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In His Shoes (I Walked a Mile)

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Stan would never describe himself as “phlegmatic,” per se. Stan was not a “chill” person. No, Stanley Uris just spent a majority of his life largely unbothered by things. Adults called him an “old soul” and the Losers called him the “dad friend,” although neither of those was exactly right. Stan simply didn’t have the emotional energy to be affected by the dumb shit that just seemed to happen around him.

That’s probably why, when Stan woke up in a room he had definitely not fallen asleep in the night before, Stan’s first reaction was not one of panic or confusion, but instead a resigned “this might as well happen.” 

Stan’s first observation about his location was the fact that he knew exactly where he was. Stan was in Richie’s room, because of course he was. That made sense, he had planned to sleep over at Richie’s house that night. Although—no, that couldn’t be right, because Stan definitely remembered going to sleep in his own room, in his own bed. Did he drink last night? Is that why his head was pounding like that? No, Stan thought, he wouldn’t have had enough to get a hangover this severe, hangovers were Richie’s domain. Stan was a responsible drinker. Why could he only remember last night in bits and pieces?

Something was poking into Stan’s cheek, and he reached up to adjust whatever it was. Was he wearing his reading glasses? It wouldn’t be the first time he had woken up in his glasses, having fallen asleep reading the night before. He pulled them off and blinked furiously. The world was hideously fuzzy and almost swam in his vision. Stan jammed the glasses back onto his face. His eyes were likely just tired, just really tired, he’d keep his glasses on until he woke up further.

Stan decided that there was very little he could do while still lying in bed, and swung his legs over the side. He looked down at his feet and frowned in confusion. Stan never wore socks to bed, and he definitely didn’t own socks like that. The socks on his feet were mismatched and loud, one with a colorful dinosaur pattern and one red with yellow stripes. Stan kicked his feet experimentally and then stood from Richie’s bed. He looked around the room, looking for signs that Richie was still there. The clock on Richie’s desk read 8:26. It was summer, which meant Richie would absolutely refuse to wake up before 9:30. Stan stared around Richie’s room, looking for the other boy, but seeing no one. That was strange, but not strange enough to warrant concern just yet. He stretched his arms above his head, and yelped when his hands hit the ceiling fan. Richie’s ceilings weren’t that low. Stan wasn’t short, but he wasn’t a giant, definitely not as tall as Richie. Stan was slightly more unsettled by this point. He tugged at his shirt collar nervously, the feeling of which prompted him to look down at himself. Stan sucked in a deep breath. He was wearing Richie’s clothes. God, why couldn’t he remember what had happened last night? What had transpired that ended with him in Richie’s room, in Richie’s bed, in Richie’s clothes? Was it something he wanted to remember? Could they have— 

Stan clamped down on that notion very quickly. 

He picked his way across Richie’s clothes-strewn floor and headed towards the door. He reached for the handle without realizing what he was looking at, and then he froze.

Richie had a full-body mirror on the back of his door. Richie was in the mirror. Stan was not in the mirror. Richie-in-the-mirror blinked when Stan blinked, and was frozen in the same position Stan was frozen in. Stan drew his hand back from the doorknob sharply and Richie-in-the-mirror did the same. Stan reached up to tug at his hair, and Richie-in-the-mirror tugged at his own. 

Holy shit. Stan was Richie-in-the-mirror. 

Stan was Richie? Or he was in Richie, and Stan didn’t know what was worse.

What the fuck.

Stan stumbled back across the floor and sank onto Richie’s bed. (His bed? Stan’s bed? Did the bed belong to the boy or the body? Holy shit?)

Stan was largely unbothered by a great number of things that happened to him and around him. This bothered him. This was fucked up beyond belief. 

Stan took himself through several deep breaths, trying to ignore the ache pounding in his (Richie’s?) temples.

Then, as if in a trance, Stan stood up, traced the familiar path to Richie’s bathroom, and brushed Richie’s teeth.

Stan then returned to Richie’s room, opened the closet, and pulled out the ugliest shirt he could find, some hideous Hawaiian monstrosity with dissonant patterns and a clashing color scheme. He elected to keep on Richie’s pants from the night before, and threw a simple black shirt on, determinedly not looking down at himself (At Richie!! At Richie’s body!!). He put the Hawaiian shirt on over top of the t-shirt, fighting his immediate urge to button it, and picked Richie’s sneakers up from the floor. He pulled the sneakers on and tied the laces methodically, (only single knot them, Richie doesn’t double knot his shoelaces like you do, Stanley) his fingers shaking. He didn’t know what his plan was, or what had happened, or what could possibly be done to fix it. Stan’s first course of action was to find Richie. Given that Richie’s mind had to have gone somewhere, and Stan’s body was currently vacant, it made sense that Richie would be at Stan’s house, in Stan’s bed, occupying Stan’s body.

Stan threw a change of clothes, a pair of swim trunks, some deodorant, and a pack of cigarettes and a lighter into Richie’s spare backpack.

He slipped downstairs, headache still pounding, and stopped at the fridge in the darkened kitchen. Richie’s parents must’ve been out of the house, given that no lights were on downstairs. Stan opened the fridge and pulled out a jar of pickles, something he had seen Richie do the last time he was hungover. Stan couldn’t remember Richie drinking last night, but it wouldn’t be that much of a surprise. He took a swig from the pickle jar and gagged, before forcing down two other swallows. He put the lid back on the jar and set about making himself some semblance of breakfast, taking small sips of water throughout.

When Stan sat down at the table with a glass of orange juice and two fried eggs, Maggie Tozier stepped into the kitchen. Stan froze. He thought she was out, but of course she wasn’t out, it was Sunday, she was just sleeping in, god Stan was an idiot. 

He smiled nervously. “H-hi, Mom!” he said, standing up quickly. “Do you want eggs?”

Maggie Tozier’s eyes narrowed. “What did you do now?” she asked. 

Shit , Stan thought. Richie’s a horrible son. He probably never offers to do shit for his parents, fuck. Out loud, and with a bravado he certainly didn’t feel, Stan said, “What, I can’t offer a hearty breakfast to my favorite birth-giver?” Yeah, that sounded like Richie. Apparently Maggie thought so too, because the suspicion seemed to leave her eyes. 

“Ah, no, I’ll make something for myself. It’s already so rare that you actually eat breakfast, I don’t want your eggs to get cold.”

Stan nodded and turned back to his breakfast. The headache was subsiding somewhat, which was good, because Stan was sure that dealing with Richie was going to give him a completely different headache. Did Richie really not eat breakfast?

“I’m gonna make some bacon, too, do you want some?” Maggie offered. 

“Uh, no, I don’t eat pork—” Stan cut himself off quickly, cursing his slip of the tongue. 

Maggie just chuckled. “Last time you tried to go kosher, it lasted about four days, Rich. But sure, let’s give it another try. Donald Uris will be pleased.”

Stan nodded, too relieved to dwell on how strange it was to hear his father referred to so casually. He hadn’t known Richie had ever tried to go kosher.

Stan finished his eggs and orange juice in relative silence, which he knew was uncharacteristic for Richie. There was just no way he could realistically emulate Richie’s stream-of-consciousness style of talking without giving himself away. 

When he was done, he put his plate and glass in the sink, but instead of washing them like he would have done ordinarily, Stan left them there, feeling an odd sort of thrill at the inherent rebellion that came from being Richie.

“I’m gonna meet Stan, we’ll be out for a while,” Stan said, throwing an apple and a family-sized bag of chips into Richie’s backpack. He paused and then threw in a bag of baby carrots as well.

“Mm, you’re eating vegetables willingly? Who are you and what have you done with my son?” Maggie laughed good naturedly. “Just don’t be out too late, Richie. Invite him over for dinner if you like. Why did you say he left early last night?”

