Right now, for one of the first times in his life, Richie Tozier wants to be alone. It's a rarity for him, not wanting to be noticed even by his friends, but it's how he's feeling nonetheless. His family, well...it's not like they'll notice if he's gone an extra hour or two past dark. It seems like hardly any parent does in this town, which is what got his mind on all this stuff in the first place. It's been over a year since they killed Pennywise, or did their best, anyway. And Richie simply can't get it off his mind.
So, this is where he's put himself-- on the ever-popular kissing bridge for teenagers, sitting down and playing with his pocket knife at sunset. It's here that he carved his first set of initials, a long-standing tradition among Derry youth. Only, his other half hasn't the slightest clue that Richie decided to plant that romantic flag for them here without actually being part of a couple.
It should have just been a kid thing, really...hell, it's been two years since the letters were fresh. With the beaver population the way it is in Derry, he'll be lucky at all if there's a carving in another year's time, or even that section of bridge at all. Things like that are meant to be for kids, to be temporary, but still, here he is. A sophomore in high school (nearly), and still mourning his middle school crush. How pathetic is that?
"Richie, what the hell?"
Okay, despite his sulky mood, Richie couldn't be upset about Eddie finding him. As the shorter boy approaches him, he folds his knife up and pockets it, standing to put himself between Eddie and his carving. Sure, it's his best friend, but that doesn't mean he's ready for all the Losers to know why Bowers was often after him first out of all of them. Before he was blamed for all those child murders, that is.
"Hey, Eds. Before you start--"
"Too late, Richie! You fuckin' disappeared from the clubhouse and didn't come back. Everyone else thought you went to the arcade, but you've been acting weird all day. What's going on?"
Eddie might be over his hypochondria and his mother’s Munchausen's disease (by Proxy, he and Richie looked it up) impressed on him, but he definitely still worries over himself and the others like a mother. Always loving them, always looking out for even the slightest danger or threat to their mental health. He had to find somewhere to put all those worries, after all.
"Well, I didn't get kidnapped. I stood your mom up and didn't wanna make it weird for you," he jokes back as he pulls his bike off its side by the handlebars, though one look at Eddie tells him that he's even less amused than normal.
"Richie..." he pauses, glancing around his best friend to the fence. Shit. Apparently something captured his attention.
"Alright, fine. I didn't wanna be around you guys tonight, okay? I felt like being alone."
Eddie pauses for a moment, giving Richie a look and mildly frustrated sigh that proves he isn't buying his bullshit. His eyes drift back to the fence, though, stepping completely out of the road to get a better look at the initials Richie seems to be most protective over.
The moment the letters register in his mind is obvious, even if Richie is forcing himself to keep his eyes off of Eddie at all. He can feel more than see his confusion, and sighs in dismay at his friends' damn near psychic ability to understand what he's thinking.
"...Are these yours, Rich?"
He swallows, the bravery he needs just barely out of his reach. But, at least there's enough for him to break his temporary pact with himself and look back in Eddie's direction again. Seeing his friend tracing the letters makes his heart pick up slightly, but at least Eddie's mind-reading isn't going as far as his fears-- yet. If he doesn't speak up soon, he might look crazy or give himself away. He sighs, ruffling a hand through his already messy hair to calm himself down.
"Alright, yeah. But it's my business, so keep your mouth shut, okay? Seriously, I didn't even want you to know..." His honest disappointment and apparent worry gives Eddie pause. Yeah, normally he probably wouldn’t stop digging until he knew what was going on, but this is Richie...Things like this are a lot more sensitive for him than he lets on.
“Okay, Rich. Just between us. But come on, my mom almost bit my head off already for coming out to find you after curfew.”
Richie’s initial gratitude overshadows his embarrassment from before, and then he realizes just what a big deal it is that Eddie’s even out this late without planning to be. His eyes go wide as dinner plates behind his cartoonishly thick glasses and he laughs.
“Jesus, Eddie, she’s gonna kill me!” He pauses in thought after calming down, mounting his bike and leaning forward so the seat and pegs were safely open for Eddie to get on. “Let me take you home, then. She can’t murder me f she sees that I’m a gentleman first.”
Normally, Eddie would probably refuse, but given the circumstances… “Okay. But you have to talk to somebody sometime, Tozier. Deal?” “Deal. Now get on, Eddie Spaghetti. We’re losing daylight. Chop chop!”
Eddie rolls his eyes, smiling and getting on the back of the bike with his arms around Richie’s waist for that little extra bit of much needed comfort. Richie waits until he’s sure Eddie isn’t going to fall off of the pegs before heading back off into town and taking a bit of a shortcut through tan alley that Eddie is none too thrilled about.
“Don’t you dare-- slow down! We’ll slip in the gravel, fuck-face! Have you ever seen MRSA? It eats your limbs and kills you by infection , Richie. Just--” he screams when they do indeed slip without falling while rounding the corner out of the alley.
