. Bev and Ben are great together.”

CC shook her head. “Let me rephrase that. I mean a relationship should be built on friendship. Or if it starts physical, it needs to turn into friendship to work.”

They stared at each other for a long time.

CC rubbed her own face now. “Are you seriously not getting it?”

“No, I do. But it’s…not all relationships are like that. Certainly none of mine were.”

CC’s eyes went wide. “Eddie.”

“Yes?”

“I’m going to tell you something and I want you to take it to heart. Falling in love with your best friend is not the exception. At least it shouldn’t be. Ideally, it’s the rule. Any relationship that has even a chance at lasting a long time, at being healthy and safe and good, needs that kind of basis. Your partner should be one of your best friends if not your actual best friend.”

“I…suppose that makes sense. Would certainly add to the mountain of reasons why nothing ever worked for me.”

“Well Richie is your best friend. And you’ve already got the attraction thing down. So the next logical step is…”

“Wait. I do?”

“Jesus Eddie! You just told me how much you like every god damn feature on that man’s face.”

“That’s…attraction?”

“Hold on a second. You can’t recognize when you’re attracted to someone?”

“Not really.”

“So you’re telling me you have never felt attracted to anyone you were ever with?”

“…no?”

“Not even at the start when you married your wife?”

Eddie shook his head.

“So why did you marry her?”

“I just…I thought it was love at the time. I thought…I thought she was the only kind of person who could love me like that. I felt like I was just obligated to go through with it.”

“She is definitely not the only one who could have ever loved you like that,” CC said. “And I’m pretty sure she never really loved you like that anyways no matter what she said. A person that does love you like that will remember how you like your coffee. They look forward to waking up with you and just having the chance to see you. They ask you how your day was, and even if they aren’t personally interested in your hobbies or job, they can still find joy just from hearing the excitement in your own voice.

“They’re willing to compromise and so are you because you both want to see the other happy and you both manage to enjoy things you wouldn’t normally enjoy simply because the other person is having a good time. And attraction isn’t always a part of that kind of love, but considering how you went on about Richie, it’s clearly a part of the love you feel for him.”

Eddie looked down at the table.

“You kissing Richie is not some drunken fluke. You kissing Richie is built up on the fact that I think you’ve always known you’ve loved him. You just didn’t know how to express it or feel like you had the freedom to experiment with that kind of expression until you got out of that messed up relationship and alcohol loosened your defenses a bit.”

Eddie finally looked back up, brow slightly furrowed. “I’m…in love with Richie? But if that’s the case…what if…what if he doesn’t…if he doesn’t feel—”

“Ok. I’m gonna stop you right there because I dealt with enough of this kind of angst from Richie and I can’t go for round two. Literally everything I just said, helping you deconstruct how you feel and think of Richie? That is exactly how he thinks of you.”

Eddie rubbed at his eyes. When he’d woken up, he hadn’t…he hadn’t known what to think or do. He’d slipped out of Richie’s arms and set Richie’s glasses to the side, however those had gotten on his face. He’d just walked out of the apartment because he didn’t know…didn’t know…

Was this what being in love was? Was that why he’d never noticed any of this before because he’d never had anything to compare it to? Eddie certainly had never had that first date that was supposed to make you go all soft inside. He’d never had that feeling that dating was anything more than him fulfilling a societal requirement; it had never been truly fun. He’d never connected with anyone, despite how he felt he had to go forward with it anyways.

Yet he connected with Richie. He connected with the losers but Richie in particular… And he supposed if he compared their outings together, some of them could be almost compared to dates especially from an outside perspective. They’d certainly brought more enjoyment out of Eddie than any actual date he’d ever been on in his life. Which meant…

But with Richie…

He was…

Was he…

Had he always been…

“Uh, you have your phone on you?” asked CC. She had hers pulled out and seemed to be in the middle of texting someone.

Eddie quickly patted his pockets, but he’d been in such a fog that he hadn’t even grabbed his wallet that morning. He was lucky that he’d remembered the keys and hadn’t walked out the door without them. “No. Why do you ask?”

“Because it must be on silent. Richie’s called you like twenty times and—”

Eddie stood up so fast he slammed his knees into the table. He swore at the sharp pain but didn’t let it slow him down. He didn’t say any more as he rushed out of the restaurant, the door slamming open as he made it to the sidewalk.

“Dumbasses. The both of them,” groaned CC. She quickly finished texting Richie.

He is literally running back now.

And Eddie was. All he could think of was Richie waking up alone. Of him calling again and again and just hearing it go straight to voicemail. Of him thinking…that what? Eddie had just fucking left? That he was upset at him? Something worse?

Eddie hadn’t thought Richie would wake up this early. He hadn’t thought about how all this would look, just too lost in his own head since the moment he’d gotten up. He hadn’t thought. Now though, all he could think of was Richie and how desperately he needed to get to him. He refused to let Richie worry or blame himself a second longer.

Eddie scrambled around corners, barely managing to keep from crashing into other pedestrians. He even ran across the street at random sections with only quick glances beforehand to avoid getting hit by a car. He broke a number of pedestrian laws that he never would have normally broken just to get their quicker. Then he arrived at the apartment. His hands shook as he opened the building’s door. Then he was running up the stairs, two at a time. It turned out he hadn’t locked their door on the way out, so Eddie just ran straight in.

Richie had been leaning against the counter, his arms wrapped around his head when Eddie barged in. He jumped at the sudden noise but didn’t get a chance to react as Eddie barreled into him. Richie just barely succeeded in bracing himself against the counter so they both didn’t crash to the ground.

Eddie hugged him so damn hard before pulling back and just going, “I’m sorry. I’m so fucking sorry. I didn’t mean to leave you alone. I’m sorry. I’m—”

“What? No. No y-you don’t have to apologize for anything,” whispered Richie. He looked shocked that Eddie was back at all, even though he must have read CC’s responding text.

“I know. I just…” Eddie trailed off. He held onto Richie as he really looked at him. He couldn’t believe he’d made Richie worry like that and he quickly said, “I promise I won’t ever be the reason to make you cry again.”

“Wasn’t crying.” Richie wiped at his face. “Just-ok. Maybe a little. You just…you weren’t answering, and I didn’t know if it was something I did—”

“Something you did? I kissed you. At least I think I did. Right?”

“I mean…yeah. But I just…”

Richie quieted as Eddie took his face in his hands again. Eddie thought about what CC had said. He tried to dredge up exactly what he’d felt last night, but his memories were still blurry. Still, even while drunk, he’d kissed Richie for a reason. Maybe…maybe if he could understand that feeling while sober…maybe he could better understand it all.

Eddie asked, “What did I do?”

“You didn’t do anything.”

“I don’t mean like accuse me of something,” Eddie gently said. He hated that Richie was so ready to put the blame on himself, that he almost expected Eddie to blame him. “What did I do leading up to it?”

“W-we were pretty drunk. We collapsed on the pull-out and…and at one point you put my glasses on your face.”

Very gently, Eddie took his glasses from him and put them on. “Like so?”

Richie nodded. He whispered, “Now you really look like you work at a museum.”

That at least got both their lips to quirk upwards. However, Richie’s face immediately grew somber and he looked away. Eddie asked, “Why did I do that?”

“I don’t know. Maybe to better see my eyes,” murmured Richie.

“Is that’s what’s next?”

“Yes. You got really fixated on them. Wouldn’t stop talking about how blue they were.”

“Like…like…” Eddie tried to dredge up the memories. “Did I say your eyes looked like mouthwash?”

“Minty mouthwash specifically.”

Eddie really looked at Richie’s eyes as they flickered between Eddie’s face and the floor. “Well, they’re about as bright as that color. The blue ones.”

Richie snorted. It wasn’t the usual pleasant sound though.

“And then?”

“You poked me in the eye.”

“Classy. I won’t repeat that part.”

“Thank you,” murmured Richie.

“And after that?”

“You wanted to kiss it better. Which you tried. Missed terribly. Think you kissed my temple instead. Then just…kind of kept trailing downwards. And…yeah.”

Eddie looked over Richie’s face for a moment. Then he gently moved his thumbs over Richie’s brow and eyelids, making him close his eyes. Now that Richie had walked him through everything, he was relatively sure he’d done that last night too. However, before he did anything else, he noticed something new. “You’re…you’re trembling like I’ve got your fucking heart in my hands.”

Richie didn’t open his eyes. He just whispered, “Kind of do. So…”

Eddie couldn’t help but feel a little shocked. He’d never made anyone feel like this. He’d certainly never evoked such a physical, emotional response. But more surprising still, Richie’s response wasn’t new. This particular situation of course was, but Eddie being able to dredge up some kind of reaction from him? Something far more volatile and raw than had ever even come from his other friends? If Eddie really looked back, it had been there before. Eddie just…it wasn’t so much he hadn’t seen it. He just hadn’t…he hadn’t understood…

According to CC, Richie was in love with him. He’d been in love with him since…since…Eddie didn’t know. But comparing Richie to those Eddie had thought had loved him, he could at least tell this was different. What Richie was feeling was far more pure and kind than anything else directed Eddie’s way.

And Eddie felt…he felt…

He went in and this time didn’t miss. His lips brushed Richie’s eyelids. Then he pressed his lips to Richie’s brow and down his nose. He ended on just barely kissing the tip of Richie’s nose, repeating the actions of last night only with a great deal more accuracy.

