Hi all! It's been a while since I posted a "proper" fic (as in something that wasn't just a tag on to a social media AU on my tumblr) but it was Camp NaNoWriMo this month and I finished this just in time - this fic makes up the majority of the words I wrote this month for my project, though there are two more IT fics that I've also started and am hoping to post soon!

I don't want to spoil the fic, but I apologize in advance if the characters are in any way OOC or whatever - I'm trying really hard to write Richie and Eddie in character, but sometimes I struggled because it's been a whole year since I last wrote a fic not connected to a social media edit.

I hope you guys enjoy, regardless!

The first thing he sees when he comes to is Eddie – of course it's Eddie. How could it be anyone else? Even in the flickering strobe lights, even with his glasses cracked and smeared, he can see the smaller man's profile, can see the thrilled and relieved look on his face as he leans over him. For a moment, Richie wonders if he's in a nightmare, if the fucking clown is playing mind tricks on him, before deciding that it can't be – he can feel the weight on top of him, can hear his voice rousing him. Besides, It wouldn't show him Eddie alive and well, that's not exactly scary – this has to be real.

"Yeah, yeah, there he is, buddy!" Eddie is grinning down at him, clearly relieved to see him responding. "Hey, Richie, listen, I think I got It, man!" He's so proud and excited, so earnest, and it's all Richie can do not to hug him, not to pull him down and kiss him in that moment. "I think I killed It! I did it, I think I killed It for real-!"

Eddie's entire body jerks as the claw rips through him, skewering him from back to front; his chest seems to explode, his blood spurting from the sudden force of it.

Richie lets out a noise somewhere between a gasp, a choke and a groan, horrified as he realizes that he's now wearing Eddie's blood; it's on his shirt, his face, his fucking glasses, hot and sticky. He's briefly aware of Beverly screaming from somewhere else in the cavern, but he doesn't even think of the others, not for a second, not with Eddie on top of him and holy fuck-

"Eddie," He manages – it's all he can manage, the only thing he can focus on. What else is he supposed to say?

Eddie looks down and up again, hands slowly reaching to where the claw is protruding from his chest. "Richie," He mumbles, sounding absolutely terrified; blood starts to spill from his mouth, drops of it falling and flying through the air. "Richie..."

Suddenly Eddie is yanked away, flying through the air as that demented laugh echoes around them; he can hear the others all crying out in fear and horror, and it's all he can do not to scream at the sight. "Eddie..."

No, no, this can't be real, he thinks to himself, this cannot be real – not Eddie, NOT Eddie, oh fuck please no-

The clown cackles even more, almost playing with the body at the end of his claw, as if amused by a toy; with what seems like no effort, he uses his arm to throw Eddie across the cavern and into a fissure between the walls. The sound of his body hitting the floor and rolling down the rocks is all too sickeningly loud.

Richie immediately pushes himself up, ignoring the pain he's acquired from his own fall from the Deadlights mere minutes ago, and forces himself to stand, to run to that fissure. He knows the others are running too, ignoring the giant clown who is now regaining its strength and un-impaling itself from where it had fallen earlier. Fuck the clown, fuck that fucking clown, he thinks to himself as he nearly trips in his haste to reach the other man, Eddie has to be okay, we have to help him, please be okay, please-

"Eddie!" He exclaims, but he's too terrified to even help him sit up, too terrified to touch him – he doesn't want to make it worse, doesn't want to risk fucking up and hurting him even more somehow. That, and the sight makes him want to gag; there's so much blood, he's so pale…

Mike and Beverly help Eddie sit up, leaning him against the sloping rocks, and they all look at their wounded friend – Richie very nearly does puke right there and then. There's a literal hole, a giant fucking hole, right through Eddie's chest, so big that they can practically see everything inside as it spills out out of him. The metallic smell of blood is so overwhelming, so overpowering, that it really does take all of his strength not to gag.

The clown starts hacking at the fissure in the rocks, trying to break in to get to them, calling for them to "come out and play, Losers, come out and play!". Right now he's too large to fit in, but if they don't hurry fast…

Without thinking, Richie takes the leather jacket off of himself and bends down to press it against Eddie's chest, to try and staunch the wound. "He's...He's hurt really bad," He manages as Eddie grimaces and cries out in pain. "We...We gotta get him outta here..."

"How are we supposed to do that, Richie?" Beverly asks; she sounds genuine, but he knows what she means: they're trapped by a demon clown for one, and miles underneath Derry for another, and Eddie is in absolutely no condition to go anywhere. Richie understands, but he still feels lost and despondent – there has to be something they can do, they can't just not do anything for him…

"I almost killed him," Eddie mumbles, and Richie turns his full attention back to him; his voice is weak, every word a laboured breath. "The Leper...my hands around his throat...and I could feel him choking...I made him small." He paused, suddenly looking determined. "He seemed so weak...he seemed so weak..."

