After returning to Derry for the first time in 27 years, getting his memories back, fighting a demon clown, losing a best friend and the unrequited love of his life - life has returned to normal for Richie Tozier.
He’s kind of pissed about it. Going back to Derry had been a rollercoaster of repressed trauma, a once in a lifetime experience that has swung the others on different courses: Bill’s writing good endings for once and working on his marriage. Bev ditched her piece of shit husband and got with Ben and the two of them went on a month-long cruise, just the two of them. Mike’s finally out of Derry. Last time Richie heard, he was seeing the sights in Chicago.
And Richie - Richie is back in LA, seeing the same shitty sights, the same shitty people, telling the same shitty jokes he didn’t write and drinking too much at the same shitty bars. It’s strange, going through everything he went through, and then coming back to his life like nothing’s changed.
Some days, it feels like nothing did. If it weren’t for the group chat that everyone keeps making him check by calling him up at least once a week, Richie would be able to convince himself that nothing has changed.
Or, he would be able to if he wasn’t now dragging this pit of despair along with him nowadays. He’s been assured that it’ll pass - periods of mourning are normal, the Losers keep reminding him - but Richie has a sneaking suspicion that this is just how he is now. It feels as permanent as loving Eddie - when he was a kid, it just wouldn’t fucking budge, no matter how much he tried to make it. Even in the 27 years of not remembering Eddie, there was this Eddie-shaped space covered up in his brain - not missing , just hidden. It’s still there, back in full fucking force, and now it’s got a new punch to go along with it, one that Richie does his best not to think about, but it’s like edging around a hole that takes up 99% of the room. To avoid it, he has to tiptoe, and the effort of doing that makes it impossible not to remember.
Richie goes to sleep thinking about Eddie being dead. He dreams about Eddie, strange and jumbled: Eddie as a kid, his arm broken in the Neibolt house, screaming. Eddie ahead of him on his bike, yelling something at Richie over his shoulder. Eddie being lifted up by IT’s claw, his face slack, whispering Rich - Richie -
Richie wakes up thinking about it. He spends the whole day trying to avoid thinking about it, which leads to the tip-toeing thing of always thinking about it, and then he goes to sleep and dreams about Eddie again.
He puts up with this for about three weeks before turning to his old friend, heavy drinking. This is going back to some type of normal, but not a recent one. He’d mostly stopped in his early thirties after his doctor started making noises about his liver, but it’s hard to care about that now, and besides, he gave his liver an easy time for the last 9 years. He’s entitled to some damage.
Drinking helps, but not much. Half the time it turns him into a weepy mess, sure, but he locks himself in his apartment so no one sees him being a weepy mess, so that’s fine. It numbs, which is the important thing - that was always what he wanted out of alcohol, even if he didn’t connect the dots for the first ten years of drinking. He wanted to numb himself out, shut up his fucking brain for five seconds so it’d stop feeling all the shit he wanted to run away from.
It also gives him a dreamless - crappy, but dreamless - sleep.
Except when it doesn’t.
About once a week, Richie has a dream. It’s always the same, unlike the Eddie dreams, which are always a new kaleidoscope of misery. The dream is flashes, fleeting images: an impossibly large turtle, floating in a vast nothingness. His eyes are big and milky and full of an emotion that Richie can’t name, but it’s not a good one. Lots of bad feelings for the big turtle. Then images of space, nebulas and galaxies, swirling, interspersed with flashes of Derry: the kissing bridge at night, Richie’s carving fresh, then 27 years old. The quarry, all of them jumping into the water as kids and then adults, down two members -
Then it smooths out into an actual scene, if jumpy: a sigil on wooden boards that look a lot like the floor of Richie’s apartment. The sigil is probably drawn in blood, but it could also be red paint. Although Richie’s being very optimistic about that. Anyway, the dream is mostly that: the sigil being drawn, slow and precise, by Richie. It’s dark in the dream, and the sigil being drawn is overcut with more fleeting images, chased with sounds: Stan’s bloody hand dangling out of a bath. Stan as a kid, on the tail end of saying something as he walks home in the evening. Eddie with blank eyed, slumped in IT’s lair. Eddie as a kid, in mid-argument in the clubhouse. A voice so deep and impossible that it hurts, a voice that reminds him of the turtle’s gaze: come back come back you can change the -
At the end of the dream, the scene will stabilize. Dream-Richie will say some shit he can't make out. Then he'll say the one thing he can make out, which is: I’m coming.
And then he’ll wake up.
Bev hasn’t been having any strange dreams, apart from the usual run-of-the-mill nightmares that come after defeating a killer clown and getting all your suppressed, traumatic childhood memories back. All the Losers have those dreams.
It takes Richie a few months to actually bring the dreams up to Bev. He’s skirted around it before, but halfheartedly:
Any dreams from the deadlights , he’d asked, and Bev had said no and sounded like she meant it. She’d asked him if he’d had any, and he’d said something noncommittal and then segued into a joke, which is pretty much how he deals with anything he doesn’t want to talk about. Why change something that works?
This time, though, he’s asking.
“Hey,” he says on their next call. He’s on the couch, on his third whiskey for the night: buzzed enough to bring it up, not buzzed enough that he has to worry about emotional outbursts.
“So you know how you asked if I’d been having deadlights dreams and I said no?”
“Yeah? Have you-”
“I miiiight be? Hey, was there a giant, omnipresent turtle in your deadlights dreams?”
Bev takes a short, sharp breath that tells Richie all he needs to know.
“Shit,” she says after a second. “I - yeah. God, I - you’ve been seeing him?”
“Can we really gender the god-turtle?”
“Yeah, I’ve been seeing him. This is - this is deadlights shit, then, not just - me.”
“I think so. If you’re seeing the turtle.”
“Our lives are so fucking weird, Beverly.”
“I know. What’s happening in your dreams?”
“Uhhh,” Richie says. He doesn’t want to tell her about the ritual. Come back, you can change the -
“I don’t know,” he says, which is more or less the truth. “The turtle loves being vague.”
“He’s speaking to you?”
“Yes? Did he not speak to you?”
“No. He was just - or, maybe. I think he did… try. But I could never understand what he said. Do you know what he’s saying?”
“Sure? What was happening when he spoke to you in your dreams? Like, what-”
“It was all pretty jumbled,” Bev says. “I - there was a lot happening at once. We’d be kids, then we’d be adults. We’d be in the sewers. I - sometimes, in the dream, I thought I knew what it meant. But when I woke up, it…”
She trails off.
Richie picks up his whiskey and gulps at it. Then he just holds the glass like a touchstone.
“What’s he saying to you,” Bev asks.
“I don’t know, it’s vague-”
“But vague means you heard words, right? There’s-”
“I don’t know.”
“You don’t remember the words? Any of them?”
“Not really,” he says. Guilt curdles in his stomach along with the booze, but he doesn’t want Bev to know. She worries about him enough - they all do - and telling her means that they’ll all be calling him to check he’s not doing something stupid, like preforming a blood ritual to - to do whatever , get Eddie back. Maybe. If that’s what’s going on here, if that’s what the dreams are - offering, or telling him to do. Or just letting him know, a polite nudge.
It doesn’t feel like a polite nudge. It feels like a push .
“Okay, what - images are you getting? Does anything happen in the dreams, or is it just-”
“Images. Uh, like you said, there’s a lot, it doesn’t really make sense. Us as adults and kids.”
“Do we…” Bev makes a noise. “Do we, uh. Die, like-”
“They’re not your death premonitions,” Richie says. “It’s not - no.”
“I don’t know,” Richie says. “Like you said, it doesn’t make sense. Nothing adds up.”
There’s a pause. Richie can tell that Bev is waiting on him to keep talking.
“Okay,” she says finally. “When did they start?”
Richie holds the phone away to sigh, then puts his back to his face. “Uhhhh. I don’t know, a while?”
“I didn’t know if they were Dream-dreams or just - y’know.”
“Right,” Bev says. “I’m - I’m glad you told me.”
“Yup.” Richie skulls the rest of his whiskey, then starts fidgeting with the glass.
“How’ve you been, Richie?”
“Since we spoke three days ago? Oh, LA life all the way, baby. Beaches and sun and babes. Birds flew in my window this morning to help me get dressed, did I not send you a photo-”
“Yeah,” Richie says. He closes his eyes. “Bev, baby, you know me. I’m always okay.”
She laughs, but it’s weak. She’s worried. Everyone’s fucking worried. Richie kind of misses when people didn’t give a shit about him enough to worry, or that if they did worry, it was because they needed something out of him - but no, these assholes actually care about him as a person. Jesus, he’s missed them. He’s missed them and he wishes they’d go away and leave him to self-destruct.
“I miss him too,” Bev says.
“Two people died, Bev.”
“I know,” she says. “But-”
“Yeah,” Richie says. He doesn’t let her say it - doesn’t know how she’d say it, anyway. I hate it, it fucks me up, but I can deal with Stan being dead. I can’t deal with Eddie being dead. What an asshole best friend is he? Stan would kick his ass.
Sorry, Staniel, he imagines saying. He toasts his empty glass skywards. Remember my big gay crush on Eds? Turns out it was bigger than that. My heart’s been hollowed out, man. I can’t -
“Hey,” he says. The whiskey is hitting the sweet spot - hazy, but not in a bad way. “If you could go back and save them, would you?”
“Of course,” Bev says. It’s fast and completely assured. “But - Rich, we can’t. We have to learn how to live with what we’ve got. We-”
“Yeah, I know,” Richie says. “That therapist you talked me into going to was all about living in the now. Accepting. Moving on.”
Bev doesn’t say anything. In the background, Richie can hear the ocean. He imagines her sitting on a beach, Ben not far away.
Richie puts his head back against the couch. Presses the glass to his forehead, feels the cold and the condensation.
“What if I can’t,” he says. “Huh? What then, Bev? What if I just…”
He blows out a breath, blinks hard. Reaches up and rubs his eyes. Pathetic.
“Richie,” Bev says. “You want one of us to come out and see you? We can-”
“Nope, I already said-”
“One of us can be there by tomorrow-”
“We’re meeting up in a few months anyway,” Richie says. “I can hold out ‘til then. Besides, I’m thriving over here, Marsh. Living the life.”
She doesn’t laugh this time. She’s gotten enough drunk, sobbing calls - Richie turns off his phone about six whiskeys in most of the time, but sometimes he turns it back on - to know he’s full of shit. Even if she hadn’t gotten any calls, if none of the Losers got calls - because they all told each other about it, the bastards - she’d still be able to tell. They were always better at anyone else at telling when Richie’s lying his ass off. Not that Richie doesn’t trick them, too, not that he didn’t bullshit them into thinking he was fine when they were kids (what do you mean he’s being weird, you’re being weird, or he’s just tired, and anyway here’s an annoying joke to derail the conversation, which works 7 times out of 10, because if there’s one thing Richie is good at it’s being annoying) but there’s a level of being Not Okay where Richie can’t bullshit good enough to fool the Losers, and he’s been scraping the top of that level since leaving Derry.
“You know one day we’re just going to show up,” Bev says. “You’ll wake up and Bill will be standing over your bed.”
“Hope he likes seeing me au naturale ,” Richie says. “I sleep in the nude.”
“I’m so shocked,” Bev says. Her voice softens. “Hey. We love you, Rich.”
“Yeah. I know.”
“Any of us will come over if you ask. And if you don’t ask, we’ll still-”
“Show up,” Richie says. “Stand over my bed like a creep. Got it. Love you guys too.”
“We’ll catch up in a few days, alright?”
“Right,” Richie says. He rubs his forehead with his glass. Today is Tuesday. Wednesday means it’s Bill’s turn to call and check in on their resident basketcase, whose nervous breakdown still hasn’t slowed down even though everyone else is fucking fine .
“We love you,” Bev says again.
Richie presses the glass into his forehead and imagines it breaking. Thick shards in his lap, sharp dust in his hair.
They love him. Richie knows this. They love him in a way that he would’ve thought impossible; a simple, huge way that he thought people only loved each other during childhood. Richie loves them back in the same way, all-encompassing.
“You too,” he says.
“And call me anytime if you want to talk-”
“-about the deadlights dreams,” Bev says. “And for anything else, obviously. But when it comes to deadlights dreams, I’m your best bet.”
“Yeah,” Richie says. “I will.”
His eyes are still closed. On the backs of his eyelids, he can almost picture the sigil.
The rest of the night is the usual party. He drinks enough that he has to drag himself to the toilet to stick his fingers down his throat, which is - fine. He’s not advertising he’s doing this, but it’s all fine. It’s whatever. He’s coping. He did this, to varying degrees, for the latter half of his teen years, all of his twenties and a little of his thirties. At least he’s doing it in the comfort of his own home instead of a dirty club bathroom, falling asleep behind the bar and waking up to find he’s lost his wallet, his phone and his keys. That got tired fast.
Mike texts him asking him how his day went, but Richie ignores it. He pukes, drinks some water, then goes to bed. But his stomach keeps lurching, so he gets up and makes himself puke again, then heads back to bed, not as drunk as he’d like to be, but knowing that if he gets any drunker he will have to make himself puke for a third time, and he’s not about that life.
He collapses back into bed.
Come on, he thinks. Then: Come back.
He’s asleep within minutes.
He gasps awake at 2 in the morning, dry-retching and then actually retching over the bed. There’s not much to get out, just a few strings of puke that stick to his mouth and barley reach the floor, which is convenient. He doesn’t want to grab some paper towels.
He wipes his mouth off with some tissues and wobbles to his feet.
“Okey- dokey, ” he says.
