Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by Stephen King, Chase Palmer, Cary Fukunaga and Gary Dauberman, and various publishers including, but not limited to, Viking Press, New Line Cinema, RatPac-Dune Entertainment, KatzSmith Productions, Lin Pictures, Double Dream, Rideback, Vertigo Entertainment, Warner Bros. Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
Author's note: I've only seen the movie once, and I'm not the most observant person in the world, so please excuse any details I got wrong. I'm not even going to wager a guess on how long this will be, because my estimates always manage to be ridiculously off anyway. It'll be as long as it needs to be, and I hope you all enjoy it!
The title of this story is taken from the song Brave by Josh Groban.
Part 1: Derry
Chapter 1: Second Chances
"Richie," came Bev's voice from behind him. "He's dead."
As if that was a reason to leave the man that he loved the most in this world alone in a damp, dark, crumbling sewer. To leave his body down here in the very place where It had festered and thrived for so long. To let Eddie's body lie here where so many of It's victims had been brought to be devoured.
They had come back to Derry for the sole purpose of destroying It completely. The thing they had been so terrified of for so long. The very thing that Richie had almost run away from a second time. The very thing that had almost made Richie leave Eddie behind forever. Richie had been so very close to leaving this town completely, but something, someone made him stay.
Richie would be lying if he said Eddie didn't have a little bit to do with that – both in him wanting to stay and wanting to go. A part of Richie was terrified that if he stayed, it might lead to certain things coming to light. Even though that was probably what he wanted most in the world – to be out. To be free. In the end, however, he thought that simply running, putting all of this behind him once and for all would be the best thing for everyone. Then no one would ever have to know how truly scared to death he was. Of everything.
But then the longer he stayed, the more Richie began to remember about Eddie. It was almost like a tidal wave of emotions coming back to him now, and hell, he couldn't leave Eddie even if he wanted to. He was bound to this man forever whether he liked it or not. He was bound to him in life and in death.
Richie owed Eddie so much more than to leave him here. He owed the man he loved his very life for managing to free him from the deadlights, even if it cost him his own. There was no way Richie was going to leave him here, regardless of whether he was dead or not. He just wouldn't.
"I'm not leaving him!" Richie shouted at them, even as he felt the ground beginning to quake underneath him. Richie suddenly didn't care if he died trying to save Eddie's body, but he needed to do it. Needed to do it for his own sanity, because he couldn't bear the thought of this being Eddie's final resting place.
"Richie!" Bill shouted, grabbing Richie by the shoulder and trying to pull him away from Eddie's body.
"No!" Richie screamed, shrugging Bill off and once again reaching out for the man he loved.
He leaned over, wrapping his arms tightly and protectively around Eddie's frail form. It had never really occurred to Richie before just how small Eddie was – both as a child and now. It made Richie want to wrap him in his arms and never let go. Not that it mattered now. In fact, Richie doubted whether anything would matter ever again.
But the one thing that did matter to him was getting Eddie's body out of there, the crumbling sewer and the rest of the Losers be damned.
"You can help me or not, but he's coming with us!" Richie snapped, struggling to pull Eddie off the ground. "If I die in the process, then so be it."
All at once, Bill's expression softened, and he reached out for Eddie's legs. "Here," Bill said, hoisting Eddie's feet up off the ground.
Bill started leading the way, running back for the well. Richie ran along after him, Eddie's head bouncing against his chest, his limp arms flailing around as they ran. The rest of the Losers trailed along behind them, none of them speaking a word.
Richie would later look back and wonder how on earth they were even able to get Eddie's body out of the well. He knew that people in extreme circumstances could rise to amazing feats, but he never really believed that such things were possible. Nor did he believe that he would be capable of those sorts of things himself. Considering they had just killed a fucking demon older than time itself, however, Richie supposed that carrying a full-grown dead man out of a well wasn't all that impossible after all.
As soon as they emerged from the house on Neibolt Street, Richie could immediately feel his legs beginning to buckle. The exertion of the last few hours was finally taking its toll on him, and it was everything he could do to get Eddie's body to soft grass before he collapsed from pure exhaustion.
