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the phrases that keep it all going

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You're going to die in your best friend's arms.
And you play along because it's funny, because it's written down, you've memorized it, it's all you know.
I say the phrases that keep it all going, and everybody plays along.

Imagine:
Someone's pulling a gun, and you're jumping into the middle of it.
You didn't think you'd feel this way.

-Richard Siken, "Planet of Love"


 

As soon as they’re back from the Chinese restaurant, Eddie runs back up to his room and starts packing. He feels like he’s been doing a spectacular job of not having a complete breakdown, considering everything he’s already seen and remembered.

Then, as he’s digging through his bags, he finds the one full of medication, and all the pills rattle inside, everything he threw in, every single bottle he could dig out of his medicine cabinet, just in case. The bag feels familiar in his hands somehow, the rattle and the weight of it just like something from the summer of ‘89.

The memories comes back in sequence, each one another punch to his chest.

Greta Keene telling him his medications were fake. Throwing the bottle of pills at his mother’s feet. Tossing his entire fanny pack full of meds away in front of Neibolt.

When he blinks himself back into the room at the Town House, he drops the bag of meds on the floor, gasping for air that he can’t seem to find. He stumbles to the bed and sinks down onto it, leaning forward with his face in his hands, his elbows on his knees.

Is it breathe in for four seconds and out for seven or in for seven and out for four? Suddenly he can’t remember.

Richie calls from downstairs, “Eduardo, andalé, let’s go!” and Eddie chokes out a laugh that sounds more like a sob.

No one can hear him, though. Maybe that’s for the best.

He tries in for four and out for seven, because that seems right.

He makes it halfway down the staircase with his bags, one in each hand, before he realizes he left the bag of medication just lying there on the floor where he dropped it, so he says, “Okay, I’ve just gotta grab my toiletry bag and then we can go.” He feels like he’s covering well for the panic still sitting on his chest, but it only gets worse when he looks up and sees everyone’s faces.

“What’d I miss?”

After that - he doesn’t just forget about it. He can’t forget when he’s alone in the pharmacy surrounded by medications, or when Mr. Keene tries to tell him his mole might be cancerous, or when Greta fucking Keene still works there and tells him which way to work the door. He can’t forget when he can feel the weight of his fake inhaler in his pocket, or when Richie tries to grab it away from him in the sewer. But it’s not like he has time to talk about it with anyone. They don’t sleep, they barely stop for anything, they’re just going and running and fighting and getting hurt and then they’re all in the sewer and Eddie thinks I am going to die a coward.

Richie says he’s brave, that’s nice, whatever, but it’s bullshit. He isn’t brave. He hasn’t been brave since he was 13 years old, and that was just because he could do anything for his friends. For the last 27 years he has cowered and hidden and lied to himself because he forgot and he let himself get trapped again - and now he’s going to die, here, without ever telling anyone just how bad it was.

When Richie gets caught in the deadlights, though, and Eddie feels the weight of the fence spike in his hand, and he throws it, he thinks just for a second that he’s done it. He saved Richie, and they’ll both get out, and maybe-

Then there’s pain, so much pain he can’t feel anything else, and he can hardly see Richie’s face, and he thinks maybe this isn’t the worst way to go.

He’s bleeding out under a sewer, but he had nothing to go back to anyways, nothing left in New York, and if he died to make sure Richie gets out alive - well maybe that’s okay.

It’s cold, but Richie’s hands are warm, and so is his jacket, and he can see Richie’s face still, and he’s talking shit and trying to make Eddie laugh, but god every time he tries it hurts. Richie’s right there, though, right within reach, and Eddie can’t make his arms move, which is a little concerning - but then again, he’s dying. That probably makes sense.

He could try to make this a serious moment. He could make a big confession, try to talk about how his life’s been a waste.

Instead, he decides to try and make Richie laugh one last time.

It doesn’t work.

Richie just looks kind of sad, and tells him to stay awake while he runs off shouting, and Eddie thinks I don’t think I’m going to make it that long, but he doesn’t have the strength to shout. He just watches Richie until he can’t see him anymore, and he quietly wishes maybe he’d said something different after all.

And then there’s just darkness.

He wakes up, startled, in the Town House, with his face in his hands and his elbows on his knees.

“What the fuck,” he says, looking down at his own hands.

“Eduardo, andalé, let’s go!” Richie calls from downstairs.

He presses his palms against his stomach, and his chest, and there’s nothing wrong, obviously. Somehow he dozed off, there on the bed, and he had a nightmare. That’s all. Probably just more fucked up shit from Derry, that’s all. That’s probably all.

Without really thinking about it, he leaves all his stuff in his room and comes barrelling down the stairs - and Bev and Ben and Richie are all standing there, just like they were in his dream. He blinks. “Uh. Guys?”

“Good call not bringing your stuff, Eds, you just walked into the most fucked up conversation imaginable.”

“Bev’s seen us all die?” Eddie asks, his voice a little more hysterical than he meant it to be.

“Jesus, does the sound travel that well? This place must have no fucking insulation,” Richie mutters, but he’s wandering back into the bar, and so is Ben, with his arm around Bev.

Eddie’s hands are shaking.

He goes behind the bar, next to Richie, and pours himself a glass of gin, and throws most of it back like a shot. He coughs a little, chugs the rest, then pours himself some vodka, and drinks that too. There’s a burn at the back of his throat - he can’t remember the last time he drank like this, and he isn’t used to it. He shivers.

Bev’s still talking, and when he turns, Richie is watching him, like he should be saying something, or doing something other than drinking, but fuck it, Eddie doesn’t have it in him yet.

Instead, he lets the conversation wash over him, while Richie and Ben try to make sense of what Bev is saying. Bill and Mike come back, too, but then Mike starts talking about the ritual, and Eddie’s hands start shaking again, worse. The ice is rattling together where he’s still holding his drink, and Richie’s looking at him again, so Eddie puts the glass down.

Richie mentions waiting another 30 years, so Eddie mumbles, just loud enough for him to hear, “We’d be 70, Rich,” and Richie looks at him, shocked.

The entire situation is insane. Eddie doesn’t even know where to begin to explain it.

He remembers everything, though. Everything from the dream and everything he remembered in it. 

The only one of them to have had dream premonitions is Bev, so as they start to walk out of the Town House, Eddie pulls her aside. “Bev, Bev wait, please, can we talk for a second?”

She ducks her head in close to his and loops her arm through his. “Of course, Eddie. What is it?”

“It’s about - it’s about the dreams you were having, I-” He realizes, suddenly, just before he says it, what he’s going to ask her. “Do I die in the sewer? Do I ever - do I ever make it out?”

Her face tells him everything, and he stops walking, pulling her up short, too.

“Bev I saw it,” he says quietly, his voice all choked. “I saw what happens to me, I had a dream in the Town House, and I-”

She pulls him in close, wraps her arms around him, and he sobs against her shoulder. He wasn’t trying to put all of this off on her, and the last thing he wants to do is burden her with anything more, but she’s seen it, so she already knows.

“I’m so scared, Bev. I want to get out.”

“Eddie, I’ve seen all of us die down there, it doesn’t mean all of us will - I’ve seen all of us die in all sorts of ways.”

He pulls back, just enough to take a deep breath, just enough to ask. “Have you ever seen me die another way? A way that comes after this?”

Again, her face shifts, scrunches up. “That doesn’t mean-”

Eddie just shakes his head. “Just- don’t tell anyone. Okay? Don’t tell- don’t tell Richie.”

He doesn’t know why he says it - at least he didn’t consciously mean to say it that way, but it comes tumbling out anyways. He could turn and run just in case, just in case his dream was true and in case this really is how he dies - but then what happens if Richie does need his help down there? What if that’s the only way Richie stays safe?

At least for the moment, his mind is made up.

“You guys okay back there?” Richie calls back to them, and Eddie breathes in and links his arm back through Bev’s, and goes back to marching vaguely in the direction of his own death.

The thing is, though - the details are uncanny.

Richie makes all the same dumb jokes, and Mike says all the same shit about the ritual, and everyone takes the same moment to remember Stan.

Eddie isn’t sure he’s saying exactly the same things - he’s probably forgetting how he said it, but he follows along with the script, because it seems like the right thing to do.

Mike tells them to split up, though, and Eddie watches Richie walk off, and his chest aches.