“No reason,” Stan said evasively, not wanting to admit he couldn’t remember. 

 

“Hey, you know what? Fuck you, Richie. I can’t fucking stand you. How about you quit it with these goddamn mind games and just—”

 

Shit, that was new. That was a solid memory, words he remembered coming out of his mouth while he was in his own body. He quickly trotted down the hallway, grabbing Richie’s spare house key from the bowl on his way out. Stan took Richie’s bike from the garage and swung Richie’s gangly leg over the side. He pushed off, rolling down the street. The route between his and Richie’s houses was so well-travelled, Stan probably could have made it to his house blindfolded.

As Stan biked towards his own house, he let his mind stray back to the memory. Had he and Richie fought? Was that why Stan had left early? Stan would never have said that he couldn’t stand Richie. Richie who confided in Stan about his insecurities and how he thought he was annoying and loudmouthed. ‘I can’t stand you’ would be an incredibly shitty thing to say to Richie. What had they been fighting about?

Stan didn’t have much time to dwell on the thought, because he had just pulled up into his own driveway. He knocked down the kickstand on Richie’s bike and jogged up the front steps to his house. He knocked on the door three times, and then waited anxiously. He strained his ears and could faintly hear his parents voices from inside, and his chest ached.

His mother was the one to open the door. Stan breathed a sigh of relief, he wasn’t sure what he’d have done if his father had come to the door.

“Mo—Mrs. Uris, hey.”

“Richie.” Stan blinked. He wasn’t used to being stared at like that, not by his mother, who was soft edges and kind smiles. “Richie,” she repeated. “I think it’s best if you don’t play with Stan today.”

“What, why not?” Stan complained in a very Richie-esque tone. He pat himself on the back mentally for his Richie impression.

Stan’s mother pursed her lips. “Stan was very upset when he came home last night. He refused to talk to me and went to bed without a word, and he hasn’t come down yet this morning. He probably wouldn’t want me to tell you this, but I think he was crying.” No! Stan would not want his mother to tell Richie, of all people, that Stan had been crying! He’d never hear the end of it. His mother continued, seemingly unbothered by Stan’s obvious discomfort. “I think that whatever you two fought about really shook him up, and unless you’re here to sort things out with my son, I’m not going to let you into my house.”

“No! Mrs. Uris, I am here to sort things out with Stan! It was all my fault actually, I just took a dumb joke too far and it really messed with his head! I don’t want him to stay mad at me! Please let me in, pleease .” Stan knew it was uncharacteristic of Richie to admit he’d been in the wrong, but Stan’s mother liked it when people admitted fault, and Stan was absolutely desperate to get inside at this point. Besides, while Stan still had plenty of remaining dignity, Richie had zero dignity. While Stan was in Richie’s body, he had no dignity to uphold.

Andrea Uris’s distrustful eyes softened. “All right,” she said gently. “But if he asks, you broke in.”

“Thank you Mrs. Uris, thank you so much.” Stan babbled out thanks as he stepped past her, over the threshold into his own house. He turned and sprinted up the stairs, taking them two at a time. He burst into his own room and crossed the floor in a matter of seconds.

“Richie,” he whispered urgently, shaking his own shoulders. God that was fucking trippy, interacting with his own body. “Richie!” He shook the body harder. “Richie, wake up!” The boy wearing Stan’s body stirred and blinked, and Stan let out a choked sigh of relief. “Richie, oh thank god. It is you, right? It’s Richie?”

“Yeah, it’s fucking Richie,” the other boy mumbled, blinking aggressively. “I think it is, anyway, unless I’m much mistaken. Who the fuck are you?”

Stan ignored the question. “Come on, Richie, get out of bed, come on, stand up.”

“Are you my secret evil twin from Indiana?”

“No, I’m your secret evil twin from New Jersey.”

Richie-in-Stan’s-body shuddered. “That’s even worse. Fuck New Jersey.”

“Yeah,” Stan laughed breathily. “Fuck New Jersey.”

“Okay but for real who are you? Am I still high?”

Stan felt a thrill in his gut at the chance that Richie remembered anything more about last night than he did. “Did you smoke last night?”

“I don’t know, I can barely remember last night. Usually when I can’t remember shit, it’s ‘cause I’ve been smoking.”

“Yeah, that’s in character. Come onn, get UP, Richie.” Stan grabbed Richie’s hand and hauled him to his feet. Richie blinked.

“I’m not wearing my glasses,” Richie said blithely. 

“No shit, dumbass,” Stan said, hauling Richie over to the mirror that was propped against the wall by his dresser. “There you go.”

Stan stepped out of the way and let Richie have a moment with the mirror. He sat down on the bed and reached for the book he’d been reading recently. He flipped it open and began to read, not wanting to intrude on whatever was going down between Richie’s mind and Stan’s own body.

“Stan—” Richie started, hoarsely. He cleared his throat. “Stan, that’s you, right?”

“Yeah, it’s me, shitface. Hey, brush my teeth, would you?” 

“What—” 

“The teeth that are in my body. You know where the bathroom is, go on.”

“Right.” Richie didn’t leave the room. Stan looked up from his book.

“Rich?”

“Can you come with me?”

“To the bathroom?”

“I mean,” Richie’s eyes glinted and god that was not an expression Stan had ever wanted to see on his own face. “It’s not like I’ve got anything now that you’ve not seen befo—”

Stan closed his book with a snap and stood, blushing furiously. He strode out of the room and down the hall towards the bathroom, not looking back at Richie. Richie let forth a very Richie-like cackle that Stan’s vocal cords should not have been capable of making, before he followed Stan down the hallway. 

Stan thrust his toothbrush and a tube of toothpaste into Richie’s hands. “I assume you know what to do with these?”

“I mean, I’m usually more effective with an electric toothbrush, but I’ll see what I can do—”

“Don’t say that sort of thing with my mouth.”

“Righty-ho, Stan-the-man.” Richie started brushing his teeth, and Stan sank onto the toilet, thankful that the lid was already down. He buried his face in his hands, headache nearly dissipated but present nonetheless. 

“Did you drink last night?” Stan asked finally.

“Probably,” Richie said through a mouth of toothpaste foam.

“Spit before you talk to me.”

“The exact advice I gave your mother last ni—”

“That’s even more disgusting than it usually is. You’re in my body, man, have a little decency.”

“Oh, Stanny-boy, all my decency left me long ago.”

“Don’t I know it. Anyway, what did you mean you ‘probably’ drank last night?”

“Oh, just that I can’t really remember last night. Like at all. I dunno, Stanny, you came over to my place, and we were talking, and that’s about the last thing I remember.”

 

“Hey, Stan, do you ever think about what it would be like if—”

 

Stan pushed his glasses onto his forehead and pressed the heels of his hands into his eyes. “Think about what?” he asked aloud, trying to prompt further memories.

Richie spat a mouthful of water into the sink. “What did you say, Stan?” 

“I barely remember last night either, but my mom says we fought. She almost wouldn’t let me upstairs, she says it was really bad, that I came home, uh, a bit of a wreck, and refused to talk to her.”

“Damn, Stan, glad I don’t remember that.” Richie sank down onto the tiled floor and looked up at Stan. “I don’t like fighting with you.”

“It still happened, even if we don’t remember it,” Stan snapped.

Richie snorted quietly.

“Is something funny?” Stan asked.

“No, it’s just—shit, man, how fucked up are we that we’re just acting as if nothing’s different?”

“I mean—”

“No, Stan, it’s like, you, and I, and the rest of the Losers, we’ve all gone through some weird bullshit, and this almost seems tame in comparison, doesn’t it, Stan? Doesn’t this feel overwhelmingly normal?”