Richie dropped to his knees in the front yard of the house, trying his best to keep a firm grip on Eddie. Bill carefully laid Eddie's legs down softly upon the lawn, and Richie somehow managed to keep his arms wrapped tightly around Eddie's upper body, despite his extreme fatigue. He cradled Eddie's head against his chest, leaning forward and hugging Eddie so tightly, as if that would make everything better.
Behind him, Richie could hear the house imploding, caving in on itself and crumbling to the ground. The rest of the Losers watched, but Richie didn't turn around. Didn't let anything take his focus from Eddie. Because that was all that mattered.
Richie shut his eyes and heaved a sob, holding on to Eddie tighter and tighter. His fingers found Eddie's hair, the wet and sweaty locks threading between them. It was something Richie had had the urge to do multiple times over the last twenty-four hours, but he didn't dare. Didn't dare to do the very thing that he wanted most in this world. Now that he had the chance, it was too late. Eddie was gone, and it didn't matter.
Just then, however, Richie felt Eddie's body twitch slightly in his arms. Somewhere in the very back of his mind, Richie thought he recalled hearing that bodies could sometimes spasm after death, parts of the brain still firing off its last errant signals to the rest of the body. But Richie didn't think that was it. He didn't know how he knew, but he did. Knew his Eddie hadn't left him just yet.
Pulling back slightly, Richie opened his eyes and stared down at Eddie's still limp body in his arms. A tiny part of Richie's mind imagined that Eddie might just open his eyes. Might stare up at Richie from under his lashes and give him that uncertain smile of his.
But that didn't happen. Eddie remained motionless.
Maybe it was just Richie's mind playing tricks on him. Maybe it was just Richie looking for signs that the love of his life hadn't yet left before he'd had a chance to come clean about his true feelings. Before he'd had a chance to tell Eddie how he truly felt about him.
That he'd loved him for decades.
Richie squeezed his eyes shut again, the tears welling up and spilling down over his cheeks. A sob escaped from Richie, and he began shaking with pent-up emotions, everything they had done over the last few days trying to fight its way out all at once.
There were hands on his shoulders, but Richie didn't look to see who they belonged to. He only kept his eyes closed and sobbed, his head bowed down towards Eddie.
Just then, however, Richie heard a strange high-pitched whistling noise. It was brief and quiet, almost drowned out by the still crumbling house behind him, but he'd recognize it anywhere. It was the sound Eddie made when he was having an asthma attack.
Richie's eyes flew open, a million memories rushing back to him with that sound. Things he had long since buried and forgotten. Things he didn't think anyone would ever have to know. The way Eddie reached for his inhaler in his fanny pack and shook it before raising it to his lips. The way Richie wished he could be the fucking inhaler, pressed up against Eddie's lips instead of cold, hard plastic.
Richie swallowed hard and gasped, "Eddie?"
The rest of the Losers were circling him, leaning over and trying to look at Eddie's face. There was that whistle again, short and soft, but there was no mistaking it now.
"He's ali-" Richie said, his voice cracking in disbelief. "He's alive."
Ben took the initiative and thank god for him, because Richie was in too much shock to even begin to think about the first thing to do. Ben reached for Eddie's neck, resting his hand behind it and slipping his other hand underneath Eddie's back.
"Lay him down flat," Ben suggested, pulling gently on Eddie's body. "It'll be easier for him to breath."
Richie really didn't want to relinquish his hold on Eddie, but he did as he was told. He slowly leaned forward, lowering Eddie to the ground and setting him flat on his back. Eddie let out a slightly louder gasp, but then stilled again.
"Does he have his inhaler?" Richie asked, starting to check all of Eddie's pockets for the object in question.
"Didn't he burn it as part of the ritual?" Bev asked.
"No, that was his artifact!" Richie replied urgently, checking every single one of Eddie's pockets over again in case he missed it. "He found it at the pharmacy! He didn't burn his inhaler he's been using. It may be a placebo, but he needs it too fucking much to do that."
"It must have fallen out somewhere," Mike said, glancing around the ground, in the grass, and at the path the led back to where the house used to stand. His eyes ran back and forth across the rubble, like Eddie's inhaler might be sitting there somewhere.
"Shit," Richie muttered, still fruitlessly riffling through Eddie's pockets. "Shit."