The ritual doesn’t work even if they do all split up. Eddie can run in the pharmacy and get an inhaler in like a minute, maybe less if Mr. Keene can hurry the fuck up this time. He wants to spend more time with Richie - as much time as he can before he goes down in the sewer.

Once everyone else is out of the way, Eddie jogs up next to Richie.

“Richie, hey, man, can we just - can we just stick together? I know you didn’t wanna split up either, and I know what Mike said but like what the fuck does he know-”

“Eds... As much as I’d love the company, all this weird magic shit seems pretty specific. I mean - Mike probably does know best, man.”

Eddie blinks at him. He hadn’t even considered the possibility that Richie would buy into it - that he’d really tell Eddie no. Richie looks sincere, though, and a little nervous, with his hands shoved in his pockets. He can barely even make eye contact. Eddie swallows, and nods. “Right, yeah, that’s- no, maybe you’ve got a point-”

“I get that you’re scared, I am, too-”

God, so not the point. Eddie gets frustrated. “Richie, fuck, man, I’m not ten years old, I can go by myself, I just-” If he tries to explain, it’s not going to make any sense, and Richie’s already looking uncomfortable. Eddie just keeps thinking about shit like The Butterfly Effect anyways, and how much danger he might put everyone else in if he fucks with something. “Forget it.”

Embarrassed, Eddie walks off, shoulders at his ears, heading in the direction of the pharmacy. At least this time he knows to avoid the basement.

It’s a quick transaction as he asks for his inhaler, ducks Mr. Keene’s outreached hand, and speedwalks back out of the pharmacy before he can so much as hear a strange noise coming from downstairs.

When he gets back to the Town House, he takes brief comfort in the fact that he does not have to try and take a shower or be covered in fucking leper vomit - but he’s beat everyone else back, too. He’s alone for the moment.

Then he remembers that Bowers is going to be up in his room, hiding in his fucking bathroom, behind the door with a knife.

It feels like he can probably avoid getting stabbed in the cheek and still keep everything the same in the sewer. He probably does have to actually go upstairs and face Bowers, though.

He goes to the bar, first, and starts digging for a weapon. It seems like his only options are a corkscrew, a tiny paring knife, or one of the empty bottles.

In the end, he opts for the bottle.

He hears Bev and Ben get back, and they’re talking on the stairs, and then just as he walks out, he bumps into Richie, who’s looking wide-eyed and absolutely wild.

They both push their way past Ben and Bev, and they get to the upstairs hall before Richie turns to him.

“Fuck’s sake, Eddie, stop following me!”

Eddie stops, pulled up short like Richie actually hit him. “I’m not fucking following you, I’m trying to go to my own goddamn room with this fucking bottle - also you were the one that said you didn’t want to split up, I thought we agreed at the clubhouse, so fucking. Sorry I listen when you talk. Stop being a dick.”

Richie softens, and opens his mouth, but Eddie really doesn’t want to hear it.

The trouble is, Eddie walks into his room and leaves the door open behind him, and Richie follows him.

“Eds-”

“Not really a good time, Rich!”

“Eddie what the fuck are you even-”

But he gets cut off as Eddie slams the bathroom door open and breaks a bottle over the top of Henry Bowers’ head.

“What the actual fuck?” Richie asks, his voice all warped and high pitched, and Eddie doesn’t know what Richie’s face is doing, because Bowers still isn’t unconscious, and he still has a knife in his hand, so Eddie can’t really turn around.

“Hey Rich you remember Henry Bowers? Asshole with a mullet who always wanted to kill us? Well he still has the mullet, and he still wants to kill us, so maybe get the hell out of the room unless you’re gonna help me!”

Richie just sort of sputters, and Eddie’s trying to dodge Bowers’ knife while he tries to get him with the jagged edge of the broken bottle.

“Uh, guys?” Ben calls from downstairs.

“Guys, help!” Richie calls.

Eddie, finally, gets in a good jab, and sticks the bottle in Bowers’ stomach.

Unfortunately, Bowers gets Eddie in the arm.

He curses, grabbing onto his arm, trying to put pressure on the wound, and Richie comes over and grabs him, too, and when he looks up, Bowers is jumping out through the window.

Bev and Ben burst through the door, and Bev gasps, and Eddie just closes his eyes and exhales slowly, already exhausted and still so aware of everything else ahead of him.

“Eddie, what happened?” Bev asks.

“It was fucking Henry Bowers, he was in Eds’ bathroom and he had a knife, and Eddie just fucking brained him with a bottle but he still got away-”

“He’s heading for the library, he’s going after Mike, someone should go stop him. Let me- let me wrap up my arm and we’ll go, okay?”

“Eds, shouldn’t you go to the hospital? Don’t you need stitches for that? It looks deep, I-”

“What, now you care?” Eddie asks. He knows it isn’t fair as soon as he says it, but it makes Richie take a step back, and that makes Eddie feel like he can breathe again. “Sorry. Just - seriously, let me take care of it, I have the shit in my bag, I just need a little space.”

So Bev and Ben head downstairs, but Richie hovers at the doorway.

“Eds, did you - how’d you know he was up here?”

Eddie pulls out his first aid kit, grabs the things he needs to clean the wound and stitch it up himself. “I, uh- I heard him behind the bathroom door. I mean. I heard somebody, I knew it wasn’t one of us. So.”

“Right.” Richie stands there, still, and watches Eddie work. “I wasn’t - earlier today. I didn’t mean to… Well when I got back earlier, I was kind of fucked up about something.”

“You saw something. Pennywise shit. Right?”

“Yeah. You saw something too?”

Eddie glances up, then tilts his head, the closest thing he can give to a shrug when he’s still trying to clean up his arm. “Pretty sure we all did. Just more stupid fucked up shit. Disease bullshit for me, probably the fucking clown for you. Are you still afraid of clowns?”

Richie doesn’t say anything for a long moment. 

Eddie ties off the stitches, and looks up. Richie looks confused. “That summer, man, you told us all you were afraid of clowns. Isn’t that what you saw?”

Richie shakes his head. “Uh- no. No, man, I wasn’t afraid of clowns. I was - I made that shit up, I was like 13 and terrified.”

“Oh.” Eddie frowns. How did he not know that? How had this never come up? “What are you afraid of, then?”

With his hands in his pockets, Richie walks over and helps Eddie clean up the bloody gauze, putting things away now that Eddie is clearly done with them, and throwing the used stuff away in the bathroom. “I don’t know. Uh - dying, I guess. It’s kind of abstract. I saw that- I mean you saw the missing poster when I was a kid. Kind of just variations on that.”

Eddie finishes wrapping up his arm and nods. “Right. Okay.” He takes off his jacket, glancing at the slash in the arm, and switches it out for a hoodie. He pats himself down, makes sure he has the inhaler he got from the pharmacy, and nods. “Well. Let’s go help Mike, I guess.”

If Richie was going to say anything more, he just nods instead, and the two of them go downstairs and meet Ben and Bev, so all of them can rush to the library.

They get there just in time, and Richie is still the one who sees the tomahawk and slams it into the back of Bowers’ head.

He throws up after, and Eddie wishes he had something to offer Richie to help him clean up. Instead, he just watches, arms crossed, and resists the urge to try and comfort him.

From there, everything kind of proceeds as normal for a while.

Bill’s at the fair, they all run to meet him at Neibolt, he gets all dramatic, Richie cracks jokes, they all go into the house and get separated, and Stan’s head shows up in the fridge.

This time, though, Eddie finds himself oddly unaffected. Maybe it’s knowing how he’s going to die. Maybe it’s just that he’s done it once. This time, though, after he kicks the head away, he steps out of the corner, and looks around. Richie comes over to him, and Eddie holds him back.

“Rich, wait, it’s on the-” He looks up, and spots it - and this time, it lands directly on his face.

He didn’t mean to mess with anything this much - and he was mostly just planning to not freeze up when it landed on Richie. Instead, he’s being covered in thick, disgusting drool, and he’s trying to hold the thing off, and he can’t stop gagging, and there’s gnashing teeth and screaming and spider legs around his face and he can’t pull them off, and the ground is all gritty under his back and for a moment everything is only panic and disgust and fear, even with his eyes slammed shut.

Someone stabs the thing, and throws it off him, and he stops fighting, his head tilting back as he coughs, trying desperately to breathe.

Bev - it must be Bev, he can tell - reaches into his pocket and grabs his inhaler, and sticks it in his mouth, and he breathes in gratefully, patting her on the arm.

She helps him sit up, and then he realizes that Bill is yelling.

