Chapter 1: Sense Memory
"You're a madman."
Pennywise mocked as It held Mike up off the ground tightly in It's spider legs, It's mouth full of razor sharp teeth opening up. Mike was struggling to free himself but he did not look all that scared of the child eating clown. Richie grabbed a large rock from the ground near his feet.
"Hey, Fuckface!" He yelled, distracting Spider Clown, "Wanna play truth or dare? Here's a truth! You're a sloppy bitch! Yeah, that's right! Let's dance! Yippee-ki-yay, motherfuc…" The deadlights hit Richie full force, rendering him useless and unconscious as they lifted and suspended him high up in the air. The rock fell from his limp fingers, his eyes rolled back in his skull and his mouth went slack. A trickle of blood came out of his nose and dripped up towards the ceiling. It smeared across the lenses of his glasses.
Eddie gasped from where he remained hidden in the shadows of the cave. He had to do something. That sick fucker had Richie floating in mid-air like he did that one time with Beverly. He couldn't let him down again. He wouldn't, not like with SpiderStan. His hand tightened on the spear-like fence post that Bev had given him.
"This kills monsters…" He gripped it tight. "If you believe it does. If you believe it does." He repeated, his words a prayer, his fear slowly trickling away. His voice was getting stronger and his belief strengthened. "If you believe it does. If you believe it does! Beep beep, motherfucker!" He roared as he flung the post like a javelin straight at Pennywise. The clown spider gasped as the post went into his mouth, piercing him. Growling in pain, It fell back and was further skewered by pointy rocks. It groaned and writhed.
Eddie felt exhilarated. He had done it! It was possible he killed the clown!
"Holy shit!" Eddie cheered, both excited and shocked. Still unconscious, Richie tumbled to the ground with a thump. Eddie ran to Richie's side. He knelt down beside him, almost straddling the bigger man. He patted his friend on the stomach, trying to rouse him. "Rich! Ah! Rich! Hey, Rich! Wake up! Hey! Yeah! Yeah! There he is, buddy! Hey, Richie, listen! I think I got him, man! I think I killed IT! I did! I think I killed IT for real…" He chattered like an excited chipmunk, not seeing the imminent danger behind him.
Wide-eyed, Richie suddenly sat straight up, surged forward and grabbed Eddie without warning, tossing him to the side. One of Pennywise's Inspector Gadget spider appendages flew past them, sending Richie flying. He was flung head-first into a giant rock. He crumpled to the ground again, completely motionless. Eddie heard Beverly echo his anguished scream from across the cave. He scuttled towards Richie, not daring to turn his back on Pennywise again.
Mike and Bill were right behind him. Both looked horrified and angry and helpless. They all reached Richie's side in seconds.. Eddie couldn't tell if he was even breathing, at first.
"Nonononono…" Bill chanted. "R-Rich, c-come on, man. N-not again." His hands hovered over his friend, almost afraid to touch him.
"Mike, can you turn him over?" Eddie asked, tears spilling down his cheeks. Mike gently turned Richie over. Blood dripped from his head. "I'll stay with him, the rest of you go get that fucker!" Eddie wrestled off his jacket and pulled off his T-shirt. He put the jacket back on and zipped it up. He began dabbing at the blood pouring from a gash on Richie's forehead. "Rich…" He sniffled, "I can't lose you, please wake up, please."
He heard yells from his friends and looked over to see them screaming stuff at Pennywise. He was just a clown, a mimic, a weak old lady, a headless boy, etc. The clown kept saying he was the eater of worlds but he sounded scared. He was definitely shrinking.
"You're just a dumb, motherfucking clown!" Eddie shouted, turning away from Richie so he didn't hurt his ears. He turned back, Richie's glasses had been thrown off when he hit the rock. Eddie frantically searched for them and found them a few feet away. He frowned as he realized they were slightly cracked and bloody. He put them in a zippered pocket of his jacket for safe keeping.
He stroked Richie's cheek gingerly, trying to soothe himself as well as his friend.
"It'll be okay, Rich. We'll get you out of here. I'll take good care of you. You'll see. I pinky swear on my mom's name." He whispered, as if they were ten years old again and still making pinky promises.
He heard someone behind them and saw Mike and Ben running towards them. He didn't see a spider or a clown.
"Come on, Eddie! We got It, we killed It! Let's go! This place is caving in! Mike and I've got Richie. I need you to go ahead of us. Come on!" Ben shouted. Trusting them to help Richie, Eddie scrambled up and hurried forward. Mike and Ben hefted Richie up and carried him as carefully as they could through the tunnels and openings.
The house was quickly collapsing, the sounds around them, deafening. Eddie and Beverly clasped hands as they began to run after Bill. They dodged falling debris and rocks. Tiny rock shards cut them, leaving stinging welts. Behind them, Ben and Mike were mostly silent but Eddie could still feel them back there. He was worried about Richie. Being jostled, between two large muscled men, with a severe head injury couldn't be very good for his recovery.
Bill burst through the door and ran off the porch into the yard, spinning around to make sure the others were still behind him. Eddie and Beverly were right on his heels. Eddie nearly tripped over his own feet but Bill caught him easily. Mike and Ben weren't moving as quickly as the others due to cradling Richie between them. He flopped like a ragdoll as the two men leapt off the porch. Bill ran forward and helped them move Richie to safer ground away from any flying objects.
"Oh, Richie…" Eddie whimpered as he hovered over his best friend. Richie was paler now, the bright blood and dark bruising way more apparent in the morning sunlight. His handsome face was lax but his chest still rose and fell visibly.
"We need to get him to the Derry Home Hospital!" Ben said, voice shaky and tearful. "He hit his head pretty hard!" He scrubbed a hand through his short dark hair, fretfully. Beverly pulled him into a tight hug, both of them shooting sad looks at the silent, still Richie.
Eddie dug into his jacket pocket and pulled out his cell phone in it's waterproof case. He dialed 911. He rapidly explained that his friend had been injured by falling debris and was told that an ambulance was on its way.
Ben and Bill took off back to the Inn to pack a small bag for Richie. Bill would drive himself to the hospital with the bag. Ben would get his car and pick up Beverly and Mike. Eddie would ride along with Richie in the back of the ambulance.
The ambulance had already come and gone when Ben came back to get Beverly and Mike. Bev was standing by the side of the road, her arms wrapped around her, staring at the sad remains of the house. Mike was standing next to her, a comforting hand on her shoulder.
They perked up when they saw Ben and both hurried to get in the car. Beverly let Mike have shotgun and Ben drove to the Derry Home Hospital. Mike turned back one last time to look at the ruins of the house where It had lived. Puffs of grayish dust still swirled in the early morning air.
Chapter 2: Sense Memory
The Losers meet up at the hospital. Bill comes up with an unorthodox way to get news on Richie, much to Eddie's dismay.
Even though I have had concussions before, I was never knocked unconscious so I am not at all familiar with medical evaluations or recovery times etc. Just pretend I know what I am talking about.
After parking his rental car in the almost empty visitors' lot, Bill hurried through the sliding doors into the emergency room entrance. He jogged up to the front desk. Eddie was standing there, tearfully pleading with a weary-looking red-headed nurse to be allowed in to see Richie. It didn't seem to be going very well. The nurse barely looked at him as he pleaded his case to her.
"Again, I don't mean to be rude, really, but you aren't listening to me! He doesn't have any immediate family! He is an only child! His parents are both deceased! I'm the closest thing to family he has right now! Please, just let me in to see him. I need to know that he's okay! Please!" Eddie was clearly on the verge of a complete breakdown. Bill stepped in like he and Richie always did when Eddie's anxiety took over. He put a gentle hand on Eddie's back to soothe him.
"Ma'am, I'm a friend of his and he just wants to make sure that his husband is okay." Bill jumped in, hoping Eddie hasn't already said he was just a friend. Bill lifted Eddie's left hand and showed the lady his wedding ring. Eddie stared at his hand and then back up at Bill, in shock, as if the man had lost his everloving mind.
The nurse turned back towards Eddie, her pale blue eyes softened as she finally took in his terrified eyes and anxious demeanor. She even gave him a little smile.
"Oh, honey, why didn't you say so? Spouses, no matter the gender, are considered immediate family here. Someone will be by in a minute to take you back, Mr. Tozier." So she hadn't been completely ignoring him, Bill realized.
Eddie opened his mouth to correct her and then thought better of it. He turned to Bill with an unamused expression and a raised eyebrow.
"Why did you say that?!" Eddie hissed as she moved away to get some files. "We can't do this! This is practically identity fraud! Rich…"
"It's the only way they were going to let you in, Eds! You just told her that he was an only child! Do you want to be able to see Richie or not?" Bill gave him a pointed look.
Eddie deflated. He slowly nodded, biting his lip. Bill patted him on the shoulder.
"He saved my life." Eddie's voice wavered. "Pennywise was going after me and Richie, he pushed me out of the way, he got hurt because of it. Billy, if he dies, it'll be all my fault." Eddie looked up at his oldest friend with frightened, teary eyes, a shattered look on his face. "He can't die, Bill."
"Eds…" Bill pulled his friend into a hug. Eddie was shaking. "Rich loves you, man, just like we all love him. The only fault here belongs to Pennywise. That evil fucker is gone now. Richie is strong, as strong as he is brave. We have to believe that." Bill held him close as he began to cry.
"Oh, God! Did something happen? Is he…?" Bev ran up, one hand covering her mouth, tears filling her eyes. She shook her head, unable to finish her question. She was Richie's best girl friend and they'd share smokes sometimes as kids. He was like the brother she never had.
"We don't know anything yet. I had to tell them that Eddie is Rich's husband. Eddie already told someone that Richie was an only child. They won't let any of us see him otherwise because we're not immediate family." Bill said, softly. He rubbed a hand down Eddie's back. Eddie's soft sobs were beginning to taper off. He sniffled.
"We're the closest thing he has!" Beverly cried, her eyes blazing green fire. "We are a family!"
"I know." Bill smiled at her sadly. He let Eddie step back and try and compose himself.
"Any news?" Ben and Mike joined them. Ben pulled Beverly into a hug and she laid her head on his shoulder.
"Nothing yet. If anyone asks, Eddie is his husband. That's the only way for any of us to see Richie." Bill said. Bill explained once more that Eddie had mentioned Richie was an only child so claiming to be a sibling was out. And Bill told them he'd jumped in and said Eddie was Richie's spouse.
Ben and Mike looked at each other and then back at Eddie. They saw his distraught, tear streaked face and nodded at Bill.
Nobody mentioned, if they had noticed, that Bill had not stuttered once since they'd arrived at the hospital. Bill didn't even seem aware of it himself.
"Mr. Tozier?" A young brunette nurse asked, looking at their little ragged group of dirty, filthy losers. She didn't even blink as she regarded the six sloppy people in front of her.
"Kaspbrak." Eddie choked out. "I… Uh… I kept my own name. Mr. Tozier is m-my husband." The lie left a bitter taste in his mouth. He only hoped Richie wouldn't be too upset with them for it.
"Please follow me, sir. I'm Ruby, I'm going to take you to the family waiting area. Your friends can wait here. There's coffee and other vending machines down the hall and the restrooms are right over there." Ruby gestured off to the side.
"We'll find them, thank you." Beverly said. "Go take care of him, Eddie. He needs you."
Eddie nodded and gave his friends one last worried look as he followed Ruby down the hallway to the family waiting area. It felt weird to be separated from the Losers again, unnatural and lonely.
"Mr. Kaspbrak, I think you may require some assistance yourself, sir. Someone should really take a look at your cheek." Ruby said as they stopped just inside the waiting area. Her brow scrunched in a concerned frown as she gently prodded at the damp, crumbly bandages. Eddie winced. "I'm sorry. Come with me."
Eddie walked with her to another hallway where there were several patient rooms. She took him into room number 237 and asked him to go ahead and take a seat on the bed. She carefully removed the ruined mess of his bandage. Eddie flinched only once but she gentled her touch.
"I'm going to grab a few things and let our plastic surgeon, Dr. Torrance, come and take a look at you, okay? You may need a few stitches." She smiled, tossing the bandage in the biohazard container.
"Thank you, Ruby." Eddie gave her a tired, half smile. Ruby walked out the door and back down the hall, he heard her say something at the nurses' station.
"Paging Dr. Torrance to the ER. Dr. Torrance, you're needed in the ER." A slightly distorted voice came over the PA system. Eddie wearily closed his eyes and listened to the hum and bustle of the hospital just outside the door.
Ruby returned a bit later with a tray full of items: a couple of hypodermic needles, hydroperoxide, scissors, some thread, and some fresh bandages.
"Dr. Torrance will be…" She began.
"Hello! You must be Mr. Kaspbrak! Hi, Ruby." Dr. Torrance interrupted. He was tall, about Richie's height with light brown hair and stubble. His blue-green eyes were set in a friendly face and he had a slightly serious, but affable demeanor. He reminded Eddie a bit of Ben Hanscom. "What do we have here?" He grabbed a stool from somewhere, sat down in front of Eddie, and began pulling on some nitrile gloves. Ruby switched on a bright lamp above them, giving the doctor a chance to better see what he was doing.
"I was…uh, well, I was mugged last night." Eddie lied, his cheeks flushing. "He got me pretty good but I managed to get away."
"I'm very sorry to hear that. That must have been very frightening. Ok, I'm going to need you not to talk so I can work on your laceration, all right? This may sting a bit and I apologize in advance." Dr. Torrance picked up some gauze and the hydrogen peroxide and began to clean the cut. Eddie winced and grit his teeth but tried valiantly to remain still.
"Now, I'm going to numb the area and we'll start suturing the wound. You'll feel a few little pinches here, Mr. Kaspbrak." The needle slid in and then was moved to another area and reinserted.
Eddie closed his eyes again and let the doctor work. He could no longer feel anything on the left side of his face. He was getting antsy though, this was taking longer than he'd hoped. He wanted to go see how Richie was.
Finally, the doctor unsnapped his gloves, dropping them on the tray of supplies. Ruby worked around him, taking items, throwing most of them in the biohazard bin.