Richie leaned back on his heels, helplessly glancing from one Loser to the next. From Mike, to Ben, to Bill, and finally to Bev, like one of them would know exactly what to do, but they all appeared to be as lost as Richie felt.
But then out of nowhere, another memory came flooding back into Richie's mind. One that had long since been buried, but now seemed so clear to him, it might have just happened yesterday.
"Eat shit, Bowers!" Richie screamed, trying his best not to lose his footing on the uneven hill leading down into the quarry.
"Jesus, Richie!" Eddie yelled behind him, trying his best to keep up with his best friend. "I really don't think that literally throwing dog shit at Henry Bowers is the smartest thing to do! Aside from pissing Bowers off, you might have significantly introduced all sorts of bacteria into your system. Did you know that one single dog turd could be the home to millions-"
"Did you know that fucking your mother already introduced all that bacteria into my system and more?" Richie snapped back, finally slowing his descent down the hill when he was sure they had lost Henry.
"Did you know that you're so full of shit, I didn't know what I was worried about in the first place?" Eddie asked in disbelief. "You probably already have worms and salmonella."
"Did you get tested for crabs like I told you to?" Richie asked, turning around to face Eddie as he stepped backwards across the ground.
"Yeah, and you need to, too," Eddie said as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. "If I have it from sharing the same toilet with her, then you clearly have it from fucking her. Idiot." He rolled his eyes.
Richie stopped, taking a soft breath. He never noticed before how ridiculously adorable Eddie was when he that – when he looked at Richie like he was a total moron. Why did Richie find that expression on Eddie's face completely entrancing all of a sudden?
Eddie continued to walk past Richie, completely oblivious to the feelings that he was currently awakening in his friend. Richie watched him go, his eyes drawn to the way Eddie's arms swung at his sides. To the way his hips moved in that way that was Eddie's – slightly cautious and tentative, like he thought every step would send him into a headlong nosedive.
And then, oh god, it was happening. The toe of Eddie's sneaker had caught on a rock at the bottom of the quarry, sending him flying forward. Eddie's arms flailed out in front of him, desperately trying to grab ahold of something. The next thing Richie knew, Eddie was planted facedown into the pile of rocks, his breath coming in and out in strained whistling sounds.
"Eddie!" Richie shouted, bounding forward and closing the distance to his friend.
He knelt down next to Eddie, reaching out for his back. Eddie was slowly pushing himself up on shaking arms, and Richie was relieved to see that Eddie wasn't bleeding or appeared to have hit his head. At the same time, however, he was struggling to breath.
"Are you okay?" Richie asked.
Eddie couldn't respond with words, but with faint gasping sounds. He shook his head, opening and closing his mouth like a fish on land.
"Your inhaler," Richie suddenly said, and he fumbled underneath Eddie for the zipper to his fanny pack.
It occurred to Richie just how close his hands were to certain parts of Eddie's anatomy and that thought made tingles rush through Richie's body. But then Richie silently cursed himself. Eddie was having an asthma attack, and Richie was being excited by impure thoughts. What in the hell was wrong with him?
A moment later, Richie thankfully found the zipper of Eddie's fanny pack, pulling it open as quickly as possible. He reached inside the pouch, bottles of Eddie's medicine falling out and bouncing across the rocks, the pills inside tinkling around. Jesus, Eddie had a stockpile of medications, but then Richie's hand closed around the familiar shape of the inhaler.
"Here," Richie said, taking the cap off of the mouthpiece and shaking the inhaler as he had seen Eddie do so many times before.
Holding the inhaler out to Eddie, Richie pressed it again his friend's lip. Richie squeezed the end of the inhaler in and waited for Eddie to take a breath. Eddie made a strangled sound, his eyes widening. Richie squeezed the inhaler again, but Eddie shook his head against it.
"It-" Eddie said in between labored breaths, "emp…ty."
"You have to have another one," Richie said, his voice becoming slightly panicked.
He began rifling through Eddie's fanny pack anew, more bottles of medication plopping out among the rocks. When Richie didn't find what he was looking for, his trembling hands reached for the bottles on the ground, picking up and tossing away whatever didn't suit his needs.