“He could have f-f-fucking died, man, you kn-kn-know that, right?” Only this time, at the other end of Bill’s ire is Richie, wide-eyed behind his glasses, and staring past Bill, right at Eddie.

“Yeah of course- of course I know he could have fucking died, Bill, okay? Fuck off!” Richie shoves Bill off, and steps away from the wall, still watching as Eddie tries to wipe all the drool off his face and remember how to breathe.

“Guys, remember we have to stick together. If he gets us scared and alone, that’s what he wants,” Bev reminds them all.

Mike comes over and helps him stand up, and Eddie takes the hand gratefully.

They all make their way down into the sewer. Richie trails behind.

For a while, things proceed just like last time again. Mostly it’s still just a lot of climbing and crawling and wading through disgusting water. In the cistern, Bev gets pulled under again, and everyone else dives into the water to save her. They all come back up. Mike opens the hatch, and one by one, they start to climb inside.

Once again, Eddie finds himself strangely calm. Still, though, he needs the fence spike if he’s going to save Richie. He eyes it in Bev’s hand. Instead of freaking out, though, this time, instead of making Richie comfort him, he just goes right to her.

“Bev, hey, could I - could I have that? Just while we’re down here, I think I would feel better, you know. Down there?”

Knowing what he’s seen, she nods, and hands it to him. “Don’t worry, it kills monsters.” She tries to smile, and it comes off shaky.

“If I believe it does, right?”

“Yeah.” She pats his hand, and climbs back down. He follows, and Richie, wordlessly, follows him.

When they’re all down at the bottom, down where it happens, Eddie sticks closer to Richie this time. He stands right next to him, and finds that they end up in the same order they stood in the day they first made the oath.

Mike puts down the container, and tells them what to do, and Eddie pulls out his inhaler and Stan’s shower cap.

Bill goes first.

When Eddie follows him, this time, he holds the inhaler, and looks at it, then looks around at everyone. “It’s not even real. I - I forgot, you know. But it’s fake just like the rest of my bullshit meds.” He throws it in the fire.

Richie reaches over and pats him on the shoulder, his hand lingering just long enough for one gentle squeeze. Eddie reaches over, though, and pats Richie’s hand, holds him there for another moment, lets their fingers brush as Richie pulls away.

Everyone else has all the same stuff. Richie tosses in his arcade token, and this time Eddie just lets him. He wonders what the real significance of it is - he wishes he’d thought to ask this time around. Instead, he just let Richie get away.

If it saves Richie’s life, though - that’s what really matters.

Eddie throws in the shower cap, they all hold hands and chant and all of that bullshit, and of course, it still doesn’t work. The fucking balloon shows up, and then the fucking clown, and he finds Richie and grabs his arm and the two of them just run for their fucking lives until they get somewhere they can hide. Then the tentacle arm chases them, again, and they end up at those same goddamn doors.

“We should go for Scary,” Eddie says.

He doesn’t know why he bothers. They’re probably all fucking scary - but he said next time they should go for regular Scary, and he sort of wants to see if he was right.

“Dude, no, it’s reverse psychology, I’ve done this before.”

“So have I, asshole, come on, just do regular Scary.”

“When did you do this? It showed up for me and Bill in Neibolt, what - when would you have seen this?”

“I saw it at Neibolt alone, dipshit, how does that matter right now? Just open the Scary door, man.”

The tentacle behind them darts around, and it startles Richie into opening the scary door. Of course, behind the Scary door is Eddie’s fucking mother. Or - really it could be Myra. Does it matter? Eddie reaches forward, and slams the door.

“Yeah, okay, fuck that. Do Not Scary.”

“I told you fucking reverse psychology!”

“Just open the fucking Not Scary door, asshole! For fuck’s sake-”

Richie, annoyed, goes over and pulls open the Not Scary door, which still has a Pomeranian behind it. Richie smiles, just for a second, and Eddie watches, leaning back against the door, moving his eyes over every inch of the expression, committing it to memory for when Richie leaves him at the end.

Then the smile falls away. “Oh fuck no, I’m not trusting this shit.”

Eddie goes over beside him, plays along again just for the fun of it, tells Richie to make the dog sit and enjoys the one little happy moment they get to share, cooing over a fucking dog in the middle of an absolute hellscape.

The dog still turns into the monster, though, in the end. That feels like it’s probably a metaphor for something, but they’re too busy running for Eddie to pause and unpack it.

Richie gets caught in the deadlights. Eddie throws the spike. It goes down.

He knows he didn’t kill It. He knows. Still, anyways, he kneels down in front of Richie, and looks down at him, watching him wake up. “Hey, there he is. Are you good, Rich? You okay?”

And Richie is wide-eyed, and grasping, his hand right by Eddie’s neck - and then the arm comes flying towards them, and the spear pushes right through Eddie’s chest again.

It hurts . God it hurts so much worse than Eddie remembered, so much worse than it was in the dream, and especially when he’s getting tossed around in the air and goes sliding down into the cavern, he hasn’t gone into shock yet and there is not a single part of his body that isn’t aching. There’s blood pouring out of his mouth, and it’s disgusting, and he wishes, really, that it would just end more quickly.

He remembers to tell them all the same thing he did last time. The same bullshit about the leper, and they get him somewhere safer and then they all go running off - everyone except Bev, who pauses to give him one final sad look, and then Richie.

Eddie puts his hand over Richie’s, against the wound, and he closes his eyes.

“Rich, Rich, hey, I-” he coughs, and more blood comes sputtering out, and he hates it. He did everything right - so now that it’s all finished, he lets himself be selfish.

“What is it, buddy?” Richie asks.

“Can you stay. Stay with me. Please. I know - I know you need to go but I’m not gonna make it, and I just - stay with me, please.”

“Eds, hey, shut up, you’re gonna make it, you’re gonna be fine.”

Eddie opens his eyes again, just to see Richie’s face. With all the strength he can muster, he reaches out, and places one hand on Richie’s cheek. “I’m not. I’m not, man. It’s okay, though, it’s - it’s fine, don’t worry about it, okay? It was worth it.”

“No, shut up, Eds, I mean it, just - don’t. Don’t leave, stay with me, yeah?” Richie’s crying, and Eddie can see it. Eddie feels like maybe he could be crying, too, but everything is starting to go numb, and it’s hard to tell. He wipes his thumb over Richie’s cheek, but he just gets blood on his face instead, and it mingles with the tears.

“I wish I could,” Eddie says quietly, as his eyes slide shut again.

Everyone else is yelling, out in the cistern, and Richie isn’t running off.

“You gonna go?”

“No. No, I’m gonna stay right here, Eds.”

And he does.

And everything fades to black.

When he wakes up in the Derry Town House, again, his first immediate thought is that he must be in Hell.

What is this if not exactly what his mother always made him afraid of? Trapped in a neverending circle that he built with his own stupid decisions and cowardice. Trapped because deep down, underneath it all, he was still all the things his mother knew he was, and if anyone deserves to go to Hell when it’s all said and done, it’s probably him. He spent most of his life lying, did any number of things that people would call a sin, married for all the wrong reasons, ruined his life and probably Myra’s, too.

He feels like at every turning point in his life, he made the wrong decision. Of course this is what happens.

He doesn’t bother with the panic attack this time. Instead, he just goes downstairs.

He follows the script.

It’s possible he’s lacking the enthusiasm of the first two times, but it doesn’t seem like the rest of them really care. He doesn’t really bother with asking Bev about the dreams, because he knows the answer now. He doesn’t try to follow Richie, because he knows what would happen if he did - and even if he did, what then? He dies at the end, still.

He gets his prescription, goes into the basement, fights the leper, goes back to the Town House, tries to clean up, gets stabbed, goes to the library, goes to Neibolt, lets Bill shout in his face, goes into the sewer, gets a fucking arm through the chest, again.

This time, when Richie stays with him, hand on his chest, Eddie presses his hand over Richie’s for just a moment, and closes his eyes, and thinks of the time he got to see Richie’s smile.

“You can- you can go fight It. It’s not like I’m going anywhere,” Eddie tells him, opening his eyes again as he manages something close to a smile. It’s probably gruesome with all the blood, but he’s doing his best.

Add that to the list of reasons he’s here, then. Another fucking lie. Still, it’s worth it to see the way Richie’s face lights up.

“Yeah, alright Eddie Spaghetti. You stay right here, buddy. We’re gonna get you out of here.”

