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to see you there (it's been a long time coming)

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Richie stares at his hands still gripping tightly the steering wheel, engine long shut. He thought that after passing sign ‘WELCOME TO DERRY’ everything else will be easier. He will just come here, stay one night in shitty hotel, give a motivational speech at his old high school about never giving up on your dreams or some cliche shit like that, and then he’ll be gone, back to his shitty life. But of course, fate was a little bitch and so it happened that Mike somehow knew he’d be coming and invited him for dinner to welcome him properly in this hellhole. Needless to say he didn’t really want to do that, but how could he say no to Mike after 27 years of breaking the promise to keep in touch. 

“It’s just a dinner, you’ll be out of here tomorrow,” he says to himself in attempt to calm down. 

He couldn’t quite understand if he was nervous, angry or just frustrated but whatever it was he knew he can ease it with a cigarette. He didn’t really smoke that much, just when he was extra anxious or after sex and either didn’t really happen often. He gropes around in gloves compartment till he finds his emergency pack and pulls one out. After he’s finished with it, he sighs and finally gets out of his car. He urges his hands to stop shaking and puts them in pockets just because he doesn't really trust himself here.

Without any problems, he finds the spot Mike told him on the phone he booked and instantly wishes he didn't. Frozen in place, his eyes jumping from one face to the other, he immediately recognizes them all. The years had done them well. Bill and Mike are laughing by the aquarium, Ben’s not so subtly staring at Beverly who’s talking to no one else than Eddie. The sight of him alone urges Richie to turn around and run before any of them could see him. But he feels as if he can’t move or maybe deep down doesn’t really want to. 

He shakes his head lightly, putting on his scenic alter ego, the only thing that stops him from vomiting on stage. The smile instantly appears on his face and his hands go for the stick to pound the gong before he can even think this through. After all he’s always been the one to grab their attention in any way possible. 

“I guess the unexpected meeting of the losers club has officially begun,” he exclaims as the sound of the gong passes. 

They all turn to him shocked but quickly start laughing. Beverly and Ben are first to get to him. 

“Wow, you two look amazing, what the fuck happened to me?” he asks, laughing, eyes fondly looking at both of them. 

Ben snorts and hugs him, then moves away so Beverly can also greet him. When she pulls away, he notices brush creeping up on her cheek and ears. Ben must’ve seen it too as he frowns in confusion. 

Then it’s respectively Bill and Mike’s turn and then finally it’s Eddie’s. Richie is nicely surprised to see that he’s still a bit taller than Eddie, something he will definitely bring up later. But other than that, a lot has changed in his old best friend. As he wraps his arms around him he can feel muscles and not just bones so Eddie apparently now works out a lot. He’s still lean and not packed like Ben so it’s maybe a new thing or something he just does occasionally. Maybe if they were still friends he’d make Richie workout too. His hair is still short and styled similarly but it’s thinner. His cheeks are hollow but soft, hair there neatly shaved off few hours ago. There are slight wrinkles around his mouth from years of laughter and on his forehead from centuries of worry. Richie lets him go as he fears Eddie might somehow feel or hear pounding of his heart as if it wanted to run out of his chest. 

Eddie flashes him a smile as he walks away to sit down, patting the chair next to him for Richie and so of course that’s where Richie goes. 

They order a round of shots first, Mike’s treat. 

“Cheers!” Bill laughs as they all gulp down their shots. 

Richie watches Eddie from the corner of his eyes and when he feels alcohol running through his veins, he hears himself asking, ”Geez, Eddie, you got married?” Smile wide on his lips, eyes serious and focused. 

Eddie’s head snaps at him, eyes sharp. 

“Yeah, what’s so funny, dickwad?”

“What to like a woman?” he spats before he can think those words over. Thankfully he’s still smiling. 

“Fuck you, bro,” Eddie says, tone serious but eyes sparkling with amusement. 

Other losers laugh loudly. It’s just like the old days. 

“Fuck you!” Richie shouts, laughing and pours himself another drink. 

Eddie shakes his head, smile finally breaking onto his face. It makes Richie feel kind of  proud of himself that he’s still able to to that. He drinks up his alcohol at once. 

“What about you, thrashmouth? You married?” Bill asks causing Richie to almost choke on the last of his drink. 

Beverly snorts at that, “There’s no way, I don’t believe it.”

“Oh I got married,” Richie exclaims, making Eddie look at him wide-eyed. “What, you didn’t know?”

“No,”

“Ah, yeah me and your mum are very, very happy,” Richie says smugly. Bill chokes on his drinks and Beverly turns red from laughter. “Post must’ve lost your invitation,”

“Fuck you,” Eddie mumbles, turning his eyes away from Richie. 

Richie stills shakes with laughter when losers continue with the topic. He hears that Bill is married and Beverly as well or she was at least, she doesn’t say much nor does she use present tense when talking about her husband. Ben and Mike are still single but he could be wrong as his attention is solely focused on Eddie and his reactions to their friends’ stories. It's so pathetic and he knows but it's not like he will have another chance, sooner or later they'll have to leave and go back to their normal lives which no longer include the rest of losers. He knows Eddie noticed him staring but whenever he turns to Richie, he quickly grabs his drink and chugs it down. Getting drunk sounds like a great idea in Richie’s mind. 

“It’s so great to catch up guys,” Beverly says sweetly, looking around at them. “But how come you’re all suddenly here?”

At that Bill frowns and adds,”Yeah, we haven’t exactly kept in touch for the past 27 years. It'a a bit unexpected.”

“Well, I didn’t even know you guys would be here, honestly,” Ben says, grimace of confusion on his face. 

“I got an email inviting me to talk about my job at tomorrow’s graduation,” Richie explains, shrugging but to be frank he does feel quite proud while saying that. 

“What? I was asked to do that!” Beverly looks at Richie shocked. 

“Me too,” both Eddie and Bill say, and Ben nods eagerly. 

“While I can believe them, Eds. There’s no way anyone would ask you to give a speech at a graduation. You’re fucking risk analyst, that’s like the most boring job there is.” Richie frowns dramatically. 

“First of all, don’t call me Eds. Second of all, fuck you. It’s not boring,” Eddie huffs, crossing his arms on his chest. 

“What are the chances of all of us getting asked to speak at this graduation?” Ben wonders out loud, not really expecting an answer. 

Bill studies all of their faces before his eyes stop on Mike. “How about you tell us that, Mike?”

Mike sighs and puts down his food. He truly looks like a deer trapped in the lights. 

“I wrote you those emails,” he stars, keeping his gaze on the table. “I knew it was the only way to make you all come here.”

“What the fuck?!” Eddie voices their all exact thought. 

“We made a promise, we’d always be friends,” Mike explains, looking at them searching for the understanding which no one shows him so he goes on, “And it’s been over 20 years since any of us saw each other. We’re strangers. It’s just like the bond that we share from that summer of ‘89 just disappeared. Like our scars healed, like that was just a nightmare.”

Richie’s head hurts from Mike’s words. He feels betrayed but there’s also this small tug of shame in his heart. 

Beverly stands up first, fury in her eyes clear as day, the one he only ever seen aimed at her father and Henry Bowers. “I can’t believe you, Mike. You know how much we all wanted to leave Derry, to leave those things behind. You had no right to trick us into coming back here.”

She grabs her bag and leaves quickly, Ben following the suit. Eddie also stands up and so does Richie then. 

“But guys we left each other behind and that’s not what we swore,” Mike tries desperately but only Bill is looking at him at this point. Eddie and him are making their way towards the exit. 

Richie only hears a faint “Guys!” before the doors of the restaurant snap shut behind them. Beverly is smoking outside. Ben stands close to her, not letting her out of his sight. Eddie starts pacing back and forth, old nervous habit of his. Richie wants to stand in his way and stop him because his nerves are actually catching on onto Richie and well he’s not exactly the coolest when he’s nervous. He opens his mouth to crack some lame joke but Bill’s there, thankfully. 

“What now?” Ben asks Bill, all losers looking at their old leader. 

Bill sighs and runs his hand through his hair. He’s just as confused as the rest of them but he puts on his usual confident face. 

“Well, I think we all should just think Mike’s words through and decide for ourselves.”

“Decide what?” Beverly asks, her voice shaky and rough from cigarette and pushed back cry. 

“If they were true and if so, if we want to change that,” Bill says calmly, looking at Beverly unsure if she will like what he just said. She doesn’t as she huffs angrily and turns away from Bill but she doesn’t walk back to her car and that gives Bill hope so he continues,”I hate Derry as much as you, but I love you guys and I missed you… And I want to reconnect with you.”

“Oh and we couldn’t just get ourselves a nice group trip to, lets say, Disneyworld. No, we had to some back here,” Richie growls. It’s so ridiculous and fucked up. 

Beverly nods, agreeing with him, and tosses her finished cigarette down. “It’s fucking ridiculous and Mike had no right to do that.”

Bill runs to her and gently grabs her hand. “I’m not saying what he did was right but he had good intentions,” he tells her softly but she’s still not looking at him. He takes a step back then. “Let’s just think about it, ok? We all booked a room for the night so let’s just go there, sleep on this and tomorrow we’ll decide.”

Beverly sighs and nods before she quickly takes off to her car. Ben and Bill are gone next. Now it’s just him and Eddie there. 

“How fucked up it is?” Eddie asks him with laughter. He still looks confused but not as angry as Beverly. 

“On a scale from one to I fucked your mom in your bed?” Richie can’t help himself. 

“Jesus,” Eddie huffs, rolling his eyes and elbows Richie in the ribs. “No wonder someone writes jokes for you.”

Richie turns to him shocked. “‘Scuse me? I write my own jokes, thank you very fucking much.”

Eddie laughs loudly, his head tilted, eyes almost closed. Richie looks away instantly. 

“No fucking way, you suck man.”

Richie snorts, rolling his eyes and want to say another comeback about sucking on his mum before something clicks in his mind.

“You watched my shows?”

It’s Eddie’s turn to stare at him surprised, eyes serious and almost offended, which in turn surprises Richie who didn’t get him to look like this even after his mom jokes. 

“Yeah, of course I did.” The sincerity in his voice causes goosebumps to appear on Richie’s neck and completely baffle him - he’s left searching for appropriate words but can’t any that come even close to what he wants them to express. So he does what he does best.

“Married life is really that boring huh? Anyhow, I’m gonna- gonna run. I’m pretty tired, you know jet-lag and whatnot,” he mumbles as he’s already halfway to his car, leaving frowning but amused Eddie behind. 

He can’t drive away fast enough from him. Even after breaking every law on the way. 

 

*****

 

Of course, he catches up to Richie at the hotel. It just turned out that everyone booked their rooms at Derry Town House. It’s not like it’s only hotel in Derry but it’s the one closest to this side of the town where they used to hang out. 

He runs into Ben and Bill first as they are still in the lobby, talking quietly. From them he learns that Bev already went to lie down and that instantly seems like the best way to spend his remaining time in Derry - laying down and drinking his thought away. Great thing he had mini bar in his room. 

He’s only halfway through the stairs when he hears main door open and Eddie’s cheerful voice greeting Ben and Bill. After that he can’t really make out what they’re saying and then decides that he must stick to his plan so he goes to his room before Eddie can do the same. 

He searches his pocket for that damn key when he hears footsteps echo in the hotel. Maniacally twisting his clothes, he finally finds what he was looking for and quickly unlocks his room. He can swear he sees a glimpse of Eddie’s red jacket in the corner of his eyes before he slides through the door. When he’s safe inside, he sighs and dramatically falls on his bed. The clock shows him that it’s only twelve past eight and he’s not that old yet to fall asleep at this hour. So he gets up to fulfill the other part of his great plan. 

The mini bar here is almost empty to his dismay, but still holds two cans of beer and one small vodka. “That’ll have to do,” he mumbles to himself as he shuts it loudly. 

As he sits on his bed and reaches for remote, he hears light knocking. At first he ignores it, telling himself it’s just in his head but then the knocking’s louder, more demanding but still a bit unsure judging by how infrequent it is. Richie frowns and gets up to open hesitantly. 

“Eddie?” he asks dumbfound, looking at other man with raised brows.

“Expected someone else?” Eddie laughs, frowning a little and then sudden realization washes over his face. "And don’t say my mother.”

Richie laughs loudly, moving to the side to let Eddie in. “Nah, she’s coming over later, didn’t want you to see us but I guess I have to tell her you already know.”

“Asshole,” Eddie mumbles and elbows Richie lightly. 

“Maybe you can tell her yourself since you’re here already,” Richie says, kicking the door shut and walks over to sit next to Eddie on his bed, keeping the safe distance. “And why are you here exactly?” he asks, voice softer and a bit curious. 

Eddie smiles and looks at the wall in front of them, his face puzzled and unsure, like he’s only now thinking of the reason. 

“Oh I just wanted to talk to you, you kind of ran away from the restaurant,” he says, glancing at Richie. 

“I had to pee, like really badly,”

Eddie scrunches his nose like he doesn’t believe him but then shakes his head and drops that topic.

“Anyway, I just wanted to know what did you think about what Mike’s said.”

“Well, I think he said the truth. We did stop being friends.” Richie shrugs. He had no problem accepting that, especially given that that was something he desperatly wanted back then. No Eddie, no feeling but obliviously nothing ever works out in Richie's favor. 

“Do you regret it?” Eddie asks, voice barely above the whisper. 

Richie frowns and looks at his shoes, old dirty Nikes look so weird next to Eddie’s well-polished loafers. 

“I don’t know. Sometimes I think it’s better that we did,” he says reluctantly and looks up at Eddie who’s thinking over Richie’s words. 

Then when he’s done, he looks right into Richie’s eyes, making him almost forget how to breathe. “I don’t. I really did miss you guys, when I heard about Stan I-,” he pauses, searching for something in Richie’s eyes. “I really missed you, you were my best friend and I wish you’d still be.”

Richie’s jaws almost literally drops at his words and he finds himself speechless again. He really wants to hate Eddie for making him like this, for the sincerity in his big, brown, beautiful eyes, for the softness in his voice, for being Eddie. For always having this power over Richie, for making him weak. But of course he's helpless. 

