Stan was the first one to turn 16, but by then he had learned well enough what kind of shit he was in for.
Mike had gotten a special "farm kid" driver's license at the age of 14, and the minute the rest of the group had found out, he'd been thrust into a special level of hell.
"I'm never riding my bike anywhere ever again!" Richie had exclaimed. And boy, did he mean it.
Mike tried to explain that he wouldn't be able to drive them around whenever they wanted, he didn't have his own vehicle, but his father was surprisingly obliging, glad that his usually isolated son had friends.
So they'd pile in, Richie and Eddie squabbling over shotgun, Stan always in the fold out seat in the back, and everyone else ducking in the bed of the truck and laughing. When Richie lost the fights for the front seat, he'd lay in the back and smoke with Bev. He liked that Bill and Ben never complained about them smoking, like Stan and Eddie did. When Eddie was kicked out of the front and regulated to the bed of the truck, he'd simply hold onto anything he could and scream on wide turns. Stan always pointed out that Eddie was being over dramatic, and there was another fold out seat in the back, to which Eddie would reply that sitting sideways in a car like that made him sick. Stan would always ask how it made him more sick than rolling around in the back of the truck, but that would just lead to them fussing at each other for a few good minutes while Eddie made nonsense arguments, until Ben stepped in and somehow got them to shut the fuck up without being rude.
Stan turning 16 was a big deal, though. It meant they could spread the group out over two vehicles. It meant no more truck bed riding and getting in trouble with Officer Nell, who, for all he intimidated them, was much too easy on the kids, and always let them off with a warning they never intended to heed.
When Stan showed off his license, reluctantly, Eddie beamed.
"Hey, I can stop keeping a helmet in your dad's truck, Mike!"
Stan closed his eyes and sighed.
"That's a n-nice p-p-picture, Stanley." Bill said, over Stan's shoulder.
Stan smiled. "Thanks, I was nervous about it… My mom said no one ever looks good on their driver's license."
"Aw, look at those dimples!" Bev said, pinching Stan's cheek. He turned pink.
"Uh, thanks, Bev."
"So, you got a car of your own?" Richie asked, not so very casually, from the hammock.
"No… but my mom said I can drive the hatchback to school."
"Oh, sweet, you can give me a ride, then!" Richie said, hopping up.
"Richie you live in the opposite direction, I'm not back-tracking for you. Ben can have a ride to school, though."
"Oh, wow, thanks, Stanley."
Stan grinned. "Don't mention it."
Richie fell to his knees on the floor, his hands folded together, pleading with Stan.
" Stanley Uris, puh- lease drive me to school! I can't take all this bike pedaling, my lungs are collapsing!"
"Maybe you should stop smoking then, Richie." Stan said, peering down at him.
"No, it's not that, I swear. I have scoliosis too! Do you want your poor, crippled friend to have to haul his broken back to school every day on his rusty bicycle? Please, Stan, I won't turn 16 forever."
Stan stared him down, then broke out into an obliging smile. "If you can survive the bike ride to my house and be there on time, I guess I really have no choice but to give you a ride."
Richie grabbed the hem of Stan's shorts and pretended to weep.
"You've just done good by a poor old sinner!" He wailed.
"Get him off me." Stan said, his laugh halting into a genuine desire to have Richie stop pulling at his shorts, because they were coming off.
Mike scooped Richie up by the under arms and hauled him over to the hammock again.
"Go on and soak it up while nobody's fighting you for it." He said, dumping Richie's lanky body into it. He was honestly too tall for the thing now, and looked hilarious trying to lay in it comfortably, but that never stopped him. If his growth spurt continued, he'd be hitting his head on the beams of the clubhouse. No one wanted to admit they might be too old for the clubhouse, not just yet.
"I get my license next!" Bev said, happily.
"That won't be for a few months, though." Richie said, in a needless whine.
"Yeah, but when I do, my aunt said she'll buy me a car. So zip it, Trashmouth, or you won't get any rides."
Richie mimed zipping his lips, then unzipping them. "Sorry, Beverly. Did I ever tell you you're my favorite girl in the world?" He zipped them again.
"Once or twice." Bev said, walking over to him. "Usually when you need smokes." She sat down by the hammock, and Richie patted her head.
"Do you know what kind of car you're gonna get, Bev?" Ben asked.
"Anything's gotta be better than the Uris' Gremlin." Richie said, his lips around a cigarette Bev had just given him.
Stan frowned. "If you're going to be like that, I'm not going to give you any r-"
Richie waved him off. "I'm not gonna be like that, Urine."
Stan huffed. Now that the taller people had scattered, Eddie was getting a good look at his driver's license.
"Ah, that's so cool. My mom probably won't even let me get my driver's license…"
"Oh, c'mon, Eds, sure she will. It'll be easier to make you run errands that way!" Richie said, with a smirk.
