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We said I love you 27 Hours Ago

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Richie remembered the first time Pennywise had appeared to him. Rather, what Pennywise had appeared to him as. The Paul Bunyan statue, which Richie could now barely so much as glance at without flinching. He had passed it driving into town, and he'd gotten in just at the beginning of daybreak, and the statue had stood menacingly tall overhead, a dark figure on the side of the street. Richie hadn't known why he had felt such dread having passed it, but he knew now. 

"What are you afraid of, Richie?"  They'd asked him. When everyone was telling each other what they'd seen, how they'd thought they'd all been going bonkers for weeks, he said; "Clowns." 

He was a liar. Clowns were scary to him, sure, but he wasn't deathly afraid of them. It wasn't the thing he thought of that made him shiver when he thought of his greatest fear. But nobody had to know what he was truly afraid of. 

The swell of an Adam's apple on some boy's throat, the lines starting from hip curling below a waistline, the way his best friend licked his lips when he spoke. 

The thing that terrified Richie the most, by far, was the truth. 

 

Eddie couldn't sleep. He didn't assume any of the others could either, of course, they had all gone off to their separate rooms reluctantly after Mike insisted they needed at least a bit of rest before their voyage, what that voyage entailed, nobody but Mike could know. Still, Eddie heard no noise from anywhere outside his room. Had everyone really been able to nod off but him? After what happened at the restaurant, Eddie was somewhat surprised Bill had talked Mike until letting them all get some rest, lest anybody sneak off during the night to return home, to a normal life. If Eddie were honest, the thought had occurred to him more than once during these late hours. 

About 20 minutes ago, he had heard the floors creaking just slightly, as though somebody was sneaking about before he thought he heard a door closing. He had been trying not to think about who it might've been, maybe Bev, going out for a smoke, Bill, getting some fresh air, or Richie, getting into his car and driving away. 

He hoped that it wasn't Richie, and if it was, he didn't want to find out until morning, when he absolutely had to. But at this point, having lay on the bed for hours without a wink of sleep to speak of, Eddie wanted to give a bit of fuel to the sinking pit in his stomach. 

Sighing in defeat, he swung his legs over the bed, taller than the one he slept in back home, and gazed at the clock on the bedside table. 3 am. With each step he took, the floor creaked loud enough, he feared, to wake everyone if they had been able to sleep. He tiptoed his way to the door and opened it, absently thinking when he'd stepped out, how it was a bit funny that Richie had ended up in the room next to his, out of everybody else that could've ended up beside him, of course, it would end up being him. 

Eddie didn't know where he was going, partly because he didn't know where anything was, and because he hadn't thought far ahead about where he'd be spending his time if not in bed sleeping. He neglected to turn the flashlight of his phone on to light his way, instead simply feeling his way along the wall to the staircase, because there couldn't be a clown jumping out at him from the dark if it was all dark and he couldn't see anyway. 

Once he reached the staircase, the light from the lobby downstairs shone at the bottom, and Eddie could see his way down the stairs. He held on the rails still for balance, and once he reached the bottom, he noticed something in the corner of his eye, a figure hunched over in one of the chairs in the lobby. 

He almost jumped out of his skin, expecting some sickening creature to jump out at him. But as he watched, all he saw was the rise and fall of breath, and as he looked closer, he saw the dark, unruly hair, the jacket collar, and he realized it was Richie sitting there. Hunched over, reading something on his phone, sitting by himself. He let out a sigh of relief. Richie was still here, he hadn't left. 

Approaching slowly, Eddie thought of something casual to say. Somehow, saying you couldn't sleep either? felt lame and too obvious a question, but saying I'm glad you didn't leave felt too straightforward, more than he was prepared for, anyhow. He slowly sat in the chair opposite of Richie, but he was so engrossed with whatever he was reading, he didn't notice him. 

"So uh, you don't write your own material, huh?" Eddie asked with a smirk. 

Richie startled, but then he saw who it was, and he sank back down in the lobby chair, hands on his knees, and then hands on his face, wiping his glasses with his shirt. Eddie sometimes needed to wear glasses now in his older age, his eyes not being as good as they used to be, so he knew that shirt material was definitely not what you should be cleaning your glasses with. 

"Yeah, man." Richie said with a soft huff of laughter, putting his glasses back on his face. "I uh, I don't write good jokes, so they have me just recite somebody else's." 

"What the fuck does that even mean? You don't write good jokes?" Eddie could see Richie's phone screen, discarded beside his leg, it was still on an article from Derry News that Richie had been reading. He read the name "Adrian Mellon" before Richie reached down and turned the screen black. 

"Jokes about fucking your mom don't get you so far in the biz." Richie said with a grin, acting as if he hadn't just been reading the article that had nearly made Eddie vomit this morning when he'd debriefed himself. Something about the small town of Derry made Pennywise almost preferable, something that could've seen him ending up exactly like Adrian Mellon. "And anyway, Eddie, since when do you watch my shows?" 

"Oh, uh, Myra- my wife, she likes to watch it, when it's on," Eddie spoke fast, shrugging casually as he said it as if he didn't beg Myra to let him watch it on their shared TV every time he knew that it would be playing. He hadn't known why then. Really, the jokes weren't even that funny, but there was just something about this Richie Tozier guy that he couldn't ever get enough of. 

"Well, I'll take that back to my agent, a big "fuck you" to him, since he thinks my comedy isn't reaching a female audience," Richie said. 

"So your jokes about your girlfriend, not true?" Eddie persisted. He couldn't help himself. 