Eddie nods, or tries to, and lets his eyes fall closed.

He hears them all shouting, hears Richie join in, and he thinks Yeah, go get It .

And everything fades to black.

He doesn’t really vary it much. There doesn’t really seem to be any point. He can avoid getting stabbed in the face, if he wants to. He can spend a little more time with Richie at the Town House that way, by skipping the basement, too, but he knows what has to happen when he’s in the sewer, so he follows it to the letter.

It’s funny, though, because he starts to wonder if it can really be Hell when he’s the one dying.

Maybe it’s more complicated. Maybe it’s purgatory instead. After all - he saves Richie, every time. No matter what happens, he gets to save Richie, and he can die in Richie’s arms, their hands pressed together against the gaping wound in his chest, and he can die almost happy, over and over, knowing that he got to do something useful right at the end.

He hates, though, the idea that he really died the first time. If that was the way he did it. He hates to think that he left Richie with those terrible fucking last words, and that he never told the rest of them he remembered his meds were fake, and that he never stood up to Myra or threw away his meds, or got to do any of the things he would have done if he could have left Derry.

He doesn’t keep count at first. He has no idea how many times he’s done it before he stays a little too long in his room at the Town House.

He’s just tired. So instead of letting Richie call him downstairs, for a few extra moments, he sits there in his bedroom with his head in his hands, elbows on his knees, and breathes.

Richie comes into his room - which is completely off the script.

Eddie lifts his head and blinks at him.

“Eds, buddy. You- uh. You okay?”

Eddie opens his mouth, then just shakes his head. He doesn’t know what to do now that he’s fucked up the script - he hasn’t really tried to do anything different since that first day he thought it was a dream. “I - uh. I mean not really, this is all pretty fucked up, and I… Sorry, I don’t know. I just remembered something fucked up and I needed a minute, I guess.”

“Yeah, well, join the club. Bev’s been telling us some pretty wild shit downstairs, you should come down.”

“The dream stuff again?”

Richie frowns at him. “Again?”

“Sorry, just. The dream stuff. I - No insulation around here, sound travels.” He gets up, finally, and starts to walk out of the room, but Richie grabs his arm.

“Eds. Have you - have you seen stuff, too?"

Well. Close enough. Eddie looks down at Richie’s hand, then up at his face, and nods. “Yeah. Kind of a long story, though.”

Richie nods, and takes his hand away, shoving it back in his pocket. “Right. Well, let’s go talk to Bev about it.”

They go downstairs together, and Eddie leaves his bags in his room.

When they make it down, Ben and Bev are talking, and Bill and Mike have already shown up to talk about the ritual.

God, the stupid fucking ritual.

“Wait, hold on, guys - Eddie’s seen stuff, too. Like Bev, the nightmares. He heard from upstairs,” Richie tells them all.

Bev turns, and looks at him. “Really, Eddie?”

“Yeah, I- Well it’s not exactly the same, I haven’t seen all of us die. I know how I die, and I know some other stuff about what happens in the sewers. It usually happens the same way.”

If it weren’t for Richie’s prompting, he probably never would have told them. He doesn’t know what good it’s going to do any of them, but now it’s all sort of happening, he figures it couldn’t hurt anything. Besides, if it is purgatory, he’s supposed to work to redeem himself. Maybe this is what he needs to do.

“Wait, really? What happens?” Ben asks.

“Well… Mike, I’m sorry, man, but the ritual doesn’t work. No matter how hard you believe. You know what happened to the first people who fought it, and the same thing happens. It had nothing to do with them not believing. We do the ritual and It’s still there, alive, and we have to just fight It. The hard way. Well, we can - we can make it smaller, that whole thing… What is it? All living things must abide by the law of the shape they inhabit? Is that how it goes?” Eddie’s heard it enough by now, he should know.

Mike nods at him.

“L-look, Eddie, Mike s-showed me just now-”

“Bill, no, he’s right,” Mike says. “I… I scratched something off the container. There was something I didn’t show you. I needed something to bring us all together. I wanted us all to believe in something. But you’re saying… You’re saying it doesn’t work, but there’s something that does? We beat It?”

“Yeah, man, we beat It.”

Mike grins, and so does Bill.

Richie’s left, staring at Eddie. “I’m sorry, did you say you know how you fucking die? You die?”

Eddie turns, and looks at Richie dead on, and can’t seem to muster up any concern. “Yeah. I mean, in my dreams, I usually die.”

“Okay, well, fuck that. You’re not going down there.”

Eddie sputters, and looks around at everyone. “Wh- You can’t just do that! Okay, first of all, asshole, I’m an adult and I can do what I want, and second of all, we all have to go or it doesn’t work.”

“How do you know that?”

“Because there’s shit I have to do down there! I contribute! I don’t just… Do nothing and then die, I have to be down there.”

“Look, R-R-Richie, we’ll all just keep an eye on h-him, okay?” Bill says.

“None of us are going to let him die, Rich,” Bev says, and Richie looks around at all of them before he looks back at Eddie.

“How can you guys all be so calm about this? Do none of you give a shit?”

“Richie-” Ben starts.

“No, fuck this, Eddie, come on, let’s just go.” Richie reaches for him, but Eddie steps back.

“Rich, I’m not just gonna leave, we all have to go fight It.”

It’s strange, seeing Richie look so betrayed. It’s strange to see any new expression on Richie’s face after everything he’s seen and been through recently. It’s definitely new, though. “Why the fuck would you go down there if you know that you die?”

To save your life, is what Eddie doesn’t say. Instead, he just looks down and scuffs his shoe against the carpet. “I told you, I have shit to do down there. And I can do what I have to do because I’m here with you guys, and I made a promise, and I love all of you, and I’m gonna keep it.”

For the moment, that shuts Richie up.

“What do we need to do then, Eddie? Do we even need the artifacts?” Mike asks.

“Well we use them to summon It, usually.” Eddie tells him.

“We should go, then.”

So, just like always, they do. This time, though, Richie sticks close to Eddie, even closer than usual.

When Eddie wanders off to go to the pharmacy, it’s Richie that comes jogging up beside him.

“Eds, Eddie, hey.”

Eddie pauses and turns to look at him.

“Let’s stick together. I mean if the ritual doesn’t really matter.”

It’s almost enough to make Eddie laugh, if he wasn’t so fucked up about the general direction his life has taken. Instead, he just shakes his head. “Are you sure? All I have to do is go pick up an inhaler, then I’d just be going with you for your shit.”

Richie shrugs. “I don’t even know where I’m going, dude.”

“Well your token is actually a token, from the arcade at the Capitol. I don’t know what it makes you remember or anything, I just know that’s what you bring.”

“What do you mean you don’t know what I remember?”

“We all remember shit - different shit from that summer. I remembered something I saw in the pharmacy, and that my medications were fake. I don’t know what you remember when you go to the Capitol, you never told me or anything. In the dream.”

“I never told you?” Richie repeats back to him.

Eddie starts to roll his eyes and say something snarky, but then he realizes how pale Richie has gone - that he’s shoved his hands even deeper in his pockets, that his eyes won’t stop darting around, refusing to make contact. “Rich. Hey, man, what is it?”

“I- uh. Maybe I should go alone after all.”

That would put them back on script. Eddie forces himself to shrug again, to turn like he’s going towards the pharmacy. “You usually do. I, uh-” He pauses, but then he says it, even he’s not sure why. “I tried to go with you once and you kind of told me to fuck off. And if it really is a premonition, just. You know I kind of figured you wanted to go by yourself.”

Richie grabs his arm, clings to him for a moment, and pulls back again. “Wait. Don’t - fuck. Come with me. I’ll tell you.”

Eddie turns back, surprised. Richie, if anything, looks even more nervous. “You know you don’t have to.”

“Of course I don’t fucking have to, but I should tell somebody at some point, and if- I just want to tell you. Okay?”

Nodding, Eddie starts walking towards the Capitol, slowly, and Richie walks with him, taking deep breaths in and out. Neither of them say anything as they make their slow progress. There’s some kind of celebration going on in town, so there’s people everywhere, probably something related to the Summer Fair. Other than the annoying fucker with the balloons he always runs into, Eddie’s never really paid much attention to the people around him in town. Now it’s just a distraction from Richie, who’s still right next to him but somehow still miles away.

When they get to the Capitol, there’s a hole in the old door, and Richie reaches through it to push inside. He holds the door open behind him, to let Eddie in.