“I’ll stay,” Richie hears himself say and more importantly sees Eddie smile. “But only so I can fuck your mom in your childhood bed again,” he adds quickly, making Eddie’s smile wider and his elbow directly hit his stomach. They both start laughing. 

 

*******

 

Next day Richie wakes up with a headache. It’s not his usual migraine from too much drinking and too many loud noises, nor it’s the niggling pain he gets if he stays up too late the night before. It’s the kind of pain he feels when this mind’s trying to make him realize the mistake he’s made and urging him to back off while he still can. But it’s too late now. 

He reaches lazily for his phone on the nightstand and instantly sits up when he sees what time it is and how many texts he’s got from the losers. Fancy a brunch? Eddie and Mike are in. Bev too. We’ll meet at 11 in hotel’s diner. Are you up yet? Richie? Get up loser!!! There's also one from his outraged manger after he texted him late last night that he's taking a small break and he can reschedule or cancel the shows he's supposed to have this week. He ignores that one.

Richie groans after he finishes reading all the texts. He jumps out of bed and quickly puts on new boxers and the only pair of jeans he’s brought. He also picks up last’s night yellow shirt with little crosses all over, after deciding it’s still quite fresh and doesn’t stink yet. He’s ready to go when he remembers he probably should brush his teeth and turns to the bathroom. After he’s done and about halfway to the diner he checks time again and smiles to himself proudly, 11:08 - he’s got ready in under five minutes. However others are less than impressed. 

“Man, we thought you won’t show,” Ben says with laughter as he notices Richie stumbling to their table. 

“Not an early worm, eh?” Beverly asks amused and ruffles his hair after he’s sat next to her. 

Richie can only groan at that and shake his head which causes his friends to laugh. 

“What can I say, I’m a star now, I sleep till noon everyday,” he huffs, rolling his eyes. 

All of them order their brunches, Eddie of course taking the longest with his list of things he shouldn’t, can’t and definitely can’t eat before he settles on the pancakes with fruits. Richie is too busy with watching him that he forgets to check menu for himself so he just adds ‘same for me’ after waitress notes everything down from Eddie. Eddie turns to him surprised and wiggles his eyebrows to make Richie laugh and he of course successes. 

“Have you guys decided?” Bill asks then, tone serious but warm. 

Ben speaks up first, “I’m staying,” and then looks at Beverly, anticipating her answer.

“Me too,” Eddie says with a soft smile.

Beverly glances at Richie unsure, wanting to hear his decision first. Richie looks at his friends, eyes staying a bit longer on Eddie before he replies casually, “Well I have a week off anyway and since I’m too annoying for other people to stand me, I guess you’re stuck with trashmouth for a few days.”

“Then I’m staying too, don’t want you to have all the fun without me,” Beverly says, smile confident but voice a bit shaky. 

Bill smiles widely and raises his coffee, “To losers!”

The rest follows his example, raising their mugs with laughter. “To losers!”

They eat their brunches, talking and laughing. They mostly talk about the lives they have now, their jobs and adventures, carefully avoiding mentioning the past. Even though everyone is aware, no one tries to break the circle - not even Mike. Whenever the bubble they created is dangerously close to popping, Richie steps in with some joke or funny remark and not even Eddie has the strength to stop him from laughing about his job or his mother. It’s all good on the surface. 

“I’m thinking we should go on a trip down the memory lane,” Mike suggest when they’ve all finished eating and almost run out of stories to tell. Beverly looks at him warily, hoping he’ll say it’s just a joke but he doesn’t. “It will be good for us,” he says seriously and no one is stupid enough to argue. 

They leave the Inn and head for the woods. Walk through Derry brings even more memories, the buried and hoped to never be remembered ones. Richie shivers and keeps his head down and his hands in his pockets. No one says anything, all lost in their heads, till they finally find themselves outside town, in what's left from Barrens. 

“Somewhere around here should be our clubhouse,” Bill mumbles, faint smile on his lips. 

“Oh yeah, the one Ben built for us,” Beverly says, voice proud and finally cheerful. 

Ben smiles bashfully, looking around the ground to spot the entrance. “I think it’s somewh-,” words get lost as he collapses down, after stepping too hard on the weak piece of wood they used to cover the entrance down. “Found it,” he groans weakly. “I’m fine!”

The worry that passed over Beverly face changes into amusement, she shakes her head and goes down the now exposed ladder. Then the rest of losers follow. 

When Richie’s feet touch the dirty ground in the clubhouse, his eyes immediately go to the place where the hammock used to be. It’s still kind of there, hanging only on one side, other laying on the floor and it hits Richie. 

 

The hammock is definitely too small to fit two people but it doesn’t stop Eddie from getting in, opposite of Richie only to spite him. Their legs are next to each others faces, butts almost touching at the lowest point but neither of them wants to be the one to get up. So they stay like this even after everyone else went home, Richie glancing up from his comic book every now and then, Eddie focused on his. Still he fears that Eddie will catch it. 

He knows he should just let go, he should go home and stop kidding himself. But he just can’t. Something heavy tugs at his heart and maybe instead of dragging it into the sea, he should let go of the anchor. Maybe this is it.

“Rich, do you think we’ll really stay friends?” Eddie asks suddenly, eyes focused now only on Richie, comic book forgotten on the ground, and somehow Richie knows he means just the two of them. 

“Sure, Eddie Spaghetti, you’re stuck with me forever,” Richie says, no doubt in his voice. 

Eddie smiles softly, worry gone from his features. 

“I hate your nicknames,” he mumbles as he nudges Richie’s cheek with his foot gently. 

Richie catches his ankle to stop him but his grip is too weak to really do that. Eddie seems to know and doesn’t try to wiggle out of his hands. They both don’t say anything after that, but the silence is comfortable, warm. Their eyes are locked on each other, just because. Richie feels his heart slower. Maybe this is it. 

He slowly leans forward, moving his hands from Eddie’s ankle to grab the edges of hammock to keep it steady. Eddie watches him carefully and doesn’t move. Richie’s closer now, inches away from Eddie’s face. He just needs to lean a tiny bit closer, tilt his head, gently bump his nose against Eddie’s and then-,”BEEP”.

Richie jumps up, rocking the hammock so much they almost fall out. Eddie blushes like crazy and looks at his watch, turning it off. Richie feels like his heart is about to jump out of his chest and he honestly hopes it will. He leans back into his end of hammock, fixing his glasses with his finger and urges his cheeks to stay normal color. 

“Great timing,” Eddie says, chuckling a little, eyes still fixed on his watch, but Richie doesn’t even hear him. 

The thoughts run through his mind, case scenarios unfolding before his eyes, each worse than the other. Foolish that was, creepy and inappropriate. He acted before he thought and now he has to cover it up, he has to do something before-

“You are awfully quiet for a trashmouth,” Eddie’s quiet voice interrupts his train of thoughts.

Richie looks up at him with wide eyes. Eddie smiles softly, eyes unsure but cheerful, yet Richie can sense that he’s mocking him. Trashmouth’s suddenly out of annoying comments or offensive jokes and Eddie doesn’t like that - Richie can see how he tensed up, how uncomfortable he’s got. He needs to go. 

“I-um, I have to-,” he mumbles, words barely even audible to him, and he can’t get out from hammock fast enough. He almost stumbles on his knees, after losing his balance, avoiding any part of him to touch or even brush against Eddie. 

“Richie,” Eddie calls after him, confused and maybe hurt or maybe angry, but Richie can’t listen to him because tears of humiliation are threatening to spill and no fucking trashmouth ever cries. He leaves while Eddie calls his name one more time. 

 

Richie makes himself look away and go to the other end of the room. That day still feels like it happened yesterday, like he just got his heart crushed and now he has to avoid Eddie at all costs. His 13 year old self was longing, pinning and hurting for Eddie to see him, to see him as someone else than a trashmouth, to see the feelings he kept hidden deep. But he didn’t. Now a 40 years old Richie has no illusions, but can’t exactly decide which one is more hurtful. 

His friends are still quiet, each of them reviving their own memories. He kind of wants to know what keeps Eddie silent but knows better than to asks and crush his delusions. He thinks of how he can make them all snap out of it and an awfully good idea pops into his head.

“Now you’ll float too,” he says in low, creepy voice that sends shivers down his own back. “You’ll float too, you’ll float too,” he laughs just like Pennywise used to. 

Beverly gasps, standing up quickly, Ben and Bill quickly coming up next to her, Mike and Eddie take as many steps back as they can. All of them except to see the clown but then Richie jumps out, making them wince and groan with anger.

“Should I do the dance too?” Richie asks, grinning widely, very amused by his friends’ reactions. He awkwardly attempts to replicate Pennywise’s moves. 

“You asshole,” Beverly says and reaches for a cigarette. 

“Fuck you, man,” Eddie gasps, clearly out of breath at the thought of seeing the clown again. His hand still holding onto his fanny pack like his life depends on it. It's comforting to know that some things never change. 

“Very funny,” Bill remarks, rolling his eyes and turns around to check the rest of the room. 

Richie shrugs innocently with shit-eating grin on his face. He wants to joke about others being pussies but words dry on his tongue when Bill shows losers what he’s found. For loser’s use only - Stanley. 

"So we won’t have spiders in our hair,” says Beverly, her voice soft, almost a whisper.

Eddie takes a shower cap from Bill and smiles fondly at it. “He always had the best ideas,” he murmurs, putting on his cap. He looks ridiculous. The rest of them does the same, even Richie. Now they all look ridiculous.  

“I can’t believe he’s gone,” Richie says, frowning. 

Beverly closes her eyes and takes a deep breath, Ben’s hand on her shoulder in an attempt to comfort her. 

“I can’t believe I couldn’t even come to h-his f-funeral,” Bill whispers ashamed. “I was hal-half-fway before it really h-hit me and I couldn’t make myself get on the last train.”

“I was there but I stood so far that I felt like an intruder,” Mike confesses, eyes fixed on the ground. 

“When I found out it was too late to come here,” Eddie mumbles. 

“When I found out, I got so drunk that I couldn’t remember my name the next day,” Richie admits, sad smile on his lips. 

“He always thought he was the weakest, when in the end he was the strongest,” Beverly says on the verge of crying. 

Richie sighs, looking up at the ceiling. Stan must be disappointed in Richie. He keeps living in his pile of lies, he never lets anyone get to close, he doesn’t have the balls to admit why to others and to himself. Stan was always the one who could see past his bullshit and into his soul, he could see all the things Richie tried to hide and cover up. Now there’s no one who can just roll their eyes and stop Richie from fucking up his already fucked up life. 

Suddenly the room feels like it’s about to collapse, the the old bales are about to break and the ground is about to cover them up forever like it did to Stanley. He has to get out. 

He runs to ladder without any explanation, tossing his shower cap somewhere on the ground and when losers start calling after him, he’s already on the ground above them. He bends down, putting his head between his knees and breathes deeply. 

“Rich, are you ok?” he hears familiar voice and feels gentle hand on his shoulder. 

When he doesn’t reply, Eddie crouches in front of him, face pale and eyes wide, hand now moved from shoulder to his wrists, grip tighter.

“Richie?” The name sounds so sweet on Eddie’s lips and it’s said so gently, so worried that it snaps Richie back into reality. 

“I’m fine,” he breaths, not moving yet because he likes to feel Eddie so close, his hand still on his wrist. “I’m fine, really. Suddenly, it just started to feel a little claustrophobic in there, that’s all.”

Eddie nods like he understands. “So if not back to the club house, where do you want to go?”

Richie huffs, "The fuck would I know, where does the rest want to go?”

Eddie snorts and shakes his head, “Well, they all kind of want to go to some places alone, so that’s why I’m asking you, fuckface.”

Richie straightens up, losing Eddie’s touch in progress, but he has to get a good look at him. 

“Don’t you want to go someplace alone?”

Eddie frowns and looks at Richie like he’s a complete idiot, it’s the same look he wore everyday back when they were young.

“‘Course no, I didn’t stay here for the fucking views,” he huffs, rolling his eyes. He takes out a travel size bottle of hand sanitizer, rubbing the liquid gently but thoroughly n his skin.

He offers some to Richie but he just shakes his head and can’t help a wide smile. He puts his arm around Eddie’s shoulders, ignores the warmth the contact gives him and turns them into the direction of town. 

“I can only think of one proper place in this shitty town, Eds.”

“If you call me that again, I will go bother Bill, I swear.”

“Hush, Eddie Spaghetti, I know you love me best,” Richie laughs, even if the words feel so painfully empty to him, they manage to make Eddie laugh as well and that’s enough. 

 

*****

 

“What the fuck?” Richie stares in disbelief at the ruined building that used to be the Arcade. The windows are too dusty to allow him to take a look inside so he just busts the doors open. 

“Richie, you do know that’s felony?” Eddie shouts after him in panicked voice, not stepping inside. 

“Eds, you do know that no one gives a shit?” Richie glances at him and smiles cheekily. 

As he ventures further inside, he eventually hears quiet footsteps following him. 

“If they fucking arrest us, I’m telling you made me do it,” Eddie complains, running a little to catch up with Richie. 

“You could’ve waited outside, if you’re so scared, Eds,” Richie states and looks at Eddie knowingly.

“Don’t call me that,” is all Eddie mumbles in response, avoiding Richie’s gaze at all costs. 

Richie laughs and wants to continue their conversation to mess with Eddie some more but he spots his old favorite machine and drops the idea. Street fighter took a crazy amounts of time from his teenage self but he can’t say he regrets it. He was fucking ace at that game.

“Do you think it still works?” he asks Eddie excited and before he can answer, Richie already rummages the machine trying to get it to work. 

“I fucking hope not,” Eddie huffs, rolling his eyes at Richie’s poor and completely unsuccessful attempts. “You could be here a whole day, just playing on that stupid thing, it was almost impossible to drag you away,” he says, now it’s with amusement but Richie can still remember the time when it was with anger and jealousy. 

“I was fucking awesome and you and guys just envied me.” Richie shrugs, attention still focused on the machine. 

Eddie huffs and crosses his arms on his chest as he watches Richie struggle with turning on the machine. 

“Piece of crap!” Richie shouts, banging his fists on the broken buttons. 

“Did it ever occur to you that there may not be electricity?”