"Nope," Richie replied, his response was almost lightning-fast, and Eddie thought for a moment, that maybe Richie didn't really want to talk about this anymore. And if it was the case, Eddie wouldn't press him further. But then Richie spoke again. "When I first started, they said that I had the comedic talent, whatever the fuck that means, to deliver jokes, to engage the audience. I had the right voice, the right expressions, but my jokes weren't funny. So they've got me delivering jokes about things that I've never done and girlfriends I've never had." 

Richie was still the slightest bit drunk, Eddie could tell, Richie was always the one to light the fire under somebody else's ass rather than his own when he was wasted, but he was sharing pieces of himself to Eddie now, and Eddie just wanted to sit and listen, respond when he needed to, just to keep Richie talking. He just wanted to listen to Richie talk.

"Trashmouth never had a girlfriend, I call bullshit," Eddie said. He was teetering on something, he knew he was, he wouldn't let himself put a name to it, but he felt it in his heartbeat, the giddiness he felt. 

Richie sat still, a slight hum filling the space between them from deep in his throat, but it was like Eddie had stepped on a nail, embedding itself deep in his foot, stepping in places he knew he shouldn't have been, territory he shouldn't have gone, and now Richie had shrivelled up into himself again, quiet again, so different from the kid he was before. He was the same and different in so many ways, different, in that he'd apparently gotten worse at his facade. 

"What would you say if it was true?" Richie asked him, suddenly, he wasn't looking at Eddie like he should've been, and Eddie felt like his throat could close up on him at any moment, his heart was beating straight out of his chest. 

They were being serious, it wasn't like them, their dynamic they'd picked right back up again after so long apart. Eddie didn't know how to respond, at first. So much of what he spoke with Richie was carefully thought wit, and so much of it wasn't the truth. Was he supposed to tell Richie something to make him snort laughter? Or should he tell him the only thing that was blaring in his mind at that moment, which was the truth. 

"I'd ask you how." Eddie decided upon saying. "You're-" he stopped himself, swallowing hard, thinking of how to finish his sentence. Too good to pass up, he'd wanted to say. Instead, he said "a total chick magnet." 

Richie chuckled, but it didn't reach his cheekbones, which dug into his eyes when he smiled, the creases beside his mouth didn't flare as they should have. "You really want to know?" His voice had taken on such a dark and somber tone when he said it. 

Eddie nodded, he was so confused and yet so certain that he knew what Richie would say, but he felt as if he'd pushed him into admitting something he wasn't ready for. He wanted to say you don't need to tell me. He wanted him to know he could back out. 

"Rich," Eddie said softly, but Richie "shhhed" him. 

"I think that if I don't tell somebody this, I- I think I might die." 

Eddie stayed silent, watching as Richie folded his hands in his lap, stuck them in his jacket pockets, ran them through his hair, repeat. His chest looked like it was heaving with deep, swift breaths. 

"I-I'm, I'm... not-not straight, Eds." 

There. That was it. Eddie felt Richie's eyes on him, he looked up at him, but when he did, Richie held his gaze for only a moment, looking down at his hands. Eddie's hands were rested on his knees, but they were shaking, just slightly. 

Just the cold. 

But that wasn't true. The second he'd heard Richie say it, he'd thought of them as kids, riding their bikes side by side, Richie cracking some vulgar joke about his genitalia when he saw girls in bikinis as shirts with only shorty shorts to boot, and he'd thought to himself; What if I'd been born a girl instead?  It wasn't the first time he'd thought it, and it wasn't the last. 

Now, sitting here, with Richie's hands shaking the slightest bit, his knees bouncing in front of him, Eddie thought that he was stupid, so stupid, not to have known, not to have seen it before. 

But then, had anyone seen through his facade in all his 40 years? 

"I-I like-" 

"Okay." Eddie interrupted Richie as he was sure he was about to clarify his sexuality for him when Eddie needed no clarification. But as he said it, he realized it must sound so harsh to Richie, who'd just spilled his heart to him, the only person he'd ever told. 

"What I mean," Eddie took a breath, "is that it's okay. Of course, it is, Richie. You know that's okay, don't you?" 

It's funny, what you'll say to make the people you care about at ease, to reassure them, to tell them the words you would've loved somebody to have told you, the words opposite of what you'd spent 29 years playing around inside your head. It's okay. 

Richie didn't say anything, so Eddie leaned forward and put his hand, delicately on his knee. His face burned hot as he did so, thinking of what inclinations he might be sending, and it was hard for him to resist grabbing his hand right back, but he didn't. Richie was his friend, his best friend, friends touched each other's knees all the time, even as grown men they did, right? Eddie hadn't had many friends since leaving Derry. 

You could tell him, he thought. Just do it, say it. Say it, say that you're-

"You're brave, Richie." Eddie said, pretending not to notice the way his voice shook, just the slightest bit. Braver than I'll ever be. "I'm proud of you, for telling me." 

Finally, Richie looked up at him. His gaze was... warm. It filled Eddie's chest with heat. He moved his hand away. 

"Thanks, Eds." Richie said. If he noticed Eddie tearing his hand away, he didn't show it. 

Eddie said nothing, was this an appropriate time to tell Richie he hated being called that, or should he let him get away with it, given the circumstance, just this once? But then Richie laughed, out of nowhere. 

"Oh. Oh my god." He laughed again, his face in his hands, and Eddie wanted to ask what was so funny, but then he said; "I'm so stupid! It would never go this well, of course! I should've seen, I really just had this talk with a fucking clown! I just told you what you already know." 

Eddie wasn't quite sure what was happening, but he said "Rich," softly, so softly, as to not spook him. It was like Richie was reverting, taking everything that he'd said to him back, and Eddie didn't want Richie to take it back, he wanted it to remain between them, a thing Richie had been honest with him about, that he didn't ask him to forget in favour of a joke to cover it up. 