For a moment, Richie looks at the Street Fighter machine, old and busted and covered in graffiti, and his eyes glaze over. Eddie takes the opportunity to glance around - to look at the old posters on the wall, at all the debris on the ground, at the old popcorn machine in the corner.

Then, Richie gasps, and Eddie knows he’s remembered - whatever it is he needed to remember. He glances at Eddie, then goes to the token machine, gets the token from it.

Eddie raises his eyebrows.

“I went to the park after this,” Richie tells him.

“Are we not talking about it until we get to the park, then?”

Richie huffs out a sigh, locking eyes with the You’ve Got Mail poster over Eddie’s shoulder. “Fine. That’s - pretty sure whatever happens at the park is gonna be super fucked up but that’s not the part I probably need to tell you, so. When I was a kid, when we were all fighting, I came here all the time. And you couldn’t come with me because your mom still had you all locked up in the house unless you came to the pharmacy, which was like the only time I got to see you in all that, but that’s not the point. The point is… I used to come here and play Street Fighter all the time, but you know it’s a two person game. So sometimes I’d play with guys that I’d meet at the arcade. And I… there was this one I… I sort of had a crush on. One of the guys. That I saw here sometimes.”

The first awful, illogical thought Eddie has is jealousy. Jealousy for some stupid thirteen year old boy who Richie had gone to the arcade with. To be fair, though, he’s probably not in a great mental state from what’s probably been equivalent to at least a few weeks of dying over and over again. Even before all the dying, coming back here and seeing Richie again had made him feel like an awkward idiotic teenager all over again, like his knees were too knobby and his elbows too sharp and his mouth too clumsy. Getting jealous is probably just an extension of that. After that moment, he looks back at Richie and realizes that his best friend just came out to him, and he’s probably supposed to say something.

“Oh. So you’re…”

“Gay. Yeah.” Richie says, forcefully casual, like even just getting the words out is taking every bit of effort he can muster but he’s trying to pretend that’s not true.

“Right. You definitely never told me that.” Eddie takes a step closer, reaches out and carefully puts a hand on Richie’s shoulder. He leaves it there. “Hey. Good for you. Thank you for telling me.”

Richie squeezes his eyes shut and nods. “Okay, yeah, can we just - let’s get the fuck out of here and go get your inhaler or something.”

“You still need to go to the park?”

“No, dude, I really - I’m pretty sure that was the important part, and I just wanna go back to the Town House, okay? I got the shitty fucking token.”

Eddie doesn’t know for sure if Richie normally goes to the park, or what would happen if they did. He’s too far out of his depth. He shrugs. “Okay. Let’s just go to the pharmacy.”

Picking up the prescription is simple enough. Richie stays quiet, his hands stay in his pockets, and he keeps a bit of distance between himself and Eddie for the rest of the time they’re walking through town.

When they make it back to the Town House, Richie starts to make his way upstairs, but Eddie pulls him up short, walking towards the bar. “Rich, wait, hold on a second, sorry. Uh- Henry Bowers is upstairs.”

Richie raises his eyebrows, and even though there’s not much humor in it, he laughs. “Oh you gotta be fucking kidding me. 30 years and that asshole still won’t let it go? I get it man, I’m a fag, you don’t-”

Eddie tugs at Richie’s sleeve. “Hey, dumbass, he’s in my room, not yours. I’m just telling you because he’s gonna be up there and I have to go deal with that.”

“What about me?”

Frowning, Eddie stops. “What about you? You’re usually not there - the one time you accidentally were you just kind of stood there-”

“Okay, well fuck that.” Richie goes over to the bar and picks up the little paring knife. “I’m going up there with you armed this time.”

“I don’t want you to get stabbed, asshole, just stay down here-”

“You get stabbed ?”

Tired of arguing, Eddie pushes past Richie and starts upstairs. Ben and Bev are distracted, still, sitting on the staircase. “Usually just in the arm if I come prepared, it’s fine, I have a first aid kit.”

“Dude, what the fuck? Stop walking fucking face-first into danger, would you? Eds!” Richie takes the steps two at a time to catch up with him, trying to get in front of him. Eddie reaches out and holds him back.

“I am trying to keep everyone else safe, dipshit-”

“And I’m trying to keep you safe, you little-”

Henry Bowers, for the first time ever, comes darting out of Eddie’s room, knife held aloft. “Two little fairies for the price of one,” he says, and Eddie, startled, smashes the bottle over his head, still. Richie sticks the knife directly in Bowers’ chest.

Eddie’s arm still gets cut somewhere in the process, but the knife is enough to make Bowers stagger back, and Eddie pulls Richie away, back towards the stairs. Bev and Ben run up and all of them watch as Bowers ducks back into Eddie’s room.

“He’s going for the window, you don’t have to follow him, he’s not dead yet,” Eddie tells them. He’s holding his arm, trying to stop the bleeding, and Richie has his hand there, too, trying to help.

“I can’t fucking believe he still got you! Will you please be more careful?”

“Yeah, okay, you stabbed him with a fucking paring knife and you’re telling me about careful? Fuck you, too, man.”

Eddie pulls his arm away and goes into his room, digging for his first aid kit with his bloodied hand. He’s ruining all his other clothes, but it’s not like that matters anymore. He’ll never wear them. He takes off his jacket, pulls out some gauze, ties it off on his arm. He cleans everything up, gives himself stitches, puts on the bandages. It’s all old news by now. 

Still, Richie stays and watches him do it. “Why’d he stab you?”

“God, I don’t know, Rich, he’s fucking insane and he hates all of us and my room was the most convenient? Take your pick.” Eddie gathers the dirty gauze and tosses it all in the bathroom trash. He digs through his bag of medication, and pops some painkillers, because he might as well. Maybe they’ll help later, too. Probably not.

“Yeah but he - he knew I was…”

“And? He knew Mike was black, and Ben was fat, and I was… I was a tiny kid in a pink polo shirt and running shorts, who probably spent too much time hanging out with you and buying you ice cream and shit. And anyways, I don’t think Bowers really gives a shit who he kills anymore. Any one of us works just as well.” Eddie starts for the door, and glances at Richie’s face. “You heard what he said. He doesn’t know shit, he just says it. He used to say it about all of us.”

Richie opens his mouth again, but Eddie cuts him off by leaving. He’s not gonna have that conversation when there’s no goddamn point. If any of this were real, if this were really Richie, and it would change anything, maybe Eddie would tell him. Instead, it just seems like it’d cause them both a lot of unnecessary pain and stress.

They all go to the library, Ben kills Bowers this time, and then they all end up back at Neibolt. This time, Eddie picks up his own fence spike outside, tired of bothering Bev about it. In all his stress, though, he forgets to tell them about the door that gets slammed in between them. He lets spider Stan get Richie this time, because he’s too fucking tired, but he picks up the knife and stabs the thing because he’s sick of Bill yelling at him.

Bev helps Richie get his face cleaned up. They all go down.

Before they do the ritual, Mike looks over at Eddie expectantly.

Feeling strange and awkward, Eddie clears his throat. “So, uh. When the balloon starts coming out of the container, Mike, just say fuck it and run. We all need to get cover and cover your ears. Stick together if you can. You just have to make it small and then you can kill It.”

Mike nods. They do the ritual.

Surprisingly, everyone listens. He and Richie end up in the same tunnel they always do. He thinks maybe Mike and Bill actually stuck together. Maybe that changes something.

They’re hiding, though, and Richie turns to him, serious.

“How do you die?”

For whatever reason, Eddie wasn’t expecting him to ask. “Uh- what?”

“How do you fucking die? If you die every time.”

“I get- I get impaled, by one of its fucking claw arm things. It stabs me.”

“Jesus fuck, can you please stop getting stabbed?”

Eddie laughs, even if there is a hysterical edge to it, and can feel himself starting to fray at the edges. For the first time in a long time, he’s scared. He squeezes his eyes shut. “I don’t think so. I don’t know. It just kind of keeps happening.”

“Eddie, Eds, hey,” Richie says, and then he’s pulling Eddie into his arms, into a hug, and Eddie pulls him even closer.

They sit there until they can hear the others screaming.

“Come on, we have to go.”

Richie gets up first, and runs for it, but he actually keeps a hold of Richie’s hand so they’re going to come out into the cavern at the same time.

Eddie, with his eyes closed, tries to yell, “Wait!”

It’s too late. They enter the cavern, and Richie gets stuck in the deadlights.

