you wrote 'don't forget'
on your arm when you were drunk
and i got mad at the fact
that you had to remind yourself at all
i got mad when i shouldn't have
it's just that i got so scared
that you had already forgot
-"You Wrote 'Don't Forget' On Your Arm" by flatsound
Typically, Richie supposes, most people would confess their 27-year-long love to their best friend after they nearly died in front of their eyes. Richie is not most people. Richie is chickenshit, through and through.
And so, after they flee the house, after Eddie wakes up in the hospital with gauze covering his entire midsection, after he heals up enough to fly back to New York, Richie just lets him go. He takes all the trauma and heartbreak and love and shoves it down his throat, straight into the deep dark basement that is his heart. He watches that dumb, cardigan-wearing dork walk out of the hospital room into an Uber he’d personally called for him and doesn’t tell him jack shit.
Then he catches a plane to LA and pretends that he’s sane enough to return to his normal life. When has he ever been sane, anyway? He certainly wasn’t sane for the last 27 years, when he couldn’t even remember where he grew up, and he certainly isn’t sane now, teetering between ignoring his pain and letting it entirely consume him like he’s walking on a tightrope. So what if he’s in some sort of denial? So what? Aren’t they all? Aren’t Bev and Ben fucking crazy to think that they can just start a normal life together after everything they went through? For fucks sake, they were talking about adopting a dog before they left Maine. The last time Richie had seen a dog he nearly pissed his pants because it moved so fast and had too many teeth and reminded him way too much of a creature that nearly killed his best friend. His best friend. Speaking of Eddie, he was in denial too. He just hopped on a plane and flew home to Myra (after bitching about how much he hated her for days) like he would actually be able to stand living with her and pretending he loved her after all of it.
Apparently he is able to stand her, though, because it’s been five months and he hasn’t so much as texted Richie a word since he left. Sure, Richie hasn’t texted him either, but he feels that the ball is in Eddie’s court since he watched him have a fucking meltdown when he thought he was dead, snot and tears and the whole shebang. He thinks that, after he carried Eddie’s body through the sewers whilst sobbing, Eddie could at least text him first. Evidently, he’s wrong.
He’s texted out a few sentences, sometimes even a paragraph on the nights when he has one drink too many. Usually, it’s a stupid joke. Sometimes- when he’s exceptionally drunk- it’s a picture of a kitten with sad eyes that says ‘I love you’ or ‘I miss you’. He never ever hits send, though. He wakes up in the morning with the message still in the text box and he just deletes it all. If Eddie wanted him in his life, he would have called by now. On the nights where Richie feels particularly shitty, he just closes his eyes and tells himself that Eddie must be really, really happy with his wife and job, and more importantly, he’s alive, and that’s all that matters.
So, it’s easy to understand why he’s thrown for a loop when his phone starts screaming at 4am on a Saturday. His hand shoots out, bringing the bright phone screen up to his face, and he reads ‘Spaghetti Man’. The contact photo on the screen is a selfie that they took together in the hospital, Eddie in a blue gown on his hospital bed, shoulder pressed against Richie’s with the biggest smile on his face. His heart leaps up into his throat and he chokes on the saliva in his mouth.
“Why the fuck haven’t you called me? Or texted me? It’s been five fucking months, you jackass. You didn’t even bother to make sure I got home okay!”
“If you’re going to lecture me on manners right now let me remind you that you are calling me at 4am.”
“Well, it’s 7am back in New York, so excuse me for being wide awake right now.”
“7am is not wide awake hours- wait, what do you mean, ‘ back in New York’? Where are you?” Richie is suddenly concerned, sitting up in his bed and pressing one hand to his forehead to wipe away his hair.
“Um, about that. Listen, I’m so fucking sorry for springing this on you-”
“ Eddie, where are you?”
“Shit, Rich. I didn’t know where else to go.”
“Eddie just tell me where the fuck you are.”
“I’m standing outside your apartment.”
“What was your grand plan, you moron? To stand outside my apartment until I left for groceries or something?” Richie is sitting on his couch watching Eddie pace around his living room, looking equal parts annoyed and guilty.
“No. My grand plan was to wake you up with a phone call, which I did- ”
“Which was rude as fuck, by the way-”
“Fuck you, Richard, you are un-fucking-believable and-”
“Oh, cry me a river. Why are you here, anyway?” Eddie’s pacing stops and he turns to look at Richie, really look at him for the first time since he’s shown up. Their eyes meet and Richie wants to ask him why he’s ignored him for five months and then showed up at his door like he lives right across the street. He keeps his mouth shut, though, because Eddie suddenly looks serious, more serious than normal, and it makes his stomach turn.
“ Ex- wife, now.” Richie blinks at him stupidly and Eddie looks like he will bite his head off if he doesn’t choose his words carefully.
“That’s why you’re here? Because you-”
“Because I kicked myself out of my own house, yeah. I just couldn’t fucking stand it anymore. She went ape-shit after I came back from my mystery vacation with a goddamn black hole in my chest, and then it turned into full-on lock-down mode. I felt like I was suffocating,” He wheezes then, patting down his pockets for an inhaler that isn’t there. Richie raises an eyebrow and gets a glare shot back at him.
“So you came-”
“Here. Yes, dipshit, keep up.”
“You know, for someone who appears to be trying to ask if they can stay with me, you’re being awfully rude.” Eddie huffs and points a finger at him, clearly ready to start on some long tangent, but then he stops. He puts his hands into his pockets and collapses onto the couch next to Richie. And man, being this close to Eddie has not become any easier on his heart in the past 27 years, nor in the past five months.
“I’m sorry, Richie, I-”
“You can stay. Obviously .” He nudges his shoulder against Eddie’s and adds an eye roll for good measure, “I don’t need an earful from Bev for kicking you out on the street. This place gets lonely, anyway, and they say that adopting a pet can help.”
“ Pet? Oh my god, I will leave and go to Bev and Ben’s place instead.”
“Are you actually threatening me with leaving when I just agreed to let you stay?”
“We are grown adults, Richie. We need to be capable of being in the same room as each other for longer than five minutes without killing each other.” Richie throws his hands up with an exasperated sigh.
“That’s on you, man, I don’t want to kill you.”
“Well, you’re better than my wife already.” Eddie says, and they both look at each other and burst into a fit of giggles in the dim light of his living room. Richie can’t believe he went five months without this, let alone 27 years. Why does he keep letting that happen?
The air settles in the room and Eddie’s not making any noise but Richie can still hear him existing next to him and he thinks he might explode.
“Well,” he starts, standing up and swiping imaginary dust off the front of the boxers he answered the door in, “I’m going to get the few hours of sleep that were rudely robbed from me.”
“It’s been like, fifteen minutes, asshole.”
“ Hours. ” Richie says, tossing a pointed glare over his shoulder as he stalks back to his bed.