Mike says something about the Native Americans, the laws or some shit, Richie isn't really too sure; Ben calls out to them from somewhere, informing them of a passageway, a tunnel. It all suddenly clicks into place.

"Pennywise has to make himself small to get himself through the entrance of the cavern, right?" Beverly realizes, and it fills them all with hope. "If we can get back there, we can force him back down to size – we can make him small, small enough so that we can kill him!"

They make their way through the narrow passageway pointed out by Ben quickly, aware that they are quickly running out of time; Richie mutters to the others to be careful as they help him move Eddie, though they already know, and it takes so much energy just to move him a few feet. As they reach another opening in between the rocks, Eddie coughs and groans, managing to request, "I need a little rest," and so they lower him to sit up against the wall carefully.

As the others prepare to act, Richie sinks to the floor in front of him, deciding then and there that he's not leaving Eddie's side – he can't, he absolutely can't, he can't leave him alone, not now.

"Hey...Hey, Richie," Eddie manages, voice weak. "I gotta tell you something."

He has every bit of Richie's attention. "What? What's up, buddy?"

It takes Eddie a long, painful moment to respond, and it's as if he's steeling himself to admit something huge, perhaps something life-altering, and then, "...I fucked your mother."

As if he didn't know it already, Richie decides that he's never been more in love with someone than in this moment. He doesn't smile or laugh, too scared to, and he's glad he doesn't when Eddie's chuckles quickly dissolve into breathless coughs.

He stays with Eddie as the others run on, as Pennywise corners them, and he's briefly aware that their friends begin to taunt the clown; he's not sure how the fuck it's working, what the fuck is happening or why it's working, but he yells with them, yells, "A DUMB FUCKING CLOWN!" and knows that it's working. The clown is shrinking, desperately trying to fight against them but failing, and soon he is crawling backwards in fear, terrified and small.

This clown...this fucking clown...he thinks of the taunts, of the disgust, about his "dirty little secret", thinks about how this motherfucker has terrorized them and made their lives miserable for nearly thirty years; he thinks of Eddie, of how he's bleeding out before him, and he gets up to join the others. He's waited twenty seven fucking years for this, he needs to make that fucker pay – not just for him but for Eddie too.

The clown is yelling and screeching, and it's all too easy for Richie to lean down and yank at one of It's claw arms; it's the one It impaled Eddie with, it still has his fucking blood on it, and he's filled with so much anger and hatred in that moment. He doesn't think twice before pulling the fucking thing off. They're all chanting at It, making It retreat in fear, and Richie has never hated something so much as he hates It, has never wanted to hurt someone or something as much as he does this stupid fucking thing.

Mike manages to pull the heart of It out, and it beats hard with fear, with desperation, so loud; slowly, they all put their hands around it, sparing It one last look at it mutters its final words at them. And then they all squeeze the dirty rotten beating thing hard, and finally, finally-

It is dead. For real this time.

Things start to crumble and the fragments float – the heart in their hands, the rocks, the dead clown. The others begin to hug, but Richie suddenly remembers-

"Eddie, Eddie!"

He doesn't waste time running back to where he left Eddie, leaning down in front of him again and grinning because they've done it, holy fuck, they've actually done it. Eddie's fallen asleep, it seems, so Richie gently prods him, tells him to wake up. His hand comes up to clasp Eddie's injured cheek; other than the soiled bandage, the only thing he feels is skin-

Cold skin.

Eddie isn't waking up.



No No No-

He tries again, removes his hand and touches his cheek once more, his touch firmer. Eddie doesn't stir.


Beverly is softly crying behind him. "Richie...Richie..."

"He's gone," Bill says quietly.

"He's alright," Richie says quickly, turning to them and hoping they'll understand. "No, he's just hurt, we gotta get him outta here!" None of them will meet his eyes. He tries again, trying to get one of them – just one – to understand. "He's hurt… Ben… Bill, he's okay, we gotta get him out of here, Bev..." He turns back to Eddie, hoping he'll wake up – he has to, he has to, there's simply no way he's...no, he isn't, he isn't-

"Richie." Beverly is barely holding back her tears, but her voice is firmer, pleading with him.

He thinks it's her betrayal that hurts the most; he exhales sharply, turning to look at her. "What?"

"Honey..." He can see that she's trying to get through to him, trying to make him understand, but it's all lies, it's all a fucking lie- "Honey, he's dead."

Dead. Dead. Dead. It cuts through him. It's so final, so irreversible, so certain...his brain understands even if he's trying hard to ignore it. He knows. He knows. His eyes fill with tears, and he hurriedly hides his face so they won't see, but they will – he knows they will. They know him far too well.

"We have to go," Beverly insists tearfully. "Come on, come on...Richie..."

"We've got to go," Bill reiterates hoarsely.