Richie just laughed again. He didn't touch him, but Eddie could see his hands vibrating at his sides. "Really, you're good at this. I really thought you were Eddie. You can cut the shit now, it's hilarious, really." 

And then he stood up, abruptly, from his chair, and Eddie realized what was happening. 

"I'm not It." Eddie said, firmly. 

Richie just kept laughing, pacing, his head in his hands while his fingers wound the hair around his face into ringlets. Eddie couldn't see his face. 

"You want to hear me say it? Just like when I was a kid? I'm not falling for your shit again." Richie's voice was so strained like he might cry. His voice was raised in volume, but not nearly as bad as in the restaurant with the kid he'd thought was Pennywise fucking with him. He still thought Pennywise was fucking with him. And he moved to walk back inside the hotel, but Eddie quickly grabbed his wrist, his heart pounding. Richie startled, likely expecting to see something demonic attached to the hand that had grabbed him. 

"Say what?" Eddie's voice was barely a whisper. At that moment, he thought he might die just from his heart pounding so hard in his chest if he didn't hear what Richie was talking about. 

 

Richie was at the arcade, this wasn't abnormal, but since Bill had punched him in the face and the group had split, he was used to being all by his lonesome, his hands on the controllers, playing a game against himself. Stan didn't like to spend time in the arcade, and he was busy preparing for his speech anyways. Eddie was on house arrest ever since he'd broken his arm, and even though there could very well be better things for Richie to spend his time doing, he liked the arcade too much. Video games were the only way he knew how to deal with- everything. The only time he could be in such close proximity with boys that didn't already decide what they thought about him, the noises of the screaming kids and the video game violence drowning out the voices in his head, the chanting that he was unnatural, sinful, dirty-

"Richie." 

The voice from behind him prompted him to turn, so fast the room spun. 

"Eddie?" He asked. But it was him, standing before him, his arm carefully bandaged at his side. But how had he gotten here without Mrs. K alerting the entire neighbourhood? 

Eddie smiled at him as if saying; 'yep, it's me, the one and only!' And then he opened his mouth, and he said "I'm so bored, Richie. Would you play with me, just for a little bit?" 

And Richie had said "Sure, do you want to be on this side-" 

"No." Eddie said, forcefully. But then his voice softened. "I'm so tired of being inside, I want to go outside, just for a minute. Please, Richie, my mom's gonna find me soon." 

And that sounded perfectly reasonable to Richie. So he shrugged and led the way out of the arcade, past the theatre and toward the park across the alley, not as visible as the park across the street, so he could save as much time before Eddie had to go as possible. 

But he felt Eddie pull on his wrist behind him, and when he turned around, Eddie looked sickly. 

"Richie, I-I need to sit down." He said. 

"Jesus, Eds. What's Mrs. K feeding you?" Richie smiled, but he helped Eddie sit against the wall and he crouched down in front of him, placing his hand on his forehead. "Why'd you come outside when you're this sick, you dumbass." 

"I wanted to see you." The way Eddie said it was so sincere, Richie felt the blush crawling up his cheeks. He pulled away and said "You're so full of shit." 

"I had to tell you something." This perked Richie's interest, so he asked, of course, he did, why wouldn't he have asked what it was? He expected Eddie to tell him something stupid like he always did, a moment of seriousness never ended without a joke or two shared between them. 

"I missed you so much, it made me realize that I..." Richie's heart was pounding out of his chest so hard he could feel it thrumming through his ears. "I want to hold your hand sometimes, and o-other stuff." 

"Eddie," Richie chuckled like this was just another joke. "that's..." but he couldn't think of what to say. What? 'That's gay?' Of course, it was, and isn't that what Richie wanted? 

"You don't want to?" And the way that Eddie looked when he said it, his brown eyes downcast, watery, like he may cry, broke Richie's heart in two. 

"I do, Eds, I..." He couldn't say it. Wanting to hold Richie's hand was one thing, he couldn't tell Eddie. He couldn't, they were just kids. Maybe Eddie wanted to hold all of his friends' hands sometimes? 

"You what?" Eddie asked. He placed his hand on Richie's knee, and the gesture itself wasn't so foreign, yet the intensity of it made Richie audibly gasp. 

"I... I want to-" and he couldn't say what he really wanted to say, he was just so scared. But this was enough. "kiss you, sometimes. All the time. I want to every time you speak." 

"Then kiss me," Eddie whispered, his long lashes lidded over his eyes. "I'm in love with you, Richie." 

And Richie did. He leaned over and he kissed him. He didn't think about who could see them, who may walk past, Henry Bowers or his stupid gang, nobody because he was kissing Eddie Kaspbrak, his best friend, who'd just told him that he was in love with him. 

"I'm in love with you." Richie said against Eddie's lips, the first time he'd ever spoken it out loud, and he pulled away from the shock of it. That, and Eddie had started to move his hand up Richie's leg, up towards his inner thigh. 

"Jesus, Eddie!" Richie gasped, and that was when he realized something was eerily wrong. 

Eddie's hand wasn't where it had been just a second ago, and Eddie was laughing, cackling, and Richie saw the amber in Eddie's eyes and right then he knew that who, or what he had just kissed, just confessed to, was not Eddie. 

"How sweet," The thing that wasn't Eddie, but that looked exactly like Eddie, said, his voice was higher pitched and scratchy like he had nothing but twigs brustling making up his vocal cords. "You think I could ever love you back? You, you're just so unbearable!" 