“I did only freak out for about a minute.”

“I just got all quiet. I’m fine now, right as fucking rain, Stan-the-man. God, that’s fucked up.”

Stan’s leg was bouncing uncontrollably. “Richie, you’re right that this isn’t super high on the list of ‘fucked up things that have happened to us,’ but we should still do something about it.”

“Do what, Staniel? Just cross our fingers and click our heels together three times?”

“I mean, maybe! What do you suggest?”

“I think,” Richie drummed his fingers (Stan’s fingers!!) on the tiled floor. “I think we should act as if nothing’s wrong.”

“I’m sorry?”

“I think we should meet at the Quarry at 10, like we planned, and just spend the day there. We’ll act like each other so the rest of them don’t freak out on us, and we’ll go to bed and hope everything has fixed itself in the morning.” 

 

“Just go to sleep, Richie, we can talk about it in the morning.”

“I want to talk about it now , Stan.”

 

Stan rubbed his temples again. “Sure, we’ll go with that plan, what do we have to lose? Rich, I keep getting these memories,” he said. “I keep seeing little snippets of whatever conversation we had last night that ended in me going home crying, and I just...fucking wish I could remember the whole argument.”

“Crying? Was Stan-the-Man-with-the-Plan crying because of li’l old me?” Richie looked almost delighted.

“Beep beep,” Stan said sharply. “Drop it, Rich.” He stood up from where he was sitting and crossed to the door. “Let’s get you dressed. I’m not letting you dress my body on your own, I have a reputation.”

“Yuh, a reputation for dressing like you’re 40. What’s wrong with t-shirts, Stan?” 

“I like button-ups,” Stan said firmly. “Come on.”

Stan wrestled Richie into a pair of decent beige trousers and a plain white button-up. 

“Oh right,” Stan said, throwing a book, a change of clothes, swim trunks, and a package of bandaids and some neosporin into his own backpack. “I may have told your mother you were going to try going kosher.”

Richie squeaked. “You what? That went horribly last time!”

“I didn’t know there was a last time,” Stan said, quirking an eyebrow. 

“Yeah, cause it went horribly.”

“Well, considering I don’t know how long I’m gonna be in this body, I’m going to eat kosher while I’m here. And you’d better eat kosher too, Richie, I’m not gonna have you soiling my body’s perfect record.”

“Jesus, okay, Stan, don’t be so anal.”

Stan’s head was foggy and he felt jittery. His hands itched like they needed to be doing something. “I’m not being anal, Richie, we just have to take care of each other’s bodies.” He tossed the backpack to Richie, who caught it, looking surprised. Stan took a deep breath and attempted his best Richie impression. “There’s your backpack for the day, Stan-the-man. Shall we be off, my good bitch?”

Richie’s eyes crinkled in amusement. “You’re so annoying, Trashmouth,” he said. “Have you ever tried maturity? It’s one hell of a drug.”

Stan almost laughed out loud. “The only high I get is from sleeping with your—nope, no, I can’t make sex jokes about my own mother. That’s revolting.”

Richie laughed delightedly. “But mom jokes are an authentic part of the Richie Tozier experience! You gotta keep ‘em up, Stan, the others’ll get suspicious if you don’t.”

Stan rolled his eyes and ignored the truth of the statement. “Call me Richie,” he said.

“What?” 

“I just mean, it’ll be easier for us to remember if we call each other that as much as possible, right? Besides, you never know who could be listening, Stan. ” Stan put a lot of emphasis on his own name. Richie sighed.

“All right, Richie, But don’t think for a second I don’t hate every single thing about this situation.”

“You sound just like me,” Stan said. “Come on, let’s grab our bikes.”

Richie and Stan went downstairs quietly, backpacks over their shoulders. 

“Tell your mother we’re leaving,” Stan said quietly.

“My mother’s not here—” Richie started to say, but Stan elbowed him in the side. “Right,” Richie said. “Uh, Mom?” He raised his voice slightly. “Stan and I are going to the Quarry.”

“You and Stan?” Stan’s mother’s voice called from the living room. “Is there another Stan I don’t know about?”

“No, no,” Richie laughed nervously, fear in his eyes as he turned to face Stan. “I meant Richie. Richie and I are going to the Quarry.”

“All right, Stan. Just don’t jump from that cliff, you know that’s dangerous.”

“You bet, Mom. You know me! Stan, the responsible one! I’ve never broken a bone in my life! I brush my teeth three times a day! I put my pants on one leg at a time, just like everyone else!” Richie said with increasing panic. Stan grabbed Richie by the shoulder and practically muscled him out of the front door. He shoved Richie towards the garage.

“What the fuck was that, Stan ?” Stan asked. He lowered his voice to a harsh whisper. “If you’re gonna pretend to be me, you need to chill the fuck out. Just take some deep breaths and try to act as if you’re too tired to care about anything. Grab your bike.”

“I’m sorry, Sta- Richie. I’m not used to acting like a stuck-up prick.”

“Oh, a stuck-up prick? A stuck-up prick, am I, Stan? I have morals and responsibilities, and I stick to them, which is more than I can say for you!”

Richie jabbed a finger at Stan’s chest. “You act as if the world will fall perfectly into place if you just stay in your lane and don’t take any risks. Newsflash, asshole, the world is vicious and nasty and just because you haven’t seen that side of it—”

“Oh, you want to talk to me about the world being nasty, dickwad?” Stan was fuming now. He shoved Richie. “I’m sorry, who left whom alone with IT?”

Richie got very quiet. “That’s not fair, Stan. You know we didn’t do that. You know we wouldn’t.”

“Sorry, are you talking to someone? My name is Richie.” Stan knew he was being unfair, and kind of relished it. Like being in Richie’s body gave him a free pass to be as unreasonable as he liked. He swung a leg over Richie’s bike and started pedalling. 

Behind him, he heard his own voice say, “No, Mom, we’re not fighting, not really. It was stupid. Richie, wait up!” Stan kept pedalling. Richie caught up to him quickly. They rode alongside each other quietly for a while.

“I’m sorry,” Stan said finally. “I was out of line.”

“I was too, I guess. Maybe there’s just leftover tension from whatever the fuck happened last night.” Richie said.

“It’s just, I woke up with a hangover in a body that’s not mine, unable to remember anything from the night before, and all day I’ve been itchy and shaky and foggy and—”

“Wait,” Richie said, pulling his bike to a stop. “Have you not smoked today?”

Stan stopped too. “What? No, Richie, I don’t smoke.”

“But my body does. Shit, do you have any cigarettes with you?”

Stan wrinkled his nose. “I brought them for appearance’s sake, like hell am I actually gonna put one in my mouth.”

Richie sighed. “Stan, my body’s going through withdrawal. While ordinarily I’d be perfectly happy for someone else to break my smoking habit for me, I think it’s best for everyone involved if you just smoke. It’s my lungs, man, not yours.”

“Fine,” Stan snapped. “Fine, I’ll smoke your fucking one-way-ticket to lung cancer.”

“You sound like Eddie.”

“I mention being concerned about getting cancer one time and suddenly I’m Eddie fucking Kaspbrak ?”

“No, you know what, fair enough. Go on and smoke, Richie, I won’t stop you.”

“Once we get to the Quarry, Stan. ” Stan said, kicking off from the ground again. Richie followed. 

By Stan’s watch, it was 9:49 when they arrived at the Quarry. Bev and Mike were already there, and they greeted the two of them enthusiastically. Bev was sitting on the ground next to her bike, and Mike had his feet dangling over the edge of the cliff.

Stan swallowed anxiously and made eye contact with Richie (his own eyes! He made eye contact with his own eyes!).