They're pulling at him, trying to get him to come with them, but he's holding onto Eddie for dear life; his heart is breaking, this can't be real, this is a fucking nightmare, Eddie is still alive, he knows he is, he can't just go, they have to help him-

He holds Eddie close to him, the way he's been too scared to for all his life. Eddie didn't know...Richie had thought that he didn't want anyone to know, let alone Eddie, but he didn't know and it fucking hurts, how could he not know, how could he have not told him? Did Eddie know? Or did Eddie die thinking that he was unloved? The prospect hurts so much more than any self-hatred or internalized homophobia could.

He can't be gone...he can't.

The others are yelling at him to let go, trying to pull him away, but Richie holds on tight, unable to stop his tears as he embraces Eddie. He can't let go, he can't, this is Eddie, no no no no-

"WE CAN STILL HELP HIM!" He screams desperately, hoping they'll listen to him. "GUYS, WE CAN STILL HELP HIM!"

They don't listen. They pull him away, all of them, and he has no choice but to let go. Eddie's body falls back against the rocks, lifeless and eyes glassy, alone.

Even as they drag him away, he screams himself hoarse and kicks desperately, hoping they'll listen and help. They can still help him, they have to help him, they can't just leave him, nononononononononononono-

He screams Eddie's name as they drag him back the way they all came, screams Eddie's name even as the tunnels collapse and they haul themselves back up the ladder, screams Eddie's name even as they're nearly crushed by falling concrete and debris, screams Eddie's name even as they run back through Neibolt, screams Eddie's name as the building collapses and they burst outside-

Ben and Mike have to hold him back as he lurches forwards, trying to go back, trying to get back to Eddie, and he's going to wreck his vocal chords but he couldn't give a fuck, no, because Eddie-

"We gotta go in and get him, HE'S STILL IN THERE!" He yells, but they ignore him. Why are they ignoring him? How are they standing there, why aren't they helping?

The entire building collapses completely, raising clouds of dust and rubble; all Richie can think about is the fact that Eddie is under there, he'll never be able to get out, they left him down there with that fucking thing, they can't just leave him there-

"EDDIE!" He screams, feeling all of the will to live leave him as it all comes crashing down over him – Eddie is gone. His Eddie, his Eds, no, no, no, fuck no, FUCK- "EDDIE!"

Riche was sobbing and panting as he lurched awake, his heart hammering hard in his chest and everything a disorientating blur in the dark. Beside him, he was somewhat aware of his husband reaching for the lamp and flicking the switch; a warm but dim light appeared, lighting up the bedroom and putting him somewhat at ease as he struggled for breath.

"Richie? Hey, Rich? It's okay, it's okay...it's alright..."

His husband's embrace was a relief, the feel of his arms and his weight so familiar and safe, that Richie choked out another sob and buried his face into the other man's shoulder. "Just...bad dream..."

"Yeah? It's okay, Rich, just a dream… You're safe, I promise."

"No," He disagreed, shaking his head and squeezing his eyes shut. "Not me… It was..." His breath shuddered out of him. "Eds."

Eddie understood immediately, pulling away enough so that he could cup his husband's face in his hands. "I know, I know… But I'm here, okay? It's not real, Rich, I promise. Look at me… Look at me, Richie." He waited until the taller man had raised his eyes before continuing, his voice serious and leaving no room for argument. "I'm okay, Richie, you're okay, we're okay – it's not real."

"We couldn't get you out," Richie insisted, shaking his head. "We couldn't...you were...and the house… I lost you, Eds." He clutched at his chest. "I can't fucking breathe."

"No, you didn't lose me," Eddie said firmly, mouth set in a frown. "I'm right here. I know, it was a nightmare, I know how real they are… Just focus on me, Rich, okay? Focus on me and breathe."

It took a few minutes for him to start to slowly calm down, for him to be able to breathe again; the only thing stopping him from having a full-blown panic attack was Eddie, he knew, Eddie murmuring to him, Eddie holding him and not letting go. As his heart stopped beating so hard in his chest, stopped threatening to come out and explode, he sighed and reached for his husband's hands, needing to feel for himself; yes, he assured himself, Eddie was so real, alive and well, skin warm. The only thing that was remotely cold was the metal of Eddie's wedding band, something that still sent thrills up Richie's spine when he thought about it.

"You died," He finally mumbled shakily, looking down at their entwined fingers. "You died, and-...we had to leave you. I didn't want to, but the others made me, they dragged me...that fucking crackhouse collapsed right on top of you. And I just watched, Eds, I couldn't-… I couldn't do anything."

Eddie shook his head, almost to himself, and squeezed is husband's hands. "It wasn't real, Rich. You guys got me out, you got me to a hospital – just in time, remember? I'm right here, I'm not going anywhere."

"Yeah, I know," Richie sighed, and his eyes were suddenly welling up with tears again. "But it felt so real – it did happen, up to when I came back to you and you-" He stopped himself. "Fuck."

"Just a bad dream, Rich," The smaller man insisted gently. "I know they feel real – I get them too sometimes… But they're not. This is, you and me, alive and safe, okay?"