Richie jumped back on his feet, stumbling slightly backward before he could balance again, scrambling to the opposite wall as the thing that was not Eddie. "You're not Eddie." He said, defiantly, but his thumping heartbeat gave his fear away. 

"No." The thing agreed, and it seemed that with each passing moment, Eddie's features were getting more grisly, his chin was pointed oddly, his lips began to curve downward, drool running down his chin as he stared at him. "But I know that nobody, especially Eddie, would ever love you. You're just too annoying, unbearable, predatory and dirty. Don't think about touching other boys, Richie, don't do it or they'll know what dirty things you think about." 

If Richie could have found words right then, he wouldn't have said anything. It was like this thing had taken every thought he'd ever had straight out of his own head. 

"DON'T TOUCH ME!" And suddenly it was yelling, but in Eddie's voice again. And that was when Richie fled, a voice mixed with Eddie's and something straight from hell yelling after him; "Don't touch them! Don't touch them! Don't touch them!" The laughter he still heard echoing in his head hours later, even when he covered his ears. 

 

"No." And that was all Richie said before he tugged his wrist out of Eddie's grasp. 

"Wait!" Eddie exclaimed. He had to know. "Ask me something only I'd know." He said to Richie's back. 

Richie was still for a very long time. Finally, he asked, in a voice smaller than Eddie had ever heard it; "What did the letter I passed to you in English class say?" 

There were so many notes passed between them, so many years of the same English class, yet Eddie knew exactly what note Richie was talking about, without a doubt in his mind. "You told me that your dick shoots better than water in a pool noodle." He said, without hesitation. As he spoke, the memory came back to him in swift clarity. "It was after we defeated it, my mom wouldn't let me go anywhere but school. It was the only time you could talk to me for months." 

Eddie could see Richie's shoulders rising and falling with his breaths, could guess he was debating whether to trust it really was Eddie, or somehow Pennywise could know something like that after he'd hidden deep underground and hadn't been seen again for 27 years. 

"Did you know," Eddie said softly before he could stop himself. Oh god, am I really saying this? "I wrote you a letter before I moved away, I don't know if you ever got it. I was moving, and everybody else had forgotten about us when they'd left town, and I didn't think I had anything to lose if I was never going to see you again." 

"I didn't get it," Richie said. He was facing Eddie again, his arms crossed protectively over his chest. His facial expression was soft where his body language was hard, guarded. 

"Oh." Eddie breathed. He supposed maybe that was a good thing, he hadn't known then that they'd all see each other again years down the road, what if Richie had read it and thought of him differently? 

"What did it say?" Richie asked, curiously, giving a tiny shrug as if it didn't matter to him whether he knew or not. Guarded. 

"You know what it said, Rich," Eddie replied. He couldn't say the words that were pressing against his lips, couldn't just end this conversation here and now with the truth, the truth that he'd forgotten for so long, but had remembered the second he'd seen Richie, standing in the doorway of the restaurant in his leather jacket and glasses just as big as the ones he'd owned before, but his face was bigger, longer now. Right there, he had remembered being in love with Richie Tozier. "C'mon, man, you had to have known. When I saved up my allowance for months just to buy you the coolest birthday present out of everybody else when I stayed up past my bedtime just to hear you read the action scenes in your comic books in those stupid voices, when I showed you the hole in my backyard where I kept everything you guys gave me so my mother didn't see them, and you saw all the notes that you'd ever written me in there, even though it was embarrassing and I was sure you were going to make fun of me for it, but you never did." 

"Do you know what you're saying?" Richie asked him like he couldn't believe Eddie would ever imply what he was unless he was unsure about what he was saying. As if Eddie could never love Richie seriously, only as part of the butt of a joke. And Eddie scoffed. 

"Of course I do, you clueless asshole! I'm saying I've been in love with you since we were kids!" 

And once Eddie had said that once Richie had opened and closed his lips a few times, and Eddie lost the nerve he'd built up, he pulled out his phone, opened his notes, and typed. He passed it to Richie, their fingers brushing, he was sure Richie would pull away as quickly as it'd happened, but he didn't, and Eddie watched him read his phone, his fingers tapping his knee nervously. 

I still am.

And he barely noticed Richie's mouth move but heard him mutter "fuck" clear as day, and he didn't reach out to him, didn't immediately give his phone back, and Eddie felt himself deflate. He snatched his phone back hastily, and Richie looked up at him. 

"I'm sorry," Richie said. Blinked at him. Once, twice, didn't say another thing. They just stared at each other, the breeze tugging on Richie's curls slightly, for a few moments that felt like hours. Eddie wanted to get up, go back to his room, and pretend nothing had happened, that he'd never said he was in love with Richie. Richie, who'd just told him that he was gay, and Eddie, who'd come onto him. He felt disgusting, wrong, dirty. But he stayed because Richie's eyes had him pinned right where he sat. He didn't want to forget the way Richie's eyes swam behind his glasses as he had before. Even if Richie hated him for the rest of his life, Eddie wouldn't forget this face. 

"I don't..." Richie said, and then he laughed, softly, averting his eyes and breaking their shared gaze. It was the most vulnerable Eddie had ever seen him. "I don't know what to do, I- I never thought this would ever happen. I'm not sure what... what I should do." 

Kiss me, dummy. Eddie thought, but he couldn't commit himself to say aloud. And it was almost scary, the intensity he felt in that moment, just how much he wanted Richie's mouth on his, more than he'd ever wanted anybody to kiss him before in his life. 

He reached for Richie's hand, held it softly above his knee. "Is this alright?" He asked. 

Richie nodded, and then he laughed, suddenly. "Of course, it's just my hand." And Eddie knew what he meant, they'd done so much more than holding hands as kids, but it wasn't just anything, it was so much more than that. He could feel Richie's pulse in his wrist thrumming fast enough to match his own. There was so much more to this now, and they both knew that to be true. 

