Richie Tozier is going to die.
He knows it the second he sees the claw burst through Eddie's chest. Eddie has always been the best and bravest of them: Richie knew that even when no one else did, even when Eddie himself didn't know. Without Eddie, they don't stand a chance of killing It. They are going to lose.
Which is fine by Richie. Because the alternative would be surviving without Eddie, and yeah, no, we're not doing that.
So he’s out. The fight is over. He surrenders. Goodbye, world, we had a… well, a pretty bad run actually. At least Richie himself will be dead, he thinks, before the pain of this loss has a chance to sink in.
The others are still fighting, Bill and Bev and Mikey and Ben He can hear them struggling, shouting. That's good. That feels right to Richie, even though it's hopeless. They are heroes, his friends, and they should go down fighting.
But he, Richie Tozier, is not a hero. Eddie is dying right here and now and Richie never even had the stones to admit that he loved him.
Eddie's eyes closed after he said "I fucked your mom," but he's still breathing shallowly. Richie doesn't know whether he's conscious. He squeezes Eddie's hand but Eddie doesn't squeeze back.
"Oh, fuck it," Richie says out loud. It's too late for both of them, but why not say it, just once? "Eds, I need to be honest with you. I…" He chokes on the words. Ease into it, Trashmouth, he thinks. "I never fucked your mom."
He feels Eddie's fingers move in his hand. Maybe he's still listening after all. "I mean, she begged me to," Richie adds, "but I told her no every time. I just couldn't get it up for her. 'Cause I love you too much."
Eddie's eyelids flutter, and he coughs. Somewhere a million miles away, Bill screams. Eddie keeps coughing, and after a second Richie realizes that coughing is dying-Eddie for laughter.
"Love you too," mutters Eddie, blood on his teeth. "Dick."
“Not like that, you asshole,” he says before he can help himself. Oh, this is going great. Beep beep, Richie tells himself. But no, now that he has started this, he needs to finish if he can. He needs to die knowing that Eddie understood.
"Not like that," he says again. "I don't love you the way you love me. I love you like… you know, the shit Bowers and everyone used to say about me." His glasses are tear-smudged and he can't really see Eddie's face, can't tell if any of this is landing, but he keeps going. "It was all true," he says. "And it was always you. You were my best friend and that should have been enough for me, but it never… God, Eds, you're so special, I always…"
"Jesus Christ, Richie, I don't mean to rush you but I'm dying here," Eddie says, barely a whisper. "Can you shut up and fucking kiss me?"
Richie’s mind goes absolutely blank. He very badly wants to make a joke, but he can't think of a single goddamn thing to say. So, maybe for the first time ever, he does what Eddie says. He shuts up and kisses him.
It's not a good kiss. It's timid and awkward and tastes like blood and Eddie winces in pain and Richie's mouth is horribly dry and running through it all is the sound of their friends killing a fucking monster sewer clown. On the Eddie Kaspbrak Kiss Scale Richie has established over decades of rigorous fantasizing, this is barely a four out of ten.
It's the best kiss of Richie's life.
When their lips part, Eddie murmurs, "I never fucked your mom either." Richie laughs and sobs. "I love you, Rich," Eddie says. "I wish -"
Then he's coughing again, and this time it’s not laughter, his whole body is convulsing and Richie can tell it hurts, but he just waits, holding Eddie in his arms, until Eddie catches his breath enough to finish his sentence. "Wish we had more time."
Richie would give anything in the world to make Eddie's wish come true.
Then he thinks, Well, shit, mine just did.
The impossible thing he has wanted since forever is real. Eddie in his arms, Eddie kissing him back. Eddie - did he really say it? - loving him.
Nightmares come true. Richie has known that since they were kids. But what about wishes?
The rules are different down here. They beat a monster once because they believed they could. Eddie threw that spear and injured It because he believed he could. They got chased by a fucking mutant Pomeranian from hell - okay, not a great example, but still.
He remembers the last time they were down here, 27 years ago. When Ben called Beverly back from that awful place - the one Richie glimpsed, just briefly, before Eddie saved him - with a kiss.
Because Ben believed he could.
That thing was inside Richie’s eyes, inside his head, inside his soul. He felt It, can still feel It in some far-off but insistent way, like a door left open at the other end of a very long hallway. The connection isn’t active right now, but it’s still open.
He can feel that Its attention is not on him. It is no longer a predator toying with its prey. The other Losers are giving It a fair fight. It’s distracted--maybe distracted enough that Richie can get away with something.
