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i thought you might be here, but you disappear

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Mike Wheeler fiddled with the broken watch on his wrist, it had stopped working a couple of weeks earlier, but the nagging nostalgia attached to it had prevented him from throwing it away and getting a new one. In the past few months, Mike had spent more time at the Byers-Hoppers house than he ever had before- which certainly did say a lot, considering Will had been one of his closest friends since kindergarten.  Ever since Hopper and Joyce had finally made the decision to move in together and join their families, Mike had been able to visit his two favourite people under one roof.

El Hopper rested her elbows on the porch railings, chin delicately on her knuckles. Her brown curls blew in the light fall wind. It had been a year since she’d gotten home, since Mike felt like he could stand on his own two feet again. The two of them had chosen not to rush things between them, neither making anything official nor calling anything off. They loved each other, Mike knew that, but he also knew that El really needed to get a hold of society and who she was herself before they could really be anything. And Mike was okay with waiting, really he was, he could wait for El Hopper forever if she wanted him to.

“Okay to walk alone?” El’s vocabulary had come along so remarkably but El never used more words than she found necessary. If she could get her point across using less than five words, she would. It was never because she couldn’t think of the words, but that she didn’t see the point in using more words than she needed.

Mike smiled softly at her. “Okay to walk alone.” He assured her, wrapping a hand around her waist and tugging it towards him. They entwined their fingers together and he pressed beside her, shoulder to shoulder. Mike had already a good half hour past his curfew, but he definitely couldn’t bring himself to ever care about that. Mike knew better than most that bad things didn’t just happen after 10:00 at night, they happened in the middle of the day, in your best friend’s living room, everywhere. If something bad was supposed to happen to him, it wouldn’t stop just because he was inside the house by 10:00. “I’ve made the walk once or twice.”

El made the same crinkle nosed, disappointed face she makes whenever somebody gives her sarcasm. Mike reached out, brushing his finger across her cheek and she leaned into the touch. His heart jumped into his chest, stomach jumping around with butterflies.

“Late.” She said, tapping his non-working watch. Mike sighed.

“Late.” He agreed. He took El’s hand to his mouth and pressed a kiss to it. She did the smallest little giggle that Mike had come to relate to El being confused yet happy, and it made a smile tug at his lips. He took his leave down the steps,  promising himself he wasn’t going to waste anymore time turning around to look at her as he walked away. El was already going back into the house when Mike turned to look at her, and he tried not to let that bother him.

Mike was about halfway home when he realized the tight, uncomfortable feeling in his stomach hadn’t gone away, and didn’t seem to be related to El at all. His fast paced, almost rushed, footsteps slowed to the stroll and he looked over his shoulder. He placed the feeling quickly enough, remembering the edge that had constantly been feeling a year when Will had gotten possessed, the feeling that he was being watched everywhere he went and whatever he was doing.

The street lights seemed to glow almost ominously, and Mike’s heart tensed. He swore for a moment that it stopped beating completely. It’s PTSD, Mike could hear the voice of the therapist Hopper had forced them all to go to. A different therapist than the one Wheeler family was being forced to go to weekly. A real therapist that Mike was actually allowed to tell things to. It’s not uncommon with all the things you’ve gone through. You just need to remember that the world is not always out to get you, Michael.  Mike pulled out some of the breathing exercises that he and Will had been taught together, and booked it the rest of the way home.

There was light shining through the front window and Mike groaned to himself. Since his parents’ marriage had openly fallen apart and Nancy had thrown herself deep into her studies (and away from Mike), it seemed as though his mother had become overly attached to her son. She’d started sitting out and waiting for him half an hour, sometimes even a full hour, before his curfew came. Mike was pushing a good 45 minutes late tonight, he knew he was in for a good reaming. He could only pray that this was one of the nights that Ted was off in so unknown place. He could never pinpoint the behaviour his father would pull out, but it would only end up upsetting himself and his mother even more. Mike wasn’t even entirely sure why his parents were fighting for their marriage, fighting for a family they didn’t want.

Mike hesitated outside the front door, wondering if he should just turn around and choose to face the music tomorrow. Lucas’ house wasn’t far, and he had a first floor bedroom. Lucas would let Mike stay there, no questions asked. Lucas had been there for Mike during the struggle with his familys’ relationship more than anybody else, only partly because of the closeness of his house. Rolling his eyes at himself, Mike reminded himself that they couldn’t run away from his mother. Most importantly, that shouldn’t want to.

“You’re late,” Karen Wheeler greeted her son, sitting on the bottom steps of the stairs with her hands clasped in her lap. Mike felt a bubble of once regular anger tighten in his stomach and he held his breath for ten seconds.

Exhaling hard, Mike forced his eyes to focus on the ceiling. “I didn’t think it was going to take this long to walk back, okay? I’m sorry, it won’t happen again.”