"You can-" Eddie broke off, swallowing hard, thinking of what he wanted to say. He could see the battle happening behind Richie's eyes, the same one he was having with himself, the same one he had every time he noticed a man in ways he thought he shouldn't be. "We can do whatever we want to, it's okay, this is okay for both of us." 

Richie nodded, his lip was quivering slightly. Eddie remembered, suddenly, when they were kids and Richie talked a big game, but he seemed almost smaller as an adult, and Eddie knew that whatever situation they would be in, Richie would never accept himself enough to be the first to initiate anything with another man. So, he reached out the hand not holding Richie's and brushed his thumb, soft as a feather over Richie's throat, watching his Adam's apple bob as he swallowed thickly. His hands were just big enough to tickle the soft curls on the back of his neck. 

"Richie." He said softly, so softly, like he would spook him at any given moment. "What you want, it isn't immoral." He wanted to lean in and press their lips together so bad, but he held back. Richie needed to hear these words he likely had never heard from anybody else in his life, just like Eddie hadn't. "Let yourself say what you want." 

Richie took a shuddering breath against Eddie's hand on his neck, and he looked like he might cry. That was the motivation Eddie needed, seeing Richie emotional like that. He leaned in, his thumb stroking Richie's neck, and he could feel him trembling beneath him. Their lips were brushing by a hair's length when he asked; "Do you want me, Richie?" 

"Always," came Richie's reply, before he brought their faces together and their lips were touching. It was the softest kiss Eddie had ever partaken in, at first they just pressed their lips together for a few moments again and again. And Richie's trembling hand came to rest on Eddie's cheek, so soft, and Eddie pulled Richie in closer to him by the back of his neck, and then they were kissing clumsily, with open mouths and Eddie could feel the stubble on Richie's chin grazing his bottom lip and he loved every moment of it. Every time he had kissed his wife's soft face, her plump lips, it had never compared to kissing Richie, his face rough and his lips chapped but soft all at the same time. 

And Richie's tongue was dancing in front of Eddie's open lips and grazing his front teeth and he had the briefest moment of disgust before he wormed his own tongue into Richie's mouth and Richie bit his bottom lip and he thought to himself instead that he was never as good at anything in his life as he was at kissing Richie. Their noses were bumping every few moments and Richie's glasses were clunky against Eddie's forehead, but Richie didn't take them off and Eddie didn't ask him to. Eddie could feel the heavy breath from Richie's nose and he knew he was doing the same thing, and he could smell Richie's scent, their faces so close together, why, how had he spent so many years without this? 

Eddie was leaning his entire body over from where he sat, so he didn't break the kiss as he came to place his tinier frame between Richie's open legs and straddle him. Richie gasped into his mouth, but he was only kissing him harder from then on, and Eddie only had a fleeting moment's thought of overwhelming Richie, or even how sinful kissing another man was because it was Richie, and everything with Richie just felt so good and right and true. 

Eddie could feel himself growing more excited and no matter how much he willed it down, the way Richie's breath warmed the length of his tongue whenever he brushed it over his lip was just too delightfully arousing. He wanted to keep kissing Richie for the entirety of his life, with nothing coming of it, even when his body was begging for more contact, more of Richie pressed to him, more, more, more. 

"Richie." He mumbled against Richie's mouth, and his mouth stilled as a result and Eddie didn't even pull away as he spoke, their lips brushing when he did, "Do you want to go upstairs?" It was nothing but a whisper, maybe less, and he already had an excuse ready if Richie spooked at his suggestion. I don't want to sit making out in the middle of a public hotel lobby, he didn't want to ask Richie for anything he wasn't ready to give, but if this situation ended right when it'd begun, at least Eddie could tell himself he'd been brave, he'd gone for what he wanted for so long, and that was enough. 

But Richie didn't spook, he didn't even say anything, Eddie's eyes were half-open but he felt Richie nod against his lips, wordlessly pulling away, and Eddie almost whimpered at the loss. But his heart was beating too hard for him to do anything but think about Richie, without hotel lobby chairs between them, without the thought of being bare in front of anybody else but him. 

Richie didn't grab Eddie's hand, they both just crept up the stairs wordlessly, as quietly as they could, and as they left the dimly lit lobby and up the stairs to total darkness, Eddie caught the barest sight of Richie's pants before he couldn't see anything anymore, and it made him flush in every way possible knowing that Richie had just the same excitement as he did. 

And Eddie didn't know which room they'd gone in, they were right beside each other and he couldn't see anything to his left or to his right, they had both left them unlocked and when Richie quietly pried the door open, Eddie all but jumped into Richie's chest and in that process, let Richie feel him. 

"Fuck, Eddie," Richie whispered, huffing air through his teeth. He closed the door and then Richie's hands were on either side of his face and his own hands were on Richie's shoulders, prying his jacket from his frame, encouraging him to shed it. And he did, shrugging it off before kissing him again, hard. It felt so good, Richie was as desperate as he was. 

Eventually, his backside found the edge of the bed. He broke away and crept onto it, crouching on his knees. He could barely see Richie, only the barest features and his silhouette from the moon in the window, but he still saw the apprehensive look in Richie's eyes, watching him crawl up on the bed. The bed, new territory that led to things neither of them were probably ready for. 

"Richie," Eddie whispered, in the softest voice he could muster, reaching to him in the dark, this figure that hulked over him, yet he was talking to in the most comforting voice used to soothe children. "Do you want more? Do you want to stop?" 