He forced himself to grin widely and fling his arms around Bev’s shoulders. “Beverly! My favorite gal,” Stan shouted, reaching over to ruffle Bev’s hair. “How lonely I have been without you! How I have missed your sweet embrace!” Stan laid himself across Bev’s lap, one hand on his forehead. His stomach was churning and his fingers were trembling. This was stupid. They’d catch on immediately and Stan would have humiliated himself for absolutely nothing.

Bev laughed and plucked his glasses from his face. “All right, Trashmouth, let’s live our sordid affair in the open at last.” 

Stan’s smile grew wider. This was familiar, he could emulate Richie. He knew Richie, and he knew what he’d say. “Oh, but darling, if we’re open about our secret love, I’ll have to break up with Eddie’s mom, and I don’t know if her old heart can take the strain!”

Stan heard his own laugh a few yards away. He turned to glare at Richie, who had his hand over his mouth in an attempt to stifle his laughter. 

“Well now, Stanthony!” Stan said, grabbing his glasses back from Bev. “I didn’t realize you thought my jokes were funny! Where’s that patented Stanley Uris Eyeroll?” Stan grinned maliciously, but his insides were twisting anxiously. Richie had to keep the charade up. 

Richie scoffed, eyes cutting to the side in a pointed expression that Stan remembered rehearsing in the mirror when he was 10 years old. 

Bev laughed. “Boys,” she said, looking exasperatedly at Mike. Mike laughed.

“H-hey, Stan.” Bill’s voice drifted over from where Richie was standing. 

“Bill,” Stan heard his own voice say, and he relaxed at the lack of inflection. “How’re you?”

“Not b-bad. Just was a little late getting up. Didn’t eat breakfast.”

“Happens to the best of us,” Richie said. 

“Stan, didn’t you pack some snacks?” Stan said. “Make Big Bill eat some carrots or something, breakfast is important. They’re in my backpack.” Shit, Stan thought. Maybe I am the Dad Friend. 

“Aww,” Bev said, playing with Stan’s hair. “Trashmouth Tozier has a heart? This will make headlines.”

“You know mah heart is only yours, sweet lahss,” Stan said, trying his hand at a Voice. Beverly laughed. “Yeah, only mine,” she said with a wink. Stan’s mouth went dry. Oh. Bev was referencing something Richie knew that Stan didn’t. It hadn’t even occurred to him that Richie had secrets from him. The thought stung a little more than it should, considering how much Stan was hiding from Ri—

And that thought gets shoved right back in the repression corner, thank you.

 

Richie swung his door shut and grinned at Stan. “And now it’s just you and me, Staniel-the-Maniel.”

Stan rolled his eyes. “Yeah, yeah. You said you had a new comic you wanted to show off?”

“I do! Here, it’s still flat.”

“Wow,” Stan said with faux superiority. “The one thing you’re supposed to do with a comic book is keep it from folding, and you’ve done that, thereby achieving the exact bare minimum required in comic book care. Do you want a medal?”

“Are you offering one?”

 

Stan knocked himself on the side of the head and groaned. That memory didn’t give him any clues at all, unless he and Richie had fought over the comic book. But Stan didn’t really care about comic books. Not enough to go home crying about.

“I’m gonna smoke,” Stan said finally, scrambling out of his position on Bev’s lap. He looked at Richie and Bill, who were sharing some baby carrots. Stan’s stomach twinged involuntarily.

“I’ll come with!” Bev said. 

Stan frowned. “Okay,” he said finally. He reached into the backpack Richie had opened to get the carrots and pulled out the cigarettes and lighter. 

He and Bev walked a little ways off, so their smoke wouldn’t bother the others. 

“Here’s good,” Bev said, leaning against a large rock. 

Stan pulled a cigarette out of the box and placed it between his lips. He offered the box to Bev, who took one out. Stan offered the lighter but she raised a hand, clearly saying Stan should light his first. Shit, he thought. He’d never done this before. He’d seen Richie do it enough, though, so it couldn’t be that hard. 

It was, in fact, that hard. Stan doubled over, coughing, and vaguely tossed the lighter in Bev’s direction, hearing her laugh delightedly. Stan clutched at his chest and cleared his throat, before standing up straight and glaring at her.

Bev smirked, lighting her cigarette expertly and blowing out a puff of smoke. “Was that your Bill Denbrough impression?” she asked. 

“Bill?” Stan asked bemusedly.

“You seriously looked just like Bill did the first time he smoked with us.”

“Oh shit you’re right!” Stan said, hurrying to play along. “Beverly Marsh gets off a good one!” Stan didn’t know Bill smoked. How much did he not actually know about his friends? 

 

“Stan-the-man gets off a good one, I guess!” Richie threw his arms up into the air. “At the expense of the resident Trashmouth, no less. Waka waka, Stan, you’re a real comedic genius.” Richie sounded genuinely upset.

“It’s not a joke, Richie! It was never a joke for me, but apparently you think so little of me that you’d believe I’d joke about shit like that!”

“I mean, what am I supposed to think, Stan? What am I supposed to think at this point? How about you just fucking man up and—”

“Oh, man up? Man up? I need to man up? Hey, you know what? Fuck you, Richie. I can’t fucking stand you. How about you quit it with these goddamn mind games and just—”

“Just what , Stan? Just tell me what to do and I’ll fall at your fucking feet. Tell me that you—”

 

Stan almost screamed in frustration when the memory cut off, but instead took a drag from his cigarette and sighed out smoke.

“So what happened between you and Stan last night?” Bev asked.

“Fought,” Stan said dully, dropping into a squat.

“Oh, sweetie,” Bev sunk to Stan’s level. “I’m sorry.”

“No, it’s fine, Bev,” Stan said. “It was stupid anyway, I barely remember what it was about.”

The soft sound of someone gently stepping through the underbrush made both of them turn. Bill stepped out, and grinned at them sheepishly.

“B-B-Ben and Eddie are here, we’re just waiting o-on you two.”

“You lot can hold your damn horses,” Stan muttered, standing. He felt more calm than he had since he’d woken up in Richie’s bed. 

Bev offered her cigarette to Bil. “We’ll head back soon. Go on, if you want to.” 

Bill nodded and accepted the cigarette, taking a brief puff. Stan’s stomach twisted. 

“Those things’ll kill you, Big Bill,” Stan said quietly, turning his own cigarette over between his fingers.

“Right, like you’re one to talk, T-T-Trashmouth.” 

Stan just nodded and stubbed his cigarette out on a rock. He tucked the butt into his pocket and walked away from Bill and Bev, towards the rest of the Losers. 

He quickly changed into Richie’s swim shorts, seeing as the Losers were 15 now and no longer content with splashing around in their underwear, and joined the others by the cliff. Bill and Bev joined two minutes later. Stan didn’t look over the edge, he looked straight ahead. It was spring, and it was warm, and a comforting breeze was playing through his hair (Richie’s hair, Richie’s curly dark hair). Bev was saying something about her aunt, Eddie complaining about pollen, and Mike reminding them that he had to leave in half an hour so he wouldn’t be late.

The seven of them jumped off at the same time. 

Stan could almost forget how fucked up his situation was when he was splashing around with the others, until he turned to share a joke with Richie and was met with his own face. Then it all came crashing back down.

Stan and Richie walked home from the Quarry together that afternoon. “Your mom invited Stan over for dinner,” Stan said, rolling Richie’s bike beside him. “You can come, if you want.”

“Can I stay over?” Richie asked. 

Stan shook his head. “I’ve got breakfast with my aunt in the morning, I want my body to wake up in my room, whoever’s in it.”

“Oh, yeah, I forgot,” Richie said. “Every Monday, right?”

“During summer, at least. It used to be Sundays, but she’s Christian, now.”