"Gee, thanks, fuckwad!" Eddie said, glaring at him.
Eddie began an exaggerated coughing fit. "Must you always smoke down here? We're not trying to pass out and have visions, again!"
"Shut up, Eddie, just use your binky."
Ben laughed. "His what?"
"His inhaler. His pacifier."
"Shut the fuck up, man!"
"I don't know why you still use that shit when you know it isn't even medicine."
"Shut up!" Eddie screamed.
"Jesus in a jar!" Richie yelled, with his hands over his ears.
Mike nudged Richie from the swing with his foot.
"Yeah, come on. Beep, beep, Richie."
"Fine." Richie said, leaning his head back down onto the hammock. "Bev never gets in trouble for smoking, though."
"That's because Bev is a tolerable human being and not a gangly little-"
Bill stood up. "Alright!" He yelled. "I-I've had enough of the P-Punch a-and Judy S-S-Show!"
Bev giggled. "The what?"
Ben and Mike piped up at the same time to start explaining, then laughed. Mike gestured for Ben to continue, knowing it would mean a lot more to him to be able to show off his knowledge for Bev.
"They were these old puppet shows. They had all sorts of different casts and plots, but the main thing it boiled down to was slapstick. Puppets pummeling each other and stuff."
Bev laughed. "How do you guys all know this shit?"
"Well, Mike and I go to the library together, I dunno about Bill."
Bill looked to the side and then cleared his throat. "M-my dad u-u-used t-to do them f-for me and G-G-Georgie."
"Aw, that's really sweet." Ben said, clapping a hand on Bill's shoulder.
Bill smiled a little. "Y-yeah."
Eddie was still in the corner, half cowering behind Stan like he could protect him from the smoke, which was mercifully ventilating upwards and not actually anywhere near him.
"I still think it's dangerous to smoke in here. You might light the thing on fire. I mean, remember when Richie fell asleep with a cigarette in his mouth, and-"
"That was one time, Eds!" Richie yelled, staring at the ceiling.
"Okay." Stan said, rolling his eyes. "I don't like the smoking either, but what did Bill just say?"
Eddie and Richie looked at Stan, confused.
Stan made an annoyed noise. "He told you guys to shut the fuck up!"
"I don't think he said that, Stanley!" Eddie said, crossing his arms.
"He did, too, he was just being delicate about it. Everyone else got the subtext except you two."
Richie huffed. Eddie grumbled under his breath.
Stan had no idea how they could possibly always be on the same side of everyone's nerves and at each other's throats and fucking survive. It seemed like someone would have strangled one of them by now, and it was a miracle they hadn't strangled each other.
Now that the glitter and glamor of his driver's license had faded, Stan tucked it back into his wallet, and walked towards the group, taking a seat on the floor by Mike in the swing.
Eddie was alone in the corner with his arms crossed and his face all red. He tapped his foot in an anxious rhythm.
"Jesus…" Richie huffed under his breath. He handed Bev his cigarette butt and went over to Eddie.
"Hey, Spaghetti Man,"
Eddie's face screwed up in anger.
"Get the fuck in the hammock." Richie said, with a laugh, picking Eddie up like a sack of potatoes and dropping him into the hammock. Eddie flailed around and nearly fell out, but Bill and Bev caught the sides of the hammock.
"Jackass!" Eddie called.
"Hey, you're the only one short enough to still fit in the fucking thing!" Richie said, slouching over to Stan and resting his elbow on Stan's shoulder. "I'm doing you a favor."
Eddie, seemingly, did not have a comeback for this, and just sulked.
"There, Bill. Punch and Judy Show over." He said, bowing.
"So, Stanley my manley, what are we doing for your Sweet 16?"
Stan looked around. "Uh, this." He said, gesturing towards the group.
Everyone began to protest.
"No way, man, it's your birthday!" Ben said. "We have to do something special!"
"Yeah, Stan! We sit on our asses in here every day, we should be having an adventure, or something! A big shindig to honor you!" Bev said. "At least a cake or something!"
"Do any of you have money for a cake?" Stan asked, pointedly. They all looked around at each other, shrugging.
"I have babysitting money." Bev piped up.
"I-I've b-b-been mowing l-lawns." Ben added.
"I've got some cash from delivery tips." Mike said, with a smile.
"Okay…" Stan said, sheepishly. "Are the rest of you going to cough up and pay them back when you get money?"
"You know I never have money!" Eddie whined.
Richie dug into his pockets, and pulled out a big handful of loose change. He grabbed Mike's hand and deposited it. "I'll pay you back when I'm rich and famous."
"Actually, I have some money from helping reshelf at the library." Ben said, shyly.
"I've got some money, too, from my grandparents." Stan said.