Richie took a deep trembling breath, exhaling slowly as he forced himself to relax. "Yeah. Okay."

After the lamp was switched off and the room was plunged into darkness once more, Richie pulled the other man close and pressed his ear up against his chest; the shirt hid it, but he knew the scar was there, just as it had been since the day and always would be from then on. He could even feel some of the scar tissue against his ear, a bit bumpy where the skin had been forced back together – but it couldn't mask the loud beating of Eddie's heart, the steady and comforting rhythm that immediately brought so much relief to him.

Eddie was alive, he reminded himself, and that was all he needed right now.

The nightmares came less and less often as time passed, but they would never truly go away; the fear would always linger in the back of his mind, however small, regardless of how happy he was or how much he tried to rationalize with himself that things would be fine, that It was dead for good this time – that stupid motherfucking clown would haunt him for the rest of his life, he was sure of it.

He had tried therapy at first, and while it had given him some help in regards to his alcohol and drug habits, it was kind of hard to get to the root of the real problem – there was no way in hell he could say, "yeah, me and my friends fought this demonic shape-shifting alien clown that ate children, first as kids and again like thirty years later, also my husband nearly died because It impaled him, and now I have nightmares about It coming back", that kind of thing would just lead to him being institutionalized probably. The only way he could have spoken about it would have been by twisting it so that "alien clown" was replaced by "serial child murderer", and even then it all sounded unbelievable and raised too many questions.

Having Eddie there when he woke from one of his nightmares, however, did far more help than anything else ever could; just seeing his husband safe in bed beside him brought such relief to him, made it easier to breathe and feel calm again, and the other man was always there to bring him back to reality. Perhaps it was pretty corny that for a long time the only time that he felt safe was when curled up with Eddie, that the best nights were the ones where he fell asleep to his husband snarking at him to shut the fuck up and sleep, or to his steady heartbeat, but he didn't care – it helped in a way that therapy, alcohol or drugs never had.

Just knowing that Eddie – his Eddie – was still alive and not dead in a cavern deep under Derry was more than enough for him.

The nightmares weren't always about Eddie – those were among the worst, the ones that left him shaking the most, left him sobbing and needing extra assurance, but they weren't the only ones.

In the immediate aftermath of what happened in Derry, he dreamt of Stan; in those dreams, he would often find himself in the Uris' bathroom, looking in horror as he watched his friend – one of his best friends, for that matter – bringing the straight razor to his wrists. No matter how hard he tried to shout or yell or move in these dreams, he couldn't – he was stuck, frozen, a spectator to this gruesome display. Stan didn't speak in these dreams, but Richie knew why this was happening, what had prompted him to do this, his brain filling in the gaps from what he knew in his real life when awake; Stan wouldn't go back, he couldn't, this was the only logical move-

Even if he hadn't known, the giant two letters on the wall in Stan's blood gave it away: IT.

As if those weren't bad enough, sometimes in these nightmares he would actually be Stan; he would lock the door, run a bath, then strip before settling in the hot water that burned his skin. He would stare at the ceiling for a while, reeling from the memories of childhood, of Derry, of that fucking clown and the creepy lady with her flute, the feeling of jaws around his head – of the Losers, of Bill cutting his palm and making him swear with a blood oath. And then, with these images still fresh in his mind, he would reach for the razor on the side of the tub, murmuring "I'm sorry, Bill, I'm sorry-" as he brought the blade onto his skin and-

These dreams also left Richie shaking, though in a different way; he had not been there the evening that Stan had received his phonecall from Mike, had not been there when Stan shut himself in his bathroom and attempted to end his own life – hell, he hadn't even seen what the bathroom looked like after Patty had found him and called the ambulance just in time, the place had been scrubbed and bleached clean almost immediately afterwards. But a part of him knew that what he was seeing was real – or, at least, that it had been; the only difference was that in his nightmares, Stan died. It was a vision of what could have been, what might have happened if Patty hadn't forced the door down sooner, if fate or whatever the fuck else had decided to let him die.

Richie had dreams of the other Losers too, though he was sometimes less sure of what ones were 'visions' and which were in fact just nightmares. He saw Beverly fighting with her ex-husband sometimes, felt sick as he watched the bastard hit and beat her black and blue: these ones were real, he knew, and he had to remind himself that not only was Beverly safe and quite happily living with Ben now, but that her ex-husband – Tom Rogan, that absolute fucking piece of shit – had died shortly after the divorce had gone through. There was no chance of him coming back to hurt her ever again, and all of the Losers were thankful for it – still, it made Richie feel like vomiting every time he saw her in his nightmares sobbing and begging, saw her struggling to escape him.

