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“What’s up Stan the Man?” Richie asked, swinging an arm around Stan’s shoulder. He could always tell when Stan had something serious to talk to him about.

“Just hold on,” Stan said. “Let’s walk a little ahead of the group.”

“Okay…” Richie gave Stan a confused look but quickened his pace. He glanced backward to see Beverly had her arm around Eddie and was looking quite smug.

“She fucking knew Eds liked me before, I can tell,” he said to Stan.

“Oh yeah, everyone knew, Richie. You’re such a blind disaster gay.”

“Nah,” Richie said walking backward and grinning at the pair. Audra, Bill, Ben and Mike were walking in their own group and Bill and Audra were holding hands. Bill still had the remnants of Halloween makeup on his face and he was grinning in a sleepy sort of way. It struck Richie how much he loved all of them. ‘Are you always gonna be this sappy from now on?’ he asked himself internally. ‘Probably,’ he thought in reply to himself.

“Richie, you’re such an idiot,” Stan said, rolling his eyes. “I am happy for you guys though.”

“Thanks, Stanley,” Richie said. “That means a lot.”

“You gonna say something vulgar to ruin the moment now or what, Tozier?”

“Sure, I was just gonna let you know that unfortunately I don’t know how long Eddie and I are gonna last because I actually snuck in and did it with your mom last night after Eds fell asleep and-”

“And there’s the Trashmouth I know,” Stan said. They were now a good distance ahead of everyone else. “I do have something to tell you, though.” He seemed nervous, for some reason Richie couldn’t figure out. They’d known each other since they were about four years old and defeated an evil sewer dwelling clown together. What was there to be nervous about?

“You can tell me anything,” Richie said. “Now I can’t promise I won’t repeat it to your mom during one of our late-night meetups, but-”

“Mike and I are a couple,” Stan said.

“Oh!” Richie stopped walking and clapped Stan on the back. “Good for you man, you guys are a great couple.”

“Thanks,” Stan said with a grin. He looked back at Mike, who was laughing at something Ben had said. Richie pictured cartoon heart-eyes over Stan’s eyes and smiled to himself. Stan was wearing an expression that Richie imagined was similar to his own expression when he looked at Eddie.

“I mean, way to steal the Reddie thunder but-”

“I’m sorry the WHAT?” Stan asked. He actually stopped walking at stared at Richie in amazement, shaking his head.

“You heard me, bitch,” Richie shrugged.

“You did not just give you and Eddie a ship name Richie,” Stan said, shaking his head. “Eddie is gonna explode if he hears you say that. That’s just….embarrassing.”

“It was literally his idea,” Richie said. “Have you not checked the losers club group chat this morning since he and I came out?”

“Five minutes ago?” Stan asked. “No Richie, I haven’t checked the group chat.”

He pulled out his phone and opened the chat. As he read, his expression was a cross between amused and infuriated. Richie enjoyed watching him read.

EddieSpaghetti: stop changing my name in the chat or I’ll dump u Trashmouth

EddieSpaghetti has changed his nickname to ‘willfightyoubehinddennys.’

WinterFire: awhh the girls are fighting

Haystack: they’re so cute

MikeyWay: this family is a mess

BigBill: disaster gay rights in this house

Trashmouth: absolutely

Willfightyoubehinddennys: #reddie rights

Trashmouth: UWU <3

Stan closed the chat and shook his head. “You guys are going to be absolutely insufferable, aren’t you?”

“Oh absolutely,” Richie said. “What about you and Mike though?”

“We haven’t told everyone,” Stan said.

“The only ones who know are Bill, you, and Eddie.”

“You told Eddie and he hasn’t told me yet? I can’t believe him.”

“Mike told him last night and I’m pretty sure we both would’ve been pissed if he told you. I wanted to tell you myself.”

“Oh, I know,” Richie said. “I was just kidding Stan, chill.”

“Oh,” Stan flushed. “Right.”

“Real talk, you guys are a good couple,” Richie said. “I’m happy for you guys. Everyone else will be too, whenever you decided to tell them.”

“Oh I know,” Stan said. “I just wanted to avoid being tacky, you know. I wouldn’t want to come out by accidentally calling Mike my boyfriend in front of everyone in an attempt to steal his jacket.”

“Watch it,” Richie said. Stan laughed.

When they got down to the barrens, they built a bonfire which they all sat around. Richie was delighted when Eddie sat between his legs and leaned back against him. He was even more delighted when Eddie turned around to tell him he loved him after a little while. He didn’t think he’d ever been so delighted about anything.

He had loved Eddie for so long and he’d never dreamed that Eddie felt the same way. He’d been carrying a torch for Eddie since they were eleven years old. Maybe it had been longer than that, but he hadn’t known what romantic love even meant when he was younger than eleven. There was no specific moment that stood out to Richie, as the moment he’d known he was in love with one of his best friends, it had not struck him in some sort of romcom ‘aha’ moment. It had dawned on him over time, in the little moments like when Eddie climbed in the hammock in the clubhouse with him, or when Eddie would send him Snapchats of random nonsensical memes late at night when he couldn’t sleep and Richie would know to video call him and stay on the line until he fell asleep. Richie had known without a doubt by the middle of the summer after fourth grade though that he was hopelessly, irrevocably in love with Eddie Kaspbrak.

Something occurred to him around mid-afternoon and he whispered in Eddie’s ear, “Let’s go for a walk.”

“I’m not smoking weed with you, Trashmouht, just because we’re together doesn’t mean I’m gonna support your terrible and super illegal habits-”

“Richie you have weed?” Beverly asked. “And you aren’t sharing with me, but you were gonna share with Eddie who doesn’t even smoke?”

“Ugh, no!” Richie said. “I didn’t even say that, I said I wanted to go on a walk.”

“Going on a walk is code,” Beverly said. “You can’t bullshit me, Trashmouth.”

“I’m literally not you fiend,” Richie said. “It is code, but not for smoking weed.”

“Beep beep, Richie!” Eddie said, twisting around to look at him.

“We literally could have slipped off and no one would’ve thought anything of it if you hadn’t decided to announce to everyone that I wanted to get high – which again, that’s not even it!”

“Why do you want to go on a walk anyway?”

“The rituals are no longer intricate,” Stan snorted. “He wants to do the nasty in the woods, Eddie.”

“WHAT?” Eddie looked outraged.

This was not going at all as Richie had planned. “That’s not it either! God, you guys need to stop assuming everything with me is about drugs and sex. I’m a layered man. I wanted to talk to you about something but it’s nothing anyone else needs to hear.”

“That’s the most terrifying thing you could ever say to me, Richie!” Eddie said, throwing his arms up. “What is wrong with you?”

“Oh my god,” Richie groaned. “It’s something good, you’ll like it I promise.”

“Fine,” Eddie said. He stood up and Richie followed.

“You two could not be more dramatic,” Mike said.

“Like I said,” Bill said. “Disaster gays.”

“I seem to recall something about rights being mentioned,” Richie said.

“Your rights have been revoked for making us all witness your first fight as a couple.”

“That was not a fight,” Eddie said. “You guys have seen us fight. That was a civil conversation for us.”

“Oh god,” Ben said. “I’m scared of when they actually fight as a couple now.”

“Shush,” Beverly said. “You guys are all making it worse. Get out of here and go on your gay little walk, and if you come back smelling like weed, I’m legally allowed to vibe check you.”

“I’ll have done the vibe check for you, Bev,” Eddie said. They bumped fists and Richie rolled his eyes and started walking.

They walked for a while in silence. Richie was a little annoyed that this had started the way it had. Not at Eddie or the others, but at himself. Why couldn’t he be more romantic? Why did he have to mess everything up?

“Are you okay?” Eddie asked.

“Yeah,” Richie said.

“What did you want to talk to me about?” Eddie asked.

“More something I wanted to show you,” Richie said. He took Eddie’s hand and wound their fingers together.

“I’m just getting more and more anxious over here,” Eddie said.

“It’s nothing to be anxious about,” Richie said. “I’m trying to be romantic, here, God.”

“You trying to be romantic does not make me less anxious,” Eddie said with a slight laugh.

“Get used to it, baby,” Richie said. He paused and kissed Eddie on the cheek and was delighted when Eddie’s face burned red.

“You’re so cute,” Richie told him, pinching Eddie’s cheek with the hand that wasn’t holding Eddie’s.

“Don’t pinch my cheek, asshole,” Eddie said.

“It’s hard not to,” Richie said. “You’re just so adorable!” He leaned in and kissed Eddie on the lips before continuing walking. “So,” he said. “Stan and Mike!”

“I know!” Eddie said. “I’m so happy for them.”

“You realize now all of our friends are couples,” Richie said. “This is so embarrassing. We’re all just sappy gays.”

“Technically Bill and Audra and Ben and Bev are straight,” Eddie pointed out.
“Bill’s trans though and I’m pretty sure he might be bi so technically he’s still not a cishet. And I wouldn’t be surprised if Bev is bi. Did you see her and her friend Kay together last weekend at the corn maze?”

“That’s not a very nice thing to insinuate, Richie,” Eddie said with a frown. “Beverly would never cheat on Ben.”

“Not insinuating that, Eds,” Richie said. “If anything, I wouldn’t be surprised if Ben knew and was cool with it.”

“I doubt it,” Eddie said. “Beverly would’ve told me.”

“Why you, specifically?” Richie asked.

“She was the first one I came out to. She was there for me through a lot of shitty times when I hated myself and when I was upset because I knew my mom would hate me if she knew. Why wouldn’t she have told me if she was bi?”

“Maybe she’s only recently accepting it?” Richie suggested. “I didn’t suspect anything until I noticed her and Kay holding hands under the table at Waffle House after we left the corn maze. She was sitting right next to Ben too, that’s why I think if there is something going on, he knows.”

“Maybe,” Eddie said.

“Can we go back to the thing about you hating yourself?” Richie asked.

Eddie looked down at the dead leaves they were walking on and didn’t meet Richie’s eyes. “I mean, I’m mostly over that. I don’t hate myself for being gay anymore anyway.”

“But you still hate yourself?”

“I don’t know,” Eddie said. “Sometimes. Can we talk about something else?”

“Um no, not really,” Richie said. “I want to be there for you.”

“Can you go back to making bad jokes? This serious side of you is freaking me out,” Eddie said. It was a half joke and a half dig.
Richie understood the dig to be more about Eddie wanting to change the subject than about him, but it still stung a little.
They were still holding hands, but Richie felt like they’d both crossed a line. They were getting close to the kissing bridge, where Ben had tumbled down after Henry Bowers cut into his stomach with a switch blade. Richie wanted to make things right, but he was afraid of saying the wrong thing.

“Sometimes I just feel crappy about myself, Richie,” Eddie said with a sigh, breaking the tension. “That’s all. Bev is someone I can talk to about it because she gets it. It’s hard to talk about that kind of thing, you know? Just, sometimes, my mom gets into my head, I think. Maybe it’s more complicated than that, I don’t know. Bev gets it though, because you know how her dad is. That’s all I meant.”

“Yeah,” Richie said. “I get it. Well, I guess I don’t get it and that’s kind of the point. I’m sorry I pushed.” Richie didn’t say that he maybe ‘got’ the feelings of self-loathing more than Eddie thought.

“It’s fine, I know you just care,” Eddie said.

“Hey,” Richie said. He stopped walking. The bridge was in sight now, and his heartrate was starting to speed up. He tucked his fingers under Eddie’s chin to get him to look up. “I really, really do, okay?” He gave Eddie a brief kiss and then hurried ahead of him. “Alright, enough being emo, I’ll race you to the bridge.”

“You’re so weird,” Eddie muttered, but he hurried after Richie, sprinting to get ahead.

Richie never went easy on Eddie in athletic competitions and it annoyed him when people did. Eddie outran him by several feet, leaning against the side of the bridge and panting. Richie caught up and slammed into him, laughing. Eddie pumped his aspirator and Richie pretended not to notice. ‘It makes him feel better, what’s the harm?’ he thought. But part of him wanted to tell Eddie that he could be the star of the school track team if he let go of that part of his mom’s charade.

“I won!” Eddie said. “What’s my prize?”

“A kiss,” Richie said. He wrapped his arms around Eddie’s waist, and kissed him.

“Whoa!” Eddie said, pushing him away after a moment of kissing back. He looked around, anxious. “What if someone saw? The people of Derry aren’t exactly known for being open minded.”

“Right,” Richie agreed. “Okay, so the thing I wanted to show you.” He walked over to the wooden railing on the bridge and ran a hand over the place he’d carved their initials when they were eleven. Eddie walked over and looked.

“You wrote that?” he asked.

“Yeah,” Richie said, turning to look at Eddie. “That Summer.” Eddie didn’t need to ask what Richie meant by ‘That Summer.’

“I wanted to show you,” Richie said. “So, you’d know when I say I’ve been in love with you for years I mean it.”

“I saw this, you know,” Eddie said without taking his eyes off the carving. “I was riding my bike one day and I stopped to stand around on the bridge and get a drink of water and I was looking at all the carvings. I told myself it must have been about someone else, that the initials were just a coincidence. But sometimes, late at night, I’d let myself imagine that’d it’d been you. I’d have full on embarrassing as hell fantasies about you admitting to me that it’d been you.”

“Well, Richie said, and spoke in what he considered to be a pretty good imitation of Dahvie Vanity, “Welcome to candy land, where all your fantasies come true!”

“I want you to know, and I’m being so serious here, Richie, that not one of my fantasies ever included you making a terrible Blood on the Dancefloor reference.”

“Questioning all your life choices?”

“Little bit,” Eddie said.