“Oh, shut up, Eds,” Richie groans making Eddie laugh loudly and now he can’t even pretend to be annoyed. “Do you always have to be such a smartass, Eddie Spaghetti?”

“No, it’s just you who’s a dumbass,” Eddie laughs shrugging. “And you were supposed to be done with nicknames?”

Richie rolls his eyes, ”I was also supposed to be done with you mother but she’s too damn good to let her go.” 

“Fuck you, I’m going back to the hotel,” Eddie says, turned up corners of his lips revealing that he’s only pretending to be mad. Nevertheless, Richie watches him go. 

When he’s alone, he sighs looking around the empty room. It’s suddenly so much less exciting and appealing being here. Broken machines, ruined booths and dirt around him similarly as repulsive as the thoughts that are filling Richie’s mind. Henry Bowers knew that, even back then. 

 

“Get the fuck out of here, faggot!” Bowers shouts and Richie takes a few steps back. “Now, I don’t want to fucking look at you, you’re fucking disgusting!”

Now Richie turns to run out of the Arcade, away from shocked and repelled faces. But when he’s outside, he can still hear Bower’s words, shattering in his head. Before he notices tears are streaming down his cheeks and his vision gets blurry. He feels like a child as he plops down on the grass and hides his face between his knees, glasses digging painfully into his face. He feels so powerless and hopeless just like a fucking child, only a child can’t be disgusting and repulsive like he is. 

His head starts to hurt from crying and crashing thoughts so he lies down but relief doesn’t come. 

“What are you doing Richie?” he suddenly hears Eddie ask and lie down next to him. He furiously wipes his eyes with his hand.

“Looking at the stars, you dumbfuck,” he mutters, words more harsh than needed. He glances at Eddie to see if he’s upset but as soon as he does, worry flashes over Eddie’s face. He’s probably never seen Richie cry before.

“What happened?”

“I think I may be allergic to new condoms I used with you mom,” he says, but it’s flat, not heated, fake. 

Eddie doesn’t reply and Richie closes his eyes, hoping both hurt and Eddie will go away. But it doesn’t happen. Instead Eddie reaches for his hand, gripping it tightly in his own so Richie can’t take it back without a fight. Richie lets out a nasty sound, something like a sob, but he mutes it at the end so he doesn’t look like even bigger wuss. He squeezes Eddie’s hand and he squeezes right back. 

“My mom would never used condoms, 'cause they give you cancer,” Eddie whispers, imitating his mother high-pitched worried voice. 

Richie laughs, quietly at first but then the sound grows louder, bubbling out of is chest. Eddie joins him, still holding onto his hand. Suddenly Henry Bower’s words are a million lighting years away.  

 

Richie shivers at the memory and just like he did 27 years ago he runs out of the Arcade, all his deep fears triggered - he can even hear Bower’s words and laughter that followed them. 

Once he’s safe outside, he fishes out his emergency pack of cigarettes and quickly lights one. Thoughts growing more silent with every drag. 

“You know that those things kill statistically 1,300 people every day?” Richie turns instantly in the direction of the voice. 

Eddie leans against a bench, his arms crossed and brows burrowed. He looks weirdly pale in this light somehow older and younger at once. Richie looks away quickly. 

“Huh, maybe soon I’ll be one of those lucky bastards,” Richie huffs, taking one last drag and flicking his cigarette onto the sidewalk. 

Eddie frowns, his eyes wandering around Richie’s face, focused and concerned. 

“Did you feel claustrophobic again?” he asks, voice soft but serious and it scares Richie. 

“Fuck you,” is what he says in the answer, not knowing what’s worse - Eddie mocking him about that or Eddie actually being worried about him. “Weren’t you going back to the hotel, Eddie Spaghetti?”  he asks after a moment of silence between them.

“I was, but some memories held me back,” Eddie says softly, choosing to ignore the nickname, and Richie knows what he’s talking about all too well. He puts his hands into the pockets of his jacket, swaying on his heels, waiting for Eddie to continue, to laugh about Richie being such a wuss that day, but he says nothing more. And Richie refuses to be he one to acknowledge that day, he lets it get buried in his mind again, only to be dragged out on his worst nights. 

“We should go,” Richie mutters under his breath, glancing at Eddie before walking away in the direction of their hotel. 

Eddie stares at him puzzled, a little shocked but follows him nonetheless without another word. 

 

*****

 

Other losers aren’t back yet when Eddie and Richie make it to Derry Town House. It makes Richie anxious and a bit excited to be left alone with Eddie again. It’s the same like when they were younger - Richie always longed for moments of just the two of them but he was also scared shirtless and more often than not he let them pass him by making some stupid excuse. He opens his mouth to do that same thing but Eddie’s faster. 

“Let’s order some food and find the shittiest movie in the TV,” he says excited but must see Richie’s expression because he adds instantly, "It will make time go faster till others get here.”

Richie fixes his glasses then puts both his hands into pockets of his jacket. He wants to refuse, say that he’s tired and he’s going to nap instead and Eddie would understand, Richie knows that. But there’s this hope in Eddie’s eyes and it's flickering and hiding behind excitement but it’s there and Richie always hated when anyone crushed that hope and made Eddie upset - he would hate himself forever if it was ever him. 

“I think I have sex tape I made with your mother, it qualifies,” Richie shrugs, grinning and turns to the stairs as soon as he notices pure happiness radiating off Eddie. “Although I’m not sure if you can see anything else than her big fat ass,”

Eddie elbows him at that, huffing unimpressed, “Beep, beep Richie.”

They go to Eddie’s room as he’s got bigger TV there and decently filled mini bar which Richie’s surely going to change - there’s no way he’ll be able to survive being alone with Eddie in his room sober.

“Did you fucking cleaned in here?” are Richie’s first words when he enters Eddie’s room. It’s perfectly shiny and smells like Eddie’s cologne and strong chemicals. “Are those your own sheets?!” 

Eddie looks rather proud of himself than ashamed. “Yeah, you have no idea how badly they clean these places, you can catch Staphylococcus or Salmonella, not to mention mites,” he lists off, face serious and stern, and Richie can’t help but smile fondly. 

“Sounds deadly,” he laughs as he throws himself onto nicely made bed, ruining pillow arrangements but Eddie doesn’t seem to mind. He sits down next to him, tight barely few inches away from Richie’s hand. Not trusting himself, Richie quickly reaches for the remote from the nightstand and starts flipping channels till he finds something that catches his eyes. Eddie at the same time calls down stairs and orders some room service but it takes him ages as he needs to list off everything that makes him allergic first. Richie feels kind of proud when he realizes he’d remembered most of those things. They settle on watching some comedy starring Adam Sandler and Eddie orders them both large vegetarian pizza and piece of cheesecake for Richie. It’s quite perfect. 

Sitting so close to Eddie, on his bed, laughing at shity jokes and eating pizza carefully over a big plate so no crunches land on the sheets - it feels so domestic, so homely and for the first time in years Richie wants to hold onto this. He’s not sure why it’s different with Eddie than with anyone else but it is. Usually he doesn’t even invite his casual hookups to his place, his longest relationship lasted approximately six months and that’s only because most of it was long distance. He’s told himself that it’s because he feels better alone, that he’s not good with compromise, that he works and travels a lot, that his bed is too small to fit two people. But he knows that those are just poor excuses he makes for his refuse to really commit to somebody. But if that someone was Eddie Kaspbrak he-

Before his train of thoughts can gain any really speed, ringing makes it crash. He can’t help but look who’s calling Eddie and he instantly wishes he didn’t. 

“It’s you wife,” he says, hoping Eddie doesn’t hear his shaky voice. 

“Hmm? Oh, just let it go to voicemail, I’ll call her later,” Eddie mumbles, eyes fixed on TV. 

“Maybe it’s important,” Richie nags and hands Eddie his phone making him sigh. 

“If it is, she’ll call me another ten times,” he reasons and rejects the call. “She probably just wanted to remind me to take my pills and wear warms layers.”

Richie bites on his lower lip but he just can’t let it go now. “Well it is important.”

Eddie looks at him then perplexed and chuckles quietly. However his expression changes and now he’s serious like there’s something on his mind and he needs someone to help him carry it. 

“You know, things between me and Mayra are kind of...off, have been for some time now,” he reveals, doping his gaze on the sheets, movie still plays in the background but now it’s just a noise. 

Richie sits straighter after hearing that, his heart speeding up. 

“You two are having problems?” he asks in soft voice, hope leaking right through it. 

Eddie sighs and scratches his neck, looking slightly embarrassed and kind of miserable, suddenly older than Richie ever seen him. 

“Yeah, she’s very protective and I know she tries to control me or she actually does control me and I don’t always mind it - you know, sometimes it’s very helpful, I don’t have to worry much but sometimes she really reminds me of the thing my mother did and then I try to draw the line but she doesn’t want to listen and acts as if that means I don’t love her anymore which - I do, and,” Eddie goes on still but Richie can’t really hear it. 

He feels his heart suddenly stop but the blood still somehow rushes to his head and gives him a headache. Shame washes over him like iced water, jabbing and bruising and burning. He tries to ignore it as he turns his attention back to Eddie and soothing warmth radiating off him. At least he should pretend that he's not completely shitty friend.

“She also wants to have kids, and I do too, but she can’t accept the fact that she needs to change in order to have them and takes it out on me. Sometimes I feel so hopeless around her,” Eddie ends his waterfall of words but Richie is still drowning. He can’t take it anymore. 

“Woah, Eds, it sounds so fucked up,” he chuckles but it’s dry, ironic, spiteful. “Maybe you should tell this to a fucking therapist,” he huffs and turns back to the screen. 

“Fuck you,” Eddie utters under his breath and Richie just waits for the rest - the yelling, telling him to get out, the anger - but nothing comes. 

Eddie doesn’t move like he’s frozen in place, maybe defeated, maybe too tired or too proud. He stays and they watch the movie in silence. It’s killing Richie. 

Silence was something he always hated, always tried to prevent it by saying whatever rolled off his tongue first. Now he knows that there’s nothing he can say and it’s all on him. 

Movie ends finally but none of them dares to do anything so after some obnoxious commercials there is another one, this time something more of a Hallmark special. They are almost halfway through when their phones vibrate with messages. 

“Bill asks if we want to go with them to this pub nearby,” Eddie says before Richie can even unlock his phone. His tone is normal and if he can pretend that that conversation before didn’t happen, so gladly could Richie. 

“Fuck yes, I’ve already drunk most of my mini bar anyway,” Richie exclaims happily, shrugging and gets up from Eddie’s bed. 

Eddie laughs and it’s so genuine that it puzzles Richie so bad, he almost wants to ask why but then decides he’d rather not push his luck too far. Maybe Eddie is a really good actor. 

“Let’s change and then we’ll meet with Bill, Ben and Bev at the lobby,” Eddie says. 

Richie nods with a smile and walks out quickly before Eddie’s mood might change. He takes a quick shower and changes into a clean t-shirt that has some band logo on it and his jeans, then brushes his teeth and tries to comb his hair with his fingers, kidding himself that it’s just like styling it. He even shaves and sprays some cologne. However, Richie he can see in the bathroom mirror still looks like shit - it’s mostly the dullness on his face mixed with sadness in his eyes that does that trick. There’s nothing he can do with it though so he just closes his room and goes down stairs where others are already waiting. 

Bill and Mike both went for the more casual style just like Richie while Ben opted for a button up that hugs his muscular body. He’s definitely the eye candy in their group which makes Richie feel happy for ol’ Haystack but also a bit jealous and insecure. Then he turns his gaze to other star of losers, Beverly who looks as beautiful as always yet somehow even more so. Her dress is silky and dark, leaving little for the imagination but it’s truly in her eyes and smile, the new-found confidence and happiness which makes her breathtaking. And then there’s Eddie. Richie only spares him a glance yet his cheeks still feel a little hotter. He doesn’t look any different than usually - he's neatly shaved, his hair combed back but instead of a polo he's wearing a normal navy shirt, black blazer replaced his colorful hoodies and the jeans, god, the jeans are so wonderfully tight on his legs that Richie has trouble catching his breath. His shoes however are still the same, some loafers with supportive soles. Basically, now he looks like a hot teacher instead of his usual look of divorced father of five who drives a Volvo and still uses Nokia. Richie's deep in shit and forces himself to look anywhere else but Eddie.

“Lookin’ sharp, Richie,” Beverly comments with a cheeky smile to which Richie just rolls his eyes and waves his hand like an embarrassed 10 year old. 

“Yeah, you’re hoping for some action tonight?” Bill asks, smiling knowingly, Eddie nods his head with agreement. 

“Yeah, Eddie’s mom isn’t putting out too often now,” he laughs, shrugging. “Gotta start looking for something new. Mike, your mom is still hot, right?”

“Beep, beep Richie,” Mike mutters, unimpressed but quite clearly amused. 

Everyone laughs at that and then they all head out for the pub. It’s definitely better than the old ruin that used to attract only regular drunks - now its repainted and renewed inside welcomes quite a crowd even on Thursday night. Thankfully, they still manage to find free table that is big enough to fit all of them. 

“First round is on me,” Mike says, grinning. 

Richie strategically rushes to claim a seat next to Beverly, Bill's on his other side guarding him form Eddie. 

After two rounds, the second one on account of Bill, they get loose enough to laugh about things that they feared just this morning. They laugh about Derry and Pennywise and even Henry Bowers. Then after third round on Ben they laugh about everything. Richie somehow is able to mute his usual jokes that one could consider offensive only because he doesn't want to go to far and enrage Eddie. Instead he just laughs loudly and drinks quickly.

Mike breaks their drunken bliss first as gets up first when he notices a familiar face in the crowd and whistles follow him up until he takes that friendly-looking women out on the dance floor. 

“Get some Mikey!” Richie laughs but Mike and his friend don’t seem to hear it. He takes it as his cue to get up for more drinks, Bill following to help him carry them. 

“Six shots of tequila, please,” he tells the bartender over the counter whose cologne fills his nostrils with sweet scent. The bartender flashes him a smile and gets to work. 

Richie turns, his back against the counter, arms spread, eyes flickering between the dance floor and their table. 

“What’s with you man?” Bill asks, stepping into his view. 

“What do you mean?” Richie frowns, slightly shifting to still have a good sight of their table. 