Mrs Wheeler put on the faux-concerned face that had somehow always managed to break Nancy but only ever succeeded in making Mike feel sick to his stomach. “You’ve been walking back from the Byers house for years, Michael, and it only starting making you late for curfew a few months ago. Ever since Ja-“

“No.” Mike interrupted her aggressively. “Don’t talk about her! You don’t get to talk about her ever.”

“Michael-“

“No,” Mike tried to move himself up the stairs to his room, but his mother’s body was blocking him easily. He shoved at her slightly, not wanting to fully push her away, but still wishing she just get out of his way. “You can ruin your own relationships all you want, but don’t get involved in mine! You’ve tried hard enough to keep us apart already!”

“Mike, sweetie, I never-“ Karen started pleading in that stupid, I’m-about-to-cry-look-what-you-did voice and Mike felt a stab of rage settle inside of him. He pushed his way past her just enough for it not to be considered shoving his own mother and started to run up the stairs.

“I hate you!” He shouted at her as he reached the stairs. “I wish I never had to see you again!” He slammed his bedroom door shut behind him and prompted began to cry into his pillows.

xxx

Mike woke up with that once all-too-familiar feeling of having cried yourself to sleep. The thick mouth, slightly pounding headache, and body feeling entirely too warm. Mike was mentally preparing himself to have to face his mother when the warmth around him shifted and made a soft breathing sound. Mike’s eyes flew open, the world blurrier than he’d ever seen before, but he could still make out a curly haired boy in blue pajamas asleep in his bed.

So Mike Wheeler did the only thing that made sense to him. He started screaming.

The boy beside him startled awake, gasping loudly, and nearly falling from the bed. He took hold of Mike’s arms in what probably was supposed to be a calming a gesture but only managed to bring Mike’s heart up into his throat and cause him to start hyperventilating. “Who are you?” Mike screamed, swatting the boy away from him. Mike crawled backwards and curled into himself at the corner of his bed and the wall. He was starting the realize how little this looked like his bedroom; there was posters covering nearly every inch of the walls, posters of bands that Mike had never even heard of, and the floor was damn mess. “Who are you? Where I am?”

“Richie, Rich, you need to calm down,” The boy was staring at him with wide, terrified doe eyes and it made Mike want to scream because it reminded him of Will but this was very clearly not Will,  and he was fiddling with an inhaler nervously. “If this is some stupid joke, it’s really not funny okay? Cut it out.”

“Who’s Richie? I’m NOT Richie, I’m Mike!” Mike wiped angrily at the tears that were falling down his cheeks. “I don’t know where I am, I want to go home.”

“You’re such a prick,” the boy in front of him spat angrily, pushing himself to his feet. Mike stopped crying to stare at him in disbelief. Sure, he hadn’t put much thought into how this boy would react to the declaration but insults hadn’t been on the list. “I’m going to take a shower, get your shit together.”

The boy took a longer shower than Mike ever would have, and it was enough time for Mike to calm down his breathing and looking around at where he was. It seemed like any other messy teenagers bed room, and Mike found that he did know some of the bands and celebrities that littered the walls. They were all the type of crap yelling-music that Dustin listened to. He was flipped through the notebooks resting on the desk that were filled with handwriting so bad that Mike could barely make out what it said, when the boy stumbled back into the room wrapped in a towel with wet hair.

Mike took one look at the half naked stranger before he face turned bright red, and he quickly turned to face the window. The boy made a disgruntled noise in the back of his throat and moved to start getting dressed with clothes out the top drawer. “I should have known you’d pull some shit after last night,” he said angrily. “You just can’t ever take anything seriously, can you, Richie?”

“I’m not Richie!” Mike said again desperately, turning to face the boy as he jumped into a pair of jeans that looked much too tight to be comfortable. “I’m MIKE! I don’t know how I got here but I mean I have a few ideas that have to do with the Upside Down but-“

“The what?” The boy asked, seemingly to have forgotten his anger as quickly as it had appeared in the first place. Mike opened to his mouth to try to explain something unexplainable, but the boy held his hand up to stop him. “No, never mind. I’m sure it’s a very well rehearsed story, Richie, and you definitely proved yourself a better actor than I thought this morning but we don’t really have time for this bullshit. Just give it a rest, you would?” Mike crossed his arms over his chest and glared at him. The boy let out a withering sigh. “Fine, whatever, keep it up then. But we’re supposed to meet the others at the Barrens in like fifteen minutes so why don’t you get dressed and see if any of them will let you act this out on them?”

Others. Fine, if this kid was going to be a little dickwad about it, Mike could settle for finding somebody else to talk to. He quickly tried ruffling through the drawers and closet before letting out a cry of disbelief. He turned to the kid, who was looking at him with one brow raised. “There nothing in here that a human being could be seen in public wearing!”

xxx

Mike finally managed to settle on a pair of acid washed jeans and green sweater with a bright yellow pineapple on it, and went out wearing it unhappily. The kid tried to argue that Mike needed to put his glasses- horrible, thick rimmed hipster things- but Mike argue that he could see just fine. The kid sighed in frustration and told Mike that if he fell and died he wasn’t going to help him.