They both laughed and, after a furtive glance around, Eddie kissed Richie, still grinning. They both laughed as Richie leaned against the railing and Eddie pressed against him. “Questioning your choices still?” Richie asked.

“I’ll accept your terrible taste in music on the grounds that you’re a good kisser,” Eddie said with a laugh, without fully breaking away from the kiss.

“Terrible? Who introduced you to All Time Low?”

“I never said all the music you liked was trash, just enough of it to be embarrassing. I still can’t believe I’m dating someone who thinks Hollywood Undead counts as good rock,” Eddie said.

“What can I say, everywhere I go bitches always know, that Richie’s got the most iconic music taste of any of the losers.”

“You’re an idiot,” Eddie said, kissing him.

“Mike is the only one in our family who appreciates me,” Richie said.

“Mike likes MCR and Panic at the Disco,” Eddie said. “He likes scene music, but like, good scene music. I’ve never heard him say he likes some of the other trash you listen to. I bet if Mike knew your scene playlist had Brokencyde he’d fucking vibe check you on the spot.”

“He knows because he helped me make that playlist,” Richie said.

“I’m truly surrounded by idiots,” Eddie muttered, but he said it between kissing Richie’s jaw and playing with Richie’s hair.

After a bit, Eddie pulled away and turned to admiring the carving of their initials. He was smiling and Richie was struck by how happy it made him that Eddie had seen the initials and hoped Richie had made them. It also made him kind of sad, but still. All that wasted time, hiding their feelings.

“Can I take a picture and post this on my Instagram?” Eddie asked. “Only the losers club, Audra, Kay and people I don’t know in real life follow me so there’s not a risk of some asshole from school seeing it or anything.”

“Yeah, totally,” Richie said. He was trying to hide how happy it made him that Eddie wanted to show off their relationship anyway he safely could. He put his chin on Eddie’s shoulder and looked at his phone as he put hashtags by the photo. #cute #mybfissweet #romantic #reddierights He tagged Richie’s account, Beepbeep_Trashmouth.

“It’s okay if I tag you, right?” Eddie asked.
“Well,” Richie hesitated. “It is, totally,” he added when Eddie looked worried. “But like, just so you know, my parents might see it. They follow me.”

Eddie hesitated. “Are you gonna tell them about us?”

“If you’re cool with it,” Richie shrugged. “Then yeah, I mean, I want to.”
“Will they be cool with it? That’s kinda the real question,” Eddie said.

“I think they will,” Richie said. “I mean, that doesn’t mean I’m not nervous, but my parents and I are tight, for the most part. And they’re like, liberal and stuff.”

“Well then how about this,” Eddie said, “I won’t tag you right away. We can tell them whenever you’re ready, and then assuming it all goes well, I’ll tag you.”

“Deal,” Richie said. He gave Eddie another kiss, before walking towards the end of the bridge.

They headed back in the direction of the campfire. They linked arms as they walked and Eddie started talking about a project he was working on with Mike. He was planning on fixing up a Cadillac the two of them had bought for under two hundred dollars. Richie was impressed by the price until Eddie explained that the car was from nineteen fifty-something.

“It’ll be fine though,” Eddie shrugged. “We’re ordering parts online for cheap. We’ve even found some pretty good stuff at the scrap yard. I just know once we get her running, she’s gonna be badass.”

“How cool will it be for the losers club to finally have wheels of our own?” Richie said. Had anyone else told him they were going to fix up a car from the fifties he would’ve laughed, but he was confident that if Eddie thought they could get it running, they would.

“It’ll be awesome,” Eddie said. “We won’t have to rely on rides from our parents anymore, we can just do what we want.”

The smell of smoke told Richie they were almost to the quarry. He realized that he’d been listening to Eddie talk about car parts for the entire walk and hadn’t gotten bored once despite having almost no idea what Eddie was talking about. He had it bad.

“We can leave Derry more often for sure,” Richie said. They were approaching the others and the campfire now.

“God please yes,” Ben said as the two of them sat down with the group. “I didn’t hear the beginning of the conversation but I’m here for leaving Derry more often.

“Seconded,” Stan said.

“Thirded,” Bill agreed.

“Fourthded,” Mike said.

“Not a word, hon,” Stan said.

Richie noticed Stan’s eyes grow wide as he realized he’d just called his boyfriend ‘hon’ in front of the whole group, and hurried to distract everyone.

“Did you all see my BOYFRIEND’s adorable Instagram post?”

“No, some of us are enjoying nature,” Beverly said, opening Instagram on here phone. “I’d like to say that I fifth the sentiment of leaving Derry more often.” She must have been looking at Eddie’s post because she was smiling. “Soft,” she said, tapping her phone to like the post.

“I know right?” Richie said. “I love him.”

“You better,” Eddie said.

The rest of the day and well into the evening was spent by the bonfire. It was a Friday and no one wanted the party to stop so they agreed to ask Mike’s dad if they could stay at the Hanlon farm that night. Mike texted his dad and the group sat by the fire while they waited for his response. Ben and Bev were cuddled up talking quietly, and Bill and Audra had decided to go for a walk by the water. Stan and Mike were deep in conversation with their heads together as they looked at something Richie couldn’t see. Eddie was back to sitting between Richie’s legs leaned against Richie’s chest. Richie was leaning against a boulder, and it was hard and cold but he didn’t want to move.

“When are you thinking of telling your parents?” Eddie asked. “And do you want me there?”

“Yeah,” Richie said. “That way if it all goes wrong I can just tell them you’re a bad influence and it’s all your fault.”

“Gee, thanks.”

“No but I really do want you there, Eds. And to answer your question, literally whenever I see them next. I don’t have a plan.”

“A. That’s not my name and B. You should have a plan. I’ll come over for dinner and dress nice and stuff.”

“Ew no, that’s weird,” Richie said. “My parents know you, Eddie. You’ve been having sleepovers with me since we were in diapers.”

“We met in preschool, weirdo, we weren’t in diapers.”

“Some of us were.”

“Shut the fuck up Richie, no you weren’t, stop trying to make me mad.”

“I’m actually trying to make you laugh, dork.”

“You’re doing a terrible job of it.”

“Clearly. Now that I think about it maybe if I don’t tell my parents about us we’ll be able to keep having sleepovers. That’d be cool. For many reasons.” He felt Eddie tense up at the insinuation and smiled to himself. ‘Adorable,’ he thought.

“Guys,” Mike said. “My dad said it’s fine if you all come over. Now if someone can fetch Bill and Audra from their romantic little walk, we should walk back up to the street because my mom is picking us up.”

“Gotta call my mom and ask if I can,” Eddie said.

“Same, gotta call my dad,” Beverly said.

They all agreed that they needed to call their parents individually, and everyone took a moment to step away and call. Richie was unsurprised that his mom picked up quick and didn’t care at all. She did remind him to be polite and say please and thank you, which Richie chided her for. He was always polite. Richie was anxious that Eddie’s mom wouldn’t let him stay away another night after staying at Ben’s the night before, but he gave Richie a thumb’s up when he saw Richie watching him. After he hung up though, he had a weird expression that Richie didn’t like. He noticed Beverly had to spend longer than anyone else on the phone begging but she finally got a yes.

“I just told him I’m only spending the night with you, Audra,” Beverly said.

“Okay with me,” Audra replied.

They all helped splash water over the fire and throw sand onto it while yelling for Bill and Audra until they came over and started helping. When the last of the fire was put out, they headed for the street. It was dark, and a little creepy walking through the barrens at night. Richie had Eddie’s hand to hold though, and Bill and Stan had both turned on their flashlight apps on their phones. Richie wasn’t afraid of the dark or anything, but after being chased through the dark sewers by a demon clown from outer space, he was understandably not excited about it.

“I was telling Richie about that car we bought, Mike,” Eddie said. “You’ll be excited to know I found a transmitter for under twenty bucks on Facebook Marketplace.”

“Hell yeah,” Mike said, high fiving Eddie.

“You guys bought a car?” Beverly asked.

“Yep, we’ve been working on it for like a month,” Mike said. “Or, more fairly, I have been following Eddie’s directions and doing my best while Eddie’s worked on it for over a month.”

“My man is so talented,” Richie said.

“Are you going to be this obnoxious from now on?” Stan asked.

“Yes,” Richie said. “Sorry if I want to build my bae up.”

“Don’t ever call me your bae again, Richie, this is not two thousand and twelve.”

“I don’t know about that,” Richie said. “Did you hear My Chemical Romance is back together?”

“Don’t even joke about that, Richie,” Mike said.

“Not a joke,” Beverly said. She was looking at her phone and allowing Ben to guide her by the wrist so she didn’t run into a tree. “I’m looking right now. They’re doing a reunion tour in December.”

“Holy shit!” Mike said.

“I can’t believe this,” Beverly agreed.

“We’re going right?” Richie asked.

“How are we gonna afford tickets?” Stan asked, ever the reasonable one.

They spent the rest of the walk discussing ways to get their hands on the tickets. At one point Richie was pretty sure Mike insinuated that they could kill someone else who got the tickets but didn’t deserve them and steal the tickets in a complicated plan that involved identity theft. Both Eddie and Stan seemed to understand the plan, and be on onboard with it. It was hard to tell if they were entirely kidding or not.

When they reached the road they had to stand on the sidewalk for a bit and wait until Mike’s mom pulled up.

They listened to ‘Welcome to the Black Parade’ on the way to Mike’s house, and continued their discussion about getting their hands on MCR tickets for the reunion tour. The main issue was that it was so far away. How they were all going to get to Las Angeles was a mystery. Mike suggested stowing away on an airplane in someone’s luggage.

When at the farm, they took a detour to the garage to check out the Cadillac. It wasn’t impressive to Richie because he embodied that meme of Griffin McElroy not having learned something and being too afraid to ask at this point but with cars. He nodded his approval though because it was impressive to Mike and Eddie. Also, he really was excited about the idea of the losers club having wheels.

He didn’t say it, but mostly, he was excited about his boyfriend having wheels.

Chapter Text

Hanging out at the farm was nice. Eddie couldn’t stop thinking about his conversation with his mom, though. He tried to ignore it. He wanted to enjoy his time with his friends. He couldn’t get over the fact that he and Richie were actually together, and he’d just gotten to spend the best Halloween ever and a super fun day at the quarry with him. He was happier than he’d ever been. He should not be thinking about his mom.

But he totally was.

The losers were all cuddled up on Mike’s bed. Eddie was sitting in Richie’s lap and Richie was leaned back against the wall and a pile of pillows playing with Eddie’s hair. Mike and Stan were leaning against the opposite wall, and Stan had decided to be brave enough to rest his head on Mike’s shoulder. Audra and Bill were sitting beside them, Audra’s head on Bill’s shoulder. Ben was sitting next to Audra, and Bev was curled up with her head in Ben’s lap. The movie Jigsaw was playing in the background, though no one was fully watching. There was a big bowl of popcorn in the middle of them.

They talked over the movie about other movies and about their plans to see My Chemical Romance live, and their plans to see Zombieland Double Tap at some point over the weekend. Eddie engaged, but his mind kept going back to that stupid conversation with his mom.

After awhile, Bill and Audra stretched out even though their feet hung off the bed and they both fell asleep. Stan was next, and Mike stayed up for awhile talking, but eventually gave in and fell asleep cuddled up against Mike. Ben and Beverly stayed up for a while chatting with Richie and Eddie but Beverly fell asleep mid-conversation and Ben followed soon after.

As soon as he was sure Ben was asleep, Richie nudged Eddie to get up and Eddie scooched around so that he was sitting and facing Richie. The bed was pretty crowded, and it wasn’t an easy maneuver to make without waking anyone. He pretended that was the reason he was annoyed, instead of that he’d been hoping to fall asleep like that.

“What?” he asked.

“What’s wrong?” Richie asked.

“Ugh,” Eddie groaned. “Leave me alone. It’s nothing, okay?”

“It’s something.”

“It’s not a big deal.”

“Tell me,” Richie whined. He made big puppy eyes that Eddie kind of melted at.

“Okay, but no jokes.”

Richie mimed crossing his heart.

“My mom was just weird on the phone. She said she didn’t care if I spent the night.”

“That’s good, though, isn’t it?” Richie asked, seeming confused. This was why Eddie had a hard time talking to Richie about this. Richie tried, but he didn’t truly get it.

“No, Richie, have you met my mom? She’s never okay with me spending the night away from home. She’s realized she had no choice but to accept it sometimes, but to just say she doesn’t care? I don’t know, it’s worrying. It’s not like her.”

“I mean, isn’t that what you wanted, though? For her to not care?”

Eddie sighed in frustration. “You’re not getting it. Her not being herself means something is wrong.”

“What do you think it could be?”

“Hard to say….She sounded annoyed though. Sometimes was bothering her.”

“Like what?”

“What if she somehow saw that Instagram post?”

“You said she didn’t even know about your account, there’s no way.”

“You’re right. I’m just being paranoid.”

“Summary of our dynamic, baby.”

“God you’re a dick.”

“You want my dick.”

“Do not!”

“Wait, really?”

“Oh my god,” Eddie groaned. He could feel his cheeks heating up and he covered his face with his hands. “Old habits, Richie,” he muttered. It was becoming more and more clear how much was actually going to change now that they were together.

“So you do want my dick!”

“I mean…” Eddie trailed off. He could feel himself growing more and more warm. They had spent the previous night making out and feeling each other up, yes, but it hadn’t gone farther than that. Eddie glanced up and was pleased that at least Richie was blushing too. “Look,” he said. “If we’re gonna do this thing-”

“Whoa, I didn’t mean right now in bed with all of our friends!”

“Beep beep, Trashmouth I meant this couple thing, get your mind out of the gutter. Anyway, what I was going to say was that we need to be somewhat mature about it. So like, yes, I want that-”

“By that, you mean my dick,” Richie clarified with a laugh.