The ones involving Ben were mostly real too, or at least he thought so; he sometimes dreamt he was Ben on the Kissing Bridge, having Bowers carve into his stomach, and he could hear the jeers of Bowers and his gang, could feel the pain as the knife ripped him open. On a few occasions, Richie dreamed that he was in Neibolt once more, as an adult Ben now, and watching in a mirror across the room as Pennywise carved into him – HOME, the bleeding cuts angrily proclaimed, HOME – before bringing the blade to his throat and slitting him open like a pig. He knew that something had gone down in Neibolt when they were last there, when the group had been briefly been separated before descending undeground, but at least the clown hadn't succeeded in cutting Ben's throat open – that part was thankfully fake.

The ones about Bill and Mike were fake for the most part, though, he was sure of it; the clown dragging thirteen-year-old Bill into his lair, taking one last victim before going for his long sleep, Bowers either strangling or putting a bolt between Mike's eyes, both of his friends drowning or being crushed by debris as they tried to escape the lair. They were still awful, still left him shaking, but they weren't nearly the worst ones to deal with: those weren't quite as bad as the nightmare of watching It open its jaws and feasting on Mike, held captive in its grasp – those ones hit hardest because Richie knew where exactly those came from, because he was standing and hiding and wanting to throw a rock at It, to scream "HEY FUCKFACE" to distract It, only for his own cowardice and fear to take over and stop him. Those dreams were especially sickening because it was his fault, all his fault, he was the reason Mike was dead, the reason that Mike had never once left Derry – it was all his fault and always would be.

As the weeks turned into months, and the months bled into years, it gradually became easier and easier to recover from these nightmares; he often still needed to see that Eddie was alive for himself, still took the time to remind himself to breathe and remind himself of what was real and what was not. If Eddie woke with him, which was admittedly an often occurrence, then he would help him too – they would go over the details of the nightmares together, picking them apart and separating the different parts out into real and false until all the fear was gone and they could fall asleep together again. Eddie had nightmares too, Richie knew, all of the Losers did, but not as many or as real as the ones he was having – and none of them were seeing visions of real life, he was sure, none of them were seeing glimpses from the past.

When he mentioned this to Eddie one night, after a particularly violent nightmare where he had woken screaming his husband's name so much that his voice was weak the following day, the other man had grown silent as he thought about it, going through his own memories in the cavern, before sighing. "Maybe… You were in the- the deadlights, right? Just like Bev when we were kids… She saw stuff too, said she had nightmares even after she left… Maybe it's the same thing."

It made sense – he hated that it did, but yeah, it made complete sense now that he thought about it.

The only saving grace was that all of his nightmares and visions were of events from the past: to his relief, there were no glimpses of possible futures, no visions of his friends' deaths in the future, just things that had already happened or that he knew were false. It was a small comfort admittedly, almost silly when he considered it, but it was a comfort he held onto all the same. It reassured him that despite the trauma and pain, the horror and fear, the Losers had survived and were no longer in any imminent danger – at least, not any danger relating to a supernatural shape-shifting alien clown – and that they'd truly done it this time around: It was gone for good and never coming back. It no longer had a hold over their lives, could no longer terrorize or belittle them by playing on their darkest fears and secrets.

And besides, Richie would think to himself with a half-hearted grin, relishing in the fact he had a small victory in his favor, It would no longer be able to taunt and harass him about his "dirty little secret" - it was no longer so secret any more, given that he'd come out quite publicly on-stage years ago, and he'd worked through enough of his issues to be able to no longer see himself as dirty or shameful for it too. There was nothing inherently dirty about loving Eddie, especially given that Eddie loved him back.

(The fact that Eddie was in no shape or form any kind of "dirty" definitely helped too - sure, he'd gotten less extreme about his germophobia, but he was still the incredibly hygienic and high-strung clean-freak that Richie had fallen hopelessly for so many years ago, and he wouldn't have had it any other way).

Perhaps It would always haunt him – that was bound to happen if you were terrorized by a child-eating shape-shifting demon clown – and he'd have to struggle with that no matter how much older he grew, but neither It nor the town where he had grown up had that hold over him any longer. Neither could hurt him anymore, not really, not like they once had: the future was free and open, filled with possibilities and hope now – maybe not completely devoid of fear, because life would never be devoid of that no matter who you were or your upbringing, but it was no longer suffocating, no longer looming over him like a heavy and ominous fog.

There was so much less to be afraid of – and oh so much to look forward to.

It was around quarter past three in the morning when Eddie was woken by the sound of his husband's sobs and muffled shouts; he was there when Richie lurched awake moments later, drenched in sweat and chest heaving with fast panicked breaths, ready to anchor and help him through it in whatever way he could.

"Shh, Rich...it's okay, just a dream..."


"I know, I know...it's okay," Eddie murmured softly, taking a hold of his hand and squeezing it tightly. "Bad dreams, I know. It's not real though, I promise. Just breathe for me, Rich...that's it..."

But Richie was shaking his head suddenly, almost erratically, as he pulled his hand away. "No, no, It got her, Eds, It- It got them, they're in danger, we gotta go-"

"Hey, come on," Eddie huffed half-heartedly, stopping him from climbing out of bed. "I know it seems real, I know it does because I get them too, but it's not. Bill and Bev and the others, they're all safe, Richie, I promise..."