“Why would anyone willingly convert to Christianity?” Richie mumbled.

Stan laughed. “We’ll go back to your place and have dinner, and hope everything’s fine in the morning.”

“What if it’s not fine in the morning?”

“The whole reason I was pretending to be you in the first place was in the hope that this would all blow over,” Stan said, a sick fear twisting in his gut.

“What if we wake up tomorrow and nothing’s changed?”

“I don’t know,” Stan said quietly. “I guess we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.” 

They’d reached Richie’s house. “Are you coming in for dinner, Stan ?” Stan asked. 

Richie made a face and nodded. “This is going to be weird,” he muttered. They stowed their bikes in Richie’s garage and Stan pushed the front door open.

“Mom, I’m home! I brought Stan!” Stan yelled into the house. Maggie Tozier’s face appeared from around a corner, smile wide.

“Stan! So nice to see you. Did Richie tell you he’s trying to go kosher again? I pulled out that old recipe book your mother gave me.”

“I didn’t even know Richie had tried to go kosher a first time, Mrs. Tozier, not until he told me today,” Richie said, dropping his backpack on the floor. 

Stan stepped into the kitchen and leaned against the table. Something bitter twinged within him and Stan felt suddenly spiteful. “Don’t mind Stanny, he’s just upset ‘cause I’ve been unfairly withholding things from him like an asshole.”

Richie frowned. “Ah, no,” he said. “I’m not upset with Richie, Mrs. Tozier, I’ve just got a stick up my ass—” Stan clamped a hand over Richie’s mouth and laughed.

“Stan’s had a long day! Stan really doesn’t have time to deal with me, Richie Tozier, and my bullshit.”

Richie licked Stan’s hand and Stan yanked his hand away abruptly. Richie stuck his tongue out at Stan and turned back to Maggie. “Maybe Richie’s getting confused, because I, Stan Uris, am absolutely the one spouting most of the bullshit at the moment.”

“Maybe Stan and I should go upstairs,” Stan said, grabbing Richie’s arm.

Richie let himself be dragged upstairs.

“What the fuck was that?” Stan said.

“I don’t know! What’s wrong with us!” Richie dug the heels of his hands into his eyes and leaned backwards.

“I don’t want to fight with you, Trashmouth, not while we have shit to figure out.”

“I don’t know why we keep fighting,” Richie said miserably, sinking onto his own bed. “I just get so angry.”

Stan knew what Richie meant. It was like it was stretched taught beneath the surface of his skin, some unknown tension, some argument that hadn’t yet played out.

 

And Stan sucked in a sharp breath, and Richie smiled, and Stan was thinking that if this was what he had been missing out on, then he and Richie really— 

 

Fucking hell. Memories from the night before. Stan was sick of them.

“Maybe I should go,” Richie said finally. 

“I think that’s the first good idea you’ve had all day. I’ll pick you up from my house after you go to my aunt’s, and we’ll go to the library and see if we can find anything out about this.”

“If we don’t go back to normal overnight,” Richie amended.

“If we don’t go back to normal overnight,” Stan echoed.

Richie didn’t end up staying for dinner, even though it was his own house. It was strange to wave Richie away, but it felt normal to watch his own body climb on his bike and ride away.

Stan didn’t end up eating dinner, even though Maggie had made his favorite. 

“It’s such a shame Stan had to leave,” Maggie says, and there’s a knowing lilt to her sad smile that makes Stan want to throw something.

Stan goes to bed in Richie’s room without taking off the clothes on Richie’s body, only leaving Richie’s glasses on Richie’s nightstand next to Richie’s unused alarm clock.

His skin felt like it was about to tear at the seams. He ran his hands over his bare arms and choked back a sob. This was so fucked up. He could spend the rest of his life like this. He didn’t want to think about Richie, probably lying in Stan’s bed in Stan’s body, maybe thinking similar thoughts. He didn’t want to think about how he’d fought with Richie and couldn’t even remember it, and he didn’t want to think about the dark cloud that seemed to hang over the two of them, or the tension that stretched between them for reasons neither boy could name. 

Stan Uris fell asleep to the lull of his own anxiety.

Stan Uris woke up in Richie Tozier’s bedroom.

Stan Uris threw a pillow at the wall and bit back a scream of frustration.

Chapter Text

Stan pedalled in small circles outside of his aunt’s house, eyeing the door. Richie emerged at 11:32, only accompanied by Stan’s mother. Andrea Uris caught sight of Stan and tried to hurry Richie away.

“Stan!” Stan called, keeping pace with the two on his bike. Richie looked embarrassed.

“Richie,” Richie replied, trying to push his way out of Stan’s mom’s arms. Andrea held on tight, stopping to whisper something harsh that Stan couldn’t hear. Stan stopped pedalling too. The three of them were standing at the corner, Stan on Richie’s bike, Richie and Stan’s mother standing on the curb. Richie shook his head frantically but Stan’s mom turned on Stan.

“Listen here, Richie,” she said. Stan had honest-to-god almost forgotten that his mother thought he was Richie. “This is the second night in a row you’ve sent my son home crying, and I think it’s best—be quiet, Stanley—I think it’s best if you two keep your distance from each other for a while.”

“We—” Stan swallowed, his tongue dry. Richie had been crying? That was news to Stan. “We have a project we have to work on,” Stan finished hoarsely. “We have to go to the library, Mrs. Uris.”

“I don’t think that’s a good idea, Richie,” she said coldly.

Mom! he felt like screaming. It’s me, it’s Stan! I am under a lot of stress at the moment. Don’t look at me like that! Don’t look at me like you hate me! It’s Stan, Mom! It’s me!

Stan, of course, said none of it. He just watched, stunned, and his mother grabbed Richie by the hand and dragged him off. 

Stan watched their retreating backs, Richie obviously resigned to his fate. Stan shook his head, turned around on his bike, and shot off towards Bill’s house. 

 

“I mean, I’ve already had this conversation with Bill, I guess. I just kinda wanted to know what you thought. Like Ben’s a catch, right? Any girl would be lucky to have him.”

Stan frowned. Something wasn’t right about this conversation. Richie wouldn’t meet Stan’s eyes, they were instead darting all over the place, looking at the bed, the wall, the comic book, anywhere but Stan.

“What do you mean you’ve had this conversation with Bill?” Stan finally said.

Richie looked up, surprised. His brow furrowed. “I mean, I’ve already asked Bill—”

 

It was 11:41 when he pulled up outside.

“Bill!” Stan took off one of Richie’s shoes and threw it towards Bill’s window, pleased when it bounced off. “Bill!” he repeated, hands cupped around his mouth. A few moments later, Bill’s head stuck out of the window. 

“What do you want, T-Trashmouth?” Bill yelled back.

“Can I have my shoe back? It’s on your roof.”

“Y-you mean the one you j-just threw?”

“Yeah, that one! Also I have a favor to ask!”

Bill retreated into his room, grumbling, and then climbed out onto the roof. He picked up Richie’s shoe and threw it at Stan, who caught it seconds before it would have smacked him in the face.

“What do you want, Richie?” Bill asked, annoyed. 

“Either I have to come inside or you have to come down here, Billiam, ‘cause this Romeo and Juliet bullshit isn’t gonna work for me.” Stan thought he was adjusting pretty well to pretending to be Richie. Bill let out some more disconnected grumbles.

“You can come in, Rich, my parents are still on that business trip.”

“Geez, Big Bill, how many business trips do your folks take a year?” Stan asked. It was something he’d always wondered, but he hadn’t had the guts to ask. Richie had no dignity or regard for social customs. 

“Beep beep, Richie,” Bill said, climbing back inside. Okay, so he hadn’t gotten the answer he wanted, but he’d gotten beep beeped for the first time, which had to show that he was developing a decent impersonation.