“Shut up, I do want to be um, well-”

“You wanna fuck.”

“God, shut up, don’t call it that. I was just going to say that I’m so not ready for any of that right now or anytime soon, ok? Like eventually, for sure, but just not right away. Is that ok?”

“Of course, Eds,” Richie said. Eddie was both relieved and embarrassed at how soft Richie’s voice had gotten.

“You’re sure? It doesn’t make you mad, or-”

“No way, Spaghettio,” Richie said. He leaned in and gave Eddie a peck on the lips.

“Let’s go outside and smoke some of Mike’s weed,” Richie suggested.

“Rude,” Eddie said. “We can’t steal Mike’s weed.”

“He literally smoked all of my last batch,” Richie said. “He owes me.”

“Second problem, I don’t smoke,” Eddie reminded him.

“You do sometimes,” Richie said.

“I have never touched a drug or a drop of alcohol in my life. I am a child of the lord.”

“You and I literally ate edibles like two weeks ago.”

“Nah.”

“We drank Mrs. Hanscom’s wine which we stole from her fridge yesterday, babe.”

“Nah,” Eddie said. He was trying to keep a straight face, but he could feel the giggles coming through.

“You’re so annoying.”

“You love me.”

“True,” Richie said, pinching Eddie’s cheek. Eddie swatted his hand away.

Richie rifled through Mike’s drawer until he found his bowl, lighter, and baggy. He grabbed what they needed and they went outside. With some friends, that might’ve been a dick move but Eddie was inclined to believe that Mike probably had smoked most of Richie’s last purchase. The losers generally shared things like that. There was an openness between the seven of them about things like snacks, weed, or whatever else. If Eddie thought Mike would be mad, he wouldn’t have followed Richie outside. First though, he grabbed a folded blanket from the closet where Mike had pointed them out to the group.

They sat in the hanging chair on the Hanlon’s back porch and Richie lit up after Eddie had covered them both with the blanket. After taking a hit, he passed the bowl to Eddie. After not even inhaling properly Eddie still found himself coughing up a storm.

“You’ve never been able to do that,” Richie giggled.

“Not all of us are loser druggies,” Eddie said.

He was surprised that for a second, something darkened in Richie’s face.

“Whoa, it was just a joke,” Eddie said.

Richie laughed, but it sounded wrong. “No, I know.”

“You don’t look like you know.”

“It’s nothing, Eds.”

“It’s something.”

“Don’t pull that.”
“Come on, Richie, I can’t be the only one who’s always opening up.”

“That’s what she said.”

“That one didn’t even make sense.”

“Alright,” Richie said. “Here’s a fun fact about me, I don’t like being called a loser in that context.’

“What context?” Eddie was genuinely confused. They all always called each other losers. It was literally the name of their club.

“In the – oh you’re just an idiot stoner. You’re the class clown and that’s all you’ll ever be, way.”

“I was just messing with you,” Eddie said. “I promise I didn’t mean it like that.”

“Oh, I know,” Richie said. “But you asked, so there ya go. I answered.”

“Richie, you do realize I wouldn’t be passing math if it weren’t for you? And you’ve helped me in almost every other class, too. You understand the readings for English better than anyone else other than maybe Bill. You’re like, one of the smartest people I know. Who told you all you’d ever be was the class clown?”

“Literally, every asshole at our school, half of my teachers, the principle, do I need to keep listing people?”

“Well they all suck,” Eddie said. “You know that, right?”

Richie shrugged.

“Is that why you saw your name on the werewolf’s jacket?” Eddie asked in a quiet voice. “When Pennywise was fucking with you?”

“I guess, probably,” Richie shrugged again.

“It wasn’t you,” Eddie said. “I know you know that, but I’m gonna keep saying it until it sinks in. You’re not the werewolf, Richie. You’re not a monster, or whatever it was that It wanted you to think.”

“I guess I just related to the kid in the movie,” Richie said.

“That ‘I was a Teenage Werewolf’ movie we all went to see that summer?”

“Yeah.”

“Why?”

“He just wanted to be a normal kid. But there was this part of him that fucked everything up.”

“Richie, sometimes you let a joke go too far. The werewolf literally killed people.”

“I didn’t say it made sense,” Richie said, a little defensive. “We’re talking about a demon clown that lives in the sewers and manipulates you.” He took another hit off Mike’s bowl, and passed it to Eddie. “You have to actually inhale, hold it for a second, and blow out,” Richie said.

Eddie did as he was told and fell into another coughing fit, although he was pretty sure he’d at least smoked correctly this time. He used the aspirator.

“You know…” Richie said. He trailed off though.

“What?”

“Never mind,” Richie said. “I changed my mind.”

“What? You can’t just say that, now it’s gonna drive me insane. What were you going to say?”

“You know you realized that summer that you don’t have asthma, right?”

“Yeah I know,” Eddie muttered. He looked away, staring at the trees in the distance and the stars.

“Right…” Richie said. “But you still use the-”

“It helps me sometimes, okay?” Eddie snapped. He knew he had no right to be irritated. How many times had he practically dared the other losers to say something to him about the stupid aspirator? How many times had he seen Richie looking away when he used it and wished Richie would just say what he had to say?

“Okay,” Richie said.

Richie took another hit and handed the bowl back to Eddie. This time he definitely inhaled right and even managed to keep it down for a few seconds, but he started coughing harder than ever after he exhaled. He was determined not to use the aspirator though. He put the blanket over his face and coughed into that, his throat burning.

“Hold on a sec,” Richie said.

He jumped up and ran inside. When he returned, he had a can of soda, which he placed in Eddie’s hand before sitting back in the hanging chair himself.

“Thanks,” Eddie said, chugging the soda. He started coughing again as soon as he was done chugging, and hurried to take another drink. “Didn’t use the fucking aspirator, see that, dick?”

“I wasn’t trying to be a dick,” Richie said.

Eddie closed his eyes and leaned back, inhaling deeply. He knew Richie wasn’t trying to be a dick. He just didn’t know what to say. That he sometimes felt his lungs closing up when he got scared and the aspirator made it so he could breathe again? That even though he knew he didn’t have asthma, he still experienced the symptoms and it was terrifying? That he was afraid if he threw away the aspirator he’d have a phantom asthma attack and even if it wasn’t real, he’d die?

“I know,” he said at last. “I just don’t know how to explain it, Rich. I know that I’m fucked up, and that I let my mom get to me even though I shouldn’t and-”

“I hate her,” Richie said. Eddie was surprised by the intensity when Richie spoke.

He looked at him, wide-eyed. Richie had always been there to tell Eddie that he was capable, to treat him like a person instead of a glass figurine, to convince him that he was braver than he thought. But Eddie hadn’t realized just how strongly Richie felt about his mom. He stopped himself from saying so out loud because he knew Richie would just make it into a stupid ‘I fucked your mom’ joke.

“I’m sorry,” Richie went on. “I’m sure you don’t want to hear that. But I fucking do.”

“No, actually,” Eddie said. He paused. Did he really want to go there? “It’s kinda nice to hear.” Apparently he did want to go there.
He hated himself for saying that and immediately closed his eyes and cringed. He and his mom had a complicated relationship, to say the least. With the help of the losers club and especially Beverly, he’d talked himself out of the idolization he’d had for her as a kid, and distanced himself from her to an extent. Still, he could hear her voice in the back of his head when he was doing something she wouldn’t approve of, which included everything from riding a bike to hanging out with his friends.

“You’re like, the strongest person I know. I can’t imagine living with a mom like that. It’s not fair and I hate it.”

“She still gives me all those medications, you know,” Eddie said.

“I kinda figured,” Richie admitted.

“I don’t know which of them are sugar pills and which are actual pills. I pretend to take them and then spit them out when she’s not looking.” This was something he had only ever admitted once, to Beverly. He’d been super drunk at the time and teary-eyed. Beverly had told him that he was super brave for doing that, and he’d said that if he were really brave he’d stand up to her instead.

“That’s really brave,” Richie said, looking at him with awe.

“I guess,” Eddie said. It had meant a lot hearing it from Beverly, and it meant a lot hearing it from Richie too, but he wasn’t sure he believed it. He was still lying after all, wasn’t he? Still trying to make her happy? Still doing things for her. “I pretty much had a heart attack the first time I did it. I was so afraid some of them would be things I needed to live.

“When was that?”

“That summer,” Eddie said. “I gathered all the pills and shit back up from the yard of the house on Neibolt. I brought them back and apologized to my mom for calling them gazebos.”

Richie snorted. “I really hope you know by now that the word you’re looking for is placebos.”

“Yeah I fucking know, dumbass, I didn’t then I was like a eleven.”

“Right, sorry, continue.”

“Anyway, the point is, I knew I would have to either take them or make her think I was taking them. I was going to just take the stupid pills, at first. It was all I’d ever known, you know?”

“What changed your mind?”

Eddie paused. It was more a feeling, and flashes of memories that were violent and horrible and scary yes, but also powerful. “I thought about us, down there, fighting It,” he said. “I thought about how strong we were, and how brave, and I realized what a shame it would be if I walked away from the experience and just went back to old habits. So I started faking taking my medication and that’s what I’ve been doing ever since. She watches me take them in the morning and I pretend and then when she’s not looking, I spit them out. Into my hand, sometimes. Into the sink if I can.”

“How many pills?”

“It would take awhile to list,” Eddie said.

“Jesus Christ.”

“Yeah.”

“I knew she was still bad, but I thought-”

“That I just went along with all of it?”

“Not exactly, just-”

“It’s fine, I do go along with a lot of it.”

“The aspirator?” Richie asked.

“Yeah I don’t know what the fuck is wrong with me.”

“Nothing is wrong with you, Eds, it’s all her. You didn’t ask to grow up with all her bullshit.”

“That would’ve been sweeter if you used my actual name,” Eddie said, rolling his eyes, because he didn’t know how to say how sweet it really was to hear that. “You know I hate it when you call me Eds.”

“You love it,” Richie said, kissing him.

‘Nothing is wrong with you,’ he thought to himself, leaning into the kiss. ‘It’s all her. You didn’t ask to grow up with all her bullshit.’ He closed his eyes and tried to memorize the words, and the feeling it gave him to almost believe them.

Chapter Text

“You can stay with me, if you want, Bevvie,” Kay said. The losers club along with Audra and Kay had just gotten back from seeing Zombieland Double Tap.

Beverly and Kay were laying side by side in Kay’s bed, facing each other. Everyone else had been busy afterward, and Kay had invited Beverly over. Ever since they had started seeing each other, Beverly had been careful to make sure things didn’t get weird. Ben, however, seemed super happy for her. He had insisted that he wanted to help Mike work on the Cadillac at Mike’s house, even though they weren’t likely to get that much done because Eddie had decided to go over to Richie’s.

Beverly had pulled Eddie aside and asked how things were going before the two of them had left. Eddie told her that they were going to come out to the Toziers, and Beverly had hugged him and then run over and hugged Richie too. She was happy for them, she really was. They both deserved a shot at some happiness.

“I don’t know, Kay,” Beverly said. “He sounded almost…” she hesitated. She knew Kay was going to yell at her if she said what she wanted to say. ‘Honesty and communication, Bev,’ she told herself. “He sounded worried, on the phone yesterday. He said he just missed me. I told him I would think about-”

“You did not tell your father you would think about stopping by, Beverly Marsh!” Kay said. She sat up in bed and glared. Her gray eyes were fierce.

“I did, Kay,” Beverly said, also sitting up. “He’s my dad! I can’t just cut him out, it isn’t that simple.”

“Actually,” Kay said. “I’m pretty sure it is.”

“You don’t get it,” Beverly said.

“I get that he wants you to ‘stop by,’” Kay made quotation marks with her fingers around the words ‘stop by.’ “So that he can manipulate you into staying.”

“I can’t just-”

“What, stay away? Cut him out? Yes you can, Beverly! My parents have said you can stay here. I know Mrs. Hanscom has offered. If you don’t want to stay with someone you’re dating, which I’d totally get, you could stay with the Hanlons. I have no doubt in my mind that you’d be welcome. Or the Toziers, for that matter.”

“I can’t live on a farm,” Beverly said, because she didn’t want to say ‘Will Hanlon has already paid for so many outfits that got blood on them when my dad hid me too hard in the nose or mouth or ear, or slammed me against a wall. Will Hanlon has bought me so many meals when I was afraid to go home because I thought Daddy would kill me. I know how shitty the townspeople treat him and how much that family struggles financially.’ No, she couldn’t say any of that. She didn’t know how to. Mike had practically dragged Beverly to his house on several occasions when he noticed her stalling outside her apartment. She refused to be more of a burden then she already was though. “And I mean, yeah,” she went on. “I guess it’d be a little weird to live with someone I’m dating.” She wasn’t even an adult yet. Why did everything sometimes feel so overwhelming?

“I get it,” Kay said, cupping Beverly’s cheek. “You don’t have to sound so defensive. I just want you away from that creep.” Beverly hated that part of her only felt even more defensive when Kay said that. But she also kind of hated how part of her loved it. ‘Yeah!’ part of her brain said, ‘Daddy IS a creep! Fuck ever going back there!’

“Look, I’ve stayed away for like, a week,” Beverly said. It had been a week exactly. Last Saturday she’d stayed at Kay’s place, and she had been staying in a different place every night since then.

Beverly had been staying at home less and less for the past month or so. She had snuck in through all of the losers windows and stayed with them plenty of times before. She hadn’t spent more than two consecutive nights at home since the end of September though, and she had to admit, it was nice to not have to flinch every time she turned a corner.