"All set, Mr. Kaspbrak. Now, keep those stitches dry for the next 24 hours. I'll give you a script for an antibiotic ointment to apply to the area and some mild painkillers. The stitches will dissolve on their own within 5 to 8 days. You can take a bath, no showers until the day after tomorrow and you may use a washcloth around the affected area just not on the area itself for that time. After that, you may use a mild soap and warm water. Ruby will give you written instructions. If you have any questions, please call or stop by and speak to our nurses. Be careful out there." Dr. Torrance said, standing up and handed off his gloves. Ruby took them and tossed them in the bin.
"Thank you." Eddie said, gingerly reaching up and touching the fresh, new bandage on his injured cheek.
Doctor Torrance smiled and nodded, walking out the door.
Ruby followed him out to the nurses' station to grab the instruction sheets for Eddie.
She was back in less than fifteen minutes. She handed Eddie the small sheaf of instruction papers and a couple of prescriptions.
Ruby finished tidying up the room and turned to Eddie with a smile.
"Ready to go and see your husband now, Mr. Kaspbrak?"
"Y-yes, please." Eddie stood up, he could tell his face was red. He felt his cheeks burning. Well, the right one.
Ruby led him back past the family waiting area. There were some people huddled on one of the couches. A heavyset mother was vehemently scolding her young son about germs and squeezing hand sanitizer into his hands. The sad looking boy had dark hair and big dark eyes. Eddie blinked. 'Yeesh. Deja vu, anyone?' He thought with a grimace.
He almost slammed into Ruby, who had paused.
"Sorry." He muttered, mentally shaking himself. His mother was gone, Pennywise was dead. All these old feelings shouldn't affect him so much.
"You, ok, sir?" Ruby asked, a look of concern on her pretty face. She touched him on his sleeve.
"It's been a rough few days." Eddie sighed. "I just want to see Richie. I need him to be okay."
"I understand. It's just a little farther. I promise."
They walked down another hallway to the ICU. Eddie's nerves spiked and he suddenly felt nauseous. God, he hated hospitals! He didn't want to be here. He didn't want Richie to be here. His palms were starting to sweat and he wiped them on his pants in disgust. They came away dirty and he groaned inwardly.
Finally, they reached the ICU and Ruby grabbed him a face mask. He took it and put it on. She led him to a large room with four patients in beds. Each had a curtain to give them privacy. He followed her to the last bed on the left hand side of the room. She read the chart and drew back the curtain. It was empty except for a chair. Eddie looked up at Ruby, confused.
"Your husband is having some tests done right now but you can wait for him right here, Mr. Kaspbrak. He should be back shortly. He's getting a CT scan and an MRI." She patted his arm, comfortingly.
She left with instructions to push the call button if he needed anything and Eddie sat there in the surprisingly comfortable chair, his mind racing. He thought about Derry and Pennywise and everything that had happened since they had all crossed the town limits. His eyelids started to droop and it was harder and harder to stay awake. His head bobbed and his chin hit his chest. He fell asleep, his thoughts still racing in his head.
Chapter 3: Sense Memory
Eddie waits impatiently for Richie to wake up.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Eddie was rudely jerked from his doze about thirty minutes later when an orderly returned with a still unconscious Richie and the missing hospital bed. The young, husky, blond man yanked open the privacy curtain and began wheeling the hospital bed back in place, completely ignoring Eddie. Eddie shook his head to clear it from sleep, rubbing his eyes, and slightly readjusting his medical mask over his mouth.
The orderly had a goatee, a ponytail, and two tattoos on his thick neck. One was of a melting clock, reminiscent of Salvadore Dali artwork, and the other was a shooting star. He also had a piercing in his upper lip. Silently, he set the locks on the bed to keep it from rolling. He took some wires from the wall and connected them to some leads on Richie's chest and one to his finger to monitor his vitals, he double checked Richie's IV and nasal cannula. He fiddled with a monitor until rhythmic beeps sounded and then he nodded once at Eddie and pulled the curtain closed behind him. Eddie watched him go, eyes wide.
Immediately, Eddie turned back to the occupant of the newly returned hospital bed. There was a large bandage covering the top of Richie's head, he had bruises on his face, and he was just as pale as he had been when they pulled him out of Neibolt. There was a fresh plaster on his cheek right below his right eye. His lips were chapped.
Eddie reached out a shaky hand, sliding it slowly up Richie's arm. He sighed when he felt the warmth there, the scratchy arm hairs tickled his palm.
"Rich, hey, Rich, can you hear me? Richie? You're safe now, buddy, and you made sure I was safe. Everyone is safe. Please wake up. I need you to wake up." He begged, tears once again filling his eyes.
Richie remained eerily silent. It was abnormal for him to be so still and unmoving. Eddie didn't like it, not one bit. He moved his hand down and slid his hand into Richie's. It was a small comfort to simply hold his best friend's hand.
Another nurse came by and checked Richie's vitals, making notes in her iPad. She was a pretty Hispanic girl, with long curly dark hair, whose name badge read Elena. She gave Eddie a little smile and told him that the doctor would be by soon to report on the results of Richie's tests. He thanked Elena and watched her fuss with Richie's bandages before she left quietly, closing the curtain.
"The others are here. Bev, Bill, Mike, Ben,…they're worried about you. I'm worried about you." Eddie wiped the tears from his cheeks. "You saved my life, Rich. You can't go. Not now. We were just getting to know each other again. If you die, I don't know that I'll make it. I don't want to live in a world without your stupid jokes and those dumb voices you do. Please, Rich. Please open your eyes and call me Eds." He heard himself sob and pressed his other hand to his mouth to muffle the sounds.
"Mr. Kaspbrak?" Eddie jumped as a young female doctor with short honey blonde hair in a pixie style cut quietly came in through the curtain. "I'm Dr. Baynes. We ran a couple of tests on your husband's brain and those tests show that he has a grade 3 concussion and a mild skull fracture as well as some slight bruising. However, the good news is, we don't see any sign of free flowing blood in his brain. He is breathing on his own, which is great."
"Great." Eddie echoed, faintly. He rubbed Richie's arm as if to soothe him.
"We want to keep him overnight. Possibly two nights just to see how he progresses. We're giving him IV fluids and a mild painkiller. We can't give him…"
"Because of the concussion." Eddie interrupted, nodding. He knew that people with concussions shouldn't be given narcotic pain relievers. Those made you sleepy and then they might never wake up.
"Correct. I'll be by again to check on him in a couple of hours. If you need me before then, hit that button and a nurse will get me for you. If you feel up to it, I can offer you clean scrubs and there is a washroom with a tub down the hall."
Eddie looked down at himself and wrinkled his nose. He looked and he was sure, smelled gross. He looked back at Richie, indecisive.
"I don't want to leave him. If he wakes up…"
"I promise you, your husband is in good hands. The nurses are only a few feet away." Dr. Baynes smiled sympathetically, her brown eyes understanding.
"Yeah, okay." Eddie reluctantly mumbled, gently untangling his hand from Richie's.
"Come with me." They exited the curtain, pulling it back to give Richie privacy. Dr. Baynes led him to the nurses' station and she asked a male nurse there named Clay to check in on Richie in a few minutes so that Eddie could wash up. She got a pair of mint green medium men's scrubs, from another nurse, that matched Clay's, and handed them off to Eddie along with a large fluffy towel.
Removing his medical mask, Eddie clutched the scrubs and the towel and watched Dr. Baynes walk away to visit other patients. Sighing, he listened to Clay's directions to the washroom. Giving the man a tight smile, he headed that way.
The washroom was sterile and unnaturally bright. Eddie blinked as his eyes adjusted. There was a cubicle with a privacy curtain that had shower stalls and across from those was a small Jacuzzi tub.
Placing the scrubs in a dry place and the towel where he could reach it, Eddie began filling the tub with steaming water. He undressed methodically, even though he planned on burning his filthy clothes later. He saw a new bar of Dove soap still in its wrapper in a small basket on the counter and placed it on the edge of the tub. Once the water was at a good level, Eddie turned off the taps. He stepped in, groaning at how amazing the hot, clean water felt on his skin. Sinking into that heat, made him purr like a cat. He quickly unwrapped the bar of soap and began lathering himself up. He rubbed until his skin was pink. He scrubbed between his fingers, under his nails. He soaped away all the nasty grime he felt on his chest and his shoulders, down his arms. He would have gladly dunked himself but he knew he couldn't risk getting his stitches wet. The water was starting to turn grey and was beginning to gross Eddie out. He stood and stepped out onto the soft blue bath mat, patting himself dry, and wrapping the large, fluffy towel around his waist. He grimaced as he reached into the tub and pulled the stopper. He quickly wiped his hand off on the towel.
Eddie touched his hair and frowned. He wished he could wash his hair. He, then, realized that he didn't have any clean underwear to wear and gave an annoyed sigh. He stepped into the scrubs. He regarded himself in the mirror, shrugging. It wasn't obvious. He pulled the top over his head. He looked like a nurse or a med student. He snorted and rolled his eyes. He stuffed his dirty clothes in the trash can, after snagging his phone, his prescriptions, the antibiotic ointment, and Richie's glasses from his jacket pockets. He washed his hands and dried them. It was way past time to get back to Richie.
He walked back to the ICU. Clay wasn't at the desk. Eddie didn't really think much about it until he heard raised voices and wild beeping from where Richie's "room" was. He ran, pulling back the curtain and freezing as he saw Clay struggling to calm Richie down. He had a restraining hand on Richie's chest. His other hand was trying to keep Richie from yanking out his nasal cannula.
"Mr. Tozier! Sir, please! You have to calm down! You're in the hospital! There was an accident and you hit your head..." Clay hit the call button. The heart monitor was still going crazy.
"Who the hell is Mr. Tozier?!" Richie was yelling. He winced and grabbed his head with both hands as pain spiked through his brain. "Oww! Fuck!"
"Rich…?" Eddie gasped, his voice squeaky. Clay spun around at the sound of his voice and pointed to Richie.
"He obviously woke up a few minutes ago and is a little confused, Mr. Kaspbrak. I've called for Dr. Baynes."
"Who is he? Who are you?" Richie glared at Eddie, hands still pressed to his head. "I'm practically blind over here."
"It's Eddie, Rich. I'm your…" He froze at Richie's blank expression, staring over at Clay. "He doesn't know me?"
"I'm afraid he doesn't recognize his own last name either." Clay said softly.
"Quit fucking talking about me like I'm not here!" Richie seethed, crossing his arms over his chest, pouting. Eddie hadn't seen that pout since high school. Richie seemed to have finally settled back down.
"Your name is Richard Tozier, you go by Rich or Richie. You were in an accident and have a grade 3 concussion and a mild skull fracture. My name is…"
"Eddie, yeah, you said that already, sweetheart. So, you're what, my nurse?" Richie's eyes swept him from head to toe. "God, you're adorable. If my head didn't hurt so bad, I'd ask you for a sponge bath. I bet you're really good at those, Eddie." Richie gave a wink and a pained smile.
Eddie opened his mouth to correct him, but was interrupted as the curtain was drawn back.
"So, I see you've decided to wake up. How are you feeling, Mr. Tozier?" Dr. Baynes swept in and started checking Richie's vitals. She nodded as Clay began whispering to her.
"Like my fucking head is about to explode." Richie gritted out. "Eddie, here, said I have a concussion. I'm guessing that means none of the good stuff, huh, Doc?"
"I'm sorry, Mr. Tozier. The strongest thing I can offer you is extra strength Tylenol. We have to monitor you tonight. Clay tells me you are having some memory lapses. Do you remember this man?" She indicated Eddie with a slight wave of her hand.
"He's my…nurse? He said his name is Eddie." Richie looked confused.
"Mr. Tozier, do you know what year it is?"
Richie's eyes moved back and forth as he desperately wracked his brain.
"2016?" He guessed, sounding unsure.
"Okay, that is correct. Can you tell me who the current President is?"
"No." Richie whispered, looking lost.
"OK. Once again, you don't recognize this man?" She pointed at Eddie. Richie just stared helplessly at Eddie, not sure of what he should be saying.
Eddie's eyes filled with tears as he saw how confused and scared Richie was.
"Please…he doesn't remember." He choked out. "Don't confuse him anymore."
"I'm sorry, Mr. Kaspbrak. I have to ask. I need to assess his functions. It's possible the head injury he sustained is causing retrograde amnesia. He may be able to stand and walk, dress himself, etc but his short term memories may be affected."
"Does that mean he won't remember things at all? Like events or people he reconnected with? We have five close friends in the ER waiting room who are eager to hear that he's awake."
"I'm still right here, Eddie and I can fucking hear you!" Richie growled at him. He looked pissed.
"I'm sorry, Richie. I just need to know some things that I'm afraid you can't answer right now. Please, please don't be mad. You don't know just how happy I am that you're finally awake." Eddie cupped Richie's stubbled cheek, thumb stroking his face. Richie looked surprised, but pleased at the last part.
"How am I supposed to stay mad at someone as cute as you?" He sighed, sinking back into the pillow.
"How do you know I'm cute? You're practically blind, right?" Eddie smiled, teasing him. He put his hand in the pocket of his scrubs and touched the frame of Richie's glasses. He debated on giving the cracked, bloody spectacles to him and decided against it.
Richie scoffed, a corner of his mouth lifting in a little smirk.
"It's an instinct. You're a cutie, I can tell."
"Well, you married him." Clay cut in, freezing as he realized what he'd revealed. "Sorry." He muttered, looking over at Dr. Baynes.
"Why are you sorry? It's the truth, isn't it?" Dr. Baynes said. "We're not keeping secrets from Mr. Tozier. We just don't want to overwhelm him with too much at once."
"We're married? Really?" Richie sounded stunned. Eddie bit his lip, nodding. Damn Bill and his big mouth. He hated lying to Richie. How in the hell was he supposed to keep this charade up?
Someone pointed out to me that Eddie says they have five friends waiting to hear about Richie waking up, that isn't a mistake on my part, Eddie accidentally added Stan in with the others.
Chapter 4: Sense Memory
Richie gets moved to a different room, "meets" the other Losers and gets some rest.
Dr. Baynes did her own assessment of Richie's vitals and checked his eyes. Richie complained of light sensitivity, dizziness and blurry vision, even worse than normal. Clay added input and nodded as the doctor advised him on proper treatment. They discussed his movement restrictions and how often he could take pain relievers.