Stan stowed Richie’s bike against the garage door and stepped inside. He jogged up the stairs to Bill’s room, and was greeted with a scowl.

“Billy!” Stan greeted enthusiastically, arms wide. Being Richie was exhausting. 

“Richie, wh-what do you need.”

“I can’t stop by to see my favorite—”

“C-cut the b-b-bullshit, Rich, what do you need?”

“I—” Stan frowned. He’d forgotten what he’d come over to ask Bill. “I just had it.” 

“Are you okay, Richie?”

 

“Richie, please stop crying, please, let’s just start over, we can start tonight over and do whatever we like, just stop fucking crying, you know I don’t know what to do when people cry.”

“You’re fucking crying too, Staniel, you’re in no position to talk.” 

 

“No, I’m not fucking okay, Bill!” Stan snapped. “I remember what I need you to do. I need you to go to Stan’s house and tell his mom that you want to hang out because she actually likes you and doesn’t look at you like you’re dog-shit on her shoe. Then when she sends Stan out, you have to go with him to the library and leave him there because we have some bullshit school project we have to work on, and his mother fucking hates my guts right now because apparently Stan’s gone home from my house two nights in a row fucking crying and I don’t even remember what happened Saturday night, but Stan’s mom won’t let me see him and we need to do this school project or else we’ll be miserable for the rest of our fucking lives.” Stan heaved in a deep breath. “If Stan and I don’t do the research we need to do—”

“Richie, calm down, ” Bill said. He put his hands on Stan’s shoulders firmly and looked him in the eye. “Call S-Stan, t-t-tell him we’ll get him out of there in a b-bit, and then sit d-down and tell me what’s actually w-wr-wrong.”

Stan found himself using Bill’s landline to dial his own home phone number. 

“Uris residence, Stan speaking—” Stan heard his own voice from the other end of the line.

Stan, hey, it’s Richie, ” Stan said loudly. “I’m at Bill’s house. I know your mom doesn’t want you to see me right now, although let’s be real, she’s probably just jealous you’re getting more Tozier Time than she is,” Stan gagged internally at his own words. Richie stifled a laugh on the other end. “But I’m gonna send Big Bill by and he’ll pick you up, cause your parents don’t hate his guts. We can still go to the library, just hang tight, okay?”

“You bet, Richie,” Richie said. Then, “No, Mom, I said Ricky, you know Ricky. Ricky Caswell? I’m not talking to Richie—” The line went dead.

“Okay,” Bill said. “Now you c-can tell me what’s wr— what’s wro— fuck. Now you can tell me what’s w— god. Now you can tell me what’s the m-m-matter.”

Stan clenched and unclenched his fists. “I don’t know what you’re asking here, Bill.”

“S-something’s wrong, something y-you’re not telling me.”

Stan reached up and dragged both hands down his face. “Bill, you wouldn’t believe me if I told you,” he admitted quietly.

“I w-want you to tell me,” Bill said. “I’ll b-b-believe you.”

“Even if it doesn’t seem possible? Like at all?” 

“Richie, we k-killed a sh-shapeshifting d-demon sewer c-c-c-clown two y-years ago. I’m at the point i-in my life w-where I will l-l-literally believe any shit that h-happens to me.”

Stan took a long pause. “No, sorry, Bill. It’s not really my secret to share. It’s not Stan’s either. It’s like a mutual thing.”

“Is it a s-sewer clown level th-threat?”

Stan laughed. “Nope, no dead kids. Oh god, I hope not. Would that be fucked up or what? Let’s go, Billiam, we’ve got to rescue Staniel.”

Stan and Bill rode to Stan’s street, and Stan stopped at the corner.

“Go get ‘em, Tiger,” Stan said. Bill rolled his eyes and pedalled off towards Stan’s house. Stan sat on the curb and lit a cigarette. 

It was nearly 15 minutes later when Bill and Richie rode up.

“We really owe you one, Bill—” Richie was saying.

“I w-want to know whats g-going on with you two.” Bill said firmly. “I’m c-coming with you, wh-wherever you’re headed.”

If they hadn’t know Bill as well as they did, Richie and Stan might have argued. But Bill was stubborn and when he made up his mind, he made up his mind. Bill came with them.

When they stopped in front of the library, Bill shot the two of them a look.

“I d-didn’t think you were serious about the library,” he said.

“When am I ever not serious, Bill?” Stan asked, locking his bike into place.

“Literally all the time, Richie, you’ve never been serious in your life,” Richie said.

“Yeah, and you need to learn how to have fun,” Stan said. It was like a little game they were playing, this weird roundabout way of admitting their insecurities. Stan didn’t know how he felt about it. He turned to Bill. “Bill, can we have a moment to talk before we go inside?”

“S-sure, whatever,” Bill said, turning and heading up the library steps.

“Are we going to tell him?” Stan asked, as soon as Bill was out of earshot.

“It might be nice to have someone else in the loop,” Richie said, tapping his bottom lip contemplatively. “And we’re not gonna get much research done if we can’t tell him what we’re researching.”

“We’re not gonna get much research done no matter what,” Stan said sadly. “Unless we dip into the sci-fi section.”

“So we’ll tell him?”

“Sure, I guess.”

The two followed Bill into the library and found him at a table talking to—

“Mike!” Richie said, waving. Mike and Bill looked up. Mike smiled. 

“What on earth are you doing here, Michaelangelo?” Stan asked, taking a seat at the table.

“I’m sort of an unpaid intern,” Mike said with a gentle laugh. “I work here Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and usually Sundays after meeting. It doesn’t pay, but it’s good work experience, and I love this library.”

“Well, don’t let us stop you, working man!” Stan said. He loved Mike, but right now the fewer people that knew about this, the less embarrassing for him. Mike nodded.

“I should get back to reshelving. Feel free to ask if you need anything, though!”

“Y-you’re the b-b-best, Mike.” Bill smiled widely. 

Mike laughed. “As you keep reminding me, Bill. I’ll see you guys later.”

They responded with a chorus of ‘Bye, Mike’.

Bill turned to look at the two of them, eyes narrowed. “Now,” he said. “What the h-hell is g-going on with you guys.”

“The truth is, Bill—” Stan started. Richie laid a hand on Stan’s arm, as if to say ‘let me’. Stan nodded and reached into his bag to pull out a notebook.

“The truth is, Bill,” Richie said. He took a deep breath and glanced nervously at Stan. Stan nodded. “The truth is, I...uh...I fucked your mom.”

“Shut the fuck up, I fucking hate you!” Stan whisper-yelled, hitting Richie on the arm with his notebook. Richie yelped. 

“Awe, didn’t realize you liked it rough, Big Boy,” he said, eyeing the notebook. 

Stan rolled his eyes and looked at Bill. “I am seriously going to get brainrot from spending so much time with him.”

Bill looked taken aback. “S-sorry, what? D-did you two get a p-personality tr-transplant?”

“God that would be awful,” Stan said. “It’s bad enough pretending to be Richie, imagine actually being Richie. How fucking exhausting. I’m Stan, by the way, in case you hadn’t figured that out.”

“Oh shit, yeah, and I’m Richie.”

“Told you it seems kinda impossible, didn’t I, Big Bill? Shit, sorry, just Bill. I spend so much time pretending to be Richie, it’s bound to rub off just a bit.”

“Aw, I’m growing on you, Stanley!” Richie crooned, leaning in close.

“Beep beep, back up, Trashmouth, I’ve got boundaries.”

“You must have got your personal space issues from your dad, because your mom had no issue with me getting that close to her last night.”

“You’re revolting.”

“H-h-hang on,” Bill said. Stan was very suddenly reminded that he and Richie were not the only ones at that table. 