Eddie’s heartbeat quickened to a seemingly ridiculous pace. He paused, looking at how Richie’s entire body seemed to be trembling as he kept his eyes tightly shut. Eddie was causing that reaction. And in himself…

He’d thought a quick flush or beat of his heart might be sign of a fever, an increase in blood pressure. He’d always assumed some medical condition might be at play, that he needed to keep an eye on it to make sure nothing more detrimental happened. But now he realized that if he looked back in the past weeks, all those reactions hadn’t led to anything serious. They hadn’t accumulated into a major health problem or been a sign that his wounds weren’t healing right.

Eddie had gone to a doctor’s appointment in New York after all. He knew he was healthy. That he’d been healthy. Which meant…

If he really looked…

Every time he’d felt that flush…

That feeling…

His body wasn’t responding to some virus or unknown bacteria in his bloodstream.

It had been…

He’d always been responding to Richie.

Was this what love was really supposed to feel like? Was this what the books and movies had alluded to? Eddie had always thought it some poetic, over exaggeration. But in reality, had he just never known how love was supposed to feel?

In an instant, everything seemed to click into place. Eddie let go of Richie and put his glasses back on his own face.

Richie opened his eyes, uncertainty clear in them.

Eddie cupped Richie’s cheek again. His other hand held the back of Richie’s neck. His eyes moved over his nose, his lips, the curves, the softly appearing wrinkles, creases to Richie’s forehead, his hair. Then Eddie looked at Richie’s eyes and his heart quickened again. If this was all because of love and simply looking at Richie really did that too him…

Finally, Eddie let his own eyes slip shut as he kissed Richie’s lips. His grip on Richie tightened along with that feeling in his chest. The kiss only happened a moment, but even still Eddie felt breathless as he just barely pulled back and looked at Richie.

“You’re in love with me.”

“What gave it away?” asked Richie, his voice going for humor but sounding just a little too exhausted to fully get there. He looked hopeful, so damn hopeful but still uncertain. Still so sad. Eddie already knew he would give anything to make Richie smile again so he said the first thing that came to mind.

“And I’m…I’m in love with you.” The words fell out of Eddie’s mouth in a way that they’d never done before. Here they felt weighted. It felt like those words mattered for the first time since Eddie had ever said them.

“Yeah?” Richie whispered.

They stared at each other for a second, and then Eddie found himself carefully wiping at Richie’s cheeks with the back of his fingers. “Real love isn’t…supposed to make you cry. Right?”

“Just…you know…really hoping…this isn’t some drunken dream…”

“Does this feel like a dream?” And then Eddie kissed him again. It was gentle, careful. He pulled back just as slowly when Richie didn’t seem to respond though. He just wanted Richie to smile again. He so desperately wanted that. So he tried for humor. He said, “This is new territory for me…but kissing is still meant to be a two-person participation thing. Right?”

“Well, assuming it’s not between you and a leaf blower.” It was a joke, but one that didn’t come out completely right as it got caught in Richie’s throat. The smile he was trying for still didn’t reach his eyes. Eddie hesitated—

Oh. Richie was waiting. He was waiting for Eddie to suddenly pull back, to say something and cause the moment to break. He couldn’t bring himself to respond because he didn’t think Eddie wanted him to respond, or perhaps even worse that by finally acting, that would be the one thing to finally drive Eddie away.

But Eddie didn’t want the moment to end. He wanted Richie to respond. Eddie knew what simply looking at Richie did to him, what being near him did. But this new feeling in his chest that he was finally becoming aware of, just how far did it go? How did it change when it was Richie kissing him rather than the other way around?

He wanted to know.

He realized he’d never wanted to know something as bad as he did now.

“Kiss me.”

Richie blinked in surprise. “You mean that?”

Eddie nodded. Richie’s arms came up around him. He cupped both Eddie’s cheeks, but still hesitated. He was being so damn careful, more careful than Eddie had ever seen him. It was appreciated. It was, but—

Now Eddie just desperately wanted to know. He needed to know how real this was. His own grip on Richie’s neck and cheek tightened. “Oh, just fucking kiss me Richi—”

He didn’t get to finish the sentence as Richie pushed forward like every urge, every reaction he’d felt in the past weeks, maybe in the past twenty-seven years, was coming out now in one go. It was so much that it made Eddie gasp, the kiss automatically deepening. Eddie felt tongue in his mouth, and he thought his heart might just stop.

Well if he had to choose a way to go…

Eddie’s fingers tangled up in Richie’s hair. Since the moment he’d woken up, he’d felt drawn to the others, to his friends. But Richie had made him feel safe in a way the others hadn’t. He’d always been at his side, as kids and now as adults. Even before, despite knowing how unconventional it was, Eddie had wanted to live with him forever. He’d wanted to be near him forever. He could always trust Richie, always count on him like no other. He’d never wanted to leave Richie’s side. And now with Richie as close as possible, with his tongue down his fucking throat?

Eddie realized it somehow still wasn’t close enough. His arms wrapped around him, trying to pull him in, closer and closer. That proximity was then helped when his back hit the fridge. He hadn’t even realized they were moving that way but with something at his back, it allowed him to just keep pulling Richie further into him—

It was Richie who actually pulled back first. “You know, I still got to fucking breath. Right?”

Eddie hadn’t even realized how much he needed air until he felt his chest heaving against Richie’s. He wiped at the tears on Richie’s face. He didn’t look heartbroken, but the uncertainty was still there. He looked so god damn desperate to believe this was real and the tears were coming from that and just an overwhelming feeling of emotion. Eddie pulled him closer, their noses touching.

“You know what?” asked Eddie. A grin grew across his face. Tears were falling down his own cheeks, but they were the kind of tears that fell when you were just so god damn happy that you had to let it out or you might burst. Because he was. He’d finally found that feeling from the night before, of kissing Richie and being in his arms. He’d felt fucking happy. Happier than ever before and now he’d found that feeling again. Only this time sober and fully coherent and it all felt so fucking real— “Get a fucking oxygen tank then.”

And there it was, the smile Eddie had been searching for as it broke across Richie’s face. Richie let out a ridiculous, breathless laugh and then threw himself back into the kiss, pinning Eddie against the fridge as Eddie tried to take in as much of Richie as he could at once.

Chapter Text

After probably a ridiculous amount of time had passed, Eddie and Richie had finally decided maybe the best place wasn’t in the kitchen with Richie pinning him against the refrigerator.

Now they were on the pull-out. Shoes were off. Eddie’s jacket was somewhere on the floor. Richie was partially over and on Eddie, their legs tangled up as Richie continued to deeply kiss him. His left arm kept him propped up as his right hand held Eddie’s waist.

“I love you,” Eddie said in between those short moments they came up for air. He’d been saying that over and over again.

This time, Richie said, “You sound so amazed every time you say it.”

“Because I am. I’m fucking amazed it took me this long.” Eddie brushed some of Richie’s hair back behind his ear and then went in for another kiss. That was mostly what they’d been doing. Eddie was pretty sure he could do nothing but kiss Richie for a full day. Now that everything seemed to have clicked into place, he couldn’t believe how blind he’d been. Of course, he’d never had anything of equal value to compare his relationship with Richie to, so it did make sense why he hadn’t figured it out on his own. Still, he wished he’d figured it out sooner.

As they continued to kiss, it was clear they were going to need to part for air again soon. However, they pulled apart not to avoid suffocating each other to death, but instead because a knock sounded on the door.

The sudden noise caused Richie to unexpectedly bite Eddie’s lower lip. Eddie could feel himself immediately going red as a noise he had never made before escaped his mouth. Forget tongue, that was going to cause his fucking heart to stop beating.

Richie had already pulled back and started to say, “Sorry-hang on.”

“Nope. Nope, don’t you dare fucking look at me.” Eddie grabbed the nearest pillow to cover up his face.

Richie almost said something else, but the knock happened again. With a teasing smirk, he pulled the pillow down and said, “You’re safe for now, but we are exploring that later.”

Eddie could feel himself growing even hotter in the face. He snatched the pillow back to cover it up, even as Richie finally got off him. As Richie went for the door, Eddie sat up and pulled his legs in. He kept hugging the pillow, not quite covering his face but feeling really tempted to do so still.

Richie opened the door and was only marginally surprised to see it was CC. “How’d you get in?”

“Your neighbor saw me downstairs and let me into the building.” She quickly threw her whole body into the apartment, saw Eddie, and then immediately relaxed. “Thank Christ. I swear, you children…”

“Children?” asked Richie. “You hit your head and forget how old I am?”

“No, but clearly you forgot that you were frantically texting me and clearly in a panic and you,” she pointed to Eddie, “ran out of the store in such a state I thought you might get hit by a car. Since neither of you responded, I finally just came here after my shift to make sure you were alright.”

“CC, I’m sorry. I should have checked my phone,” Eddie said with a shake of his head.

“It’s ok as long as this isn’t some god damn habit. I’m just happy you’re both ok. And hey, my momentary panic is totally worth it for whatever you two were just doing right now.” She grinned wide and winked at Eddie, “I’m right, aren’t I? I’m totally right.”

Eddie blushed and his face showed an embarrassed smile. “Please stop. Coming from you it makes me feel like a dirty old man.”

“He is a dirty old man,” Richie whispered with a grin. “You wouldn’t believe the stuff he’s into—”

Eddie threw the pillow at him. Richie just barely caught it before it hit him in the face.