Eddie half listened to their conversation as he pulled out his cell phone to call Bill with an update on Richie's condition. Bill answered on the second ring.
"Eddie?! Is everything okay? How's Richie?"
Bill sounded anxious.
"He's awake and being checked over right now. They're going to move him to a private room, but there has been a complication…kind of. Billy, he has amnesia. He didn't…" Eddie paused, trying not to cry again, "He doesn't remember me. He didn't even know his own name. He doesn't remember Pennywise, any of it." Eddie rubbed the back of his neck.
"Oh, shit. Nothing? What did the doctor say?" Eddie heard the rise and fall of other voices in the background. A higher pitched voice that had to be Beverly mixing with the deeper timbres of the guys.
"You guys will be allowed to visit him two at a time. There's five of you so someone will be…" Eddie cut off, eyes closing. "Four of you. Right. That's what I meant. Stan…Stan's gone. Fuck. I have to go, Bill. They just finished Richie's assessment and we're going to move now. I'll call you in a bit." Eddie hung up.
"You know, it's not nice to lie, Eddie." Richie said, looking at him. Eddie jumped, realizing Richie had caught the tail end of the conversation. Nervously, he smoothed his dirty hair back with one hand.
"It's not really a lie, the doctor is almost finished. We'll be going shortly. Bill was just asking too many questions that I couldn't answer." He didn't meet Richie's eyes.
"Who is Stan?" Richie asked curiously, watching as pain, naked and cutting, flashed across Eddie's face. Those expressive dark eyes finally raised to look at him.
"A friend. He died." Was the wooden reply. Richie felt his heart clench. This had obviously been a recent loss, the pain was fresh and deep.
"I'm sorry." He said, his voice soft and sincere.
"He was your friend, too. He was a good person and a great friend. We all miss him very much." Eddie cleared his throat as it began to ache.
"Mr. Tozier, Mr. Kaspbrak, we're ready now. We're going to unhook the machines and take you down to the first floor. You'll be in a private room." Clay said. He and a female nurse with auburn hair and blue eyes, Sally, began unhooking Richie from the monitors. Richie lay back against the pillows, his eyes closed, one hand touching his head.
"You doing okay, Rich?" Eddie asked, rubbing Richie's other hand. The other man looked like he was in a lot of pain, his brow was creased and his expression pinched. He was still quite pale, as well.
"Head really hurts." Richie whispered, gently rubbing his temple. "And I'm getting sleepy."
"I'm sorry, honey." Eddie brought Richie's hand up to his lips, kissing it. It startled him, that would have been something he did for Myra. He slowly released Richie's hand, his own brow now creased in confusion. He might be getting in too deep by pretending to be Richie's husband.
"Eddie?" Richie sounded surprised that the sweet touches had suddenly vanished. He opened his eyes.
"I'm right here, babe." Eddie heard himself say. Again, 'honey' and 'babe' were usually his nicknames for Myra. That or 'Marty' and he had no idea where they'd come up with that one. He picked up the hand he'd let go of and gave it a squeeze. He didn't mean to pull away, he just felt guilty about lying to Richie, that was all.
"The hallway will be extra bright so Mr. Tozier will probably feel better if he keeps his eyes closed until we get to the private room." Sally suggested. Richie made a soft sound of agreement and closed his eyes again. Clay unlocked the bed and began pushing it with Sally leading the way. Letting go of Richie, Eddie followed her.
Richie winced as Clay loaded the bed onto the large elevator, leaving barely enough room for Eddie and Sally. Eddie pushed the button for the first floor and waited for the doors to close.
"So, tell me more about this Bill guy." Richie pressed, eyes still closed. Eddie hesitated. He wasn't sure what he should and shouldn't tell Richie. He locked eyes with Clay and shrugged.
"That's kind of like cheating on an exam, isn't it?" Clay asked.
"Nobody asked you, Clay." Richie sighed.
Clay rolled his blue-gray eyes at Sally, who smirked. She raised an amused eyebrow at Eddie. He gave her a tight smile and lightly stroked Richie's hair.
"Bill's an author. Horror stories. His wife is an actress." Eddie said.
"Oh my God! You're friends with William Denbrough?!" Sally exclaimed. Richie flinched at her shriek. "Oh, I'm so sorry." She covered her mouth. "I love his books...well, not the endings."
The elevator dinged and Richie groaned. He heard the others moving out of the car and felt Clay pushing the bed down the hallway. They came to stop in front of patient room 127.
Sally went in and unlocked the bed that was in there. She wheeled it out. They moved Richie's bed in and began setting him back up with the monitors and the IV bags. Richie was hooked back up with the heart monitor and heart rate clip. They clipped wires to all his leads but Sally removed his nasal cannula stating that he no longer needed it. She asked Eddie to help her fluff the pillow and arrange a heated blanket over Richie. Clay dimmed the lights.
"You can open your eyes now, Mr. Tozier. It's concussion friendly now." Clay told him. Richie did so. Clay and Sally took their leave soon after.
"Well, isn't this romantic?" Richie smirked. He leered at Eddie, who was now seated next to the bed in a comfortable chair. "Come here often, handsome?"
Eddie gave a soft, startled laugh. If only Richie remembered. He'd practically lived here. His mom should have a hospital wing named after her because she had dragged Eddie to this place for every tiny cut and scrape.
"Are you seriously flirting with me while you're horribly concussed? Save the sweet talk for later, stud, and get some rest. I have to call Bill back and let them know you can have visitors." Eddie began to dig in his pocket. Richie reached out and touched his arm. Eddie froze, their eyes locking.
"Before they get here, can I…will you…Eddie, can you…just one kiss?" Richie seemed so shy and uncertain. Eddie blinked, positive he was blushing as he leaned forward and gently brushed their lips together in a chaste kiss. He quickly pulled back. "What kind of kiss was that? What am I, your mother?" Richie teased. Eddie bristled, hackles rising as he fought off embarrassment for giving such a lame ass kiss to his concussed fake husband.
"You're recently concussed and can you please knock it off with all the 'I fucked your mom' crap? It's getting really fucking old!"
"The what?!" Richie looked shocked, almost horrified. Eddie pinched the bridge of his nose.
"Fuck! Never mind! I'm calling Bill. We'll talk about it later." Eddie dug out his phone and called Bill. Richie sat stiffly in the bed, once again closing his eyes. "Bill, we're in the room now. It's 127. Yeah. He's…he's in some pain still but he can't have another round of Tylenol for another hour and a half. Two at a time. Right. You guys decide. We'll be here. Bye." He hung up the phone.
Richie eyed him warily. Eddie leaned up and pressed an apologetic kiss to his cheek. Richie's rigid muscles slowly loosened and he sighed, as his body relaxed against the firm mattress.
Both men turned as the knob turned and the door came open. Ben and Beverly peeked around and broke out into huge grins as they saw Richie.
"I'm so glad you woke up, sweetie. I'm Beverly. This is Ben." She felt stupid introducing herself to her friend but she knew he didn't recognize her.
"Hi…to both of you." Richie gave them a wan smile. The woman was beautiful, red headed with a nice figure and a kind face. She had amazing green eyes. The guy was scruffy chic. He was gorgeous, looked like an athlete, muscular but not beefy. He had pretty eyes and a friendly demeanor.
"How are you feeling, Rich?" Ben asked, his voice deep and rumbly.
"Like the other guy won." Richie snorted, gesturing to his head.
Ben, Beverly, and Eddie all exchanged looks. Beverly licked her lips. They had cleaned up, but it was obvious that they'd all been through something crazy and unpleasant.
"So, I feel like Rip Van Winkle here. You know, fell asleep, missed a bunch of stuff, feeling like the odd man out." Richie piped up, feeling awkward around these other people.
"You scared the hell out of us, man. We thought…" Ben broke off, closing his eyes. Richie realized he was fighting tears. Beverly stroked Ben's arm and Richie saw Ben squeeze her hand.
"We wanted to see you and tell you that we love you, Rich. We're sorry that you got hurt but we're so happy that you're going to be okay, honey." Beverly moved over to the bed and kissed him softly on the cheek. "Get some rest now and let Eddie take care of you. Mike and Bill are pacing the floor out there waiting to see you." She cupped his cheek and moved back a little to let Ben move forward.
Ben leaned down and gave Richie a gentle hug and he also kissed Richie on the cheek. Blushing, Richie gave Eddie a helpless look. Eddie just smiled warmly at him.
"We'll send the others in. Listen to the doctors and let Dr. K. here fix you up, OK, Rich?" Ben cleared his throat.
"Dr. K?" Richie asked, looking at Eddie. Eddie blushed and looked away. Ben patted Eddie on the shoulder.
"Eddie knows a lot about patching people up. We all thought he'd end up as an MD or something like that."
"We'd better switch out or Bill will explode." Beverly joked. She touched Ben's elbow and he nodded.
"We'll stop by tomorrow." Ben said, knowing it was better not to crowd Richie as he recovered. Eddie hugged them both, kissing Beverly's cheek as they headed out.
"So, he's hot." Richie noted. "He looks like a…"
"Brazilian soccer player." Eddie said with him. "Yeah. Ben has lost a lot of weight. He was chubby as a kid. He's been in love with Bev for as long as I've known him."
"Oh, so he and Beverly are together?" Richie asked, sounding a little too interested.
"Do you want me to call him back and you can ask him?" Eddie snarked, not liking this jealousy he had over how hot Richie thought Ben was.
A knock on the door interrupted them. Two men stepped into the room. One was tall, black and very good looking with a friendly face and kind brown eyes, the other was pale, but handsome and fairly short with a streak of gray running through his light brown hair. He had a worried, anxious look about him.
"Richie, thank God, man. You scared us pretty bad there for awhile." The taller man said, his expression relieved.
"I'm Bill and this is Mike. Eddie says you don't remember much. I'm sorry, that must be strange. I've known you and Eddie since we were in second grade. My mom used to call us the Four Musketeers… Oh, we had a friend named…" Bill said.
"Stan. Eddie told me. Well, he didn't tell me, I heard him mention Stan to you on the phone. I'm so sorry for your loss. All of you."
Bill and Mike gave Richie awkward smiles and nodded. They looked at Eddie as the silence stretched on.
"Rich has a pretty severe concussion, the doctor said there's also a minor skull fracture, and as you know, he has retrograde amnesia. I don't mean to rush you through your visit but he needs to rest and you all need to go back and shower and eat. And change clothes." Eddie said.
Mike looked down at himself and over at Bill. They still looked pretty ragged and dirty. He nodded, touching Bill on the sleeve.
"Visiting hours are until 8pm. Get cleaned up and come back. I promise we'll still be here." Eddie said, reaching out to run a hand soothingly up and down Richie's arm. Richie relaxed more into the pillows, yawning. He winced and put his hand up to his head again. "It's OK, Rich, they'll be back. Go ahead and sleep. I'll keep an eye on you. I'm not going anywhere, I promise." Richie slid a hand into Eddie's, trusting in him to stay.
Mike and Bill exchanged glances, both looking back at Eddie. Eddie had always been the caretaker of the group. He looked out for everyone but himself.
"We'll be back soon, Eddie." Mike said as he and Bill left to go round up Ben and Beverly.
Chapter 5: Sense Memory
Bill and Mike help Eddie take a brief break and Bill gives Eddie some food for thought and some dinner.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Eddie felt his bleary eyes getting heavier as he continued watching Richie sleep. It was only 6:15pm and he was exhausted.
He had gently woken Richie a couple of times now just to make sure he was still alive. The nurses had done their share of that too, when they had come to check his vitals. Eddie decided to just let the man sleep and he could hear Richie's soft snores mixed in with the beeps from the machines he was hooked up to. Richie's eyelids twitched as his eyes moved in sleep. Eddie wondered briefly what amnesiacs dreamed of. Would Rich even remember his dreams or would they fade away just like his other memories?
The door opened slowly and Eddie turned to see Mike and Bill standing there. Mike waved at him, as they quietly stepped into the room.
"Eddie, I'm here to take you back to the Inn." Bill saw Eddie about to protest, "Just for food, a quick shower, and a real change of clothes. Mike will stay with Rich. You need to take care of yourself, if you're going to take care of him, too. Come on, Eds."
Eddie sighed, reluctant to leave, but knowing Bill was right. He could finally wash all this nasty crap, no pun intended, out of his hair. And another bath might be refreshing since he had doctor's orders not to shower just yet. He nodded, slowly, standing up from the chair with a low groan.
"I'll be back soon, Rich, I promise." He ran a gentle hand over Richie's soft dark curls. "Thanks, Mikey." He patted Mike on the shoulder as Mike took his place in the chair.
"Any time, man. You know that." Mike gave him a soft smile. He nodded at Bill as he and Eddie headed out.
"How's he doing?" Bill asked, worried eyes fixed on Eddie's face.
"Not great but the doctor is optimistic. There's no bleeding and he's going to be sore for quite awhile. He has a mild skull fracture at the point of impact. Dr. Baynes says he'll be fuzzy for a few days as well. Of course, he doesn't remember anything that happened." He paused as they reached Bill's car. "She said he may not remember some stuff on his own. We have to be careful what we disclose. It may be overwhelming."
"Get in the car." They looked around the parking lot and climbed into the car before continuing. Bill waited until they'd both buckled up before pulling out of the lot. " May be overwhelming?" Bill scoffed, shaking his head. "Can you even imagine trying to explain having to defeat a million year old demon space clown to him now? Jesus Christ on a stick, Eds! We can't tell him that. His brain is already scrambled."
"No shit, Billy! Except now I can't even tell him that I'm not his husband! How the fuck do I keep on lying to him? This was such a bad idea! I was going to come clean once he woke up and now he's got fucking amnesia! So, now, I have to pretend to be married to him and just what the fuck do I tell my wife? 'Oh, hi, sweetie. No, I can't come home right now. I'm nursing my sick fake husband back to health?!' Christ!" He shoved a hand through his hair, grimacing at the texture of it. Agitated, he dropped his hand in his lap.
"I didn't have time to think of that! I should have said it was Ben or Mike. They're not married…"
"Not really the point, Bill! We're lying...to Richie! He has a brain injury and we're lying to him! I don't even live here! I don't have a home to take him to, after he's released. Well, not one without Myra. She'd love that. She's already pissed at me. I wasn't even sure I was going back. I sure don't want Rich to have to recover here. There's a reason I left Derry years ago, Bill. I hate this place."
