It’s the anesthetic, making him loopy, in retrospect. Eddie’s a brave guy, by his own understanding, but he tries to keep the line between “courage” and “ballsy stupidity” far thicker. There’s bravery, and there’s what he did in the hospital.
Memories are swirling, and he’s losing bits of their conversation to recalling who he once was, who he still was, the loops his mind is floating on from the medication, and some part of him that is as brave as he is stupid, he comes to when Myra squeezes his hand, asks him how he’s feeling.
“I feel,” he says, not sure if he has a headache or not, “really tired, honey. I’ve been thinking a lot, you know. You know what I haven’t been able to stop thinking about? For like, days now, but especially tonight?”
“What is it?” He doesn’t know if she tightens her hand or if her grip has always been a vise, but he hates it when he notices. “Tell me.”
“I’m,” he swallows, and he catches himself laughing through it. It’s funny, truly funny, that he once knew this about himself, and the world, bitch that it is, made him forget it all. “Gay. I’m really fucking Gay, Myra,” he says. He remembers now, the way he used to feel about the men in his life and the way women could mean the world to him, but they paled in comparison to the way he felt for men he no linger remembered.
Her brows go closer together, and he can feel her grip get tighter in reflex, for real now. “You can’t mean that. You’re not—we’ve been together for years.”
Eddie shakes his head, despite the meds, he feels super fucking clear and sober when he tells her what he means. “Honey, I’m gay. I can’t keep up with this. It’s not who I am.”
The pause takes a lifetime. He could live a thousand different timelines as hundreds of different Edward Kaspbraks by the time she says anything in return. “I don’t—what do you mean, you’re gay?” It’s a nervous laugh that escapes from her throat, and honestly, he doesn’t fucking blame her for that one. “We’ve had a decade, Eddie, you’re telling me you’re gay after ten years?”
He takes in so much air with that next breath, it could pop a lung. If it did pop a lung, at least he wouldn’t have to answer to this question. “I’m—gay. I like men, Myra. I don’t know how the hell to tell you this, but to tell you that. I’m a gay fucking man, an Oscar Wilde motherfucker, a genuine homosexual,” somewhere, he knows it’s the drugs talking.
She starts to say something else, but he finishes his thought, for the first time since he married her.
“I forgot. I mean, I shouldn’t forget something like that—but y’know how I started existing at the age of eighteen? Everything else fucking vanished? Yeah. Turns out, part of those mythic fucking teen years ways a gay awakening. And Derry woke that shit right back up. I’m awake, for the first time in years, honey, and when it turns out, I’m a really gay sleeper cell.”
He can’t stop saying it. He’s a little horrified with himself, because why can’t he just shut up? This is going to be the worst day of his life when the morphine wears off.
“Is that what you were doing?” Her face goes from icy to flushed. He can see the blood that drained from her face coming back in patches. “Did you go back to the middle of nowhere to sleep with some guy you knew?” Her eyes are getting bigger, her voice is getting higher and Eddie wonders, as he had when Mommy had been mad at him in youth, if he was getting smaller in her wake. “Jesus, Eddie, do I need to get tested for something? How long has this been going on?” He’s pretty sure her eyes might be leaking tears if she dares shut them for a moment, and he can’t handle it. He’ll break into a thousand pieces if he makes someone cry right now, and never be all the way together again.
“It’s not like that, just listen to me—”
“Listen to you, what, Eddie?” All that shrillness is gone. Her face is still flushed, but there is nothing but ice in her voice now. This isn’t the panic she affects when he forgets his coat or the door isn’t deadbolted. This is the sound of something that had been, unbecoming and dying before both their eyes. “What could you possibly explain to me right now, that I could sit here and listen to?”
“Don’t call me that. You don’t get to lie to me for ten years and talk to me like I’m your girlfriend anymore.” She swallows, sets her jaw. “I hope your friends from Maine come to see you, Eddie. Because I can’t sit here.”
And just like that, something has ended, and by the time Eddie can think of what he wishes he’d said in the moment, she’s gone and his meds are wearing off. So he pings the nurse for more, to take away the pain, and he tells her everything he wishes Myra knew.