He staggers to the lounge - he’s not drunk, or at least not that drunk, just tired and disoriented and pumping with adrenaline. He’d be totally good to drive, if he was driving anywhere. He might not come up clean on a breathalyzer, but he’d still totally be good to drive.
He stands in the lounge for a moment, wobbling and squeezing his eyes shut. The dream is fading fast, but -
Whiskey glass. Okay.
He picks up the glass from earlier that night - it’s sideways on the coffee table and some has spilled, he’ll have to clean that up later - and heads to the kitchen. He puts the glass in the sink, then looks around the kitchen. There has to be a sensible way to do this.
At first he tries bashing it with a ladle, but all that does is make loud noises and dent the ladle. What extra-strength glasses has he been using?
After that he just picks it up and throws it in the sink. The glass explodes, loud enough that Richie makes a sound underneath it, a shocked ahhhshit as glass bounces out of the sink. Some lands on the floor, more on the counter. After Richie brushes miniscule shards from his shirt, he picks up the largest piece out of the sink and heads back to the lounge.
He sits down facing the drawn curtains.
“Alrighty,” he says again. “Shit. Okay.”
He puts the glass to his palm. It feels right, like the blood pact all over again.
Fuck , he’d forgotten how much it hurt.
He hisses as he slices a line in his hand, then dabs at it with his other hand until his fingers are covered. Then he sets out drawing the sigil from his dream: a circle with wonky designs around it, through it and inside it. Lots of circles and lines, all of which need more blood than Richie is getting from a hand cut, so he cuts down the side of his arm, too. His left arm is lit up with pain by this point, and he glances over at the whiskey longingly where it’s sitting by the couch. The dream hadn’t had whiskey in it, but maybe if he got up and drank and then came back over it would be okay - there wasn’t any whiskey around, but there was nothing that suggested Richie didn’t go over and drink, then come back.
He gets up, has a long swallow, then sets the bottle back on the floor near the couch. It has smudgy red fingerprints on it now, which is gross.
He goes and sits back down. The sigil is almost finished now, just a few more squiggly lines. He draws them in, holding his left arm carefully so that blood drips onto his lap, not onto the sigil.
He completes the last line, and it’s all a strange deja-vu, even the tracks of his fingers in the blood is straight out of his dreams. Two finger-lines, shaky on the dismount of the circle, overlapping.
Richie waits. For what, he has no idea.
“Come on,” he says when nothing happens. He tips his head up at the ceiling. “Hello, turtle-god? Sir? I did the thing. Painted the blood sigil. Which, by the way: ow .”
He waits some more. He starts rocking from side to side slightly, which didn’t happen in the dream, but he doesn’t think he’s gotten this far in the dreams.
“Come onnnn ,” he says. “Mr. Turtle Guy. You coming down or what? You gave me this info, you’d better deliver. I just cut my fucking arm open, man. I wasted a perfectly good glass and now you’re just gonna-”
A wave rushes over him, overwhelming, wiping out all thoughts. Richie hears himself choke. It’s a presence, like in the dreams, but it’s not muted - it’s the difference between hearing someone yell from far away, then listening to them yell in your ear. It’s big , as all-encompassing as the Losers love. It reminds him a bit of that. The Losers’ love as a force, a being, with a few important tweaks -
He doesn’t get to think on what those tweaks are, because the being - the turtle , because of course it is - is speaking, or doing something like it. It’s less words and more - knowledge, pure and simple.
Come back , it says.
Richie realizes that this is a question, and he is supposed to respond.
He has a brief montage of thoughts about the Losers - they wouldn’t like this, him trying to go back. They’d get it, but they wouldn’t like it. He imagines, briefly, getting up and calling them. No matter who it is, they’d take his call at whatever the fuck time in the morning it is. They’d be glad Richie called, because they love him, no matter how much Richie’s brain tries to convince him otherwise. They’ll talk him down and one of them will come over like they’ve been saying they will, and maybe the rest of them will follow suit after that, and Richie will accept the food they make him and make shitty jokes in response to them trying to comfort him and then at some point they’ll leave and Richie will be -
Alone. Again. Like this, just like this, always. And maybe he’ll learn how to cope with this hole in his chest, the one that’s bleeding everywhere and never stops. Everyone keeps telling him he’ll cope, he’ll find a way, a lot of people are fucking messes after they lose someone they love. People are messes until they’re not. Someday, they assure him, Richie will wake up and things will be okay. Then, sometime after, he’ll wake up and things will be good. That’s how this grief thing works.
But the thing is - Richie hasn’t been good since he left Derry the first time. He thought he was, he thought he was fine, and he was functioning, sure. He got himself out, he went to college and developed a career around himself and surrounded himself with people and got sober-ish and built himself a life. But he wasn’t - he wasn’t happy , and he didn’t fucking notice, because that was just how he always was. He didn’t notice until he got back to Derry and it hit him like brass knuckles: ohhhh, this was what it was like, I fucking remember now. And now he’s stuck with that knowledge, he can’t get rid of it no matter how much booze he pours into himself. He was happy in Derry like he never was anywhere else, as his worst nightmares rained down around him and kids went missing and that piece of shit town slowly suffocated the life out of everyone stupid enough to cross its borders and not run out screaming three seconds later.
Even if - even if Richie climbs out of this pit he’s dug himself, Richie can’t picture a world that he wants to live in, one he can be happy in like he was happy in Derry. He’s tried, but he really can’t. Not without -
I’ll get them back , Richie thinks towards the Losers. In some part of him, he actually believes that they can hear him. I’ll get them back, I’ll make this right, no one will have to worry about me anymore, I’ll make sure I’m not a huge fucking mess -
The turtle is still waiting.
Come back -
Richie rocks slowly on the spot, partly from drunkenness, partly from nerves. Blood keeps dripping into his lap. He’s lightheaded now, which is strange - he didn’t think he cut that deep.
He can picture them both - he’d never met Stan as a grown up, but whatever fucked up magic the Losers cultivated means he can still picture him perfectly: Stan, with his fucking cardigan and his birdwatching goggles, doing a puzzle at the dinner table. Eddie, grown and scowling and beautiful as he swears at Richie, as he flips him off, as he is lifted off the ground by IT’s claw, his eyes wide and shocked, Richie’s name coming out of his mouth hushed and covered in blood and sounding like please -
“I’m coming,” Richie says.
He means to follow it up with how much he’d give, how he’d give every piece of his flesh, he’d cut it out himself, he’d condemn himself to whatever it wanted, he’d chance being led into the deadlights by IT in disguise, he’d take whatever if he just got to see Eddie again-
It’s not like going to sleep. Richie’s passed out before, more than once, but it’s not like that either. He doesn’t know what this is like. He doesn’t think anyone, anywhere, ever, knows what this is like, but whatever it is, he’s conscious and then he isn’t, and then -
He wakes up slowly. For a second he feels normal - before-Derry normal, so not hungover, not sad, not much of anything, just groggy - and then it all hits him at once. The knowledge, not the hangover - he doesn’t feel like he’s drunk anything at all, much less like he’s been swigging whiskey less than five minutes ago.
He bolts up in bed. It’s his bed, his apartment. He checks his arm - normal, too. No cuts. No sign that he’s signed a contract with a god-turtle. Which - did he? What the fuck is going on?
He lunges for his phone and is checking his messages - none from the Losers, and there’s a text from his agent waiting for him that he vaguely remembers answering, which is when his eyes catch on the date.
Richie does the math. It’s - a week, maybe, before Mike calls them. A week before everyone goes back to Derry and -
Not everyone. Oh, fuck, Stan.
He squeezes his eyes shut as it all washes over him. He shakes with it, an incomprehensible oh god oh god that spills out of him the more he thinks it.
“Fuck,” he whispers. He’s gotta - he’s -
Atlanta. Then New York. Eddie’s in New York, so’s Bev. He could get a flight, he could -
Mike , he decides. He’ll call Mike first. He’ll - get a drink to calm his nerves, then call Mike.
He gets up. Takes a few deep, calming breaths, then goes to get himself a drink. He’s halfway to the cupboard before he remembers that he doesn’t have any alcohol in the house, since he doesn’t take up drinking again until after Derry. Except - shouldn’t he have something in the house? Some wine, maybe, in the back of the cupboard, or - cooking wine, maybe, he’d gone through wanting to cook all fancy a few years back and felt comfortable having alcohol in the house -
That stops him. His mom used to drink cooking wine. The memory of her standing at the cupboard, pouring a glass, and then later in the night just drinking from the bottle, is enough to make him take a step back. He’d finished off the cooking wine in his cupboard on one of his first binges after coming back from Derry.
“Fucking priorities , Trashmouth,” he tells himself, and goes back to his room to pick up his phone.
Richie doesn’t remember Mike’s cell number, because it’s not the 90s anymore and no one remembers anyone’s number, so he has to call the school landline and ask for it. Then he has to wait for the desk girl to fumble around for the number of the dude who lives above the library, and after five minutes where he’s pretty sure the girl is having a conversation with a friend on her cell, there’s a scuffle and the girl saying, “Oh shit, one second, he’s right here - Mr. Hanlon! Hey!”
Richie sits up on the couch.
There’s some mumbling, and Richie’s heart hammers as he hears Mike’s muffled voice talking to the girl.
The girl says, “Richie, right?”
Richie coughs. “Yeah, uh - Richie Tozier. Trashmouth. Say the full name. Or just Trashmouth.”
He hears her say uh, he says he’s Richie Tozier, also maybe Trashmouth , and then a pause, and then more scuffling. Then Mike’s voice comes through, clear and confused and hopeful.
Richie slumps back into the couch with relief. “Mikey! Fuck, am I glad to hear your sweet, sweet voice.”
“Richie-” Mike laughs, incredulous. “Wh - you - do you remember me?”
“Yeah, I do. I do, Mike. I remember all of it, and more, actually. Something really, really weird happened, man.”
“What happened?” It’s tense enough that Richie assumes that yeah, Mike’s already deep into the IT case. When did those kids start going missing, anyway?
“It’s not IT,” Richie says. “It’s, uhhhh. Okay, this is gonna sound - weird.”
“It already sounds weird, Rich. Where - are you in Derry?”
“Then how - does anyone else- ?”
“When did you-”
“That’s complicated,” Richie says. “I’ll - when I say this is gonna sound weird, I mean weird . Weirder than anything you’ve heard.”
Mike sounds disbelieving as he says, “Well, lay it on me, Trashmouth.”
Richie does. He explains all of it, falling over himself whenever he forgets something and has to go back and explain - which is often. Mike listens, asks the right questions, tries not to sound too bewildered and mostly succeeds. He sounds disappointed when Richie tells him the ritual doesn’t work, but just about pisses himself when Richie tells him how to kill IT.
“That’s so simple ,” Mike says. “I’m actually kind of mad that it’s so simple-”
“Right!” Richie throws up his hands. “We should’ve just crowded around him and called him a bitch when we were kids! Saved a lot of lives.”
“Yeah,” Mike says, some of the excitement gone out of his voice.
Richie winces. “Right. Have I told you about the gay guy that gets merked?”
Richie explains. He doesn’t remember the date, but he knows that it’s in the next few days, at the carnival. Then he goes on to explain everything else, which involves a lot more stumbling - Eddie dying. Stan dying. The deadlights. Neibolt falling in on itself. Richie’s dreams, the turtle, getting sent back in time.
Mike’s quiet for a while after. Richie lets him absorb, jiggling his leg like it’s an Olympic sport.
“Mikey,” he says when the silence gets too much.
“I’m here,” Mike says. “That’s - God , Rich.”
“I know,” Richie says. He lets out a laugh, only slightly hysterical. “What the fuck, right? Turtle really should’ve gotten someone else on this case. Bill’s way more stable. Hey, can you call him? And Ben?”
“Sure,” Mike says, sounding distracted and then tuning in: “Wait, just them?”
“Yeah. I’m gonna go see Stan - do not call him, by the way. He died - uh, he - he killed himself after you called him.”
Mike makes a noise.
“No, don’t,” Richie says. “It wasn’t you, it was him. He got scared and he decided to get out, which is - fair, considering the murderclown and all. I’m gonna fly over to Atlanta and - and make sure all the sharp instruments are out of the room when he finds out about Derry. I’ll get him here, or I’ll at least make sure he doesn’t-”
Richie closes his eyes. Wishes badly for a fucking drink, even just to hold it. Something comforting, familiar. The promise of something good, even if it never fucking delivers.
“I’ll make sure he gets out okay,” Richie says.
“What about Bev? Eddie?”
“Don’t call them either,” Richie says. “I’ll, uh. After Stan - I might drag him along, actually, it’ll be a fun little supervised trip, I feel like he’ll be less likely to off himself if he sees some of us in person - I’m gonna swing by New York. Pick up Bev and Eddie.”
Mike pauses. He doesn't ask why Mike can’t just call them - it’s not like Bev and Eddie are going to kill themselves if someone doesn’t come and speak to them in person.
“Alright,” Mike says. “I’ll - okay. I’ll… call Bill and Ben. They’ll make it here without any trouble?”
“Yep. They’ll turn up fine.”
“Alright,” Mike says again. “I’ll get on that.”
Richie nods to himself. Idly starts thinking about plane tickets. Last minute flight aren’t cheap. Fuck, he’s gotta cancel his tour dates -
“Rich,” Mike says. He’s still sounding dazed, like he did at the start of the phonecall - hopeful, again. “It’s good to hear from you.”
Richie grins. He only ever smiles nowadays when he talks to his fellow Losers, but he hasn’t grinned like this in a while.
“I know,” he says. “Hey - where I came from, a few months down the line - you get to see Florida, man.”
“Yeah. You keep sending us pictures of the ocean. It’s really annoying.”