“Did something happen?” Bill’s unyielding though, his head tilts towards the direction of their group. 

“You realize I’m not actually a God and I can’t read your mind?” Richie acts oblivious. 

Thankfully, before Bill can elaborate there’s a girl next to them, around 25 with long hair and nervous smile. She asks Bill for a dance, adding that it would be totally awesome to dance with her favorite author and that gets Bill who’s always been soft for compliments. 

“Remember to not have too much fun, you’re married for god's sake!” Richie calls as they go on dance floor and Bill flips him off in the response. Richie chuckles at that. 

“What’s so funny?” he hears suddenly and turns around surprised. The bartender looks at him intently, smile on his lips, head slightly tilted. 

“My friend’s just a real trashmouth,” he says, doing his best Bill and waving his hand dismissively. “Always says the most obnoxious shit.”

The bartender laughs, louder and longer than it’s advised. Then as he hands Richie the tray with tequila shots, he bats his lashes in a way that Richie knows is supposed to be suggestive. If they were back in LA, Richie would have go for it, flirt till his shift is over, go to his place and leave before sundown. But they aren’t, they're in Derry. 

“Thanks,” he mumbles, winking at him before he turns away as quickly as he can while carrying the tray. 

He walks back to the table, noticing that only Beverly and Eddie are left there. They’re talking, faces changing from serious to amused every now and then. Richie stops and lets himself listen for a little while. 

“I believe in you Bev, you’re honestly the biggest badass out of all of us,” Eddie says, grabbing her hand gently.

“Thanks, Eddie. It’s so good to talk to somebody who understands,” she says and Richie knows she’s smiling widely. 

“Yeah, we both must be equally fucked up,” Eddie laughs and Beverly joins him at once. 

Richie starts moving again. “Are we laughing at how stupid Eddie looks with his fanny packs?” he asks, grinning as he sits down in his chair. “It’s about time you’d knew the truth.”

“Fuck you, Rich,” Eddie sighs, laughter still hiding in the crooks of his face. “Fanny packs are actually back in style.”

“That’s true!” Beverly giggles, nudging Richie who winces and makes a obnoxiously shocked face, sending both Eddie and Bev into another fit of laughter. 

Ben comes back to the table and looks at Richie with a raised brow and smile. When Beverly finally calms down, he wastes no time and asks her sweetly if she’d like to dance. She seems caught by a surprise and agrees hesitatingly, taking his hand. Now it’s just Eddie and Richie again. 

“He’s still got it so bad for her,” Eddie says, shaking his head lightly. 

"Poor Haystack," Richie comments and takes a shot, tequila burning his throat comfortingly. 

"Why?"

"Cause young love is the worst one you can ever catch. It's painful and not worth the heartbreak," Richie explains despite himself, words derisive but truthful. 

Eddie’s intense stare makes him shift in his chair and fix his glasses twice because of how uncomfortable it is. Like he’s reading right through him, some pages wrong and confusing and some pitiful and pathetic. Richie doesn't need to look up to know that Eddie doesn't like what he's reading. He knows he waits for more from Richie, for some joke or obnoxious comment but Richie's mind is blank and his heart isn't in it.

He gets up then, so sudden it startles Eddie.

“Gotta take a piss,” he explains halfheartedly as he turns away, not bothering to check if Eddie believes him, he probably doesn’t. 

Richie stumbles to the exit, groping his pockets for cigarettes. His hands are a bit shaky as he lights one up, standing outside the pub, cold air cooling and calming him down second by second. 

“I forgot how cold it can get here,” he hears behind him and before he can move there’s a hand taking his lighter. “But it’s really nice,” Beverly adds as she exhales the smoke. 

“Want my jacket?” Richie asks, looking at her with a soft smile. 

She flashes him a smile but shakes her head, then focuses her gaze on the street in front of them, looking at nothing in particular. 

“I thought I’d never come back here,” she sighs as she takes another drag. 

Richie nods, glancing at her. 

“I know someone who’s glad you did,” Richie chuckles, nudging her lightly. 

She’s quiet for a moment, just smoking and thinking. Then she sighs again and turns to Richie with a sad smile. 

“Ben’s really great guy, nothing like Tom or any of my exes,” she says, wistfulness clear in her voice. 

Richie cracks a similar smile, he understands so well. Although his wishes are different than hers they are about just as unreachable and impossible for them to grand. 

“What are you going to do?”

“I have no idea. Not break his heart, hopefully,” she replies, same ghost of smile still on her lips.

“That’s going to be hard, you always were a little heartbreaker, miss,” he says, doing his impression of Casanova and despite how bad it is, he manages to get her to laugh. 

Beverly relaxes then, standing straighter, hair swept back because of the wind. She finishes her cigarette and looks at Richie.

“And what are you going to do?” she asks innocently with a sly smile. 

“About what?” He turns to her surprised although he suspects he knows what she’s about to say. 

She gives him a pointed look that means she’s not going to take his bullshit, and says, “You know what,” then just to corner him she mouths ‘eddie’. 

Richie’s brain starts wiring fast, looking for any reasons, clues and most importantly available excuses. Beverly’s patient, unwavering eyes are set on him almost like she knows what he’s doing and calling out his bullshit. He forgot that that was her specialty - she knew things about him before he could find the courage to discover them himself. She never pushed him though, she gave him time and space to figure it on his own. He knows what she means all too well, there's no point in pretending. 

“Am I really that fucking obvious?” he sighs, laughing nervously, dropping his gaze to the ground. 

“Well, you were never exactly fucking subtle, trashmouth,” she points out, voice soft and sympathetic. 

Richie rolls his eyes dramatically, making Beverly laugh. “Let’s go get drunk,” he says, throwing an arm around her. “I think it’s your turn to buy drinks.”

Beverly nods eagerly and lets him take her back inside. 

 

****

 

He’s not sure how much he and the rest had to drink overall but it was definitely enough to get him past wasted but still not as much as it takes to get him drunk. To be fair though he’s got a lot of practice in that department - surely more than Beverly or Eddie who are so obviously drunk, giggling to each other and talking gibberish. When the more sober part of their group decides it’s time to get back, Ben volunteers right away to help Beverly while Richie somehow takes on being a guide for Eddie before Bill can step in. Mike left earlier after only few shots with Sarah who Richie vaguely remembers talking to at some point. So now the five of them stumbles back to the hotel. 

He’s got his arm around Eddie’s middle, feeling him vibrate very time he laughs, feeling his warmth and his cologne. He kind of hopes they will get lost and take the long way back. Of course that doesn’t happen when they’re following Bill. 

He helps Eddie get to his room even though fresh air made him sober up a little but Richie doesn’t want to let go of him already. To his surprise Eddie doesn’t seem to want him to, his body unmoving in front of his door. 

“We’re here Eds,” Richie laughs, trying to let go of him but Eddie stops him instead wrapping his arms around Richie. 

“Don’t call me that,” he mumbles, words only a little blurry, warming up Richie’s neck. “I missed you,” he adds softly, carefully saying each letter so he’s sure Richie understands. 

Richie tenses unwillingly, wants to move away, to run away but at the same time he wants to sink deeper into Eddie’s arms. Mostly though he wants this moment to be real, not alcohol sponsored reality show.

“I missed you too, Eddie, you have no idea how much,” he hears himself whisper and closes his eyes, letting himself have that moment just for a little bit longer before he finally tears himself away. “You should shower, you stink of alcohol and pretzels,” he says, forcing a smile which becomes a lot less fake when Eddie groans and looks at Richie. 

“Thanks for the advise.”

“Anything for you, Eddie Spaghetti,” Richie laughs, puts his hands into pockets and takes a few steps back in the direction of his room. 

Eddie flips him off and after struggling with door’s lock for a moment, he disappears inside, leaving Richie in the dark hallway.

 

*******

 

The next morning they decide to have breakfast somewhere else than hotel and so Beverly suggests this lovely cafe she saw yesterday and despite it being nearly at the other end of the town that’s where they go as their infatuation with Beverly hasn’t really gone away. They split to fit into cabs - Richie miraculously ends up just with Beverly. Ben, Bill and Eddie squished together in the other one. 

As they ride through Derry, they exchange remarks about all the changes they can see. The mall, more houses at the expensive end, abandoned ruins. Their voices aren’t nostalgic, they’re excited and glad that they aren’t describing their own reality. Here they’re just tourists. 

The traffic isn’t massive at this hour so it takes them around fifteen minutes tops to get there, others close behind. Cafe is indeed lovely, pastel colored and decorated with flowers and origami. They find table to fit them all - Mike texted them he won’t make it but the losers aren’t exactly mad given with who he probably is. He invited them for dinner later so it’s ok.

“I haven’t been this hungover since collage,” Eddie groans, hiding his face in his hands, hair messy and slight stubble on his cheeks. 

“Me too,” Ben laughs though he definitely still looks the best out of all of them, no sight of hungover on his face. 

“Bullshit man, you don’t look like the rest of us and that is like shit,” Richie crackles, making the losers laugh and Ben shrug with embarrassment. He's right though - Ben looks better than ever, his skin glowing, no sign of tiredness on his face while the rest of them looks like they just left the hottest party of the year and had to go to their lecture right away. Being forty fucking sucks. 

They all order large coffees and big breakfasts. Conversation flows easily, starting from judging Bill’s weird, fancy taste, through Ben’s lecture about all kind of diets and Eddie’s warnings about most dangerous foods that look very unsuspicious, to Beverly’s story about her horrible roommate and how she accidentally gave her food poisoning, and finally beeping Richie as he tries to tell the story of his most awful college hookups which included a girl who liked eating McDonalds while having sex and would only have an orgasm if she ate it. 

“And I’m telling you it was so gross, the crumbles were everywhere and her fingers were so oily we could’ve skipped lube all together and you know sometimes we did,” he says through laughter as he looks at his friends’ disgusted and frustrated faces.

“Oh God, beep fucking beep, Richie!” Beverly cries, leaning away on her chair, nose scrunched up and brows tight together. 

“Now I will never even look at McDonalds sign the same,” Eddie sighs, throwing used napkin on his plate. 

“I don’t think I’ll eat anything for the rest of the day,” Bill confesses, looking positively sick. 

“Yeah, I think we should go - the whole breakfast is ruined,” Ben decides but he doesn’t seem mad, rather hopeful as he stares at Beverly who’s already grabbing her purse. 

“At last, we had some good chucks,” Richie laughs, swaying in his chair, not in such a big rush to get out as the others. 

Beverly rolls her eyes at him, “What would we do without you, trashmouth?” she sighs, shaking her head.

They all pitch in for the receipt and therefore leave some generous tip before they leave. Ben whispers something into Beverly ear and she looks helpless but eventually nods and flashes him a smile. 

“Hope, you guys won’t be mad if we get together again around dinner at Mike’s?” Ben asks but he’s already walking away, Beverly close behind with an apologetic smile. 

Bill shakes his head amused, then he turns to Richie and Eddie, “I have to make a few phone calls, so I guess I’ll also see you at dinner!”

Now Richie rolls his eyes, crossing his arms on his chest. There’s no point in protest as Bill’s already crossing the street and disappearing in the crowd. 

“So it’s just you and me Spaghetti, unless you want to bail too?” Richie says, looking at Eddie, hoping he’ll take the way out Richie’s basically giving him. 

Eddie frowns like he’s deep in thought but it only lasts a moment before he relaxes and smiles, “I think I’ll just take a walk back to the hotel, not really in the mood to do anything, but I guess you can tag along, trashmouth” he says, shrugging, eyes not leaving Richie’s face. It’s kind of like he almost expects Richie to refuse, to make some half-assed excuse that they both won’t believe and just fuck off wherever. Just like he did all the time in high school - one day Eddie eventually stopped asking and they only saw each other during classes. He really hated himself for doing that but he knew the sad yet oblivious truth - the less he saw Eddie the less it hurt. 

“Sure, I didn’t get to tell you about that one girl who wanted me to roleplay dead guy,” Richie says before he can change his mind. 

“Shut up,” Eddie groans and despite his disgusted face, Richie can see how bright his eyes are and the shadow of a smile that hides on his lips. “I’m not surprised that no one normal wanted to date you though,” he laughs, making Richie grin.

“The crazy ones are the best ones, just like your mom.”

“Fuck you,” Eddie snorts but he can’t hide his amusement. 

Richie smiles wider and fixes his glasses quickly. He slows down a little so his steps line up with Eddie’s. They both have their hands tucked in the pockets of their jackets and Richie can’t help but wonder how would it feel if they were walking just like this but hand in hand, closer and relentlessly happy. Just the thought of it makes him smile sheepishly. 

“Why are you smiling?” he hears Eddie ask and he doesn’t need to look at him to know that he’s smiling too. 

“Oh I just remembered that one night with your mother and God only knows how good that fuck was,” he replies automatically, soft smile replaced by a shiteating one. 

“Fuck, you really are an asshole,” Eddie mutters, jostling him with his arm. 

Richie laughs loudly, earning himself a few confused glances from passerbys, but Eddie joins him as he quietly chuckles to himself, and Richie doesn’t care about anything else in that moment. It’s just like they’re young again. 

He feels Eddie’s eyes on him, glancing every now and then when they’ve finally calmed and it’s quiet between them. His head starts to spin from all the attention. He browsers his mind, looking for some easy joke he can crack and make Eddie laugh again. 

Once he finally finds one that’s actually funny and actually his, Eddie is looking away and gasping.

“Oh, what a cutie,” he coos, bending down a little to get a closer look at the small ball of fur. 

Richie raises his brow, he didn’t suspect that Eddie was a dog person, or a cat person or even a hamster person for that matter. Maybe a fish person but even that seemed a bit unrealistic knowing Eddie. It’s still an endearing sight - Eddie’s all soft and cute, and the Pomeranian isn’t half bad. 

“You can pet her, she loves attention,” the girl who apparently owns the dog and who Richie had no idea was there, speaks up and smiles friendly. 

Eddie looks straight up horrified at the idea, his eyes wide and his smile frozen and lopsided. Richie rolls his eyes but it’s more for a show than anything and pets the dog himself, hand gently sliding through her fur a couple of times. The girl looks at them confused. Richie chuckles and stands up. 

