Richie smiled at the carving.
R + E
He held the words of Stan’s letter close to his heart, every word. But there was one part specifically that hit him in a way that he knew wouldn’t hit the other Losers.
Be who you want to be. Be proud.
Those words had cut deep into him. For Stan he wanted to be brave and do as he asked. Richie felt tears welling up once more, his hand gently tracing over the ‘E’.
Eddie was his first and only love. Even when he didn’t remember him, Richie could never bring himself to harbour feelings for another and he never knew why until he came back to Derry.
And now, Eddie would never know. Richie would have to live his life in regret, knowing that he never told the man he loved how he felt before he died, alone. His body left at the bottom of a collapsing cavern.
“I-” Richie choked on his words. “I wish I told you. I wish you were still here.”
Richie let his tears fall until he noticed something that was far beyond strange. He stared as his tears were going forwards and up merely floating in front of him.
“What the fu-”
Suddenly it was like he was being pulled backwards.
Richie was falling and then suddenly it was like was falling in reverse. And as a weird whiplash he felt himself falling again, but this time he landed hard on the ground.
Richie had to blink a few times, his eyes adjusting to the dark.
“Hey Rich. Richie, hey wake up!”
Richie blinked a few times. His vision and mind both adjusting back into reality. Richie couldn’t help but just stare at what was in front of him, or rather, whom.
“Yeah! There he is! Hey buddy!”
“Hey Richie, listen. I think I got it, man!”
It was then in that moment that Richie’s mind went racing as he realised what was going on. The first explanation he thought of was that he was having some sort of terrible breakdown. That the accumulation of Stan’s letter and returning to the Kissing Bridge where he had once carved his and Eddie’s initials had finally caused him to mentally snap.
The second explanation he could think of was the deadlights, which to Richie felt like one big lie because it couldn’t be real. But with one proper look at Eddie, Richie knew that it was real.
For the week that followed when they had killed It, Richie had tried to imprint every detail of Eddie’s in his mind. Any memory he could grasp was a treasure. It was why he lingered in Derry; just in case their memories were to disappear again. Richie never wanted to forget Eddie.
But with Eddie hovering over him with a dumb grin on his face, Richie could see every detail in his face, down to the dimples in his smile to the smallest of freckles.
No matter how hard Richie had tried, he could never remember those small and precise details. But one look at the real deal, and he knew.
Richie knew that there was still the chance that his mind was playing one big sick joke, but he couldn’t bring himself to care.
It felt real enough.
But such relief as soon as it came was doomed to be short-lived.
“I think I killed It! I did! I think I killed --”
No. As soon as he heard those words, Richie knew what was about to happen next. But it wasn’t going to happen again. Richie immediately jolted into action.
In one swift movement, Richie had simultaneously grabbed a hold of Eddie and flipped their positions. Richie was trying to roll them out of the way, but there wasn’t any time to completely evade what happened next.
Eddie was in the middle of saying something along the lines of asking Richie what the hell he was doing, but the words vanished.
All Richie knew over the sounds of muffled screams, which he assumed came from Eddie and Beverly, was the hot pain through his side.
Richie struggled to grasp what had happened after that because the next thing he knew was pain and hovering over Eddie, then next Richie felt his face pressed against a rock. He concluded that It must’ve thrown him.
Amongst the confusion, Richie felt himself being hauled up into a sitting position. He saw two blobs that resembled people.
I don’t have my glasses on, Richie realised.
“Richie! Hey, Rich! We’ve got you. We’ve got you.” It was Bill’s voice, with not a stutter in sight.
“Hold still for a second, Richie.” That voice was Mike.
Suddenly he felt someone placing his glasses back on his face. And then very clearly, he saw Mike and Bill in front of him. The other Losers quickly running over to him. Their eyes glued to Richie’s bleeding side.
Eddie paused for a moment, his breath getting caught in his throat. Eddie forced himself out of it. He had almost let Richie die with the Stan-head earlier in the house because he couldn’t react out of fear. He wasn’t about to let himself do that again.
“He’s losing too much blood.” Eddie immediately pulled off his jacket. With shaking hands, Eddie used both hands to push it against Richie’s wound.
Richie let out a sharp pained gasp at the pressure.
That must be good, Eddie silently thought to himself because if Richie still felt pain, he was still alive. In other words, Eddie found what solace he could in such a horrible situation.
Richie on the other hand, couldn’t help but stare at Eddie.
Beverly glanced over at where Pennywise was attempting to claw at them. Luckily It was too big for the space down the cavern.
“Come out and play, Losers!”
Ben immediately went searching for another exit that Pennywise wasn’t currently occupying.
Ignoring the clown, Eddie lightly tapped the side of Richie’s face, making sure that Richie was focusing on him, which unknown to Eddie he already was.