CC grinned. “Well I’m just happy one of you finally made a damn move. Still a bit surprised it was you Eddie, but hey, at least it finally happened.”

“Thank you for talking to me. I don’t think I would have understood everything on my own,” Eddie murmured. He meant that. Without CC’s perspective, he might have just forced everything back down and pretended the kiss hadn’t happened, not realizing that would have been the opposite of what Richie would have hoped for. Or the opposite of what Eddie truly needed too.

“Oh, I don’t know,” said Richie. He shot a teasing smile Eddie’s way which brought him out of his head. “It kind of makes sense he’d make the first move now. He is one horny motherfucker—”

“Richie. I will throw the lamp at your head,” Eddie said from behind his hands.

As Richie laughed, CC kept grinning from ear to ear. “Fucking finally,” she muttered. “Well, now that I know Eddie didn’t get hit by a fucking car and you’re ok, I’ll leave you be. Are you still both coming tomorrow night for my set?”

“Wouldn’t miss it,” Richie replied.

“Of course,” Eddie quickly said.

“Cool. I’ll see you two tomorrow then. Bye!”

With that, she quickly disappeared down the hallway. Richie closed the door and then turned around to see Eddie peaking at him between his fingers. “I hate you so much right now.”

“No, you don’t,” grinned Richie. He said it jokingly, but there was also such a massive feeling of relief behind those words too. He threw the pillow back to Eddie. Eddie caught it and then primed it, ready to hit Richie again.

“I think you deserve this.”

“Do I now?” Richie paused at the edge of the pull-out. Then his smile widened. He struck before Eddie could do anything.

Richie grabbed Eddie’s ankles and yanked, making Eddie come closer and fall back down into a lying position. A noise escaped Eddie’s throat and Richie climbed on top, pinning him against the mattress. Then Richie’s thumb gently ran over Eddie’s bottom lip. Eddie shivered at just how tender the area now was.

“That is definitely going to bruise.”

Eddie hit him on his chest.

“Ah, come on. I think you liked it. Dirty old man.”

“Excuse me? You’re the one who just manhandled me into this position you perv.”

“Perv? You’re the one who liked getting his lip sucked on like that.”

“Did not.”

“Oh really?” Richie went in before Eddie could argue more. The kiss threw Eddie off. He instinctively opened his mouth and then Richie pulled at his bottom lip. This time it was planned. As he lightly sucked and then dragged with his teeth, Eddie let out a long moan that came to a crescendo when Richie suddenly let go. “Oh yeah, that’s definitely going to bruise now.”

Eddie felt himself going beat red again. “Ok, listen…”

“You always get so flustered when you get a hickey?”

“I-I’ve never had a hickey. And I thought that was supposed to be on your neck.”

“Well clearly we’re going to have to change that,” smirked Richie. “And neck is typical. But they could be just about anywhere.”

Eddie blushed again and tried to cover his face. However, Richie pulled his hands down.

“Hey, the best part of this is getting to see you.”

“Yeah?”

“You’re fucking gorgeous.”

“I’m a forty something accountant Richie.”

“Still, fucking gorgeous to me.” Richie gently cupped Eddie’s cheek. He brushed away the tears that started to appear. “Hey, hey it’s ok.”

“I know. It’s just…I don’t know. I never had anyone say something like that to me before.”

“Well I said it and I meant it. You’re fucking beautiful.” Richie’s thumb gently traced the scar on Eddie’s cheek. “Every fucking part too.”

They pulled each other closer. This time it was a little less frenzied, their lips slowly moving together with Richie leading. They only parted to breath, fingers getting tangled up in hair or stroking the other’s cheek. And Eddie? He’d never felt like this. It was almost overwhelming. Probably was, at least a little, but he had Richie and he knew he couldn’t let him go now. He didn’t ever want to let him go.

Then Richie began to trail kisses down Eddie’s chin. He kissed Eddie’s neck, sucking at the skin as the noises Eddie was making were no longer muffled. Just those simple movements were making Eddie’s stomach do somersaults. And the way Richie was holding him? He thought of himself as average at best, but the way Richie was treating him, it was like he was the most beautiful thing Richie had ever touched.

Eddie could feel where all the blood was rushing though his mind wasn’t really focused on that. He just tried to keep Richie as close as possible, fingers tangled in his hair. Then Richie moved to a different spot closer to his collar bone. Eddie’s breath came in quick. He could feel Richie shifting slightly on top of him. One of his legs moved snuggly between Eddie’s and then he rolled his hips—

It was like an electric shock.

“Richie-Richie hold—”

Richie immediately pulled back. “Shit. I’m sorry. I didn’t—”

“No, it’s…it’s ok,” Eddie breathlessly said.

“You sure? I didn’t hurt you?”

“No, definitely didn’t do that. I just…I don’t think…” Eddie glanced away. His face red for a different reason, embarrassment rising in his chest.

“Hey, no shame in that,” Richie said, quickly catching on. “This is supposed to feel good. You get uncomfortable, just whack me in the head.”

Eddie snorted, his heart finally calming down a bit as he glanced back at Richie.

“We’re just kissing. Maybe a few more hickeys. Sound good?”

Eddie blushed but nodded. They went in for a quick kiss but before they could get into it, Eddie slightly pulled back again and said, “Not that I don’t want to. I-I don’t want you to think that. I just…it’s so much all at once and I wouldn’t know…”

“Hey, I am perfectly ok with not rushing things. We go at your pace,” Richie promised. “I can wait.”

“Yeah?”

“Anything for you. If you never want to go that far, so be it. I feel fucking blessed just getting a chance to kiss you.”

“You’ve kissed a lot of people. Probably more than me. I can’t be that great.”

“You’re fucking perfect,” murmured Richie.

And with the way Richie said it? Eddie could believe it. They pulled each other close. Then Richie moved to the other side of Eddie’s neck, trailing kisses down before fixating on a new spot. Eddie sighed, his fingernails digging through Richie’s shirt and gripping his back as hard as he could.

Then Eddie’s stomach growled.

“Now I will say I’ve never evoked that reaction from anyone.”

Eddie hit him hard.

“You hungry for me?” teased Richie.

Eddie hit him again. “I’m hungry because I haven’t eaten since last night and it’s past midday now damn it.”

“Yeah, you’re hungry for me.”

“Stop it,” laughed Eddie as Richie kissed him again. “And considering how much you’ve been using your mouth, I’d it’s the other way around.”

“Hmm.” Richie kissed him. “Well.” He kissed him again. “Now that you mention it.” And again. “I think my stomach is growling too…”

Eddie put a hand on Richie’s chest. “Richie, at this point if I had to choose between a milkshake and you, I’d choose the milkshake.”

“Well, now that you mention it, I might make that same choice too.”

“You can’t take that choice.”

“Oh, we got a double standard going on here. Huh?” smirked Richie.

“God damn right.”

Richie laughed and kissed him again. When he pulled back, he said, “I will admit I really am fucking starving though. You want to go out?”

“Kind of. We don’t have enough to make something here and we ordered take out two nights ago so…”

“Alright, we’ll go grab something.”

“Ok, but I really need to fucking shower first.”

“So do I. We could…”

Eddie glanced away. He opened his mouth, ready to try and explain himself, but Richie gently rubbed his cheek and drew his gaze back to him.

“Sorry, too much too fast. I’ll keep that in check.”

“No, it’s ok. I just…I don’t know. Never had anyone act like this towards me. Not that…I’m ready. But…if you could do anything right now…”

“You want to know?”

Eddie nodded.

“Anything?”

Eddie’s cheeks reddened again. “If you could just…have your way…with me…”

“Well…I would pin you to that wall over there and fuck you so hard you forgot your own name.”

“Ah.”

Richie snorted. His head fell against Eddie’s chest. Eddie could feel his laughter vibrating through his entire body before he looked up again. “Too much too fast?”

“No, just uh…going to jot that down to the list of things to look forward to.”

Richie laughed. He gave Eddie a quick kiss. “But not today.”

“Yeah. Or tomorrow.”

“You free Sunday? I think I could free up a slot.”

Eddie grinned. “No…and um…that’s also too…”

“Don’t worry. I’m just teasing. I promise,” Richie smiled. “We go at your pace. And never mind physical things. If I even say something that seems too much just—”

“Hit you upside the head?”

“Exactly.”

“Well that won’t be too hard to remember,” snorted Eddie.

They kissed again and then Richie finally moved off him. “You can take the shower first. I’ll start a load of laundry.”

“Sounds good.”

Eddie moved to the side of the pull-out. He started to stand up and then quickly sat back down, his hand gripping the edge.

“You realize we were only kissing, right?” asked Richie with a laugh.

“Come here real quick.”

Richie did.

Eddie hit him in the side.

“Ow, ok ok! Fair enough,” grinned Richie. “Go take your shower.”

“I’m going,” sighed Eddie. This time he got up and managed to stay on his feet. He went through the bedroom, into the bathroom, and— “Oh no.”

Eddie covered his face to keep from looking at himself in the mirror. He was an utter mess. Not only was he still in the same clothes from yesterday, but his hair was sticking out in every direction. There was stubble on his face, his cheeks were so damn flushed. And the marks? Jesus there was no way he was going to be able to hide all of them. Certainly not the slight coloring and swelling to his lower lip.

He quickly stripped and got in the shower before he could feel himself becoming anymore embarrassed. As he scrubbed at his face, his mind started to catch up with him. He finally had a moment to think and…

Love.

Happiness.