“Bev,” Kay said. “I know we haven’t known each other that long, but I feel like we’re, I don’t know, soul sisters or-”

“Let’s not make this incesty,” Beverly snorted.

Kay rolled her eyes, “Whatever, you know what I mean. I feel like I know you. The point is, you’re badass and awesome but you’ve got a shit dad and you can’t let him get in your head. Yeah he says he’s worried, but why is that? Huh? Ask yourself. Is it because he loves you, or because he wants to control you?”

“If you honestly think I’ve never asked myself that, you don’t know me as well as you think,” Beverly said. She was more tired than she was annoyed, and she flopped back onto the bed and Kay flopped next to her. “I ask myself that a million times a day, ok?”

“Ok,” Kay agreed. “Sorry. Maybe you’re right. I don’t get it. But I’m trying, ok?”

“I know you are,” Beverly said. She rolled over and kissed Kay’s jaw. “And I appreciate it, I do.”

“I just don’t want him hurting you. It’s bullshit. You don’t deserve it.” She rolled over, facing Beverly and meeting her eyes.

“I haven’t exactly been a ray of sunshine to raise,” Beverly muttered.

“If you were a ray of sunshine you wouldn’t be the badass, intimidating boss bitch I fall harder for every day,” Kay said.

Beverly felt her cheeks warm up. She giggled. “You’re too much, Kay McCall,” she said.

Kay straddled her, leaning in and kissing her. Beverly giggled and kissed back, wrapping her arms around Kay’s waist. “I’m too much?” Kay asked. “Me? You’re impossible.”

“It’s my best quality,” Beverly said.

“Now you’re getting it,” Kay agreed, kissing her. “If I wanted someone basic, I wouldn’t hang out with people who call themselves the losers club.”

“We’re pretty great, I know,” Beverly agreed.

“One member in particular stands out as an amazing kisser,” Kay agreed.

“Look, let’s wait a bit and then we’ll find out how it went for Richie and Eddie telling Maggie and Went they’re a couple. If it went well and everyone is in a celebratory mood, I’ll ask Richie about staying with him. Deal?”

“Fair enough,” Kay said.

“We’ll seal it with a kiss,” Beverly said, leaning in.

“Every kiss begins with Kay,” Kay sang.

Beverly laughed and shoved Kay away right before their lips met. “That is the corniest shit you’ve ever said,” she said.

“You adored it,” Kay said.

“You’re crazy,” Beverly said, but she let Kay lean in and kiss her.

A few hours and several episodes of ‘Dark Tourist’ on Netflix later, Beverly’s phone buzzed. It was the losers club group chat.

Willfightyoubehinddennys: [desc. A picture of Richie kissing Eddie’s cheek while Went Tozier gives his son bunny ears]

Trashmouth ‘loved’ the image.

Trashmouth: mags took the picture <3 they were v happy 4 us

Haystack ‘loved’ the image.

MikeyWay ‘loved’ the image.

BirdBoy ‘loved’ the image.

BigBill ‘loved’ the image.

BirdBoy: before you guys say something stupid and make me mad I will say that I’m happy for you both <3

MikeWay: I’m so glad it went well y’all <3

Beverly clicked love on the picture too, smiling, and typed out ‘cuties :3’ on her phone.

BigBill: [desc. A picture of the reaction image of Kim Kardashian saying ‘it’s what she deserves’ but with ‘she’ painted out and replaced with ‘you guys.’]

Beverly showed the picture of Richie, Eddie, and Went to Kay, who squeaked and said, “Tell them I said I’m happy for them.”

‘Kay is happy for you guys. She made an audible squeaking sound,’ Beverly typed, and hit send. Kay looked over her shoulder. She snatched Beverly’s phone and typed ‘no I didn’t don’t listen to beverbitch. i’m legit happy 4 u guys tho <3’

Trashmouth: awh kay said REDDIE RIGHTS BABY thank u kay

BirdBoy: shut up Richie asdlkjaslkdja

Trashmouth: YOU WISH STANIEL

WinterFire: @Trashmouth @Willfightyoubehinddennys can I come over later or is it date time?

Trashmouth changed his username to ReddieRights.

BirdBoy: I’m becoming homophobic as we speak

Haystack: you admitted to having kissed a guy before at my Halloween party stan

BirdBoy: guess I’m just reddiephobic :/

Willfightyoubehinddennys: : (

ReddieRights ‘sad reacted’ to BirdBoy’s message.

ReddieRights: yes you can come over @WinterFire

WinterFire: I won’t be intruding?

Willfightyoubehinddennys: nah we gonna cuddle & watch buzzfeed unsolved it’ll be fun : - )

WinterFire: hell yeah third wheel time

ReddieRights: u won’t be a third wheel shut upp alksjdskldjas

WinterFire: I was just kidding Richie, I can’t wait

Willfightyoubehinddennys ‘loved’ WinterFire’s message.

ReddieRights ‘loved’ WinterFire’s message.

Willfightyoubehinddennys: see stan not everyone is reddiephobic

BirdBoy: I literally hate you guys so much

ReddieRights: you’re just jealous bev gets to have cuddle time with reddie

BirdBoy: I’m begging u guys not to call yourselves that, this is 2019 lmao

Beverly closed the chat and turned to Kay. “Time to smoke?”

“Hell yeah,” Kay agreed.

They smoked for awhile and re-watched Rick and Morty. They were trying to re-watch the whole series before the new episodes started dropping. After awhile, Beverly said that she was going to go over to the Toziers.

“And you’ll ask if you can stay? I know they have a guest room,” Kay said.

“I’ll ask,” Beverly agreed. “I’m going to talk to Richie about it privately first, though.”

“Ok,” Kay agreed. “Good luck.”

Beverly kissed Kay one more time before leaving. It wasn’t a long walk to Richie’s house, but it gave her time to think. She didn’t think anyone else, not even the other losers except maybe Eddie, really understood.

Bill’s parents weren’t great either, but that was sort of a new thing. They had told Bill they were okay with him coming out, but then they often forgot his correct pronouns and name in a way that felt sort of purposeful. Also, they’d started treated Georgie like he was some sort of golden child. Beverly hated that and admired Bill for staying as cool as he was and not letting it affect his relationship with his brother. It wasn’t the same as growing up with a parent who made you feel small and worthless from infancy, though. Maybe it was worse. Beverly didn’t know. She supposed there was no ‘worse’ here, and trying to compare situations was pointless.

She just didn’t think the others really understood. It wasn’t like she could just step back and say ‘hey I’m the victim here!’ as badly as she wanted to. She had been told for as long as she could remember that she was a little brat and she should be seen and not heard. She’d been told that she deserved to be hit if she messed up, and that she was a dirty, dirty girl.
She had started telling herself that these things weren’t true at some point. She supposed it had been over That Summer, the summer after fourth grade when she’d met the best friends she’d ever have.

It helped, talking with them. It helped when she and Eddie started hanging out on their own more, and Eddie started opening up about how he sometimes believed that he was weak and useless and easy to break just like his mom had taught him. She’d started opening up too, about how she sometimes believed that she was bad and dirty and a burden, just like her dad had taught her. It helped to talk to someone who sort of got it, even if their situations weren’t the same.

Still, she wasn’t sure she had it in her to just say ‘no, daddy, I’m not your little girl anymore and I never will be again!’ Sure, she had said it once. She’d said it That Summer, when she needed to go because she needed to help Bill get Georgie back. But she’d gone home afterward, hadn’t she?

Eddie had told her, once, when they were both drunk at a losers club sleepover and everyone else had fallen asleep and he was crying, that he didn’t take the medications his mom gave him anymore. He’d sobbed into her shoulder and told her that he spit them out.

Beverly had called him brave, and she’d meant it. She’d told him she thought he was amazing, and she’d meant it. She’d held him until he fell asleep and then she’d broken down and sobbed into her pillow because she didn’t think she could ever be that brave.

She was proud of Eddie, she really was, but part of her was also jealous. Instead of standing up to her dad after That Summer, she’d fallen back into old habits. She’d let him do things that made her sick to her stomach to think about.

She decided to text Eddie as she walked.

Private Chat between ‘QueenBee’ and ‘Icon.’

QueenBee: u busy?

Icon: busy laying on Richie’s lap while he plays gta lol what’s up queen

Icon: thot u were coming over

QueenBee; I’m omw…

Icon: ok weirdo what’s up??

QueenBee: I’m thinking about asking Richie and his parents if I can stay. Like. Permanently. Get away from my dad.

Icon: holy shit bev that’s amazing???

QueenBee: yea….

Icon: what’s wrong

QueenBee: idk. it’s weird…i feel like. guilty…

Icon: I get that

QueenBee: like. what will he do without me? he needs me, you know. I do all the cooking and cleaning and shit. I keep track of his doctor’s apts. plus, he just seemed so worried when I talked to him. Like, he does care ok? I know it’s complicated but he cares and I feel like he needs me

Icon: bev, that’s not your responsibility

QueenBee: yeah but who’s is it then

Icon: idk. but I know this: he shouldn’t hurt you if he needs you around so bad, ya know

QueenBee: right

Icon: bev, I know it’s hard but you’re so brave for taking steps to protect yourself & I admire you so much

QueenBee: funny

Icon: how the fuck is that funny

QueenBee: more like ironic maybe. I was just thinking I admired you for unlearning some of the shit your mom taught you. like, not taking your gazebos

Icon: leave me alone I was elven I know it’s placebos now

QueenBee; real talk tho, idk if I’d even be considering this without you eddie

QueenBee; you’re a good friend <3

Icon: bev ILU

Icon: now get your ass over here we’re ready to watch Buzzfeed Unsolved

QueenBee; hell yea

QueenBee: HELL YE

Beverly closed the app with a smile. She knew Eddie was right, it wasn’t her responsibility. Her dad was the parent, it was supposed to be his responsibility to take care of her. Maybe that was the part that made her most mad. She shouldn’t have to be debating this. She should be relying on him, not the other way around.

Then there was the part she’d left unsaid in the message to Eddie, though she was sure he’d inferred it. There was the thing that was really stopping her. It wasn’t just that she believed her dad still cared. It was that she still cared.

What the others didn’t get was that sometimes when he was in a good mood, he’d let her watch him draw for hours. If he was in a really good mood, he’d let her sit and he’d guide her hands and help her draw as well.

Sometimes, they would talk about art, or music, or movies, and Beverly would feel like her heart was singing.

Sometimes.

She gritted her teeth. She knew what Kay would say to her. ‘Sometimes isn’t good enough, Beverly.’ But what if Sometimes was all she got?

She arrived at the Toziers and knocked on the door. Maggie Tozier answered with a smile. “Hi, sweetheart,” she said. “I made some sugar cookies, they’re in the kitchen. Then the boys are up in Richie’s room if you want to go find them.”

“Thanks, Mrs. Tozier,” Beverly said.

She headed to the kitchen and grabbed a plate which she piled with sugar cookies and then headed upstairs, opening the door to Richie’s room which had a ‘Police Box’ Doctor Who plaque on the outside.

There was a loud thud and Beverly paused for a moment in confusion before realizing that Eddie had toppled off the bed. He sat up and gave her a sheepish wave. His face was bright red and his hair was messy, but Beverly was relieved to see that he was fully clothed – including Richie’s hoodie.

Richie sat up and grinned at Beverly, wearing a shit eating grin.

“You guys literally knew I was coming,” Beverly said, sitting on the bed and shoving a sugar cookie into Richie’s mouth.

“We expected you to knock,” Richie said around a mouthful of cookie.

Eddie stood up and grabbed a cookie. “I need to go downstairs so I can talk to Maggie and Went for at least the next couple of minutes,” he said, shooting Beverly a pointed look. “Not about anything important. About the weather. Don’t follow me.”

“Smooth,” Beverly muttered. Eddie shrugged and left the room.

“What was that about?” Richie asked.
“Who knows, your boyfriend is weird, Tozier. Anyway, I wanted to ask you something with the full understanding that you can say no and you should if you’re at all uncomfortable.”

“Eds and I haven’t even gotten past second base so I doubt a threesome is in the cards babe.”

“Ew no,” she said, hitting him with a pillow as he laughed. “Richie this is about something serious.”

“Fine, what?”

“How would you feel about me living here, if your parents said yes?”

“Are you serious? You’re leaving Alvin? For good?” Richie looked thrilled. “Hell yeah, Beverly.” He leaned in and hugged her and she hugged back. She found herself squeezing extra hard. Maybe she hadn’t realized just how bad she needed a hug from a friend.

She gulped as a sob escaped into Richie’s shoulder and he squeezed harder. “Hey,” he said. “Hey, I’m so proud of you, Beverly. Not in a weird paternal way, though. Like, I can’t even be proud because I didn’t contribute anything to be proud of. I’m like, proud to be your friend. You’re like, so fucking brave dude. I’m so happy you’re finally getting out.”

“Thanks,” she said. She sat up, pulling away from the hug maybe a little sooner than she would’ve liked. She seemed to be needing a lot of hugs lately. “But seriously, I don’t want you to feel obligated because I do have other options. Kay’s parents have offered, so have Ben’s. I could probably ask-”

“No way,” Richie said. “You are not asking anyone else. I’ve already put my parents in one awkward position today, it’s time to go put them in another. Let’s go.” He stood up and held out a hand.

Beverly took it and wiped her eyes on the back of her own hand as they walked downstairs together. Richie let go of her hand about halfway down the stairs and Beverly wondered if it was to avoid giving his parents mixed signals. That made her giggle to herself and Richie shot her an amused look.