“I think you’ve made it quite obvious that you won’t help me,” Mike grumbled under his breath and kid glared at him with a burning fire that really did make Mike thankful that looks couldn’t kill. He followed the kid to his destination without another word spoken between them.

They weren’t the first people to arrive, a red headed girl and boy in jean shorts (in October!) both sitting on large rocks shooting the shit brightened when he and the kid came into the opening.

“Hey Eddie! Rich!” The red headed girl called out to them.

The kid- Eddie, apparently- rolled his eyes and sighed. “Careful, Bev, Richie’s in a real mood today.”

“I already told you!” Mike snapped, curling his hands into fists. “I’m NOT RICHIE. I’m Mike! Mike Wheeler, I’m from Hawkins, Indiana and I-“

The short-wearing idiot made a small laughing noise. “That’s a nuh-new one, Ruh-Rich- you e-even have a puh-pretty convincing ac-accent.”

“That’s because it IS my accent!” Mike cried, wanting nothing more than to start tearing his own hair out. “It is my accent, I’ve been trying to tell you ALL MORNING, dickhead!”

Mike was overcome with that feeling of being watched, similar to that which he’d been overcome with the night before. (Had it been the night before? He couldn’t even be sure anymore.) but with a slightly different tinged to. A familiar one, a safe one. A feeling that Mike knew in his gut that he’d felt before, but couldn’t pin point where or why.  

The girl- Bev- came forward, and placed a hand on shoulder. “You seem a little stressed out there Mike-“  She stressed the name with a single eye roll. “Why don’t you have a smoke?”

Mike’s eyes widened and turned to look at Eddie in horror before turning back to Bev. “I- no thanks? Those things kill you.”

“i-“ Bev started before turning to look at Eddie. Eddie was staring at Mike with a slight, confused frown on his face. “You’re really committed to this schtick, aren’t you?”

Mike groaned loudly, pushing away from Bev and going to lay down on the rock she had abandoned. The shorts boy patted at him on the back. “You’re ruh-real convincing, ruh-Richie. Maybe if you huh-hadn’t chosen one of the nuh-name of our fruh-friends it would have gone over buh-better.”

“I don’t know what or who you’re talking about,” Mike mumbled into hands. The sound of happy chattering cleared through came through the area they were seated and he took his hands away from his. Two boys, one dark skinned and one curled haired, came walking into the clearing in mid-conversation.

“Hey, Ben wanting me to tell you guys he’s going to have to be late,” the dark skinned boy said as he came into the clearing. Mike noticed him dropping the hand of the other boy, as though he was being inconspicuous in the slightest. The curly haired boy turned to him and his eyes narrowed instantly. “The re-organizing of the library is taking a lot longer than he’d thought and he wants to get all the youth fiction put away today. Can’t say I’m complaining, it’s less that I have to do tomorrow.”

The curly haired boy was still glaring at Mike, looking at him as though he could see everything bad thing Mike had ever done. “Stan?” Shorts boy asked, raising a brow at him and tilting his head to catch the boy’s attention. It didn’t seem to have any effect on Stan, who just glared at Mike all the harder.

“Who are you?” He asked finally, and silence followed. Mike’s mouth dropped open and he couldn’t find a single word to answer. He inhaled so sharply he was momentarily afraid he might have bust a lung.

“Are you serious?” Eddie practically growled. “I never thought you’d be the type to play along with this shit, Stanley. It’s Richie. I know it’s Richie, you know it’s Richie, we all know it’s Richie!”

Stan turned to look at Eddie with an expression reading of complete disbelief. “I have no idea what you’re on about Eddie, but I do know that whoever that is,” Stan shot him an odd, distrusting look over his shoulder.  “Is not Richie Tozier.”

Chapter Text

Richie fiddled with his grandfather’s long-broken wrist watch as he looked at Eddie as he passed under the street light. It wasn’t unusual for Richie to be the one who walked Eddie home from movie night, despite him living in the opposite direction from Bill’s house. Richie often found himself doing things that didn’t exactly make sense when it came to Eddie. Yeah, maybe, he sort of knew why he did it.

“Hey,” Richie reached out and grabbed Eddie’s hand to pull him to a stop. Eddie frowned at him softly, raising one brow at him. “Do you want to come over to my house tonight? My parents are at some dentist shit, they won’t be home until the early ass AM.”

Eddie smiled. “Aren’t we getting a little old for sleepovers?”

“I don’t think you can ever be old for sleepovers, Eds,” Richie replied, crossing an ‘x’ over his heart. “I’m going to be thirty years old and still building blanket forts in Big Bill’s basement.”