Just pure unadulterated joy that twisted up his insides in a way that he’d never fucking felt before…

God, he wished he’d seen it sooner. He wished he’d never moved away, or that maybe he and Richie had moved to the same place. Maybe…maybe…

No. He had him now. He wasn’t going to lose himself in what-ifs and lost moments. He hadn’t actually lost any of those moments. They’d just been postponed by all the shit in their lives. But now…now…

Eddie’s cheeks went red again just thinking about it. God if he acted like this every god damn time he thought of Richie now, he wasn’t going to be able to go out in public.

He quickly finished scrubbing himself. However, as he turned off the water, he realized he’d completely forgotten to grab a spare change of clothes. It wasn’t like he hadn’t had to throw a towel around his waist and walk towards the closet before. But just thinking of Richie seeing him and how he would—

Oh god he was such an idiot! Richie really had always been looking. Eddie had just never connected the two god damn dots.

Well, in for a penny, in for a pound…

Eddie got out and put the towel around his waist. He quickly walked into the bedroom and across the floor to the closet. He grabbed the first items of clothing he saw. Then he just…felt it. He looked down with a small smile.

“You know you blush with your whole body. Right?”

“Richie, I swear…”

“Sorry. Turning away now.”

“You can still look. Just don’t touch.”

“Now who’s the fucking tease?”

Eddie hid his smile as he went back into the bathroom to get changed. He managed to tidy up his hair and thought about shaving, but before he could get a chance, Richie came around the corner. “Alright, out. My turn.”

“Fine,” laughed Eddie. He grabbed his old clothes off the floor and let Richie have the bathroom. He put his clothes into the hamper and then tidied up a bit from last night. He put shoes away, put any pillows or blankets onto the pull-out—

He looked at the couch. He supposed…well it certainly didn’t make since to have the couch like this anymore so…

He decided he’d bring that up with Richie. Maybe to other people it made perfect since that after kissing each other for so long, they would sleep in the same bed. But this was honestly new territory for Eddie. He didn’t know what was considered normal, what Richie wanted. It was hard to say what exactly even he wanted. The only certainly was Richie. He wanted Richie more than anything.

The thought alone caused Eddie’s chest to go warm as he finished cleaning up and also went through the mail he had ignored yesterday. He threw away most of it and then went in search of his phone. After grabbing it, he first winced at the missed texts from CC. He hadn’t meant to worry her. He texted her another quick apology and a thank you for talking to him.  Then he looked at the other alerts of missed calls. His thumb scrolled down as he saw just how often Richie had tried to get in touch with him. There were texts too. He opened them.

Eddie please.

I don’t know what you remember.

You didn’t do anything wrong.

Or I don’t know. I don’t know what you’re thinking right now.

I’m sorry. If you’re blaming me right now.

I’m sorry.

Just come back.

Eddie slowly leaned up against the counter. His face grew downcast as a heavy weight filled his heart. He continued to read.

We can talk.

I can’t lose you.

Eddie, I can’t.

Please respond.

Eddie.

Eddie are you ok?

He wiped at his face. He had to take a slow, deep breath before he continued.

Eddie, please tell me you’re ok.

Where are you?

Just let me know you’re ok.

I just want to know you’re still breathing.

Just send a period. Anything.

Please.

Please. I love you.

Eddie, I love you.

Please.

Eddie closed his eyes. God, he wished he’d never left this morning. Why hadn’t he thought through that better—

“Hey, you ok?”

Eddie spun around and launched himself at Richie.

“Woah, what—” He glanced and saw the phone still in Eddie’s hands. His face softened. “Oh. You saw all that?”

“I did,” whispered Eddie, “and I am so, so god damn sorry.”

“It’s ok—”

“No. No it’s not, and I’m promising you here and now. I will never hurt you like that again.”

“That’s a really big promise Eds—”

“I’m fucking keeping it,” said Eddie. “I love you so god damn much and I refuse to be the reason to ever make you feel like this again.”

Eddie gently kissed him. “I promise,” he whispered against Richie’s lips.

“Say it again.”

“I promise. I promise with my whole fucking heart.”

They kissed again—

Then Richie’s stomach growled.

“Ok, ok. We definitely need to get something to eat,” he softly laughed, the happier mood managing to come back.

“Agreed. We should probably grab groceries afterwards.”

“Sounds like a plan. Want me to drive?”

“Sure,” smiled Eddie.

They walked out of the apartment, Richie locking up behind them. They walked outside and headed to Richie’s car. Eddie kept his collar close, though one of the marks was peaking out the top and again, he couldn’t do anything about his lip right now.

Richie noticed as they got in. “Hey, if that embarrasses you too much, I’ll be more careful next time.”

Eddie smiled at just how much Richie was trying to make sure he wasn’t uncomfortable. Eddie shook his head though. “It’s ok. I kind of…like them.”

Richie smiled. “Good. I like them too. And I like knowing others know you’re mine.”

Eddie blushed again, god he needed to figure out a way to better manage that. Then Richie suddenly touched his cheek.

“Is it ok? To kiss you in public that is.”

“We’re sitting in your car Richie.”

“I mean, still within in the public eye. And I don’t want to do anything later on that freaks you out.”

Eddie hesitated. There was a sudden feeling of anxiety in the pit of his stomach but—

Damn it. He’d spent twenty-seven fucking years dealing with shitty relationship after shitty relationship and he’d fought a fucking spider clown. Twice! The only real opinions that had ever mattered to him were his mother’s and then Myra’s. And he only now knew those opinions never should have mattered in the first place. And as far as the rest of society went? He could give two shits. He wasn’t going to let something like a little anxiety keep him from kissing Richie whenever he wanted to. Anxiety had ruled his life for so god damn long and he was fucking tired of it. He wouldn’t let anything keep him from Richie now that he had him. Not after everything he’d been through. Not after everything he had to defeat in order to get to this moment. Not after nearly losing it all and having to fight so hard and so long to understand how much he fucking loved Richie.

Eddie smiled. “Yeah, yeah you can.”

They kissed, soft and chaste before Richie started his car. “So, where do you want to eat?”

Chapter Text

After finally eating, Eddie and Richie went to the grocery store. Richie moved the cart by leaning against it. He grabbed just about everything with Eddie somewhat supervising him by grabbing a few things and putting them back on the shelf. Occasionally, Richie slapped at his hands to try and keep him from putting everything up.

“Ah come on. Strawberry gummies are fucking great.”

“You do not need four boxes Richie. I’m going to get you a real container of strawberries.”

“Well I have been wanting to try that one recipe. Yeah, ok. I’ll cave. And I can go ahead and grab the chicken I need for that. Oo, cookies.”

“You already grabbed a box.”

“Yeah, but those are just chocolate chip. These have fudge on them.”

Eddie rolled his eyes. “Something tells me I should do the shopping solo from now on.”

“You realize you say that every time we go shopping. Right?”

“Do I really?”

“Yes,” laughed Richie. “And every time you somehow forget, and we go together again. Or worse, you let me do all the shopping by myself.”

“I don’t know.” Eddie thought about it for a second. “When you shop by yourself, you mostly bring back sensible things. I’m starting to think you only cause problems when I’m here too.”

“Do I cause problems?” asked Richie with a teasing look.

“You were always a problem child. Lucky for you, I’m into that.”

It was the first thing Eddie had said that had really made Richie pause, a light blush creeping across his cheeks instead. “Well, you know…if you like…” Richie said as he pushed the buggy up next to Eddie. “I could start causing problems now.”

He gave Eddie a quick kiss. Eddie swatted him away.

“We are still grocery shopping.”

“I guess I’ll just have to cause some problems when we get home then.”

Eddie’s momentary win at getting Richie to blush fell away as Eddie blushed again. “Damn it. I’ll find a way to get under your skin.”

“I look forward to it,” grinned Richie.

Eddie pressed his face to Richie’s back before reaching around him. He grabbed the granola bars and threw them into the basket. “I should get these. Can’t do as many breakfasts together since I’ve started working.”

“I miss breakfasts. And brunch.”

“Well, we knew it was going to happen eventually. And we still have weekends. And what about when you go back on tour?”

Richie let out a groan. “I’m guessing you wouldn’t have enough vacation days to cover the entire time. Maybe I could kidnap you.”

“Richie, I would never get any work done. Which I realize sounds like heaven, but it’s not like we can afford to do that forever. Even if I tried working away from the office, it wouldn’t work. We would just spend the entire time fucking around.”

“Fucking around you say-ow!”

Eddie poked him hard in the side, a smirk appearing on his face. “Let’s hurry up and get to the produce section. At this rate we’ll spend the rest of the night in here.” Eddie started to walk ahead, only for Richie to ram him in his heals with the cart. “Hey!”

“Now who could that have been?” asked Richie as he scooted on by.

“I’m going to get you for that.”

“Get me for what?”

Eddie shook his head as Richie continued ahead. “You don’t do innocent well.”

“Still don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Eddie laughed. He caught up with him and kissed the back of Richie’s neck. At least that seemed to surprise him. It kind of surprised Eddie too. They were still in public. But that small amount of affection had just felt so natural. He’d done it so quickly and hadn’t regretted it at all.

“How much more do we need to get?” asked Eddie.

“Not much. This way.”

Eddie and Richie managed to finish the second half of the shopping spree rather quickly. They went through self-checkout and then shoved everything into the car. On the way back, they talked about if they were actually going to do dinner, but considering how late it was, they finally fell on just snacks and maybe watching something.