“Cool fur dude,” he says to the Pomeranian which starts barking like crazy that very moment, startling Eddie and causing him to take a few steps back, hiding a little behind Richie. 

The girl huffs and takes her dog in her arms, walking away from them. The Pomeranian stops barking and Richie swears she sticks her tongue at him. 

“Yeah, what a cutie Eds,” Richie laughs and starts walking again but Eddie's hand stops him. He grips his wrist and pours cold liquid into his palm, making Richie roll his eyes. “Seriously Eds?”

“Don’t call me that,” Eddie mutters, eyes fixed on Richie's hands so he rubs the sanitizer into his skin, just so Eddie doesn’t explode. “Dogs have so many germs on them. They wallow in mud and trash and grass. Fuck knows what you can catch from touching them,” he says, his hands gesturing wildly, but then a realization drowns on him and he looks at Richie mortified. “We should check if you didn’t catch a tick, those fuckers are deadly.”

Richie bursts into laughter, hands on his stomach, glasses almost falling down as he tilts his head. Eddie on the other hand looks deadly serious and annoyed. 

“It’s not funny, dipshit.”

“OK, OK. I’ll let you mom inspect me tonight. Unless you want to do it yourself?” Richie crackles, his eyes shut from laughter so he can’t see the blush creeping on Eddie’s cheeks and ears. 

“Fuck no,” Eddie says and walks away from Richie who still can’t calm himself down. 

“Eduardo, wait up!” Richie calls after him, only getting middle finger in response so he actually sprints to catch up with Eddie. He still looks pissed, his arms crossed and eyes fixed on the road ahead of them. “Eds, Eduardo, Spaghetti head, don’t be mad. It’s not my fault your ridiculousness is so funny.”

“I’m not ridiculous!” he shouts, raising his hands wildly, he looks even more mad now and perhaps even offended. “It’s not ridiculous to care about your health!”

Richie sighs, dropping his gaze on the ground. Warm and fuzzy feeling spreads across his heart. 

“No, it’s not,” he says softly. “But it is ridiculous when you read some shit on the internet and convince yourself you have it or you can get it from every touch,” he explains and it’s so much more gentle than he intend it to be. “You can’t turn into WebMD every time you do anything.”

Eddie doesn’t say anything and Richie glances to his side to see if he’s still there. Relieved that he is, Richie fixes his glasses before putting his hands into pockets of his jacket, letting Eddie take all the time in the world. 

“I know that,” he finally speaks and it’s so quiet Richie almost misses it. “I try to do something about it but it’s so hard when it’s just me against me. I know most of my pills are useless and my inhalator is a fucking gazebo but my mind keeps telling me I need them, that it’s wrong if I don’t use them.”

Richie stares at Eddie with astonishment, proud smile on his lips and pure love in his eyes. Thankfully, Eddie still doesn’t look at him.

“I believe in you, Eds. You’re stronger than you think,” he says, same emotions conveyed in his voice. He nudges Eddie lightly with his elbow and watches how he slowly breaks into smile, his whole face lighting up and it’s so bright Richie needs to look away. 

“Thanks, Rich,” Eddie says earnestly but softly at the same time. 

Richie feels the moment tensing, silence purposeful and suspenseful, Eddie’s eyes on him, words just waiting to come out. It’s too much already and Richie as always can’t take it. 

“Hey, ten bucks I’ll beat your old ass to the lobby!” he calls, already breaking into a sprint or a something reminiscing sprint that his 40 years old legs can do. The hotel is just around the corner, luckily. 

“The fuck,” he can hear Eddie mumble as he leaves him behind. 

He immediately regrets his decision as his physical possibilities are close to non existing and his heart now beats twice as fast as normally and he seriously thinks he may have a heart attack. He somehow gets to the hotel’s parking lot and has to get rid of today’s breakfast in the nearest bushes. He is so fucked up. 

“What the fuck was that about?!”

He wipes at his mouth quickly and turns around, faking being totally relaxed. It’s not convincing at all but he still brings on his shiteating smile. 

“You owe me ten bucks,” he says, pointing his finger at Eddie triumphantly.

“Like hell I do,” Eddie protests. “I never agreed to your 10-year-olds bullshit. I’m fucking 40 and so are you, dipshit.”

“Age’s just a number,” Richie says, rolling his eyes dismissively but Eddie has none of it. 

“You’re a fucking idiot, Richard Tozier. Why did you even do it?”

It's serious and Richie doesn't really know how to handle serious, especially serious coming from Eddie.

“You said it yourself, ‘cause I’m a fucking idiot,” Richie mumbles with dry laughter and it hurts so much because it’s the truth. He is an idiot and a coward and a trashmouth and a weakling. 

Eddie looks at him no longer annoyed but puzzled, like he’s trying figure out Richie’s bullshit and find any logical reason for it. Richie wants to laugh when he comes up short. 

“Why are you acting like this?” he asks, resignation written all over his face. 

“I’m acting normal Eds,” Richie insist, unyielding. 

“Oh, quit with your bullshit,” Eddie says, tone harsh and done, causing a shiver run down Richie’s spine. “You really think I’m that stupid? You think that I don’t notice? You act like my friend but then you pull away and treat me like a stranger. You say things and I can’t tell which jokes are just jokes and which are comments meant to hurt me.”

It breaks Richie’s heart but all he can muster up the courage to say is, “Eddie, you don’t know what you’re talking about,” and chooses to ignore how weak that sounds.

Eddie’s furious now, “No, I don’t because you never tell me shit anymore. It’s just like I’m just a stranger to you, have been for the past 27 years. You’ve been avoiding me all high school, then when you fucked off to college all the way across the country, you never replied to any of my letters or texts or calls. What have I ever done to you?”

Richie stares at him, eyes wide like a madman’s. There’s a flicker of urge to tell him everything that’s been keeping him up at night, that he’s so ashamed about the never even told to himself out loud. But it would only be like gasoline to Eddie’s already burning hatred. Richie can’t take that chance. 

“Fucking hell, it’s not always about you,” he hisses and walks away. It’s so much better this way. 

Eddie doesn’t stop him or call after him and he’s glad he doesn’t. If he saw how broken Eddie looked again, he would cry right there in the middle of the day, on a parking lot and in his fucking forties. Richie leaves him there without looking back. 

 

*****

 

He wanders aimlessly around Derry. He doesn’t want to run into any of the losers, not even Bev, so he chooses the most sketchiest streets and side alleys in the park. He keeps replaying their conversation, Eddie’s words ring through his ears painfully because they were true. He was keeping his distance but still wanted to be as close to Eddie as possible. It was selfish and unfair. He never should have stayed here in the first place but he couldn’t have said no to Eddie. 

He was only kidding himself when he thought that staying away from Eddie would make his feeling for him go away. It did make it easier to ignore them though, to hide them deep inside, to pretend they were never even there. But through this 27 years it only made Richie miserable like he was incomplete and nothing he did could ever fill that void. He was too proud and ashamed at once to really admit why and now all the feelings came crashing down on him. 

Suddenly, he turns around and stumbles towards the place he couldn’t stop thinking about ever since he passed the welcoming sign but was too scared to see earlier. He still is terrified but now he feels that he has to go there. He has to see it. 

He stops at the beginning of the bridge, in the middle of the road, and tries to kid himself that he can see it from here. 

“Oh fuck me,” he mumbles and slowly walks up to the ramp of kissing bridge. 

It’s still there. 

Barely visible but it’s there. He bends down in front of it, his fingers tracing faded letters, lingering longer on E, and a faint smile breaks out on his face. 

He can remember how afraid he felt that day that someone would see him do that and would just know who he meant by that 'E', that it wasn't a girl, that it was his best friend, that it was a boy. But he also wanted them to know that, he wanted Eddie to see that and figure it out and do something - whether it would end Richie's agony or their friendship. But he never did and Richie had to carry that burden alone like a coward he was or still is for that matter. 

Sure, now he can admit that he likes guys more that girls, even if it's just to himself. It's still a progress as his therapist told him. Why then he can't admit that he likes Eddie, that Eddie is possibly the only person Richie's ever loved? Why does he keep himself trapped and miserable in his own bubble of ignorance. Not knowing isn't better than knowing because it stops you from moving on. And Richie's been stuck for exactly 27 years, despite however many miles he traveled to get as far as possible from Derry and from Eddie he's still in the same place.

 

He's not getting any younger and has limited time left to be truly happy. The worst thing that could happened already happened because of him and his fear, now it would actually allow him to move on. 

He takes his hand then and stands up, taking a shaky, deep breath. He looks at his inscribing just as determined as he was when he did it. Then he turns around and almost runs back to the hotel, to Eddie. 

 

*******

 

Richie halts instantly when he sees the sirens parked carelessly in the middle of the parking, they’re on and blinding, knocking out any breath left out of Richie’s lungs. As he approaches closer he notices local onlookers who are being fruitlessly pacified by the police. 

He quickly squeezes his way through the crowd, not caring if he elbows anyone - at this point everything around him is fuzzy and irrelevant. Even the police officer who screams after him as he rushes past him to the entrance of the Derry Town House. His heart beats like crazy, blood crushing loudly through his veins when he climbs up the stairs to the lobby. 

To his horror the panic that hits him inside is way worse than the one he felt outside. There are more police officers, looking serious and tired, and there are medics gathered around the sofa and reception desk. He desperately looks for a familiar face, for someone who will tell him what the fuck is going on. Finally, he spots Beverly who is shaking as she screams something at the young uncaring officer. Then there’s Ben who’s seemingly calmer but his face is paler and his eyes wide as he talks to another policeman. 

“Richie!” he hears someone call him and he almost snaps his neck turning rapidly to see Bill, standing with some woman who seems weirdly familiar. He looks worried but also angry and Richie doesn’t like it at all. 

“What the fuck happened here?” he snaps impatiently, his eyes still roaming around the room looking for the face he longs the most to see. “Where’s Eddie?”

Bill grabs him by his forearm, moving him to the side, clearing the way for the medics who are apparently done with their job here. Richie looks at him expectantly. 

“H-henry B-b-bowers e-escaped the ho-hospital,” Bill says, his grip strong so Richie can’t bolt. He doesn’t even move though his knees suddenly feel too weak and his head too dizzy for him to do anything. 

Then he looks up and the spot that was occupied by medics is now empty except for one small figure slouching in the middle of the couch. It takes all of Richie’s power to break away from Bill and leap to Eddie, kneeling on the dirty floor in front of him. 

“Eds? Are you ok?” he asks, his voice as shaky as his hands when he places them on the side of Eddie, not daring to touch him yet. 

There’s dried blood on Eddie’s tshirt and darker spots on his chin and jaw where it must’ve stream down which stands out next to the white gauze in the middle of his cheek. Richie ends his inspection on Eddie’s eyes who are no longer scared but now hostile and even furious, making Richie lean away a bit. 

“Of fucking course I’m not! I have a fucking hole in my cheek, you dipshit!” Eddie stares at him like Richie is the biggest idiot on the planet. “And don’t call me that.”

Richie tries to smile slyly but he knows he fails. “You will have a very badass scar, spaghetti head,” he says, making Eddie wince and sigh displeased. 

Richie feels a hand on his shoulder and he glances up at Beverly with a small smile. Bill and the woman sit down next to Eddie. 

“The police says they will start looking for him right away,” Ben says, leaning against the other end of the sofa. “He escaped mental hospital few days ago but laid low until today. Now they’re pretty positive they can catch him by tonight.”

“Fuck that mullet-wearing motherfucker,” Eddie hisses, making the losers laugh. Looking at them, a smile appears on his own face but the muscles must trigger the wound as he winces from pain. Richie instinctively puts his hand on Eddie’s knee, hoping the gesture will comfort him. It actually does the opposite - Eddie flashes him a stare so deadly, Richie instantly moves his hand. 

“We should call Mike, tell him what happened and that we’re not coming,” Bill says after a moment. 

Eddie flinches at that and frowns, “No, let’s go. I feel fine, the medics said the wound wasn’t horrible and I for once am not worried about it that much to pass on a homemade lunch.”

Richie furrows his brows and bits the inside of his cheek to stop himself from saying something. He has no right for that. 

Thankfully, Beverly still does, “Are you sure? It looked really bad.”

Eddie narrows his eyes at her and waves his hand dismissively, “I’m sure.”

He stands up, moving past Richie to get to the door. Richie sighs and accepts Ben’s hand to help himself up. 

 

****

 

Richie doesn’t let Eddie out of his sigh the whole way to Mike’s. He squeezes next to him in the cab, then he walks right behind him through the whole backyard. Eddie isn’t saying anything about that even if he notices, his frustration still in the air between them. He keeps his distance, carefully avoiding looking at Richie or even in the same direction. 

Beverly must have noticed the toll it’s all taking on Richie and she puts her arm around him, laying her head on his shoulder. Richie sighs, embracing the small relief the contact gives him. 

At Mike’s Eddie sits on the other end of the table next to Audra, Bill’s wife. Richie can only peer at him from his end. He feels so tired and frustrated he wants to scream but he knows that if he did that, Eddie would only roll his eyes and ignore him still. Eddie’s petty son of a bitch. 

“Did you guys talk?” he hears Bev whisper into his ear. 

“Not about what you think,” he replies quietly, glancing at her and shrugging. She smiles sadly and lightly pats his tight. God, he really missed having Bev in his life.  "And you?" he then asks in hushed voice, glancing at her knowingly. 

She sighs and takes out a piece of paper from the pocket of her jeans, movements light so no one else would notice. Richie frowns but then realization sets in, the yellowish page has only one signature on it followed by two hearts. He reaches for her hand, giving it a squeeze and she flashes him a tried smile as she hides the paper back into her pocket. What a pair they make.  

During the meal, Eddie tells them how it happened that Bowers stabbed him in the face in his bathroom, and then adds proudly how he stabbed Bowers right back in his stomach. He gestures wildly, his whole body engaged into the story. Richie's really torn between being proud and being worried. 

“And then I say, It’s been thirty years, you should really cut that fucking mullet,” he ends with a small, lopsided smile, trying not to damage his wound further. 

“You’re unbelievable Eddie,” Bill comments with laughter and Eddie lights up from his attention, still very infatuated with their old leader. It’s so cute. 