Eddie laughed, and smacked at Richie’s shoulder. “I don’t doubt that for a second, Trashmouth.”

Richie grinned and tossed an arm around Eddie’s shoulder, turning them to walk back towards to his own house. “I’m going to go ahead and assume that was a yes, richie, i would love to sleepover at your house and stick my tongue in your mouth.”

“Ew, oh my god,” Eddie squealed, ducking away from Richie’s arm as his cheeks pinked up. “You’re so disgusting, I don’t know how I’ve been friends with you this long!”

“Uhm because we’re not just friend, Eddie my love,” Richie grabbed at Eddie’s waist and tickled him. Eddie shrieked and smacked at Richie in a desperate attempt to get the boy off him. “We’re lovers, Eddie Spaghetti. You’re still my bestest friend  because you love me despite how absolutely disgusting you find me.”

Eddie glowered at him for a moment, hands squeezing at Richie’s to stop the attack. Richie noticed then that their faces were much, much too close for any sort of conversation- a joking one or otherwise. Eddie’s eyes widened as the realization seemed to wash over him, but as both boys realized that neither were pulling away, a smile tugged at Richie’s lips.

“What would you do if that was true?” Eddie whispered. “What if I did love you despite how absolutely disgusting I find you?”

Richie swallowed harshly on his own tongue, resisting the urge to be absolutely disgusting right then. He figured that Stan would be proud of him. “I’d say…” Richie smirked deeply. “Then you’ll be spending your thirties building blanket forts in Big Bill’s basement with me.”

Eddie’s nervous smile softened and he shoved Richie away from him. Richie stumbled backwards slightly, still grinning from ear to ear. This wasn’t something that was new between them, this hovering on the verge of vocally acknowledging what was between them. At some point over the past summer, Richie and Eddie’s had tumbled over the line between friends and more, with very little more than nod in agreement between them. Neither of them had spoken it yet, but Richie thought it was quite possible that the words didn’t need to spoken. They were EddieAndRichie, and if there ever came a time when they had to have a conversation about what that meant, he knew they would. He just didn’t have any itching urge to do it.

As Richie was pondering the complicated yet simple relationship he’d grown into with Eddie Kaspbrak, Richie felt a chill wash over him. It was a dirty, bad feeling that made Richie’s stomach tense and churn. He scratched at the back of his neck as he watched the street light above him flicker. Richie almost feared that if he turned away from it, Eddie would be gone and something much more sinister would be standing behind him now.

“Are you coming, Tozier, or am I sleeping at your house along while you stare at the street lights?” Eddie called out to him and Richie snapped back to reality. The sick feeling in him withered but didn’t die as he ran to catch up to Eddie and tangled their hands together. And maybe that was a little bold of him, it’s not like they ever did shit like that, but with the dark protection the deserted street provided, Eddie just squeezed Richie’s hand and they walked back to the Tozier’s in an unusual but comfortable silence.

Richie lent Eddie a pair of his too small pajamas that he kept around for this exact reason, and suddenly exhausted, he crawled into the bed and felt Eddie dip in beside him. Now it certainly wasn’t unlike they to share the bed but it somehow felt different this time, Richie’s heart leaping into throat and threatening to suffocate him. Eddie’s eyes were burning a hole into Richie’s face, so he opened his eyes to meet Eddie’s gaze.

Eddie held his hand up slightly and wiggled his fingers. Heart racing, Richie reached out and pressed his hands into Eddie’s. They let it fall to the blanket, both of their eyes glued to them, before Richie pulled them close to his face and pressed his lips to Eddie’s fingers on one of those impulses he’d never be able to explain to himself.

Eddie’s breath hitched in his throat and before Richie could ever finish flicking his eyes up to look at him, Eddie’s lips were pressing up against him and it’s was Richie’s turn to not be able to breathe. Eddie’s body pressed up against his, trapping their hands between them almost uncomfortably, but Richie couldn’t be bother to give even the slightest of shits about that as Eddie’s lips moved against his.

“I swear to God-“ Eddie pulled back, breathing heavily. Even in the dark of his bedroom, Richie could see that Eddie’s eye lids were heavy and his bottom was quivering. Richie’s heart was smashing up against his chest so harshly that he was slightly afraid it might burst out completely. “If you say something or pull some bullshit in the morning, I will never forgive you.”

Richie pressed a soft kiss to Eddie’s shaking lips. “Baby love, you know I would never.”

Richie didn’t need to open his eyes to know that Eddie was rolling his eyes, but he felt the boy settle in the bed. Their hands stayed joined.

xxxx

Richie woke up spread out a like a star fish and fear struck into his chest. Why wasn’t Eddie beside him? Did he regret their kiss? Had Eddie gotten up in the middle of the night and left to avoid morning-after awkward? Oh fuck, shit, had Richie really fucked up.