Once they were taking the groceries up to the apartment though, Eddie asked, “So about the pull-out…”

“Oh. I mean…do you want me to stay on it? Cause I—”

“No. No definitely not. I’m not going that slow,” Eddie quickly said. “So I guess that means…”

“We can finally put it up and make my living room look like a real living room again?”

Eddie smiled. He relaxed, now knowing they were on the same page at least with this. “Yeah. I like the sound of that. We can put it up once we get the groceries organized.”

They made it into the building and did just that. With the fridge and cabinets stocked, Richie threw the washer’s contents into the dryer and then put the old sheets and blankets into the washer. They then folded up the couch and put the cushions back on it. With everything done, Richie sat on it with a small huff. “I think I forgot what it felt like normally up.”

Eddie snorted. “The place does look quite a bit better without the coffee table shoved to the side.”

“And it still gives us something to prop our feet up on.” Richie looked up at Eddie from where he was standing, surveying the newly fixed living room. “You still want to stay forever?” murmured Richie.

“I wanted to stay forever before I even kissed you. You think now that I’m all over you I want to move across state?”

“I don’t know how the hell your mind works,” smirked Richie. “So?”

“Yes. Yes I still want to stay forever.”

“Well then get your ass over here then.”

Eddie walked over and the moment he was within arm’s reach, Richie pulled him down. Eddie used that to his advantage so he could push Richie’s back to the couch. Since it was a couch again, it also meant Eddie was pretty much lying right on top of Richie now. Ever since the first kissed, well coherent kiss, Eddie had felt himself go weak just thinking about Richie. But when he was as close as he was now? That really turned his insides to mush and caused his heartbeat to go out of control.

“You know, I think I like the couch like this,” Eddie commented.

“How so?”

“Means you don’t have anywhere to go.”

“That’s only if you’re on top though.”

“Well then I guess I like being on top.”

Richie snorted.

“What?”

“Nothing. I’ll explain it to you later,” he laughed. His hand came up and gently caressed him, specifically tracing the scar on Eddie’s cheek.

“You know that’s healed, right?”

“Yeah, but I’m guessing this feels nicer than me just shoving a finger in your cheek.”

Eddie softly laughed before a gentle smile formed on his lips. Richie continued to carefully trace the area. “This does feel nice,” Eddie admitted.

“See? I know what I’m doing.”

“Definitely know more than me.”

“Just wait. I’ll make an expert out of you yet.”

Eddie dropped his head against Richie’s chest. He mumbled something and Richie guided his chin up.

“What was that?”

“I said I hate how easily you make my face turn red.”

“Used to do that to you when we were kids too. You remember?”

“You mean like how the teacher would call on me, I’d try to give an answer, and you just kept shooting spitballs my way until I got more and more flustered?”

“Got detention for that a number of times. What a bastard of a teacher.”

“Um, Richie? You deserved every second of detention you got from her.”

“Did not.”

“Oh you totally fucking did,” Eddie replied as he slapped him against his chest.

“I didn’t deserve a second of that punishment.”

“Uh, yes you did. You probably still do.”

“Well if it’s you punishing me, I mean?”

“See!? That! I should have said something and made you blush, but you fucking say that and all my insides just turn every which way.”

“You’ll catch on,” smirked Richie. He drew him in for a kiss. They stayed like that for a moment before Richie added, “Still want to watch a movie?”

“I have to go to work all day tomorrow. And I think I actually ate enough at the restaurant. I’d kind of like…to just stay here?”

“Well I hope not here, here. My entire body is going to fall asleep if we stayed like this all night.”

“So um…bed?”

“Considering the night we had last night, retiring early sounds great.”

Eddie pushed himself off. They turned out the lights in the living room and then got dressed for bed. When it actually came to lying down though, Eddie hesitated.

“How um…”

“Besides the fact that we slept in the same bed once at Bev’s, we also did it countless times as kids at sleep overs. Are you seriously over thinking this?”

“I know. Just…it’s alright to touch you. Right?”

Richie gave him a confused look. “I mean, I would prefer you didn’t kick me off the bed, like when we were kids but…”

“No I mean-it’s stupid. I shouldn’t even let this affect me but I can’t help but remember how Myra always had me sleep a specific way and would get upset—”

Richie sat down. “Get your ass in bed.”

Eddie got closer and then Richie pulled him the rest of the way.

“You want to sleep on your side and kick me over every time I get too close? Fine by me. You want to lie nearly on top of me? Tangle all our limbs around in one giant cuddle pile through the night? Fine by me. Don’t think you have to change what’s most comfortable just for me. I’m comfortable just having you near.”

“That’s one of the nicest things anyone has ever said to me. But you may change your mind if you wake up to an elbow shoved into your neck.”

“I relish the thought.”

“That’s a fucking lie, but I still appreciate it.”

“Good.”

They pulled each other into a deep kiss. For a while, they slowly moved as one with Richie adding another mark to Eddie’s neck before he let his hand rest on Eddie’s waist and finally pulled him close again.

“You cool with sleeping like this all night?”

Eddie nodded. “I like this.”

“Me too. Night,” Richie said with one more small kiss to Eddie’s forehead.

Eddie kissed the tip of Richie’s nose in response. “Night.” He snuggled in close and slowly drifted off to have one of the best nights of his life.

Chapter Text

Eddie woke up first, but instead of getting up right away, he turned his face towards Richie’s neck.

It had all been real.

Richie was still curled around him, lightly snoring, a bit of drool.

And Eddie…

Eddie loved him. Was in love with him. It somehow felt even bigger thinking that on the second day. It was proof that it wasn’t a fluke. This was starting to become… This would be…

It was his life. Right here in his arms, and he knew Richie would be happy staying right there forever if they could.

Eddie was actually in love.

He lightly kissed Richie’s neck. A small noise sounded in Richie’s throat as he shifted over.

An idea came to Eddie. He’d seen it done in shows and movies, which basing everything he did off of that probably wasn’t the greatest idea, but then Eddie didn’t exactly have any other experiences. Eddie decided to just go for it and gently continued to kiss Richie’s neck. He got to the place right behind Richie’s ear and that really started to wake him up, the area extra sensitive. Eddie would have to jot that down for later.

Richie let out a breathy sigh.

“This going to be a new routine of ours or something?” he asked, voice rough with sleep.

“If you’d like it to be.” Eddie kissed his neck again, doing his best to mimic what he’d felt from Richie the day before.

“Oh…fuck me,” moaned Richie. He moved over a little and they both kissed. “Alright,” sighed Richie, “now I know you love me.”

“Yeah?”

“You just willingly kissed me despite the morning breath.”

“I did. Didn’t I?”

“Yep,” Richie grinned. He pulled him back in.

They kissed deeply until Eddie started to pull back. “Ok, I’m going to be late for work if we keep at this.”

Richie moved to kissing his neck. As his lips trailed the marks, Eddie shivered from the tenderness of the areas. “Be late then,” he murmured.

“It hasn’t even been two weeks. I cannot possibly…possibly…be-god damn…you’re making me lose my train of thought.”

“Guilty as charged.”

Eddie brought him up and kissed him again before putting just a little more force behind his hand that was placed in between them. “I really do need to start getting ready though.”

“I could kidnap you. Then you would be late through no fault of your own.”

“I don’t think that’s how it works, but thanks for the offer,” Eddie laughed. He finally got up, going first to the kitchen to make a pot of coffee.

As that was being made, Eddie quickly went through the closet. He’d been wearing more casual clothes to work but decided to grab a button-down shirt for today. At least the collar would slightly hide the marks on his neck. Richie had already rolled over, dozing in and out of sleep.

Eddie went to the bathroom, washing his face, brushing his teeth. He was going to shave, he really needed to, but one glance at his watch showed he didn’t have time. He would have to try and remember to do that tonight or tomorrow.

He hurried to the kitchen, poured himself some coffee in his thermal, and then went for his bag. He was almost out the door when he felt Richie grab him and hold him from behind.

“Richie…” He sighed feeling how Richie’s lips trailed down his spine. “I need to get to work.”

“You can’t. I’m kidnapping you.”

“Kidnap me later. I really do need to go.”

“You sure about that?”

Eddie laughed. “Richie, I cannot be late.”

“I think it would be ok.” Richie turned him around, capturing his lips into a deep, long kiss.

Eddie held Richie’s face in his hands and—

“I have to go!” he laughed. He gave Richie a quick peck on the nose. “I’m going. I’m serious.”

“You pack anything for lunch?”

“I don’t have time. I’ll grab something in the cafeteria or nearby. I really do have to—”

“No, I know,” Richie quickly said. “I mean do you want me to bring you something?”

“I…yeah.” Eddie’s chest felt so warm at the simple gesture. “Thanks.”

“Anything for you. Now…”

“Nope!” Eddie dodged the kiss. “I am leaving for work! I’ll see you at lunch.”

Eddie finally grabbed his keys and opened the door—

“I love you.”

Eddie closed his eyes. His smile softened. He couldn’t just leave after that. He turned around and pulled Richie in for another kiss. “I love you too,” he whispered.

“Love you more.”

“No! We are not fucking doing this!” laughed Eddie. “I am going to work damn it.”

He hurried out the door before Richie could do something else that could distract him. Thankfully by now, Eddie had an idea of the best routes to take depending on the day and he just barely made it in time. Once he was put on salary next week, it technically wouldn’t matter. But being on time mattered to Eddie, and he certainly liked his coworkers well enough to not bother them with creating a habit of being late.