Her name is Anna, and she’s a real gem, because she tells him he’s a catch and some man’s gonna thing the world of him one day. He’ll have a hell of an issue to manage when he gets out of here, goes back to the city. But that day, he pretends he didn’t cry at the idea that someone might love him despite his age, despite the scars on his face and chest.
Anna, you’re a real one.
Richie’s mouth is filthy in all the best ways. By now, there are few parts of Stan that haven’t felt those lips all over them. Right now, they’re making a grand tour of his neck while Stan’s arms wrap around his waist. He digs his nails into the fair skin at Richie’s flank and when he jumps a little, Stan can’t help the devilish grin that comes from it.
“You like that, baby?”
Richie’s sigh is a hot brush of air against his neck, and it’s hotter than he can possibly express in a few words. “Fuck, you’re evil.”
Stan gives his ass a light slap, just enough to propel Richie forward, so he can enjoy the feeling of his erection against his belly as it presses against him. “That wasn’t what I asked,” he says.
“Fuck you,” Richie groans, pressing himself further against Stan, lips next to his ear. He nips at his lobe before he finally answers him. “I like it, okay?” He’s a little breathless, and it’s delicious. “More. Please.”
“That’s what I thought.” He digs his nails into the skin one more time. “Now be a good boy and fuck me.”
They make love for the third time in a weeklong visit, and Richie is left breathless at his side.
“You’re sure I can stay the night?” He doesn’t think he could move, but some part of him is so certain Stan’s minutes away from demanding he does.
“Are you crazy? And give this up?” He squeezes him a little tighter, presses a kiss to the side of his head. “Not on your life, Tozier. This is the best part.”
“Won’t, uh, Patricia want the side of her bed back?”
Stan laughs at that. “She’s at Laura’s. We arranged this all days ago. It’s good to make time for other people, you know? And tomorrow, she’ll probably come back and make waffles by the time we even wake up. It’s all okay, Rich.”
That calms him a little. He’s had it explained a few times now, that he’s not a dirty secret, that this is something welcome; and if he’s honest, when he’s had dinner with both halves of the Uris marriage, the three of them get along famously, thick as thieves drinking wine into the night. He’s even coming over as a guest to their fucking Seder this year.
“Love you, Rich.”
One day, Richie will remind himself he’s part of this, that no one’s going to look at who he is and shut the door on him and take his token and run. Polyamory, he totally gets, thinks everyone would be doing it if they only knew the damn world. It’s him he thinks will go out of style any moment, except when he’s being held like this.
He’s a little closer to that distant day with Stan kissing his neck and holding him close.
“You tired?” He asks, voice sleepy and thick with oncoming dreams.
“Yeah,” Richie says. He’s awake for a while, but he doesn’t mind laying silently, if Stanley’s twined around him like this, breath even.
The day Eddie Kaspbrak filed for divorce, he made a tattoo appointment. He'd call it impulsive, had it not followed two hours' research of the safest aftercare methods, the least painful way to do it, and the most reputable shops in the city. He'd call it impulsive because some nagging little voice in his brain demanded he do something with himself that had nothing to do with anyone else's input, that made his body as it was now, a different one, somehow, than it had been in their marriage. Two weeks later, there's a red V on his forearm, one hidden by a blazer or sport coat at work, but that reminds him, like a cast no longer there, that broken things heal.
Once it’s on, he follows up with a call to the Uris household. Stan, he remembers, is the kind of guy to meet people where they’re at. He’s not one to yell, and if anyone will get how goddamn weird he feels in this life, it’s him.
“Stanley Uris speaking,” he answers.
“Fucking better be,” Eddie snorts. “I didn’t stalk you in the white pages for nothing.” The sound on the other end isn’t much, but Eddie can feel the shake of his head.
“How are you, Eddie? They let out of the hospital yet?”