“How are you doing, Rich?” Eddie asked.
“I got shish kebabbed by a fucking alien clown,” Richie coughed. “You know, just an average Tuesday in Derry.”
What Richie had wanted to do from that was make someone laugh, or at the least crack a smile. Instead, Eddie applied more pressure to Richie’s side, causing him to sharply inhale.
“He needs a hospital. We need to get him out of here!”
“How?” Beverly asked. “We have no way out.”
“Guys! I found a passage out!” Ben called out.
“That’s one problem gone, but what about It?”
Richie knew what they needed to do, but he didn’t want to get straight into the fact that he had already lived through it in the deadlights. Instead Richie opted with what got them to realise it initially. Eddie’s story.
He gripped at Eddie’s arm.
“What is it, Rich?” Eddie’s full attention was on him.
“The…The leper….” Richie struggled to get the words out. Feeling his strength leaving him so quickly was frightening as it was painful. Bleeding out was no walk in the park.
Eddie’s eyebrows furrowed. “What?”
“You were brave. It… It was scared.”
Richie saw as the cogs in Eddie’s brain began to turn. When they were young, Eddie tended to have his thoughts always written all over his face. But maybe that was because Richie had always paid close attention. Almost 25 years of missing time together, but that was something that hadn’t changed.
Eddie’s mind was reeling. He hadn’t told Richie what had happened with the leper, yet he was talking like he knew. Eddie was about to ask once again what Richie meant, but suddenly he was hit with an epiphany.
He was brave against the leper. He held it by It’s throat, choking the life out of it. Eddie would’ve succeeded if it weren’t for the mountain of black projectile vomit.
“It was weak.” Eddie said, realising what Richie had meant.
Richie tried to smile at seeing the metaphorical lightbulb appear over Eddie, but his smile came out as more of a grimace.
“What are you talking about?” Bill finally asked.
“When it appeared to me as a leper, I got a hold of It. I was choking It. I fought back, holding on to It’s throat. I made It seem so small.”
Richie could practically see the light bulbs going off in the other’s head.
“The Shokopiwah people,” Mike’s eyes widened. “All living things must abide by the form they inhabit.”
Beverly’s eyes widened as well.
“The cavern on the way in. It will have to be small to fit through. It should be small enough to kill.”
“Guys.” Richie said, while his voice sounded weaker, it had never sounded so clear.
All eyes were on their beloved ‘Trashmouth’. The look of determination was burning in his eyes. Richie gritted his teeth, attempting to swallow down his pain to sound clear.
“There’s another way to make someone feel small,” Richie looked over to Mike. The memory of what he had said in the life Richie had thought he had lived came rippling back. “It’s just a clown.”
Mike blinked letting it sink in. A small smile broke out on his face.
“Richie, you genius!”
But really, Richie knew that he couldn’t take credit for the idea. If anything, Mike was calling himself the genius.
“Go get that motherfucking clown.”
Richie hated how he couldn’t focus on what was going on. They were out of the small cavern. In the corner of Richie’s eye, he saw Ben running over to join the fray. He must’ve helped Eddie carry him out back into the open.
It felt like he was running through a blur until Eddie was back to fixing his gaze on him. Eddie moved his jacket away to inspect the wound again.
“What’s the verdict Dr K?” Richie didn’t mean for it to sound like a whisper, but he had no energy to talk properly.
Eddie didn’t reply, instead he pushed the jacket back down harder on to Richie’s side.
A sharp pained gasp slipped out of Richie.
“I’m sorry! I’m sorry!” Eddie frowned. “You’re going to be okay. Just hang a little while longer.”
Richie wasn’t an idiot. He knew what Eddie was doing was out of desperation. They both knew why. A truth no one wanted to accept. Richie was dying.
Oddly enough the thought of that didn’t scare Richie. Instead, he let himself just stare at Eddie for a moment. Richie let himself take it all in. What he was seeing wasn’t a lost memory. It was real. Eddie was with him. Eddie was safe and more importantly, alive. That was all Richie cared about. The pain was nothing compared to the relief.
“This…..” Richie began, his voice resigned, “This is okay.”
Eddie’s eyes almost bulged out of his head.
“How the fuck is this okay!? Don’t you dare go saying shit like that!”
Richie slowly placed his hand over Eddie’s, causing the other to look the other in the eyes. The moment Eddie looked back into his eyes, Richie only had one thought.
Eddie’s alive and he will continue to live.
It was then that Richie knew that he did not have a single regret.
He could die at peace knowing that Eddie was alive. That was enough for Richie.
“I…I wanna tell you something.”
“No,” Eddie shook his head as tears began to well up in his eyes. “Don’t give me that last words goodbye bullshit. You’re not going to die. I’m not going to let you! Tell me after we’re out of here, okay?”