They walked into the kitchen. Eddie was indeed trying to engage Maggie and Went about the weather, which was cloudy and cool and Beverly snorted at the look of relief on their faces when she and Richie came in. Eddie was sitting on the kitchen counter and was getting started on another sugar cookie, which did not slow him down in finishing his rant about the cold weather and how it was sure to necessitate him stealing all of Richie’s jackets one by one because he was very susceptible to catching colds, and how they should probably buy him some more and maybe some with cuter colors.

“Mom, dad, I want to ask you something.”

“We’re fine with polyamory, son,” Went said. “But does it have to be your two loudest friends?” he shot Beverly a wink and she giggled. Eddie made a sound like he was about to choke from his spot seated on the counter.

“It’s not that, but good guess,” Richie said.

“What is it dear?” Maggie asked, rolling her eyes at her husband.

“Can Beverly stay with us? Like. Permanently?”

Beverly had expected them to need to think about it. She’d grown up going over to Richie’s and being treated like family, but she still hadn’t expected the reaction she got. Maggie Tozier made a sound between a scream and a laugh. Went whooped and pumped his fist in the air.

“Beverly, we’d be delighted,” Maggie said. She rushed over and pulled Beverly into a tight hug.

“You know we already consider you family,” Went said. He patted her on the back.

Beverly was tearing up again. She wasn’t always this emotional, but she was so overwhelmed by their excitement to help her, to treat her like family. She put her hands over her mouth to stop the sob.

“Hey, there’s no need to cry!” Richie said, wrapping his arms around her.

“I’m just so happy right now,” she sobbed.

“Aw, Bev,” Eddie said. He joined in the group hug.

“Thank you both, so much,” Beverly said to Went and Maggie, breaking away from the group hug.

“Of course, dear,” Maggie said.

“Is it safe for you to go back and get your things, Beverly?” Went asked.

Bev hesitated. She wanted to say yes, but she pictured her dad’s reaction if he saw her packing things into a suitcase and resisted a wince. He wouldn’t like that. He’d say she was being reckless, and cruel, and a terrible daughter and an embarrassment, and that she was dirty and bad for staying with a boy. He’d dump the suitcase, and knock her to the ground. If she didn’t stay down, he’d kick her until she did. Then, he’d tell her that she could still be his little girl if she stayed, and he’d beckon her toward him. Eddie met her eyes and frowned like he could read her mind and she shook the thoughts away, feeling sick.

“I’m sure I could-” Beverly started.
“It’s not safe,” Richie said. “Dad, the man is dangerous.”

“Well,” Went said, “I’d never imply that I’d follow a man to work while texting his teenage daughter updates on his location so she can gather all her stuff from his apartment. That would be crazy and possibly count as kidnapping. But I might casually happen to need to go the same way as Alvin Marsh, and if I happen to text my son’s friend about where I’d happened to see her dad, that would be totally normal and fine. I’d definitely do that.”

“Richie,” Beverly said. “You have the coolest dad.” Then, to Went, she said. “Yes, I’d greatly appreciate that. I should probably go to school Monday since I skipped Friday, but he works weekends too. Actually, I’m pretty sure he’s working tomorrow.”

“Okay,” Went said. “Deal.”

“You uh, might want to invest in some new locks,” Beverly said. She glanced in the direction of the front door with some apprehension. She was starting to get nervous. Was she just putting Richie and his parents in unnecessary danger? “I can help pay for them. I have savings.”

“Wouldn’t dream of it,” Maggie said, kissing Beverly on the cheek. “We’ll order the new locks tonight. Don’t you worry about it anymore. Go on and enjoy the rest of your Saturday, okay?”

“Thank you again,” Beverly said. She hugged Maggie Tozier once more and exchanged a meaningful look with Went and then followed Richie and Eddie back up to Richie’s room.

She was struck, not for the first time in recent memory, with a love for the family she was building for herself.

Chapter Text

“You’re so lucky,” Ben said, patting Emily on the head. Emily was a very chubby, very adorable sheep. She baa’d at him as he turned to walk away from the edge of the fence, and he gave her one last pet. “My mom won’t even let me get a dog.”

“I bet you could convince her,” Mike said. He was sitting on the edge of the fence, watching Ben.

Ben thought about it. “I’ve been trying to convince her since I was like, ten, dude,” he said. “The answer has always been no.”

“Maybe now that you’re older,” Mike suggested. “More responsible.”

“I have been getting really good grades this semester,” Ben said. “And I’ve been going to therapy.” His mom was proud of him for that. Ben pondered the idea of bringing the dog thing up to her again with some hope for the first time in awhile.

“Really?” Mike asked.

Ben shrugged. “Yeah man,” he said. “It’s been good. I don’t know if you noticed, having been there for some of the worst bits and all, but my life has been somewhat fucked up.”

Mike snorted and Ben felt his face grow warm. He hadn’t expected that reaction. Wasn’t generation Z supposed to be all encouraging of acknowledging mental health issues? He’d thought Mike, another loser of all people, would understand.

“What’s so funny?” he asked.

“No, no,” Mike said, shaking his head. “Not laughing at you for going to therapy. It’s just. I guess I just pictured you explaining to a very serious looking man in a suit and tie that when you were eleven a demon sewer clown from outer space kidnapped your friend’s kid brother and also one of your friends and you and a bunch of other eleven year old kids had to go into the sewer and fight the clown with the power of friendship.”

Ben couldn’t help it. He started giggling too. It was exactly what had happened. Even after years, the memories of Pennywise’s evil smirk, and of the feeling he’d gotten when he saw Beverly and Georgie trapped in the deadlights floating high above them with rolled back eyes were still fresh. Sometimes he woke up in a cold sweat and thought he could smell peanuts and popcorn and hear circus music and he had to call one of the other losers to talk him down from a panic attack. Yet when Mike said it like that it sounded so utterly ridiculous that he couldn’t help but burst out laughing.

When they were both done cracking up over their childhood trauma, Mike managed to ask through wheezes, “But seriously, is that what you did? You told a therapist what happened? What the fuck? How are you not Juniper Hill right now?”

Ben rolled his eyes, walking away from the fence despite Emily’s baa’s. Mike followed Ben over to the porch and the hanging chair on the Hanlon front porch. There was blanket out there. It was a little damp because whoever had been using it had left it out the night before and the morning dew had gotten on it. Also, it smelled like weed. Ben picked up the blanket and waved it around in the air a few times before sitting down. Mike sat beside him and they pulled the blanket over themselves. It was cloudy and cold, but the chilly air was kind of nice. It was much nicer than being outside in the heat of summer anyway.

“No,” Ben said when they were both comfy. “I did not tell a therapist about the demon sewer alien clown, Mike.”

“Is this another one of Bill’s stories?” asked Will Hanlon. Neither of them had noticed him coming out. He handed both boys a mug filled with hot coacoa and piled with whipped cream.

“Yeah,” Ben said with a grin. “Thanks Mr. Hanlon,” he added as he took a sip of the hot coacoa.

“I always love hearing that young man’s stories,” Will said with a smile. “I’ve been saying it since he was eleven. Bill Denbrough is going to be a famous horror writer one of these days. Some of his ideas are a little odd.” For a moment, Ben could’ve sworn he saw a dark shadow cross Will Hanlon’s face, but he brushed it off. “But,” Will went on, “what writer isn’t a little odd, right?”

“For sure,” Mike said. “Bill is gonna be the only one of us losers to make it big.”

“Nonsense,” Will said. “I have high hopes for you and all your friends, Mikey. There’s no way any of you end up sticking around this town. I’ve always said there’s something not quite right here.”

Ben and Mike exchanged a look, and both burst into laughter once again. It wasn’t funny, not really. They were laughing because they knew something Will Hanlon didn’t, and it was something no one wanted to know. It was something Ben often wished he didn’t know. That Will Hanlon was more right than he knew and that there was indeed something not quite right about Derry.

“Alright,” Will chuckled. “I can see you boys are tired of listening to an old man ramble. I’ll leave you to it.”

“Aw, Dad,” Mike said, still laughing. “It’s not that. Just a stupid joke.”

“I have to go and help your mother wash the sheep wool from last time we sheared them anyway.”

“Do you need help, Dad?” Mike asked.

“No,” Will said. “You boys enjoy your Saturday. There’s not that much to do anyway.” He headed off with that and Ben and Mike each took another sip of their coacoa.
“So, what did you tell the therapist?” Mike asked. “I mean,” he seemed to realize he might be crossing a line. “If you’re cool with telling me.”

“Sure,” Ben shrugged. “It’s nothing you don’t know. Just stuff I had to get sorted out. I had to deal with my weight. I had to deal with my body image issues. I mean, I know I’m not going to be on the cover of Sports Illustrated anytime soon but-”

“You look good,” Mike said.

“Thanks,” Ben shot Mike a grin. It was one of those things that he still didn’t quite believe, but he wanted to, and he told himself Mike meant it. “I mean, I think I look better than I did. Healthy. That’s the important thing, that my therapist had to teach me. That it wasn’t about just losing the weight, it was about getting and staying healthy.”

“For sure,” Mike agreed.

“But it wasn’t just that. I had to deal with all the shit with Henry Bowers. How he tried to carve his name into my guts. I had to talk about how I never really had friends before you guys, and like, I’m glad I know you guys now but that sucked, you know?”

Mike nodded. “I didn’t really have a ton of friends before the losers club either.”

“It was hard,” Ben said. “Growing up alone. I didn’t even know I was alone then, but looking back? Yikes. And I had to deal with my insecurity about that. I was so afraid for awhile, that you guys would all leave me and stop being my friends. That Beverly would notice what a worthless loser I was one day and leave me. I had to get over that shit. It wasn’t healthy for me, and it wasn’t healthy for our friendships and it wasn’t healthy for me and Bev.”

“I never knew you felt like that, Ben,” Mike said with a frown. “You know we’d never leave you, right?”

“I know,” Ben said. “But you have to understand, before I ran into Bill and Eddie that day in the barrens, I hadn’t really hung out with other kids. Bill asked me to stay with Eddie ‘cause Eddie was having an asthma attack and I didn’t even question it, I just stayed. When Bill came back with the aspirator and Eddie ended up being ok, they told me how Henry destroyed their dam and I told them how I could fix it. Bill corrected me and said no, we’d fix it. That was the first time I’d ever been part of something.”

“Wow,” Mike said in a soft voice.

“I know that must sounds really stupid-” Ben started. He’d told Bill, one day in eighth grade when he and Bill were sitting in the park eating ice cream cones, how much that’d meant to him. Bill had patted him on the arm and told him he’d meant it, and that the seven of them would always be a team and he was sure the others felt the same. Ben hadn’t told the others about this though, and he found himself feeling embarrassed. What if Mike thought he was completely lame? He thought all of this within less than a second before Mike interrupted him.

“No,” Mike said. “It’s just, I get it. That’s how I felt too, after the rock fight.” Ben nodded solemnly.

That had been an important day. It was the day six became seven, but it was more than that too. It was the day the losers club had established that they would die for one another. They almost had, that day when Henry Bowers had proved himself to be more than a dangerous bully. Ben had known, before, that Henry was dangerous. He’d carved into Ben with a knife. But the day of the rock fight Ben had realized that Henry Bowers was capable of murder.

“You know, I went to Neibolt Street Church School before that, and I had people I talked to. I didn’t sit alone at lunch, most days. I had kids I could hang out with on the playground. But I didn’t have friends, not like you guys.”

“I doubt anyone has ever had friends like the seven of us,” Ben said. It was something he was sure the other losers were aware of, though no one had said it quite so bluntly before.

“True,” Mike agreed. “But I mean, I didn’t have people I could talk to. So, I get where you’re coming from.”

Ben appreciated that, but he doubted Mike knew quite where he was coming from. He didn’t think he’d explained it right, but it didn’t matter anyway. He’d grown up so isolated from other kids he hadn’t even considered the idea of friends. It was a foreign concept to Ben before the losers. Other children were either dangers because they were sure to call him names or worse, beat him up, or they were simply there as neutral creatures sharing an environment with him. Bill saying ‘WE build it,’ about the dam had been monumental for Ben.

“Okay,” Mike said. He seemed to be reading Ben’s expression. “Maybe I don’t exactly get it. But I think I understand what you mean about needing to work through stuff.”

“Yeah,” Ben said. “It’s been helpful.” He could tell from Mike’s expression that he was having one of those thoughtful moments that only Mike Hanlon was capable of in which he came to important realizations which he would share when he was ready to. Ben decided not to push. He had a feeling the therapy idea hadn’t occurred to Mike before.

“Did I ever tell you,” Mike asked. “That Butch Bowers killed my childhood dog?”

“Holy shit, Mike,” Ben said. “No, you never told me that. I’m so sorry.”

“Mr. Chips,” Mike said with a sad nod. “He was such a good boy.” He pulled out his phone and scrolled for a few minutes before showing Ben a picture of a scrappy looking gray dog with a huge grin on it’s face, it’s tongue hanging out.

“Adorable,” Ben said, giving Mike a sad smile.

“Well you remember how sick Henry was,” Mike said. “His dad was just as sick. I know this is awful to say, but I’m not sorry that man is dead.”

 

“Neither am I,” Ben said. “It means Henry is locked up, which is extremely good news.”

“It is,” Mike agreed. “But you didn’t know Butch Bowers like I did. Him being dead is almost as good as Henry being locked up. That man was evil. My dad told me that when he and my mom moved here, Butch Bowers killed all of their chickens and painted a swastika in blood on the chicken coop. Henry Deaver told Butch he could either pay my dad five hundred dollars or go to prison.”

“Holy shit,” Ben said. “Henry Deaver came through.”

“Agreed,” Mike said. “He’s kinda the only valid cop out there.”

“He’s only semi valid if you consider how many kids went missing under his watch,” Ben pointed out.

“Fair, but also to cut the guy some slack it was a demonic sewer clown taking the kids.”