It hurts his heart a little, because Stanley Uris, if anyone, deserves unambiguous, sunlight at golden hour, good news, if anyone does right now. Eddie can’t give it to him, not in his current state, not after the days he’s been having. He starts with the good news, the part he doesn’t have to sugar coat or lie about. “Yeah. I uh got out a while ago, actually. I’ve been up on my feet for a second, man. How are you holding up?” He begs Stan to give him a real answer, silently. He wants so badly to care about someone who isn’t him right now.
“I’m doing great.” An uneasy breath out. “I know what you’re about to say. I can feel the anxiety from here, you know? I’m—actually good. I’ve been taking care of myself, you know?”
Eddie smiles at that. His arm hurts a little, and he wonders if it’s time to crack open to ointment yet. He’s unfolding the aftercare sheet for the third time in an hour. “Good. I missed you, asshole.”
“I’m sorry I couldn’t make it out to see you—no, really.”
“It’s nothing. Honestly, I was so doped up I’d have thought you were my conscience or something stupid like that.” It’s a funny way to say ‘you’re my friend and you didn’t need to see me break down because I’m in love with Richie Fucking Tozier’.
That gets an actual chuckle out of him, one he can hear over the line. It calms a nebulous, tight coil in his stomach to hear evidence of Stan laughing, to know things can still be okay with him. Maybe everything isn’t, fuck knows everything isn’t okay with him either, but it’s not the misery he’d feared when Beverly told him about Stan’s own stint in a hospital.
“Hey, buddy, you still living in New York?”
“Uh, yeah, why?”
“So, Patty entered a lotto at work, one of the ones that gets you Hamilton tickets if you win. We figured we might make a thing out of it, spend a few days in the Big Apple. I was hoping you might be willing to put up with a couple of idiot tourists.”
Eddie hasn’t seen any of them in person since they peeled out of town, one by one. He’s had calls, longer ones than this, but he’s felt stuck behind a glass wall for every one of them. He hopes seeing him in person, where he can’t just sit back and listen without someone seeing him itching to speak, he’ll feel like a person again, in a way he hasn’t since the morphine wore off for the last time. “Dude, that would make my fucking month. I’ll put you up, if you don’t wanna both with hotels. Booking a good one’s a headache.”
“Actually, that sounds great. You sure?”
Eddie doesn’t know how to say he’d been aching for that answer without sounding needy, so he just says, “Posi-fucking-tively.”
It’s a done deal with that. He’s got house guests, and more importantly, he’s got something to look fucking forward to.
“Are you sure you’re okay?” Beverley’s face isn’t as clear as it could be, the damn skype call freezing out every few moments. He can see the raised brows, the way they’re knit together, and the way she’s looking at him. He knows he’s caught in a façade now.
“What? Sure. I’m fucking, uh,” he holds up his yoghurt, Greek, apparently, and accurately flavored, “peachy.”
She’s not impressed. “That’s terrible, Eddie, Jesus.” A fond eyeroll. “I mean—you haven’t been yourself.”
He swallows. That, he guesses, is the double edge of being known. People care, they truly do, and they want to know all of you. Which means you have to show them, sooner or later. “That’s the problem, Bev. I’ve been a little too me lately. I’m getting sick of the guy.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” She’s leaning closer to her laptop screen, clearly, and he wishes she were here, so she could give his hand a squeeze like she does, so she could be amazing and calming and strong like she always is.
“I mean I figured some stuff out—stuff I only knew because of you guys when I was younger. It kinda threw a wrench in my life here.”
“Oh.” Her face falls a bit, like she’s got memories back she’d rather not discuss, too, and he can’t blame her for that. The holes in their minds had fucked them as thoroughly as filling them had. No matter which way their lives spin, they were a fucked up group of individuals, struggling in the wind.
He hopes she’s right about him, that he can be brave enough for it.
“Eddie, you can talk to me. If you want to.”
“It’s a weird story, Bev. You up for that?”
She shrugs. At her side, a dark, fluffy dog pokes its nose into the screen. She strokes his ears and he comes to rest at her side. “I’ve got time, Eddie.”
“I didn’t think I’d been kissed until my senior year of college.” It’s a weird way to begin, but it’s the best way he can think that sums up how fucked this whole ordeal is. “I definitely didn’t think I’d gotten kissed in Derry.”