Eddie shook his head, his breaths still coming in short little gasps. "I…don't. Was going…to the pharmacy when…you decided to throw shit…at Bowers." Even in the throes of his asthma attack, Eddie gave Richie a wilting sideways glance.
"Shit!" Richie cried, still fruitlessly sorting through the mess of Eddie's medications on the ground.
When he still didn't find what he was looking for, he picked up the empty inhaler, trying his best to keep his hands from shaking. He didn't do this, didn't get nervous and lose his composure like this. What was it about Eddie being in dire straits that made him lose his shit entirely?
"I'll go get more," Richie said, starting to get up on wobbling legs.
It wouldn't be the first time that one of Eddie's friends had shown up at the pharmacy to get his inhalers refilled. It had happened a time or two over the years of their friendship, and Mr. Keene didn't even bat at eye anymore when Eddie wasn't able to get to the pharmacy himself and he needed his prescription.
Eddie's hand, however, shot out and grabbed the hem of Richie's shorts. Eddie's knuckles brushed against Richie's bare leg, and there were those tingles shooting through him again. When Richie glanced down at his friend, Eddie shook his head furiously.
"Bowers," Eddie managed to gasp out, "might find me."
"He…" Richie began, but then he broke off.
His eyes traveled back along trail the led to the quarry and the woods behind, up the steep embankment to the street beyond. There was no one in sight. Perhaps Henry had been distracted by something else, by another kid that required his immediate attention, or maybe even his father. It wasn't like Henry to give up after Richie had done something as stupid as throw dogshit at him.
"He won't," Richie said, despite his worry to the contrary.
"Don't…go," Eddie begged, his eyes staring up at Richie in desperation.
"But…" Richie said, but there was no way he could deny Eddie when he looked at him like that. Eddie could have been asking for the goddamned world, and Richie would have tried to get it for him. Always.
"All right," Richie said, his resolve immediately crumbling under Eddie's gaze. Richie dropped back down to his knees, the rocks underneath digging into his skin, but he didn't care. "I won't. I won't go. I'm here."
Richie didn't know what else to do, so he started running his hand up and down Eddie's back in an effort to try and calm him down.
"It's all right," Richie said, his other hand going to Eddie's arm and squeezing it tightly. "Just relax and breath. If Bowers finds us, I'll kick his goddamned ass to keep him away from you."
Eddie gulped in another breath of air, closing his eyes and relaxing slightly into Richie's touch. A moment, later Eddie sat back on his heels, his breath still coming in erratic gasps, but eventually they evened out and became more regular.
Still, Richie didn't move his hands from Eddie's back or arm, and Eddie didn't seem to mind them there. Not in the least. Quite the contrary, in fact, because it was only when Richie touched him that Eddie's asthma attack began to subside.
Richie couldn't believe he had forgotten something like that, buried underneath years of comedy acts and meaningless attempts to forget the one that he now knew would forever have a hold on his heart.
"It's all right," Richie told Eddie now, gently rubbing his hands across Eddie's upper chest and shoulders. "I'm here, Eddie, and I'm not leaving, and if the clown comes back, I'll kick his motherfucking ass. And the same goes for Bowers."
Maybe if Richie was able to remind Eddie of something simpler, of their old times together as children, it would awake something inside Eddie. A will to live. A will to truly show It who was the boss by being able to survive the gaping wound in his abdomen. A will to not let an asthma attack of all things kill him when he was fighting against what must be an inordinate amount of lost blood and raging pain.
The other Losers looked at Richie like he was a lunatic, and maybe he was, his sanity perhaps still caught in It's deadlights. In the moment when he had awoken from that to see the love his life being impaled by a giant claw right in front of him. To see that moment of triumph in Eddie's eyes cut short by the very demon he thought he had just taken down once and for all.
Richie leaned forward, his lips only inches away from Eddie's face. "Breathe, Eddie. It's okay. I'm here and I'm not leaving. And Bill, and Bev, and Mike, and Ben are here too. We're here with you and we're not going anywhere." Richie's eyes briefly went up to the pile of rubble behind them, to the place where he had almost lost Eddie once and for all. "It's gone and It's not coming back either. You fucking killed It. You saved me from the deadlights and you killed It, and I'm here now because of that. Because of you."