Eddie rushed in and clocked in his time before heading downstairs to his office. Two of the archivists, Robert and Liz ran into him on the way down. Eddie liked them both though Liz’s lack of social edict had first thrown him off. Now he wasn’t surprised by her first comment though he still blushed a little.

“You have a bruise on your lip.”

“Thanks for letting me know Liz,” Eddie mumbled.

“You’re welcome,” she replied, not picking up on his embarrassment as she continued up the stairs.

Robert paused though and said, “You bringing the person to the Halloween party?”

“Actually…yeah.”

“Cool. I win the bet.”

“The bet?” snorted Eddie. “Is this something you do to all the new guys or just me?”

“Oh no. We always have a monthly bet. And you know you’re the center of the bet if you don’t hear about it within the first week. Just office fun and games type things. But one or two people were wondering if they had a chance.”

“Oh. Well, that’s flattering I suppose but I’m…” He had to pause. In some ways, it felt weird to say it so soon after Myra. But then, saying the words had never felt special like they did now. “I’m taken.”

“Nice. I win ten dollars then.”

Eddie laughed.

“I’ll see you later. And I’ve got the notes for this week’s books. I’ll bring them down when I get a chance.”

“Thanks Robert. And I like the new cat sweater.”

Robert grinned. “Glad to know someone knows style around here.” He headed up after Liz and Eddie finished the walk to his desk, smile still firmly on his face. Usually when he got in, he worked by himself for at least an hour if not more. Then he usually went over things with those in his department, had lunch, and finally communicated with the other departments if needed in the afternoon.

He was in the middle of going over some numbers with David and the others when they got a call from upstairs. Eddie picked it up.

“There’s someone here for you Eddie?”

“Right, thanks. Just tell him I’ll be right there.” He hung up. “That marks my lunch break. I’ll be back in about forty-five minutes.”

“This lunchbreak have anything to do with that lip?” asked David.

Eddie let out a small sigh. “This is going to be the talk of the office for a while, isn’t it?”

“At least until Liz sneaks her pet rabbits into work again. Chaos always ensues when that happens,” smirked David. “Also, you owe me lunch sometime too.”

“Oh, I owe you lunch?”

“Yeah, I lost fifteen bucks because of you,” David grinned.

“Hey, you took the bet, not me,” laughed Eddie.

He went and stopped at his office to grab his coat before hurrying to the lobby floor. He went into the public area and spotted Richie chatting with one of the women at the front desk. Richie grinned and stood up straight. He walked away to let the woman take care of some attendants that had shown up behind him.

“It’s been too long.”

“It’s been like three hours,” smirked Eddie. He grabbed Richie’s shirt and pulled him close as he shyly looked down. “But I know what you mean.”

“Where we sitting?”

“It’s not too cold today. Want to just do the steps outside?”

“Works for me.”

They went back out the front and found a space off to the left. There were a few other couples sitting down, one family with two little ones, a few loners, and a group of teens. Eddie was pretty sure those teens were skipping considering there wasn’t any scheduled school field trips today. Eddie scooted closer to Richie, their knees knocking together.

“Anyone comment on your lip?” asked Richie as he handed him a wrapped sandwich.

“Apparently there was a bet on if I was seeing anyone.”

“You could have denied it and said it was a one-night stand.”

“And you think any of them would have believed that coming from me?”

Richie laughed.

“Besides. Anyone who doesn’t know probably will on Halloween. You can still come right?”

“Of course. And I was going to ask if you wanted to just meet at the club for CC’s set tonight. I know you’re working late to help with some of the preparations for the public stuff tomorrow.”

“That would probably work out better. This club is more of a dinner and a show type set up. Right?”

Richie nodded.

“We can have dinner there then.”

“Sounds good to me.”

“And what about yourself?”

“Well, Jason and I kind of have a game plan so…”

They kept talking even after they finished lunch. Eddie kept an eye on his watch though and eventually said, “I should probably be going back in. But I liked this.”

“We could try at least once a week?”

“I like that idea.” Then Eddie leaned in and they softly kissed on the steps. “I’ll see you tonight.”

“Have a good rest of your day.”

“You too.”

They stood up and Richie gave him a quick kiss again before heading back down the steps as Eddie went back inside. He quickly got back to work, Robert got him the numbers he needed, and when the museum closed to the public and the last person left, Eddie went out onto the floor to help with some of the preparations.

Tonight, it was mostly moving some tables into place, double checking all the food and drink that would be offered had already been bought and prepped if needed. They put up some of the decorations too until Talazia announced to everyone, “That seems good enough for tonight. If you’re scheduled to come in early tomorrow, we’ll finish then. Everyone else, we’ll see you later tomorrow. Thank you!”

With that done, nearly everyone left together out the employee entrance. Eddie hurried to his car and double checked the address of the place CC was performing at. When he arrived, the place wasn’t completely full up since there was still about an hour until the first act came on. Still, some were there, deciding to eat before the show started.

Eddie spotted Richie at a small table.

As Eddie walked over, Richie put his phone down and stood up right as Eddie came up. They shared a chaste kiss and then sat down.

“I don’t think I’ll ever be over that,” Eddie murmured.

“What?”

“That I can just kiss you.”

“You can do more than that if you want,” Richie said with a grin.

“I am not ravishing you against the table.”

“Hey, your words. Not mine.”

Eddie blushed and quickly covered his face.

“I wish you didn’t do that.” Richie tugged Eddie’s hand down and intertwined their fingers. He held Eddie’s hand across the table as a small smile tugged at his lips.

“I know. You—”

“Like seeing you.”

“What you like is that you can only say two fucking words and make me go beet red.”

“Damn right.”

Eddie laughed. He rubbed his thumb over Richie’s hand.

“So how’d the rest of the day go. Got the Halloween celebration all set up?”

“You mean having about a thousand bags of candy and containers of face paint for all the little gremlins that are going to be running through the museum tomorrow? Yeah, most of it is done. And you can come a little early if you want. Before we technically close to the public.”

“Is that ok?”

“I asked just in case, but yeah. Figured I could show you my office too since you’ve been curious.”

“A look behind the scenes huh? They let anyone do that?”

“Occasionally. Obviously, you mark it down so they have a register in case something does happen. But it’s the teenagers that work in the gift shop or as temporary tour guides that they’re more worried about.”

“I bet you’ve heard some fun stories there.”

“Definitely. There’s currently this Egyptian exhibit they have where the halls are made up like the inside of a pyramid and it’s relatively dark back there. Apparently, it’s the horniest place of choice.”

Richie laughed. “You want to see if that’s true?”

Eddie let go so he could playfully slap at Richie. “You wish. You’re just hoping to find a Rami Malek mummy back there.”

“Ah come on. He fucking kills it in those movies. You have to admit it.”

Eddie hesitated. “I…I honestly don’t know.”

“Don’t know what?”

“If I’m actually gay. Does being in love with you make me gay?”

Richie chuckled a little, but when he saw that Eddie was asking an honest question, he shrugged. “You could be bi. Or maybe demisexual if you honestly just don’t feel attracted to most people.”

“Wait, there are more?”

“Just go online and type in different sexualities,” laughed Richie. “There are so many. Probably a lot I don’t even know about by now. But demisexual just means you don’t feel sexual attraction towards someone until after a strong emotional connection is formed. At least I think that’s it. And then that doesn’t include the fact some people have romantic orientations that differ from their sexual orientations.”

“Ok, now my head is spinning, and I haven’t even had a drink yet.”

“Yeah, there is a fuck ton of info out there. Pretty easy to get lost in it all, though I guess it’s better than the shit information we grew up on.”

“That is true. My mom told me that if I shook hands with a gay man I’d get AIDS and die.”

Richie leaned across the table and kissed him. “I thank you for your noble sacrifice.”

They both laughed.

“I think I’ll just settle for Richie-sexual right now.”

“Well don’t I just feel fucking special,” grinned Richie.

They kissed again and then finally ordered drinks. They got something light to eat and then a second, smaller coarse when the show finally started up. CC was the third person in the night. According to Richie, that was a pretty good spot as it was early enough in the night that no one had left yet, but that any late arrivers had probably already arrived, meaning she had a prime audience.

“Anyone ever know someone whose parent was a teacher?”

A few people clapped or cheered as a way of saying yes.

“Well try being the principle’s kid.”

She continued with her set, most of it a coherent story about some time she’d wanted to make everyone think she could be a cool kid to hang out with despite the principle being her mom. She talked about how she and a few others had created a plan to sneak into the cafeteria, steal all the ice cream sandwiches, and to throw them to the other kids for free.

As she got to that part, a heckler yelled out, “You stole that from Recess!”

CC didn’t miss a beat though, still grinning. “You’re right. My twelve year old self did and let me tell you. If you’re ever looking for a way to impress a bunch of people, do not use a Saturday morning cartoon as the basis for your plan.”

Laughter happened, the audience still with her and whoever had shouted out shutting up.

“You see, instead of having a bunch of ice cream sandwiches rain down on hungry, excited kids and me being crowned king, I soaked about three kids with melted ice cream and then knocked another kid out when the box slipped out of my hands.”

More laughter occurred, CC using her expressive body language and tone to really send the joke home. She bowed and got a large applause as she left the stage. She was in the back for a bit but by the end of the fourth act, she’d come back out, grabbed a chair, and moved to sit near Richie and Eddie.