Richie wanted to smile, and retort “says the guys whose last words were ‘I fucked your mother’” but he knew it wouldn’t have made sense. That was a different Eddie – well, not so much different Eddie, but a different future. Richie didn’t know even if he should’ve called it that. The deadlights were hard to explain.
Regardless, Richie knew that while the others were taking down the clown, they still needed all hands-on deck for the final blow, or squeeze if what he saw was right.
Richie attempted to push Eddie’s hand off him.
“You…You need to go help the others.”
“What? No!” Eddie hissed. “I’m not leaving you!”
“I’ll be okay for a few minutes,” Richie took a moment to catch his breath. “But…But right now the others need all the help they can get.”
Eddie hesitated. “Promise me you won’t die.”
Richie knew better to make a promise he knew that he couldn’t keep. With every moment he could feel himself slipping further and further away.
He was dying. A simple promise wouldn’t stop that from happening.
Richie just hoped that not breaking a promise to Eddie of all people was stronger than death.
Eddie immediately and swiftly wrapped his jacket around Richie’s waist close to the wound, tightly tying it around the bleeding. Eddie placed Richie’s hands over it and pushed down.
“Keep pressure on that!”
“Go!” Richie’s yell was quite pathetic, but Eddie complied regardless.
The quicker they killed the clown, the quicker they could Richie out of there. Eddie scattered to his feet and over to where the fight was. Never had Richie seen Eddie run toward danger so quickly. But despite what Richie though, it wasn’t bravery that drove Eddie to run toward Pennywise; it was rage.
Eddie ran over to where they had the small and dishevelled Pennywise pinned.
“I’m the eater of worlds!” It pathetically insisted.
Eddie took one look at the arm-claw that had pierced through Richie, and the next thing he knew, he was ripping it off the dying clown. Eddie threw the arm to the ground like it weighed nothing.
Beverly was the most shocked at the action, but she kept chanting ‘clown’ along with the others.
“You’re just a fucking clown!” Eddie hissed, joining in with the other’s chant.
They had Pennywise back to the wall of a rock.
“A clown,” Mike bravely stared It down. “With a scared beating heart.”
“Would you look at that,” Pennywise forced a smile in it’s weakened state. “Someone cheated this time.”
Simultaneously all the Loser’s had the same collective thought.
What the fuck does that mean?
But before they could give another thought, they all squeezed It’s heart. As Eddie helped to squeeze it, he couldn’t help but feel a strange feeling like It was talking about him. He quickly brushed it off as he and the others watched as he faded into nothing. And just hovering above them, the deadlights vanished.
They all let themselves have a moment of relief and victory. Bill affectionately resting his head against Mike’s, as Ben and Beverly grabbed on to Eddie in a semi hug.
Eddie couldn’t help but let out a small laugh.
They did it. They had killed Pennywise for good.
Eddie suddenly got hit back with reality.
“Richie. Guys, Richie!”
Immediately the joy was gone, and they all rushed back over to where Eddie had left Richie.
Don’t be dead. Don’t be dead. Eddie chanted to himself. He felt as he saw Richie staring down at the same spot.
“Richie?” Bill cautiously asked.
No one knew what they’d do if Richie didn’t respond to Bill. Luckily, they didn’t have to find out. They felt like they could take a breath when Richie’s eyes suddenly darted upwards toward them. Seeing the others, he tried to smile.
“Did you kill It?” Richie asked in a whisper.
“Yeah. Yeah, we did,” Eddie smiled, kneeling beside him. “Let’s get you up.”
Eddie tried to tug Richie to his feet but instead Richie’s legs remained still and he shook his head.
“I don’t think I can move.” Richie said, almost like a confession.
He saw as Eddie’s smile dropped from his face. Richie really didn’t want to see that.
Then suddenly, the whole cavern was all beginning to come down. Richie felt the echo of the memory of Eddie’s death. Richie had left for less than a few minutes and Eddie had died, alone. If the others hadn’t dragged him out, Richie would’ve stayed with Eddie and died too. But that wasn’t what their new future had in store. Not for Eddie at least.
Eddie will live.
“Just go. It’s all about to come down.” Richie said.
“No, Richie no!” Eddie pleaded, half was that Richie would stop talking like that, the other was that he couldn’t believe Richie was giving up.
“That’s not happening!” Mike snapped.
“There isn’t enough time.” Richie insisted. He didn’t want to be the cause if they didn’t get out. If he had to die there, he would be okay with that, or at least that’s what he told himself.
“Like hell there isn’t!” Ben forcibly slung Richie over his shoulder. “Let’s go!”
Richie didn’t have the strength to fight back. Besides, even if he hadn’t been impaled, the chances of him against Ben and all what Richie assumed to be his eight abs, were slim.
