A/N; Hi, so this is weird. I haven't published anything, anywhere, in a very long time. I've had writer's block out the wazoo, so I've been trying this little writing exercise where I put a playlist on shuffle, and try and write a little something with a random pairing. And come on, this was a given. I've got a couple of these things sitting around, so I thought I'd post my favourite. Hope you enjoy!
Richie eased himself down onto the motel bed, cheap springs creaking at his every move. His face felt swollen, from more than just the various cuts and bruises. He felt his rib cage shudder with every breath, dark purple hues blooming across the once smooth pale skin. Every square inch of his body hurt; his calves strained from running, throat sore from the guttural screams of terror and anger, even down to the scrapes on his hands from climbing down the stone well. But it was his eyes that felt the most different, their newfound inability to stop welling with tears. He fell backwards against the bed, cursing loudly at the discomfort from his abused body meeting the old mattress. He slowly moved his body onto his right side, trying to alleviate some of the pain in his left shoulder. He punched the soft pillow beside him into a shape that he could finally find peace with as he shut his eyes.
He'd left Derry a little over five hours ago, the flight taking longer than anticipated. He was too tired to make the full drive to his house and he knew it. After picking up his car from the airport and paying the lengthy bill he set out. Almost immediately however he nearly veered into the oncoming line of traffic, rousing with the loud horns. He then decided to save himself the headache and potential head on collision, stopping over at a Motel 8 half a mile outside of the highway. It wasn't much, but it hadn't needed to be. It was just a place to sleep and he wasn't trying to impress anyone was he? Not that he had anyone to impress. Not anymore. The flood gates broke at that foul thought, and he buried his face in the pillow. His sobs were drowned out by the sound of the cotton pillowcase, but they wracked his entire body. The pain radiated through his soul and his eyes burned with tears. He tried to catch his breath, to control his breathing, but found himself unable to do so. It took a good five minutes to be able to take a deep breath. It was a good ten to control the sobs falling from his mouth, and a good twenty to wipe his eyes clear. He felt so empty. So broken. He was broken. And he'd never feel fixed. He hadn't been there. Richie promised to be there, and then Richie left him. Eddie died alone, damnit. Alone. Just like Eddie had always feared. Eddie died alone, and it was all his fault. He clutched the pillow tighter and squeezed his eyes shut, as if he could bring him back with just wishing enough. But of course, nothing he ever did was enough.
The first thing he did when he arrived back to his Los Angeles apartment was to grab a beer from the fridge and chug it. This was mostly all he did for the next few days. The same pattern each night, wake up with a hangover, drink, watch TV, drink, order in food, drink, blather nonsensically to the delivery man as he tried to hand him his food, drink, and cry himself to sleep. He couldn't figure out how he'd ever been able to live without Eddie beforehand. His best friend. His first love. The first person that had ever truly cared about him, the first that had ever seen him for him. Eddie was more important to him than he'd ever truly been able to grasp, until he lost him. Until he'd been dragged kicking and screaming, from his body as the walls caved in around them. He felt this deep ache, this hole he'd been unable to fill. It wasn't until the Tuesday of next week that he'd been finally able to leave his house, even if he was just to restock his liquor cabinet. His once five o'clock shadow was now a scraggly beard and the deep purple bruises had turned a sickening yellow. He'd ignored the open staring by the cashier as he'd gone through her line with $200's worth of alcohol, Aleve, and beer nuts. He ignored the cries of a fan as he drove out the parking lot, not caring about the tweet that would most likely follow that interaction. When he finally returned to his apartment, he dug through his pockets with his right hand. His left was straining under the weight of his paper grocery bags, all six of them filled to the brim and tauntingly close to bursting.
"Excuse me sir, can I take a moment of your time to talk to you about our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ?" He jolted when he heard a voice beside him. He nearly dropped his carefully balanced grocery bags, and grunted with the effort of realigning his form. He shoved the door open and without so much as glancing at the person who had spoken to him, slammed it behind him. God, did people still do stuff like that? It almost seemed like some kind of skit he'd have written, original material for once. He slung the bags on the floor of his kitchen when he heard a heavy banging on his door. Fear filled his body as the knocking continued, the sharp raps against the wood ringing throughout the apartment. Was it Him? Was IT back? He edged his way to the door, wishing he had cleaned his door hole so he could see who was on the other side. Or what.
He inhaled deeply before releasing the breath quickly as he yanked the door open, an umbrella raised in his hand ready to defend himself if he needed. The sight of the young woman with her arms across her chest certainly took him by surprise, but he stood his ground while watching her carefully.