Then Richie fell into a more conscious state, and registered that the sun wasn’t shining into bedroom the way it normally did in the mornings. The blanket wrapped around him felt too scratchy, a little too woolly, and Richie crinkled his nose in distaste. He pushed it away from him and sat up, eyes trying to adjust without the aid of his glasses. The room was littered with large books and notebooks and had two desks. Two. Richie could make out the walls were bare and blue.

There was quick, loud banging at the door and Richie let out a very unmanly yelp. As he moved to cover up what should normally be a bare chest, Richie realized he was actually wearing a matching top and bottom set. Head spinning, Richie watched as a pretty dark haired girl barged into the room. “Get up, Mike! Mom has been walking around bitching and bitching all morning about you, I can’t deal with it anymore.”

“I… What did you just call me?” Richie asked, running his finger through hair that… his fingers were able to brush through. Hair that was still thick but seemed to lack the usually wild curls that he’d given up hope of ever controlling.

“Mike? Your name?” The girl rolled her eyes, and turned back towards away from the room. “Fucking weirdo.”

Richie blinked hard, still choosing to not dwell on it. He’d lived through enough weird shit in his life to conclude that sometimes you just had to roll with the punches. He slid out of his bed and stumbled only slightly on his feet, before following the girl who seemed to believe was his sister down the stairs. Sitting at a table in the kitchen were the dark haired girl along with a woman who looked like an unhappy, older version of her and a-

“Baby!” Richie gasped happily. The girl certainly wasn’t a happy but maybe three or so years old, with long blonde pigtails, who was seated in a highchair. Her eyes brightened and sparkled when Richie came in and Richie managed to forget the pounding guilt of Eddie possibly awaking up in his bed completely alone. He bounced over to her and took the seat beside her. Without waiting for any acknowledgement of the two women in the room, Richie pulled the little girl from the chair and blew a raspberry on her cheek.

The girl squealed happily and whacked her little baby hand onto Richie’s nose. “You look like Mikey,” she giggled and Richie laughed along with her.

“Michael!” The woman who clearly thought she was his mother, snapped at him. Richie turned to her as he listened to his not-sister sighed in annoyance. “Put Holly down, let her eat her breakfast.”

Richie turned back to face the little girl, Holly, who gave her an exaggerated pout and Richie smiled genuinely at her as he placed her back down in the high chair. He turned the large amount of breakfast foods seated on the kitchen table, and wondered at how normally he’d be pouring himself a bowl of cold cereal at home. As it was, Richie couldn’t help but believe that his parents were better than these ones could ever strive to be.

“Your father is coming home tonight,” The mother said as she took her seat across from Richie. As she said it, she shot a withering look towards Richie, a sort of look he was used to but certainly hadn’t been expecting. “So I want you home for dinner tonight. No excuses, Michael.”

Richie stuffed a piece of waffle into his mouth and figured that since Michael wasn’t his name, he didn’t have to answer. His not-sister sighed slightly, poking her fork at some scrambled eggs. Richie crinkled his nose up in distaste, forcing himself not to gag at the mere sight of them.

“Didn’t you say that three days ago?” His not-sister muttered under her breath. His not-mother shot her an unimpressed look but a loud knock at the front door stopped her from giving her daughter any lectures on respect. His not-sister shouted that she was going to answer it, and launched herself out her seat to run to the door.

“If it’s that Harrington boy..” His not-mother grumbled under her breath and Richie glanced towards Holly. The little girl made an exaggerated silly face, which Richie happily returned.

“MIKE!” His not-sister shouted as she came into the room with a large group of teenagers gaggling behind her. Richie’s eyes fell to the smallest one, short with a bowl cut and an open face, and a smile tugged on his lips. “It’s your girlfriend and all your little friends.”

Richie blinked and his eyes fell to the two girls who stood near the front of the group. One was tall with a bop of brown curls that sent a jump to Richie’s chest as it reminded him of Eddie and small girl with a mop of long red hair that looked like this was the last place she wanted to be. The brown haired girl made eye contact with a tilted her head to the side like a confused puppy.

“Yeah, I definitely don’t have a girlfriend,” Richie laughed, watching as everybody in the room quickly grew awkward and uncomfortable. Glancing at the dark haired girl, who’s gaze didn’t’ leave his own. “I’m gay.”

It was needless to say that every mouth in the room aside from the dark haired girls and Richie’s own, dropped open in shock. The cute little bowl cut boy was looking between Richie and everybody else as though Richie’s words has been a personal shade. Interesting, Richie thought to himself.

“Michael, that’s not funny!” His not-mother snapped, her voice raising so many octaves higher that Richie almost burst out laughing.

“Of course it’s not,” Richie snickered, grabbing a piece of toast from the pile on the table as he stood up. “The truth very rarely is,. m’lady.” He turned the group of friends, who all had different levels of disbelief written on their faces, and his not-sister who looked torn between utter shock and the urge to start laughing. “So, my pals, I assume we have  a place we go when we join here?”