“...Be careful, Richie. Jesus.” He sighs, lessening the tight hold on Richie’s waist when the bastard dares to start laughing at him. He decides not to bitch about it too much. Seeing his mood lighten up is worth his pride. The rest of the ride is thankfully more relaxing than that terrifying moment, so Eddie can really enjoy the wind on his face and indulge in being close to Richie without having to crack any “your mom” jokes to interrupt it.
Unfortunately, they’re at his house within ten minutes of leaving, and although neither one wants to really be separated from each other, it’s still summer for a few more days-- they’ll always have tomorrow. “Thanks, Richie...so, are you ever gonna tell me who that ‘E’ is?”
Although Eddie’s being gentle about this particular curiosity, Richie still tenses up and shrugs Eddie’s worries off with a smile. “Maybe when you’re taller, Eds. See you tomorrow?”
Eddie pauses, almost letting himself be outraged until he remembers that Richie is just trying to get a rise out of him because he wants him to forget about the initials. “Beep fuckin’ beep, Richie.” His grinning counterpart waves too cheerily, making him roll his eyes and wave back as he turns to go into his house to deal with the hell Sonia probably has in store for him.
“Night, Eds!” Richie calls, turning his bike in the driveway and not waiting for a response once Eddie has a hand on the doorknob. “...Goodnight, Richie,” he murmurs before reluctantly heading inside.
Another one of the only times Richie’s wanted to be alone comes in 2016. He’s unfortunately still in Derry, waiting in the hospital parking lot and leaning against his hot rod rent-a-car as he tries not to bite his fingernails down to bleeding stumps between puffs of his juul. Yes, he’s forty-- he knows. But it’s better than some things he could be breathing in (namely cigarettes, which Eddie hates with a passion), so he just tries to keep it something he uses for stress. He barely even remembers where he got it...maybe a gag gift after one of his sets making fun of internet culture? That sounds right. His team works to keep his material fresh for all generations, and he’s always been a big believer in making fun of everything under the sun. At least that part of his stupid stage persona is genuine.
In the middle of his attempts to sulk and escape from his problems, Ben comes out of seemingly nowhere to interrupt and also partially lean against the car. Ironically, while the car provided support for both of them, Ben's goal was to allow Richie to emotionally lean on him now.
"Eddie's still doing fine. He's stable, and he wants you to know that you should leave that trend to the fifteen year olds. Seriously, aren't we considered old now?"
Ben definitely knows he's playing into Richie's usual way of escaping things he doesn't want to deal with, so he's more than happy to jump in.
"Well, other comedians like their hard drugs, but me...I'm a vape god."
The two of them laugh for the first time in probably days, still looking sad when the moment’s over but feeling at least a little lighter.
“Is it the taste?” Ben then asks, wanting to be able to fill the silence somehow. Everyone’s taking a page out of Richie’s book lately. It’s okay...at least he’s not the only scared one for once. It makes him feel a little less alone.
“Uh, yeah. Couldn’t keep up with smoking, even with Bev’s bad influence. I don’t think I wanna know how abused her lungs feel after being here for over a week,” he’s honest about that, at least-- he’d been the first to comment on the handprint on her arm, after everyone else was asleep on that first night. She trusted him enough to use him as a shoulder to cry on before he encouraged her to get some rest. He would fucking kill her husband if he ever came around them again. She’s like a sister to him, and she doesn’t deserve to be hurt by anyone else again. Anyone that dared try from now on would have to go through at least one, if not all five, of her living best friends. An idly passing thought makes him briefly wonder how pissed Eddie would be if he caught something like that. Probably pissed enough to burn the world down.
Ben shakes his head, putting his hands in his pockets. “Me either...Myra hasn’t killed any of us yet, by the way. Bev’s still trying to play nice, but Jesus…”
Richie nods, completely understanding. “Carbon fucking copy, I know. I hate her.” He wrinkles his nose distastefully, putting the little device back in his pocket. He doesn’t need it to get through this-- he doesn’t. He just needs to be around Eddie, needs to see him really wake up...Sonia 2.0 be damned. Sure, he hated her, but he could at least try to hold his tongue on his opinions.
They calm each other down for a few more minutes, talking about anything and everything aside from Eddie until their bonding is interrupted by the back door slamming open. Bill’s standing there, looking alarmed and immediately setting off red flags and alarm bells in Richie’s head, and obviously Ben’s too. He stands up straight, Ben thankfully asking the question Richie’s terrified to hear the answer to.
“Bill, what’s wrong?”
“I-It’s his wife. She s-started a fight with Bev,” he explains readily, talking quickly despire his stutter-- that’s when the Losers typically know there’s trouble on its way.
“Fuck,” Richie curses, pushing off the car and rushing inside with both of them. “Has she killed the ogre yet?”