“I get to see the ocean?”
Richie’s chest twists. God. He pictures Mike up in that cramped library apartment, the only one who can remember all of them being friends. Staying behind, for all their sakes. Staying in fucking Derry.
“You get to see the ocean,” Richie says. “And more. You’re seeing all the sights. Sending postcards from everywhere.”
“Yup.” Richie feels his grin dim. “So, I’ll - I’ll see you in a few days, I guess. Gotta go get Stan, then Bev and Eddie - might take two days? I do want to sleep.”
Richie can hear the hope in his voice, still - all the shit Richie’s telling him, about killing IT, about traveling, about everyone remembering each other and starting a group chat and making plans to all catch up in a few months - Richie knows that this is what Mike’s wanted for a long, long time.
“Hey,” Richie says. “Uh. Love you, man.”
There’s a pause, then: “Love you too, Rich. Missed you guys.”
“Yeah,” Richie says. “We missed you too. We didn’t remember, but - we still missed you. When it all comes back to everyone, we’ll all be-”
He can’t find the words to finish.
“It’ll be a good reunion,” he says instead. “Uh. I’ll give you my number, text me updates on what’s happening, okay?”
“You got it,” Mike says, the kind of excited and happy that Richie only really started hearing after Mike got to a real city, outside of Derry, for the first time.
He calls his agent on the way to the airport, gives some bullshit excuses on why he can’t make his next show and then hangs up as he’s getting yelled at. He blocks the guy’s number, tells himself he’ll deal with it later, if there is one - then gets the first flight to Atlanta. He gets Mike to text him Stan’s address - Mike had been keeping track on them, the creeper - and takes a taxi to Stan’s house.
It’s fancy, but not too fancy. It’s clean. There’s a picket fence, but not in a douchey way. It’s exactly what Richie imagined Stan growing up to live in.
And he’s gonna keep fucking living in it, Richie thinks as he knocks on the door. It’s around the time that most 9-5 workers should be home, but maybe he works late -
A woman opens the door. Gotta be Patricia. She’s beautiful and looks like a kind person, which is also what Richie expected for Stan.
“Hi,” Richie says. “Uh, I’m - is Stan Uris here?”
“Sure,” she says. She turns behind her and starts to call, “Stan,” but cuts off halfway through as he appears at her side.
“Hey!” She smiles at him, all loving wife, wraps her arm around his waist. “Just the man I was hoping to see. Or, that this guy’s hoping to see. Sorry, what was your name?”
Richie watches Stan fit his arm easily around her shoulders. He looks happy, comfortable. They look like they love each other. How the hell could Stan -?
He cuts off that thought. We all had buried shit, he reminds himself. Stan was scared. Stan -
He swallows as it sinks in. Stan isn’t gone. Stan’s right here, in front of him, all cookie-cutter and suburb-neat. Richie’s fucking missed him.
“Richie,” he says when he realizes he hasn’t spoken in a few seconds and they’re looking at him expectantly.
Stan keeps looking at him, all polite expectation.
“Tozier,” Richie continues. “You might remember me as Trashmouth- ”
It lands like a slap. Stan’s eyes go wide, then they go full. He breaks out in a shocked smile.
“Richie,” he says. “Holy cripes-”
Richie bursts out laughing. “ Cripes ? What are you, a 40 year old man-”
“Yeah!” Stan says. “So are you! Oh, shit-”
He grabs Richie in a hug, and Richie hugs back, automatic and tight, getting tighter as it goes on. Richie imagines how it must be: the memories flooding back, slow and then fast, like a dam breaking.
When Stan pulls back, he’s shaking and his wife is looking concerned.
“It’s fine,” he assures her. “I’m - Pat, this is Richie. He’s an old friend from my hometown.”
Patricia’s face clears. “Oh! That’s so lovely. Richie, we were just about to have dinner, do you want to join us? There’s enough for three.”
“Uh,” Richie says. “That’s so nice of you, but I was actually hoping to talk to Stan about something - important.”
He looks at Stan, who is still smiling, but there’s something underneath the expression. Something a lot like fear. Derry . Fucking Derry -
“I’ll just borrow him for a few minutes,” Richie promises, crossing his fingers in his pocket. The next few minutes are gonna have long-lasting consequences, no matter how this goes.
They invite him inside, and Patricia goes off to the kitchen while Stan walks Richie into the lounge. They sit on the couch.
“What’s going on,” Stan says. “I can’t believe - shit, I didn’t recognize you.”
“Well, I have grown a bit,” Richie says, grinning when Stan laughs. It doesn’t last long. “Stan - uh, listen, okay? I’m gonna tell you something and you can’t - you can’t do anything… drastic about it. Alright? Promise me.”
Stan shifts in his seat. Frowns a little. “Alright,” he says, but there’s still something under his expression, like he doesn’t want Richie to continue.
“I’m serious,” Richie says.
“Okay,” Stan says. “I promise. What do you want to tell me?”
Richie sighs. “Stan - IT’s back.”
The effect is slower than when Richie said Trashmouth . His smile shrinks, then vanishes. His hands start to shake, almost imperceptibly, then more obvious, before they clutch at his knees.
“Stan,” Richie says.
Stan shakes his head.
“Stan,” Richie tries.
“I’m okay,” Stan says, but it’s so hoarse it comes out a whisper. He opens his mouth like he’s going to speak, then closes it.
Richie puts a hand on his hand, which is clutching his knee.
“You have to come back,” he says. “With me. With all of us.”
Stan makes a noise in his throat. “Are - is everyone here?”
Richie shakes his head. “Just me. But - we’re gonna go pick up Bev and Eddie. Remember them?”
Richie watches Stan remember. It’s strange watching it happen to someone else: confusion, then dawning recognition: How could I ever forget? Bev and Eddie - oh, god -
“Stan,” Richie says. “I. Uh. I’m gonna level with you, man, I came here ‘cause I didn’t think anything good would happen if you just got a call from Mike.”
Stan mouths Mike , and the same thing happens - I remember, I remember. How could I ever forget -
“He stayed,” Richie says. “He stayed in Derry, in case IT came back. The rest of us forgot, but he never did.”
Stan’s breath comes in shaky, uneven, but quiet. He squeezes his eyes shut, then opens them.
“I,” he says, and swallows. “I need. Some time to think. I need-”
“What? A bath?”
Stan looks at him, uncomprehending. Richie can’t tell what he’s thinking.
“I don’t know,” Stan says. “I just - need time.”
“We don’t have time,” Richie says. “There’s - uh. There’s actually more to tell you. I’m just not sure how you’ll take it, or if you’ll believe me.”
Stan makes a choked noise, gives him a look that Richie’s sorely missed, the ol’ what are you, an idiot? look.
“I know, I know,” Richie says. “What can’t you believe after Pennywise?”
Stan makes a noise that’s not unlike a sob. He curls in on himself, just a little, then straightens right back up. His gaze is worryingly distant.
“Right, sorry,” Richie says. “Okay, uh. No, you know what? I’ll explain on the way. How do you feel about coming to New York with me? Like, right now?”
Stan meets his eyes, just for a moment.
“Pat’s making dinner,” he says, like it’s coming from far away. “She’s…”
“She is,” Richie says. “And we can - yeah, we can do dinner. We can do dinner and then you can come with me and we can get on a plane to New York. See Bev and Eddie. How’s that, Stan the Man?”
Stan snorts. It’s wet.
“I,” he says. He doesn’t say anything else for a while.
Richie sits and waits.
Patricia comes to the door and pokes her head in. “Dinner’s ready,” she says, and then stops when she catches sight of her husband. “Stan? What’s wrong?”
Stan looks at her. His eyes are wet, but he’s not crying yet.
“I just got some bad news,” Stan says. He wipes at his face. “I - uh.”
Richie waits, heart in his throat. He came back here for Eddie, sure, but - if he has a chance to save Stan, he’d crawl through barbed wire with peanut butter smeared on his naked body and badgers surrounding him to do it.
Please , Richie thinks. Come on, Stan, I’m not leaving here without you and it’s gonna get real weird if I have to sleep on your couch, and we’re kind of on a time limit.
Stan looks at his wife. He looks at Richie, who still has a hand over his hand, which is clutching his knee.
“We missed you, man,” Richie says. “Sorry to drag you into this, but we need you.”
Stan shakes his head, just a little. Richie hits him in the knee, gently.
“We do ,” he says. “Come on. We’ll - it’ll be just like old times. And, and then there will be new, better times that don’t involve screaming our heads off in mortal terror.”
Patricia gives him a look, but Richie ignores it. All eyes on Stan, and Stan’s eyes are on him.
Stan takes another uneven breath. He wipes his hands on his pants.
“We’ll have dinner,” he says, not all evenly. “And then we’ll - go pick up Bev and Eddie.”
Patricia nods slowly. “You’re going somewhere?”
“I - yeah, Pat. I’m - going to New York, apparently. Then we’re going to… we’re going back home. To Derry. For a bit.”
“We’ll have him back in no time,” Richie promises. He claps Stan on the back, and guides Stan into standing, walking towards one of the most tense dinners he’s ever had. Not the worst - though Stan is shaky and Patricia is obviously worried and Richie has to make an excuse about looking at the decor to go stand around the bathroom while Stan pees, to make sure he’s not cutting himself with a razor; also Richie eyes the fucking wine bottle the whole time and doesn’t have any because if he had one glass he’d have to have the whole bottle or get really anxious and irritated about not having the whole bottle and the Urises are the kind of people who have half a glass and call it a day - but still tense. And kind of awkward, since Stan doesn’t really know how to answer Patricia’s questions about what’s going on and why has she not heard about these people they’re going to their hometown with, and why Stan’s so worked up about it.
“I’ll take care of him,” Richie tells her as they’re about to leave.
She gives him a smile. It’s genuine, if confused. She’s really such a nice woman and Richie hopes that in his old timeline, she’s doing okay. He doubts it, but he hopes.
Stan turns into less of a mess on the flight to New York, but Richie’s pretty sure that’s only because Stan is using the treasured technique of Repression.
Richie should fucking know.
Richie texts Mike: the Jew has been secured. Will monitor his bathroom breaks . He naps on the plane and has almost forgotten that he hasn’t told Stan the whole story until Stan brings it up in the airport.
“There’s more,” Stan says. “What is it?”
“I’ll tell you if you quit looking like you’re being led to your execution, Stannie.”
Stan makes a noise that isn’t promising, and Richie stops them in the airport, taking them over to the wall so they’re not in the way of passerby.
“Look,” he says. “Read my lips, okay? I know you were thinking of taking yourself out of the picture when I told you about Derry. You’re convinced that you’re too chickenshit to face IT again, so you want to take yourself off the board. Because you can’t go, but you think if you don’t go, we’ll all die. So you decide that if you can’t go, you have to just - die.”
Stan blinks rapidly. He folds his arms, then unfolds them. He’s wearing a fucking cardigan. God. Stan fucking Uris.
“How,” Stan says, and then stops.
“I wanna say it’s ‘cause I know you,” Richie says. “Which I do. Even with the 30 year gap. It’s this weird thing, okay, we all know our - souls, or whatever, something cheesy. Also ‘cause we all kinda froze at the age we were when we fought IT for the first time, we never grew up properly. And now we’re 40 year old children. Anyway, that’s not how I know. I know because, uh. ‘Cause, uh. Okay, this will sound crazy. Brace for it.”
“I’m braced,” Stan says, after Richie goes too long without saying anything. It’s dry enough that it makes Richie snort.
“Great,” he says. He does a half-assed jazz hands. “Okay, get this: time travel.”
Stan blinks some more.
Richie tries to think of how to follow that up, then sighs.
“We’re finding a taxi, then a hotel,” he says. “I’ll explain as we go.”
Richie hopes the taxi driver thinks they’re crazy or that Richie’s pitching a movie, because he slings some weird shit on the way to the hotel. Stan definitely looks at him like he’s crazy, which makes Richie nostalgic in more ways than one.
“Say you’re not a crazy person,” Stan says after Richie’s finished. “You came back for us? Me and Eddie?”
Stan narrows his eyes. Just a little. He used to give him this look when they were kids, Richie used to call it Stan’s-Richie-Bullshit-Meter.
“What’s Eddie like now,” he asks.
“Eds?” Richie’s heart thumps. Alive. He’s fucking alive , Stan, he’s in the city we’re in. In a few hours we’re gonna be able to - shake his hand, or something. Hug him, of course, we’re gonna fucking hug him. I’m gonna have him in my arms, I might actually cry, god I’m so pathetic -
“The same,” Richie says, doing his best to sound normal.
Stan looks him over. His lips twitch.
“What,” Richie says.
Stan shakes his head.
“ What ,” Richie repeats.
“Nothing,” Stan says. He looks out the window, then pauses. “Are you still…”
“Yeah,” Stan says. He turns to him again, and his lips twitch a second time. “ Still , Richie.”
Richie thinks about lying. Or slinging some stupid joke. He can already see how it’d play out: Stan would scoff, roll his eyes like he always did over Richie and Eddie’s antics. He’d always been so knowing . Sometimes Richie thinks Stan knew before even Richie did.
There’s a lump in Richie’s throat. He swallows it.
“I think-” Another lump. Stubborn fucker. “I think I’m always , man.”
Stan’s gaze softens. “Yeah?”
Richie looks down at his hands. “Yeah,” he says. “I - kinda - had a breakdown? After - leaving Derry the second time. I kinda - I - yeah.”
Stan nods. Richie watches him out of the corner of his eye.
“Sounds like you,” Stan says. “Hey, did you have a breakdown over me?”
Richie looks over at him. “Uhhh.”
“ Wow ,” Stan says. “Thanks, man.”