"No, not them!" Richie choked out, and his eyes were welling with tears again. "The-… It got the kids."

Oh. Eddie felt his heart sink, his stomach suddenly turning even as he reminded himself that it wasn't real, it couldn't be. "Fuck. Fuck, okay, that's… It hasn't got them, Rich, It hasn't."

"But-… But..." The larger man's eyes were wide with fear, unable to focus on anything but the blurry outline of his husband in front of him. "I saw… Eds, it was… They..."

"They're tucked in bed asleep," He insisted, for both their sakes. "All of them are safe, Richie – it was just a nightmare. It wasn't real, I promise."

Richie swallowed thickly, exhaling heavily as he lowered his head and tried to calm his breathing. "Right. A nightmare...fuck, okay. Fuck."

"Do you want to talk about it?" Eddie asked quietly, though he wasn't sure at all as to whether or not he wanted to hear the details of this particular dream – he was sure he knew the general gist of it anyway. "We don't have to, we can just talk… If you want, we can go and check in on the kids right now, make sure they're all okay-"

"No," Richie interrupted. "No, don't bother. Don't wanna risk waking them. You're right, of course you are, I just… Fuck, Eds. Holy fuck."

He didn't say anything else for a moment or so, running his hands over his face and trying to breathe as slow as he could; Eddie watched silently, placing a hand on his back and starting to rub in small gentle circles – it was a pretty shit attempt at comforting him, he thought, but eventually the other man's shoulders started to sag as the tension left him. Finally, Richie turned his head once more to face his husband and cleared his throat.

"It took them," He muttered again, voice rather weak. "I watched as It lured them in, one by one, and I...I couldn't do anything but watch. I tried but I- I couldn't." He swallowed the lump in his throat. "I just watched as It took them, Eds, and they-… they screamed for help. They kept shouting for me to save them, but I c-couldn't...they expected me to but I let them down, I let them die. I heard-" His breath hitched with a barely concealed sob of horror. "I heard them screaming – they screamed for so long...asked why I let them die, why I let It take them, why I failed. And I heard the clown too – that stupid fucking clown cackling at me, reminding me that I was a shitty parent, that I fucked up, that I would have just fucked them up too." He forced a poor attempt at a smile onto his face, as if to laugh it off. "Fucking dumb, huh?"

"No," Eddie said, his voice serious and firm. "I don't think it's dumb to be scared of something happening to the kids – seems pretty normal if you're a parent, but maybe that's just me."

Richie huffed out a small watery laugh and rubbed at his eyes. "Yeah, I guess so. I dunno, it just… I think about it, you know," He admitted quietly, and any traces of a smile disappeared. "Not the kids being eaten by the clown thing – that would be super messed up – I mean the...the other stuff. The stuff the clown says, sometimes I think it and it-… It gets to me, Eds."

It took Eddie a moment to realize what he meant, and then he frowned at his husband. "Come on, Rich, you know that's not true."

"Isn't it?" He shrugged, clearly trying to act nonchalant but failing miserably at it. "Like I said, it's dumb – I'm sorry for waking you up, Eds, let's go back to sleep-"

"No, not a chance," Eddie disagreed, rolling his eyes as he stopped the other man from pulling away. "Don't give me that bullshit and try to brush it away, we're talking about this right now. Richie, do you seriously think that? That you're a shitty parent?"

Richie didn't look at him, instead lowering his gaze as he gave another shrug of the shoulders. "Not… Not all the time. I mean, I don't walk around thinking it every minute of the day, but..."

"Rich, that's not true," He said gently, placing a hand on his shoulder again. "You know it's not."

"Do I?" His husband muttered. "I know it's fucking dumb, I know it is, but I think about it – let's face it, I'm not gonna win any of those 'Parent of the Year' awards people talk about, and I have no idea what the fuck I'm doing most of the time."

"And you think I do?" Eddie retorted. "I'm pretty sure all parents feel like that – hell, I'm pretty sure even Stan and Patty feel like that sometimes, and they're still doing a pretty good job."

"Yeah, but this is different," Richie murmured, shaking his head to himself. "I know I'm shit at it, that I fucking suck even when I try – and I try, Eds, I do. But let's face it, no one in their right mind would think, 'oh, hey, Richie Tozier, he's going to be an awesome dad!' because they know...there's some people who just shouldn't be having kids."

Eddie raised a brow, not sure whether to be annoyed or hurt. "Are you saying that you wish we didn't have the kids? Because that would have been useful information seven fucking years ago-"

"Fuck no, that's not what I'm saying!" Richie interrupted, raising his head now; his eyes were somewhat glassy, like he was holding back tears, but there was anger on his face too at the question. "What, you think I suddenly wish the kids would disappear? Jesus fucking Christ, Eddie..."

"Well, you said that there's people who 'shouldn't be having kids'," He pointed out, though a part of him was admittedly relieved. "Given what we're talking about, I figured that was what you meant."