Ben wants to say something but the words dry on his tongue as a loud clunking noise rings from the kitchen. They all freeze, looking at the direction of the sound. 

“I’m gonna check it out, it’s probably just a pot that fell down,” Mike chuckles, standing up. His words calm the rest enough to go back to eating dessert. 

Not even a minute passes when there’s another noise - louder and sharper this time, and then thud like a body fell on the ground. Instantly, everyone gets up, chairs squeaking on the floor. Richie tries to listen to any other noises while keeping his gaze fixed on Eddie and Beverly. 

“Mike?” Bill calls after him, his hand grabbing Audra. No response. “Mike?!”

Seconds drag on like hours before they hear another clunk. Richie jumps to his left, hand taking whatever is within his reach - he almost wants to laugh when he sees he’s holding onto a picture frame with all of the losers taken in the summer of ‘89. But he chokes on the sound as no one else than Henry Bowers runs into the room with a fucking Chef’s knife in his hand. He can’t help but notice that Eddie was right about the mullet but he can only be amused at the thought for a brief second before Bowers leaps at Ben, pushing him onto the cabinet. Beverly screams as she sees blood rushing from Ben’s head when he falls down. 

Richie grabs her so she can hide behind him but that’s where his ideas end. He grips tightly the frame when Bowers turns to him next, baring all his crooked teeth in something he can only suppose is meant to be a smile. He moves away at the last moment, sending Bowers crashing onto the dresser. Before he can think of anything else, he smashes the frame into his head but Bowers doesn’t even flinch. 

“Oh shit,” Richie mumbles, quickly stepping away, not able to tear his gaze away from his old bully. 

Thankfully, Bill’s next to him and he throws his chair at Henry, causing him to fall to the ground. 

“Audra, Bev, go to the kitchen, check on Mike and call the police, now!” he orders, voice panicked but steady. 

They run together, closing the kitchen door behind them. Richie glances at Eddie who looks as pale as a ghost, his hands shake but the rest of his body is frozen in place. He moves and grabs his hand, making him look away from Bowers. 

“You got this, Eds. You’re braver than you think,” Richie says, squeezing Eddie’s hand. 

Eddie nods, taking quick, shallow breaths. Richie squeezes his hand once more before he drops it to hand him something to fight with as Bowers wobbles back to his feet. Eddie gets a plate and so does Richie. 

Bowers then moves to attack Bill, waving his knife like a true madman. Bill is forced to move back but soon he ends up on a wall with no way of escape. Bowers is right on him, his knife the only thing between them. 

“Hey, motherfucker!” Richie shouts, smashing his plate on Bowers’ head. Just like he feared it doesn’t seem to have done much damage to Henry but at least it gets him away from Bill. Now he stares furiously at Richie before he leaps at him, knife high in the air ready to be sunk in Richie’s throat. 

Richie’s stuck but his life doesn’t flash in his eyes, he just glances at Eddie one last time and then closes his eyes, ready for the end. However, it doesn’t come. 

Eddie takes a swing with his plate, hitting Bowers right on the face. It catches him by surprise and makes him drop his knife, so close to Richie’s foot. Bowers shrieks and throws himself at Eddie, his hands clasping around his neck, knocking them both on the ground. 

Richie looks at them in horror, Eddie’s name on his lips. He bows down for the dropped knife and it only takes him one look at Eddie’s red face, his rolled back eyes, his weakening hold on Bowers, to bury the knife in Bowers back. 

Then his body goes slack, last growl gets out from his mouth, before he freezes, letting Eddie breath again. His eyes are open as he falls on the ground with a thud. The silence now is deafening, Richie’s pounding heart the only thing he can hear. He drops to his knees in front of Eddie, gently putting his hand on his wounded cheek. 

“Richie,” Eddie screeches and Richie feels the tears swelling up his eyes. “We fucking did it.” Richie nods, still not trusting his voice, and just stares at Eddie, tracing his bandage gently. Eddie frowns a little and shifts on the floor. “I have to tell you something.”

When he doesn’t continue, Richie clears his throat and lets out a quiet, “What?”

“I fucked your mom,” Eddie says, face stern but his eyes are cheerful, and it makes Richie want to cry so badly. 

“Fuck you,” he just whispers, unable to hide his own smile full of relief and happiness, and gently brings Eddie closer in his arms. 

Eddie hugs him back tightly, nuzzling his face into Richie’s shoulder. It takes every inch of Richie’s willpower to move away. He smiles at Eddie before he remembers about Bill. The thought makes him move quickly to their old leader and shake his shoulder gently, there’s blood soaking through his shirt but it’s slow so maybe it’s not that bad. 

“Bill,” he says loudly. “Man, wake up, please.”

Bill just mumbles something under his breath, eyelids fluttering briefly before they seal for good. Richie sighs relieved and turns to see if Eddie’s any luck with waking up Ben. He doesn’t of course but there are sirens ringing outside and as soon as they both hear them, they smile to each other. 

 

****

 

They take Mike to the hospital, his wounds are too deep to be patched up here unlike Bill’s. Audra is by his side the whole time and they both look calm now, talking to the police with serious faces. She really reminds Richie of Bill, only female and stronger - he’s pretty sure they’re perfect match for each other. Ben finally wakes up and doctors say he has a concussion but his injury isn’t very serious and let him stay. Beverly is with him, her hand on his shoulder. Eddie also is fine, choking didn’t last long and the reminiscents of Bowers’ red fingers on his neck are slowly disappearing. He has no trouble breathing and he’s back to his regular self in no time much to Richie’s relief.

Richie lets medics finally test him only after Eddie’s endless lecture about possible injuries he could have. He makes a point of rolling his eyes dramatically to him after they tell him he’s perfectly fine except for a few bruises. Eddie snorts and mutters something about bruises being serious injuries too. Then he moves to walk away but Richie quickly reaches for his hand, keeping him in place. 

His brain is still pretty staggered, adrenaline still buzzing through his veins but he knows what he has to do. 

“Can we talk?” Richie asks and his voice must sound really desperate because Eddie frowns and actually seems unsure. 

“Can it wait? I have to change my bandage,” he says, pointing to his cheek with an apologetic smile. 

“Sure,” Richie smiles slightly, shrugging, and lets go of Eddie’s hand. 

Eddie smiles sheepishly and starts walking back to the house which is now one huge crime scene, full of police. Yet Richie gets up from his seat in the back of the ambulance to go with him. 

“I know the way,” Eddie chuckles, glancing at Richie amused. 

Richie just shrugs in response, following him close still. He doesn’t need to say why exactly, Eddie knows and would just do the same thing for him. 

Richie closes the door behind them and sits on a closed toilet, watching Eddie work his magic over the sink. The whole process takes around fifteen minutes with Eddie washing his hands over six times and actually removing and placing a new gauze with surgical precision and patience. Richie would feel very infatuated with him, teasing him about missing his true calling of becoming a doctor or a nurse, but he can’t find any words as he stares at the wound in his cheek. Thought of Eddie in pain alone makes him want to empty his stomach right away. So he instead focuses on the way his eyes move, the way his lips pout, the way he leans over the sink. As he does it, he feels 14 again when all he would do is study Eddie when he didn’t look. 

“All done,” Eddie announces, turning to face Richie with a self satisfied smile. “So you wanted to talk?” he prompts lightly, leaning on the sink, eyes fixed on Richie. 

“Yeah, but not here,” Richie says, scrunching up his nose in disgust. He gets up and leads them out of the house, Eddie following close. 

Outside is much calmer now, only one police car left, other losers nowhere to be seen. Richie relaxes a little as he sits down on a swing on the terrace. Eddie sends it into motion when he joins next to him. 

Richie can feel his heart pounding like crazy in his chest as he searches for the right words. However none of them seem right, they are either too pompous or too meek and they’re definitely not the words Eddie would ever want to hear. 

Eddie stays quiet, his eyes not even on Richie but he feels pressured by the silence anyway. He needs to get this off of him, the band aid of ignorance needs to be ripped off. 

“I love you,” he finally blurts out, making Eddie turn to stare at him wide-eyed. He knows he prepares to say something that will act as damage control but Richie needs him to understand so he shushes him with his hand. “Not the way I love Bill or Ben or Mike or Beverly, not the way I love my sister or parents. I’m in love with you, Eddie. Have been since fucking elementary school,” he smiles a melancholic smile, feeling so much lighter and better. “I thought the feeling was gone but it came crashing down on me as soon as I saw you in the Jade of Orient, I guess I only wanted it to be gone,” he chuckles a little, shaking his head, feeling completely defenseless but so peaceful at once. Glancing up at Eddie however he sees that his friend is far from that, his face pale, brows furrowed and eyes scared. “I don’t expect anything from you, Eds. I just had to tell you.”

Eddie’s quiet. The words still ring between them, buzzing around like damaged radio. Richie fiddles with his fingers, keeping his eyes on the ground. 

“Is that why you left me? Why you started to avoid me after that one afternoon in the clubhouse?” Eddie asks then, voice soft, not accusing but wanting to understand. 

Still it makes Richie wince with shame and misery, and he can only weakly utter a quiet “yes”. 

Eddie nods, looking at something up ahead. Richie can’t read emotions from his face anymore and frankly he’s quite glad. If Eddie has to break his heart, he at least will have to do it with words. 

But then seconds become minutes and minutes feel like hours, and Eddie still not saying anything. The last of officers went home, leaving only them. The sun is setting low over the horizon, shadow’s almost swallowing them whole. 

Maybe Eddie just waits for Richie to get the cue and leave. Maybe he is capable of standing up to Henry Bowers and defeating killer clown but he’s not brave enough to break Richie’s heart. Maybe he should make it easier for him. 

Richie moves to stand up and walk away without saying anything, hoping he’ll be able to collect his heart back on the next plane back to L.A.. But a strong grip on his forearm stops him in place. He turns to face Eddie, trying to make his expression unreadable. 

“You can’t just drops news like that on someone and not give them a minute to think, you dipshit,” Eddie mumbles, smile tugging at his lips, eyes piercing through Richie. 

Richie was always wrapped around Eddie’s little finger and he still can’t bring himself to say no to him so he stays. He doesn’t sit back in his spot though, he stands in front of Eddie, letting his hand slide off. 

Eddie takes a deep breath, hand clenching and unclenching on his lap. Then suddenly he stands up so he’s almost at Richie’s level. 

“I never thought about it, about us or feelings between us,” he admits, his voice quiet and shy, eyes looking somewhere over Richie’s shoulder. Richie nods and as if Eddie can read his mind, he looks right into Richie’s eyes just as he was about to turn around and get the hell out of here. “But I thought about you,” Eddie whispers then and Richie looks for any giveaway that he’s lying, that it’s all a cruel, derisive joke, but there is none. Eddie’s telling the truth. “I thought about you as soon as I woke up, about what we’re going to do, about what horrible joke you’ll tell and about how I can annoy you just enough to make you laugh,” Eddie explains as he just knows that Richie isn’t going to believe him, there’s a sheepish smile on his lips and a blush creeping up on his cheeks. “You were my last thought of the day as well, going over our bickering and counting all the times you joked about my mom,” he laughs now and Richie is too stunned to join him. 

Eddie takes another deep breath when he’s calmed and continues, his eyes still locked with Richie’s, “I never thought that I could like you that way until that day in the clubhouse. You almost kissed me then,” he adds like he fears Richie may not remember but the thing is that he never forgot. “I was so surprised at first but then I was mad, mad that you didn’t do it. And then when you started to avoid me I was even more mad. Both at you and me for being such cowards. Then you moved away and left me, and I tried to hate you, trashmouth, but I never could.”

Richie is a bit overwhelmed and unsure what Eddie’s words mean but before he can begin to overthink them there are cold hands on his cheeks and they’re pulling him down a little, and then there are another lips on his and they’re kissing him gently. His brain needs a second to process what’s happening, thankfully his heart doesn't and he instantly kisses Eddie back, arms wrapping around him to bring him closer. Their lips move together unrushed and curious and so happily. He doesn’t care that his neck is tilting at weird uncomfortable angle and that his lips are probably chapped and dry. It’s the moment he waited so long for and it’s just as perfect as it can be. 

It’s also way too short for Richie’s liking. He wants to stop Eddie from detaching so quickly but then fortunately his brain finally catches up and reminds him that he shouldn’t be possessive and selfish and that he can’t fuck up whatever that is right away. So he loosens his grip on Eddie and looks at him with embarrassingly big heart eyes and the fondest smile which matches the one on Eddie’s face. They just stand there smiling like idiots at each other for a while. 

“We should probably go back to the hotel,” Eddie says, still grinning widely. “And check on Mike.”

Richie nods and removes one hand from Eddie to get his phone. There’s text from Beverly already waiting for him. No visiting hours now :( we’re going to see Mikey first thing tomorrow tho Hope the talk went well trashmouth ;) xx

Richie chuckles as he shows the messages to Eddie. “Sometimes I wonder how I’d ever lived without her.”

“Everyone needs a Beverly in their life,” Eddie laughs as he shakes his head lightly. 

Richie gets them a taxi next. They don’t even have to wait long for it to come so they just stare at each other like two teenagers in love, with dumb smiles and soft eyes. During the ride they’re also quiet, recent revelations and events reflected on their tired faces. At some point Richie feels his hand, that was resting between them, being covered by Eddie’s. He glances at them as Eddie intertwines their fingers. Richie feels sudden urge to lean and kiss him but lets it pass, settling for squeezing his hand instead. His head still spins with emotions and he doesn’t trust himself enough to give into impulses so soon. 

He tells himself that’s why he drops Eddie’s hand when they enter the hotel. He fixes his glasses as an excuse but Eddie sees right through it but he doesn’t call out Richie on his bullshit. 

“Mr. Kaspbrak!” a receptionist calls him with a tight smile. “Your room and bathroom have been thoroughly sanitized and they’re safe to use again,” she informs him politely. 

Eddie nods but Richie notices the absolute horror in his eyes and the way his fists clench in anger. 

“Thanks, Claire,” Richie says before Eddie can erupt into a rant about what he thinks of this hotel definition of sanitization. 