Richie shook his head like he was expelling a thought, coming to his senses. "Yeah. I mean- Yes. I want- I want you, Eddie." 

"Richie," Eddie whispered, beckoning Richie toward him once he'd felt his fingers circle around Richie's wrists. 

"I want you so bad, Eddie." Richie just couldn't shut his mouth now that he'd said it aloud, but Eddie didn't mind, he felt the flush of Richie's words over him travel directly downwards. "I always have." 

"Me too," Eddie said, but he'd barely gotten it out before they were kissing again, he felt Richie's weight beside him as he got onto the bed on his knees, and Eddie felt his back hit the bed and Richie was on top of him, and Eddie could barely help his hips lifting, brushing his crotch against Richie's, and the gasp from Richie's mouth into his own was so deliciously enjoyable that he did it again, harder. 

And Eddie almost cried out in pure joy when he felt Richie's hands set hold on his hips, holding him down, while Richie did the work in grinding his hips down against him. It felt good, so good, he couldn't even imagine it feeling any better than it did, but it could if they weren't both wearing jeans and there was denim between them. 

Wordlessly, Eddie trailed his hands from Richie's neck down his hips, to which Richie shivered, and he started tugging the band of his pants downward. Richie quickly obeyed, breaking their kiss for a moment to tug his jeans down his legs. And it was a beautiful sight, Richie, sitting up slightly, the tent in his boxers ever so prevalent now. And Eddie had never gotten the same satisfaction out of his wife getting wet over something he did as he did seeing Richie, hard as he was just from kissing him. 

Eddie leaned forward and kissed Richie right where his neck curved into his collarbone, sucking just slightly, and tugging a stray curl from his head. He grabbed Richie's hips and pulled him towards him again, moving his hips in a circular motion against him, and as Richie let out a breathy gasp near his ear, he also said; "Jesus Eddie, take yours off too." 

Eddie didn't wait for a second longer. Lifting his hips from the bed, he slid his pants down his legs, discarding them somewhere on the floor. And once he had, he felt Richie's hand resting on his upper thigh, it was trembling. 

"I want it, Richie," Eddie assured him. He was shaking too, and he was sure Richie could feel it, mistaking it for fear or that Eddie would back out, but he wasn't going to. He was scared, but not of Richie. Nothing was as prevalent to him now as the excitement he felt. "I like it when you touch me." 

Eddie kissed Richie's mouth chastely, trailing his hand over Richie's back in what he hoped was a gesture of comfort. And then, hesitantly, Richie ghosted his hand over Eddie's boxers, and that small touch had Eddie lifting his hips into the air, his hand curling over Richie's shoulder to grip his skin tightly with his nails. And then Richie palmed him softly, almost like an experiment, and Eddie heard himself let out a curt whine he'd never heard out of his own mouth before. He brought Richie's face to his with his hand on his neck and kissed him to silence anything else that might escape him. 

Eddie placed his hand on top of Richie's, guiding him along his length, just how he liked his touch to go, and Richie eagerly obeyed his every ghosted movement. Eddie removed his hand from Richie's neck and trailed it down his chest, he felt Richie's stomach shrink as he did, and he ghosted his fingertips over the trail from his stomach leading to below his waistband, and he revelled in the small groan that left Richie's lips. And then Eddie let his entire hand curl around the shape of Richie's length, and his mouth was filled with nothing but Richie's moans. 

Eddie couldn't help the way his hips moved as Richie touched him, his hand atop of Richie's, his other hand moving up and down Richie's length, and there was nothing more beautiful than the symphony of moans they made together, they went between kissing and muffling the noises in each other's shirt collars. Eddie kissed the skin just beneath Richie's collar, just where dark hair started to grow and span out over his chest. It was marvellous, how much hair Richie had grown all over him in his years, Eddie wanted to trail his lips over all of it. 

"I love you, Eddie," Richie whispered beside his ear in between his soft, breathy moans. Richie, where he was loud in any situation, was quiet in bed, every sound he made was so quiet compared to Eddie's hitched gasps and moans. Eddie moved his hand over his length faster and felt Richie groan, low from his throat. "I love you Eddie, I love you." And he whispered it over and over, and he soaked his boxers while he did, Eddie felt it, felt Richie's hips jerk, his voice break, all the while he just kept repeating it. 

"I love you," Eddie replied, he was close, he arched his back and grabbed Richie's hip to bring him down to him, the friction from Richie's body making him so warm and there, there it was. He muffled his cry with Richie's lips as he came, against his lips, he muttered "Richie, Richie," over and over. 

He ignored the sticky feeling in his boxers, he ignored the fact that Richie seemed like he'd just come back to himself like he'd taken every liberty so he wouldn't have to think too much about what had just happened, as he was pulling away and sitting up. Eddie ignored all of that, he didn't think too much about how Richie was feeling, in a second of selfishness he said; "Rich." 

Richie heard it in his voice, he must've, or he wouldn't have come back, placing a hand on Eddie's shoulder and laying back down beside him. They weren't chest-to-back, Eddie had curled up and Richie lay beside him, a few inches away from him, but he could still feel his body heat and his hand on his shoulder, and when Eddie heard it, the slightest sound, he put his hand on top of Richie's in solidarity. 

Richie took in a shaky breath and Eddie knew that he was crying. Eddie felt like crying too, not because he was sad, just from the intensity of it all. He had finally done what every church service and family reunion discussions had told him that he was better off dead for. And now what? What came after this? He figured that Richie felt the same way, the way they'd fit against each other had been almost heavenly, but now even if Eddie craved it, even if Richie did, touching each other with that sort of intent now, felt like it might be the end of both of them. The most Richie could stomach was a hand on his shoulder, and all Eddie could do was accept that. 