Stan cleared his throat, embarrassed. “Sorry, Bill.”

“You,” Bill pointed at Richie. “Y-you’re Richie, but you’ve got Stan’s body.”

Zhat eez correct, Monsieur ,” Richie replied, twirling an invisible moustache. 

“Don’t use my vocal cords to make your shitty voices,” Stan said.

“You,” Bill pointed at Stan, ignoring both of them. “You’re S-Stan, but you’re in R-Richie’s B-body.”

“Yeah, that’s right,” Stan said nervously. “I know it’s a lot to take in, I won’t blame you if you don’t believe—”

“Thank god.” Bill let out a long sigh, leaning across the table to wrap them both in a hug. “I th-thought something was seriously w-wrong. We can h-handle this.”

“You believe us?” Richie asked, his face smushed into Bill’s elbow.

“It explains a lot,” Bill said, pulling away. “You t-two were s-so weird y-yesterday, and w-when Rich—when Stan came to see m-me this morning, I really th-thought one of you was d-d-dying.”

“It happened sometime Saturday night,” Stan said. “I went over to Richie’s house after the havdalah . Richie and I fought but neither of us can remember anything that happened that night, apart from a few snippets of conversation here and there. I left Richie’s house late that night and went to sleep in my own room, but I woke up in Richie’s room in Richie’s body, and everything just kinda went to shit.”

“We keep arguing, too,” Richie said, drumming a pencil on the library table. “Like...we can’t remember what we fought about first, but it’s still making us fight.”

Bill seemed to chew on the inside of his cheek. “Wh-what I don’t unders-s-stand is why you two decided to k-keep this a secret. We’d a-all be happy to help.”

“We had initially hoped that we would wake up the next morning and we’d be back to normal,” Stan explained. “If that happened, there would have been no reason to get everyone worked up. So we’ve just been pretending to be each other.”

“And Stan’s been doing a rotten job of it,” Richie said. “He told my mom he was gonna try to go kosher. Me! Richie Tozier, Derry’s worst Jew!”

“And you started panicking and told my mother you put your pants on one leg at a time, just like everyone else, and brushed your teeth three times a day.”

Bill laughed. “Glad to kn-know n-nothing’s changed. Look, h-here’s the plan. I’ll help you d-do whatever r-research you want to do t-today, I’ll h-help you try to f-fix it, tomorrow, a-and on Wednesday. But i-if Thursday r-r-rolls around and you two haven’t got it sorted out, e-either you tell the others o-or I will. They’ll w-want to help you two, I know it.”

And that was that. When Bill Denbrough made up his mind, he made up his mind.

Which meant Stan and Richie had a deadline.

Approximately 30 sci-fi novels and a handful of cursory searches on the library computer yielded no results, and by 5:00, the three were feeling thoroughly discouraged. 

“The library closes at 6. You’ll still get home by 5:30 if you head out now, Richie. You have to get back to my place, my parents will murder my body if you bring it home late,” Stan said, gently closing the book he was examining.

Bill rubbed his temples. “That s-sentence alone is enough to g-give me a headache for the n-next five years.”

“I’ve had a near-constant headache since this whole thing started,” Stan said. “I can barely keep track of who I’m supposed to be acting like or how to refer to Richie or whether to call it his house or my house.”

“And I’ve been dying to jack off,” Richie added. Stan rolled his eyes, but Bill looked intrigued.

“Y-you mean you haven’t al-already?”

“Bill,” Stan said seriously, reaching across the table to take his friend’s hand. “This body has been wearing the same pants since Friday.”

“Well that’s fucking gross, Staniel,” Richie said with a grin. “Take a fucking shower, maybe.”

“I actually needed to talk to you about that,” Stan said quietly, glancing at Bill. Bill seemed to get the message and scooped up some books to return them to their shelves.

“Talk to me about what?” Richie asked, although something in his eyes told Stan that Richie already knew.

“What are our ground rules? For what we can do in each others bodies? Obviously I’ve had to piss, but, apart from that—”

“I mean, I already showered, Stan, last night,” Richie said. “Wouldn’t want your tidy little self to get grubby, now, would we?”

“Fine, yes, showering obviously has to happen, I’ll take one tonight,” Stan snapped. “And I’ll change pants. It’s just weird, Rich! It’s weird. I don’t know how to feel about it. It’s your body.”

“Not right now, though. Right now it’s yours.” Richie shrugged. “I don’t care if you see my magnum dong or, I dunno, jack off with it. It’s no foreskin off my nose.”

“No foreskin off your nose,” Stan muttered disbelievingly. “You’re a real fucking delight, you know that, Tozier?”

“Everyone says it, so it must be true,” Richie agreed jovially. He slapped Stan on the back. “Those are our boundaries then? Just treat it like your own body?”

“I guess,” Stan said. “There’s no telling how long we’ll be like this. Just don’t be disgusting.”

“Your body is a temple,” Richie said solemnly, clearly fighting back a smile. “Or maybe a synagogue.”

“Go home, Richie,” Stan said quietly. 

“Aye-aye, Captain!” Richie saluted dramatically and then turned and jogged off. Bill joined Stan at the table.

“A-are you all right, Stanley?” Bill asked. 

“Don’t forget that I’m still Richie around the others,” Stan said, ignoring the question. He stood. “I’m gonna smoke. You’re welcome to come.”

They found themselves outside the library, leaning on the bike rack. It was 5:24. There was nobody around. Stan carefully lit a cigarette and inhaled shortly, having had a little more practice at this point. He passed the cigarette to Bill, who took it.

“I meant what I said at the Quarry,” Stan said.

“Hm?” Bill asked around the cigarette.

“Those things’ll kill you.”

“Y-you’re smoking too,” Bill said, passing it back.

“Richie’s body is the one doing the smoking,” Stan clarified. “And I’m long past trying to get Richie to look after himself. I just thought you had sense.”

“I dunno,” Bill said. “It’s st-stupid, I guess. It j-just feels like I’ve spent a lot of t-time with my life in d-d-danger, and not had any choice in the matter. It f-feels good to make my own b-bad decisions, as long as I’m the one making the ch-choice”

“I don’t think that’s stupid, Bill,” Stan said gently. “I just think that you need to be aware. It’s a dangerous line you’re dancing on.”

“Th-that’s why I like it,” Bill said, accepting the cigarette back from Stan. They passed it back and forth for a while, not really speaking.

It was 5:30, Stan’s usual dinnertime curfew, when Mike joined them by the bike rack. Stan  stubbed the dwindling cigarette on the ground, before tucking the butt into his pocket. He didn’t see an ashtray anywhere. 

“You guys stuck around in the library for a while,” Mike said, unhooking his bike. “You looked so intense, I didn’t want to intrude.”

“Oh, you’re never intruding on us, Mike-n-Ike,” Stan said, throwing an arm over Mike’s shoulders in a signature Richie move. His eyes fell on Bill, who was stifling a laugh. He glared as if to say don’t, and Bill regained his composure quickly.

“What were you guys researching?” Mike asked. 

“S-s-school p-p-project,” Bill said quickly. Stan sighed internally. Bill was the worst liar among the losers, if only because his stutter always got worse when he was lying. It wasn’t his fault, but it could get frustrating when you had something to hide.

“On sci-fi novellas?” Mike asked amusedly.

Bill opened his mouth and closed it. Stan leapt to his defense.

“Literature project,” he said with an eye roll. “Lame as shit, but what’re you gonna do? Do you need someone to walk you home, Mike?” That last sentence was a lot more Stan than Richie, but Mike lived pretty far out and dusk was falling, and even with IT gone, Derry was not a kind town.