Eddie pulls the fence spike from his belt loop, lines it up, and throws it.

Richie lands beside him. Eddie gets down, leans over him, and swallows, closing his eyes as he trembles, and waits for it.

“Hey Rich. Rich, close your eyes, don’t look,”

But this time - this time something truly fucking terrible happens.

Richie sits up, maybe to pull him down, maybe for some other unknowable reason, and Eddie gets his hands on Richie’s shoulders, but he can’t push him away in time, and this time, when the arm spears through Eddie’s chest - it goes through Richie, too.

They’re pressed together, so Eddie can feel Richie, warm, all along his front, but he can feel the blood, too, sticky and wet where it pulses out between them. He is terrified to open his eyes, because he can hear Richie’s rattling cough, and he knows that if he opens them, if he sees what this looks like, he will never forget it.

That answers the question, then. He’s definitely in Hell.

Richie says, “Eddie,” and Eddie forces himself to look, to see Richie, blood pouring from his mouth, as he reaches out.

Eddie grabs onto Richie’s shoulders as the claw swings them around wildly, and he makes sure they keep ahold of each other as they fall.

He doesn’t know where the other losers are - can’t keep track of the sound at all, because he’s crying, and bleeding, and Richie’s still coughing, and he lost his glasses somewhere in the air, so Eddie puts his hands on Richie’s face, and pushes his hair back.

“RIch, Richie, I’m so sorry, it never happened like that before, it was always just me, it wasn’t supposed to be you.”

“Eds, stop, stop it, don’t,” Richie coughs again. “Fuck I sound like you.” He wheezes out a laugh, and he clutches at Eddie’s back. “Rather do it like this. I don’t - I don’t have anywhere to be. Fucking tour dates in Reno, sounds like shit, I’d rather die in a sewer than in Reno.”

“You weren’t gonna die in Reno.”

“Yeah, who says? If you fucking die down here every time, what the fuck do you know?” It sounds like Richie would be angry if he still had the energy.

Eddie sobs, but it comes out weak, partly muffled in all the blood and against Richie’s shoulder somewhere, and partly just from lack of energy. “You’re a fucking idiot. You’re supposed to live. I die and you live, that was how it worked.”

“If you really think you dying is ever going to save my life, I think maybe you’re the stupidest fucking moron on the planet."

“We’re dying, asshole, you don’t have to insult me.”

“What else am I gonna do?”

Eddie shifts his hand on Richie’s back, slips in all the blood, but keeps him held close. “I don’t know. We were nice to each other as kids. That time in Neibolt, you told me to look at you. You put your hand on my face. I thought we were gonna die back then.”

“Hey, Eddie. Look at me.”

Richie moves a little, ignoring the way they stick together, and puts his hand on Eddie’s face. Eddie moves, too, and blinks his eyes open, and looks at Richie. There’s blood all down his chin, and he’s pale, the bags under his eyes are obvious. Still, in that moment, he looks just the same somehow.

Eddie leans forward, and presses their foreheads together. “‘M sorry, Rich.”

“‘S okay.”

If the other losers find them, it’s going to be too late. He closes his eyes, and listens to the wheeze of Richie’s dying breaths.

Everything fades to black.

He comes to in the Town House, and he’s trembling.

“Eduardo, andalé, let’s go!” 

This time, Eddie decides to do something completely different, because he feels like if he sees Richie in the sewers again right now, whatever he has left of his sanity will shatter irreparably. He already feels like his grasp is slipping.

He grabs the one packed bag, leaving the rest of his shit, and runs downstairs. “Okay, I’m ready, Richie, let’s go.”

“Guys, wait,” Ben says, stepping out from the bar.

“Nope,” Eddie says, and he grabs Richie’s arm just to keep tugging him along and to keep their momentum as they go out to the parking lot.

Knowing it won’t do him any good anyways, Eddie ignores his own rental car and goes with Richie straight to his fucking ridiculous rental.

Richie blinks at him. “What about your car?”

“I don’t give a shit right now. Neither of us actually have return tickets booked, yet, can’t we just - go somewhere else and ignore all of the crazy sewer clown bullshit? Please?”

Richie looks at him, searching, and opens his mouth like he wants to say something. Whatever Eddie’s face is doing, though, however desperate he looks, it makes Richie shut up and unlock the car. Eddie throws his suitcase in the back and gets into the front seat and sighs, letting his eyes fall shut as Richie starts the car, and they drive.

Even the feeling of being in a car again, watching Derry pass by outside the windows, makes Eddie feel like he can really breathe for the first time in what must be weeks.

“You want to - explain at all? Because I know we both wanted to leave, but you seem… Not great, Eds.”

He laughs, a little hysterically. “Yeah, not great is putting it mildly. I wouldn’t even know where to start.” He opens his eyes, turns to Richie, and looks at him. There he is, whole and healthy, a little tired and a little rough around the edges, but in the best way possible. Eddie wants to reach out and touch him, prove that he’s there, that whatever version of him is there, but he also doesn’t want to distract Richie while he’s driving. “I remembered that my medications were fake. I guess that’s an okay place to start. My mom was lying to me the whole time, and I tossed my meds that summer after Greta Keene told me, but then mom made me go back for them and when we moved away, I forgot. That’s pretty fucked up, right?”

Richie looks over, for as long as he can without having to look back at the road. “Fuck. Yeah. Yeah, that’s pretty fucked up, Eds. So you - she was like that the whole time you were gone?”

“Until she died. And then I- You’ll get a kick out of this, probably. I married someone just like her. Mom knew her, she was a nurse, and I just went right from my mother to her. Crack jokes if you want, it’s probably great fucking material.”

“...No. No, Eds, I’m good. That’s… I just assumed when you said you were married that you were happy.”

Eddie laughs again, and this time Richie stops the car. They’re at a diner, one they used to stop by sometimes when they were kids if they had the money. It looks just the same, deliberately vintage, 50s inspired, even if it is a little worse for wear.

“Here. Come on, let’s get some coffee or something.”

Nodding, Eddie follows him inside.

They get seated at a table, and Richie orders for both of them, just coffee and some dessert. For Richie, after all, they just had dinner.

For a moment, that makes Eddie wonder about the physics of it all, but it doesn’t really feel like it matters, probably, if he’s in Hell. He doesn’t need to eat or sleep or any of that if he’s dead. He can’t think of another good explanation.

“Eds. Hey. You’re - I know everything’s fucked, but you’re freaking me out, man.”

“Maybe I’m just quieter now that I’m old. You ever think about that?”

“You’re just the same and you know it, dipshit, come on.”

At that, Eddie finally cracks a smile, because Richie’s looking at him skeptically, one eyebrow raised, and there’s a hint of a smile creeping up on the corners of his mouth, too. Eddie has hardly seen Richie that happy since they started this. It makes him relax. He embraces it. “Yeah, okay, maybe a little. Fuck you anyways, trashmouth.”

“There’s the Eds I know.”

Eddie shakes his head, but he huffs out a genuine little laugh anyways, and Richie grins at him like he’s done something miraculous. 

Richie looks, then, over Eddie’s shoulder, at something like he can’t fucking believe it. Eddie looks at his face, then turns to match his line of vision, and he finds out what it is. His stomach drops. It’s fucking Henry Bowers, marching through the door of the diner, knife in hand. He must have followed them from the Town House, been camping out somewhere already, somehow.

He’s charging right for their table, and Richie stands up, but Eddie gets up faster, puts himself between Bowers and Richie, and just closes his eyes and braces for impact.

It’s nowhere near as bad as the clown claw. At least not as first. So that’s nice. Knife to the stomach is a lot smaller. The problem is, Bowers pushes up, digs the knife in and twists, making sure that Eddie’s not gonna live, and it makes Eddie hysterical all over again, and he starts to laugh. Richie’s yelling, and people in the diner are screaming and running past, and maybe someone dragged Richie away or he got blocked in, because he’s not right there. Eddie can’t feel him.

Eddie puts his hands on the knife, slippery with his blood, and Bowers yanks it out again. Eddie fumbles for it, and it’s enough to make Bowers’ hand slip too. Eddie takes the chance, reaches over to the table, and grabs a fork, holds it and stabs it right into Bowers’ throat.

He staggers, and sputters, but not before he gets the knife stuck back in Eddie again, this time higher up in his chest.

Finally, as Bowers runs out, Richie gets to him somehow, catches Eddie as he starts to slip and fall, gets down on the floor with him and holds him.