And after a while, when Richie removed his hand and wiped at his eyes, sat up from the bed and mostly silently slipped his jeans back over his legs, Eddie pretended that he was asleep. It was easier that way. When he heard the door opening and closing, and when he was sure he was alone again, a few tears fell stray from his eyes and he wished that he had been asleep. Neither of them were ready for the emotional implications remaining in the same bed would mean, what the others would think, let alone anybody actually knowing. It still hurt more than anything ever would again. 

 

 The first thing Eddie noticed was how Richie hadn't changed out of the clothes he wore last night. Eddie hadn't either, which garnered a few choice glances, but he couldn't find it in himself to change out of them, the clothes he'd told Richie he loved him in. He knew Richie wouldn't say anything, would act like nothing was different because he wasn't ready to acknowledge it, neither of them were. Eddie chose to think Richie felt the same way, and not that he was just lazy and unkempt. he hoped he felt the same.  

 

"Rich." Eddie said, catching up with Richie, walking away from the others as they dispersed from the barrens. Ben had casually asked him where he was going to look for his artifact, Eddie had been about to answer when he saw Richie stalking away, he shrugged and excused himself briskly, walking behind him until he could catch up with his brisk strides. 

Richie glanced at him, but he didn't stop walking. "What's up?" He asked, so casual like they hadn't jerked each other off just a few hours before, like they hadn't told each other they were in love. All Eddie could think was how good Richie was at faking it. He couldn't let himself think about Richie's attitude too much, he would start to think that maybe it had all been him, maybe Richie was just going along with it to be nice, maybe Eddie didn't know when something was so obviously one-sided. If he thought about it too much, that would be what he'd convince himself, and not that Richie was just deeply hurt inside, terrified and insecure. Richie was scared, that was all it was. 

He waited until they were a greater distance from the others before he spoke, making sure they were all out of earshot. Something had been bothering him since last night. "What did Pennywise say to you?" He asked, he felt sweat all too familiar as he spoke, he knew he was pushing Richie, he knew, but he had to ask. "When you were a kid?" 

"What are you talking about?" Richie replied, they were walking side by side now. Back towards town. Eddie had a pretty good idea of where he'd be looking for his artifact, he wondered if Richie did too. 

"Last night, when I said-" he faltered for a moment, not sure if he should be discussing the details of what had happened. Even worse, what if he did, and Richie acted like it had never even happened? He took a breath. "You said that-" 

"Eds." Richie had stopped, suddenly. He swivelled to look at Eddie, and Eddie could see it. The way he was looking at him. It had happened, it was all so clear, just in his expression. And he wasn't intent on pretending that it hadn't. "I promise, when this is all over, I'll tell you every single thing you wanna know, okay?" 

"Okay," Eddie agreed, his voice barely over a whisper. He was just so glad Richie verbally expressed that he wanted to talk to him after everything was said and done. What would they become, after they defeated Pennywise again? 

Eddie walked with Richie until they reached the center of town, where they separated, and as he walked away, Eddie missed the brush of Richie's knuckles against his own. He was daydreaming about it as he suddenly came into contact with a bunch of balloons in his face. It didn't deter his mood. Nothing would, not even what he might see in the drugstore he remembered, suddenly, he had gone to so frequently as a kid. He'd daydreamed about Richie staring at those same white shelves, 27 years before. 

 

When Eddie rushed upstairs to his room, Lepar vomit in places that vomit should never be, he thought for a fleeting moment that he would hate if Richie were to see him in that state. He got his wish. 

When he stepped into the bathroom to wash it off of his face, trying not to think of how it was in his mouth, between this teeth right at that very moment, all it took was a glance out his hotel window for all those thoughts to altogether cease. He caught just a glance, but he knew what it was well enough. The red car speeding away, the empty parking spot where Richie's car should have been. 

And maybe that was why he hadn't noticed the old, rusting blue car that was parked just a spot over, still running, why he hadn't heard the soft steps behind him just behind the doorway. Or maybe it was that he just hadn't cared. 

Richie had left him. What would be worse than that? 

 

When Eddie ran into the doors of the library and saw Richie standing over a dead Henry Bowers, hatchet in his head, his first thought was you came back. His second thought was anger towards himself, for being so elated instead of mad that Richie had left in the first place. But trying not to cry in front of his friends for the past hour was exhausting, and so he just resigned himself to being happy that Richie wasn't gone after all. 

"What the fuck?!" Richie hissed, striding towards Eddie at the other end of the room. Eddie was surprised his voice could get that pissed and quiet at the same time, he was being courteous of Mike on the phone trying to reach Bill. He stood in front of Eddie and raised a tentative hand to his face. "What happened?" 

"Bowers sorta stabbed me in the face," Eddie said with a shrug. He could see the look manifest itself on Richie's face, he knew it. The look of shock, to horror, to guilt. Guilt for leaving, for not being there. "But I stabbed him back with his own knife!" He said proudly, he wanted anything but for Richie to stop looking at him with that expression like it was his fault that it had happened. 

Before Richie could reply, Mike was exclaiming that Bill was going to try to beat Pennywise on his own, and everyone was appalled but not at all surprised, and they were rushing to Neibolt house, and Richie was taking the chance of holding Eddie's hand when they lagged behind the others, and it made dread pool like sour milk within his gut. 

 

I almost let him die, Eddie thought, over and over and over. As they descended the well, as they walked through greywater, the seconds after Bill had shaken him by his shoulders and looked at him with the worst amount of pity imaginable as he had cried, thinking of what could've happened to Richie if Ben hadn't shown up, how Richie could've died right in front of him. 