Claire, as her name tag says, smiles at him gratefully and goes back to playing cards on hotel’s computer. Richie nudges Eddie gently to move and they walk upstairs. 

“Can I stay with you?” Eddie sighs, stopping in the middle of the hallway on their floor. 

“You expect me to put out before our first date, Eds?” Richie laughs and opens the door to his room, bowing down to let Eddie in. “Cause you’re right, I’m that easy, baby,” he adds in Matthew Mcconaughey’s voice and winks at him. 

Eddie raises his brow unimpressed but the blush on his cheeks betrays him. “Fuck you. I’ll go get my bags,” he chuckles and turns to get to his old room. 

Richie smiles as he watches him and then goes to lay down on his bed, grin still on his face. 

“Be cool, Tozier,” he mumbles to himself, rubbing his face with his hands. 

As he waits for Eddie to collect his things, he takes out his phone and texts Beverly. Which one do you prefer Richie Kaspbrak or Eddie Tozier? 

He swears he can hear a loud squeal coming from one of the rooms around him. The reply is almost instant. That’s so gay, go with Kaspbrak-Tozier it’s gayer. & I’m sooo happy for u!!!! who knew ur trash talking would get u that far ;)

Richie chuckles as he reads her texts. He’s just about to write something back but then Eddie comes back into the room with two suitcases and a duffel bag in hand, and Richie forgets about the world. 

“Did you seriously pack everything you own?” Richie asks with laughter. 

“No, you dipshit. Just everything I may need, better to be safe than sorry,” he says matter of factly and smiles cheekily. 

Richie rolls his eyes and gets up from bed. “I call the shower first!” he claims, grabbing his toiletries bag and runs to the bathroom.

“Once again, you’re fucking 40 Richie, not 10!” Eddie calls after him and Richie can hear him laughing before he closes the door. 

Richie sighs with relief as hot water runs down his body, washing off blood and fear and shame. He closes his eyes and just stands there for time being. If it wasn’t for the thought that Eddie waits for him, he would have stood there all night. He quickly dries himself, puts on black boxers and black t-shirt. Then he brushes his teeth and tries to style his hair somewhat nicely, before he finally steps back into the room.

“Are those your fucking sheets?” he asks as soon as his eyes land on Eddie who’s just finishing zipping up last pillow. 

When he’s finished he turns to Richie with proud smile. “Yeah, I always bring two sets, just in case,” he explains, shrugging. 

“God, you’re so fucking weird,” Richie chuckles, walking up to Eddie with a soft smile. “But I’m even fucking weirder for liking you,” he admits and shyly pecks Eddie’s lips, his movements slow enough to let Eddie back away but he doesn’t. Instead he brings Richie even closer, kissing him for real. 

“You got that right, trashmouth,” Eddie grins smugly as he pulls away. 

He grabs his whole duffel bag and Richie’s too awestruck to tease him about it before he disappears in the bathroom. Richie shakes his head, snapping out of his thoughts. He goes to lie down under Eddie’s covers and if he presses his nose into the pillow, breathing in the sweet scent, then there is no one who knows but him. 

As he waits for Eddie to come out, he texts back Beverly, tries to google what fabric softener is Eddie using by typing random scents that he can smell but has no luck. Then he finally logs onto twitter to see how his fans are taking his sudden announcement about taking a short break. Their reactions are way better than he thought, surly they’re nicer about expressing their disappointment in him than his manager. He even gets to retweet some memes about his sudden leave and reply to some fans asking why telling each of them something else, each time something obnoxious and weird, like that he’s changing his career to having his own company that produces fabric softeners. Thankfully, before he can get too bizarre Eddie finally gets out from the bathroom. He’s wearing soft looking white long-sleeve and checked pyjama pants. His gauze is even whiter now, meaning he’s changed it again. His hair are damp but neatly combed and his skin is a bit shiny probably from moisturizer. Richie’s fully away he’s gaping. 

Eddie notices it too and just rolls his eyes before he gets into bed. He lies on his right side, eyes on Richie so the latter turns on his side as well so they could lie facing each other. 

Sudden memory washes over Richie like a flood but for the first time it’s not destructive one. He glances up at Eddie who seems to know that Richie’s thinking about something and just waits for him to decide whether he’ll share or hide that thought. Richie doesn’t like that unsure, not prompting version of Eddie, the one he made him be for the past few days, and just adds it to the list ‘why Richie Tozier is a fucking fuckup’. 

“It just reminds me of all the sleepovers,” Richie rushes to explain with a soft smile. 

Eddie’s face lights up with the realization, then he fills the room with laughter. 

“God, you were always so annoying during them,” he chuckles, looking at Richie accusingly. “I honestly had to drink herbal tea for a week after them so my stress levels would drop back to normal.”

“Why then did you invite me over for them so often?” Richie grins smugly, daring to lay his hand on Eddie’s hip which he’s still kind of surprised he doesn’t shake off. 

“I took pity on you, nobody else liked you,” Eddie replies without missing a beat, devilish smile on his face as he moves a tad closer to Richie.

“Ouch, man,” Richie sighs dramatically. “But that’s not true, your mom liked me just fine. Even more than just fine,” he says, winking at Eddie who winces. 

“Fuck, can you maybe not talk about my mother while in bed with me?” Eddie groans and turns on his back, pouting at the ceiling. 

“Aww you jealous?” Richie laughs, leaning over so he is the only thing Eddie sees. “Don’t worry, I won’t compare you to her, you can never be as good.”

Eddie huffs, his hand weakly pushing Richie away, redness taking over his face. “Can you stop? You’re so annoying and not in a funny way, just plain annoying.”

Richie laughs loudly at that, his whole chest vibrating, head tilted back. Eddie looks at him puzzled but with a smile. And Richie just feels so carefree and in a way so young. There are only few inches between him and Eddie, and he can cross them if he wants, he can kiss Eddie or hug him, and just this though alone makes him feel so fucking good inside. It feels like he’s truly free and even if it’s just in this shitty hotel room, he doesn’t have to hold back, possibly for the first time in his life. 

“Why are you laughing dickhead?” Eddie asks then, his hand nudging gently Richie’s side. 

Richie looks down on him, happiness radiating off him. He does just what he can - he leans down and kisses Eddie. It’s short, a bit sloppy from the uncomfortable angle Richie’s at, but it’s just like Richie wanted it to be. 

“You’re just plain funny, Eds,” he chuckles as he pulls away, his back are aching a bit already so he moves to lie down on the mattress again. 

Eddie rolls his eyes and changes his position too, just to face Richie again. 

“Don’t call me Eds or I swear I’ll go and share with Ben,” Eddie threatens but turned up corners of his lips give him away. 

“You wouldn’t,” Richie gasps, snuggling closer, tangling their legs together. 

“Just watch me,” Eddie laughs but doesn’t move, his feet tickling Richie’s. 

Richie shakes his head, wrapping Eddie tightly in his arms, their noses almost touching. 

“Wait, you’ll break them,” Eddie mumbles, taking Richie’s glasses off and putting them carefully on the nightstand behind Richie. 

“Should start wearing contacts anyway, they’re more convenient but I just never had the patience to learn how you fucking stick them in your eye,” Richie says, looking at Eddie’s face which is only blurred around the corners. 

“No, I like how you look in glasses,” Eddie protests quickly. “They and your stupid shirts perfectly give you that look of unfunny, nerdy comedian.”

“Wow, thanks Eds, that’s exactly what I was aiming for with them,” Richie laughs. 

Eddie grins and moves his hand to comb through Richie’s hair. “You should really cut your hair, though.”

“Noted,” Richie just says, the feeling of Eddie’s hand on his head soothing him, making him realize just how tired he really is. “Any other comments about me?”

“Quite a few, actually,” Eddie chuckles, looking at Richie fondly. “You’re a total mess,” he whispers and then presses a kiss on Richie’s forehead, the sensation that Richie feels then awakens him instantly.

Eddie’s words aren’t accusing or demanding for him to change, not said to put him down or patronize him - they’re accepting and loving and understanding. Maybe Eddie is just much of a mess as Richie is, maybe he’s weak and insecure too, and maybe he needs Richie just as much as Richie needs him. 

He moves up and captures Eddie’s lips with his. It’s wet and intense, breathy and hungry. Eddie whimpers into the kiss, his hands tangled in Richie’s hair, pulling on it. Richie hears himself groan into Eddie’s lips, warmth exploding inside him. He only detaches from him when his lungs ache for some air, moving to leave chaste kisses on Eddie’s jaw, cheek and neck instead. His hands stay firmly on Eddie’s hips, keeping him from moving too close as Richie feels he’s embarrassingly close to be sporting a boner and he’s got some pride. 

Suddenly, Eddie takes over and kisses Richie deeply. He slows them down, his lips unrushed and just curious to taste Richie. It melts Richie’s heart and his previous excitement. Then Eddie’s hands move to cup Richie’s face and he tenses at the touch of metal against his cheek. It’s a sudden strike, like someone poured a bucket of iced water over him.

However it only lasts a second, his brain denies those thoughts space to really grow, and Richie’s back to kissing Eddie in no time but he knows that he's noticed. Eddie breaks his hand away, placing it on Richie’s shoulder, kissing him one more time before he pulls away completely. 

Eddie clears his throat, not looking into Richie’s eyes, “We should go to sleep, it’s really late.”

Richie nods, not sure if he even can or should argue. He watches Eddie settle back onto his pillow, laying on his back. Richie turns off the light, letting the room darken and fall quiet. He closes his eyes but he’s too flustered to fall asleep just yet. So he opens them again, studying Eddie’s features, the way the moonlight casts a silver light on his profile, the way his eyelashes move like they used to when he tried to fall asleep quickly but for some reason couldn’t. Richie sighs and reaches for Eddie’s hand, giving it a light squeeze. If swallowing his pride would mean that he can have Eddie for now, he’ll do it. 

 

*******

 

Next morning Richie wakes up in the middle of the bed, his hand stretched over the sheets on the right side. It takes him a second to connect the dots and he sits up straight instantly, blindly reaching for his glasses to see the room as it actually is, not as a blur of colors. As soon as he puts them on he can see Eddie sitting on the floor, checking his medical bag carefully. Richie can’t help but let out a relieved sigh which catches Eddie's attention immediately. He turns to glance at him with a smile. He’s fully dressed, new gauze on his cheek, hair combed back and shoes ready by the door to be put on. 

“Not an early person, huh?” he says and gets up, putting his plastic bag in the suitcase. 

Richie smiles to him lazily, after initial panic passes tiredness settles back in, “I need my beauty sleep.”

“Oh then maybe I should let you go back to sleep for another few hours,” Eddie says, shrugging and moves to get away from bed but Richie stops him and pulls him down so he sits on the edge of the bed. Eddie’s smile is wide but his eyes are tired, dark circles prominent under his eyes. 

“I think you need it more than I do,” Richie laughs, his hand running over Eddie’s arm and back. “You look like shit, did you even sleep at all?”

“I did but then you started snoring like a fucking bulldozer and I couldn't anymore,” Eddie says, rolling his eyes. 

“Hey! I don’t snore, you dick,” Richie protests, squeezing Eddie’s arm tightly, making him yelp and hit his hand away. 

“Hate to be the one to tell you, but you do, it’s horrifying,” Eddie laughs but then turns serious in a split second. “You actually should see a specialist, it could mean you have some health issues and could disturb your -,” he stops abruptly, eyeing Richie who’s leaning close with a shut-up kiss, but Eddie moves away. “Did you really want to kiss me without brushing your teeth first?” Eddie asks, his voice high-pitched like he just witnessed Richie murder someone. 

Richie stops at that and rolls his eyes, leaning back on his pillow with his arms crossed. “Now I don’t want to kiss you at all.”

“All right, we’ll see about that.” Eddie shrugs, smiling smugly, eyes not leaving Richie’s face. 

Richie groans as he kicks covers off him and goes to the bathroom because he actually has no back bone when it comes to Eddie and also no dignity apparently. It’s just that Eddie’s lips were always so kissable and now that he actually can kiss them it’s a crime to let the occasion pass. 

Eddie laughs into Richie’s lips when he leaps at him after he furiously brushed his teeth for a solid minute just to please him. God, he’s so gone for this man. 

 

****

 

Eddie finally manages to convince Richie to stop making out like teenagers and go see Mike in the hospital with rest of the losers. They decide to get them all some breakfast from bakery that’s on the way. This time Richie convinces Eddie that cinnamon buns are a great choice for a nutritional meal (he actually tries to rap to Eddie ‘i like big buns’ and he leaves the store after the first line and so he takes it as his approval). They also pick up some teas and coffees before they finally make it to the hospital. Bill texted them the number of Mike’s room so they have no problem finding it. They walk in standing close but Richie’s careful that it’s not too close. If Eddie notices, he doesn’t let it show. 

All the losers with Audra in tow are there already. Mike’s sitting in hospital bed, looking way better than he did last night, colors are back on his face and for the first time he looks genuinely relaxed. Beverly can’t hide her excitement as her eyes flick between him and Eddie and Richie tenses at that, irrationally thinking that the others will be able to tell. 

“We brought breakfast!” Richie exclaims then, holding out the bag full of buns and a paper tray with coffees. Beverly stops looking at them in that proud mother way and instead makes grabby hands at black coffee, making Richie relax again. 

He and Eddie hand out their treasures to others and then bring themselves chairs from the hallway to sit on. Mike starts telling them what happened in his kitchen, how Bowers attacked him, but Richie can’t focus. 

Beverly keeps glancing at him knowingly and he knows she means well but what if she’s just mocking him. What if she just thinks he’s full of bullshit and just kids himself. And then there’s also Eddie who sits so close to him he can feel his warmth and aftershave, who didn’t try to hold his hand and who has a wife and who Richie is so helpless for it’s actually scary. Eddie who notices that Richie’s head is about to explode and puts his hand on his knee to calm him down. It actually makes Richie stiff for all three seconds it takes him to see the absence of the ring on Eddie’s finger and actually comprehend it. 

He feels his cheeks burn with embarrassment and happiness. It’s a small thing and Richie doesn’t want to blow it out of proportions, he still needs to talk about it with Eddie, but for now it gives him enough courage to reach for his ringless hand and hold it - for everyone to see. If Eddie isn’t afraid, then Richie shouldn’t be either. 