“Eddie,” Richie says.

Eddie scrunches his nose, shakes his head. “Don’t, don’t call me that.”

“...Eds.”

“Better.”

The only reason he’s even alive this long is because the knife is still sticking out of his chest. He sort of wishes someone would just take it out, but he’ll bleed out soon enough either way. He spits out some blood and sighs, weary.

Richie’s pulling his hair back, brushing it off his face. “Just stay with me, yeah? They’re gonna call an ambulance, we’re gonna get you to the hospital. We’re not gonna let fucking Henry Bowers get you man, no goddamn way.”

Eddie laughs a little. “Sorry. Yeah. That’s a lame way to go. Least with the clown it’s sort of… heroic and shit. This is pretty sad.”

“Well you saved my life. That’s not - why the fuck did you have to do that?”

“I can’t watch you die again Rich, don’t ever make me do that again. Sorry. I can’t do it.”

“...Again?”

Fortunately, though, that’s when everything fades to black.

He’s back in the Town House, elbows on his knees, meds on the floor, shaking all over.

This time, he decides to do it just like the first one again. To stick to the script. It’s almost comforting at this point. Fight with the leper, stabbed in the face, yelled at by Bill, skewered by one of those fucking tentacle arms. All of it pales in comparison to watching Richie die and then trying to change it only to get disemboweled by Henry Bowers.

When he’s bleeding out, he puts his hand on Richie’s face again, and he apologizes. He can hear Richie crying. He hates it.

The next time, knowing that no matter how hard he deviates, he can go back to the old way if he wants to, he decides that he may as well be brave in a world with no consequences. At least in one of the ways he can manage.

Mike tells them all to split up, and Eddie jogs after Richie, but this time he tugs on his arm a little more gently. “Rich, hey, look, I - before we all split up, can I talk to you?”

Richie frowns, confused. “Sure, Eds. What is it?”

“Just, c’mere.”

He uses the time it takes to tug Richie into a nearby alleyway for privacy to breathe, and to try and put his words together.

Even when he finally turns to speak, he isn’t sure what he’s going to start with. “Okay, so. I- You remember at the restaurant when you asked if I was married to a woman? I think- I think maybe you had a point.”

“Eds-”

“Rich, you can’t interrupt me right now or I’ll never finish. Please.”

Richie just nods, and pretends to zip his lips shut.

Eddie gives a little huff through his nose before he continues. “So I think maybe you had a point. Because my marriage is fucking awful, and I’m miserable, actually, I think, and that’s probably because I’m not even just not interested in my wife, I’m not interested in women at all. And I want a divorce. And it doesn’t help anything that she makes sure she takes all my meds, and it isn’t her fault, but they’re not even real, none of them are, and I remembered after I got here, and just - my whole fucking life is one big mistake, ever since I left here, and if I get out, I want to start over. I need to start over.”

Richie stays quiet.

“You can talk now, Rich.”

Smiling a little, Richie reaches out and takes Eddie’s hand, squeezing it gently. “Eds, that’s so - I can tell you’re beating yourself up but you’re so fucking brave. Maybe you weren’t for a long time, whatever, but - none of that matters. If I can do anything-”

“Can I stay with you for a while? Would you have room?” He didn’t really mean to say that - it’s not like he can actually go.

Richie’s face lights up, though. “Why, of course, Eds, my good man-”

“Okay, no, no British Guy, fuck off with the British Guy-”

“Sorry, sorry, just,” Richie laughs, and throws an arm around Eddie’s shoulders to tug him into a one-armed hug. “Yeah, man, of course. I’ve got a big empty house in LA with your name on it. We’ll have a great time.”

They split up, after that. Most of the things in the middle don’t change much.

This time, though, when he’s waiting for the spike, when he’s looking down at Richie’s shocked expression, Eddie realizes he doesn’t want to die. For the first time since all of this started, he can picture a future for himself if he could just get out of the fucking sewer, and he wants it.

The trouble is, he still doesn’t dodge fast enough.

Once he’s back on the ground, aching and bleeding and coughing, Richie pulls him close, practically clutches at him, seemingly trying to hold the blood in Eddie’s body by sheer force of will.

“C’mon, Eds, fucking stay with me - you can’t leave all your guts here in Derry if you’re gonna move to LA. We got a whole big house waiting for us, there’s a pool and all kinds of shit, we’ll be the best goddamn roommates in the whole fucking universe but you gotta stay awake,” Richie says, and he keeps babbling, just going and going as Eddie gets weaker and weaker.

He closes his eyes when he can’t stand to watch Richie cry anymore.

Everything fades to black.

He comes to in the Town House, rolls onto his stomach, and screams into the mattress.

Richie yells up the stairs at him, “Eduardo, andalé, let’s go!”

Eddie yells, out loud, “Fuck!”

Downstairs, things get quiet. “Eds, you okay up there?”

Getting up, Eddie picks up his bag of medications and throws it at the wall. Then he walks - really, powerwalks - downstairs. “No! No I’m not! I’m fucking sick of this and I’m sick of trying so you know what, I’m just gonna go full insanity on this one and see what happens! Everyone, I’m pretty sure I’m in purgatory. I don’t even know if any of you are real, this entire thing is fucked up beyond belief. Bev, you have dreams where you see how we all die. Ben, you kept a yearbook page in your wallet for 27 years with Bev’s signature on it, which while very romantic is also pretty fucking weird, dude. Richie, I- Look, you told me something one of the other times but I’m not gonna say it in front of everybody, that would be fucked up, we can talk later. Also, Bill and Mike are gonna walk in in about… five, four, three, two…”

Bill and Mike burst through the door.

“G-guys,” Bill starts.

Richie cuts him off. “Nope! Sorry Bill, this takes fucking precedence, we have a Groundhog Day situation on our hands and no one cares about what you’re gonna say,” Richie pushing past both of them, then, making his way to the bar.

“But M-Mike just showed me-”

“The Ritual of Chüd, yeah, I know, sorry man, it doesn’t work.” Eddie finishes walking downstairs and pats Bill on the shoulder. “The whole token thing is great for like, summoning, not so great for trapping or murder, that’s a lot harder. I’m gonna follow Rich and get a drink now.”

Everyone else stays back, blinking at each other, for a little bit.

Richie has a drink set out on the bar for Eddie, and Eddie looks at it for a moment before he gives Richie a grateful smile. “Thanks.”

“No problem, Eddie Spaghetti.”

Eddie snorts at that one, rolls his eyes. “Boy. Haven’t heard that one in a while.”

“So you… said I told you something that you didn’t want to tell everybody.”

“It’s just not really my place.”

Frowning, Richie tilts his head. “Okay, unexpected. You wanna tell me while everyone else is still getting onboard with the Groundhog Day thing?”

“Why do you believe me so easily when I haven’t even told you your thing yet?”

Richie shrugs. “You wouldn’t make this up. You’re you. If anyone else told you this happened, you’d never believe it without all that shit, but I can still tell when you’re telling the truth - not just because you’re a terrible fucking liar either.”

Eddie snorts. “Yeah, you’d be surprised.”

“Maybe. I just - I don’t need proof to believe you, Eds.”

“If you, uh - if you do wanna know…”

“...Yeah?”

“It’s just that you’re gay.” He says it quietly, watching while Bev and Ben talk, and Bill and Mike are sort of bickering and trying to make their way in.

Surprisingly, Richie looks almost relieved. “That’s it? Just that I’m gay?”

“...You’re being weirdly nonchalant. The time you told me it was like prying it out of you, and I wasn’t even really trying, it was sort of circumstantial.”

“I mean I’m… Obviously I’m not out. And it makes me nervous, and terrified, and I don’t think I could have told you again right now, just. The way you said it, I thought it was something else. Besides, it’s - you’re in here, having a drink with me. The scariest part is just that you would hate me. But you don’t.”

Eddie has no fucking clue what “something else” could be. Still, he starts to say, “Of course I don’t-” But he gets cut off, because unfortunately, that’s when everybody comes in and sits down and finally starts asking questions.

He goes over everything with them, everything that he knows and that he’s learned.

He leaves off that he always dies, that he’s been dying for at least a month now, maybe longer.

He doesn’t want a repeat of Richie trying to save his life.

“So you black out before we kill It and wake up here again. And that’s why you think you’re in purgatory?” Ben asks.

“I mean, it’s a little more complicated, but more or less.”