“Eh,” Ben shrugged. “If seven eleven year old kids could defeat that bitch I don’t see why an entire police squad couldn’t.”

“Okay I guess,” Mike said. “But we’re getting off track.”

“Sorry,” Ben said. “Continue.”

“Anyway, Butch Bowers paid the money. But when he saw my dad again, he threatened to kill him.”

“What’d your dad do?” Ben asked. He was surprised to see that Mike was grinning now.

“Held a gun under his chin and told him never to mess with our family again.”

“Holy shit,” Ben breathed. “Your dad is so cool, Mike.”

“Oh, I know,” Mike said. “But it only kinda worked. Mr. Chips ended up getting poisoned when I was nine. There was no proof it was Butch, but I fucking know it was him.”

“I’m sorry,” Ben said again.

“I mean, I guess my point is I’ve dealt with a lot of shit too. Maybe the whole therapy thing is kind of a good idea.”

“You did have a group of older kids literally try to stone you to death while yelling slurs when you were eleven.”

“Don’t forget the killer clown.”

“I’d maybe leave that part out in therapy,” Ben said. They both laughed again.

“Hey,” Mike said. “This is changing the subject, but can I tell you something?”

Ben had a feeling he knew what it was going to be. He nodded though.

“Stan and I are dating.”

Ben smiled. He’d already had a strong feeling about this. “Aw, you guys are so good together,” he said.

“Thanks,” Mike said. “But you seem way too unsurprised. Did Beverly tell you? She saw us holding hands last weekend and wouldn’t stop texting us questions until we confirmed.”

“Nah,” Ben said. “I just had a feeling. I could tell something had changed between you two. Plus, I noticed you two took way longer than anyone else coming out of the corn maze last weekend.” He couldn’t help but giggle a little at the last part. He was pretty sure everyone had noticed the two of them coming out looking bleary eyed and giggly and trying way too hard to look innocent.
“Hey!” Mike said. “We didn’t take THAT long. Besides, you’re the last loser we haven’t told and everyone else was surprised, other than Bev and that’s only because she saw us holding hands.”

“You guys even came out of that maze before Bev and Kay, and those two took forever.”

“Yeahhhh,” Mike said, drawing the word out a little too long. He looked uncomfortable. “I was gonna um, bring that up to you.” Ben didn’t want to out Bev or anything, but he was pretty sure it would cause drama if he didn’t disconfirm whatever Mike was worrying about right now.

“I know they’re a thing,” Ben said. “Bev and I talked, it’s cool.”

“Oh!” Mike looked relieved. “Thank goodness, dude.”

“Yeah,” Ben said. “Looks like no one in the losers club is cishet.”

“Wait, what about you?” Mike asked.

“Okay, I don’t wanna steal the Stanlon thunder, so don’t worry about me,” Ben said.

“I’m sorry,” Mike snorted. “The what?”

Ben smirked. “You’re telling me you’re dating Stan and you don’t know him well enough to realize that now that you guys are out to everyone there’s gonna be Stanlon versus Reddie discourse in our group chat like all the time now? He and Richie are going to drive the rest of us insane, I already know.”

“No way,” Mike said, but he didn’t look so sure.

“Let’s find out,” Ben said. He pulled up the Losers Club group chat on his phone. “I’ll bet you ten dollars as soon as I message the group that I know about you guys Stan jumps on it.”

Haystack: Can’t believe I was the last to know about #Stanlon

BirdBoy: So much better & more romantic than Reddie am I right?

ReddieRights: Drop ur location @BirdBoy I just wanna talk

BirdBoy: Did you guys know that Mike & I are going to go bird watching and then on a dinner date and then to watch a bunch of old black and white movies to celebrate our four month anniversary tomorrow?

Willfightyoubehinddennys: Y’all have been together FOUR MONTHS and we didn’t know???

BirdBoy: We’re combining the things we both love <3 Bird watching for me, food for both of us, old movies for my nerdy BF <3

BirdBoy changed his username to StanlonRights

ReddieRights: iT’s 2019 RiChIe DoN’t GiVe YoUrSeLvEs A sHiP nAmE

WinterFire: it doesn’t have to be like this

WinterFire: [desc. An image of two hands holding each other and one hand below them empty with the caption ‘stanlon rights OR reddie rights’ over the hands holding each other and the caption ‘stanlon rights or reddie rights’ over the empty hand.]

WinterFire: when it can be like this

WinterFire: [desc. An image of two hands holding each other next to another two hands holding each other. Over one of the pairs of hands is the caption ‘reddie rights’ and over the other is ‘stanlon rights.’]

WinterFire: the losers club has two hands

StanlonRights: technically we have fourteen hands bev…

Haystack: babe did you just…take the time to edit those memes….

WinterFire: not just now. I was prepared for this moment Ben

BigBill: bev you’re so iconic aslkdjaslkdjas

WinterFire: thank u king I know I am

Haystack: proof #Benverly is the only ship truly in sync because I also predicted this discourse

Haystack: @MikeyWay owes me $10

WinterFire: I love a petty icon @Haystack <3

Haystack: I’ll buy you ice cream with the $10 loml @WinterFire

StanlonRights changed his username to CancelBenverly

ReddieRights changed his username to YeahNoMoreStraightys

WinterFire: I’m not straight u bitches don’t call us straightys

BigBill: tf bitch did you just come out to all of us because u were mad about stan and richie being dumbasses alksdjaslkdja

WinterFire changed her username to PettyLittleBiBitch

YeahNoMoreStraightys changed his username to NumberOneBeverlyMarshFan

CancelBenverly changed his username to ShutUpRichieIMBeverlysNumberOneFan

Willfightyoubehinddennys changed his username to ShutUpRichieAndStanIMBEVERLYSBESTFRIEND

Ben closed the group chat, rolling his eyes. “Okay, so our friends are ridiculous.”

“Yes,” Mike agreed with a laugh. “I love them though.”

“Oh, always,” Ben agreed.

Chapter Text

These are the eyes and the lies of the taken
These are their hearts but their hearts don't beat like ours
They burn 'cause they are all afraid
For every one of us, there's an army of them
But you'll never fight alone
'Cause I wanted you to know
That the world is ugly
But you're beautiful to me

Bill was carefully painting Stan’s nails black while My Chemical Romance played. They were sitting on Bill’s bed.

"You’re team Stanlon, right, Bill?”

“Oh my god, Stan,” Bill groaned. “You need to shut up about that. I’m not team anything, you guys are all my friends.”

“Ok but if you had to pick?”

“You have to stop,” Bill said.

“But like, if someone held a gun to your head-”

“Dude,” Bill said. He stopped painting and looked at Stan.

“Okay,” Stan said. “So, Richie might have messaged me and said he’d pay for me, Mike, himself, and Eddie to go see Doctor Sleep if I got you to say you’re on team Stanlon in the group chat. He didn’t think you’d do it. I wasn’t supposed to tell you though.”

“I’m definitely not saying it now!” Bill said. “That dumbass is gonna spend all his money on dumb shit like that and then guess who he’s gonna ask to borrow money from when he wants new My Chemical Romance merch? The one person with a job.” Bill had started working at the Aladdin over the summer and found that it was very nice to have a job, and to occasionally have money. His mom still bought him girl’s clothes when she shopped, so he was grateful to have some cash to his name to buy his own outfits.

There was a knock at the door. “What’s up?” Bill called.

“Bill?” Georgie said from the other side of the door.

“Come in, Georgie,” Bill said.

Georgie came in and looked up at the older boys with wide-eyed admiration. He had his hands behind his back, and he was doing his best to give Bill puppy-eyes. Bill tried not to laugh. It was so obvious when the kid wanted something.

“Mom said you and Stan might be able to take me on a bike ride today? If you aren’t too busy.” Bill had been trying to teach Georgie how to ride a bike all summer, but he wasn’t quite there. Almost.

Bill and Stan looked at each other. “Bill if you say we’re too busy I’m vibe checking you right now,” Stan said.

“We’re not too busy,” Bill said with a snort. He painted the last nail on Stan’s hand. “Wait ‘til Stan’s nails dry, then we can go,” he said to Georgie.

“Yay, thanks Bill!” Georgie said. He leapt onto the bed and hugged Bill. It was a small thing, but Georgie always called Bill the right name and pronouns.

“You’re welcome,” Bill said, ruffling his hair. “Now go put on your helmet and get your bike, we’ll meet you out there.”

Stan and Bill let the song finish playing before turning off the speakers and heading outside. Bill grabbed a jacket on his way out and tossed a hoodie to Stan as well because Mike currently had all of Stan’s hoodies at his house. He’d been collecting them for a while.

They made their way outside and Georgie was already wearing his bright yellow helmet and standing beside his red bike. Bill had taken off the training wheels about a month ago. Georgie could go a little distance without them, but he was still in the habit of catching himself with his foot.

“We have to go to the garage and get Silver,” Bill said.

“Am I riding double?” Stan asked.

“You guys don’t have helmets!” Georgie said. “Besides, mom said riding double is dangerous.”

“It’s fine,” Bill said. “Don’t be a tattletale.”

“You know I won’t,” Georgie said.

Bill went to the garage and came back a minute later, pushing Silver. He’d really grown into the bike since he was eleven. He was the tallest of the seven losers, at five feet and eight inches, and the bike was a bit too big for the rest of them, but it was perfect for Bill.

He swung his leg over the side and Stan scrambled onto the back, wrapping his arms around Bill’s waist.

“Ready?” Bill asked Georgie.

Georgie mounted his bike and nodded, but he looked nervous.

“You’ll be fine,” Bill said. “Even if you fall.”

“Ok,” Georgie agreed.

“HI YO SILVER!” Bill said, kicking off the ground and pedaling. “Away!”

The bike swayed and almost fell over, as it usually did, but Bill got it going as he always did. He let Georgie go in front of them, not going as fast as he would if it had been just him and Stan. Georgie didn’t fall over.

Bill could hear Georgie laughing as he picked up speed, and he grinned to himself. The kid was getting there. Georgie’s bike swayed, but he got his balance and kept going. They made it to the end of the block and Georgie slowed down and stopped by the big Stop sign.

“I think he’s got it,” Stan said.

“I think so too,” Bill agreed.

“Let’s bike to my boyfriend’s house,” Stan said.

“You up for going to see Ben and Mike, Georgie?” Bill asked.
“Yay! Emily!” Georgie said. Georgie had been obsessed with Mike’s sheep, Emily, ever since Bill first took him to visit the Hanlon farm.

Bill messaged Mike to let him know they were on their way over, then started pedaling.

They were about halfway to the Hanlon’s when Georgie stopped, staring into the bushes beside the sidewalk. Bill stopped beside him and jumped off the bike. Stan hurried to put the kickstand. Bill and Stan exchanged a worried look. Bill knew that they were both thinking about the same thing. They were thinking about the thing that they were always worried would be lurking in the shadows, ready to snatch Georgie away at the first opportunity.

“Georgie?” Bill asked.

“Billy, there’s a dog there!” Georgie said. He was pointing into the thick weeds and bushes.

Bill felt his whole body relax, and he heard an audible exhale of relief from Stan beside him.

“A dog?” Stan asked.

The three of them peered into the woods, and sure enough, there was a dog laying in the thicket. It was dark brown with brindle patterned fur, and it looked like a pit bull. It was breathing heavily, and Bill could tell right away that something was wrong.

“It’s hurt,” he said, kneeling. “Hey,” he said in a soft voice. “Hey there buddy, what’s wrong?” He reached into the bushes, and held his palm open close to the dog’s face. It whimpered and sniffed his hand.

He gasped when he realized what was wrong. The dog’s front leg was bent in a way that was clearly wrong. It was looking at him with wide, distressed eyes. Georgie and Stan had also realized what was wrong.

“Bill, we have to help him,” Georgie said.

“I know,” Bill said. “What should we do?”

“Let me call Mike,” Stan said. “His dad is an animal lover. Maybe he’ll come get us and we can take it to the vet.”

“Ok,” Bill agreed.

Less than five minutes later, Will Hanlon pulled over to the sidewalk and Mike and Ben both jumped out of the truck and ran over.

“Oh no,” Mike said, kneeling and looking at the dog. “How are we gonna move him?”

“I’ve got it,” Will Hanlon said. The boys all backed away as Will Hanlon leaned into the bushes and picked up the dog.

It wasn’t a huge animal, but it was too big for any of the kids, except maybe Bill, to pick up. Bill was relieved Will was doing it though, because he was afraid of hurting it.

The dog did whimper when Will picked it up, but it cooperated as he put it on the backseat. ‘It’s almost like he knows we’re trying to help,’ Bill thought.

Stan and Mike decided to sit in the back with the dog. Ben sat in the front. There wasn’t room for Bill and Georgie, so Bill made sure the others knew to text him updates about the dog and agreed to take Georgie home.

Bill felt his chest swell with pride as he watched Georgie bike ahead of him. The sun was starting to set, and he was glad when they reached their block. He knew it wasn’t his place, but he didn’t like the idea of having Georgie out riding his bike past dark. If they’d been at the Hanlon farm, things would’ve been different. That would’ve been a safe space. Riding around in the streets after the sun had set felt wrong though. Bill didn’t like thinking that way. ‘It’s gone,’ he told himself. ‘We killed it.’ But he wasn’t so sure.

He thrusts his fists against the posts and still insists he sees the ghosts.

It was a phrase that made its way into his mind unbidden, and Bill pushed it away. He rarely stuttered anymore. He didn’t need that stupid phrase, and it had always creeped him out anyway. Maybe it was the memory of those words being used to taunt him by Pennywise, but Bill didn’t think so. He’d been creeped out by the phrase before that. It was the talk of seeing ghosts.