Richie slaps him in the shoulder. “Hey, I came back for you, asshole!”
“Yeah,” Stan says. “Thanks.” This is more genuine, less sarcastic - even the last sarcastic one wasn’t mean, just dry, a little teasing.
Richie lets his hands drop. He clenches them in his lap, wishes for a glass.
“Don’t you fucking die on me, man,” he says, quiet.
Stan doesn’t say anything.
They sleep. Stan doesn’t kill himself, and he gets annoyed when Richie keeps waking up at the alarms he set to check on Stan, to check if he hasn’t killed himself.
“I’ll kill you if you don’t turn those off and let me sleep,” Stan says, after which Richie turns the phone on vibrate and continues to check every hour. In the morning, they get up and take a taxi to Beverly’s work.
They head to her office and get stopped by her secretary, because Bev has a secretary . Flashy.
“We’re old friends,” Richie is saying when Beverly walks in, glancing at them as she streams past.
Richie waves. “Bev! Hey, guess who!”
Bev pauses, almost at her office door. She looks over them and puts on a polite smile.
“I’m sorry, do I know you?”
Richie puts on a Voice. “ Of all the fashion joints in all the world, he walks into mine .”
Stanley waves. “Hi, Bev. Stan Uris, you spent a summer with us in Derry when we were kids.”
Beverly stares. Richie watches: confusion, then an explosion of understanding. She lights up, and as she runs at them Richie gets a glimpse of her at 14: wild, hardy, free, as Anne Shirley would say. Except that Beverly was never free, right? None of them were. Not until after Derry, part 2, which is still in the future.
Wild and hardy, though. Definitely.
She stops just before she reaches them, grin fading, her hands faltering just before she catches them in a hug.
“ Hi ,” she says. “You - oh my god, hi, guys !”
“Hi, Marsh,” Richie says. He lets her slide him into a hug, more restrained than it would’ve been if she finished charging at them, but no less warm. He hugs her and tries to remind himself that she’s not okay now, but she will be. They all will be.
She hugs Stanley next, and Stan smiles like he’d done when he hugged Richie. Richie gets a flare of hope - maybe he won’t have to monitor Stan’s next bathroom trip after all.
“What are you doing here,” she asks, pushing her hair back into place.
Richie looks her over for bruises, then stops himself. “We were in the neighbourhood,” he starts. “Also, we have to talk to you! About a thing! Can we step into your office?”
She hesitates. Looks around, like she’s waiting for someone to tell her no, maybe, which is when Richie remembers that her dipshit husband works with her. Jesus, he hopes he doesn’t run into him - he can’t afford to get arrested right now, and he’s 90% sure he’ll just straight up punch the guy if he sees him.
“Sure,” she says, and leads them in.
It doesn’t go terribly . Bev goes through the usual cycle of emotions, most of which are dammed up by the fact that she doesn’t remember all of it yet. She grins when he goes over everyone’s names, and her eyes go bright when he mentions that Eddie also lives in New York.
“I can’t believe we were so close all this time,” she says. Then: “Of course I’ll come. I’ll talk with my husband tonight, and then I’ll be on the next flight to Derry.”
Richie rolls his tongue around in his mouth. Thinks about saying I know he beats the shit out of you.
“Great,” he says instead. “Hey, want us to come with you when you go home?”
She gives him a confused look. “I think I can handle it.”
“Just-” Richie sighs. “If you want - muscle. To lift your bags?”
She puts her hands on her hips. “I’m a big strong woman, Rich. I can lift my own bags.”
“Okay,” Richie says. He turns to leave, then turns back. “Or, we could - be there for when you talk to your husband.”
Her smile stays on, picture-perfect. “What?”
Stan is looking at him, eyebrows raised. Richie shrugs at him.
“Just in case he doesn’t… take it well,” Richie says, in a rush. “Y’know.”
Beverly puts her hair behind her ears. Her posture is very good, all straight, pushed-back shoulders, all power-pose. She’s taken seminars, Richie remembers her saying something about that.
“I’m sure he’ll be fine with it,” she says, a little slower. Her smile turns into a beam. “Richie, there’s nothing to worry about.”
“Great,” Richie says. “Cool. Except - Bev, I know there is.”
Bev’s smile ticks. “I’m sorry?”
“I just-” Richie blows out a breath. “I’d, uh. Feel more comfortable if we came home with you while you packed. So you don’t have to - talk to him alone.”
Bev swallows. It’s a small, barely-there movement.
He didn’t like it when I talked to other men , Richie remembers her saying. Right. Shit.
“Or,” he tries, “we could - wait in the bushes? So he doesn’t see us? And come out if you - indicate that you, uh. Need help?”
He beats the shit out of you, he doesn’t say. You tell him you’re going to Derry and he beats the shit out of you, Bev .
He can already tell that it’s going to be a no, so he says, “I’ll give you my number. We’re gonna go get Eddie, then we’re heading to the airport. We’ll see you there, and if you need - if you need anything, give us a call. Yeah?”
She nods. “Sure.”
“Cool,” he says. He finger-guns at her. “Love ya, Marsh.”
She laughs. It’s bright and surprised. “Love you, Trashmouth. And you, Stan.”
Richie walks away thinking of Beverly, the one months away from her asshole husband, happy and if not completely at peace, then getting there.
We’ll all get there , he thinks. But first-
His stomach twists.
“Give Eddie my love,” Bev calls as they head out.
Stan chokes on a laugh.
“Shut it,” Richie hisses.
“I didn’t say anything,” Stan says, but he doesn’t drop the smug look until they’re back in the taxi.
When they knock on Eddie’s door, his wife answers. She only opens the door a crack, then peers out.
Richie swallows his knee-jerk reaction of oh yikes, Eddie, what did you do? Because the answer is, obviously, your mom . Which he already knew. It wouldn’t be helpful looking at her the way he wants to, and besides, Eddie had mentioned something about her not being a bad person. But he’d also said that about his mom, so. Grain of salt.
“Hi, Mrs. Kaspbrack,” Richie says. “We were looking for Eddie, is he around?”
She looks them over. She has on a polite smile, but it looks as strained as Richie’s probably does.
“He’s not home yet,” she says. “He should be back soon.”
“Cool,” Richie says. “Do you mind if we, like, wait for him?”
Her smile thins. “You can… wait outside, if you like,” she says, and the look in her eyes has Richie thinking she’s gonna have the phone dialled to 911 the whole time they’re out on the porch.
“Thanks, Mrs. K,” Richie says. “Appreciate it. Great house, by the way.”
“How did you know my Eddie, again?”
“Old friends,” Richie says.
She gives them another not-quite trustful look, says, “Hm,” and then closes the door.
“That felt familiar,” Stan says as soon as the door shuts. “Hey, did, um. Eddie’s mom - nevermind.”
“Whatever you’re remembering,” Richie says, “It’s probably right.”
Stan is quiet. Then he says, “Wow.”
“Yeah,” Richie says. “It’s a whole - yeah.”
He and Stan sit down on the porch. When they catch Mrs. Kaspbrack peeking out the curtains at them, they give her a wave.
“Huh,” Stan says, and there’s about eight different layers under it.
Richie nods, gives him a look that means we’re talking about this in depth later, buddy.
Forty-five minutes pass, and it’s mostly silent. Stan and Richie get into a conversation about the time they’d holed up in Richie’s house with a board game as it rained buckets for four days. Richie guesses it’s 60% genuinely for the conversation and 40% Stan trying to make Richie stop pacing the porch and checking the street like a dog missing its owner. Which is nice.
Mrs. Kaspbrack keeps peeking and they keep waving. The pacing probably doesn’t help set her mind at ease, but Richie could give less of a shit. Let her call the cops.
Eventually a car pulls into the driveway and by the look Eddie gives them when he gets out, Mrs. K has definitely been in touch.
Richie watches, the lump in his throat returning as he watches Eddie do the most basic shit: close the car door, give them a harassed smile. He’s breathing, healthy and whole and right here .
“Hi,” Eddie calls up to them as he walks up the drive. “Can I help you guys?”
Richie swallows the fucking lump and puts on a Voice. “ Ayuh, I was hoping to get your daughter’s hand in marriage, suh .”
It’s a stupid gag and he regrets it even as he’s doing it, but he can’t back out now.
Eddie’s forehead creases. He stops at the base of the steps, frowning up at them.
Stan elbows Richie, gives him a look like you’re gonna do this every time , and Richie shrugs like I’m panicking! We’re on red alert, captain!
“Sorry about him, Eddie,” Stan says. “It’s, uh, us. Stan Uris and Richie Trashmouth. From Derry?”
“De-” Eddie freezes. His frown deepens, then smooths out in shock. His mouth opens, slack, and Richie watches it: the lift and fall of his chest. He wishes he could walk forwards and touch Eddie’s chest, feel the solidness of it, no gaping puncture holes, but he wishes a lot of things. He wishes he could take Eddie’s fucking face in his hands -
Eddie all but stumbles on the spot. He blinks at them both, face still slack with surprise. He looks at them, Stan and then Richie, and Richie hopes he’s not giving anything away with his expression, because it feels like he probably is.
Behind them, the door cracks open. “Eddie?”
“What, mommy,” Eddie says absently, and Richie valiantly doesn’t laugh or, for that matter, cry.
Eddie snaps back into it, shaking his head. “Myra! I meant Myra. What’s - uh, Myra, what’s-”
“Who are they,” Myra says from behind them.
“Uh,” Eddie says.
Beside Richie, Stan’s giving him another pointed look. Richie ignores it.
Richie turns to face her. Gives him his most shit-eating smile. “We’re old friends, ma’am, like we said. From good ol’ Maine. We gotta talk to Eds about something important.”
“Don’t call me Eds,” Eddie says, like that’s on autopilot, and Richie turns back to watch him cycle through worn annoyance, then the surprise catching up to him.
Richie swallows down everything threatening to spill over and grins. “You know I’m always gonna call you Eds, Eds.”
Eddie’s mouth moves silently around unfinished words. He walks up the steps fast, like he’s going to - hug them, or something, and Richie braces for it. Then Eddie stops, just in front of them, and glances at Myra.
“Give us a second, would you, honey?”
Her eyebrows shoot up.
“Just a second,” Eddie says. He tries a placating smile and Richie determinedly doesn’t cringe. Fuck, Eddie, this is like our childhood all over again, what did you do -
“Dinner’s getting cold,” Mrs. K says.
Still looking a little disbelieving, she shuts the door. Richie imagines her pressing her ear to it, and apparently Eddie’s thinking the same thing, because he nods at them to follow him down the porch steps.
“Hey, guys,” Eddie says as they come to a stop, facing each other. “I - what brings you to New York?”
“What doesn’t ?” Richie spreads his arms. “It’s the Big Apple, Eds! Chrysler building! Empire State building! Hall of-”
Eddie holds up a hand. “What brings you to the suburbs?”
Richie deflates. His whole body is buzzing with it: Eddie’s here , he’s right fucking here. It’s all Richie can do not to grab him in a hug. Eddie’s obviously so stressed, and so goddamn unhappy, and he’s looking at the two of them like they’re gonna - deliver him, maybe, but that the place they’re gonna deliver him to isn’t gonna be anywhere good. Which is - yeah, okay, 100% right.
“You gotta come back,” Richie says. “To, uh. To Derry. We got some unfinished business, compadre.”
“Unfinished business,” Eddie repeats slowly. “Uh-huh. I - huh.”
He pinches the bridge of his nose. “Sorry, I - it’s coming back, but…”
“Yeah,” Richie says. “It’s fine. Take your time, buddy.”
Eddie looks up at him at buddy , just a glance, then goes back to staring at the grass. Richie imagines it starting to creep back - the hot summer days, the bikes, the frenzied, terrified escapes. Ah, fun times.
Eddie holds his arm at a strange angle and looks at it with dawning horror.
“Oh,” he says, and it comes out very small. “Oh, shit .”
Richie’s expecting it when he starts digging for his inhaler. He grabs at it like it’s a lifeline, sucks hard on it and comes away panting.
“Take your time,” Richie says. “Not like we’re on a time limit.”
Eddie looks at him, wide-eyed. “Fuck, are we?”
“Uh.” Richie scuffs his feet on Eddie’s nice backyard, dirties it up a little. “Maybe? It’s complicated. IT’s definitely gonna eat some people if we wait a few days so - sooner is definitely better than later. So will you come? Like, now? Me and Stan are actually headed to the airport after this, if you wanna share a taxi.”
Eddie gapes at him. Richie imagines him remembering: IT. Oh god, IT-
Eddie’s jaw clicks shut.
“Also, hi,” Stan says. “Good to see you, Eddie.”
Eddie zones back in at this, looking over at Stan.
“What? Yeah. It’s-” Eddie breaks into an uneven smile. “Oh, shit. Stan and Richie. Hah . Hi, guys.”
He jerks forwards, hugs them both around the neck. Richie hugs back, light at first to match Eddie, then tighter when the hug doesn’t stop after a few seconds. When he pulls back, he has to take a humiliating second to wipe at his eyes.
Eddie laughs. “What, you miss me, Trashmouth?”
Fuck Stan and his understanding face, Richie decides as he clears his throat and does his best not to think about the absolute hell of the past few months - the drinking ‘til he pukes, the sympathetic check-ins from the rest of the Losers, the nonstop nightmares.
Yes, fuck, I fucking missed you , Richie doesn’t say. Eds, god, I can’t-
“What? I missed my favourite pasta dish, Eddie Spaghetti.”
Eddie blinks rapidly, then he groans. “Fuck. I haven’t missed that.”
“What, me calling you Eddie Spaghetti? I’m hurt. Truly hurt, Eds.”