"Trust me, I get it. We'll have to put our heads together with the others and figure this out. You don't have to do this by yourself. We've made it this far. We can do this." Bill said. "We have to."
"You know you don't stutter anymore? You haven't since we left the Neibolt House. Did you even notice?" He asked, eyes on Bill's face.
Bill jerked in his seat, flashing his eyes over to Eddie for a second. He looked stunned.
"No, I...are you sure?" Bill's forehead wrinkled.
"Not once, dude. Not when you told the nurse I was Richie's husband, not when you came to see him, not now."
"He thrusts his fists against the posts and still insists he sees the ghosts." Bill recited perfectly. "Holy shit, Eds!" Bill laughed, "I'm not stuttering!"
"Told you." Eddie yawned, covering his mouth.
Bill pulled up in front of the Derry Townhouse. He parked and looked over at Eddie.
"Here we are." Bill said needlessly. They went inside, not really surprised that there was still no one there to greet them. Eddie headed for the stairs.
"Thank God. I can finally wash my hair. You'll have to help me though, so I don't get my stitches wet. Doctor said no showers, it'll have to be a bath. Wait...Bowers broke my shower curtain when he attacked me." He sighed, rolling his eyes.
"You can use my room. I'll wait for you there until you call for me." Bill offered.
"Ok. Thanks, Billy." Eddie smiled and they hurried up the stairs. He went into his room first, to get clean clothes and some toiletries.
He sifted through his suitcase and pulled out a pair of soft, worn blue jeans, cotton briefs, and a gray polo. He also grabbed his tea tree shampoo and conditioner. His brush was still in the bathroom. He grabbed that too and then headed to Bill's room. Bill had unlocked the door and flipped on the light. He was sitting on the edge of the bed.
Eddie put his clothes next to Bill and took his other things into the bathroom. He had a moment of panic after stepping in there and turning on the light. As if Henry Bowers would suddenly jump out at him again, swinging that fucking knife.
"He's dead, dumbass. Richie put an ax through his fucking skull. Bowers can't hurt you anymore. Neither can that fucker, Pennywise. Relax, Eds. Jesus Christ." He muttered to himself.
Eddie put the brush on the sink with the towel and pulled back the shower curtain. Empty, like it should be. He blew out a breath and put the shampoo and conditioner on the side of the tub. He adjusted the water temperature and began to undress. He folded the scrubs, making a note to wash them and return them to the hospital. He groaned as he stepped inside the tub, pulling the curtain back around him. The hot water felt amazing. He turned the knobs off.
A knock sounded on the door. Eddie jumped, almost forgetting that Bill was there.
"Eds, you ready?"
"Uh, yeah? I mean, I guess so." Eddie flushed. He'd been mostly naked around the other boys several times when they were kids but they hadn't seen each other for years now. It wasn't like this was sexual. It was only Billy Denbrough, for crying out loud, his oldest friend in the whole world.
Bill slowly pulled the curtain back. Eddie blushed, sitting up a bit. Bill had a plastic cup. He handed it to Eddie, who dipped it in the water and handed it back. Bill gently tipped Eddie's head back, putting one hand up to keep the water off of Eddie's face and slowly poured the water to wet his hair. They repeated this a couple of times before Eddie grabbed the shampoo and began to lather up his hair.
"Let me…" Bill took over the lathering, making sure to keep the suds from spilling down Eddie's cheeks. Bill's hands in his hair were gentle and efficient. Eddie made a pleased sound and arched into Bill's touch like a cat. Bill smoothed Eddie's hair back. Eddie dipped the cup and handed it back to Bill and the process continued. Finally, after the suds were rinsed away and his hair had been conditioned, Eddie sighed. Bill patted his back and stepped back.
"It's nice not to have that shit all in your hair, isn't it?" He asked. Eddie hummed in agreement. Bill smiled at him and pulled the curtain back, giving Eddie privacy to finish his bath. He went back into the room to finish packing his things.
Eddie rinsed himself off and opened the curtain. He grabbed the towel and gave himself a brisk pat down, wrapping it snugly around his trim waist. He grabbed a hand towel and scrubbed it over his hair. He hung the hand towel back up and picked up the brush. He started running it through his hair, smoothing the crazy wet strands into his usual style. He put the brush down and stared at himself in the mirror. He looked exactly the same as he always did, except for the bandage on his cheek. He felt as if he'd gone through a complete transformation the last few hours but the mirror only showed one minor difference.
He shook himself and went out into Bill's room. Bill was sorting through his carry on bag. Bill paused and raised his head. Eddie flushed as he saw the way Bill's eyes slid over his half-naked body. Bill blushed and quickly looked away.
"I'll let you get dressed." He said, quietly. He turned and walked out of the room, closing the door behind him.
Eddie stood there for a second, wondering what the hell had just happened. He snapped himself out of it and grabbed his underwear and jeans. He dropped the towel on the bed and pulled on his briefs and then, his jeans.
He had forgotten his deodorant in his room. He sighed and picked up his shirt. He walked out of Bill's room and back into his own. He dug through his bag and found his Old Spice. He applied it generously and then pulled his shirt over his head. He found some socks and groaned as he realized he'd ruined his only decent pair of shoes. He'd have to wear his old, worn out penny loafers. They were in okay shape but not nearly as comfortable as one would think. He slipped them on.
He went into his bathroom and took his toothbrush out of it's holder, smeared some Colgate on it and brushed his teeth, careful of the left side of his mouth. He only winced a couple of times. He spit and saw a tiny bit of blood. Grimacing, he grabbed his Cool Mint Listerine and swished it around his mouth. It burned but Eddie didn't mind. That meant it was working.
He spit and wiped his mouth on a hand towel. He gathered his items from the bathroom and he walked back into his room. He started packing just like Bill had done earlier. He packed a suitcase and a toiletry bag. He would stay at the hospital with Richie. The others were probably going to head back to their respective homes soon now that Richie was, for all intents and purposes, on the mend. He heard Bill come in the room. They locked eyes.
"Hey, did you want to stop at Bailley's Lunch and grab a sandwich? Ruby told me it's open until 9 o'clock on Saturdays." Bill asked, sounding a little shy.
"Sounds good, Bill. Have the others eaten yet?" Eddie ignored the elephant in the room. Bill followed his lead and they fell back into their usual rapport.
"Yeah, Bev and Ben brought food back earlier. Mike and I ate with them. I know you've been taking care of Rich. I figured you'd be starving by now."
Eddie nodded. Hefting his suitcase, he followed Bill back to the car. Bill helped him put his suitcase and toiletry bag in the trunk. Once in the car, Bill cast a sideways look at him. Eddie slowly looked back.
"You work out. You look really good, Eds." He stated, matter of factly. He started the car.
Eddie blushed. Bill had been his first crush ever. Handsome Big Bill who was a confident, fearless leader even with that horrible stutter. Originally, Eddie had assumed his affection was hero worship. It wasn't until later when he fell hard for smart-mouthed, crass, and unapologetic Richie Tozier that he realized what he had been feeling for Bill.
"Thanks, man." He mumbled, ears red. "I don't eat a lot of red meat and I follow a strict regimen." He cleared his throat, watching as the streets passed.
"Does Richie know?" Bill asked, curiously.
"That I don't eat red meat? No, I don't think, well, he might…" Eddie sounded confused.
"No, I mean, does he…did he know how you feel about him?" Bill watched Eddie out of the corner of his eye.
"How I feel ?" Eddie's voice was higher, the tone bewildered.
"Eds, don't get mad at me if I'm reading this wrong, but I think you're in love with him. I think you've always been in love with him. And I think he's in love with you, too. The bickering, the way you two always turned to each other, the whole thing with you guys and the hammock…"
"He's my best friend! He always has been!" Eddie said, his voice shaking and tight.
"I know. And I saw your face when he was brought out of Neibolt. Eddie, your heart was in your eyes. It was breaking, it was scared. You didn't want to imagine losing him..."
"I'm married! To a woman!" Eddie cried, interrupting Bill. Bill could feel the agitation rolling off of him.
"So am I." Bill smiled softly, mysteriously.
"What?" Eddie stared at him, "What does that mean?" Bill pursed his lips but didn't answer right away. "Billy? What does that mean?"
"I...was in love and I didn't say anything and now I can't say anything. It's too late for me, but it might not be for you."
"It's not the same thing, Bill. Beverly…" Eddie scoffed, one hand waving through the air.
"No, not Beverly. I mean, yes, I've been attracted to her and she's an amazing person but that's not who I meant." Eddie wracked his brain trying to figure out who Bill was referring to.
"Well, who..?" He watched Bill press his lips together. It hit him like a sledgehammer. "Stanley?! Bill, you…?"
"He's gone, Eds. Richie is here and you have to tell him! Not now, not right this minute, but soon, before it's too late." Tears slipped down Bill's face.
"Billy…" Eddie whispered, sadly. He watched Bill wipe his face with one hand.
They drove in silence until they reached the cafe. Eddie left Bill in the car and went inside.
A curly haired blonde girl stood at the counter, her name tag read Stacey. She smiled at him and he walked up. He recited his normal spiel of what he could and couldn't eat and she offered some suggestions. He decided to go with the grilled chicken wrap with lettuce, tomatoes, turkey bacon, and light mayonnaise. She brought him a bottle of water to finish his order.
He paid and thanked her. Heading out to the car, he thought about what Bill had said. Bill had been in love...with Stanley. Stan Uris, straight-laced, tidy, uptight, sweet Stan who had been so terrified that summer. Stan, who had taken his own life because he couldn't face coming back and dealing with that evil clown-spider from space again. Fucking Pennywise!
He thought about Richie, his best friend and equally, the bane of his existence. Richie, with his bigger than life personality, his horrible and annoying jokes, his sweetness, his sarcasm, his adorable laugh, and his protective way of always looking out for Eddie no matter how dire the situation. Eddie's heart skipped a beat. He, then, thought of Richie laying there so still and unmoving, his handsome face bloodied and bruised. Tears welled up in his eyes. He had to remind himself that Richie was alive and was going to be fine. He couldn't imagine a world without Richie Tozier in it. He didn't want to.
He climbed into the car and put on his seatbelt. He looked over at Bill, a new determined expression on his tired face. Bill looked back at him, saw something in Eddie's eyes, and just smiled a happy smile.
"Good for you." Was all he said. He started the car and drove them back to the hospital. Eddie asked if he could hear some music and Bill nodded. Eddie flipped on the radio.
"Tell him that you're never going to leave him…tell him that you're always going to love him..." a girl group was singing. Eddie quickly changed the station. "At last my love has come along...My lonely days are over and life is like a song…" Etta James crooned. Eddie flipped it one last time. "When the rain is blowing in your face, and the whole world is on your case, I would offer you a warm embrace to make you feel my love…" Garth Brooks purred, Eddie sighed and let it play.
"Sounds like the universe is trying to tell you something, Eds." Bill sounded way too smug. Eddie flipped him off without looking and Bill burst out laughing.
Tell Him sung by The Exciters,
At Last sung by Etta James, and Make You Feel My Love sung by Garth Brooks
Chapter 6: Sense Memory
Bill and Eddie return to the hospital with Eddie's things. There are a couple of misunderstandings and a minor setback with a side or two of jealousy. Enjoy. Please tip your waitstaff.
Richie stirred, slowly waking. He registered the soft beeps of the machines first. He noticed Eddie's friend, Mike, sitting in what he had started calling Eddie's chair. Mike was asleep, his head bent, soft snores coming from him.
Richie wondered where Eddie had gone. He didn't have to wonder for long. Eddie and Bill stopped right in front of Richie's open door. Eddie had a suitcase in one hand. Richie smiled softly as he looked at his beautiful husband, about to call out a greeting to Eddie. Movement caught his eye, distracting him. Bill had placed his hand on Eddie's arm. He pulled him into a less than brotherly hug and when Eddie pulled back, Bill pressed a tender kiss to the right side of Eddie's mouth. Eddie didn't kiss him back, just stood there and let him, but he didn't seem to mind.
Richie felt his heart drop, his stomach clenched and gave an unpleasant lurch. His injured brain whirling frantically to fully comprehend what he had just witnessed. Eddie was smiling at Bill. He gently squeezed Bill's hand and then moved forward to push open the door.
Eddie's smile widened as he saw that Richie was actually awake. He could see some pain in his best friend's eyes, but it didn't seem quite bad enough yet to ring for the doctor. Bill walked in right after Eddie and closed the door behind him, startling Mike, who jerked awake.
"Hey, Rich." Bill chirped happily, as if he hadn't just been hitting on Richie's husband.
"Hi, Bill." Richie replied, with a tight smile. "You're married, right? How's your wife? Does she know that you're bisexual? Possibly Eddie-curious? See, I'm just asking because you can't seem to keep your hands or your lips off of my husband." He raised an eyebrow at the writer. Bill turned red and shared another look with Eddie. Mike looked between the other men, confused as to what had happened while he was asleep.
"Rich, we've always been a very tactile group. I swear, there is nothing going on between me and Eddie." Bill said, running a hand through his hair.
"Yeah, it certainly looked like a whole lot of nothing…" He turned his gaze on Eddie, who was depositing his suitcase in the corner of the room.
"Richie, Bill is our friend. We've known each other forever…since childhood. I promise you, I have never been unfaithful and I'm not interested in anyone else. It's always been you. Always." Eddie said, softly.
"He's your friend, Eds. I don't even know the guy." Richie sullenly rolled his eyes, but then, looked back at Bill. He saw the anguish on the other man's pale face, the sparkle of tears shining in his blue eyes. He felt a sliver of guilt even though he was still resentful of Bill's obvious closeness with Eddie and that kiss.
"We've been friends longer than anyone, Rich! You do know me! You just forgot! You and me and Stan…we were the first members of the Losers' Club! Eddie joined us a little later and we…we were all inseparable! You think I'd try and steal your husband? I would never ever do that!" Bill cried. Richie blinked at the volume of Bill's voice but otherwise showed no reaction.
Mike put a hand up and gently moved Bill to the corner of the room, whispering to him. Bill shook his head and then slowly, nodded. He wiped his eyes.