Bill shakes his head, walking quickly at Richie and Ben’s side to keep up with them and deal with the arguing down the hall. Great, it’s already escalated. By the time Richie gets back into*the room, Bev has a murderous look on her face for an unknown reason, and Ben’s somehow able to diffuse the situation by pulling her back with his hand on her arm. At least no one’s thrown any punches-- yet. Myra is enraged, face flushed as she jabs a finger in Mike and Bev’s direction.
“You people are toxic . My Eddie-Bear hasn’t been taking his medicine, and then you nearly get him killed, and refuse to tell anyone the truth about it.”
Bill, ever the peacekeeper, ignores the tears on her face and approaches her patiently even though none of them really have the highest opinion of her. “Myra, trust me. You have n-nothing to worry about concerning Bev,” he promises, apparently having caught something that Richie hadn’t heard while rushing down the hall. “And we told you, it was a mugging...we were just here to catch up because our friend… w-well, anyway, Eddie’s not that sort of m-man. He wouldn’t do that to you.”
Oh. Oh… She’s that stupid.
Richie can’t help the loud, sarcastic belly laugh he initially tries to stifle, then just lets go to show how ridiculous her stupid-ass claim is. He vaguely hears Mike from across the room, but his mind is one-sided.
"Richie, man, she's upset. She doesn't know what she's saying," he tries to smooth things over and calm Richie down with his skills as a mediator. Being a cop will help with that, not that Richie's paying any damn attention to anything but his blinding rage towards Myra.
The idea of Bev trying to steal Eddie away from this woman-- it reminds him of a conversation Sonia once had with him over what a bad influence on Eddie , was. It makes him want to hit her for how she’s emasculating his impossibly strong and stubborn best friend.
“Are you fucking kidding me?” He asks, all eyes still on him after that bout of insane laughter. “Bev, and Eddie...Jesus fuck, you’re as stupid as you are sick,” he accuses, resisting the urge to attack her weight. It’s low-hanging fruit, and also absolutely not the point.
He hates her because she’s fucking evil.
“Excuse me?” She asks, voice dangerously low and trembling as if she’s a parent waiting for an apology. And he is not about to fucking give in that easily.
“I said what I said,” he snaps, getting deadly serious now. “You have to know everything he's doing his entire life, and we’re the bad influence?” He hisses, getting overwhelmed on Eddie’s behalf now. Apparently, he’s angered her enough to storm across the room and smack him hard enough to make his ears ring, shutting everyone else in the room up for a few beats in shock before she jabs her finger into his chest, lips quivering around gritted teeth. Richie's now officially decided to recommend divorce at the soonest possible moment.
“She kissed him--” “No, Don’t fucking start with me. With all the control you have over every aspect of his goddamn life, I can’t believe you never smothered him in his--!” He’s cut off by a doctor and some security guards that are obviously compelled to investigate the noise they’re creating in the hospital. Calmly enough, he shows them all out to calm down (including Myra) after getting a brief explanation of what happened. Bill gets them all shitty coffees from the vending machine in the waiting room, while Myra stews out in her car and away from the rest of the group. Richie sips it while still piping hot, not caring about burning his mouth as long as he can distract himself.
After an hour of calming down and just waiting around, the group decides that they only need two of them there until Eddie actually wakes up, so naturally Richie volunteers for the first shift. The absolute last thing he wants to do right now is leave Eddie, his hellish wife be damned.
There’s not really anything of note that happens in the next 24 hours. Richie completes his shift and reluctantly goes to bed when Bev takes over and nearly forces him to take sleeping pills; his nightmares make those twelve hours broken up hours a living hell, but at least he’s allowed to pick right back up with the rest of the group at the hospital when the doctors say Eddie should be waking up soon. No one wants to miss it, so even if it’s awkward and tense the whole time with Myra around, they stick it out for Eddie’s sake.
It’s been five long, exhausting days of waiting for Eddie's recovery and worrying over him, but it’s all worth it when all the Losers just so happen to be in the room when Eddie opens his eyes and groans at the brightness of the room’s lights. Myra dims them for him, doing the first kind thing any of the group had so far seen from her, while Richie gets up out of his place in the chair next to the bed.
“Hey...we won,” Eddie manages a smile at the sight of everyone around him, and they all crowd around him, unable to help their relief as they hug him. Mike and Bev are closest, but Richie feels a hand in his hair and his heart fucking spills over with relief as tears fill his eyes and the group gets to relish in this joy for a moment. Eddie’s alive, thanks to all their efforts (especially Mike, who had to more or less carry him out of the rapidly collapsing tunnels), and they’re together again. Even Stan, though they can’t exactly see his sacrifice for the group or protection of them in a literal sense just yet. They’re all here, they made it, and even though Myra almost has smoke coming out of her ears, they can deal with it later. They’re together, they’re mostly okay, and they lived. In Richie’s humble opinion, that’s all they could ever ask for after facing off against an evil fucking clown.
He’s sure Myra very much disagrees. Mostly because she's clueless.