“Quit it,” Eddie says, but he’s grinning. His smile doesn’t last long. “I - uh, I’ll come. You guys are leaving now?”
“As soon as you get your cute butt back out here with your bags, Spaghetti.”
Eddie makes another face, but there’s fondness leaking through. Richie does his best not to burst into hysterical tears, which would be - awkward, to say the least.
He thumbs back at the house. “Want me to distract Mrs. K so you can sneak out the window?”
“Uh,” Eddie says. “No, I’ll - give me a few minutes, I’ll meet you guys back out here. Stay here, alright?”
“Alrighty-roo,” Richie says, and steps on Stan’s foot when he gets another Look.
It’s as excruciating as Richie expects. They stay in the backyard, as suggested, but even from here they can hear Mrs. K asking Eddie why he’s leaving, why won’t he tell her more about it, what about his medications, what about her , she can’t understand why he’s doing this to her, he’s scaring her -
“I’ll be back in a few days,” he calls behind her after he detangles himself from her clutching hands on the porch. “I’ll see you, Myra.”
“ Eddie ,” she says, still bewildered, with a side of pissed off and a generous dash of helplessness.
Richie waves. And, because he’s mature, he doesn’t flip her off. On the way to the taxi he sends a text to Mike: Smol package has been secured.
“She seems nice ,” he tells Eddie as they get into the taxi. “Anyone else get reminded of somebody?”
“Beep beep,” Stan says. “So, Eddie! Risk analysis, huh?”
“Yeah,” Eddie says, not sounding enthused at all, but that might just be because he’s trying to ignore how Myra’s still calling for him, even as the taxi pulls away from the curb.
Richie watches his face, all pinched and lovely, and thinks: You’ll come back, Eds. You’ll come back and divorce her ass and go out and do whatever the fuck you want, whatever that is. I’ll make sure of it.
Aloud, he says, “So, airports. Opinion, Eds?”
Eddie blinks. Comes back to himself a bit. “What? I don’t have any opinions. They’re germ-infested nightmares.”
“Sounds like an opinion.”
“That’s not an opinion,” Eddie starts. “That’s a fact. Airports are hotbeds for germs-”
“Oh, please tell me you wear disposable gloves and you change them at five-minute intervals, that’d make my day.”
This is how they launch into their first argument - or, argument’s a strong word. They bicker , and Stan sits there looking resigned, and Richie feels like he’s been transported back 30 years and also so fucking relieved he could cry. Jesus, he’s missed this. He’d give anything for it.
Bev meets them at the airport, and Richie doesn’t have to be subtle when checking her over because the damage is pretty obvious - there’s a bruise blooming on her cheekbone, ugly and purpling. There’s no makeup over it, and she holds her head high as he walks up to them.
“Hey,” Richie says. He bends to hug her. “Glad you made it.”
She kisses his cheek, then does the same to Stan. She hugs Eddie, and then holds him at arms’ length to admire him as Richie texts Mike: red package has been secured. Mike texts back almost immediately with a smiley emoji.
“You grew up,” Bev says. “I told you you’d be taller than me.”
“I don’t know,” Richie says. “I think it’s a tie. Actually, I think you’re taller than him, Bev.”
“I’m 5’9, it’s the average height of the world, asshole,” Eddie says. It’s tempered by his worried look at Bev’s cheekbone.
She shakes her hair over it, then immediately pulls her hair away from it, over her ears. There’s still about a twenty minute wait to boarding, so she settles in the seat next to them.
“So,” she says. “I noticed we’re heading right to Derry. Are we not stopping for Ben and Bill?”
“Nope,” Richie says. “They’re already heading there. You guys were just on our way.”
“Oh,” Bev says. “Where abouts did you end up?”
Richie points at Stan. “He’s in Atlanta, I’m LA.”
“...Oh,” Bev says, slower this time. “O...kay? That’s, uh.”
“Hey Bev, Stan’s married,” Richie says. “And Eddie’s married. They have real life wives. Guys, Bev is also married.”
Beep beep, Richie tells himself. Everyone avoids looking at Bev’s cheek.
Bev’s smile is hard, not not in a bad way.
“Not for long,” she says. She pinches the skin of her ring finger - it’s bare.
Richie, without much thinking about it, puts an arm around her shoulder. She leans into it, and Richie gets a flash of 30 years ago, and also 3 months ago. You’re gonna be okay, Bev, Ben’s waiting -
“Now we can live our affair out in the open,” Richie says.
Bev snorts. She slaps him in the chest, not hard.
“What about you,” she says. “Married?”
Richie is not getting into that right now.
“Three times divorced, actually,” he says. “Mary, Berry and Sherry. Lovely girls, but we just weren’t right for each other.”
Everyone makes identical noises of exasperation.
“You haven’t changed,” Eddie says, shaking his head.
Richie hasn’t. There are some things in him that are unshakable, things that Richie doesn’t know if he wants to keep anymore, even if they’ve been serving him okay for all this time. Then there are things that he knows he’ll never get rid of, and all of them swirl in him as he sits there in the airport, Bev leaning into him, Stan at his side, Eddie within touching distance, plucked from his timeline and slotted into another.
He closes his eyes. Sends up a prayer to the turtle.
Please , is all he says. Just make him live. Make all of them live. Take me if you want, but let everyone else walk away from this.
Then he excuses himself to get a doughnut and spends five minutes having a probably-not-a-panic-attack in a bathroom stall, because despite his newfound religion, it doesn’t provide a lot of comfort, and he’s not in the best space right now.
Richie doesn’t ring the gong when he gets there, no matter how tempting it is, because things are going to be fucking different this time around, damnit.
He does say “The Losers club reunion has officially begun,” as he walks in to find Bill, Ben and Mike at the table, and only remembers that’s close to what he said last time after he says it. Whatever. Can’t beat ‘em all.
Mike is the first one to spring up and hug him, and Richie hugs him back just as hard.
“Good to see you,” Mike says, drawing back. He’s still got that eager look, like he can’t believe anyone’s really here but is really glad they are. Richie supposes he looks kind of similar.
“Yeah, you too, Mikey,” he says.
Mike hugs everyone else and Richie hugs Bill and Ben, gives them some well-meaning jabs, and then everyone’s sitting down in the exact same fucking order as the last time Richie went through this.
He doesn’t wait for everyone to order before he says, “So, Mike, what’d you tell Ben and Bill about what’s going on?”
Mike stops fiddling with his chopsticks. “Uhhh. I said that IT was back, and that they made a promise to come back if IT ever did.”
“W-wait,” Bill says. “You didn’t say it l-like that . That makes it s-sound like-”
“Oh, we’re 100% gonna have to take IT down,” Richie tells him. He reaches out and pats the air like he’s patting Bill’s head, since he can’t reach him. “Just roll with it, Big Bill, you’ll be fine.”
“I don’t,” Ben says, and pauses. “I don’t remember - all of it, yet.”
“That’ll come,” Richie says.
Eddie looks at him suspiciously. “What, you remember all of it, then?”
Richie drinks his water. He’s only drinking water, because he doesn’t want a repeat of last time, where he’d remembered he loved Eddie and then decided to get spectacularly drunk to compensate. Everyone else is having wine, though, which is fucking annoying. Most of them are barely drinking it, too, which is even worse. What asshole nurses one glass of wine over a dinner?
Assholes who are normal, Richie's brain tells him. Assholes who don't have a problem -
Richie cuts that thought right the fuck off.
“Yup,” he says.
“Why,” Bev says. “And you - you knew about Tom.”
Beside Richie, Stan is shifting in his seat. He’s watching Richie like good luck explaining this one.
“Yeah, about that,” Richie says. “Uh. This won’t make sense to you guys, since you probably don’t remember much about - anything, right now. But - do any of you, perchance, remember the big fucking turtle god that frequented our dreams?”
That gets him some blank looks that slowly transform.
“There we go,” Richie says. He skulls his water and pours another glass as everyone catches up, then says, “So! Time travel, right?”
It takes a while to convince everyone, except for Mike and Stan, who are already on board. They provide helpful support as Richie fends off remark after remark, all of which basically boils down to this sounds fucking impossible and you’re definitely fucking with us.
“I’m not fucking with you,” Richie says. “Come on, you guys stared down a demon clown when you were kids, you can’t believe in a turtle-god that sent me back through time to make sure the lucky seven keeps all its members?”
“Pretty much,” Eddie says. He’s leaning forwards so he can look around Stan to make eye contact, and Richie feels a swell of gratefulness that Stan is there to be leaned around.
Richie shrugs. “Whatever, Eds. Just be sure to not turn your back on Pennywise when you’re not 100% sure he’s dead, you dumbass.”
Eddie wavers at that. He’s obviously not sitting well with the idea that Richie’s lived through his death, which is fair. Richie’s not either.
“Has the… turtle…” Bev squints down at her empty plate, which is hilarious, because she’s the only one out of all of them who’s been having the turtle dreams. “-has he been in touch since you got to this… time?”
“Nope,” Richie says. “He only comes when I’m drunk. And even then, not every time.”
“Oh,” Eddie says, and drags one of the bottles of wine over towards him, along with a shot of tequila that Bill had lined up for himself. “Go for it, man, you can communicate with the god-turtle tonight and report back.”
Richie considers it - the shot, more than the bottle. Shots had always been a thing for him, and tequila is the only booze that isn’t a depressant, right? Richie’s read that somewhere. He’s had it before, but only in combination with other shit, so maybe if he just drank tequila, he wouldn’t end up sad and weeping on everyone about this whole situation -
Focus on the end point, Richie remembers. It’d been from the first and only therapy session he’s had, which he went to after his doctor told him to cool it with the booze or his liver was going to take him out early. The shrink had been off-putting, which was probably not his fault, it was probably more that Richie found shrinks off-putting, but he’d said something helpful that had helped Richie countless times since he’d more or less given up drinking almost a decade ago: Don’t focus on all the good things you think of about that first drink. Focus on the end point, what will happen at the end of the night and the next morning and all the consequences that will happen. And then just don’t take the first drink in the first place.
“Yeahhhh, I’m not gonna do that right now,” Richie says. “If the turtle really wants to talk, he’ll get in touch.”
“Bro,” Eddie says. “This is serious.”
“I know, bro ,” Richie says. Bro ? Jesus. Eddie, how far have you sunk?
“I could be wrong,” he admits. “The dreams started after the first few weeks, but that’s also when I started drinking every night, so it might just be a coincidence.”
He punctuates this with a long swallow of water. He’s definitely gonna need to pee soon, if he keeps drinking water like he’s trying to trick his alcohol problem into shutting up.
A few Losers trade looks. Richie allows it.
“How is it,” Ben asks quietly. “After - Derry. In the time you came from.”
“Oh, it’s fucking rainbows and butterflies, Benji,” Richie says. “You and Bev went on a cruise and are currently shacking up at your place. Bill’s finally writing good endings and he’s fixing things with his wife. Mike’s in - I don’t know, Chicago? He definitely made it to Florida, he won’t stop sending pictures. Everyone’s aces.”
Ben goes silent at that. He looks over at Bev, then hastily away when he realizes she’s staring at him already.
Bill says, “And you, Rich?”
“I,” Richie says, and gulps water. He gets some down his chin, so he wipes it off. “I - came back. You’re welcome, by the way,” he adds to Stan and Eddie, who are conveniently sitting next to each other so he can get them in one glare.
“Thanks, Rich,” Stan says. He squeezes Richie’s shoulder.
Eddie’s throat clicks. “Yeah,” he says. “Uh. Thanks.”
Richie sighs. “So everyone’s on the same page now? Everyone gets what’s going on? Everyone knows the general timeline that’s supposed to go down and has a dubious amount of childhood memories back?”
A series of unsure nods go around the table. Good enough.
“Great,” Richie says. “Okay, so-”
He pauses. They’d ordered while Richie was explaining, and now their food and a basket of fortune cookies are coming their way.
“Nope,” Richie says, already pushing his chair back. “Big bag of nightmares. Everyone, we’re getting doggie bags, let’s vamoose.”
“What? We haven’t even-” Eddie stops as the fortune cookies begin to vibrate. “Fucking shit. Nevermind, let’s get this to go.”
They let the employees scoop their food into plastic containers and stand a safe distance away as the fortune cookies come to life, unseen to everyone except the Losers, who watch with wide, terrified eyes and end up running out of the restaurant without Stan’s food when the things crawl their way over.
Everyone gives Stan a bit of their food, so it’s fine. They eat as they walk to the Inn, which is different from last time, where they drove.
Things will be different, Richie tells himself as they walk. Things are already different, we’re going to change all of it -
Stan is quiet as everyone gives him bits of their dinner. His hands shake as he takes Beverly’s wonton in his napkin-clad hand, and Richie bumps him with his shoulder.
“You good, Uris,” he asks.
Stan nods, then immediately shakes his head. He stops, and everyone else follows suit. They’re just outside the inn.
“I-” Stan swallows. “I’ve been remembering more about… IT, since we got here.”
He meets Richie’s gaze, but only for a second. “Thank you for coming back, but I don’t think - I really don’t think I can do this.”
“Yes you can,” Richie says instantly, stepping closer. Stan shrinks away, so Richie stops. “Stan. Hey. Come on. You can do this.”
“I’m gonna get everyone killed , Rich,” Stan starts, and Richie can already see where this is going.
“Hey, I know you’re pissing yourself, Stan. But this is what we have to do,” Richie says. “We have to grow past our fucking fears. Everyone has to do it, and everyone’s - everyone’s really happy after that, Stan, okay? If you do this - we’ll do it, man. We’ll kill the fucking clown and you can move on with your life, finally. Put Derry in the dust once and for all. You’ll never have to come back here, and we’ll all meet up every couple months at Ben’s fucking beach house or whatever. We’ll text each other all the time and we’ll - Stan .”