“The- the basement,” a boy with an awkward baseball cap said, looking at their other friends for guidance.

Richie nodded at them and gestured back the way they came. “Show me the way then, laddies!”

They climbed down the stairs and as soon as they reached the bottom, the dark haired girl was poking at Richie’s face. He swatted at her, making a confused noise in the back of his throat. “You’re not Mike.” She said, staring at him with an expression that he couldn’t read.

“No shit, I’m not Mike!” Richie laughed. “I’m going out on a limb here and assuming none of you have a smoke?”

The entire group aside from the group gaped at him and Richie snickered. He waltzed over to the table in the middle of the room and dropped down onto it.

“Where is Mike?” She asked him, trailing over to him with that same intense but unreadable expression. She was starting to make Richie feel squirmy inside and he shifted uncomfortably in the seat.

“How where I know where he is? I don’t even know where I am!” Richie voice cracked uncomfortably at the end as he picked at the skin around his fingernails. The girls’ expression didn’t falter but the small, cute boy cleared his throat awkwardly behind her,

“Go easy on him, Jane,” He said, his voice soft and shy. “I really think he doesn’t know what’s going on.”

She- Jane- looked at him with that expression then turned away bitterly. “I want Mike.”  Her voice sounded so terribly sad, and the small red head stepped towards her and pressed a hand to the space between her shoulder blades.

“I know its not fair,” she said softly. “But you know how to find him. Or how to try”

Jane’s face contorted in discomfort for a moment, then she smiled tentatively. The red headed girl and a dark skinned boy who was very clearly her boyfriend, ushered Jane towards a small television in the corner of the room while the other two boys turned to look at Richie.

“They’ll be a little bit.” The hat kid said, taking the seat across from Richie while cute boy took the set beside him. Richie smiled at him and the boy smiled back, flushing slightly. “I’m Dustin and this is Will. And you are?”

“Richie.” Richie said through a dry throat. “I’m assuming you guys have no idea how I got here or what is going on?” Dustin and Will exchanged a look that was quick, but not quick enough that Richie missed it. “What? What was that?”

“It just…” Will stared down at the board table. “We’ve had some strange things happen to us in the past. Nothing in almost a year though, so this is a little unexpected.”

“I’m sure I’ve seen some stranger things,” Richie laughed awkwardly. His mind showed him flashes of dark sewers, and red balloons, all over lapped with the sound of Eddie’s pained screams and Stan’s sobbing. “But yeah, not in a while. This definitely wasn’t how I expected to wake up this morning.”

“Just…” Dustin looked around to where Jane was surrounded by the other and Richie crinkled his brow. “Tell us more about yourself then maybe we can figure out what’s going on before Jane does. Wouldn’t that be-“

“Impossible,” Wil said with a small, fond smile that Richie wanted to see all the more of.

“But worth a shot,” Dustin argued, with a frown. Richie glanced back and forth between them and raised his brow when he made eye contact with Will.

“I’m from Maine. Derry, Maine,” Richie said and then grinned. “My best friend’s little brother gotten eaten by a clown two years ago, which brought us down to these nasty crackhouse sewer where we killed it but we all promised to come back if It ever did.”

Will and Dustin gapped at him.

“But this shouldn’t have anything to do with that, because he only comes out every 27 years so,” Richie shrugged one shoulder up and forced his eyes to roll as though terror wasn’t coursing through his body rapidly. He didn’t even know he remembered that much about what happened two summers earlier.

Will was staring at Richie in wonder, his hands starting to shake slightly. “Did you… did you say a clown?”

“Yeah,” Richie said. “That mean something to you?”

“No just-“ Will shook his head, his eyes darting between Richie and Dustin. “Just something my mom’s old boyfriend said. Scary clowns in Maine, he… I don’t know. It’s probably nothing.”

“So far scary clowns in Maine is all we’ve got,” Dustin said. “Thankfully, because I really didn’t want it to be The Other Thing.”

“No offense, kid,” Richie sneered. “But you don’t really want it to be This Thing, either. Trust me.” 

Dustin opened his mouth to make another response but before he could Jane gave a loud gasp and stumbled to her feet. Will and Dustin jerked to awareness as she wiped at blood that had dribbled down from her nose and the two other kids helped her to her feet.

“Where is he?” Will asked, voice so clearly scared that Richie stopped to looked at him.

“Bad place,” Jane said quietly.

Richie raised his brow. “Sounds like Derry.”

“He was at this cliff with others. Boys and a girl,” Jane said as the red headed girl helped her to sit. “He tried to say he wasn’t Mike but they didn’t believe him.”