The larger man frowned deeply, letting out a deep breath. "No, that's not what I meant. Look, I have a lot of regrets about life – a lot – but the kids aren't one of them. I just… I don't want to screw it up. Don't want to screw them up like I'm screwed up – and it's not like I had great parents to set an example, right?"

"And you think I did?" He couldn't stop himself from snorting. "My mom made me think I was sick with everything under the fucking sun and put me on placebos, and I don't even fucking remember my dad. As for your parents..." He hesitated – it was a topic they had only discussed a few times in the days since Derry, and the last had been seven years ago when they'd been actually considering having a family. "Fuck them. They didn't fucking deserve you anyway. You know, I think given what we had to put up with, our kids are pretty fucking lucky all things considered."


"Richie, listen to me," Eddie said seriously, using a hand to force his husband to look at him. "You are not a shitty parent – I wouldn't fucking lie to you, Rich, you know I wouldn't. I'm not saying you're perfect at it, I'm pretty sure no one is, but you're not shitty at it. Besides, the fact you're worried about it at all kind of proves that you're a great dad to the kids, proves you want to do a good job and you care."

"You think I'm a great dad?" Richie whispered, clearly taken aback.

He couldn't help but smile. "Yeah, that's what I just said, dumbass. I mean it: you're so good with the kids, and it's so obvious that they love you too, all three of them – everyone can see it, especially them."

"Oh." His husband blinked. "Fuck. I...I think I'm about to cry, Eds, give me a minute."

"Sap," Eddie chuckled, shaking his head good-naturedly as he watched the other man hurriedly wipe at his eyes.

When he'd taken a moment to compose himself, Richie looked at him again and reached for his hand. "Hey, Eds?...Thanks. And, just for the record, you're pretty awesome as a dad too."

"Yeah, sure," Eddie gave a bemused laugh.

"Hey, I mean it," Richie insisted. "You're saying the kids love me so much, it's like you don't see how much they love you too...like the way they get excited whenever you get home from work, they go absolutely nuts, and they go straight to you when they get hurt because they know you can fix it. God, they really fucking love you – almost as much as I do."

A feeling of warmth spread through him at the words; it wasn't something he dwelled on too much, he had too much to worry about to do that, but it was reassuring to hear all the same. "Yeah… Guess we're not such fuck ups after all, huh?"

"That one's debatable," The other man joked before squeezing his hand. "As parents though? I guess not."

As he fell asleep again that night, face buried into his husband's shoulder and arms holding him close, Richie thought about it again – about the kids.

He loved them, all three of them, so much that it was unreal; he had never thought of himself being a parent someday, not as he was growing up, not after he'd moved from Derry, not while carefully guarding his closeted sexuality, not once. It had only been after he and Eddie had gotten married that he'd even thought about it, and now he couldn't even imagine life without them – it was so much better than he felt he deserved sometimes.

First had been Sophia seven years ago; they had both cried far too much when she arrived, emotional from a lack of sleep and from the sudden overwhelming joy that had suddenly entered their lives. While she clearly took after Richie in appearance (thankfully she had inherited little more than his hair colour and freckles, but the resemblance was still there), she was almost his polar opposite in personality; despite being kind and full of life, always smiling and playing, she was quiet and even shy when it came to other kids her age. She was one of the brightest kids in her class at school, incredibly intelligent and already two reading levels ahead of the rest of her grade, and he was so proud of her that it hurt. She had gotten sick a couple of years ago, so sick that she'd been in a children's hospital and critical, but she had thankfully recovered and come out of it stronger than ever; Richie liked to think that she'd gotten that strength from Eddie in some way, that they were both fighters who were so brave that they didn't even know it.

A couple of years after their daughter was born, they had made the decision to adopt; they had debated over whether to use a surrogate again (preferably the same one, given that she had become a friend to them when she carried their daughter) but something hadn't seemed right – they had both had gut feelings that it wasn't the right path, something almost-supernatural guiding them, and it turned out for the best because they had ended up with Jack. He had only been a couple of months old when he joined their family, and it was almost like he'd been there all along; now five years old, he was almost always happy or excited about something, never stopping his chattering unless he was sleeping (even then it was common to hear him talking in his sleep), and he was borderline hyperactive. They had taken him to a doctor when he was still at pre-k after they both recognized that he was showing certain childhood symptoms of ADHD, and it had been confirmed – Richie especially knew all too well the symptoms, given that they were ones he had displayed himself, and he'd only been diagnosed himself well into adulthood. It wasn't always easy to deal with, but they wouldn't change their son at all; he was just so damn happy, always wanting to make everyone laugh and smile, and he worked hard.