"What?" He barked, eyeing her. She cocked an eyebrow as she indicated the upheld umbrella with her eyes. As if finally noticing he still held the weapon he lowered it, but didn't drop it. Better to be safe than sorry. She seemed to accept that as a sign of sanity as she exhaled.
"Do you know what the temperature is today sir?" The question caught him off guard as he squinted outside at the blazing sun, heat rising in waves off dark pavement.
"Uh, I don't know. 88 degrees?" He answered slowly, feeling like he was missing something.
"It's 93 degrees fahrenheit today, 33.9 degrees celsius. That's pretty hot, don't you think?" She pushed, a dangerous edge to her voice. Richie almost wanted to scratch the back of his head utterly confused at what her point was.
"I mean... sure." Her nostrils flared at his offhand comment, but she merely took a deep breath and gave a big megawatt smile.
"Now, imagine you have to walk door to door in 93 degree whether to ask random strangers if they'd like to talk to you about something so deeply personal like religion. Imagine being a 20 year old being told by your parents to go invade people's privacy, despite the fact they slam the door in your face 9 times out of ten. After all that imagine being the asshole who opens a door into someone's face, doesn't even apologise and then slams the door close." The more she vented the more pointed her voice got, her eyes narrowing with each sentence until you could barely see them. Richie didn't know how to reply, staring dumbfounded at the girl before him. Her amber eyes bored into his own, long dark brunette curls framing her face still blessed with the smooth skin of youth. She was wearing a navy blue dress shirt, tucked into a pristine charcoal pencil skirt he was sure she must be overheated in.
"-am sorry? Sure you are. Because I'm sure you, like every other human on this earth recognise a dick move when you see one. Sorry to bother you, obviously I interrupted your busy day with a question." She broke off his sentence with a scowl, and turned to go when he caught her shoulder. He immediately dropped his hand when she whirled back around, pepper spray gripped in one hand.
"Whoa, whoa, whoa, don't spray! I'm sorry, ok?" He shouted, eyes squeezed closed and his arms held in the universal surrender position.
"Don't you ever put your hands on me without my permission, do you understand?" He nodded quickly, not daring to open his eye back up until he heard her soft sigh and bag jingling. He peeked slowly, eyes meeting her impatient ones. He let out a breath of relief and put his hand over his heart, thankful for the little eyesight he had remaining having not been attacked.
"So what? Why'd you grab me?" He stuttered at that question, trying to think of his reasoning. His hand moved out of his control, not that that was a particularly good excuse. If Franco hadn't been able to use that one, he certainly couldn't.
"Do you want to come inside for a glass of water?" He blurted out as if having no ability to control his mouth, not that he ever really did. She looked him up and down with a sour look on her face as if he'd insulted her entire bloodline.
"Really man? You're like 48 or something, why would we ever-"
"Hey, it's not like that, I promise. I just… I don't know, it's stupid. I shouldn't have grabbed you, I'm sorry. I don't know why I did, but I'm not trying to get with you or anything. And I'm sorry for hitting you with my door I wasn't trying to. And, I'm to shut up now. Also, I'm 40… which isn't the point. Sorry." She watched him spiral before nodding slowly.
"Ok. As long as the door stays open and I get to watch you pour the water. And I'm holding onto my spray, got it?" He nodded quickly in agreement, and opened to door wide enough for her to walk in. He seem to get the hint when she didn't move right away, and kicked the umbrella beside him out of reach. She relaxed a bit more, and he turned to head towards the kitchen.
"I don't really know what I'm supposed to ask, or whatever. I don't really believe in all that religion shit." He spoke over his shoulder as he pulled the Brita filter out of his fridge. It had been a gift from one of his fans at his shows a few years back, after one story about drinking the water in a Mexican motel. Some absolute bullshit, but at least he'd gotten some good reviews from the biased critics in the audience.
"So why am I here if you don't believe in, and I quote, that religion shit?" She asked sarcastically, shoving an empty pizza box off one of his kitchen stools to sit and watch him pour the water. His eyes stayed glued to the glasses, unsure how to answer her.
"I don't know really. I guess I'm looking for something. An answer of some kind. Something to…" He cut off his sentence, unsure how to finish it.
"Cope with?" He glanced up making eye contact with her, searching for some kind of judgement there. He found none, simply the wide eyes watching him, a calculating look reflecting back at him. He broke off the eye contact quickly, grabbing a smaller glass from his cupboard.