Richie’s heart plummeted and he tried to keep it from his face. They didn’t believe that kid wasn’t Richie? How could it be that everybody here practically looked at him and knew his wasn’t Mike, but his closest friends not only couldn’t tell- but didn’t even believe it when it was told. Did they really care so little? For a spilt second, tears burned at Richie’s eyes. “None of them?”

“Only one.” Jane said solemnly. “Boy with funny hat knew he wasn’t Mike.”

“Stan.” Richie breathed out. Stan the Man. He cleared his throat. “Course. The hat’s a kippah. He’s Jewish but uhm-“ Don’t ask, don’t ask, you don’t want to know, don’t ask- “What about Eddie?”

Jane stared blankly at him.

“Tiny little thing? Fanny pack?” He asked, still getting the same blank stare. “Brown hair, bit of anger issues?”

Jane’s eyes light up. “Small angry boy, yes.” She nodded, smiling at him. “Very angry. Yelling.”

“Yeah,” Richie said fondly, tears burning at his eyes. “Did he…”

“He yelled at hat… uhm… Stan?” Jane frowned at the remembering the name Richie had used. “He doesn’t believe, he’s mad at Mike.”

Richie swallowed hard, nodding his head. He squeezed his eyes shut and willed the tears away. He tried to tune out the conversation but he managed to hear Will mentioning getting Richie and Mike back where they belonged. “And what the hell would I want to go back for?” Richie asked, clenching his hands into fists and his breathing started to remind him of Eddie before he an asthma attack. “You just said yourself that they don’t even know it isn’t me, they don’t believe it’s not! Why would I want to go back to them?”

Jane frowned slightly and stared down at her hands. Richie pushed himself away from the table, dashed up the stairs and out the front door of a house he hoped to never see again 

Chapter Text

Stan walked Mike to his house after Eddie had angrily stormed away. Bev and their dark skinned friend- who happened to also be named Mike, which explain shorts boy (Bill)’s statement earlier- while Bill followed after Eddie to calm him down.

“Don’t take it personally,” Stan said with a wave of his hand. “Eddie will come around, he’s a good guy. He and Richie just have a… complicated relationship.”  

“I don’t care about their relationship,” Mike rolled his eyes. This Eddie dude seemed like a dick, and Mike wasn’t going to waste any time he could be spending figuring out how to get back home playing nice with some snarky little asshole. “I can figure there was something between them since I woke up beside him this morning but  I was a little too busy freaking out to worry about it.”

Stan’s face remained unemotional, he was harder to read than Will’s older brother, but his glazed flickered over to Beverly’s just for a moment. It quick moment, but enough of a moment for Mike to know that probably wasn’t something Eddie wanted blurted out to his friends. Mike tried to care for a moment but didn’t have it in him.

“Yeah, well,” Stan shrugged. “I can partly understand why Eddie was quick to assume Richie was just being a dick but… after all the things we’ve been through, none of us should be so quick to assume anything.” The last part because almost muttered under Stan’s breath and Mike felt his eyebrows dance up underneath his hairline. Stan just shook his head, face paler than before and hands trembling slightly. Mike- the other Mike- reached out and wrapped his own hands around them and Mike felt a pang in his chest when he realized that El must be freaking out about him being missing. Even if he’d seen first hand that people wouldn’t believe when Mike had claimed that he wasn’t Richie, but maybe he’d believe that from his parents, or even Nancy, but not his friends. El- and Will and everybody- would know him anywhere instantly.

“Richie is lucky,” Mike said, only half aware that he’s speaking out loud. The other kids all turned to look him, and Mike stall just enough to almost trip over his own feet. “I just mean… my friends will know right away that I’m not me. And they’ll… they’ll find a way to get us back where we’re supposed to be. My girl- my friend has powers.”

“I’m sure them realizing Richie isn’t you probably won’t need any sort of secret powers,” Stan said dryly, letting his hand entwine with the other Mike’s as they all walked down the oddly empty town streets. If Mike didn’t know any better, he’d go as far as to say that nobody except the five kids he’d met today even lived in this town. The houses all seemed dark and front yards were all deserted with grass still dead from summer. Nearly every store front had their closed signs facing outwards even in the early afternoon of a Saturday and some even had boarded up windows.

It left a bad taste in Mike’s mouth and uncomfortable tickle in his throat. “What happened here?” He asked, looking around the empty town. Richie’s friends all exchanged uncomfortable looks, before Bev sighed.

“Two years ago… some bad things happened. A lot of kids disappeared, they were killed.” She said, fiddling with a rope bracelet on her wrist that reminded Mike of El with a sharp pang to the chest. “When it happening it was like… none of the adults cared about it. But after it was over, they liked… freaked out about it. Everybody has been moving away.”

The all exchanged look of discomfort with each other and Mike knew that there was probably a million things they weren’t mentioning about last summer, but he couldn’t argue that he had any right to know. It wasn’t like he was about to drop down on one knee and let these strangers know all the things he’d been through last year. He did feel as though he owed them at least a little bit of an explanation, if he was going to have any hoping of getting back to his life.