And then there was Maya, the youngest at three; unsurprisingly, she was very much the baby of the family. She was a funny little kid, always zig-zagging in interests and ideas even at such a young age; she loved books, always requesting that someone – whether it be her sister, her parents or one of the Losers when they visited – read to her, and she loved Disney so much that she often wore costumes that her Auntie Beverly had made for her wherever she went. Some days she was Belle, and he'd have to put her on his feet so they could pretend to dance; others she was Peter Pan, and he'd find himself getting beaten up with wooden sticks out in the garden while pretending to be Captain Hook. Maybe it was because she was so young, maybe something else, but Richie noticed that she seemed especially close to him; she always went to him for cuddles first, always made him do voices when he read to her and giggled, was at her most content when curled up by his side with her teddy bear and his arm around her. There was no denying that she loved Eddie too – the way she squealed when he came home from work and the little kisses she left on his cheeks was proof of that – but she had really taken to Richie even as a baby, and he loved their bond.

He loved their kids, but he hated that now his nightmares could potentially include them too; he had to constantly remind himself that It was dead, that It couldn't hurt them, and even if It wasn't dead then at least the family weren't in Derry anyway – but it was hard. Seeing his children being abducted, being taken away, being eaten by an alien demon monster, made Richie feel sick to his stomach; his fear years ago of coming out, of others knowing his dirty little secret, now seemed silly and pathetic in comparison. Perhaps that was why he and Eddie sometimes tended to worry even more than was strictly necessary over seemingly small things – losing sight of one of the kids while out, even if only for a split second, feeling nervous if one of them had a play-date at someone else's house, making sure in advance that any parties the kids were invited to were completely free of clowns. They knew that they couldn't restrict their children playing or going places, it would have been unfair on them, but it still didn't stop the uneasiness that they had to learn to push through.

He still had dreams of Eddie being killed in front of him, of the other Losers being attacked in various ways, of them all dying, so having the ones involving the children was just like icing on the fucking shit cake. He loved all of these people in life so much and always had – the Losers had been and always would be his family, his real family, far more than his actual parents ever could have been. He loved each of them so much, more than he could adequately put into words – theirs was a family that had begun in childhood: Bill, stuttering but brave as he decided to go after a demon clown that had killed his brother and terrorized them all, who was their fearless leader and always had been; Stan, who loved birds and was full of snark, always snapping at him but with obvious fondness, who was his best friend despite it all, who proudly declared himself a Loser at his own Bah Mitzvah; Ben, sweet poetic Ben, who was so intelligent and kind and had build their clubhouse, who had managed to wake Bev with a kiss, who was so happy to have the others as his friends and to have a place where he belonged; Beverly, who despite being the only girl had fit right in with the boys, who he could often bum a cigarette off of if he wanted to, who was strong despite the years of abuse she'd suffered; Mike, who had joined them last and rounded out their group to a lucky seven, a number that felt perfect and right, and who was quiet and genuine.

And Eddie...his Eds, who he had teased and bantered with, who was full of fire and far braver than the could ever think of himself as being – who Richie had found himself wanting to kiss on so many occasions, thinking about it and hating himself for wanting it, for wanting Eddie in that way. He could remember feeling joy on the days that Eddie had smiled at him, and dying inside on the days that he didn't; he had wanted nothing more than for Eddie to smile at him, to argue with him, to laugh at him, to find him funny, to just pay him any kind of attention.

In the three decades since their little family had formed, their bonds had only gotten stronger and – unexpectedly but not unpleasantly – it had expanded too; Stan and Patty, who was now considered an honorary Loser and who Richie absolutely fucking loved, had a few children of their own after years of it not happening despite the fact the two of them were healthy and able, and the group had always doted on them as an aunt and uncles. There was Audra, who had taken a bit of time to get used to their group but now joined in whenever they all got together – it seemed that since the defeat of It, her and Bill's marriage had been much better too, though it wasn't something that their leader discussed with them. And, of course, there were the three Kaspbrak-Tozier children now too – all of whom had their aunts and uncles wrapped around their little fingers as well as their fathers, and there was absolutely no lack of love for either them or for the Uris children either.

They had all been through a lot, to say the least (understatement of the fucking century, he thought to himself), but they were all still here and still alive, and Richie was so thankful for that. It was the thought of this family, his real one, that kept him sane even after the most disturbing of his nightmares, even during his panic attacks and moments of doubt – these people were the ones who loved him, who accepted him even when he talked too much or made inappropriate jokes, the ones he would never let go of. He hadn't told any of them this, not even Eddie, but he didn't have to – he knew that they all felt the same, that they all felt that familial bond between them that had tied them together as children and continued to link them even though they no longer lived in the same town or saw each other every day.

As he drifted off to sleep that night, thinking about his family – his friends, his husband, his kids – he couldn't help but smile to himself sleepily; yeah, the nightmares sucked and he would rather do without them, but in all honesty, he was so happy that it seemed like such a small detail. If being free of the influence of a demonic killer clown, having his friends back, a husband who he loved so fucking much and three kids who he adored meant having to experience nightmares from time to time in his life, then so be it – it was more than a fair trade-off.

Thank you for reading - comments are greatly appreciated!

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