Beverly of course notices it first and has to put a hand over her mouth to stop herself from squealing in excitement. Ben whose habit is still to look at Beverly every now and then follows her eyes and grins when he sees for himself. Then it’s like a domino. 

All of losers eyes are on them, all of them happy, none are judging or freaked out. They just look glad that Eddie and Richie got their shit together, still they have enough decency to pretend that they are surprised. Richie feels the anchor that was around his heart drop into the oblivion. 

“Now, stop, you’re all shitty actors,” Richie says, waving his hand at them unimpressed, Eddie chuckling next to him. “I know that you know or knew even,” he admits and rolls his eyes. 

“Shit, Bill I owe you 50 bucks now,” Audra groans all of the sudden, making all of them look at her surprised so he rushes to explain, “Bill mentioned that two of his friends had this crazy chemistry and we bet on how long it would take them to realize that.” She shrugs with a sly smile and points at Richie with disapproval, “I thought it would take you guys like 5 years tops, not twenty-fucking-seven!”

Richie laughs loudly at that while Eddie looks a bit embarrassed and flustered. 

“Wait, you thought we would get together?” he asks Bill, looking at him bewildered. 

Bill just shrugs, “I thought you should get together, you’re perfect for each other but unfortunately you’re both fucking dumbasses.”

Richie flips him off just for a principle because he has to admit that Bill’s right. Eddie smiles smugly as he sees that. Bill just rolls his eyes. 

“I thought that too,” Beverly admits, smiling sheepishly. “But I had some faith that you would actually get together at some point. And now you did it. Congrats guys!” she giggles, getting up to hug them both. 

“I never saw you two together,” Mike says suddenly, tilting his head, looking at Eddie and Richie like he’s still trying to understand. 

“Really?” Richie asks a taken back a little. 

“No, you idiot. Everyone with eyes could see that,” Mike laughs loudly, hand over his side so his stitches don’t move too much. 

Richie rolls his eyes but can’t help wide smile on his lips.  He puts his arm around Eddie just because he can and the losers go ‘aww’, making both men blush like they’re teenagers still. Richie’s never been this happy in his life. 

Losers poke jokes at them for a while, everyone’s laughing each time Eddie gets worked up over someone’s story about how badly he crushed on Richie and how he was the only one oblivious to Richie’s poor flirting. Richie’s aware he must be blushing like crazy but he honestly doesn’t care, his arm’s still around Eddie, eyes closely following his wild gestures. 

Then a nurse comes in, ending their childish fun and announces with a polite smile that Michael Hanlon’s results came in and he’s being discharged but is advised not to do anything strenuous. When she leaves, they all cheer, crowding around him. 

Bill then looks at them apologetically before he speaks, “Seeing you’re all good, um, me and Audra can’t really stay any longer. She has to get back to her work.”

“So you literally only came for one day? Why?” Ben asks, frowning at the maths that doesn’t add up. 

She glances at Bill before she answers with a soft smile. “I was really excited to tell him the news. We’ve been trying for a while now and I’m actually pregnant!”

The hell breaks loose then. Beverly jumps to hug them both tightly. Mike whistles from his bed. Richie high-fives Bill, saying something about how he did a really good job, earning himself a jab from Eddie who just congratulates them normally like a sane person would. Ben titters about how he’s more than happy to help them with the nursery as he brings them close. They all throw their favorite names at Audra who’s patient enough to listen to them all. 

“OK, guys,” Mike calls to capture their attention. “I think both of those revelations call for some celebrations,” he pauses to crackle at the rhyme. “And I think a nice barbecue at mine would be a nice idea. And don’t worry, Sarah actually cleaned my house and I bought a rug to cover the living room floor,” he adds quickly as he notices his friends’ less than enthusiastic expressions. 

“Sounds great to me,” Bill agrees with a smile and of course the rest of losers agree as well. “Let’s get out of here.”

A sudden thought comes to Richie, instantly making him smile. “I know where we should go first,” he says, his hand on Bill’s shoulder.

 

*******

 

They all stand around the grave, close to each other, just like they did that summer - the last time they were all together. And here they are again. 

Richie smiles at the golden letters. The wind ruffles his hair, Eddie’s hand is warm in his and Derry is finally peaceful around him. 

He likes to think that Stan would be really proud of him. He knows deep down that he always was proud of Richie - whenever he could bit his tongue, whenever he’d do something nice out of the blue, whenever he did something utterly stupid but succeeded, when he confessed his secrets. He was always with Richie, always knew his bullshit and still chose to put up with it.  

“I still carry the letter he wrote me in my wallet,” Richie admits, smiling as he thinks that Stan would definitely roll his eyes at him now. 

“Me too,” Beverly says, grinning as if she knew just what Richie’s thinking about. 

“I have mine in my desk drawer, I read it whenever I’m writing,” Bill chuckles lightly. 

“I’ve read mine so many times I’ve memorized it word by word now,” Eddie confesses, shaking his head. 

“I framed mine,” Ben says, small smile on his lips. 

“I have mine in my truck and a copy in my wallet,” Mike adds lastly, chuckling a little. 

They look at each other, sadness and hurt in their eyes, but still they manage to smile. 

“He should be here with us,” Richie says then, his voice weak and broken, vision blurred. 

Soon there are arms around him, he’s in the middle of tight embrace, feeling warmth and a flicker of hope. 

No one dares to say anything, they just stand there in the middle of the cemetery, over Stanley Uris grave, clinging onto each other. Sun sets lower in the sky, their shadow casted over the numbers that show too little of the life he could have had. 

“He would’ve been the first one to complain how uncomfortably hot this hug is,” Bill notices, his words warm air on Richie’s cheek. 

“But he would stay in it anyway, he’d never let you go first,” Eddie whispers a hint of smile in his voice. 

“He was the best friend,” Beverly adds, her voice nostalgic and heavy from tears. 

“And the best loser,” Richie says. “He was so fucking weird and so awesome at the same time. He’d make fucking bird watching sound like fun,” he laughs and they join him, the sound echoing over the field. 

They finally break apart, ease on their faces. 

 

******

 

After the cemetery Richie pulls Eddie aside form the rest, telling him he’s got something to show him. Eddie eyes him suspicious but agrees instantly. Richie then says to Bill that they will meet them at Mike’s before he drags Eddie in other direction. It’s actually not that far so Richie opts for a walk, hand holding with Eddie is honestly one of the best things and he’s not sure he’ll ever get used to it. 

They of course get a few stares from older locals and hear whispers from one group of teenagers but no one really bothers them and shouts any slurs at them so he takes it as a win. Maybe Derry changed over the years too. 

It takes Eddie few turns before he recognizes the path and rolls his eyes at Richie. 

“Aren’t we a bit too old to be craving our initials?” he asks unimpressed but still follows Richie. 

“Oh we definitely are,” Richie laughs, glancing at Eddie cheekily who rolls his eyes again. 

Soon they reach the kissing bridge, a place where every couple in Derry came to make out and carve initials of their other half. Richie came here only once purposefully. 

“So do you have a knife or do you want us to scrape them with our nails?” Eddie asks, his brows furrowed and the fact that he actually thinks that’s why they came here and that he wants to do this make Richie’s heart swell with love. 

“It’s already there, Eds,” Richie laughs, his hand waving at the ramp. 

“Oh,” is all Eddie says when his eyes land on two crooked letters and a plus sign between them. He comes up closer to trace them with his fingers as to see if his eyes aren’t playing any tricks on him. Then he turns to Richie with a smug smile, eyes flickering. “So you really had it that bad for me, huh?”

Richie rolls his eyes, “Yeah, your two fanny packs and super short shorts made you truly irresistible.”

“What can I say? It’s the Kaspbrak charm,” Eddie grins, wrapping his arms around Richie and stands on his toes to kiss him sweetly. 

Richie chuckles into his lips, kissing him back eagerly. His heart literally flutters, making him feel so light, something he can’t remember ever feeling before. 

They soon stop as they remember that while Derry sure came a long way it still may not be the best idea to be so affectionate in public. 

“The Kaspbrak charm sure is hereditary,” Richie says with a smirk as they part. “It’s going to be so hard to let her go but I guess you’ll have to do, spaghetti,” he adds just to spite Eddie because that is the thing that will never change. 

Eddie snorts, hitting his arm lightly, “Fuck you, you’re so annoying,” he groans, making Richie laugh loudly but the sound dries on his parted lips as Eddie adds, “I love you.”

He looks at the other man with disbelief like he maybe misunderstood but Eddie’s eyes are sure and happy and so loving wavering off any doubts Richie could've had. 

“I love you too,” Richie can’t say it quickly enough, wide smile on his lips as he kisses Eddie. 

Eddie smiles into the kiss as well so it’s not really a kiss as it’s a peck but neither of them minds. Richie feels like he’s on top of the world. 

 

*****

 

“I think you should set up a tinder account, Ben,” Richie says as he takes another slip of his beer, leaning further in his chair, back resting comfortably on the pillow he won in rock, paper, scissors with Bev. 

“Yeah, you’d get so many matches,” Eddie nods eagerly, smiling at very embarrassed Ben. “You’re honestly hot dude.”

“Yeah Ben, listen to my boyfriend,” Richie crackles, making Eddie narrow his eyes at him. “What? I agree with you, Ben is seriously the hottest guy in our group but I’m a close second.”

Beverly and Eddie laugh loudly at that, sharing a glance between each other. Richie rolls his eyes at them and turns to Ben who still looks pretty flustered with his cheeks red and eyes fixed on his beer. 

Bill and Audra cuddled together on the only armchair that’s definitely too small for two people are just listening to the whole conversation with smiles on their faces. Mike is over by the barbecue, paying them no mind as he’s talking with Sarah who is actually just as cool as everyone thought she’d be. 

“I don’t even know how it works,” Ben admits, holding his hands up in defeat. 

Richie smirks devilishly as he was just waiting for him to say that and takes Ben’s phone from the table, ignoring his protests. He downloads the app and sets up Ben’s account, Eddie looking over his shoulder the whole time. 

“Should I put ‘Sexy architect looking for sexy interior designer’ or ‘be the jelly to my peanut butter’?,” Richie asks, winking at Ben who groans, sliding down in his hair, his face all red. 

“God, Richie you suck at this,” Eddie comments, shaking his head unimpressed, he takes the phone from him and tries to think of something himself. 

Richie snorts loudly as he sees no words coming up on the screen that Eddie’s furiously staring at. 

“Said the expert who could only get his mother to date him,” Richie mocks but it’s not derisive or mean. 

“Fuck you, man, I least I dated somebody,” Eddie fires back, his voice high-pitched, but a smile plays on his lips. 

“You both are terrible, leave it to a real expert,” Beverly cuts in, taking the phone from Eddie. 

Her fingers move quickly over the keyboard. She grins at them victoriously when she’s done and gives Ben his phone back. 

“‘love books and poetry, in my free time i design buildings and stuff’” Ben reads out loud, smiling widely the whole time, then he shakes his head and Beverly smiles innocently. “I doubt that anyone will be interested though,” he says, shrugging. 

“Man, do you see yourself?” Richie huffs at that, rolling his eyes. “You’ll have a date everyday for a month at least.”

Eddie nods in agreement, smiling at Ben who just shakes his head but then his expression changes as there’s a ‘beep’ sound of new notification. His eyes widen comically when it’s followed by three more making Richie and Eddie laugh and high five each other. 

“Clearly it’s all me, guys, the bio-,” Beverly says with a grin but is interrupted by someone calling her. Just one look at the screen is enough for her mind to go someplace different instantly. She gets up and goes to answer, gripping onto the phone anxiously. 

Richie watches her nervous walk around the backyard, her tone hushed but still audible. 

“So no one wrote to you yet, huh?” he asks Ben smugly, the attention on him again. 

Ben blushes even more but the smile on his lips is rather cheeky. “Oh only like ten women,” he says, laughing like it’s no big deal but his voice still sounds unsure and disbelieving. “Twelve now.”

Richie laughs loudly, “Well congrats, Haystack. Let’s drink to all the laid you’ll get,” he says, raising his beer and when he sees crestfallen look on Ben’s face he rushes to add, “And to finding the one, obviously!”

Ben smiles at that and raises his beer as well, Eddie and Bill do the same. “Cheers!”

Eddie nudges Richie with his arm, leaning in closer, “Nice save, four eyes,” he mumbles, smirking at Richie. 

“Did you just remembered that nickname, spaghetti head?” Richie groans and rolls his eyes but brings Eddie even closer as he puts an arm around his shoulders. Even as he pretends to be mad he can’t help but to smile at him. 

Eddie opens his mouth to reply something but he stops himself and darts his eyes away from Richie making him turn and follow his gaze. The smile on Beverly face is nearly blinding, her knuckles nearly white from gripping her phone. 

“I filed for divorce and the hearing will be next Monday,” she announces happily, looking right at her friends’ faces, not ashamed.

They all cheer for her, they don’t need to know why - Beverly’s a smart girl. 

Audra and Bill hug her tightly, saying that she’s more than welcome to stay in one of their houses if she needs to. Ben offers her the same as he holds onto her. They look so well together now, her hidden in his arms, him burying his face in her hair, both of them blissfully happy. Then she goes to hug Richie who thinks the words are needless, so he just squeezes her so tight that she breaks away with laughter. After that Eddie embraces her the longest. 

Richie smiles fondly at the two people who mean most to him and lets calmness settle in his bones. Things look so bright for all of them. 

Beverly will divorce her asshole husband, make her own collection and go on long deserved vacation. Ben will open his heart again and fall in love with someone who will love him just as much. Bill and Audra will have twins, Georgia and Stanley will born on unusually sunny day in January, of course all the losers will be there. Mike will marry Sarah and finally leave Derry for honeymoon in sunny Florida, then they will buy a camper and spend years travelling all over the States, visiting losers along the way. Eddie will leave Myra and move to L.A. despite his hatred for the west coast. And Richie will write his own material for shows, the audience will love his corny jokes about his hypochondriac boyfriend and their cleanest dog in world. They all will be so happy. 

Just like they are now as Mike pops the champagne, Richie makes awful joke about pooping, Bill and Ben beep him, Beverly laughs and Eddie kisses him.