“1986 is cursed,” Mike said begrudgingly. “I had some weird stuff happening too, back home. My best friend went missing and the government like… faked his death. We got him back though, it was pretty hard to explain to everybody at school.”

Bev blinked in surprise. “We killed a child eating demon that disguised itself as clown for kicks.”

Mike choked on the air he was trying to breathe while Stan reached out and swatted at Bev’s arm. “Uhm…” Mike coughed awkwardly, and scratched at the back of his head. “My best friend was missing in the alternative dimension that existed like underneath our town and we used our friends’ telepathically abilities to find him.”

“1986 is cursed,” the other Mike agreed quietly. The teens all walked through the town in silence, Stan and Other Mike joined together at the hands while Bev was staring at the back of Mike’s head like she could somehow sense that he wasn’t telling her everything. They reached at nice house nearing the ends of the town and Stan released Other Mike’s hand, wiping it almost unconsciously on the fabric of his pants, before leading them inside.

“Hi, Mom,” Stan walked over to peck a formal but warm looking woman who was seated at the kitchen table with a newspaper spread out in front of her. Mike felt his heart swell achingly as he remembered the times when his own mother had been a positive feature in his life, a good mom before his dad’s indifference had worn her down into something just as distant and broken.

Stan exchanged pleasantries with his mother, that were matched by Bev and Other Mike, but Mike couldn’t begin to wonder what he was supposed to say. He merely waved silently and watched the way Stan’s mother eyed him suspiciously. Stan quickly got them moving towards the stairs after that, his grip in Mike’s shoulder almost painful. “We’ve got to work on your Richie act,” he hissed in tone that expressed anger though Mike figured it wasn’t exactly what he was feeling.

Stan’s bedroom was the most organized thing Mike had ever seen in his life, he almost didn’t want to touch anything.  Lucas kept his room almost scarily clean and even he likely would have been weirded out by this amount of organization and thought put into a teenage boys’ bedroom. Stan knocked Mike towards the bed, where he fell rather ungracefully, and had to wonder if this was how this people treated Richie regularly. From what he’d seen so far, none of it was very impressive treatment of somebody you were supposedly to be friends with.  

“We need to know everything about this alternate dimension stuff you were talking about,” Stan said firmly. “That your best friend went into. It’s probably our best lead, since this seems to be some serious alternate reality crap.” Stan crossed his arms firmly around his skinny chest and Mike felt anger bubble up inside him.

“Why should I tell you anything?” Mike demanded. The other three teens in the room looking at each other, startled that Mike would dare deny them his personal information. “All I get out of you guys is you killed some demon child eating clown? What kind of sick horror movie shit is that? And you want me to tell you everything I’ve had to deal with in the last two years? I don’t even know you!”

“No,” Bev said. “But you’ve got to admit- alternate dimension travels for two years should a lot more likely a cause to this switch than child-eating demon clown.”

Mike grumbled unintelligently under his breath.

“If you want us to help you get back to your life, you’re going to have to work with us.” Other Mike said softly, talking to Mike as though he were so sort of skittish deer that book it into the highway if startled. “It’s our best bet to get you both back to where you belong.”

“Do you even want him back?” The words tumbled out of Mike’s mouth before he could ever truly process that he’d been thinking it. The other teens all managed to look startled, even Stan who’d managed to seem almost emotionless outside of Other Mike this whole time. “Richie, I mean. You guys don’t seem very worried about him, you haven’t even mentioned since you realized I wasn’t him so you couldn’t be mad at him anymore. I just told you that there’s a literal alternate dimension existing under my town and you aren’t asking about it because that’s where your friend is- you’re just asking because you want to get me back there… not because you’re worried about what he’s dealing with there.”

“Listen,” Stan said, his voice cold and detached. “You don’t know anything about us or Richie-“

“That’s my point!” Mike cried. “How I am supposed to trust any of you if-“

“You’ll trust us because you have no choice,” Bev said simply but not coldly. “If you want to go off and try to figure this completely on your own, be our guest. But you have to admit how stupid that sounds. You don’t even know where you are, how can possibly get back where you came from without help.”

Mike frowned at his- no, Richie’s- sneakers, and shook his head. He didn’t trust this kids, they all seemed hardened in way that he couldn’t imagine ever being. A way he never wanted to be. Sure, they’d gone through what sounded like traumatic shit but so had he. He could pray he never became closed off like they were.

“Alright, perfect,” Stan tugged on his index finger three times as he moved to sit down at the desk in his bedroom.  “Tell us everything, but make it quick. We have to meet Eddie and Bill and Ben at the library in an hour.”

For the first time since he’d woken up here, Mike glanced down at the watch on his wrist and was startled to see it ticking.