“Couldn’t it be something that It’s doing?” Bev asks.

Eddie shrugs, but then he shakes his head. “I can’t be sure, but it feels different. It feels like it’s more about me and less about It. You guys kill It every time, and I’ve never had anything like this happen, or last this long, you know in terms of the hallucinations, the shit we usually see.”

“How long has it been, Eds?” Richie asks him.

“Oh. At least a month? I’ve kind of lost track.”

“Fuck, dude.”

With all of that out of the way, though, things mostly proceed as normal, if normal means more like the first time.

Walk, clubhouse, token gathering, Eddie goes back to the Town House and takes care of Bowers, patches up his arm, they all go to the library, and then they’re back at Neibolt.

“Wait!” Eddie remembers to say, once they’re in the yard. “Just - when we’re in there he tries to split us up, let’s all stick together, hold hands or something. Okay?”

So all six of them take hands, and make it to the kitchen before the doors slam. The Stan spider actually attacks Bill this time, and they all help to fight it off of him. They make it to the cistern, and Bev doesn’t get pulled under, because she’s still in the chain holding hands with the rest of them.

Eddie realizes he forgot to grab a fence spike, so he asks for Bev’s again, and she gives it to him.

They throw the shit in the fire, and Eddie says, “Look, once the balloon shows up, stick with a partner, okay? I’m serious.”

Everyone nods.

In that way, it’s a lot like the time he and Richie died together. Everyone pairs off, and runs away, and one of the arms chases after them, and the doors are there, but Eddie just holds onto Richie’s arm.

“There’s nothing good behind the fucking doors, Rich. But listen, man, I need you to - when you go back out there, be careful, because you’re gonna get stuck in the deadlights if you look at It. Just look down or something if you’re gonna throw shit at It, because I swear if you fucking get caught again I’m gonna- I’m just gonna lose my goddamn mind, okay?”

Richie frowns, and looks at him. “Does something happen?”

“No cause I always save your dumbass life, but please stop making me.”

Richie looks oddly suspicious. Still, Eddie just ignores him. “Come on, just once the claw is gone, watch out, please.”

So Mike yells, and they run back out, only in the most ridiculous turn of events imaginable, Eddie turns to make sure Richie isn’t looking, and instead, when he looks up, he’s the one that gets caught.

He would be laughing, if he could do anything. He can’t feel anything, or see, or hear. It’s the first moment that he realizes, with clarity, that he must not have been dead, that something else must have been going on, because this is what death feels like.

There are screams, and howls, and Eddie feels empty, like someone has hollowed him out. He’s cold, and everything seems distant, and all he can see, playing out in front of him, is himself, dying, over and over and over.

All of a sudden, he’s on the ground, and his head is killing him. He blinks, trying to clear his vision, and realizes that Richie is laying on top of him, hands on his face.

“Rich?”

But Richie opens his mouth, and Eddie gasps with realization.

Just in time, Eddie wraps his arms around Richie’s back, and rolls them to the side. They tumble out of the way just as the arm goes sailing through the air, right where it would have stabbed Richie if Eddie hadn’t moved them. They fall off the little outcrop they were on, and Eddie lands directly on his fucking arm, and he can hear the snap.

It hurts, of course it hurts, but he laughs. He wants to cry.

Eddie can see Richie, he’s still closeby, so he stands up, carrying his broken arm close to his chest, grabs Richie with his free hand, and runs and slides into the cavern with the narrow opening.

The rest of the losers follow shortly after.

Richie is looking at his arm in abject horror. “Eddie, fuck-”

“Rich, don’t, let’s worry about it once we’re out. Everyone, we still have to kill It. We have to not be afraid. We have to be absolutely certain we can kill It. If we make It afraid, we make It small, and then we can kill It. Okay? Does that make sense?”

“Not really, but whatever you say,” Richie tells him.

Mike nods, though, so Eddie feels like they can figure it out.

They climb through the little cave, come around the other side, and Eddie is the first to scramble out, and the first to scream, “Hey fucknuts!”

As it turns out, channelling all his pent up anger from a month of getting murdered over and over again into screaming at the clown is more cathartic than he ever could have imagined.

He’s still going to need, like, so much therapy if he really gets out of the sewer and gets to leave, but he’s not looking that far ahead just yet.

When It’s small enough, Eddie rips off one of Its legs with his one good arm, and then they all approach, and they kill It together. He gets them to start running right after, before the collapse has even fully started, and they all make it out easily.

It’s bright sunlight outside. Mike and Bill and Ben and Bev are standing together - Mike and Bill are touching foreheads, and Ben and Bev are kissing.

Eddie turns to Richie.

“Rich, I have to - I have to tell you something. A couple of somethings.”

“I, uh. Okay. Should we get you to a hospital?”

Glancing down at his own arm, Eddie nods. “Yeah, probably. Probably the next stop. But first, um. I left something out when I mentioned the time loop thing, and I feel like I should… I never. I never made it out of there before. I died. Every other time, I died. One time you died, too, that was definitely absolutely the shittiest one, it was like the worst thing that ever happened to me-”

“Eds.”

Eddie looks up, and makes eye contact. Richie has tears in his eyes.

“You died?”

“Like at least 30 times. Maybe more.”

Richie reaches out, and pulls him close.

Suddenly, Eddie realizes why Richie was hovering over him in the cavern. “Did you kiss me?”

Pulling back again, Richie flushes, and stammers. “I mean - That’s what Ben did, when we were all kids, right, and it worked? So I couldn’t like - I didn’t have anything to throw or distract It with, so I just pulled you down and kissed you.”

“Oh.” Eddie blinks, then frowns. “I don’t even remember it, that’s so- Come here.” He takes his one good hand and pulls Richie down by his collar, pressing a kiss to his lips.

“Wait, wait, married! You’re married!”

“Richie I have not seen my wife in a month and I don’t give a shit, I will call her from the fucking hospital, I’ll do whatever you want, but if you don’t kiss me right now after all the shit that I have been through, I swear to fucking God-”

Finally, Richie kisses him properly to shut him up. Eddie sinks into it, pulling Richie’s bottom lip into his mouth, pressing closer, kissing him harder, until his arm twinges and he pulls back just to cradle it more effectively.

“Fuck, sorry,” he says, looking up at Richie.

Richie just blinks down at him, dazed. “Uh - no, you’re good, Eds. So you… hospital?”

Eddie snorts, and then laughs. God it feels good to laugh. “Yeah, come on. Hospital.” He turns to everyone else, and see that they’re all watching them, smiling fondly. “Okay, come on, let’s all go to the hospital, please and thank you.”

Mike comes over and slings an arm around Eddie’s shoulders, and they all kind of crowd around him as they all walk for the hospital, stumbling into each other and laughing, absolutely giddy.

When Eddie wakes up in the morning, he startles, and gasps.

Then he feels the weight of the cast on his arm, and he hears Richie snuffling beside him, and feels the warmth of him in the bed. He checks the date on his phone, just in case. It’s a new day.

He’ll have to actually call his lawyer soon to start divorce proceedings. He and Richie will have to book flights, and take back their rental cars. Eddie will absolutely have to get himself a fucking therapist in LA.

He’s been off all his useless meds for a month, though, at least in some sense, and he left the bag in his own room last night when he stumbled into Richie’s. He doesn’t want it near him. He thinks he’ll leave it here, in Derry, where he should have left it in the first place in 1989.

Richie snuffles a little more loudly, and rolls over, groaning. “Eds?”

“Sorry. Didn’t mean to wake you up. Just… making sure I’m not dead.”

“Mm.” Richie pinches him hard in the side, and Eddie smacks him on the arm. “Seem alive to me, babe.”

Eddie laughs, and he turns to muffle it in Richie’s chest. “Fuck you.”

“Not til the cast is off, doctor’s orders.”

Laughing harder, Eddie shoves at Richie again, and that’s enough to make Richie crack one eye open and smile at him.

Somehow, the memories of the month he spent by himself are already fading. He and Richie had rehashed most of the important stuff last night, while Eddie still remembered, but things now are starting to get fuzzy. As he lays there, though, and he has Richie’s arms around him, and a future ahead, it seems ridiculous to think that it had somehow seemed logical in the sewer that he had to die. Richie is so happy with him here, it seems ridiculous to think that the other way could have somehow been better or the right way to do it.

There, in the sun-warmed bed in the Derry Town House, he and Richie both get to live, off-script.