The Loser’s didn’t waste anytime running and climbing back through everything. Richie couldn’t say that he remembered a lot of it, but what he did pick up on was the fact he was being tossed around and shoved like a rag doll through tight spaces. It was a good thing that he couldn’t really feel pain anymore….. but the more Richie thought about that, he realised that maybe that wasn’t a good thing.
By some miracle, they all were steps out just as the house collapsed. It may have been dead, but there wasn’t any time to celebrate.
“Check Richie. Check Richie!” Bill barked, noticing how Richie’s eyes were shut as he was draped over Ben’s shoulder.
Mike ran straight for the nearest car, wasting no time to gawk at the destruction of the Neibolt house. Beverly and Eddie kneeled as Ben lowered Richie to the ground. Bill was standing idly by watching as Mike ran.
Eddie reached out a shaking hand to Richie’s next, desperately checking for a pulse. Eddie felt a breath slam back into him as he felt one. It was weak but it was there.
Richie opened his eyes at the touch, but they slowly began to droop again as soon as they were open.
“Hey, hey! No! Open your eyes, Richie!” Eddie placed both hands on the sides of Richie’s face. “Come on, look at me! Look at me!”
Richie felt a ghost of a memory come back to him with those words. It was the first time they faced It in the Neibolt house. It was coming towards them, claws out and sharp. The roles were reversed, and Richie had grabbed on to Eddie’s face, yelling at Eddie to look at him. Richie remembered thinking that if they were going to die in that moment, he hadn’t wanted their last memory to be of a killer clown, but he’d rather it of each other. Eddie had his arm broken, but they both lived through that, they all did.
Richie’s eyes were getting heavier, but Richie forced himself to open them. He wanted to be able to see Eddie, but his vision was blurry, and he could only see his outline.
“Where are my glasses?” Richie asked, squinting his eyes. He thought that he must’ve lost them as they were leaving.
“Richie,” Beverly held back tears. “You are wearing your glasses.”
“Oh…” That’s all what Richie could muster. He knew he didn’t have much time left.
Mike came to a screeching halt on the side of the road. Ben didn’t care at all that Mike was driving his car so carelessly. Ben knew it was dumb to leave the keys to his car in ignition, but it was the isolated Neibolt Street and in that moment, it was like a ray of hope.
“Come on! Let’s go!” Ben lifted Richie into the back seat. Eddie was close behind. They all rapidly squeezed in the back with Bill in the front seat. Ben was still out the car looking for something in his car’s trunk.
“Ben, hurry the fuck up!” Bill yelled; his eyes glued on Richie.
“Ben!” Beverly desperately called.
Richie was still slowly blinking at the commotion around him. The yelling didn’t make much sense to him, it was all starting to fizzle out.
“I got it! I got it!” Ben leapt into the backseat. Before he had shut the door, Mike was flooring it. The Derry hospital was about fifteen minutes away from the Neibolt house. Mike planned to get there in five minutes if not shorter. He knew Derry inside and out. Every route and every short cut.
“I don’t know how much this is going to help.” Ben showed what he had grabbed.
It was a first aid kit. Eddie practically snatched it from his hands. Beverly half cradled Richie to sit up as Eddie fumbled through the small kit for whatever he could use.
Eddie’s hands shook as he untied his blood-soaked jacket from Richie’s side. It was too much blood, but Eddie refused to lose his cool. Not after almost getting Richie killed once and saving him only for Richie to take the hit.
He wasn’t going to let him down. Not again. Eddie lifted Richie’s shirt and immediately he dressed and began to wrap the wound as expertly as he could. He may have not ended up being a doctor like Beverly had hoped, but he knew enough about first aid.
“You’re going to be okay, honey.” Beverly kept soothingly running her hand through Richie’s hair. “We’re getting you to a hospital. Just sit tight.”
Eddie was done, but he took notice of right away that Richie had barely flinched as he wrapped the gauze around him. On top of it all, Richie had been quiet.
“Hey, hey, hey!” Eddie cradled Richie’s face in his hands. It must’ve been the right choice because Richie’s gaze seemed to focus on him once again. “You’re going to be okay, alright? You’re going to be okay. Just stay with me here, okay, Rich? Richie?”
Dying gave a strange feeling of apathy. There was no shame or fear. It would’ve felt peaceful if he weren’t so aware of what he was leaving behind, but it was also with each passing moment that he felt himself not having the strength left to care even if he wanted to.
Well, I suppose, if I have one last chance to be brave and say something, now’s as good as time as any.
With what strength he had left, Richie chose to speak.
“Yeah? What is it, buddy?”
“Eds, I’ve always….I…” I love you.
Richie couldn’t finish what he was saying. The last of his strength slipped away from him. His eyes shut not knowing whether his last memory was going to be of Eddie’s worried face down in that cave.