"Not how I was going to put it, but sure." He sighed, sliding her one of the water glasses as he poured himself a double shot of Old Crow downing it immediately. He coughed at the burn, gulping down his glass of water to soothe his throat. He let out a soft breath, almost forgetting his guest. He shook his head slightly, glancing up to meet the girl's concerned look. He cleared his throat and gave her an awkward smile, as he lifted the half empty whiskey bottle once more to the brim of the glass.
"...Who did you lose?" The question stopped his hand from pouring a second glass and his eyes finally held contact with the girl in front of him.
"Am I that obvious?" He chuckled morosely, as he put the bottle back down. She didn't reply only watching him as he sat in the seat across the table from her. He ran his finger up and down the condensation of his glass of water, once more breaking eye contact.
"You remind me of my Uncle Alex." He snorted at that, looking over at the girl's stone set face. She was pretty he guessed, for a girl. Her coffee coloured skin to spoke to some Latin background though he'd rather not ask and make assumptions. After all, not everyone from Latin America was light skinned with curly hair. At least that's what J-Lo had said in an interview once, and her word was law. Realising he had yet to reply, he swallowed a mouthful of water, and cleared his throat.
"Why is that?" She sighed and leant forward, hands clasped together on the table.
"When my Uncle lost Auntie Daniela, he was a mess. He left our church and began drinking his dinners. My Dad wasn't exactly very helpful, just telling him that everything The Father did was in his best interest. Not really what he was looking to hear." She took a sip of the water, looking over to see Richie watching her with rapt attention, "After a while my Dad said we weren't allowed to speak to him anymore, that there was nothing we could do for someone who had turned their back on the Lord. Though sometimes when my parents think I'm on mission I go and visit him. He's doing better now, leaving the house and eating real food again. He even joined a football league of all things. He says time never fully heals the wounds of loss, but it helps numb the pain." Richie hummed quietly before giving the girl a cynical smile.
"So is your Uncle back in the pews yet?" She shook her head and gave him a softer look, a small smile on her lips.
"No. He's not ready yet. He might never be. And that's ok. It's not his path, and that's alright too. We all walk different paths in life, some longer, some with more obstacles, and some with different gods and beliefs. And that's kinda beautiful, you know?" Richie let out a scoff, then held up his hands in defense at her glare.
"I'm sorry, I'm not making fun of you. That's just not very Christian, you know?" She shook her head, before levelling him with a glare that would make Beverley proud.
"So you've met every Christian in the world have you?" She held up a finger before he could reply, causing him to shut his mouth with an audible click. "I know it's hard to comprehend to some but just because we share the same God doesn't mean we share the same beliefs. I believe people walk their own paths, and that no one should tell them how to walk it." Richie took another sip of his water, letting that sink in slightly. Coming for small town Maine, every Christian he'd met was a judgemental ass. That had become somewhat of a character trait to him. Meeting this girl was a breath of fresh air, but it certainly didn't make her the new normal.
"So now we've got that out of the way, tell me about who you lost." Richie sighed, looking out of the window, as if he could see into the past better that way. Not really sure how to tell his tale, or how much he should, he started at the beginning.
"Eddie, that was his name. He was this dork, an absolute fucking dork. He had this Mom right, she taught him to fear all the germs in the world at all times. Man, he could list every food allergy on this Earth, and every single airborne bacteria in aeroplanes. And he had this haircut, this dumb looking haircut, that he gelled down each morning and pretended like he hadn't. I mean everyone knew he had, but we let him keep a little dignity. When we first met he introduced himself with his full name, like middle name and everything. That's when I knew I had to watch out for him, save him from getting his ass beat everyday, you know. He was like a jerk magnet." He'd only meant to tell the girl a few things, but it was like a dam had broken, and he just couldn't stop. He leant back, hoping the tears welling up in his eyes would dissolve back to where they'd come from.
"He wore polo shirts every single day, like to school and shit. And I always told him to stop wearing those polo shirts, cause maybe people wouldn't bully him quite as much, you know? And everytime he would always reply, 'Shut the fuck up Rich, my mom bought me them', like that was a good thing. But he wasn't about to change his mind and well, you win some you lose some. Oh and he had these big brown eyes, like puppy dog eyes. But when he smiled, it was like the whole world just smiled with him. He didn't smile all the time, because he was usually this nervous wreck but man when he did. You could sell front seat tickets to that smile, and they'd be sold out in less than 15 minutes. He was so smart too, so much smarter than me. He never made me feel dumb though. If were in class he'd just laugh and let me copy off him. His laugh was even better than his smile, I hadn't considered that a possibility but it's true." Suddenly his voice broke, and he had to remember to breathe, he hadn't done that in a minute. He inhaled, and let out a slow exhale. He swallowed the lump in his throat, hands vibrating with an emotion he didn't quite want to name. There was silence as he tried to regain his control, not expecting large wave of bitter nostalgia that had hit him.