"Eds? We're going to head back. Bill needs a break. We both love you, Rich. Get some rest and we'll see you tomorrow sometime, okay?" Mike nodded at Eddie and corralled a sad, tired looking Bill out the door.
"You certainly still know how to clear a room, Trashmouth." Eddie remarked, his voice reproachful. "That was harsh, even for you." He moved about the room, straightening Richie's pillow and blanket, readjusting the call button. His movements were extremely precise, almost robotic, and Richie realized that Eddie was furious.
"Eds…" Dark brown eyes glared at him. "Eddie…"
"I understand that you're hurt and you're confused and…" He lifted a hand, the side of it pointing out towards Richie as he tried to emphasize his statement. "It has to be frustrating as fuck, but being a complete and total dick to the people who are just trying to help you...that's not okay, Rich! I love you, but I'm kind of pissed at you right now. Bill and Bev and Ben and Mike, they love you, they have been so worried about you and I know you don't remember them right now but you don't remember me right now either! Should I leave? Do you not want us here? We don't have to stay if you don't want us. We can go. We can all just..." Eddie was loudly ranting and waving his hands around wildly now.
"No! No, I don't want you to go!" Richie shouted, gritting his teeth afterwards as the noise hurt his injured head. He clutched at it, a pained growl coming from his throat.
"Shit! Oh, shit, Rich, fuck! I'm sorry! I'm sorry!" Horrified at himself for causing Richie to re-injure himself, Eddie punched the call button. He gently pulled Richie to him, holding his head lightly against his chest. "I'm sorry, honey, I'm so sorry."
Richie slowly let his hands drop, pulling Eddie closer, his long fingers digging into Eddie's arms.
"Mr. Tozier? I need you to lift your head. Mr. Kaspbrak, I need you to step back, please." Dr. Baynes was suddenly right there, gently untangling him from Eddie's arms. Eddie stepped back and let the doctor take care of Richie. She lifted his head with both hands and checked his eyes. Richie groaned as he tried to accommodate her commands. "Look at me, okay, look to this side and back the other way. Look up, please."
Eddie scrubbed his hand over his mouth as he watched, fretting internally about setting Richie back in his recovery. He knew it was stupid, Richie was conscious and answering all of Dr. Baynes' questions. Eddie can't get the pain on Richie's face or the pained growl he made out of his head.
He closed his eyes, shaking his head. He was soon lost in thought about what had happened to all of them since they had all returned to Derry.
"Mr. Kaspbrak?" Dr. Baynes said, her tone of voice clearly indicated that she'd been trying to get his attention for some time. Richie gave him a strange look.
"Hmm?" Eddie looked at her, "I'm sorry. You were saying?"
"Please be aware that loud noises and stress are not good for your husband right now. I know all of this is stressful already but you have to try to control your temper." What the fuck? She was scolding him like he was a child. His hackles rose, he felt like he did when his mom would try and run his life.
"I don't have…" Eddie began heatedly, then closed his eyes and clenched his hands into fists. He was obviously counting to ten. He slowly opened his eyes and relaxed his hands. "I understand. I will try to watch myself and be quieter. I'm sorry." 'I'm sorry, Mommy.'
"Thank you, Mr. Kaspbrak. I can have a roll-away bed brought up if you'd like to stay with him tonight. Visiting hours are almost over but I can make an exception. I'm not completely heartless." Dr. Baynes gave him a smile and a wink.
"I would appreciate that. Thank you." Eddie looked embarrassed.
"Dr. Baynes, I brought the tablets for Mr. Tozier." Sally said softly, handing Dr. Baynes two tablets and a small cup. She gave Eddie a tight smile and nodded to Richie before walking back out.
"I know it hasn't quite been six hours but it's close enough." Richie took the Tylenol from her and the cup of water. He swallowed them and tipped back the water. Eddie took the cup from him and Richie leaned back against the pillow. Dr. Baynes patted Eddie's arm and left.
"I'm so…" Eddie began, sad eyes leveled at Richie.
"I know. I know you are." Richie sighed, reaching a hand out for Eddie's. "Me too. I saw him kiss you and I got so jealous. I didn't like seeing another man's hands on you, Eddie. Or his lips." He confessed, gently squeezing Eddie's hand.
"I promise, it wasn't like that. I'm not interested in Bill that way. I've never seen you react like that before. How's your head? Still hurt?" Eddie reached up with his free hand and caressed Richie's head. His fingers were tender and soothing. Richie made a soft throaty noise and moved into the touch like a cat, closing his eyes.
"That feels better." He murmured. Eddie continued stroking his head. Richie gave a little yawn and blinked his tired eyes.
"Do you want to sleep some more, baby?" Eddie asked, fingers still rubbing.
"All I do is sleep." Richie pouted. Eddie smiled, Richie was adorable.
"You're recovering from a trauma, Rich. You need to sleep and rest your body. I know it's exhausting, but it will help. I'll be here when you wake up."
"You said that before and Mike was here when I woke up." Richie complained.
"Now, I think you're just trying to start a fight." Eddie shook his head, still smiling. "Go to sleep. I'm not going anywhere. They're going to bring me up a bed and I'll be right here all night. Okay?" He leaned down and dropped a kiss on Richie's mouth.
"Okay." Richie agreed, "Kiss me again?" Eddie did and then, stepped back when a knock on the door interrupted them.
The door slowly opened and a hot male nurse they had never seen before began to wheel in a twin sized roll-away bed. He had a college boy look to him and, in Eddie's opinion, an ostentatious air. He reminded Eddie of a frat boy on the prowl. He was a brunette with pretty blue-green eyes and full pouty lips. He looked like he should be on the cover of GQ or some trashy Harlequin romance novel.
"Mr. Kaspbrak? I have a bed for you, sir." He said, barely looking at Eddie. His pretty eyes were fixed on Richie. "How are you feeling, Mr. Tozier? I'm Mark. I'll be one of your night nurses tonight. I heard that you had some pain earlier." His tone was simpering and it pissed Eddie right off. Frat boy was flirting with Richie right in front of him! Unbelievable!
"Hey, they brought me some painkillers, so I'll be good, thanks. I'll probably be asleep soon. Husband's orders." Richie joked, as he watched Mark set up Eddie's bed, with tired eyes. Mark straightened the light blue bed sheets, and fluffed the pillows. He unfolded the thin cotton blanket and drew it back.
"He's looking out for you, that's sweet." Mark turned and gave Eddie an insincere smile. He quickly turned back to fawn all over Richie. "You get some sleep, Mr. Tozier, and I'll be back in a few hours to check your vitals. Call me if you need anything. Good night." Again, he barely looked at Eddie. With a smile at Richie, Mark closed the door behind him.
"'Call me if you need anything'? Gross." Eddie muttered, rolling his eyes. He had been right! That little asshole had been hitting on Richie in front of him! The thought made him nauseous and angry all at the same time. He glared at the door, folding his arms over his chest. "Asshole!"
"What?" Richie looked at him, eyebrows creased. "He was doing his job. Why are you being weird?"
"Oh, no reason. No reason at all. Maybe he'll come back and fluff your...pillow for you later...give you a sponge bath..." Eddie replied, cattily, instantly feeling stupid for acting like a jealous brat over some random guy flirting with Richie.
"Seriously? You're jealous of that kid? I'm not interested in…ok, I get it now. This is what you were trying to tell me when I got jealous over Bill kissing you. You're in love with me, not him. You know I'm in love with you." Richie said. "That kid doesn't stand a chance because I love you."
"I know. I know you do." Eddie said, sadly. He didn't know, he didn't know anything anymore. For all he knew, Richie had a serious girlfriend back home or someone he had been interested in. This plan of Bill's was a bad one. Someone was going to end up getting hurt. Whether it was Richie or himself remained to be seen. "Go to sleep, Rich. I'm going to get changed and do the same." He came around the bed and kissed Richie's cheek. "I love you, too."
Eddie grabbed his suitcase, put it on the bed and began rifling through it. He pulled out his soft track pants and a clean t-shirt. He turned to go into the bathroom to change.
"No need to be so shy on my account, Eddie, we're married, I'm sure I've seen you change clothes before." Richie said, pointedly.
Eddie flushed, this was actually true. All of the Losers, even Bev, had changed clothes in front of each other. And if he was supposed to be Richie's husband, he wouldn't flee to the bathroom to change. He sighed and stripped off his polo shirt, careful of his wounded cheek. He put it on his bed and grabbed the soft t-shirt. He put it on and heard Richie sigh. He looked over at the man, questioningly. "What?"
"Such a shame to hide that body under clothes. You are the hottest little thing I have ever seen, Eddie Kaspbrak." Richie grinned at him, his eyes heavy-lidded. His hungry gaze slid from the top of Eddie's head to the tips of his toes. Eddie's toes curled in his socks.
"Shut up." Blushing, Eddie glared at him, removing his shoes and socks and shucking his jeans. He was now standing there in his t-shirt and black cotton briefs. "I am not little!" He snatched up his track pants. "Or hot."
"You are to me but you're also fucking magnificent, sweetheart. Jesus, you're fiery and compact and absolutely gorgeous. Baby, I don't know what I did to deserve you, but, fuck, I am a lucky, lucky man." Richie was still grinning that bemused grin at him.
Eddie realized he was just standing there nearly half-naked in front of Richie, track pants hanging from one hand. He quickly pulled them on, straightening his shirt. Flustered, he began folding his dirty clothes, not looking at Richie. He could feel his face burning. Richie laughed at him softly.
"Cute, cute, cute! God, Eddie, you really are adorable when you're shy."
"I am not." Eddie pouted, not realizing that he was just making Richie's case.
"I think you are." Richie said and then yawned. Eddie gave him a soft look and a tiny smile.
"Go to sleep, Rich. I'm going to brush my teeth and I'll be right back." Eddie took his Listerine, toothbrush and toothpaste into the cramped hospital bathroom. He brushed his teeth carefully, remembering not to be too rough, and rinsed twice with the Listerine.
He looked at himself in the mirror. He wasn't sure what Richie saw in him. He was average height, his looks were also average, in his own opinion. He had big, dark, sad-looking eyes and a pleasant enough face. When they'd been kids, Eddie had been smaller than most of the boys their age, smart in a nerdy sort of way, timid, and asthmatic. Sometimes, he still felt like that kid. He shrugged, wiping his mouth on the hand towel provided.
Richie had just started drifting off when Eddie reappeared from the bathroom. He watched Eddie repack his toiletries and his clothes and put the suitcase back in the corner, out of the way of traffic. His eyes lingered on Eddie's perfect little ass. Holy shit! You could bounce a nickel off that thing. He made a noise and saw Eddie turn towards him. He saw the man's eyes widen a fraction and then saw him shake his head, lips pursed.
"Quit checking out my ass and go to sleep, Richard." Eddie rolled his eyes. Well, that was a sentence he never thought he'd ever say, especially not to his best friend. Richie had always said dirty things about girls and of course, Eddie's mom. That should have been a clue right there, he supposed. Too interested in talking about girls with no obvious girlfriends around.
"It's a very nice ass, Eds." Richie spoke up, voice rough. Eddie climbed into his roll-away bed and got comfortable. He rolled over to face Richie.
"Thank you...I guess." Eddie mumbled, mildly embarrassed.
"You're welcome, sweet cheeks.” Richie said, a smile clear in his voice.
"Good night, Richie." Eddie smiled into his fluffy pillow. He couldn't help it, Richie was absolutely incorrigible.
"I saw that! Good night, baby. I love you." Richie blew him a kiss.
"Love you too, asshole." Eddie snickered. Richie laughed. They both closed their eyes.
Chapter 7: Sense Memory
One of Richie's nurses acts unprofessional and Eddie isn't having it. Eddie reminisces on the past.
Startled awake, Eddie blinked, grumpily, as the overhead lights in the dim hospital room suddenly flared to life...brightly. He glared at the insensitive intruder as Richie groaned in agony, hands coming up to cover his face. Oh, good. Frat boy Mark was back to check on Richie.
Mark didn't even try to dim the lights, he simply walked in as if he owned the place. He wasn't quiet either. He opened and closed drawers with no regard for Richie's noise sensitivity. Richie put a hand to his head, a grimace of pain clear on his face. Eddie grit his teeth. He sat up.
"You can just keep your eyes closed for now, Mr. Tozier. I know the lights are bright. I'm just going to take your vitals." Mark crooned, one hand rubbing Richie's arm. "Wow, you must work out, you have some serious muscles here. Look at you." Mark squeezed Richie's bicep, fondling it a little longer than necessary. Richie's eyes flew open, one hand coming up to shield them from the intense glare of the lights. He looked over at Eddie, his eyes were distressed. Mark let the back of one hand 'accidentally' graze Richie's pec. Mark feigned embarrassment, giving Richie a flirty smile. Richie looked uneasy and anxious.
Eddie was getting seriously pissed now. This smug little bastard was taking full advantage of Richie's sweet, laid back nature and his traumatic brain injury to touch him inappropriately. Richie looked so uncomfortable. This was bullshit! And it was going to stop...now.
Eddie slid off of his roll-away bed, stomped over, and dimmed the lights with a vicious twist of his wrist. Mark's perfectly coiffed head shot up. He raised an eyebrow at the short dark haired man who was currently staring daggers at him.
"Concussion friendly." Eddie said through a mouth full of clenched teeth. " My husband is having trouble with bright lights and noises. They hurt his eyes and his head. But you already knew that, Mark."
Mark's friendly expression turned sour for a second before he forced it into an overly bright toothpaste commercial grin. It was fucking creepy. It reminded him a bit of Henry Bowers.
"My apologies, Mr. Kaspbrak. I'll try to be more careful." He turned his attention back to Richie, who was still looking at Eddie. Mark wrapped the blood pressure cuff around Richie's arm. Eddie watched Mark squeeze the bulb. Richie flinched but didn't say anything as his blood pressure was taken. He suffered quietly through Mark's endless groping and pervy comments, not saying much as the man then took his temperature and finished taking down the rest of Richie's vitals in his iPad. "Your BP looks much better, Mr. Tozier. Your heart rate is down, almost to normal, your temperature is 99.7 degrees, which could be better, but your lungs sound clear. Dr. Baynes will be by in the morning to see you. And I'll be back to check on you again in four hours, sir." His voice was sugary sweet as he spoke directly to Richie. He patted Richie's arm.