Richie grabs his shoulders. Stan sounds like Eddie needing an inhaler.
“We’re fucking here for you, man,” Richie says. “We’re all - we’re all fucking terrified, but we’re in your corner. We will not - hey, look at me, man. We will not let anything happen to you. We’d all die for you, man.”
And you died for us, Richie doesn’t say. Stan seems to hear it anyway.
“Not that we will ,” Richie adds. “”Cause we’re all gonna be fine. 7/7 success rate this time, okay? Don’t make me go back a second time, Stan, come on.”
Stan makes a wet sound. He shrugs Richie’s hands off his shoulders, but doesn’t move away.
“Since when are you the one to make speeches,” he says after a few seconds of sniffling.
“Let’s kill this fucking c-clown,” Bill says beside him, like he’s uncovering something long-lost.
Richie looks over at him. He looks just as surprised as Richie.
“Exactly,” Richie says. “Bill’s got the spirit. Nice murderous energy, Big Bill.”
They head into the Inn. No one’s there, like last time, because apparently no one works at this fucking place, so they grab their keys and head to their rooms.
It feels strange to be back. Richie lies on his bed and for a minute he craves booze so bad he can feel it behind his teeth, the want, pulsing. Anything - he’d take cooking wine now, no matter how much he reminds himself of his mother when he drinks it, because one of the fun side effects of drinking too much is blocking out all those pesky bad feelings like guilt and shame.
But he rides the craving out and then goes downstairs to where everyone’s sitting around the bar, talking.
No one offers him a glass, which is good. Ben gives him a glass of juice without asking, which is also nice. Richie can tell he’s fucking dying to ask about that comment he made about him and Bev living together, but there’s no way he’s gonna ask with Bev around.
Richie takes the seat furthest away from the bar. About five seconds later, Eddie takes the seat next to him.
Shut up , Richie tells his brain as it starts going a million miles an hour. It’s like a fucking dog after its owner finally gets home: Eddie! Eddie’s here! Eddie - !
“This is really weird,” Eddie says.
Richie snorts and sips his juice. Apple. Better than nothing. He makes a mental note to bitch about it later - what, Ben, no orange? No pulp? You had to give me the shittest juice other than tomato -
“You’re telling me,” he says. “I already did this. At least you’re getting it all fresh.”
“No, I know,” Eddie says. He waves a hand, the one that isn’t holding a glass of something that looks a lot like whiskey. “Just - time travel.”
Richie laughs. “I know, right? Who am I, Marty McFly?”
Eddie laughs. “Oh shit, I remember watching that! We used to watch it all the time.”
“Yep. That and Terminator .”
“And Gremlins .” Eddie’s grinning now, and Richie tries not to think about his cheek getting sliced open. “Man, we used to haunt that video shop. What was it called?”
“Wally’s fucking videos! Or something.”
“Yeah, I can’t remember it right.” Richie sips his apple juice. Like he’s a literal toddler. “Something about Wally’s videos. Hey, remember that time we got chased out for sneaking into the restricted section?”
Eddie looks at him without comprehension, and then: “I remember you dragging me into it! I didn’t sneak in -”
“Yeah you did! I dared you and you did it.” Richie clinks their glasses together. “I was so proud, Spaghetti.”
“Don’t call me that,” Eddie says. “I’m a grown man.”
“You are. You’re also my favourite pasta dish. You just have to accept it, man.”
Eddie kicks his chair. It’s somehow the funniest thing Richie’s ever seen, and he folds in on himself, cackling. When he can finally get air again, his eyes are swimming and Eddie’s looking oddly proud, though he’s trying to hide it.
The others are looking at him as well, and Richie is uncomfortably reminded of his old present, where everyone was always worrying over him. They all look pretty relieved to see him laugh like that.
“Hey,” Eddie says, once everyone’s turned back to their own conversations. He rubs at the knees of his jeans. “Uh. I know I said before, but - thanks for coming back.”
“Sure,” Richie says. He looks down into his apple juice, since there’s no fucking way he can make eye contact while talking about this.
“I mean it,” Eddie says. “I - I’d do the same for you. If you - died.”
Richie doesn’t know if he means it, but he grins anyway, looking up. “Aw. Thanks, Eds Spagheds.”
“I’m serious,” Eddie says.
Richie’s grin shrinks. Okay, back to staring into his juice again.
“Come on, man,” he says. “Do you even remember me right now? Like, properly?”
Eddie shifts in his seat. “I don’t remember everything about Derry, or you, but - I remember the important bits.”
“Yeah,” Eddie says, his jaw set all stubbornly. “Just - you know.”
Richie nods. He does get it - when he’d first gotten the call, he hadn’t remembered things. That had come later, after staying in Derry for a few hours, over the dinner. Before that, he couldn’t remember Eddie breaking his arm, or Ben building the clubhouse, or Bev jumping off the cliff into the water. It had all been a blur, none of it made sense - but as soon as he saw everyone, he’d remembered how he felt about them. That had all come back at once: holy shit, I love you guys. I didn’t know I could love anyone this much and here you all are.
“Yeah,” Richie says, quietly.
Eddie’s fingernail scrapes silently over the edge of his glass.
“You were my best friend,” he mumbles.
Richie, because he’s an idiot, goes for it. He turns to Eddie and frowns.
“What, I’m not now?”
“I-” Eddie’s mouth opens and closes. “It’s been a while , Rich.”
“Wow,” Richie says. “I can’t believe I time travelled for you. I should’ve just let you stay down there in IT’s-”
Too fucking far. He chokes on it, the memories: Eddie limp and bloody, sluggish and getting worse. The fear in his eyes, then, worse, the utter blank of them. His last glimpse of Eddie - Eddie’s body - as Ben yanked Richie away.
We left you there, Richie doesn’t say, but it’s strong. Fuck, we left you there.
He covers his mouth. Beside him, Eddie’s speaking low and urgent, and someone’s making harsh, sobbing sounds. It takes Richie a second, where his vision starts to swim and all his nerves go haywire, for him to realize it’s him.
Shit , he thinks. He’s still making the noises, desperate, gasping ones, and everyone’s looking at him now. Eddie’s got his hand clenched in Richie’s shirt and Richie can’t help it, he’s so close - he reaches out and grips Eddie’s shirt right back, at his stomach, where the wound would be.
Bev is saying something, and Eddie’s saying something back, and Richie hears it all like they’re talking through water. Like it’s in his ears, like they’re all in the lake, washing the blood off -
Eddie’s pushing something into his hands, and Richie takes it blindly. It’s Eddie’s fucking inhaler. Richie would laugh if he could breathe. He lets Eddie guide it to his mouth and take a drag, then another.
It takes him about thirty seconds for his breathing to get anywhere close to normal, but goddamn, placebo works. What had Eddie called them?
“Gazebos,” Richie gasps, when he can finally speak. There are tears streaming down his face, so he wipes them off with his sleeve. “ Ha , Eds,remember? You called them gazebos.”
“I-” Eddie struggles for a second. “I was thirteen , man.”
Richie giggles. “Gazebos. Dumbass.”
“Again, I was thirteen !”
Richie detangles himself from him and leans away. He sucks in air.
Eddie, like everyone else, watches him anxiously.
“You alright,” he asks.
Richie wheezes. “Peachy fucking keen. God. That sucked . I hate those. Hey, speaking of these things-”
He takes the inhaler from Eddie and rattles it.
“We gotta, uh. There’s a guy at a carnival, we gotta make sure he doesn’t get Pennywise-d.” He looks over at Mike. “You find anything about Adrian?”
“Uh,” Mike says. “Yeah, I asked - he’s - him and his boyfriend are going tonight. What does an inhaler have to do with-”
Richie climbs up off the seat. “He uses one. Tonight’s the night? Shit, I hope we’re not too late. And maybe it won’t even happen, I don’t know how all this timeline crap works, maybe Pennywise is gonna be too focused on us to stop for a bite. Onwards!”
He starts for the door, only to get held back by pretty much everyone. They ask him if he’s okay and if he wants some water, which is ridiculous, he’s been skulling water all night, if anything he needs less water.
“I’m fine,” he says, shrugging their hands off of him. “Hey, chill out, okay? We have bigger things to take care of than - than Trashmouth’s panic attack, come on. Vamoose, children.”
He claps. Nobody moves. Everyone’s looking at him like - like -
“What,” he snaps. “Seriously? There is a dude out there who is gonna get his armpit bitten out and he’s gonna bleed to death. Are we just gonna sit around and let that happen or are we gonna go and help?”
Richie has got to do speeches more often. It only takes a few more come oooon’ s before everyone’s moving for the door, even if they do keep giving him those annoying fucking looks.
Richie still doesn’t know how this timeline shit works, but it’s a good thing they turn up. Mike’s the one to spot Adrian, and they all split up so they’re not a bunch of people following a gay couple. They do this for not even twenty minutes, right up until a different bunch of people start doing it.
Richie makes some stupid hand signals at the others, all of whom are already clued in to what’s going on, because it’s pretty obvious. The Losers make it there just in time for the first punch.
“Hey, asshole,” Richie screams, and the guy who threw the punch turns around just in time to get decked by Richie, then Mike, who barrels in after him.
It’s not much of a fight, seven - plus Adrian and his boyfriend - against four guys, one of whom still looks like he’s in middle school. It feels a lot longer, but it probably takes less than a minute for the homophobes to run off, but not before dealing some damage to everyone - some punches and kicks, but mostly Ben, who gets a black eye, and Bill, who gets kicked in the balls and spends the rest of the fight lying on the floor, groaning, then tripping the middle-schooler up when he goes to run away.
“Yeah, you better run,” Richie yells at them as they vanish back into the carnival. “Fucking homophobes!”
He turns back to the happy couple, who are dazed and a little bruised up, but very much alive.
“You guys good,” Ben asks.
The boyfriend - Richie can’t remember his name - says, “Uh, yeah, we’re good.”
Adrian sniffs. “Thanks for the help. Didn’t need it, but thanks.”
He pulls out his inhaler and takes a pull, about the same time that Eddie does. They glance at each other.
“Didn’t expect any help from Derry, of all places,” Adrian continues, leering a little.
How old is he, anyway? Richie clocks him at his early twenties, maybe. And braver than Richie ever was.
“Yeah, well,” he says, “Us small town queers gotta stick together.”
Adrian and his boyfriends’ eyebrows raise in tandem. Adrian’s smile turns more solid.
“Fuck yeah we do,” he says, and holds out his hand for a fistbump.
Richie bumps it. “Stay safe, you crazy kids. And hey, if you guys see a clown - run in the other direction. Just trust me. It’s a thing.”
“Homophobes have taken over the clowns, got it,” Adrian says. He pockets one hand, holds his boyfriend’s hand with the other. “So are you guys in, like, a polyamorous clusterfuck or what?”
“Oh, no, they’re-” Richie waves back at the Losers. “They’re all straight. And so out of my league, look at them. Fucking J Crew models. Assholes.”
“They are pretty hot,” Adrian agrees, grinning hard now. He’s bleeding from his eyebrow, and the blood tracks down the side of his face.
His boyfriend squeezes his hand. “Well - thanks, guys. We really appreciate it.”
Richie gives them a boy scout’s salute. “Anytime.”
They salute back, much better than him. Richie was never actually in the boy scouts. They walk off and Richie watches them with swelling pride.
He whoops and turns around.
“ Fuck yeah,” he says. “Richie Tozier, saving lives! Everyone should time travel.”
He’s getting a varied amount of looks, which is to be expected. Almost everyone’s smiling, though, which is good. Not that he was worried, he knows everyone’s cool with the gay thing, except for Stan and Eddie, who he assumes-
He checks. Stan looks proud and amused. Eddie -
Eddie looks surprised, and not much else. That’s not the worst outcome, so Richie turns back and walks to the railing. He looks over, and whoop-de-fucking-doo, there’s the clown - Pennywise stares up at him from a dozen feet away. He’s lurking in the bushes, drool oozing from his open mouth.
Richie flips him off with both hands.
“FUCK you,” he yells. “You fucking clown, we’re gonna fucking KILL you!”
Everyone else rushes up to the railing and make some noise that boils down to oh god, the monster from my worst impossible nightmares, there he is.
Bill is the only one who says actual words, which are, “Oh, f-fuck.”
Richie claps him on the back. “It’s fine, man, we’ll get him.”
Pennywise opens his cavernous mouth and roars at them, all eight hundred of his teeth gleaming in the moonlight. Stan whimpers and Bev covers her mouth with her hands.
“FUCK YOU,” Richie screams back at IT. “HEY! YOU HEAR ME, YOU FUCKING PIECE OF SHIT! WE’RE GONNA KILL YOU DEAD!”
He laughs. The others look at him like he’s crazy. Richie can’t bring himself to care. They’ve killed IT before, they’ll do it again.
Bev is the next one to speak up. “Fuck you ,” she calls, and it’s wavering, but strong.
Richie grins at her. She grins back, and then whips her head back around and opens her mouth again. This time she’s joined in by Richie and Bill, and then everyone’s screaming and swearing and leaning over the railing.
“YOU’RE JUST A FUCKING CLOWN,” Richie yells.
IT shrinks, just a little. IT’s tried roaring again, but they yelled him down. Now IT’s shrinking, and looking pretty fucking terrified by this.
Richie has a second where he thinks they might get it over with now, but then he blinks and IT’s gone.
The Losers quit yelling, but the energy stays. Richie is vibrating, looking around at the others, who are all shaking - oh god IT’s real IT’s back we didn’t kill IT we’re really gonna have to kill IT - but with nervous smiles.