"S-s-save it." Bill said. "This one's on u-us."
Bev grinned. "Yeah, Stan, buy yourself something nice with it."
Richie leaned closer to Stan's ear. "What is the deepest desire of your heart that only money can satisfy, Stanley?"
"A camera with a zoom lens." He answered, quickly and frankly.
"Is that for bird shit?" Richie asked.
Stan sighed. "Yeah."
"That's pretty cool!" Richie said, with unexpected excitement.
Stan smiled at him. "Really?"
"Yeah, you could work for NatGeo or something like that!"
"Yeah, that would be really cool, Stan." Ben agreed.
"I never actually thought about that, I guess it would be neat."
Bev was taking up money from everyone who had offered it. She took it over to an upturned crate to count it. Eddie frowned and fished a five dollar bill out of his pocket.
"Bev!" He called, waving it.
"Oh, Eddie… giving up your Pepsi and comic book for the week? How sweet." She said, sarcastically.
"I knew you had money, you jack weasel." Richie said, in an accusatory tone.
"Yeah, well you should have money, but you spent it all on cigarettes and used nudie mags!"
"I don't need nudie mags, your mom sends me Polaroids."
Eddie struggled in the hammock, trying to get up to throttle Richie, but Ben held him down.
"Can you guys just call a truce for Stan's birthday?"
"Yeah, I'll call a truce. You man enough for a truce, Eds?" Richie asked, walking over and holding out his hand.
Eddie's face was all red. He took Richie's hand and shook it violently. " Yes." He said, though his teeth.
"Good boy." Richie said, pinching his cheek.
"Hey, fucknuts, we said truce."
"Okay, my bad, truce starts now!" Richie said, holding his hands up defensively. His fingers were crossed.
"Please tell me I'm not the only one who saw that!" Eddie shouted, pointing.
"Saw what?" Mike asked, with a smile.
"Screw you guys.." Eddie said, quietly.
"Finally…" Bill said, under his breath. "W-whats the d-d-damage, B-Bev?" He called.
"I think we can get a cake from Carvel and see a movie!" Bev said, excitedly, holding up the money.
"Woah, seriously?" Stan asked.
"Yeah, Stanley! Big, blow-out bash! What movie do you wanna see?" Bev asked, carefully folding the money into her pocket, then dumping all of Richie's change in the other.
"Let's go see Braindead!" Richie said, excitedly.
"They're only showing that at the multiplex in Bangor." Ben said.
"So? We've got a truck and a hatchback, tonight! Are we really just going to spend the night in town?"
"Three Ninjas looks pretty good." Mike offered.
"That's for kids." Richie said.
"What do you think we are?" Ben asked, with a laugh.
" Young adults, Benjamin."
Ben laughed. "Oh, whatever…"
Stan thought for a long moment. "Critters 4?"
"They made another one?" Eddie asked.
"C'mon, guys. You love to razz movies, this is perfect."
Richie put his hand on his chin, like he was stroking a goatee. "Stanley has a point… I'm gonna razz the movie no matter what we see. Critters 4 is probably going to be more fun than 3 Ninjas."
"Th-that's true." Bill agreed.
"Alright!" Bev said, clapping her hands together. "CookiePuss and Critters 4 it is!"
"Wait, why not Fudgy the Whale?" Eddie asked.
"Yeah, Fudgy is the king of Carvel cakes!" Richie agreed.
"I- I like CookiePuss better." Stan interjected.
"You're insane, Stan!" Richie said.
"Honestly, what's the-"
Bill shushed them loudly and Mike laughed.
"Bill is right, it's Stanley's birthday. It's nice to see you on the same side for a change, but you sure picked a bad time for it." Mike said, still chuckling.
"Let's just get out of here, I'm getting claustrophobic." Eddie said, kicking the hammock again, trying to get some leverage to get out.
Ben laughed and grabbed his arm, wrenching him out of the thing.
Eddie practically flew through the air for a moment, and hit Ben in the chest.
"You're welcome for the airbags." Ben said, ruffling Eddie's hair.
"C'mon guys, I call shotgun I the Urine-Mobile!" Richie said, pulling Stan towards the ladder.
"Ugh that is disgusting sounding!" Beverly said, laughing wildly.
"Hey, I wanna ride shotgun with Stan!" Eddie said.
"Ride shotgun with Mike! I already called it!"
"That's not fair, we can't even see the cars, that's totally against the rules!"
"Since when is that a rule?"
"Since the beginning of shotgun!"
Everyone laughed as Eddie chased Richie up the ladder, bickering.
Bev hugged Stan with one arm and leaned her head onto the side of his. "Happy Birthday, Stan."
"Yeah! Happy birthday, Stan the Man!" Mike said, putting his arm around Stan's other shoulder.
Stan grinned. "Thanks, guys."