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funny you should ask

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come on chelsea, speak a little french for me, heard you spent two whole semesters drinking wine--while i was stuck in jersey trying to make some money, guess i'm just another thing you left behind.

-funny you should ask, tfb

X

Richie Tozier and Stan Uris have been friends since they were in kindergarten--when Richie’s magnified eyes met Stan’s, sitting alone, it was an instant connection. He sits down, without asking, and takes one of Stan’s animal crackers.

 

“These taste different.”

 

“They’re kosher,” Stan replies proudly, “I’m Jewish.”

 

Richie lets out an “ah” sound; he only half understands what “Jewish” means from drunken rants by his father.

 

They don’t talk after that, just split the crackers, but Richie sits next to Stan the next day. And the next day. And everyday until Eddie joined them, and Bill, and Ben and Bev and Mike and two became seven.

 

X

 

Richie is 13 and has a secret. He tells his friends about the girls he made out with in the back of movie theaters (“Older girls,”) and talks about his dick constantly but anyone with half a brain knows he’s lying. At least about the girls part. Really, he doesn’t care for their hair falling down their shoulders, or their just grown in breasts.

 

He walks next to Stan, early in the morning through the woods, so they catch all the good birds, and the sunlight dances off Stan’s hair. He leads the way, a little uncomfortable in his body after a growth spurt that made him taller, but not taller than Richie, and Richie eyes Stan’s fingers wrapped around Birds of Maine: A Field Guide, listens to his voice that doesn’t crack in weird places like Richie’s does when he tries to tell a joke to the group. He trusts them all with his life but he’s too scared and insecure to admit his secret.

 

On this hot summer morning, Stan the Man drops a bomb on him.

 

“Rich,” he starts, voice nice and smooth, “I have to talk to you about something. Be serious.” he warns at the end.

 

Stan’s back is ramrod straight, as always, expression is neutral. “Ok,” Richie bumps shoulders with him and puts on a deadpan Voice, “but I’m always serious.”

 

The eye roll is affectionate. Then he says it. “I’m gay.”

 

“What?” Richie blurts, like maybe Stan knew the whole time and just said you’re gay--then quickly recognizing the other boy looking back at him, realizing he was fucking up, followed up with, “That’s ok.”

 

“I know it’s ok--”

 

“No I mean,” he bites his lip, more scared in this moment than ever before. “I’m gay too.”

 

Stan smiles at him, and it’s warm like the sun coming through the canopy of trees, and when he wraps his arms around him, he pushes the feelings that threaten to come up. He already had one big revelation today.

 

X

 

They’re 17, seniors, and settled into Stan’s bed for the night. (Things have gotten pretty tough at home for Richie, but there’s always a plate ready for Mrs. Uris’ brisket. Unspoken--just how it is with them.)

 

“Richie?” Stan says into the darkness.

 

“Yeah?” he replies, voice soft. It’s just the two of them, no need for the Trashmouth.

 

“I’m going to Florida for college.” Stan’s voice dares to be challenged, but he’s scared, too.

 

“Why Florida? What’s wrong with here?” (What’s wrong with me?)

 

“I just want to get out of this town. There’s no reason to stay. B-Besides you guys.” Stan looks at the ceiling as he stutters over his sentence. “And there’s great birdwatching in the Everglades.”

 

They lapse into silence for so long he must be asleep.

 

“Will you come with me?” Stan’s voice breaks the silence, the nervousness in his voice palpable.

 

“Stan, my man, I would follow you anywhere.”

 

Their hands wrap around each other under the blanket. They both know Richie won’t go to Florida--he’ll stay here, and be lucky to go to community college at the rate things are going. But it’s nice to imagine.

 

“Your Hawaiian shirts wouldn’t look so stupid down there.” Stan giggles, and when Richie kisses him, he tastes like the ocean and the future.

 

X

 

In the morning, they don’t talk about the kiss. Or for the rest of senior year. Richie jokes about Eddie’s mom, his one true love (oh how wrong that was) and Stan tells him being in his presence lowers his IQ. Everything is fine. Except Richie feels like he finally understands Ben’s poem to Bev--my heart burns there too.

 

The summer comes and goes quickly. Stan goes to USF. Richie gets two jobs in Derry.

 

X

 

 Stan is tan and his hair is lighter from the sun. Richie doesn’t know this from seeing him--or even talking to him. He closes Stan’s instagram (open to him with some guy whose bio reads ‘I live where you vacation.’ Asshole.) and feels himself getting into a bad mood.

 

So what if they haven’t talked in awhile? It’s college and friends don’t talk as much and drift apart. (They’re the Lucky 7, though, and him and Stan the closest of all of them.) He looks at his phone again, at Stan’s pictures of beaches and birds and the rare selfie, and feels Fucked with a capital f. His next shift starts in 15 minutes, but he makes a snap decision.

 

The line rings 3 times, then goes to voicemail.

 

From: Stan

Sorry class, talk to you later

 

Richie gets his work uniform, and tries not to feel frustrated.

 

X

 

Stan goes to France for both semesters of his sophomore year.

 

Richie visits Bill at the University of Maine one weekend and gets ripped. They stumble in at 2 AM, and Richie falls right into Bill’s bed, eyes already closing.

 

“I’m g-gonna call Eddie,” Bill whispers (because, yeah, that was a thing to make his life worse).

 

Richie wakes up at 3:10, with Bill’s words still rattling around his mind. He climbs over his sleeping friend and stumbles out of the dorm. Outside, the chilly March air wakes him up a little--but doesn’t deter him. 3 AM here should be 8 or 9 in France, and Stan always was an early riser.

 

This time, Stan does answer.

 

“Richie?”

 

He knows it’s morning there, but the familiar way Stan says his name, surrounded by darkness now, it’s like that night.

 

“Why did you leave me?” He meant to ask why did you leave but he is known for having a loose tongue.

 

“Rich are you ok?”

 

“It’s fucking funny you should ask. I’m doing great Stan the Man.”

 

There’s silence on the other end for awhile. “I missed hearing your voice.”

 

“Fuck you.”

 

Richie ends the call.

 

Then throws up in a bush.

 

Then texts Bill to come get him because he’s locked out.

 

X

 

The first time Richie and Stan see each other is over containers of ice cream at Richie’s second job. They’re both shocked--Stan’s eyes bulging for a second before going back to a neutral expression.

 

“Stanny, aren’t you going to speak a little French for me?” he asks, picking up the ice cream scooper.

 

“Neapolitan,” Stan grins a little, and suddenly it’s too much--Richie can’t look at him, or be around him.

 

He drops the scooper and walks out of the store through the employee exit, leaving an entire line of people waiting behind Stan.

 

X

 

“This used to be my place,”

 

“Yeah, well, you left,” Richie mutters, lighting a cigarette.

 

“I’m back now,” Stan eyes the area of woods they’re in, the same place the two of them would come to as kids. “Rich, you asked why I left--it was because I was scared.” They make eye contact then, Stan’s hand on Richie’s cheek, “But I’m not scared anymore.”