“So?”

“You did great,” Eddie said. “But I have to ask. Did you really do all that?”

“Oh yeah. My mom had to suspend me. And since she was the damn principal I couldn’t even fuck around on my three days off. Mom got my homework from all the teachers and I had to do that the entire damn time.”

Richie laughed, though he kept his voice down so as not to distract from the current act. “That’s pretty great. Maybe try adding that into the set next time. Though if you can’t make it better than your final punch, I’d ultimately leave it out.”

“Thanks. And thanks for coming.” She glanced away for a quick second and then added, “I got friends over there I’m going to sit with.”

“So you do have friends outside of two forty year old white men. I’m impressed,” Richie said.

CC hit him in the shoulder with a small smile. “As I was saying, I’m supposed to hang out with them. If I don’t see you again tonight, I’ll see you later. Thank you for coming.”

“Any time CC,” said Eddie.

She put her chair back and hurried over to sit next to a small group of people. Eddie and Richie stayed for a little longer though they ultimately decided to skip the last two sets and go home. When they both arrived in their separate cars, Richie sauntered on over to where Eddie was opening up their building door.

“Fancy meeting you here. Mind if I come on up?”

“I don’t know. You seem like a sketchy character,” said Eddie before he actually opened the door.

“Is there any way I can convince you?”

“Hmm. I can think of one or two ways.”

Richie pulled Eddie into a kiss. “That good enough?”

“More than good enough,” replied Eddie as he opened the door and led the way back into their apartment.

Chapter Text

Thankfully since Halloween was an unusual day for work, Eddie didn’t have to leave quite as early as he usually needed to on a normal day. He slipped out of Richie’s arms and managed to do some brief exercises first and when he sat back, he saw Richie watching him with sleepy eyes. Eddie suddenly covered his face and laughed.

“What?” murmured Richie.

“Just thinking of that time you were watching me workout and…Jesus. I was so clueless.”

Richie let his hand fall open. Eddie scooted over so he was right by the edge of the bed. Eddie took Richie’s hand, gently kissing his knuckles before Richie started to pet Eddie’s cheek.

“Come back to bed.”

“I need to go to work Richie.”

“You have at least thirty minutes before you even need to get dressed.”

“Well. You do make a good case…”

“That was barely a case. I had about twelve more lines of defense but hey, you want to cave that easily? I’ll take it.”

Eddie laughed before Richie pulled him into a kiss and dragged him back into bed. Richie rolled him over so he was on top. He peppered kisses down his neck and then paused. Since Eddie had just finished working out, he didn’t have his shirt on. Richie stopped from going any lower.

“This ok?”

Eddie hesitated.

“It’s ok to say no.”

“Keep…going for now.”

“Ok.” Richie gave him a chaste kiss and then moved back down. He first gently traced the scar near the center of Eddie’s chest. “Does it hurt?”

He shook his head. “It may later on depending on how the nerve endings grow back. But it’s less sensitive right now.”

Richie continued to gently trace the knotted tissue before kissing it. Then he went to kissing the more sensitive area around it.

“Ah, Richie…” Eddie squirmed underneath him.

Then Richie paused. His thumb teased the area underneath Eddie’s left nipple, but he didn’t go any farther.

Eddie glanced down. “What?”

“You sure this isn’t too far?”

“No…what are you going to do?”

“Just going to tease you a bit. That ok?”

Eddie sort of caught on, but said, “I don’t get what you can do that’s any more intensive than what you’ve already done.”

“Oh I have an idea,” Richie said with a slight smirk. “But if you don’t want anything too intense, then I won’t.”

Eddie didn’t get how it could be more intense than the lip or the marks on his neck, though he understood where Richie was focusing. Still, he decided to take a chance. He nodded. “Keep going.”

Richie kissed Eddie’s chest again and then gently ran a fingernail over Eddie’s nipple. Eddie’s breath hitched. Richie waited, but when Eddie didn’t tell him to stop, Richie continued to kiss the area, gently pulled. Richie’s other hand moved down Eddie’s back, over his ass. He held his leg up just a bit, massaging Eddie’s thigh as Richie’s mouth stayed focused on his chest. A breathy moan left Eddie’s throat. His fingers got tangled up in Richie’s hair, keeping him there.

Eddie’s toes curled, his breathing quickened as Richie worked him over. Eddie could feel the blood rushing down, his head lolled to the side…

His eyes caught sight of the time. Though to be fair, even if he hadn’t, they were pushing dangerously close to his current boundaries. He whispered, “Richie,” and Richie immediately stopped. Eddie pulled him up and they kissed slowly before Eddie murmured. “I need to get ready.”

“We still have time.”

“Technically, but now I need a cold shower too.”

Richie laughed, giving him a quick follow up kiss. “You know, you can try some things on me next time.”

“You sure?”

“Hey, only way you can learn is through experience. Right?”

“O…ok. Yeah. It’s a date.” They both laughed and kissed once more before Richie got off and Eddie quickly headed to the bathroom.

By the time he got out, a quick check at the time showed he’d run out of time to shave again. Instead, he just hurried through getting dressed and when he walked to the kitchen, Richie already had coffee and a packed lunch ready.

“You did all that while I was in the shower?”

“Not that much work, but yeah. I wanted to make things a little easier on you.” They kissed. “I’ll see you this afternoon.”

“Ok. And you might as well just take public transit since we’ll be together all night. It’ll be easier if just one of us drives.”

“Sounds like a plan.”

They kissed again and then Eddie hurried out to his car. Once at work, he went to his office first. He did some paperwork for about an hour. Then he was about ready to head upstairs when Jordan suddenly came around the corner.

“Have you ever face painted before?”

“Uh, no?”

“Know how to hold a brush.”

“Yes…”

“Cool. Because I need to hurry through this line before a bunch of six and seven year old’s decide they’ve been waiting too long and start making a fuss.”

“I’ve got your back.”

“Thank you so much. Come on.”

From then on, Eddie helped where he was needed amongst the throngs of children running around in their costumes and trick-r-treat bags. It was mostly just the main lobby that was open to them with special stalls set up with crafts and games, many pertaining to some type of historical concept or event though it was clear the majority of the children were just there for the free candy and small toys they won from the games.

Eddie joined Jordan in doing his best to help paint some faces. Thankfully, there was a little template that the kids chose from that he could also look at. They probably didn’t look great, but most of the kids were young enough that they didn’t care. They just laughed and enjoyed how the brushes tickled their faces.

After that line seemed to die down, Eddie helped with some of the passing around of food and then watched a few stalls to give other people a break. When the main rush died down, he went to the gift shop to get the numbers for the day and went back to his office to start inputting everything in.

He was almost done when Liz came in.

“Do they need help—”

“We’re closing in a few minutes. The last groups are leaving. Dr. Eason had me bring your friend.” She reached around the corner and pulled. Richie popped out with a large smile and waved.

Eddie snorted. “Thanks Liz.”

“You’re welcome. Dr. Eason added don’t stay down here too long. You can finish any other reports on Monday.”

“I got it. I’ll be up soon. Thanks again.”

“You’re welcome.”

Liz walked back down the hall as Eddie asked, “Did you ask her to do that entrance?”

“Yep. She didn’t get why it would be funny, but I knew it would put a smile on your face.”

Eddie chuckled. “She doesn’t always get the social contexts, but she’s usually game for anything. How’s up there look?”

“Like a million and one kids raided the museum.”

Eddie smiled.

“You’ve got paint on you.”

“I had to help with the face painting for a bit.”

“I wish I’d been there for that. How’d you do?”

“Well I didn’t leave the kids looking like Jackson Pollock’s if that’s what you think. But it probably did look like a bigger kid just painted their faces for them.”

“I’m sure they still loved it.” Richie walked over to the desk and picked up the picture frame on it. “I remember you mentioning you wanted to put this on whatever desk you chained yourself to next.”

Eddie smiled as he glanced at the collage.

“Whenever Ben or Mike get a chance to come here, you should give them a little tour. I think they’d both get a kick out of it.”

“If I could get an opportunity to show them the archives, Mike might really lose his mind.”

“Now that would be the day. I’d like to see us try to get him to jump with joy.”

Eddie chuckled. “It really isn’t in his nature to be too over expressive though.”

“No. I guess not. He’d probably just have this soft expression of wonder as he looked around and let his hand float over everything, too afraid to touch it.”

“True.”

Richie looked around the rest of the office. “I think if it was a different color this would feel more like a cell. But the browns make it warmer. The desk is freaking sweet too.”

Eddie nodded in agreement, focusing on trying to finish up at least his current program.

“I’m guessing that poster isn’t yours.”

Eddie glanced towards the image of an old historical movement that had occurred in Chicago over a hundred years ago. He’d read up a little on it. “It was the last man’s. I still haven’t figured out what I want to replace it with.”

“You’ll think of something. Something vibrant. Maybe a van Gogh print?”

Eddie shot him a teasing look. “I’m surprised you know who that is.”

“I got your Jackson Pollock reference yet you’re surprised I know Vincent van Gogh?”

“Pollock is Pollock. Van Gogh is cultured.”

“I think you’ll find I’m a very cultured man.”

“Well this is news to me.”

“Refined in fact.”

Eddie pushed himself back from his desk and leaned back in his chair. “Really now?”

“Oh yeah. I’m pretty valuable.”

“Not only cultured and refined, but valuable too. I hit the jack pot huh?”