Richie squeezed Eddie's shoulders, as if it might too give him that will to live. The will to come back to Richie.
Miraculously, Eddie gasped in a deep breath, one of his knees bending and his thigh thrusting upwards. Eddie's arms came up next, the fingers of one of his hands straightening out, seemingly reaching out for something, anything. Eddie was probably completely out of it and not at all in control of what he was doing, but Richie would never stop believing that Eddie was reaching out for him. Richie grasped Eddie's hand in his, gripping it firmly.
"Someone call for help, would you?" Bill asked, reaching up and taking his flannel off. "Take off your jackets. We need to stop his bleeding."
Ben dug his phone out of his pocket. Its screen was cracked, but it still worked when he input his password. "What in the hell do I say?" Ben suddenly asked after pressing the nine on the screen. "A giant fucking demon stabbed our friend with a massive claw?"
"Tell them the house collapsed and he was impaled by…something," Bill ordered, kneeling down on the other side of Eddie. "Just get them here."
Bill laid his flannel over the gaping and bleeding hole in Eddie's stomach. He pressed down gently, unsure of how much pressure to put onto a man who was already struggling to breathe. Richie momentarily let go of Eddie to pull off his own jacket, plopping it on the ground. Bill reached underneath Eddie, his hands lifting Eddie's back up off the grass. Richie slid his jacket underneath his friend, and he could already see the blood soaking into the fabric, staining the brown color an even darker and uglier shade.
Mike had taken off his jacket too, kneeling down next to Bill and placing it on top of Bill's own, Eddie's blood immediately soaking through the multiple layers of that fabric as well.
"I don't think mine's going to help," Bev said, shrugging out of her blood-soaked jacket and adding it to the pile on Eddie's stomach. "It's already soaked with blood."
"He mostly needs pressure applied to the wound," Bill said, still pressing down on the pile of jackets, hoping that it wasn't too late to stop the damage that It had caused.
"Yes," Ben said, apparently finally having gotten through to an operator. "I need an ambulance at 29 Neibolt Street in Derry Township. We were caught in a collapsing building. One of our friends was impaled by a beam and he's having an asthma attack."
After Ben replaced his phone in his pocket, he pulled off his shirt as well, adding it to the growing pile on top of Eddie. Ben placed his hands on top of Bill's, pressing down slightly. Mike joined suit next, threading his fingers through the others' as he put pressure on Eddie's wound. Beverly reached out too, adding her hands to the mix. A moment later, one of Ben's fingers snaked up through the pile to lay itself over Bev's pinky. The corner of Bev's lips twitched as her eyes met Ben and he stared at her in return.
This made Richie's chest hurt. He was thrilled, of course, that his friends had finally realized their feelings for each other, but why was Richie's own love life always such a mess? Why was he always alone, wishing for the one thing he couldn't have? And now that thing – Eddie, his one true love – could very well take his last breath at any moment.
"Breathe, Eddie," Richie said around a sob. He gripped Eddie's hand tightly again, squeezing it and laying his other hand on Eddie's shoulder. "Don't you leave me," he added, leaning forward and pressing a kiss against Eddie's cheek.
Richie didn't know what had come over him in that moment, and he didn't care. He didn't care what the other Losers thought. Let them know that he was ridiculously in love with Eddie and had been for longer than he could remember. Let Eddie know that he had someone waiting for him if ever woke up. Someone that would love him completely and wouldn't smother him or baby him like he was so used to. Wouldn't try and control him like his mother and Myra had.
Richie only vaguely thought of Myra, of the fact that Eddie had a wife somewhere who had no idea what was going on with him. Of the fact that even if Eddie survived and in the unlikely case that he returned Richie's feelings, decisions would have to be made about what Eddie would do with her. With his marriage.
That didn't matter right now. All that mattered was getting Eddie through this and making sure he recovered. Richie would worry about the rest when they crossed that bridge. But maybe, just maybe, Eddie would have a second chance at life. Richie would have a second chance to tell the man that he loved exactly how he felt.
The question was, what was he going to do with it? Would he find the strength inside him to be brave, or he would he continue to hide from his feelings like he had done his entire life?
To be continued…