“You did?” Her head tilts to the side. “When? Who?”
Eddie took a breath. He can’t face it head on. Not yet. Maybe one day, when he tells this story, he won’t have to circle it before he can dare to look it in the eyes. “You remember the kissing bridge, Bev?”
“Yeah, I think.”
“Yeah, I do, too.” A shaky laugh comes out of him, from somewhere in his chest. “You know, I never checked. But if someone carved E and R onto it, they couldn’t be wrong.” He swallows. “Homecoming. The 90s. I told Richie Fucking Tozier to stop being such a dick and just kiss me already. And he did.”
Beverly says something, to the tune of oh my god, but she stops herself, while Eddie goes on.
“That came back to me. When I was off my ass and my wife was holding my fucking hand. I told her straight-up that I was the gayest gay man in history of gay men.” He sighs again, lets his head fall into his hands. “God, how fucking stupid is that? I forgot I knew I was gay. I came out to my wife without so much as an apology. God, I’m an idiot and a bastard—and you know the worst part, Bev? The worst fucking part? Richie hasn’t said anything about this shit. Richie probably has no fucking clue.”
Bev’s lips are pressed together for a long moment. When she speaks again, it doesn’t confirm any of his fears. She just says, “I love you, Eddie. You know we all do.”
He doesn’t have it in him to respond, so she goes on for him.
“Thank you—I mean, trusting me. Letting me in. I’m glad to be there for you, you know.”
“I can’t imagine who else I’d call.” He admits. “Love you too.”
He gets them at the airport. Stanley’s all curls, and smiles, and the scent of warm cologne as he pulls him in for a hug. Despite the July heat, he’s got a sweater on. Eddie gets it. “Eddie—man, you look great.” He holds him there for a moment, the kind of warmth Eddie remembers now, that he wonders how he had lasted so many years not knowing he’d once known on the regular.
“Thanks, man. It’s good to see you. Seriously.” He pulls away, greets Patty cordially, but she answers his offer for a handshake with a hug of her own. She’s wearing a sundress, flowy, comfortable and long, hair pulled back in a braid for flying, but still looks like a million bucks. He thinks it’s the vibe of her that really does it.
“Wait a minute,” Stan catches him by the shoulder, holding him at arms’ length as Eddie pulls away from his wife. “Eddie fucking Kaspbrak, is that a tattoo on your arm?” He’s grinning, pleasantly scandalized. “I would’ve thought the needles would drive you running.”
Eddie snorts. “You know, tattoos, statistically, have a really low infection rate from reputable shops. Their equipment’s practically surgeon grade these days. Fucking incredible stuff. And the healing process, if you look at it medically, isn’t much different from sunburn, or a scab. I’m more likely to get sepsis from a blister, than a blood infection from ink.”
Stan looks impressed for a moment, nodding his head. “Hey, it suits you, dude.” And that’s all he has to say on that. God, Eddie missed him.
“C’mon,” he says, pulling away from the pair of them, towards the parking lot and the concrete jungle beyond. “Let’s get you to my place.”
The first night the Urises are there, it’s late when they get in. He thinks they might not notice that there’s only one bed in his flat and they’ll be the one’s sleeping in it.
“Stan didn’t tell me you were giving up your bed for this,” the embarrassment is as palpable as it is gracious. Eddie holds up a hand, waving off the whole idea in its tracks.
“I didn’t say anything to him.” Stan sees his wife’s suspicions, holds up his hands in a show of innocence that is, to his credit, as sincere as it is adorable. “Seriously, I can take a week on the couch. It even pulls out.” It had been a godsend before his ex moved out, and he doesn’t need to share that it had become a second home to him.
“Are you sure? We can find somewhere, I can get an AirBnb—”
“Absolutely not,” Eddie insists. “I haven’t entertained in forever. I’ve been collecting dust.” That seems to melt the edge of embarrassment, and he sees that warmth he’d noticed in the airport, the kind of softness that mirrored Stan’s own. He could see how they found each other, and as alone as he felt next to love in the open like that, he was glad for it.