"No." Eddie spoke up, arms folded across his chest.
"Excuse me?" Mark looked shocked that Eddie would dare tell him no. He stared at the shorter man and put his iPad down on the bedside table.
"I said, no. You will not be by again in four hours. I don't want you anywhere near my husband." Eddie moved closer, almost into Mark's personal space.
"Mr. Kaspbrak…sir, please, I'm trying to do my job..." Mark said in that overly sweet tone that he'd been using on Richie, hands up to try and placate Eddie. He had a flirty, cocky smile on his full lips that had no doubt granted him whatever he wanted in the past. He seemed to think that turning the college boy charm his way would sway Eddie somehow, as if he could seduce Eddie out of being angry at him for being unprofessional with Richie. Eddie's dark eyes narrowed and he lifted his chin.
"I said no, asshole! You are hindering his recovery! You burst into this room at the asscrack of dawn while he is sleeping and nearly blind him when you damn well know he has vision issues, you make enough noise to raise the dead when it's more than obvious that he's suffering from a severe concussion and you use your position in this hospital to put your hands all over a man with a traumatic brain injury. You make inappropriate comments that make my husband very uncomfortable. I don't appreciate it and I will be filing grievances with the administration if I see you anywhere near this room or my husband again. Now get out. You make me sick." Eddie pointed at the door. His color was high, his brown eyes blazing and even in the dim light, it was easy to see the anger rolling off of him.
"I'm going to tell my supervisors that you wouldn't let me finish my assessment of Mr. Tozier." Mark sneered at Eddie.
"You tell your supervisors whatever you want, dude. I promise you, they'll be more interested in my version. Now get the fuck out of my husband's room."
Mark snatched up his iPad and cast one last baleful glare at Eddie before he swept out the door. The heavy door shut solidly behind him.
"My hero." Richie gave him a shaky, grateful smile.
"Can you believe the nerve of that guy? Are you okay, Rich? How's your head? Come here, look at me." Eddie moved over to his side. He cupped Richie's face, tilting his head up. Richie grabbed one of Eddie's hands and pressed a kiss to the palm. Eddie gasped, shuddering, his hand flexing. "Rich…"
"You take such good care of me, Eds. Watching over me while I sleep, making sure I get my pain pills, defending my honor." Richie smiled at him, rubbing his stubbled cheek against Eddie's palm. Those blue eyes were soft and full of affection.
"Always." Eddie whispered, fingers stroking the bristly hair on Richie's jaw. "We should try and get back to sleep. Someone will be back to check on you in a few hours and you need your rest. You never answered me, though. How's your head, honey?"
"It's...still attached." He joked, turning serious the next minute. "Achy, throbbing behind my eyes, and not feeling too great here." He lifted one hand and gently laid it on the top of his head where the bandage was, wincing a little as he did so.
"Yeah, that's where your 'mild skull fracture' is according to Dr. Baynes. Be careful, don't prod at it. And the other pain you mentioned is from your concussion. She said it could be up to six weeks before you feel better. I still don't know if they're going to keep you another night. We'll have to see what she says when she comes to do her rounds. Try and get some sleep now, Rich." Eddie pressed a gentle kiss to Richie's temple.
Eddie walked back around and climbed into his bed. He slid under the covers, pulling them up to his shoulders, and turned to face Richie. Richie was watching him, a soft smile on his face, even with lines of pain around his eyes.
"Good night." He whispered and Eddie gave him a smile. Richie closed his eyes with a sigh.
"Night, Rich." I love you. Eddie felt a longing in his heart so powerful he almost gasped out loud. He remembered feeling this way when they were teenagers. Not this strong perhaps, but the longing was there. He'd feel this way when he looked at Richie sometimes, when Richie was teasing him or when Richie would hog the hammock in the clubhouse. Eddie would do something to keep the other boy's attention on him. He'd start an argument or force his way into the hammock so that they were sharing it. He hadn't realized that he was in love with Richie until the Toziers had moved away from Derry in their sophomore year. He'd cried for a week and his mom had threatened to admit him to the hospital. Eddie had thrown himself into his schoolwork and slowly worked through his grief of losing his best friend and crush. He wrote Richie letters but never sent them.
Eddie wiped away a couple of tears and closed his eyes. Richie was here now and he needed Eddie's help. If he was going to help, he needed to get his rest. He listened to the rhythmic beeps of the monitors and Richie's soft snores. He soon fell asleep to those soothing sounds.
Chapter 8: Sense Memory
It's day 2 of Richie's hospital stay and he's waiting for an all clear so he can get out of this place.
The rattle of the doorknob turning woke Richie and he tensed, fully expecting to hear Mark's flirty voice from the doorway. The nurse blob that appeared was not Mark, he could tell because this one was obviously female even to him. She was petite and had dark hair.
"Good morning, Mr. Tozier. I'm Miranda, I'll be taking over your care. Mark has been removed from your case by Dr. Baynes per Mr. Kaspbrak's request." Her voice was soft and sweet and she was 100% professional as she quietly opened drawers to retrieve items to help her take Richie's vitals.
Slowly waking up, Eddie yawned and gave a full body stretch, body arching, t-shirt slipping up showing off his firm little belly. Hearing movement from the bed next to his, Richie turned, his eyes locked on Eddie's sexy little six pack and the trail of dark hair leading down from the bottom of his belly button into his track pants. Richie licked his lips, wishing he was licking all of that silky-looking golden skin and biting those perky little nipples he just knew were hiding just out of his sight beneath that soft t-shirt. He wanted to hear moans of pleasure falling from those pretty, thin lips, to watch as Eddie's amazing body writhed beneath or above his. God, he'd settle for simply cuddling with the man, holding him close.
He wasn't sure why visions of Eddie and his friends always popped in his head clear as day but others were blobs of color. Like Clay and Mark and even, Dr. Baynes. In his head, Eddie was gorgeous, compact and delicious.
Startled out of his lustful daze, Richie jumped when Miranda gently put the back of her hand to his head, checking for a fever. Her hand was cool and soft against his aching head. She grabbed a thermometer from her instrument tray and brought it up to his face.
Eddie stretched again, groaning. His shoulder popped and he sighed. He sat up, his dark hair sticking up adorably in wild tufts. He smoothed his hair down, watching the new nurse run a thermometer as gently as she could across Richie's forehead.
"98.6, it's back down to normal. That's good news, Mr. Tozier. How's your pain on a scale of one to ten? Ten being the worst."
"Seven? Maybe eight. It comes and goes. Right now, it's kind of achy and throbbing. There's some pain behind my eyes. I'm still quite a bit dizzy and sometimes I have trouble with words. It's better than before but it's also been less than two days. Dr. Baynes told me not to rush." He watched Miranda make notes on the iPad, nodding at his statements.
"That's expected. You took a pretty solid hit to the head, Mr. Tozier. It will be quite awhile before you feel 100%. How's your vision? Are you seeing double?"
"I'm blind as a bat, honey. My eyesight is horrible. I hope some of it is due to this concussion." He looked over at Eddie, who shook his head. "My husband, the pretty blob over there, looks like he is shaking his head so my guess is this is mostly my own bad eyesight. This might sound weird but I can picture things in my head and they're not fuzzy but when I look at them, they are. I can see my husband clear as day in my head but if I turn my head and try to look at Eddie right now, he's a colorful little blob. Is that normal?"
"OK, that sounds fairly normal. Your brain recalls what your husband looked like before the accident even if you don't remember every detail yet. Dr. Baynes will be coming on her rounds soon and she'll schedule an eye exam for you sometime before you're discharged. I don't know yet when that will be."
"His glasses broke in the accident. I haven't had a chance to get them repaired or replaced yet." Eddie offered, softly. "I might have one of the others do that while I'm thinking about it." Eddie found his phone and quickly typed out a message to the others.
"Any restrictions on sexual activity, Miranda?" Richie asked, shooting a look at Eddie, who he was sure had turned a beautiful color of crimson at the intimate questioning.
"I'm afraid so, Mr. Tozier. Any strenuous physical activity could cause a set back. Your heart rate needs to stay in the normal range for as long as possible for your recovery. I would say to wait at least three weeks…"
"Three weeks?!" Richie exclaimed, looking absolutely horrified. "That's forever! I'm a man with needs!"
"Oh my God." He heard Eddie mutter.
"I promise you that those weeks will go by faster than you think. You'll be focused on other things. Your husband will help you. And nobody said you couldn't kiss or be affectionate. Sometimes a TBI can cause a person to become hypersexual so be aware of that, Mr. Kaspbrak." She nodded at Eddie. "You may have to limit the bedroom activities if you think it could be harmful to his progress. He'll need help to the bathroom and taking baths or showers, as well as every-day activities while he recovers."
"Great." Richie pouted. Miranda shared a look with Eddie who still looked embarrassed. Eddie shook his head, his lips turning up at the corners involuntarily at Miranda's amused smile. "Can I at least get this damn catheter out so I can use the john on my own some time today?" He gestured at his lap, impatiently. "It hurts like a bitch."
"We can take it out, but someone would still have to help you to the john. I'm sure your husband wouldn't mind." Miranda said.
Eddie's eyes widened and he looked at Richie. Richie gave him pleading blue eyes and Eddie groaned inwardly.
"Of course, I'll help you, honey. It would be good for your circulation to get you moving around." He conceded.
"I'll have Scott come in and remove the cath right after breakfast. Your tray should be on its way up soon." Miranda promised. "Dr. Baynes should be by very shortly."
"Thank you. You're an angel." Richie smiled.
"Yes, thank you." Eddie said, standing up and coming over to Richie's bedside. He pressed a kiss to Richie's cheek. Miranda smiled at them and left.
"You sure about this whole bathroom thing, babe? I'm sure one of the nurses could…" Richie began, knowing how squeamish his husband was of germy places like bathrooms.
"I'm sure. Unless you want Mark to come back and shake it off for you." Eddie snarked.
"Not a chance!" Richie made a face.
"Good answer." Eddie pressed a kiss to Richie's hand.
"Good morning." Dr. Baynes said as she came in the door.
"Hi, doc. Can I get a second opinion on this restrictive sex thing?" Richie said as soon as the doctor stepped in the door.
"Jesus, Rich…" Eddie sighed.
"No strenuous physical activity for the next three weeks. I'm sorry, Mr. Tozier, but sex is considered pretty strenuous. Your heart rate should not be elevated out of normal range until your body has started healing. Miranda's notes say she covered this with you and your husband." She lifted the iPad. "She said you were still dizzy. Does that come and go like your pain or is that more constant?"
"It comes and goes." Richie said, in a slightly pouty voice. "Miranda said something about an eye exam?"
"We will do that before you are discharged. I need to see you up and walking a bit with assistance, of course, just to see where we are and you need to pee on your own. Miranda said you're ready to lose the cath. I don't blame you one bit. Scott knows that once you've been brought your tray, he's to be up within 30-40 minutes to remove it. Okay? Now, let me check you out." She unwrapped her stethoscope and put the eartips in her ears. She pulled Richie's gown down a bit and warned him of the cold a few seconds before pressing the chestpiece to his skin. Richie hissed. "Sorry. Deep breath."
Eddie watched as the doctor listened to Richie's breathing and then take his blood pressure. She seemed satisfied with his vitals.
"Any chance of me getting out of here today, doc?" Richie asked, looking hopeful.
"I'll answer that after we remove the cath and I get a report that you've peed on your own. Plus, I need to see how you're doing with your mobility. You need to walk the floor with your husband and show us how stable your movements are. Mr. Kaspbrak, do you feel comfortable in assisting him on your own?"
"Though he may be but little, he is fierce." Richie grinned.
"Beep beep, Richie. Yes, I can handle him." Eddie rolled his eyes.
"You can handle me anytime you want, handsome." Richie winked at him, smiling.
"Yeah, yeah. Three weeks!" Eddie pointed at him. Richie's smile dropped and he pouted.
Chapter 9: Sense Memory
Richie gets his catheter removed.
Ok, so I do research if I'm not familiar with things and I did do research on here but I found out that patients are supposed to empty their bladders before the catheter is removed so excuse my medical ignorance. Thank you!
Eddie was about to slide a forkful of scrambled eggs into Richie's mouth when a knock sounded on the door. Eddie's hand jerked and he almost dropped the whole thing in Richie's lap.
"I'm so sorry, Rich." Eddie fussed with the mess, glaring at the door. A big man in blue scrubs stood there and Eddie's mouth dropped as he stared at the man. He was enormous, about 6'4" and built like a pro wrestler, with a bald head and a beard. He had a small item that looked like a bedpan, a folded paper towel, and a couple of pairs of gloves on a small tray.
"Sorry, for intruding, guys. I'm Scott. Dr. Baynes sent me to remove Mr. Tozier's catheter." His deep smooth voice said. He placed the tray on the counter closest to Richie's bed.
"Uh, sure, of course." Richie said, his eyes wide. He turned to look at Eddie and nudged him. "Eds, Scott is here to remove my catheter."
"Uh huh. OK, well, let me move the food tray and clean up a bit." Eddie tried to stop staring at the man about to remove the tube from Richie's penis. Richie grabbed for his hand.
"Don't go far, please." He whispered. Eddie squeezed his hand gently to reassure him and went back to cleaning up.
"I won't hurt you, Mr. Tozier. I've done this plenty of times. Now, that being said, this won't be pleasant. You will probably have some discomfort." Scott said, his huge hands in the air to show that he meant no harm. "I need to wash my hands first and then we'll get that removed for you."
Scott went into the bathroom and they heard the water turn on. He came back out and went straight to the tray, putting on the gloves. He turned back to Richie, who waited nervously on the bed.
"Can you sit up for me? I'm going to need you to lift your hospital gown so I can remove the cath, okay? Mr. Kaspbrak can help you if you like." Scott reached back and pulled the curtain around them so Richie could have privacy.
"Eddie, can you come here, babe?" Richie called, his voice shaky.
Eddie hurried around the curtain, eyes wide.
"Are you okay?"
"Yeah, um, can you please help me sit up and fix my gown thing so he can take the tube out?" Richie looked embarrassed.