After they put their bikes in the garage, Bill followed Georgie up to his room and stood in the hall for a moment before going to his own room.

‘Georgie is alive,’ he thought. He knew it was sort of sick, having to remind himself like that. But he did, sometimes. He had thought of Georgie as a ghost during that horrible time that Georgie had been missing, and sometimes he still dreamt of Ghost Georgie, covered in blood and wearing yellow rain slicker, standing over his bed.

He sat in bed and remembered That Summer. He remembered his panic when he realized Georgie wasn’t coming back that night. He had been standing in the living room, and his parents had been standing in the doorway talking to the police.

‘We’ll continue to search all night,’ the officer had said.

‘All night?’ Bill’s mom had sobbed. ‘It can’t possibly take that long. He wasn’t even supposed to leave the block.’

Bill remembered the intensive anxiety that had seized his body, making him tremble with fear. He had been unable to breathe for a few seconds, and he hadn’t stopped shaking. The anxiety didn’t go away that night, and it stayed with him that whole summer like an insidious disease, always there, sometimes closer to the surface than others, but never gone.

He’d shaken like a leaf all night. He’d taken a hot shower and gone to bed without a word to his parents. He remembered thinking, even under the panic, that it was like they had forgotten he existed. Another thought had come into his mind without his permission too, and it was one he hadn’t been able to escape although he’d never spoken it allowed. ‘This is my fault,’ Bill had thought.

He knew Georgie didn’t blame him, and that Georgie was fine now. He told Bill he barely even remembered the deadlights, although Bill wasn’t sure he believed that because Georgie hadn’t looked him in the eyes when he said it. Still, sometimes he thought about what could have happened, what had almost happened, and he felt sick to his stomach. How could he have lived with himself?

He sat there, hugging himself. He decided to check the Losers Club group chat to distract himself, and also to see if there were any updates on the dog.

Trashmouth: HE’S SO HANDSOME

Eds: I’D DEI FOR HIM OMG

Eds changed his username to LoverOfGoodBoys

LoverOfGoodBoys: stop fucking changing my screen name richie

Bill scrolled up to see a message from Mike.

MikyWay: [desc. Mike and Ben on either side of a smiling pit bull, and Stan behind them hugging the dog from behind.]

MikeyWay: they had to chop his leg off but he’s fine now

BirdBoy: they had to AMPUTATE IT babe omg

MikeyWay: the point is he’s chillin now. he gonna have to take some drugs for a few weeks ‘cause pain but he’ll be fine

Haystack: I’m asking my mom if I can keep him

WinterFire: tell your mom if she doesn’t say yes, I cry

Haystack: wait I’m actually going to my mom loves you she won’t want you to cry

Trashmouth changed LoverOfGoodBoys’ username to LoverBoy

Trashmouth: guys I made eds blush

LoverBoy: shut up no you didn’t

BigBill: are you two literally together rn

WinterFire: I’m there too, can confirm Eddie is blushing

Trashmouth: Eddie just hit Bev guys : ( so violent smh

WinterFire: BEN

WinterFire: @Haystack when can we come over and meet the pupperoni

BigBill: I also wanna come

Haystack: we’re literally still at the vet I don’t even know if my mom will say yes yet

Haystack: WAIT

Haystack: GUYS SHE JUST TEXTED ME BACK SHE SAYS YES

Haystack: Calhoun is officially mine now <3

WinterFire: awwhhhh Calhoun is such a cute name & it’s so perfect

Trashmouth: oh my god I can’t believe me calling you haystack when we were kids literally led to the perfect name for your pupper

LoverBoy: ICONIC

BigBill: I’m ready to come over and meet Calhoun whenever you get home @Haystack <3

Haystack: everyone go ahead and come over, we’ll be back soon. I know it’s getting late but we can go to the 24 hour Walmart and pick out stuff for lover like a bed and a crate and toys and stuff
WinterFire: HELL ye!

Trashmouth: HELL YE

BigBill: HELL YEEEEEEEEET

LoverBoy: fuck yeah

Bill closed the group chat and got up. He grabbed his leather jacket because he’d been shivering a little in just the hoodie and sat on the floor to put on his dock martens. He thought about telling his parents where he was going but decided they probably wouldn’t even notice. If they did, they wouldn’t say much. Instead, he slipped downstairs quietly, and out to the garage where silver was.

Chapter Text

The 24/7 Walmart parking lot was almost empty when the seven losers and Kay McCall zoomed up to the building on their bikes. Stan rolled his eyes when everyone else dropped their bikes to the ground, kicking his own kickstand down and carefully setting his bike up. Mike shot his boyfriend a smile. It still gave Mike butterflies to think of Stan like that, as his ‘boyfriend.’
They had gotten together in the beginning of August, which Mike thought made sense because when they were together, they were like all the warmth of summer combined with the nervous, excited energy that came with approaching school days.

If Ben and Bev were the ‘January embers,’ the fire in the middle of winter, and Richie and Eddie were the chaotic cool excitement of October and Halloween, he and Stan were the gentle warmth and adventurous energy of late summer.

‘When did you get so sappy?’ he thought to himself. ‘Sometime around realizing I’m in love with this amazing person,’ came the answer as he wound his fingers around Stan’s.

“What are we looking for first, Ben?” Kay asked as they entered the store.

The cashier, an older, balding man, gave them a look of suspicion. He narrowed his eyes at the sight of the nine teenagers walking towards the pet section at almost eleven o’clock at night.

“My mom did give me a budget,” Ben said. “So, let’s start with the essentials. Calhoun is gonna need a bed.”

They all agreed and headed for the isle labeled ‘animal bedding.’

As they examined the different dog bed, options, Mike noticed Beverly was wearing Richie’s black hoodie. “Surprised Eddie’s letting you get away with wearing that,” he remarked with a smile.

“Yeah, about that,” Beverly said. “I kind of have something to tell all of you.”

“What is it?” Mike asked.

“I’m moving in with Richie,” she said. “I still need to get my stuff, I’m going tomorrow, but I’m moving into the guest room.”

“Babe, that’s great news,” Ben said.

“I’m so happy for you, Bev,” Kay agreed.

“Yeah, I’m really excited,” Bev said, beaming.

“I’ll be happy if you n-never have to go back again,” Bill said to Beverly. “Do you n-need someone to go with you to get your s-stuff?”

Bill didn’t stutter much anymore. He hadn’t since That Summer. Mike noticed he did it when he was nervous or thinking about something that made him uncomfortable. Alvin Marsh was definitely in a category that merited making anyone uncomfortable.

“I should be fine,” Bev said. “Went is gonna make sure for me that my dad is at work when I go. You can come for moral support if you want though.”

Everyone else nodded and agreed that it was amazing that Bev was getting out of her dad’s place. Mike waited until the attention was back on dog beds before pulling Beverly into a tight hug.

“I’m so happy you’re getting away from there,” he said.

“Thanks,” she agreed.

“I’m sure you know this,” he said. “But my parents are always gonna be there for you too. And me of course, but you know that. I just mean in terms of like, adults that want what’s best for you. Just ‘cause your blood family sucks doesn’t mean you don’t have lots of extended family.”

Beverly wiped her eyes and Mike pretended to be absorbed in examining a dog bed. “Thank you,” she said. “I know it.”

“Check out this one,” Bill said. “Extra cushioning.”

“This one says it’s made with memory foam. It’s supposed to be good for dogs with joint pain,” Eddie said. He read the price tag. “Never mind,” he said.

“The one with extra cushioning is also listed as having memory foam in it,” Beverly said, examining the tags. “But it costs less.”

“Nice,” Ben said. He tossed the extra cushioning bed onto the cart.

Next, they went to pick out a crate and Ben chose one that was big enough for Calhoun to turn around, but not move around too much because he’d read that this was the ideal size according to animal training experts.

They spent a long time in the toy section. Richie had a lot of crude jokes about the toys, mostly involving the rubber animals fucking or being used to fuck the people who bought them. He insisted he’d seen one of the Kong toys at Eddie’s house and teased Eddie about how it was a dildo for Eddie’s mom until Eddie shut him down by saying if Richie thought that’s what a dildo looked like their relationship might be in trouble.

Mike was still wheezing from laughter at that several minutes later as they got in line at the check-out lane. Arlene Hanscom asked what they were giggling about and they all except Richie who was still glaring started laughing even harder. Ben told his mom not to worry about it, and she rolled her eyes as she payed for the dog stuff.

Mike thought, as they climbed into the back of Mrs. Hanscom’s mini van that really, there wasn’t a better group of friends anywhere.

When they got back to Ben’s house, everyone loved on Calhoun and helped get his crate set up. He was still pretty drugged up from the vet, and not too active but he gave everyone kisses. He had to wear a cone around his neck and sleep in the crate so that he would be forced to stay still and not lick his stitches.

Ben put on ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ and everyone protested except Mike, who grinned because he knew Ben had put it on knowing full well it was one of his favorites.

“Ben,” Beverly said. “Honey, I love you, I love Christmas, but Halloween was earlier this week.”

After much bickering, they all ended up cuddled on the sofa or on the floor near Calhoun’s crate.

Mike sat close beside Stan and Stan reached out and put an arm around Mike’s shoulder. Mike nestled into Stan’s chest and yawned. Despite himself, he fell asleep about twenty minutes into the movie and woke up to Stan shaking him.

Richie and Beverly had left. Eddie, Ben and Bill were cuddled up in sleeping bags on the floor.

“Let’s go back to my place,” Stan whispered.

Mike nodded, stretching and standing. “My dad-”

 

“I already texted your dad and asked,” Stan said.

Mike raised his eyebrows at Stan. In general, Stan was always so careful. He didn’t do things like text someone else’s parent asking if they could stay over. Mike had no problem with it. In fact, he felt his heart warm at the idea of spending the night with Stan, he was just surprised.

He didn’t push though. That was the thing about Stan. Pushing him was never a good idea. Instead, he kissed Stan and stood up, zipping his jacket.

They collected their bikes from the back of Mrs. Hanscom’s van and biked over to Stan’s place. It wasn’t a far bike ride, but Mike noticed Stan being extra quiet.

They slipped inside and up to Stan’s room in silence. They had spent the night together plenty of times. Mike was familiar with Stan’s routine. Stan pulled out two pairs of sweatpants and tossed one to Mike, who changed out of his jeans and into sweats while Stan did the same. Stan picked up both pairs of jeans and folded them carefully before setting them on the nightstand table. Mike had folded his own jeans the first few times he came over, but it had become clear quick that Stan would just unfold them and refold them if Mike did that.

Instead, he pulled back the corner of the perfectly made bed and slipped under the covers. A minute later, Stan was beside him.

“You’re being quiet,” Mike said at last, because the curiosity was killing him.

Stan looked at him wide eyed. “I’m thinking about telling my parents. About us. Tomorrow.”

“Really? Stan that’s great.” He leaned in and kissed Stan, wrapping his arms around him and pressing their bodies together.

Stan kissed back, but he was more tense than usual. “I’m so nervous,” he admitted into Mike’s lips. “I don’t know if they really get being gay, you know? They don’t talk badly about gay people or anything, but I don’t think it’s even on their radar as thing.”

“Your parents love you,” Mike said. “You always told me your dad didn’t care about bird watching, but he’d call you from work if he heard there was supposed to be some interesting bird around, right? And he learned all about the different kinds of Maine birds for you.”

“Yeah,” Stan said. “But this is different.”

“Your parents are liberal,” Mike reminded him. “They’re friends with my parents, and my parents are pretty outspoken about LGBT stuff.”

“That doesn’t mean anything.”

“Stan,” Mike said. “Breathe.”

Stan breathed in. A long, deep breath in, then a long exhale. He nodded.

“They love me,” he said.

“They do,” Mike agreed. “No matter what.”

“And if they don’t?” The question was almost too soft to hear. Mike understood it though.

“Then I’ll love you even more,” he said. “So will Bill and Ben and Bev and Richie and Eddie. Kay and Audra too.”

“They’re still my parents,” Stan aid.

“I know,” Mike said. “And they deserve to know you for who you really are.”

Mike curled up closer to Stan and Stan wrapped his arms around him. Mike always felt especially safe when Stan was holding him. ‘Someday,’ he thought, ‘someday I’ll marry him and then we’ll fall asleep like this every night.’

It was a comforting thought to fall asleep to.

Chapter Text

The door to the standpipe was stuck.

Stan felt his heartbeat accelerating and his body tensing up. He couldn’t think straight. The sound of calliope music was growing faster, more frantic. The children were moving so slow down the stairs, yet it felt like every time he turned around, they were much closer than they had been barely a second ago. It was like Michael Myers in those stupid movies. He was shoving at the door with all his might, but it wasn’t budging.

Stan looked back again, desperate. There had been three children, now there were at least fifteen. They were crowding the staircase and he could see the shadows of more behind them. They were wearing what Stan thought of as ‘old fashioned clothes,’ meaning button-up vests and dress shirts on the boys and buttoned dresses on the girls. Their faces were pale and decaying, and their eyes were empty.

One of the girls stared directly into Stan's face and he felt his blood run cold. A maggot crept from under one of her eye-sockets and Stan let out a choked scream. “It’s not real!” he yelled.

A moment later he was being shaken. “Stanley!”

“No,” he groaned, squeezing his eyes shut. “It’s not real.”

“You're right it’s not real,” said Mike’s voice. “It’s a dream.”

Stan opened his eyes and blinked. He found himself in his familiar, tidy room. It was dark. Mike was laying down on his side, facing Stan.

Of course. A dream. Stan stared at Mike for a few minutes, taking in his face. He breathed in the cool air of his room, which smelled like Febreze and vanilla candles. He moved a little closer to Mike and pulled him into a hug.