Richie pats Stan’s shoulder, who grins back tremulously. Stan had been the last to join in, but by the end of it he’d been screaming words that probably hadn’t seen use in decades.
“We’re gonna win,” Richie tells him.
Stan ducks his head in a nod. He doesn’t look like he fully believes it, but he doesn’t look like they’re all heading to their imminent deaths, either.
They drive back in the same car they’d gotten to the carnival in, which is Bill’s rental.
Richie’s expecting it when Stan says, “So, you’re gay.”
“Duh,” Richie says. “You knew that, Uris.”
Bev twists around from the front seat. “You knew?”
“Yeah, I told him.” Richie thinks about it. “We were - what, 16? He dragged it out of me, the bastard. Wouldn’t stop asking until I told him why I was being weird.”
“You were upset,” Stan corrects.
Richie waves a hand. “Tomato, tomah-to, my friend. Anyway, yeah, I’m a great big homo. Also, if we’re getting shit out in the open, I also have issues with alcohol. Dunno if I’m, like, an alcoholic, but I have a history of alcohol abuse and a lot of my family were alkies, so that’s not a good sign.”
Bev reaches back and takes his hand. He squeezes it.
“We love you,” she says.
“I know,” he says. “I love you guys, too.”
The car choruses with love you and Richie leans back, lets himself bask in it. He tries not to focus on one mumbled love you , but that’s a lost cause. He’d never heard Eddie say it, even in a friend sense, even though most of the time he was 80% sure Eddie friend-loved him. When they were kids, anyway. As an adult, he knew Eddie friend-loved him. Eddie loved him because all the Losers loved each other, and Eddie loved him because they were best friends.
“When did you know,” Ben asks.
Richie hums. “Uhhh. I think I knew when I was, like - 12? But I denied it for ages. And then I forgot, so.”
Eddie sits forwards in his seat and says, “You forgot ?”
“Yeah, man! I straight up forgot when I left Derry. Repression is a bitch . Shit, that reminds me - you guys don’t remember all of it, right? Last time we had to go on this soul-searching journey to get tokens, which don’t matter, because the ritual doesn’t work. I’m pretty sure we can bypass all of that if I just tell everyone what they’ve been repressing, how does everyone feel about that?”
Unenthused, Richie guesses, by the expressions everyone gets. But willing.
Richie tells them all in separate rooms. It seems polite. No one wants their dirty laundry aired in front of people, even if it’s their closest childhood friends that they’d had magically erased for the last 3 decades.
One thing he makes sure to tell each of them is how they’d stopped growing after Derry. We froze in time, he tells them. We forgot how brave we’d been. And we fell back into old patterns.
Stan doesn’t take much time. Richie’s pretty much already told him everything that needed to be said. Bill nods the whole time as Richie tells him he’s gotta let go of his guilt over Georgie, but doesn’t meet his eyes. Mike looks pretty fucking excited to get the hell out of Derry. Ben blushes at the mention of Beverly, and doesn’t ask about what Richie said about the boat. Neither does Bev, though she’s more distracted by how she’s upped and married her dad.
“You and Eddie should start a support group,” Richie says.
She snorts. “Yeah, maybe we will.”
Eddie gets out his inhaler when Richie brings him in, but he doesn’t use it. Just turns it over in his hands. Richie thinks he sees him mouth gazebos .
“Is that it,” Eddie says when Richie finishes. “For me, I mean - just the mom thing? I, I know I… fell into old patterns. I - fucking got away from mom when she died, and then I went right back to the same dynamic I had with her. It was like I couldn’t exist without-”
He swallows. Looks up at Richie. “So is that it?”
“Uh,” Richie says. “Yeah? As far as I know, anyway.”
Eddie is silent. He twists his fingers together around his inhaler.
“I didn’t-” Eddie pauses, his breath rattling like he does need to take a pull. “I mean. I didn’t…”
Richie tries to smile. “You got hidden depths I don’t know about, Eds?”
Eddie looks up at him. His eyes are red, like he’s been rubbing them.
Richie’s smile ticks and dies. “Eds?”
Eddie shakes his head. “Don’t spare me, if - if you do know anything else. About me.”
“I don’t,” Richie says slowly. He pauses, then comes to sit next to Eddie on the hotel bed. “Uh. You okay?”
Eddie lets out a watery laugh. “Yeah! Yeah, I’m - fine. Just… repression’s a bitch, huh.”
“That is is,” Richie says. He watches Eddie keep twisting his fingers, worrying at the label on his inhaler.
Eddie shakes his head again. “So - the timeline you came from. God, that’s so weird to say - anyway, I. I died, right? I just - I lived this - this shitty, boxed-in life and I just. Die.”
Richie looks away. Carpet. Carpet’s safe, all boring and grey. He traces a line in it with his shoe.
“Uh,” he says. “You do die.”
Eddie nods. “I die,” he says, and laughs again. This one’s dryer. “I just - I fucking die, after all of - all of this, and I never get - I don’t grow. I don’t get to grow the fuck up , after all this time. I die before it happens.”
“You don’t-” Richie takes a deep breath. “You were dealing with some stuff, before we faced IT. You had some stuff sorted out, I think. If you had lived-”
“But I didn’t!”
“But if you did, you would’ve - grown up, done whatever you want.”
Eddie sniffs. He scrubs a hand down his face. “Yeah?”
“Yeah, of course.” Richie hesitates, then rubs his back. It feels weird. “Come on, dude, you’ll have every opportunity to - maybe divorce your mom.”
“Seriously, man. I’m not telling you what do to, but there are better women out there for you. Ones who let you eat fried food, even.”
Eddie keeps quiet. He thumbs at the label of his inhaler, peels the edge of it off.
Richie tries to think of a joke. He can definitely pull another mom joke out of his ass, but he also doesn’t really want to.
“I think I’m a coward,” Eddie says finally, hoarse.
“If you are, so’s Bev,” Richie says. “And Stan. And me.”
“You’re not a coward, Richie.”
Richie flashes his teeth. “I came out at 40, man.”
“You were scared.”
“Yeah, well, so were you. You were terrified to live without that fucked up dynamic with your mom, so you married someone who reminded you of her. It happens. You and Bev are gonna start a support group after this.”
“God,” Eddie says. “That’ll be fun.”
“So fun,” Richie says.
He waits, but Eddie doesn’t say anything else but thanks, RIch.
“You’re welcome,” Richie says. “I’m here all night.” Then he interprets how that could possibly sound like a come-on, so he does a top-hat-and-cane dance to follow it, and even gets Eddie to laugh a little.
“Check for Bowers in your bathroom,” Richie reminds him as he leaves. “Maybe IT broke him out early.”
“Will do,” Eddie says, sounding lost in thought.
Richie bolts up from lying on his bed twenty minutes later when Eddie screams from two rooms over.
“Mother fuck, ” Richie says, and books it. He throws open the door to Eddie’s room, barrels into the bathroom and finds Bowers on the floor with Eddie, trying to shove a knife into his face as Eddie yells and tries to fend him off.
“HEY,” Richie screams. There’s nothing within arm’s reach he can grab, so, in the dumbest heat of the moment, he launches himself at Bowers. He distantly regrets this as soon as he makes contact, barreling them both off of Eddie - should’ve grabbed something, anything, why didn’t you stop and think for one fucking second - but by then it’s too late to go back.
Richie grapples with Bowers, twisting his hands around Bowers’ grip on the knife. Bowers, ugly fuck that he is, bares his teeth in a strange smile as he starts trying to stab Richie. They’ve basically switched places, Eddie trying to hold the knife back and now Richie doing it, and Richie is vaguely aware of Eddie scrambling up, and then his hands come around Bower’s neck, tugging him backwards.
It all happens fast: Eddie yanks, Bowers grip slips on the knife enough that Richie can grab it off of him, and then Bowers is trying to stand up but Eddie’s stopping him and Mike’s at the door and coming towards them and Richie lunges forwards and stabs Bowers in the fucking throat.
“Oh shit ,” Richie hears himself say.
The room stops. Bowers stares, bug-eyed and frozen.
Richie rips the knife out of his neck.
Bowers starts to choke. Richie watches, backing up in terror and letting Eddie tug him away by his arm, as Bowers chokes on his own blood and collapses, shaking and twitching, clawing at his neck until the motions slow and stop.
It’s quiet then, except for a gasp that Richie assumes comes from Beverly, except he doesn’t turn around to check. He stares at Bowers, then steps forwards - glancing over at Eddie when he hisses something like what no - and kicks Bowers lightly in the head.
Bowers doesn’t move. Richie tilts his head enough that he can see his eyes, and yep, they’re blank and unblinking.
“Oh thank god,” Richie says.
Then he lurches sideways and throws up in the bath. He retches a few times, then lets the others pull him outside of the bathroom. Someone shoves a towel into his hands and Richie wipes his face off, and also his shirt, because that is disgusting.
“Let’s hope the Derry police department are as shit as usual,” Richie croaks. “Last time I killed Bowers they let me off pretty fast.”
It takes a few seconds before Stan says, “You killed Bowers in your timeline?”
Richie forces some puke back down his throat as it tries to rise.
“Yep,” he says. “He was trying to kill Mike. Did I not mention that?”
Six shaking heads.
“Oh,” Richie says. “Okay, I killed Bowers. Twice, now. You’re welcome.”
He lets Eddie press a towel to his cheek.
“What,” Richie says.
Eddie’s shaking, but only slightly. “You got fucking stabbed , asshole.”
“ What ?” Richie pulls the towel away, feels at his cheek. He hisses, even as Eddie bats his hands away - yeah, he’s definitely been stabbed. He thought Bowers had grazed him at some point during the scuffle. “Ow, fuck.”
“Yeah, ow ,” Eddie snaps.
Richie checks him over. “Are you hurt? Did he-”
“I’m fine, I dodged,” Eddie says. “Sit down so I can clean you up, okay? We’ll - guys, we should take him to a hospital, he’ll need stitches-”
Richie probes at the inside of his cheek with his tongue. “It didn’t go the whole way through.”
“That doesn’t mean you don’t need stitches, dumbass,” Eddie says, reading a pitch that would make Richie laugh if the pain wasn’t setting in.
Eddie shoos everyone else out and gets out a first aid kit from his luggage, which makes Richie grin and then wince when it pulls at his wound.
“What are you smiling at,” Eddie asks when he catches it.
“You,” Richie says. “Your massive first aid bag. You didn’t come here knowing we were fighting an alien demon clown, do you just carry that everywhere? Like a man-purse?”
Eddie opens his mouth, then pauses. “Alien?”
Richie stares uncomprehendingly, then slaps his forehead. “Right, Mike hasn’t told you guys yet. Yeah, IT’s a fucking alien from outer space. Much less cooler than I thought it’d be.”
Eddie makes a face like okay, that’s a thing, this is my life now , and gestures at Richie’s face.
“Let me at it,” he says.
Eddie clears away the blood, then dabs antiseptic into the wound. He calls Richie a baby when he whines, and Richie whines some more just to get Eddie talking to him. He’s being weirdly quiet otherwise, but there’s obviously a lot going on behind those pinched eyebrows.
“Copper for your thoughts,” Richie says as Eddie’s pasting the bandage over Richie’s cheek.
Eddie doesn’t say anything.
“A dollar, then,” Richie says. “Come on. A whooole dollar.”
Eddie smooths the tape around the bandage. He’s frowning hard, but it’s more worry than anything else.
Richie sighs. He takes Eddie’s wrist where he’s still smoothing the tape, even though it’s all already smoothed.
“Hey,” he says. “I’m fine, Eds.”
“You are not ,” Eddie spits immediately. “You got fucking stabbed, Rich!”
“I’m fine! Look, all limbs attached-”
“You could’ve fucking died!”
“So fucking what, man!” Richie says it without thinking, and it’s only when Eddie stops and stares at him like he’s just sucker-punched his puppy that Richie realizes oh, oops.
He backtracks. “I mean-”
“Richie,” Eddie says. His eyes are very big and Richie wants to look at them forever, but there’s never been a safe context to do so. “You came back in time - you didn’t come here just to get killed, what’s the use in that?”
“Seven out of seven success rate,” Eddie says. “You said that. If you die, that fucking matters .”
“Yeah, yeah, I know.”
“Do you?” Eddie’s doing that thing where his hands can’t stay still and neither can his face. Richie’s missed him like a phantom limb.
Richie looks away. “Let’s just - let’s kill IT tonight, alright? Or - whatever time it is, let’s do it now. Get it over with.”
“You care if you make it through this, right?”
Richie throws up his hands. “Of course I do! I want all of us to be together. I just- if the rest of you end up surviving, if I get taken out making that happen, that’d be okay.”
Wow. Bad choice of words. Eddie’s eyebrows behave like Richie’s just announced he was gonna kill himself right then and there.
“What the FUCK, Richie,” Eddie says. “That is - no, that is NOT okay! You think we wanna go on without you?”
Shit shit shit .
“You’d be fine,” Richie tries. “You’d be okay, maybe you’d have to come up with your own crappy jokes for once.”
“Look, I had to go on without you, okay,” Richie snaps, and it must be sharp enough because Eddie goes silent.
Richie presses his lips together hard. Concentrates on the pain in his cheek instead of anything else. Says, “I’m not - I’m not doing that again. As long as you live, I can be okay with - with whatever. And if that’s me dead, then fine.”
Eddie’s still staring. His eyes are wet and his voice is low and shaky and thrumming with something not unlike anger when he says, “Fuck, Rich, if that’s the case why didn’t you just stay in the lair with my body and die with me, if you wanna die so bad-”
“I tried !”