"Okay, how do you want to do this?" Eddie directed his question to Scott.
"I'm going to lift Mr. Tozier and I need you to move his gown out of the way. We need to put this paper towel and the kidney dish beneath him. Mr. Tozier, please fold your arms across your chest, I'm going to wrap my arms around you and gently lift you up, okay?"
Richie nodded, he folded his arms and Scott put his arms around him and lifted him off the mattress. Richie could feel Eddie pulling at his hospital gown and soon, he felt the cool air hit bare parts of him. His face flushed and he felt Eddie slide the paper towel under him and then something something else, which he supposed was the kidney dish. Scott eased him back down onto the bed.
"You okay, Rich?" Eddie's worried voice came from his left.
"I'm good. Can we get this over with? Please?" He sounded exhausted. He flinched a bit from the sudden touch of Eddie's hand.
"OK, Mr. Tozier, you're going to want to lie back now and hold the sides of the bed or your husband's hand because this won't be fun." Scott warned. He waited for Richie to grab the bed with one hand and Eddie with the other before continuing. "First, I'm going to empty your bag. Then, I'm going to deflate the balloon that is inside your bladder and once it's deflated, we can get rid of the cath."
"That's a lot of steps to remove a tube from a guy's wang." Richie joked, shakily.
Scott smirked and unhooked the bag and took it to the toilet to empty it. Eddie and Richie locked eyes and quickly looked away, both feeling kind of awkward. Scott came back and put on a new pair of gloves. He began to deflate the balloon with a 10ml syringe that was injected into a port on the catheter tube. He pushed Richie's gown out of the way, apologizing for the lack of privacy.
Eddie dropped his gaze and flushed red as he caught sight of the length of Richie's flaccid dick. All those dick jokes Richie had made when they were kids hadn't been lies after all. If he was this big now...Eddie bit his lip and shook his head. He couldn't think about that right now. He hurriedly turned his focus back to Richie and what Scott was doing right now.
"...breathing like that will relax your pelvic floor so I can remove it more easily. I need you to take a deep breath and then exhale slowly, so now, take that deep breath…" Scott wrapped one hand loosely around Richie's penis and one around the catheter.
Richie groaned loudly as Scott began to slowly pull the catheter out. It pinched and burned. He hissed and groaned as the tube finally slid out.
"Oh, fuck! Shit, that fucking burns!" Richie cried out. He put a hand down as if to cup himself.
Scott dabbed the tip of Richie's dick with a tissue and Eddie blanched as he saw streaks of blood.
"Oh my God, is that normal...the blood?" He asked Scott, horrified.
"Yep, sure is. It's not going to be fun to piss for a day or two, but he'll be okay. Let me clean him off and I can help you get him to the toilet if you want." Scott gently removed the tape from Richie's thigh. Eddie winced when Richie did. Scott went into the bathroom with another of the thick paper towels and came back to the bed. He efficiently cleaned Richie off and threw the towel away.
"Great, thanks, Scott." Richie managed, face still scrunched up in pain. "Let's move this party to the john."
"Rich, honey, are you sure? You don't have to do this right this second." Eddie fluttered his hands around Richie's shoulders.
"Better to rip the Band-Aid all the way off, right? Let the man help you get me to the toilet. Less for you to worry about, too. OK, Eds?" The soft pleading in his tone was Eddie's undoing. Richie didn't beg people, it wasn't his style and the trembly note in his voice made Eddie want to cry.
"OK, Rich." He stroked Richie's face. "Whatever you want to do, babe."
He and Scott got one railing of the hospital bed down so that they could assist Richie out of it. Richie clutched at Eddie's arm and let Scott bear most of his weight until he could stand on shaky legs between them. Eddie straightened the gown to fall as modestly as he could. Richie hissed as he took a tiny step and his sore dick objected. Eddie and Scott both looked at him but he kept taking tiny steps as they each took hold of an arm.
Scott opened the bathroom door and the trio shuffled to the toilet. Eddie was certain that under other circumstances, Richie would find this hilarious but he'd just had a tube pulled out of his dick.
"Okay, here we are. Mr. Tozier, your husband can hold your gown out of the way and you can do your thing. I can help to steady you or I can wait outside. Up to you." Scott said.
"Well, you already pulled a catheter out of my dick, so you can help him keep me steady, I guess." Richie sighed. Eddie heard the defeat in Richie's voice so he didn't argue.
Eddie helped Richie move the gown out of the way as Scott held Richie's arm to help his balance. Richie swayed for a second between them as he tried to take himself in hand. Once, he was able to wrap a hand around himself, he aimed at the bowl.
"Let it happen, don't force it." Scott said.
"Scott, dude, please." Richie sighed.
"Sorry." Scott shut up.
Richie took a deep breath and tried again. He groaned as he felt the tingling sensation of urine moving through his urethra began and that loud groan became an agonized cry of pain as a small stream of urine hit the bowl. He made a noise like a sob as another stream began.
Once he was finished, Scott grabbed a roll of toilet paper and handed it to Eddie. Eddie blinked and then tore off a short length and very gently took Richie's hand and helped him clean himself off. Scott flushed the toilet for them.
"Come on, sweetheart. Let's get you back to your bed, okay?" Eddie nodded at Scott and they slowly turned Richie around.
Scott removed the paper towel and the kidney dish with the catheter, depositing them on the tray. Then, he helped Eddie ease Richie back onto the bed, assisting him in swinging Richie's legs onto the mattress and pulling the sheet and blanket up over his lap after he was comfortably sitting. They made sure to be very careful about how the covers touched his groin area. Scott locked the railing back into place and found a bedpan in one of the drawers. He put it in clear view of both Richie and Eddie and then he picked up his utensil tray.
"Ok, now, Mr. Tozier, make sure to void your bladder again in about 2-3 hours. Drink water to dilute your urine so it won't be as painful and don't hold it if you feel the need to go. That might cause a urinary tract infection. Dr. Baynes will send someone by in about an hour or two to check on you. Call us if you need us." Scott said, nodding at Eddie.
"Thank you, Scott." Eddie said, softly. He turned back to Richie, wiping away a tear from the corner of his eye. "Oh, honey. Are you hurting still? Do you want some Tylenol?"
"No. I just hate having you see me like this." Richie said, his voice shaky. "I'm so fucking weak that I can't even take a piss without causing a huge scene. It's embarrassing."
"Rich, you were hurt! A fucking house fell on you! You're not weak! You're the strongest person I know!" Eddie wiped another tear off of Richie's cheek and lifted his chin. He pressed a soft kiss to Richie's lips. "You're the reason I'm still alive, did you know that? I almost got killed in that house, but you pushed me out of the way. You saved my life. Does that sound like a weak man? You're literally my hero, Rich."
"I would die for you, Eddie." Richie said, his voice serious and Eddie knew he meant it.
"I know you would, baby, but please don't. You'd break my heart and I'd never recover." He slid his arms around Richie, needing to hold him and wanting to be close. He held him there, Richie's head pillowed against his chest. He felt tears sliding down his own face as he caressed Richie's head.
"Did a house really fall on me?" Richie asked, suddenly. Eddie laughed, wetly.
Chapter 10: Sense Memory
Richie takes steps to get released from the hospital.
Around 1 pm, a smiling Beverly peeked around the door, waving a little white bag at Eddie. She was dressed in a soft gray blouse and black pants that she had no doubt designed herself. She came in quietly. Richie was still sleeping, thoroughly exhausted from his traumatic catheter removal. He looked pretty rough, hair matted and wild sticking out of his bandages, dark circles under his eyes, patchwork quilt of colorful, healing cuts and bruises on his face. Eddie thought he was still gorgeous.
"Poor Rich. How's he doing?" She asked coming over to perch on the edge of Eddie's rollaway bed. She didn't wait for an answer to her first question as she looked over at Eddie's sad, pale face. "How are you doing, kiddo?"
"Honestly? I'm not so great, Bevvie. I just want to take him home and wrap him up in bubble wrap, you know? He's been through a lot." Eddie snorted, "Fuck, we've all been through a lot, I just mean that he's kind of drifting by himself. We remember everything and Rich, God, Bev, he has no fucking clue what hell we've been through. He doesn't remember his own middle name right now. He doesn't even know his favorite color. Jesus, what are we doing here, Bevvie? I know that Bill only had the best of intentions but I should really tell Richie the truth about us not being married and let him make his own decision of what he wants to do after this…"
"Do you really think that's in his best interest, Eds? Like you said, he's alone but right now, he doesn't feel alone because he has you. He has someone he trusts and relies on. Someone who loves him. And you do love him, don't you? You always have." She took Eddie's hand and gave it a squeeze when Eddie bit his lip and nodded. "Sometimes, that's all you need to fight your way back from something like this. Let's get him better and then we can focus on the other stuff. I brought his replacement glasses. He might like to see the world he woke up to. What do you say?" She pulled out a case and opened it, revealing a pair of dark framed glasses that resembled Harry Potter's but that would look amazing on Richie.
"Thanks, Bev. These are great. Rich will love them." He took them from her carefully and kissed her cheek. She blushed a little and patted his leg.
"Ben is waiting to take me to lunch at Nan's Luncheonette. Do you want anything?" Eddie shook his head at the offer, his eyes on the sleeping man beside them. He didn't want Richie to wake up and be alone.
"Raincheck?" He asked.
"Absolutely. Take care of him for us." Standing up, she gave Eddie a lovely smile. "Hey, take care of yourself too, Eds. We can always take over for a little while if you need a break." She leaned over and kissed him next to his mouth. Eddie blushed and nodded.
She looked over at Richie one last time before she went out the door. Eddie winced as the heavy door made a loud noise as it shut. He saw Beverly through the window as she flinched and mouthed 'Sorry.' One hand lifted up in a kind of apology. He raised a hand in silent acknowledgement and she left.
Richie stirred and Eddie hurried over to soothe him. Richie's sleepy eyes fluttered open slowly, the lids slightly heavy. He frowned adorably for a second as he registered where he was.
"Hey, Sleeping Beauty. You feeling okay?" Eddie took his hand, rubbing his thumb over Richie's knuckles.
"How long was I asleep?" Richie blinked, reaching up with a fist and gently rubbing his eyes. He looked like a giant version of himself at eight years old. Eddie felt his heart clench.
"About three hours. You were exhausted after Scott removed your catheter. Dr. Baynes stopped by and said if you were feeling up to a little walk around the wing later, you might just get out of here sometime today. Oh, and Bev brought you new glasses so you can tell one colorful blob from another."
Richie made grabby hands and Eddie laughed softly. He grabbed the case and opened it up.
"Hurry, I want to see my adorable husband." Richie pleaded. Eddie slid the glasses on him and stepped back. "Oh, wow. I was wrong. You are not adorable." Eddie blanched at the unexpected, hurtful remark, pain welling in his dark eyes. Richie's teasing smirk fell off of his face immediately as he saw the light dim in Eddie's pretty eyes. "Oh, Eddie, sweetness, I didn't mean it like that. Come here." He gestured for Eddie to come closer. Eddie hesitated but then came forward. Richie took his hand. "Darlin', you are stunning, breath-taking, absolutely gorgeous, and totally out of my league." Richie sighed. "Don't think I don't know that. What are you doing with a gross old man like me?"
"You're not old, Rich." Eddie protested softly, "And you're only a little gross…sometimes, but not due to your looks at all because you're kind of a stone cold fox, Richie Tozier." Eddie said and then, blushed, eyes lowering to stare at the blanket on the bed at Richie's feet.
"Oh, honey, are you sure I'm the one who needs glasses?" Richie brought Eddie's hand up to his mouth, pressing a kiss on his knuckles. Eddie's head snapped up and he looked at Richie, indignant on his behalf. He hated when Richie put himself down, even in jest.
"Don't say that! You're a famous stand up comedian with a pretty big female following. Trust me, babe, it's not the jokes. You told us that you don't even write your own stuff! I've heard it and it's not you. But those girls aren't there for the jokes, Rich. They're drooling all over your cute butt and those blue eyes of yours. And it's not just the females either. You're a heartthrob, Rich." Eddie dimpled as he grinned up at Richie's face. Richie was blushing and looked unnaturally shy.
"Are you trying to make fun of me, Kaspbrak?" Richie asked, softly.
"No, I'm trying to flirt with my husband, Tozier. Who looks sexy as hell in those little round glasses, by the way. Holy shit, babe. Harry Potter, eat your heart out. So, you ready to blow this joint or what? Dr. B says all you have to do to get the all clear is prove to her that you can walk around the corridor twice and back."
"As long as you're with me every step of the way. So I don't fall and break my ass."
Eddie rolled his eyes, smirking. He leaned forward and kissed Richie on the corner of his mouth.
"I promise, I won't let you fall and break your ass, dipshit. What kind of husband do you take me for?" He wore an innocent expression.
"Um, let's see, cute, bossy, short…" Richie quickly listed items on his fingers.
"Maybe I will let you break your ass." He pretended to be mad, pulling his hand out of Richie's with a pout.
"Ah, no! Don't be like that, Eddie, my love. You are the beach to my ocean, the flower to my honeybee, the salt to my pepper…" Richie batted his eyelashes.
"Idiot." Eddie said fondly, leaning back down and taking Richie's pretty mouth in a kiss. The kiss deepened fairly quickly and they jerked apart at a noise by the door.
"Whoa! Sorry, I knocked." Ben said from the doorway, hand covering his eyes. He had a soft smile curling his lips. "Everyone decent?" He dropped his hand.
"Not in the least." Richie declared, waggling his eyebrows at Eddie and Ben, then winced. "Eddie, don't let me do that eyebrow thing again...at least, not until I get better." He groaned, rubbing his aching head.
"Dumbass." Eddie murmured, gently massaging Richie's head. Richie sighed as Eddie's fingers scritched through his hair. "What's up, Ben? I thought you and Bev were getting lunch at Nan's."
"We are...It's just that I know you've had… problems...with your apartment in New York, Eddie, and my dad's cousin, Vicky, lives in Newport and she's going on a European vacation for the next three months. I spoke with her and she's willing to let you and Rich stay in her apartment while she's gone so you can get things all settled before you go home or whatever. She leaves tomorrow but you can move in whenever. It's a two bedroom, two bath, just about a mile from Sebasticook Lake. Sound proof walls, nice pool with a jacuzzi, fire pit out back, uh, big king-sized bed in the master bedroom…" Ben cleared his throat nervously.