“Was it the Standpipe?” Mike asked, drawing circles on Stan’s palm with his hand.

“Yeah,” Stan admitted. “Those dead kids.”

Mike hugged Stan closer and Stan leaned into it. It had taken him a while to get to this casual state of intimacy with Mike, and Stan didn’t think he could have felt it with anyone else. He didn’t like to be touched. He didn’t like to be hugged. He would accept it from the other losers, on occasion, but they all knew better than to push him.

With Mike, it had always been different.

He remembered That Summer, how upset and scared he’d been by those dead kids. He had told Eddie, Beverly, and Ben before he told anyone else. Because they had helped Bev clean the blood from her bathroom and Eddie had told about his leper and Ben had told about his mummy and he had felt like to not tell them would be a lie. But their reactions had been ones he couldn’t reconcile with his own tightly held beliefs.

Dead children didn’t walk. He’d said as much to Bev, Ben, and Eddie but they hadn’t understood. They had been sympathetic, but they had also insisted that if he saw them then they must be real.

They were right, but it wasn’t a comforting thought.

Mike didn’t push him. He never did. Whenever Stan brought up That Summer to Mike, he knew that Mike would just listen and not try to make sense of it all unless Stan asked him to. Because it didn’t make sense, and Stan didn’t want to try to piece the puzzle together.

He didn’t want to think about it.

Which is exactly why Mike was someone he could talk to about it. “I can’t stop thinking we just imagined everything,” he said into Mike’s chest.

“I know,” Mike said. He didn’t try to convince Stan that it had been real.

“I mean,” he said. “Am I crazy?”

“No.”

“Then what the hell?”

“If you’re crazy,” Mike said. “All seven of us are crazy.”

Stan chuckled a little at that. “Now that I could buy.”

“None of us are exactly normal.”

“We fought a demon sewer clown when were in fourth grade,” Stan said the words with a tone of disbelief that maybe should’ve worn off after all this time. "Not normal doesn't begin to cover it."

“Nah forget that,” Mike said. “Not even what I meant.”

“What’d you mean then?” Stan asked through a yawn.

“I mean,” Mike said. “I’m a high school student whose life’s ambition is to learn about American history and move to Florida.”

“Now that I think about it,” Stan said with a soft laugh, “I did kinda fall for a forty-year-old in the body of a high school student.”

“You know more about ornithology than any adult I’ve met.”

“That a bad thing?” Stan asked.

“No, but it’s not exactly typical. None of us are. Ben’s already training to be the designer of the next empire state building or whatever. The stuff Bill writes is already better than any Stephen King novel I’ve ever read. Beverly is a better seamstress and artist than most professionals. Richie can do math in his head that I’m sure is beyond most college professors. We already know Eddie can build a car pretty much from scratch.”

Stan found himself getting sleepy and feeling content in Mike’s arms. He had no idea what time it was. The panic from his dream was fading, as it always did soon enough if Mike was with him when he woke up.

“Ok,” he said. “What’s your point exactly?”

“Well, it was originally that we’re all crazy but then it turned into me talking about how talented we all are.”

“It’s ‘cause you’re a big softie,” Stan told him. “I could ask you about anything and you’d turn it into a chance to talk about how much you love me and all our friends.”

“And what about it?” Mike asked in a teasing voice.

Stan moved away from him in the bed just enough to look at him. “Nothing,” he said with a smile. “I just love you.”

“Now who’s a softie?” Mike asked. He leaned in and kissed Stan and Stan kissed back.

“You’re doing a great job distracting me from worrying I’m legitimately batshit crazy,” Stan said. The worry was still there, in the back of his mind, but it was a little hard to focus on with Mike kissing him.

Mike pulled away and Stan frowned at him.

“Is that a pout?” Mike asked with a soft laugh.

Stan tried to change his expression to one of insulted surprise. “No!”

“That was a pout.”

“Shut up,” he muttered, kissing Mike again.

“I was just gonna say,” Mike said against Stan’s lips, “that if you’re crazy, then you’re in good company.”

“I guess,” Stan said. Now it was his turn to pull away from the kiss. He didn’t want to, but if he didn’t ask his question he felt as if he’d go crazy. “Do you think I am, though?”

“What, crazy?” Mike asked. He shrugged. “I mean, I don’t know.”

“That’s not very comforting,” Stan said, glaring. Internally, he was filled with anxiety. What the hell did that mean?

Mike seemed to be reading his thoughts. “You’re not like, delusional,” he said. “I’d kinda hesitate to say any of us losers are sane, though. You know what I mean?”

“No,” Stan said honestly.

“I mean, I think what we saw that summer was real. I think us fighting Pennywise was real. And I think…” he paused, trying to gather his words. Stan was feeling tense and unsure waiting for Mike’s answer, but he still found it adorable when Mike did this. When he was unsure how to word something, or he wanted to get a thought just right he would stop and think hard about it with the most endearing expression Stan had ever seen on his face. “I guess,” Mike continued. “I think what happened to us wasn’t sane. The things we experienced were crazy. And we had to be a little crazy to deal with them.”

Stan was still unsure, but that made more sense than anything else he could think of. “I guess that’s a comforting way to think about it,” he said. “In a weird way.”

He cuddled back up to Mike then, relaxing as Mike wrapped an arm around him. He measured his breaths, breathing in and out at the same time as Mike, syncing their rhythms. Eventually, he fell back asleep.

When Stan woke up, Mike was still asleep, with his arm over him. Stan had thought this through step by step because that was how he needed to think about it. First, he and Mike would get up and get dressed. They would brush their teeth. They would go downstairs, and Stan would start the coffee so that it was ready when his parents got up. Making a big breakfast would be overkill but coffee was perfect, he’d decided.

He and Mike could have cereal. That was easy and it was easy to clean up after in case they needed to make a quick getaway. He didn’t like to think about that possibility, but he needed to. He needed to think about every possibility.

He sat up and started getting dressed. As he pulled his shirt on over his head, he noticed Mike sitting up in bed, watching him. He felt color rise to his cheeks.

“Checking me out?” he teased.

“Yeah,” Mike said, unabashed. “I sure am.”

Stan felt his face grow warmer.

“I absolutely adore that we’ve been dating four months and I can still make you blush.”

“Happy anniversary,” Stan said, turning away to hide his blush.

Smiling, he opened his closet, which definitely was not in any way a play on what he had planned for the morning. He reached to the top shelf and pulled down a box. It was a plain, brown cardboard box with a red bow tied around it. He turned and set the box on Mike’s lap.

“You didn’t have to do that,” Mike said.

“I know,” Stan said, sitting beside him. “I wanted to. It was really fun to make anyway. And it’s something we’ll both enjoy.”

“Ooh, kinky,” Mike teased.

“Shush,” Stan said, rolling his eyes. “Open the box before I decide never to get you anything again.”

Mike opened the box. Inside was a leather-bound book. On the front were embroidered yellow letters reading ‘losers.’ He opened the book. Inside were pictures of the seven of them. Some were shots of just two or three of them, some of all seven of them. Mike flipped through the book, stopping to laugh or smile at some of the memories. Mike, Stan, and Bill shooting the finger in the direction of the photographer, who had been Richie. Mike and Eddie admiring the old Cadillac they were working on. The seven of them making silly faces at the photo booth camera.

The last two pages that were filled were dedicated to just pictures of Stan and Mike. A good portion of the book, Stan had left empty. Stan had thought that Mike would want a collection of all seven of them, but he’d wanted to do something romantic too.

So, he’d filled two pages with pictures of the two of them. Their first ‘official’ date, which had been at the Aladdin. A selfie where they were both giggling and surrounded with little hearts from the Snapchat filter. The two of them kissing by the quarry. Mike kissing Stan’s cheek while Stan blushed. The two of them on Halloween in their 'shining twins' costumes. The two of them walking so close their arms touched and smiling about something, taken by Bill when neither of them saw him taking pictures.

“I love it,” Mike said, pulling Stan into a kiss.

“Really? Because I was worried it’d be weird, or-”

“It’s perfect,” Mike said, kissing him again. “I love it, I love you.”

"I left some of the pages blank," Stan said. "I figure we can keep adding to it."

"I love that idea."

The door opened before Stan could pull away from the kiss.

“Stanley, do you want to go with me to-” Donald Uris had opened the door and stood frozen, staring at his son and Mike.

Stan felt his entire body tense up and his cheeks light on fire. To his horror, he also felt tears starting to rise to the surface. ‘This isn’t supposed to be how he finds out, this isn’t-’

“I uh,” Mr. Uris coughed. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I didn’t know you had Mike over.”

“Um yeah,” Stan said. If he didn’t say it now, he’d never say it. He swallowed the sob of panic that was threatening to burst forth. “Dad, I’m gay.”

"Oh,” Stan’s dad looked relieved. Relieved? Stan stared at his father and it occurred to him that he didn’t look angry or confused. A little embarrassed, but generally calm. “I uh, want you to know I support you. And all that.”

Stan actually laughed. He was filled with relief and love and all-consuming relief. He wanted to cry just because he was so relieved. God, he'd been so scared for nothing. He laughed because he was relieved and because his dad had never been exactly great at expressing his emotions, but wow, he sure did try. And Stan loved him for it.

He jumped up off the bed and gave his dad a hug.

When he pulled away, he and his dad both looked away from each other. He heard Mike snort, and while he shot him an annoyed look in the moment, he would later admit that he understood why. He and his dad must have been a pretty entertaining sight, standing in the doorway having pulled away from a hug that was very out of character for either of them to give and refusing to look each other in the eyes.

“Ok, well,” Mr. Uris coughed again. “I was going to ask you if you wanted to go to the grocery store with me today to help pick out items, but uh, seeing as you have company, I’ll let you do your own thing. And um,” he cleared his throat again. “We’ll uh, have to um, talk about sleepover rules later given that you uh, are my teenage son. Ok, I’m going downstairs now."

Donald Uris left the room.

A moment after he was gone Mike burst into giggles. Stan turned and glared at him. Mike forced his expression into a serious one.

“I’m sorry for laughing,” he said. “But uh, that went well right?”

Stan couldn’t help himself. He let out a little giggle as well. “Not even close to how I planned it,” he said. “But hey, at least he accepted me.”

“I love when things go wildly wrong but also right at the same time.”

“This is why you’re the chaotic one.”

“Babe, I've literally narrowed my career choices down to the two main options of historian or librarian. Teacher might also be an acceptable option."

“You're telling me you've never met a chaotic librarian? Or teacher? And come on, all historians are at least somewhat chaotic by nature. They have to be to handle learning about mass disappearances and explosions and hate crimes."

“Fair,” Mike said, pulling Stan into another kiss. “And now, I’m gonna be super chaotic and suggest that we go out and spend a romantic day together.”

“Wait, how is that chaotic?”

“Now that you’re no longer closeted, do we get to kiss in public?”

Stan considered. “I suppose,” he said.

Mike grinned. “In that case, it’s chaotic because you can expect a wild amount of public displays of affection. Just a disgusting amount. The hets aren’t gonna be able to handle it.”

“This is still Derry,” Stan said with a frown.

“Fine, then carefully calculated wild displays of affection only when I know we’re safe.”

“Lawful chaotic,” Stan agreed with a laugh. “But I still haven’t come out to my mom. I have to do that before even carefully calculated public displays of affection."

“Ok,” Mike said. “Let’s tell her.”

Stan snorted as he got up. “Maybe you should get dressed first,” he suggested. “Coming downstairs in my pajamas might not be the best way to warm her up to the idea.”

“Yeah your dad’s comment about sleepover rules does make me a little sad,” Mike admitted.

Stan chuckled. He waited for Mike to get dressed. He was still soaking in the relief of his dad’s acceptance, but now he was starting to get anxious about telling his mom. What if she didn’t feel the same? What if she thought gays were unnatural? What if-

“Babe,” Mike interrupted his thoughts. “I can see that you’re spiraling in ‘what-ifs’ in your head right now, and it’s not healthy. Let’s go downstairs.”

Stan nodded and felt a little better as Mike squeezed his hand.

They walked downstairs and into the kitchen and Andrea Uris threw herself at Stan. She hugged him so hard he couldn’t breathe. Then, she pulled away. Donald Uris was sitting at the kitchen table sipping coffee and looking sheepish.

“I’m sorry dear, I’m sure you wanted to tell me yourself, but your father cannot keep his mouth shut and-” Andrea Uris was speaking at a mile a minute.

Stan hurried to speak partially because he was worried his mom was going to have an aneurism if she kept talking at that speed and partially to save his dad from Andrea’s wrath. “Mom,” he said. “It’s fine. I get why dad would say something to you.”

“I just love you so much,” she said to him. “And Michael!” she always called Mike by Michael. She ran over and pulled him into a tight hug as well. “You already know we love you.”

Mike looked embarrassed but pleased when Stan’s mom pulled out of the hug.

“Thanks, Mom,” Stan said. He kissed her on the cheek, and she looked at him with so much love he was a little annoyed with himself for ever doubting that she’d accept him.

They ate breakfast together, the four of them, and chatted about school and life and how the farm was doing, and how their Halloween had been.

After breakfast, Stan and Mike left and as Stan waved goodbye to his parents, he thought a quiet thank you to whatever force was out there, giving him so much love in his life.

He was a little surprised at himself, especially when the unexpected thought ‘thank you turtle’ came into his mind. He didn’t give thanks or pray. His family went to synagogue, but he was a firm believer in science and things that could be felt or proved. ‘what turtle?’ he thought, but he felt a little chill at that question for some reason and decided not to read too much into it.

He didn’t linger on the thought. Instead, he held Mike’s hand and embraced the day before him.