"Did he know how much you loved him?" The girl's soft question broke the silence, and he snapped his head up, expecting to see disgust, anger, hatred, something. But all he found was sympathy and it almost frustrated him.
"Of course he didn't. He would have been grossed out. Like everyone else. Like you are. Like your precious God would be." He spat out the words in spite, and prepared himself for the blowback. The gentle touch on his hand surprised him, though he didn't dare to meet her eyes.
"If you need something to blame, that's ok. He can take it. But I think before you blame someone else, you need to stop blaming yourself. Whatever happened to Eddie, it wasn't your fault." He sniffed, before covering his face with his hands biting back the quickly forming tears.
"You don't know that, kid. He died because of me. It is my fault." He replied, resignment in his tone.
"Did you kill him? Did you pull the trigger, did you drive the car, were you the disease?" He sighed and placed his head on his hand, elbow propped up on the table. Knowing he didn't have the strength to speak right now he slowly shook his head, confirming her comment.
"I don't think you killed Eddie. I don't think you've killed anyone. Mister, I don't know you all that much. And if I really didn't know you or just met you, I'd think you were a tall douchebag with a drinking problem." He laughed at that, the sob building up in his throat releasing a bit of pressure.
"From what I've seen of you, you're hurting. And no one is going to be able to cure you of that. You have to do this for yourself right now. But you're not alone. Even if you're not walking with the path of the Lord right now, or maybe ever, you're not alone. Everyone has someone. Somewhere. Someone that can help with that hurt. Nobody is ever truly alone." He sighed, and looked up at the girl as she pushed back from the table, gathering her things as she stood.
"You're sure I'm not some lost cause?" She smiled at the man, black hair askew with a ten o'clock shadow and sweat stained pits, and shook her head.
"You know, I meet a lot of people on these outings. But I can't say I've ever met a lost cause. You're not about to break that streak." She held up her hand in a wave as she left out the way she came, without another word. He suddenly stood, and ran to the door, knowing he was missing something.
"Hey, I never got your name-" He glance to his left, then to his right. But there was no one there. Just the smell of honeysuckle where she had once stood. The same honeysuckle from summers that had grown by the lake. The same lake where he'd carved the name of his first love on a bridge, with a pocketknife he'd swiped from some boy scout on a school trip. R+E in a misshapen heart.
As if in slow motion he returned to his place on his sofa, a different emotion in him that this morning. It was like something had moved. Like some sort of acceptance, or something had begun. He wondered about what he'd say if Eddie was right next to him. If he could talk to him, what would he say to him. To his first love. To his best friend. He leant back, shut his eyes, and just spoke.
"Eddie, I never got to tell you this, but I love you man. Like, really love you. Like wanted to marry you, and never be away from you kind of love. I wish you were still here asshole. I hate that you died alone, I hate that I left you to die alone. I want to go back in time and take that claw for you. I want to run out that house with you, or be buried underneath it together. I want to kiss you, just once. Man, I wish I could have kissed you. Everytime you caught me looking at your lips and I blamed it on you needing chapstick. Ed if you were here, I'd want you to feel how my heart raced for you every time you smiled. How when when we shared that hammock, and you wouldn't take your goddamn stinky ass feet out my face I didn't give a shit. Because at least you were there, you know? At least you were with me. Because you were the only thing that made me feel safe." He exhaled loudly, voice trembling with the amount of pure emotion behind it.
"I know you probably can't hear me now, but I just wanted to say… I hope you died knowing that you made everything worth it man. The fucking crazy clown, the bullshit deaths, the dumb ass scraped knees. You... jeez Ed. I don't have the right words. Never did. All I know is... your life was my life's best part. I love you Eddie Kaspbrak. And I'll never stop." He was silent after his speech, not knowing just what to do now. Everything he'd said, he'd meant. He'd never been able to put into words before, but now it was out. His cards were on the table. Now what? Maybe pick up the random beer bottle. Or maybe the Chinese take away box that was lying on its side. Yeah, now was probably the time. And somewhere, on the other side of the world, in the middle of nowhere Maine, a small gust of wind blew the smell of honeysuckle down a nowhere street, the promise of summer on it's lips.