It’s loud enough to shock them both into silence, and Richie looks down again. Carpet. Safe, boring carpet. No emotional pain in the carpet.
“Ben had to drag me out,” he says, and squeezes his eyes shut against the sting. Fuck, why is he saying any of this? This isn’t helping. This is - some weird, fucked up closure for Richie after spending months in a world where Eddie wasn’t alive.
He can’t stop: “I just,” he says, and swallows. “I just want you alive. Okay? More than - fuck . More than Stan. Which is fucking terrible , he’s my best friend, but Stan dead - I could live with it. It hurt like hell, but I could deal. I couldn’t deal with-”
He chokes on it again, has to draw in a breath. It rasps up his throat. He doesn’t dare look over at Eddie.
“I can’t deal with you not being… out there, somewhere. I don’t care what you’re doing, just - you being alive would be enough.”
It lingers between them, and Richie still doesn’t dare glance over. He clenches his hands in the bedspread and keeps his eyes on the carpet.
After the silence gets too much, Richie laughs. “God, this whole honesty thing sucks. I hate it. Let’s go back to where I didn’t have anything under the surface, alright? Let me think of a fart joke.”
“Give me a second.”
“I - I don’t wanna make it out if you don’t, either.”
Richie looks over on instinct, before he can think to talk himself out of it. Eddie’s looking at his hands - Richie’s hands, not his own. He looks intensely uncomfortable, but that’s not all he looks.
“What,” Richie says. He has to clear his throat. “Come on, man.”
“I don’t,” Eddie says. “I - Richie. You-”
He sucks in a breath, blows it out. “I missed you.”
Richie has no clue what to say to that except, “I missed you too.”
“If I do die-”
“I don’t wanna fucking die without telling you-”
Eddie stops, sucks in another breath. His hand goes to his pocket, but there’s nothing in there, and Richie watches him grope in his pocket for a second before stopping.
“What,” Richie says, when Eddie keeps trying to say the words and then closing his mouth.
“What do you think, dipshit,” Eddie croaks. He meets Richie’s eyes, almost accusingly. No, not accusing -
“Did did you really not know?”
Richie’s mind blanks. A hundred thoughts start up and then trail off before gaining traction.
“I-” His hands flex on the bedsheets. “I don’t know what you’re talking about?”
“Don’t fuck with me, Rich. You gotta have - you must have some idea. The others do.”
“Well, I don’t!”
Eddie makes a jagged sound and twists his head like he wants to turn away, but keeps getting pulled back. “You were just gonna come back and save me,” he says, “And let me - what, go back to my wife?”
Richie frowns. “Uhh. I mean, I assumed you’d break that off? You obviously hated her, that relationship was fucking awful, and after Derry I assumed you’d, like. Grow as a person. No offence.”
Eddie snorts. “None taken. Anything else?”
“No?” At Eddie’s searching look, Richie tries, “I - I didn’t think of much beyond that. I just - pictured you happy. Everyone else got to be.”
Richie rolls his eyes. “What do you think, numbnuts?”
“Numbnuts,” Eddie repeats, like it’s the weirdest thing he’s ever heard. “God, I forgot about that, you came up with the weirdest names. You were-?”
“I was fucked, Eds. I did a blood ritual with a turtle god to come back and save you.”
“Because you love us,” Eddie says, and there’s so much behind his eyes that Richie can’t look directly at them.
“Yeah,” he says.
“You love me.”
Richie has to hold back a wince. There was always so much fucking shame tied up in it - loving Eddie meant loving boys, and loving boys meant he was a fag, and fag didn’t just mean loving boys, it meant freak and it meant dirty and it meant bad . It meant he was gonna get sick and die for wanting things that would hurt him. It meant he was gonna get beaten up and thrown off a bridge. It meant -
“Yeah,” Richie says. It comes out as a whisper, which is probably revealing enough in itself. You love me. Yeah . A confession.
“Hey,” Eddie says. “Eyes on me, Trashmouth.”
Richie does, but he rolls his eyes to do it.
Eddie looks scared, but he also looks - he looks -
Richie feels himself frown. It sparks pain across his cheek, but he barely notices.
“Me, too,” Eddie says.
Richie has to repeat that a few times in his head.
“You too,” he says. “What?”
“I love you, too,” Eddie says.
Richie stares at him.
Eddie stares back, expectant.
Does. Not. Compute , Richie says in his mind, distant. Humour has been his defense mechanism his whole life, okay? It doesn’t go away when the big shit happens.
“Uh,” Richie says, and his voice is - god, just pathetic . “You - what?”
Eddie’s face morphs into worry. “Do you have - do you have a concussion? Like, seriously, did Bowers-”
“I don’t have a concussion,” Richie says, his voice embarrassingly high. He coughs and it goes about 60% back to normal. “You. Like, in a gay way?”
“No, what would give you that idea,” Eddie says, dry as the Sahara. “ Yes , in a gay way. Fucking hell.”
“But…” Richie waves a hand at him. “You’re…”
“Gay men marry women sometimes,” Eddie says, his jaw going stiff. “And. You know. Repression is a bitch, right?”
“Right,” Richie says weakly. “I - huh. Huh.”
He zones out. Does some good, cathartic, staring into the distance.
“Are you gonna say anything about that,” Eddie says.
“What? Right. Shit. Uh-” Richie wavers. What the fuck does he say to that?
“Wanna make out,” is what he comes up with.
Eddie laughs. It’s shaky, but very relieved.
“I guess,” he says. He starts to lean in, and Richie almost has a heart attack when he leans back out. “Be careful with your cheek!”
“ You be careful with my cheek,” Richie says, and kisses him.
It’s - okay, not the best kiss. They’re both shaky and Richie’s just been stabbed, they’re both tired and riding on adrenaline and it’s the first time they’ve kissed. Despite all of this, it immediately ranks #1 on Richie’s kiss list.
He loves me. Holy shit. What the fuck. When did this happen -
“Did you,” Richie says, when he pulls back. “Uh - when we were kids?”
“Did I uh?” Eddie’s fighting off a smile. “Yeah, Richie, I uh -ed you when we were kids.”
“Huh,” Richie says. “Wild. Kiss me more.”
“We really gotta be careful about your cheek,” Eddie says, but he doesn’t sound too convinced by it, and he’s the one to pull Richie back in, gently, by the back of his neck.
They go to Neibolt. It’s hard lying around with the nagging knowledge that some innocent kid might be getting chomped on.
There are no tokens, no ritual to perform. They talk down Stan from a panic attack and get knocked around by the usual nightmares until they make it to the Lair, where they don’t do anything related to Chud. Instead they yell until IT comes, dodge its massive spider legs for a while and scream at IT until it shrinks, deflating like a balloon.
It’s ten times better the second time around, mostly because no one’s lying in the corner bleeding out. They’re a shaking, bloodied unit on wobbling legs. Everyone gets really into the screaming, even Stan, who is 100% crying in pure terror as this all goes down, but in a cathartic way.
It doesn’t take long before IT shrinks into something they can reach inside the chest of, and pull out IT’s beating fucking heart.
Then they book it out of there as the Lair, then the house, starts to fall down around them, and Richie does all of this with a sense of almost almost oh fuck almost that doesn’t let up until they’re all standing on the street, blinking in the new sun, watching the house get swallowed.
“Headcount,” Bill croaks.
Everyone sounds off. Richie looks at them all, and everyone looks at each other, and then Richie starts whooping. He slings his arm around Stan’s shoulders, grinds their foreheads together, then kisses Eddie on the forehead and gets dragged into a proper kiss.
“Seven out of seven, baby,” Richie yells when he pulls back. “Lucky fucking seven-”
They tangle into a seven-way hug as the house settles into a heap of rubble.
They go to the lake, because of course they do. It’s a hundred times better than the trip in Richie’s timeline - that walk had been quiet, numb, none of them touching each other until they got down to the water. This one is loud to the point of being boisterous, everyone wired and tired and tripping over each other.
Bev takes a running jump, and the rest of them follow.
Eddie catches Richie by the wrist.
“Your cheek,” he says. “It’s an open wound-”
“I’ll live,” Richie says. “Hey, no, come on - I just fought a demon clown, some dirty water isn’t gonna kill me.”
“It’s not just dirty water , Rich, there are-”
Richie grins and grabs his hand, starts tugging him towards the edge of the cliff.
Eddie says, “I fucking hate you,” but he’s laughing, and when they get to the edge he jumps off with his hand still in Richie’s.
They hit the water, still holding hands, and the momentum slows and stops and Richie lets himself drift, just for a moment, before Eddie pulls at his hand and Richie starts for the surface.
They fuck around in the water like kids, splashing each other and pushing each other under. At one point they play tag, during which the game gets derailed by Ben and Bev making out under the water.
Richie watches their blurry shapes in satisfaction. “There we go.”
“They’re gonna be insufferable,” Eddie says.
Richie grins. “ Oh , yeah.”
He almost misses the eyeroll that Stan aims at both of them, and Richie tries to splash him in the face but misses.
“What? You implying something, Staniel?”
“I think they might be drowning,” Eddie says, still watching the shapes move under the water.
Ben and Bev resurface, Ben looking dazed, Bev giggling.
“Nevermind,” Eddie says. “False alarm.”
Stan swims over, touches Richie’s arm.
“Hey,” he says. “Thanks for coming back.”
That gets everyone’s attention - the others swim over, and Richie’s insistence that it’s not a big deal, really, guys, dies down when they crowd around him, another seven-way hug, all centered around Richie.
Richie swallows around the lump in his throat. The last time he did this, this was when he thought that maybe he might be okay.
He presses his face between Stan and Eddie’s hair and breathes in. It’s gross, because this whole lake is fucking disgusting and it’s gotten caught up in everybody’s hair, but Richie is so fucking grateful for the two guys in front of him, alive and breathing and not going away.
Thanks, turtle-god, Richie thinks. I’ll be sure to sacrifice some premium steak to you later. Do you like steak? What do turtles eat? Let me know what you like, dude.
The hug continues.
Richie feels more at home than he’s done in a long, long time.
On the way back to the Inn, Richie pauses.
“Shit. One sec, I gotta show Eds something.”
“What,” Eddie says. Richie pulls at his hand and Eddie follows, the other Losers following suit.
It’s a short detour, maybe a minute, and Richie assumes that Eddie doesn’t ask again only because everyone’s dead on their feet.
“This better be good,” Eddie says as they come to a stop at the kissing bridge. “I could be a minute closer to sleeping.”
Richie points him towards the carving. Eddie bends a little and squints.
R + E.
“I carved it that summer,” Richie says.
“Aw,” Mike says. Richie doesn’t look, but he assumes Ben and Bev are sharing a sappy look. He can’t really criticize right now, giving the sappy shit he’s doing.
Eddie’s doing that thing where Richie’s making him smile but he’s trying not to show it. Richie used to love that; he’d do whatever it took to make Eddie lose control and laugh.
“You fucking dork,” Eddie says, and grins.
Richie’s absolutely going to cry later, when he’s less tired. Happy crying, for once. That’ll be nice.
Eddie turns to him, winds their fingers together. “We gotta get you to a hospital and get you stitches.”
“You mean your tender TLC wasn’t good enough? For shame, Dr. Kaspbrak.”
Eddie drops his head onto his shoulder, just for a second.
“Come on,” Bill says. “L-let’s go back to the Inn and collapse.”
They start walking again, dripping and gross and whole - the lucky seven, out on the other side for good.
“So what happens next,” Mike says as they’re nearing the Inn.
Richie thinks about answering, but he’s too busy picturing a bed.
“W-what Richie said,” Bill says. “I come up with b-better endings for my books. Bill and B-bev move in together. Mike goes to - where does he go, Rich?”
“Florida. And all over, man.”
“All over,” Bill says. “And S-stan and Eddie-”
“I’m going back home,” Stan says. “I’m hugging my wife and watching my fucking birds. And calling you guys on a weekly basis, obviously. You guys should meet Pat sometime, by the way.”
“I’m leaving Myra,” Eddie says. “And I’m - I don’t know, can I come to LA?”
“How dare you,” Richie says flatly. Then: “Yeah, of course you can, dumbass. No fucking way I’m letting you go now, you’re stuck with me.”
“God,” Eddie says. It’s worn and deeply satisfied. “What did I get myself into?”
They turn down the driveway of the Inn.
“I th-think that’s it,” Bill says. “Anything else?”
Richie is so, so tired, but he’s also so fucking full with the idea of later . It swarms up, filling his edges: there’s gonna be a later, and they’re going to be in it, all of them. In his immediate future there’s going to be sleep, and then a shower, and then - whatever, Richie doesn’t know. Eddie , is what he’s most concerned about. Eddie in his apartment, waking up next to him and going shopping with him and watching bad TV with him - they could have an 80s movies night. They could have as many 80s movies nights as they wanted. Other than that - whatever. Richie will continue with comedy, and probably go to therapy to work on his drinking problem because that is, annoyingly, the kind of thing that doesn’t go away just because he killed a demon clown that represented small-town repression.
He doesn’t have a solid idea of what his future will be and he doesn’t much care, because it’s going to be - it’s going to be okay . It’s gonna be better than okay. Richie is getting his happy fucking ending with everyone else.
He squeezes Eddie’s hand, just to feel the fact of it: brushing his thumb over a knuckle, skimming the end of a fingernail. The soft give of skin.
Eddie squeezes back. His hand shouldn’t feel familiar, but it does, like Richie’s been holding his hand everyday for his whole life.
“How about,” Richie says, “We just make it up as we go.”
That gets him six noises of agreement, and the Losers stumble up the stairs and into the Inn.