Eddie's eyes flew wide in surprise and he stiffened, mouth dropping as he realized what Ben was doing. 'You sappy romantic sonofabitch.' He groaned inwardly.
"Rich and I will talk it over, Benny. Thanks, man." Eddie managed, his stomach in knots as he forced himself to look over at Richie. Richie looked between Eddie and Ben, his brow creased as if he knew he was missing something.
"Hello? Mr. Tozier, you up for a stroll?" Dr. Baynes stood behind Ben. She stepped around him and Eddie didn't miss the way her brown eyes swept over the man. He frowned because that was exactly the way Richie had looked at Ben in the Chinese restaurant as he called the former chubby man 'hot'. That ugly feeling in his stomach returned and he hated himself for feeling resentful of Ben. Ben was the sweetest guy Eddie had ever known and it wasn't Ben's fault that Richie found him hot. "Excuse me." The doctor murmured as she moved past Ben.
"Oh, I'm sorry." Ben apologized, stepping aside. "Guys, just think about what I said, OK? Apartment is all yours, just say the word. I've got to get back. Beverly is waiting for me." He nodded at Richie and waved at Eddie. "See you." He left, the door shut behind him.
"OK…" Dr. Baynes shook herself and smiled at Richie. "One last thing before I can release you. You need to show me that you can walk around the corridor twice." She saw the dismayed look on Richie's face. "It's not that long and once that is done, I'll send Miranda in with your discharge papers and prescriptions."
"You promise?" Richie asked, soft voice sounding so much like the little boy that Eddie knew as a kid that it brought tears to his eyes. His throat ached.
"I promise. Your husband can help you. I just need to see that you can do it to a certain extent on your own." She gave him an encouraging smile.
"OK. Let's get this over with." Richie nodded. He looked up at Eddie, who gave him a small, dimpled smile.
Eddie helped the doctor lower the side of the bed so they could help Richie sit up on the edge of it. Richie scooted forward, hands on Eddie's forearms for balance.
Dr. Baynes disconnected wires and attached the saline bag to a mobile iv pole so that Richie could leave the room. She handed Eddie a pair of scrub pants for Richie to put on under the hospital gown. Eddie helped Richie into them as far as they would go while he was sitting on the bed. Eddie slid an arm around Richie, taking his weight until the other man could stand steadily enough to do it on his own. He pulled the scrubs up over Richie's ass, straightening the gown around them. Richie took hold of the iv pole. Eddie stood by Richie, walking when he did, ready to assist him. Richie took a couple of shaky steps and suddenly stopped.
"Rich? You good?" Eddie asked, one hand stroking Richie's arm.
"I'm…yeah, I think so." Richie took another couple of steps, one hand on Eddie's shoulder, the other on the iv pole. Dr. Baynes made notes on her iPad. She stepped out of the room right behind them, keeping an eye on her patient as his husband helped him walk the corridor. Nurses smiled at the pair as they trudged down the hall. Eddie felt his ears burn as he heard some of the not-so-quietly whispered comments about how "adorable" they were together.
Richie seemed to be getting stronger as they reached the end of the hallway. He was wheezing a bit but he was grinning.
"Three more times around the floor, Eddie, my love?" He winked at the shorter man.
"You are such a dork. Let's go, twinkle toes." Eddie shot back, dimples popping as he carefully turned them around. "You're doing so well, Rich. Someone is ready to go home."
"From your lips to…" Richie stopped to point heavenward. "You know…whatever." He shrugged.
"I know. Come on, pretty boy, let's follow the yellow brick road awhile and then you can see the wizard, maybe click your heels three times."
"There's no place like home...Pretty boy?" Richie looked at him, eyebrows lifting. He flinched a little as the movement made his eyes ache.
"Don't fish for compliments from compliments. It's tacky." Eddie replied. "Besides, you know you're good looking and you know that I think you're good looking. Hell, I just told you less than fifteen minutes ago that you're a heartthrob. Keep up, old man."
"Rude." Richie huffed, the corners of his lips curving up as he fought a smile. Their eyes met and Eddie blushed, eyes dropping and slowly raising back to meet Richie's shyly. Eddie felt butterflies in his stomach when Richie looked at him so intently. He was a little embarrassed because after 30 years of interacting with the man, Richie still had him flustered and blushing like a schoolgirl with a crush on the quarterback.
"Looking very good, Mr. Tozier. One more time around and you're out of here." Dr. Baynes announced, cutting into Eddie's thoughts. He blinked, raising his eyes to Richie's once more. The injured man looked relieved.
"Ready?" Eddie asked, his voice husky.
"As I'll ever be." They turned slowly heading back down the hallway, Eddie hovering but allowing Richie to walk on his own.
"What do you think of Ben's offer? Should we take the apartment for a little while? Just until you heal up? Six, maybe seven weeks?" Eddie held his breath, unsure of how Richie would answer this question .
"Before I answer that, can I ask what problems we had in our old apartment? In New York?" Richie looked curious. "Noisy neighbors or…?"
"Landlord was homophobic. We were looking for another place. I wasn't sure I wanted to stay in New York. We were talking about L. A. Change of pace and all that."
"L. A.? Wow, that's quite a change of pace, Eds. Do you want to take Ben's offer? It would give us time to find a more suitable place. You could nurse me back to health in that big king-sized bed." Richie licked his lips, his eyes sliding over Eddie and Eddie's breath caught in his throat. A shudder wracked him. Richie's words burned through him, setting him aflame.
"I'll let Ben know we've decided." He murmured. The butterflies in his stomach took flight. Oh fuck, what was he going to do now?
Richie finally gets out of the hospital.
"Do I have to?" Richie whined, looking over at Eddie, with sad blue eyes. He frowned at the contraption in front of them. He turned his head and saw Miranda patiently gesturing to the thing. He folded his arms petulantly and turned up his nose, rejecting the idea that he would willingly sit in that rickety old thing.
"Get in the wheelchair, Rich. It's only to the car, you big baby. It's hospital policy. Come on, let's go." Eddie patted the chair.
"But I don't want to! I can walk all by myself, you've seen me. I'm not an invalid." Richie pouted. "No, forget it! I won't do it!"
"Richard, I am not in the mood for your childish sulking. Sit your ass down now!" Eddie snapped, watching the other man jump. Eddie sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose. "Baby, I love you, but Rich, honey, you are standing on my very last nerve. To the car, let's go." Eddie knew he sounded peevish and snarly and mean. he could chalk most of it up to nerves about sharing living quarters with Richie for the unforeseeable future.
Richie gingerly sat down in the wheelchair, shooting Eddie a sour, sullen look with frosty blue eyes. It was only the second time he'd looked at Eddie that way since he'd woken up. The first time was before he knew who Eddie was.
Richie let Beverly run her fingers lightly through his hair, now free of the bandages. It soothed him. She and Ben were the only other Losers at the hospital. Mike and Bill would meet them at the Derry Townhouse.
When Richie glared at him, Eddie looked over almost helplessly at Ben, who gave him a sympathetic smile. He sighed again and stepped forward to push the wheelchair out of the room and down the hall. Bev stepped back and Richie sat as stiff as a stone in the chair.
"Rich, I'm sorry I snapped at you. Please, let's not fight. We're almost out of here." Eddie said, softly. "I just hate hospitals and I want to take you home."
"Fine." Richie muttered, uncrossing his arms, still pouting a little. "We're not fighting."
They reached the car and Richie would have jumped out of the chair as soon as Eddie rolled it to a stop, but Eddie touched his shoulder. The touch was light, almost hesitant and he couldn't ignore it.
He slowly turned back and looked into those big dark worried eyes and felt all of his irritation melt away. Eddie gave him a sad little smile.
"I'm really am sorry, Rich. I didn't mean to spoil your day by being such an asshole."
"Hey, that's my husband you're talking about. And I happen to think he's amazing." Richie said, softly. "Let's get the fuck out of here, Eds, what do you say, love?"
"God, yes." Eddie grinned and turned to Miranda. "Thanks for everything! Please take this away. We don't need it anymore." He turned the wheelchair towards her. She smiled and waved at Richie before taking the chair and walking back to the hospital.
"Are you guys coming or what? Chop, chop! Let's hit the road!" Richie called to Ben and Beverly. "I call shotgun!"
"Well, duh." Beverly smirked at him as she reached out to open the back door to Eddie's rental car. She climbed in and shut her door. Ben grinned at Eddie and got into the backseat next to Bev.
Eddie helped Richie in and gently closed his door, quickly moving around the front of the car to open his own door. He slid in and closed the door, pushing the key into the ignition. He looked over at Richie who was staring at him.
"What?" Eddie asked, softly.
"What what? I can't look at my husband? He's something, isn't he, Beverly? Those dimples, those cheekbones, those eyes…God, those eyes…" He marveled, wide blue eyes fixed on Eddie's face.
Eddie felt like he'd combust, as heat rushed to his cheeks. His ears burned and he hurriedly looked away, embarrassed.
"He sure is, Rich." Bev answered, but Eddie could see her eyes on Ben, who looked almost as red as Eddie felt. Ben was smiling happily, eyes falling to Bev's mouth. ' Good for you, Haystack. He thought, it's about damn time.'
"Everybody buckled in? OK, here we go." Is all Eddie said as he started the car, eyes lifting to Richie's before he turned back to focus on the road in front of them. His cheeks were still burning as they pulled out of the hospital parking lot.
"Should I text Bill and Mike?" Ben asked Eddie as they passed Center Street Drug Store. Ignoring the men, Bev glanced over and saw her old tormentor from school, Gretta Keene, standing behind the counter, blowing bubbles with her Juicy Fruit gum, a bored expression on her vapid face. She resisted the very childish urge to stick her tongue out at the woman. Gretta wasn't looking at her anyway. Bev saw the other woman look over in time to see Eddie in the driver's seat. She seemed to perk up a bit.
'Well, now, that's interesting.' Beverly thought. ' Gretta Keene crushing on Eddie Kaspbrak. I wonder what Eddie would think of that? Ha! I wonder what Richie would think of that?!' She nearly snorted a laugh before catching herself short. Richie didn't even really remember them, he wouldn't think a damn thing about that little bitch crushing on his fake husband.
"Bevvie? You okay?" Ben's thumb stroked her hand. His pretty eyes were worried as he looked down at her.
"Yeah, just thinking." She smiled at him and squeezed his hand.
"Rich, quit fiddling with the radio! You're distracting me. There is nothing wrong with Taylor Swift!" The music switched from a bouncy pop song to an ear-blistering Eminem rap track. "Yeah, okay, this is good, too." Eddie muttered. He still turned it down so it didn't hurt Richie's head.
"Wow, really?" Richie sounded impressed. "You don't strike me as an Eminem fan, babe."
"Fuck you, babe. Don't label me. I'm eclectic." Eddie retorted.
"Oh, yeah, baby, talk dirty to me." Richie laughed, softly. Bev laughed, covering her mouth. Ben shook his head, a smile curving his lips.
"Shut up, dude! That concussion did nothing to improve your manners, that's for sure. You're still as disgusting as ever." Eddie groused.
"You love me. You were about to go all Fight Club on that Mark guy for my honor." Richie reminded him.
"Wait, what?!" Beverly gasped, her eyes shining with delight. Eddie glanced at her in the rear-view mirror, shaking his head. "Eddie, you said the guy was unprofessional! You never said anything about fisticuffs!"
"Fisticuffs? What the fuck, Bev? This isn't West Side Story or Seven Brides for Seven Brothers! The guy was a tool! He was getting all handsy with Rich and not in a professional manner, and he was hurting his head with all the fucking banging around and the goddamn bright lights. He pissed me off so I told him to get the fuck out." Eddie was cautious even now not to yell and cause Richie any pain.
"Eds here went all rabid guard dog on that spoiled little frat boy. It was glorious. My little gladiator." Richie winked at Eddie, who fought a smile while rolling his eyes.
"I'm average height, asshole! I'm not little!"
"Oh, I know. Those tiny shorts of yours leave little to the imagination, darlin'." Richie's voice was low and husky.
"And on that note, we have arrived at our destination." Ben cut in, his voice full of laughter. Bev was giggling like a girl at Eddie's embarrassment. They both got out of the car and waited for the other two to join them.
"Oh, thank God!" Eddie sighed. Richie chuckled, turning and leaning over to press a kiss to Eddie's temple. "Ugh! Get out of my car, you creep." Eddie lightly swatted at him.
"On my own?" Richie teased, already knowing the answer.
"No! Stay there." Eddie unbuckled his own seatbelt and climbed out. Richie groaned softly, tipping his head back as the dizziness returned when he turned his head too fast. "Rich? Rich, you okay?"
"Just a little dizzy spell." He muttered. "Give me a second." He pinched the bridge of his nose gently. Eddie opened the passenger side door and he stooped down to look in on his friend. He watched as Richie slowly blinked his eyes open and tried to focus his eyes. It took a couple of minutes, but finally those pretty blue eyes seemed to clear and Richie sat up.
"Okay?" Eddie asked again, the concern clear in his voice. Richie gave a shaky thumbs up. "All right, let's go. Watch your head, babe. Take my arm."
As Richie clutched his left arm, Eddie slid his free arm around Richie. Ben came around to help Eddie ease Richie out of the car. Eddie hovered as Richie slowly steadied himself. Bev took Ben's hand and led him over to Mike and Bill.
"I think I'm good, Eds, but do you mind walking with me the rest of the way?" Richie's soft voice tugged on Eddie's heartstrings.
"I think you're stuck with me, Tozier. For better or worse." Eddie smiled.
"What a nightmare for you." Richie huffed, self-deprecating smile on his bruised, attractive face.
"Rich, baby, don't you know by now that I'd follow you over a cliff. You don't remember but we've been to hell and back together and there is no one I'd rather stand next to. Now, let's go, handsome, one foot in front of the other. Our friends are waiting."
"Aye, aye, Captain." Richie mock saluted, his heart full of love for this tiny firecracker next to him.
"You are such a dork." Eddie rolled his eyes, taking Richie's hand.
"Takes one to know one, Eds."
"Don't I know it?" Eddie sighed.