He almost died because of me. I could've saved him. 

He was almost entirely unconcerned about the fact that he was walking through greywater up to his chest, the way he'd frozen up and almost killed Richie was all he could think about. You're the worst, Eddie. You're the absolute worst. When he felt Richie grab his hand under the murky water, he pulled it away. He didn't deserve Richie at that moment, would he ever, again? 

After everyone had jumped in to save Bev but him, he knew with the utmost certainty that he couldn't let anybody else get hurt because of him again. 

"I can't do it, guys, I can't." He said. He saw Richie turn to look at him. He couldn't look him in the eyes. "I almost let you die, if you bring me with you, you'll all die because of me." 

He reached for his inhaler, because it was just too much, the guilt, the way he couldn't look at Richie, the way Bill had looked at him with pity. He started to take a breath of it in, but Richie reached for it and pulled it from his grasp. That was the most they'd touched since the night before. It pained Eddie to think of it now. Could Richie still love him? 

"You're braver than you think," Richie said to him. And as Eddie looked at him, he could see what was dancing behind his eyes. It was all in the look they shared, the way Richie was looking at him with such adoration he was sure he'd turn to muck under his gaze. 

"Let yourself say what you want." The way Eddie had leaned in first, the way he'd helped Richie conquer his own fear, the way he'd said he loved him. Eddie felt braver than he ever had in his entire life, right then, with that unspoken thing between them. 

I love you, he wanted to say, but he could see that Richie knew it anyway, could see he was thinking the same thing. And if Richie could say that to him, then Eddie could do anything in the world. 

 

How had they gotten to this point? 

Eddie tried to wonder, through the pain radiating through every fibre of his being. How had he gone from thinking he had singlehandedly killed the terrorizing demon clown, almost kissing the love of his life in front of all of his friends, to now, with a wound in his chest bigger than the one opening in his heart when he thought about the way that Richie was looking at him, pressing his jacket into his gaping wound. His vision was hazy and he could barely see what was going on, but he could faintly hear Richie's voice speaking to him. 

"I'm sorry, fuck, I'm sorry. I'm so sorry, I'm sorry." 

Sorry for what? Eddie thought faintly. Thoughts were getting hard to work into his head at this point. But he wondered anyway. For leaving? For kissing Eddie back? For admitting that he'd loved him since they were kids? Because Eddie wasn't sorry for that, not in the slightest bit. Especially now, when he could barely speak, when he'd wasted his speech on a mother-fucking joke just because he knew that his friends were in earshot. Now he was glad that he'd confessed when he did, he was happy everything between them had occurred. 

Richie grasped his hand tightly, tightly enough that Eddie could feel it with radiant clarity. 

"Eddie," Richie said. He just said his name, but it sounded like the most beautiful thing he'd ever heard. He would be okay with his own name being the last thing that he ever heard. 

You're so brave Richie, he thought. Richie, the man who'd been hiding who he was for so long, who made stupid jokes just to hide himself in plain sight, the kid with gigantic frames that would push Eddie into dirty water just for a laugh, but would hold his hand and offer his shoulder for a headrest on long bus rides. Richie, Eddie was absolutely sure, was the bravest person that he had ever met in his life. Now go kill the fucking clown. 

And Richie did. And when he came back, Eddie was gone. 

 

How did I end up here? Richie thought. He had driven with a clear destination in his mind, an obvious task to perform. But the drive to the kissing bridge was entirely a blur to him. For the past day, everything had been a complete blur. He hadn't spoken, his voice was used and raw from screaming out Eddie's name so many times. And anyway, he wouldn't know what to say to any of them. They all likely knew his secret by now, but he couldn't stomach the thought of verbally saying it, saying anything to any of them. He had every intention of leaving Derry without saying goodbye to his friends, the ones who'd made him leave Eddie in Neibolt house as it had crumbled from the roof down to the many miles of the ground below. 

He took out his knife, carved over the R + E he'd written as an adolescent that he'd just remembered he'd written that day. Would he have shown Eddie eventually? It was rather embarrassing, but somehow, he thought Eddie would've taken it as the biggest profession of his love he could ever express. 

Eddie. 

It hurt to think about him, about how many times he could've said he loved him and didn't, out of fear. It hurt so much to think that they'd said those words, "I love you" to each other just 27 hours ago. The number made Richie want to punch something. Even when It defeated, that fucking clown was still ruining his life. 

Richie couldn't imagine a day would come where he'd stop hating himself for all the things he could've said, could've done when Eddie was still alive. He'd spent all of his life hiding, trying to find ways to deny himself what he knew he wanted, but what he wouldn't admit to anyone besides himself, only during drunk 3 am escapades. Hiding your true self was exhausting. Pretending you're what you think everybody else wants you to be is so, so tiring. Internalizing every single bible verse you'd heard as a kid just to repress yourself into years-long emotional turmoil, making yourself feel worse, even after you had the best night of your life with the man you'd admitted, finally, that you loved, was pure and simply stupid. And Richie Tozier, standing from his crouched position in front of those two initials that meant so much to him but little to anybody else who would pass it, decided that he wasn't going to do any of it any longer. 

Eddie would want him to stop hiding, to live life as his truest self, he was sure of that. If there was anything he could've done to make himself feel less alone in that moment, it was to think about what Eddie would've said to him right then. 

"Stop being afraid, jackass. Remember what you said to me." 

And Richie did remember. "You're braver than you think." Eddie was, without a doubt, the bravest of them all. And Richie would be brave too. 

And for as much longer as Richie would live, he would remember that. He would remember the boy he had loved, the man he had told that he loved, and the words that he had said to him. 

He remembered. And he lived. And he loved.