“Yes. You. Did,” said Richie. He enunciated each word, coming closer with each one before leaning over Eddie. He guided Eddie’s chin upwards, gently caressed his scar. When his mouth met Eddie’s, Eddie opened up. A slight moan escaped from in between their lips as Richie drew it out. Each movement was carefully planned. His tongue, sliding across the roof of Eddie’s mouth…

“Let’s…let’s stop,” Eddie gasped, “before the office has another reason to talk about me.”

Richie snorted. “To save your reputation, I’ll do it for you.”

“Thank you,” smiled Eddie. He gave him a small peck on the nose.

“I don’t know why you always do it there, but it’s fucking adorable. You know that, right?”

“I’m not that adorable,” murmured Eddie.

“You are to me. Absolutely fucking beautiful.”

“I thought you said adorable.”

“And adorable.”

Eddie shook his head, a slight blush appearing on his cheeks. “I started doing it because of our first kiss.”

“Really?”

“Not the drunk one. I don’t count it. But…when you were guiding me through what happened that night…and I just trailed kisses down your face…I don’t know. Kissing your nose felt like one of those things you always see couples do in a movie. So I kept doing it.”

“Fucking adorable.”

Eddie lightly hit him before focusing back on the computer.

Richie was silent for a moment leaning against Eddie’s chair, before he asked, “What are you doing here?”

“You really want to know? It would bore you out of your mind.”

“Try me anyways.”

“Seriously?”

Richie nodded.

“Well, right now I’m…”

Eddie walked him through some of the final steps. The work took a little longer because of that, but Eddie didn’t mind. He enjoyed explaining his thought process. When he was finally done, he glanced over at Richie who was giving him a loving look.

“You didn’t understand a word I said. Did you?”

Richie let out a long, contented sigh. “Nope. But I loved hearing you talk about it anyways.”

They kissed. Then Eddie said, “At least I’m done now. Let me introduce you to everyone else.”

Eddie shut off everything, grabbed his coat, and then headed upstairs. They ran into two other coworkers who’d also been doing some last minute work. Eddie introduced them and they all headed up to the main lobby together.

Some of the former stalls for the kids had already been completely put up. Others had just pushed things aside for space. More food, also real food rather than pure candy, and drink had been set out and it seemed the other guests of Eddie’s coworkers had arrived as he’d been working.

One of the first people they really paused to talk to was David. One of his kids was with him.

“This is the youngest one, right?” asked Eddie.

“Yep, this is Jen here. Currently my little-what are you again sweetie?” David asked in reference to her costume.

“A fairy unicorn princess.”

“Wouldn’t it make more since to just say you’re a Pegasus princess?” questioned Richie.

Eddie hit him in the chest as Jen put on a pouting face and argued, “Fairy unicorn princess!”

“Can’t argue with kid logic,” David smirked.

“Well if there’s one person who would try, it would be this guy,” Eddie said with a roll of his eyes.

“What?” muttered Richie. “I’m just saying, a Pegasus can have the horn and the wings so it makes since to just say Pegasus princess.”

“You a Pegasus,” pouted the kid.

“I don’t think you understand how an argument works,” Richie said.

“Oh, she doesn’t,” David replied with a proud grin. “Doesn’t mean she won’t try though. And your name is…”

“Right, sorry. Richie, this is David. He works in my department. David, this is Richie, my room-no I guess bo-part-or uh—”

Before Eddie could continue rambling, Richie and David gave each other a firm handshake.

“Roombopart huh?” questioned David. “Never heard of that species.”

“It’s a new one. Very rare. Bonds with people called Eduardo really easily.”

“Interesting. You should talk to one of our historians. Make sure they get all this recorded. It’s very exciting meeting a new species.”

“I’ll get right on it.”

Eddie face palmed. “I hate you both.”

“What are you talking about?” asked Richie. “I think I found my new best friend here.”

“No!” cried Jen. “Daddy my friend.”

“My apologies Pegasus—”

She gave him a look.

“Fairy unicorn princess,” Richie amended.

“Good,” she huffed.

“You heard her. I guess I’m her best friend,” laughed David. He picked her up. “Good meeting you Richie. I’ll probably see you guys again, but I’ll let my kid pick fights with some of the other employees so she’s not just wailing on you all night. Also need to figure out where Michael and Yong went.”

“His older boys,” Eddie explained to Richie.

“They say they steal grown up drink,” Jen said.

“Oh did they now? I knew there was a reason you were my favorite.” David pinched her cheeks. “Now to go get a handle on those teenagers. Hmm?”

“Yay!”

Eddie snorted as David quickly carried her away and off to find his older children.

“I’m just saying. Pegasus makes a lot more sense.”

“Are you still hung up on that?” laughed Eddie. “Please do not start a fight with a four year old.”

“If it happens, it happens. You know?”

“That is not how it works.” Eddie paused. He looked around and upon not immediately seeing someone he wanted to drag Richie too, he quickly added, “What do I call you?”

“Preferably Richie.”

“That’s not—”

“I know. I know,” Richie said with a kind smile. “Just teasing you. Call me whatever you like. Partner is typically more common for older couples or people who have been together a while. I’m fine with boyfriend though. Or lover…”

Eddie hit him in the chest, his face going red.

“Or if you’re in a situation where you don’t feel as comfortable as you do here, roommate is just fine with me. Your choice.”

“Thanks. I’ll…have to think about it.”

“Take all the time you need.”

They shared a gentle kiss before Eddie guided Richie to the next coworker.

Time passed quickly as they went around. Some people they spent longer with, others it was just a quick hello, especially as Eddie realized there were still a few he hadn’t really interacted with. It was the perfect way to feel more included in his job though and the only reason Eddie left a little early was because he’d agreed to that other party with Richie. David was the only other person who left early too, holding a sleepy fairy unicorn princess and trailing two embarrassed looking teenagers behind him with his wife blocking their escape routes.

Then they headed to the club and instead of historians and social scientists and archivists, the room was filled with hopeful actors, comedians, writers, and other people hoping to break it in show business. Some of the people Eddie had briefly heard of from Richie’s stories, a few had apparently even gone to school with Richie, but since Eddie hadn’t actually seen Richie do a set yet and the only comedy club he’d gone to was the one where CC had performed at, everyone was pretty much new to Eddie.

Richie led the conversations now. Before going in, he’d made sure it was alright with Eddie how he introduced him though. Eddie had assured him it was ok with whatever he preferred. And because of that, every few seconds Richie was throwing an arm over Eddie, pulling him close, and saying with the proudest voice, “He’s my boyfriend.”

Each time it sent Eddie’s heart into a flutter and he occasionally curled into the crook of Richie’s shoulder to hide his face. When Richie wasn’t embarrassing him in the best of ways though, Eddie did get to know some of the people. It was a great way to get a further look into Richie’s life and it overall went great.

Except for one small incident near the end.

Unlike the Halloween party at the museum where everyone had been in casual dress except for a few kids that people had brought, the club’s party was split between half wearing normal clothes, maybe with a pumpkin or a bat printed somewhere, and the other half actually in costume. Because of that, it shouldn’t have been too surprising that they’d see a particular costume eventually, but it still really caught Richie off guard.

He was in the middle of telling a story when a guy behind him tapped him on the shoulder and went, “Hey—”

Richie had turned around, only to jump and instinctively punch the clown in the face.

“Shit.” Thankfully Richie acted quickly and grabbed the man as swiftly as he had punched him before he fell back against the ground. As Richie helped steady him, he turned his head, looking for the host.

Before he could say anything though, the host, who had seen what happened, yelled out, “Stop punching the guests Richie!”

“I said I didn’t like clowns Frank!”

“It’s fucking Halloween! I’m not banning clowns from a fucking Halloween party!”

Richie let out a slight groan but quickly focused back to apologizing to the person. Thankfully, the person took it pretty well and apologized for sneaking up on him. He even said, “I should have known better with your reputation, but I honestly thought it was a joke. Sorry again.”

“Reputation?” Eddie muttered.

One of the members of their group leaned forward. “This clown makes it number eighteen.”

“Eighteen what?”

“Times I’ve punched someone wearing a clown costume in the face,” groaned Richie. “I’ve tried telling people not to sneak up on me and they still fucking do it.”

“It’s an understandable reaction,” Eddie kindly said.

Others laughed, thinking Eddie was making a joke. Eddie couldn’t exactly get angry though. It wasn’t like many people in the world could ever understand that feeling. He just squeezed Richie’s hand and kept holding it throughout the rest of the night.

Besides that one incident though, they stayed a little longer and the night managed to end on a pleasant note. Neither were really tipsy by the end, but Eddie had made sure to not drink much so he could drive them both home.

The moment they arrived at the building, went inside and closed the door, Richie pulled Eddie into a kiss.

“I feel like we’ve been doing this for years,” Eddie sighed against Richie’s lips.

“I know. Hasn’t even been a week though,” mumbled Richie as he kissed Eddie’s neck. “Bed?”

Eddie nodded.

Suddenly Richie wrapped his arms lower around Eddie and lifted him up.

“Richie!” laughed Eddie. He looped his arms around Richie’s neck, moved his legs around Richie’s waist in a way that felt so natural. They kissed before they both fell against the bed.

“Ok,” huffed Richie, “I can only do that about once a month or I think my back might give out. If there’s ever a special night where you would like a repeat of this, I suggest you RSVP.”

Eddie laughed pulling him into another kiss as Halloween night came to an end.