Magic is real. Most of the magic Richie has seen in his life has been horrible, ugly, devouring and destroying, but he’s seen enough of the good stuff to know that’s real too. If a giant spider clown from outer space can kill Eddie Kaspbrak, then he, Richie, can fucking well bring him back to life.
Richie slides his arm under Eddie and lifts him gently, until he can wrap his arms all the way around him. Eddie's eyelids are fluttering again, but he meets Richie's eyes, and Richie believes with every muscle in his body and every scrap of his soul that this won't be the last time. He can’t think too much about what he’s trying to do, the actual mechanics of it, or it will all fall apart, but somewhere inside him he reaches for that open door, for the impossible light on the other side of it, and he pulls.
He kisses Eddie again.
This time Richie is gentle but sure. He doesn't rush. He brings his mouth to Eddie's like an offering and their lips move against each other, so warm and real, and Eddie breathes into Richie's mouth and Richie believes they are going to live. He has something, some bright and dangerous burning inside him--this is Its power, but the light itself isn’t terrible, only very strong. Good or evil lies in the entity that wields it, and Richie uses it to believe.
It’s working. He can feel that it’s working.
They kiss slowly, exploring each other's mouths, wordless questions and answers. Okay, this is more like a nine out of ten. Eddie's whole body is limp in Richie's arms at first, like all the strength he has left is going into the kiss. Then one of his hands comes up, his fingers grazing Richie's jaw. It's so exquisitely tender Richie feels more tears rising to his eyes.
Richie's glasses are in the way, so he takes them off, still not breaking the kiss for more than an instant. His heart is thundering. Eddie's hand moves to cup his cheek. His other hand rests on Richie's back, and the weakness of his grasp is painful, but Richie keeps believing. Eddie will get strong again. Eddie will live.
Richie feels Eddie's tongue grazing his lower lip, tentative, and he meets it with his own. Eddie gasps, and for a moment Richie is afraid he's in pain, but then the gasp becomes a sigh, a low sound of satisfaction that sends vibrations through Richie's whole body, and his tongue pushes deeper into Richie's mouth. Richie moans in reply. The Eddie Kaspbrak Kiss Scale doesn't go this high. He will have to recalibrate.
The hallway in Richie’s mind is getting longer, stretching and growing strange like the corridors in the house on Neibolt Street, somewhere far above them. It is getting farther away, or maybe just getting smaller. He can’t reach the deadlights anymore, but it doesn’t matter because the magic has done what he needed it to do. He can feel every deep, shuddering breath Eddie takes. Eddie is not coughing anymore. Eddie is not dying anymore. Eddie is practically buzzing in his arms, he’s so fervent and hot and alive.
It occurs to him that the others are no longer screaming. Maybe we won, he thinks, and he smiles, still kissing Eddie, and feels Eddie smile too. Now Eddie has a hand in Richie's hair, tangled in his curls, pulling Richie in as though there's any way they could be closer together. The kiss stopped being gentle a long time back. It's hungry and deep, and Richie's fingers are digging into Eddie's back and he can feel Eddie's heartbeat, rumbling through his bones, shaking him.
No, that's not just Eddie. Everything is shaking. The ground beneath him, the walls around him. The ringing in his ears isn't just excitement. It occurs to Richie that he's got to be the only person alive who could fail to notice the beginning of a fucking earthquake because he was distracted by being horny.
"Richie!" It's Ben screaming, and Richie finally, reluctantly, pulls his mouth away from Eddie. He hears Eddie's hiss of disappointment crescendo into a cry of alarm as he, too, belatedly realizes that the earth isn't just moving for them. Richie gropes for his glasses and puts them on, not that it does much good, cracked and smeared as they are.
"We're over here!" he yells back to Ben. They need to run, he knows that, but Eddie is still clinging to him and Richie doesn't want to let go, doesn't want to lose the warmth of their bodies pressed together, the reassurance of Eddie's breathing, which is strong and steady now. He hears splashing as the others come closer.
"Richie, we gotta go now," says Bill urgently. "I'm sorry about Eddie, I'm so fucking sorry, but we can't -"
"I'm sorry about your face, asshole," says Eddie, and even through his fucked-up glasses Richie sees Bill's jaw drop.
"Eds is fine," says Richie conversationally. "I saved him with the kiss of true love."
Everyone stares at him for a moment, and then Bev yells "Fucking run!" so they do.
Richie doesn't let go of Eddie's hand, not while they're running, not while they're climbing, not when they claw their way back to the solid ground of Neibolt Street and stand in shocked silence, watching the house collapse into rubble. He doesn't let go for hours.