Mike smiled kindly. “No, thank you, Richie, that’s really kind. I’m actually having dinner at a friend’s house tonight, and her parents said they’d drive me home.”

“Wh-what friend?” Bill asked. 

“You probably don’t know her,” Mike said, swinging one leg over his bike. “I met her at meeting. Her name’s Anna. Anna Rosales.”

“Th-that’s uh...that’s—”

“That’s awesome, Mikey,” Stan said, shooting Bill a look. “We won’t keep you.”

“Y-yeah, h-have fun with A-Anna,” Bill said.

Mike’s eyes crinkled as his smile widened. “I’ll see you guys around,” he said. Mike pushed off of the ground and rode away.

“What’s wrong, Bill?” Stan asked quietly, pulling his own bike out of the bike rack.

“N-nothing, Rich—shit, s-sorry. Stan. Nothing’s wrong, Stan.”

“If you say so.”

“S-seeing you acting like R-Ri-Richie is pretty funny though.” Bill swung his leg over his bike.

“Yeah, yeah, yuk it up, Bill.” Stan rolled his eyes and pushed off with one foot. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“S-see you tomorrow, Stanley.”

Neither of Richie’s parents were home when Stan stepped into the house, but that wasn’t particularly unusual. Stan pulled some leftovers out of the fridge and tossed them into the microwave, before taking a seat at the table and drumming his fingers on it anxiously. Okay. He and the Losers were going to the clubhouse at 11:00, which meant another full day of pretending to be Richie. No worries, though, no stress. Everything would be fine.

Stan Uris ate his soggy leftovers. 

Stan Uris took a shower and determinedly did not look down the whole time.

Stan Uris went to sleep in Richie Tozier’s bed.

Stan Uris woke up in Richie Tozier’s bed.

Stan Uris sighed, resigned to his fate, and got dressed in another hideous Hawaiian shirt.

Chapter Text

Stan met Richie on the path towards the barrens, and they walked along together silently. Neither of them had much of anything to say to each other.

“H-hey, Stan, Richie,” a voice sounded from behind them.

“Bill!” Stan said, turning. Bill grinned at them.

“Any lu-luck?” he asked quietly. 

Stan shook his head ruefully. “Still Stan in here.”

“Hi, guys,” A familiar voice called. Stan spotted Eddie, who was jogging quickly down the trail to join the group. “Did you watch that horror marathon that was on? I was up all last night.”

“You do look really tired,” Stan started sympathetically, before remembering who he was supposed to be. “Not as tired as your mom, of course, given the workout I gave her—”

“Beep beep, Trashmouth,” Eddie said tiredly. Bill clapped a hand over his mouth to keep from laughing. Eddie looked at Bill strangely, and Bill muttered something about there being a bug on his lip.

“You should get more sleep, Eddie,” Richie said in a convincing impersonation of Stan’s “Dad Voice,” as the Losers called it. “You know your health comes before whatever movie you want to be watching.” The four of them arrived at the hidden entrance to the clubhouse, where Bev was waiting for them.

“You’re not my fucking mom, Stan. Oh, hi Bev!” Eddie’s face turned from a scowl to a genuine smile in a matter of seconds. Stan grinned. Bev did have that effect on people. And by people, he meant Losers. Bev had that effect on Losers. 

Bev smiled at the four of them. “Have any of you seen Ben this morning?”

“Nope,” Eddie said.

“Hope he’s okay,” Stan said, more to himself than to the others. 

Bev’s smile widened. “This is what, the second time in three days you’ve expressed concern for a friend? That’s gotta be a Richie Tozier record.” 

Shit, Stan thought. Too Stan-like. Say something Richie would say, imply that you’re sleeping with someone’s mother. “I just mean, as his future step-father, I feel I have certain responsibilities.” 

Richie snorted and tried to pass it off as a sneeze. Bill’s mouth was stretched tightly trying to hold a smile at bay, and his eyes were dancing with amusement. Stan glared at them. Some friends they were. 

Mike and Ben came down the path a moment later. Stan raised a hand in greeting.

“Mikey!” he called. “How was your date?” Stan grinned. Being able to say whatever the hell he liked was great. 

Mike flushed. “It wasn’t a date, Richie,” he said. At the same time, Bill said “It was just d-dinner,” and Bev delightedly screamed “Date?”

Beverly bounded across the clearing towards Mike, and Stan followed, knowing full well that Richie and Bev would be the most intrusive about this sort of thing. 

Richie grabbed Stan’s arm on the way past. “Please can I bug him about it, please, Stan?” he whispered. 

Stan rolled his eyes. “I’ll fill you in later, dick.”

Stan joined Bev, who was already grilling Mike.

“What’s her name? Mike, you didn’t tell us you liked anyone!”

“Her name’s Anna, and I don’t like her like that,” Mike said, his hands up in a placating gesture. Out of the corner of his eye, Stan watched the other four descend into the clubhouse. 

As he watched, Richie called; “Don’t forget your showercaps!” It was exactly what Stan himself might have said.

Stan turned his attention back to Mike and Bev, who were arguing good-naturedly about whether or not dinner with someone’s parents counted as a date.

“Pretty sure that’s only a date if you’ve already been dating for a while,” Stan said. “But if it’s the first date, it’s not a date at all.”

“Thank you, Richie,” Mike said. Bev pouted. 

“I just want Mike to find someone who loves and appreciates him as much as we love and appreciate him,” she said. 

Stan laughed and began to walk towards the clubhouse entrance. “He’s gonna be looking for a very long time, then!” He started down the ladder. “There’s nobody in the world who loves Mike more than us.”

“Damn right!” Richie called up from the clubhouse. Stan froze at the out-of-character remark, but relaxed and continued his descent when the others joined in, voicing their agreement.

“Guys,” Mike laughed, climbing down quickly.

“Nobody loves any of the losers more than the losers love the losers,” Richie said solemnly. 

Bev hopped down into the hole and stood, brushing dust off of her dress. “Well put, Stanley,” she said. Richie grinned at her.

“Oi, Eds, you’re in my seat,” Stan said, gesturing for Eddie to get out of the hammock. 

“Doesn’t got your name on it, Trashmouth,” Eddie replied coolly. 

“Budge up, then,” Stan said, clambering into the hammock beside Eddie. Eddie protested weakly. 

Two bodies in the hammock was not as comfortable as Stan had hoped. Still, Richie never gave up when it came to the hammock, and Stan could not break character. 

He twisted and writhed until he and Eddie were both firmly situated in the hammock, and Eddie scowled at him.

“Get your feet out of my face, Richie,” Eddie said.

“Make me,” Stan shot back.

Eddie grumbled but didn’t try to shove Stan out. He turned his attention back to his friends. The conversation had turned back to Mike and Anna. 

“Why haven’t we heard of her up until now?” Ben was asking. Mike ran a hand down his face.

“Because we only started talking recently.”

“A-and y-you like her?” Bill said.

“I don’t know,” Mike admitted. “I think she likes me, but I’m still not sure what I’m supposed to think about all of this.”

 

“I mean, what am I supposed to think, Stan? What am I supposed to think at this point? How about you just fucking man up and—”

“Oh, man up? Man up? I need to man up? Hey, you know what? Fuck you, Richie. I can’t fucking stand you. How about you quit it with these goddamn mind games and just—”

“Just what , Stan? Just tell me what to do and I’ll fall at your fucking feet. Tell me that you love me and I’ll follow you to the ends of the goddamn earth.”

“Richie—”

“Tell me you want me and I’ll stick my tongue down your throat, Stan. Is that what you want to hear?”

 

Oh. Oh god. Stan shoved his way out of the hammock hastily and stumbled towards the ladder.

“Richie?” Richie asked. “Are you okay?”

“Air,” Stan muttered, gripping the ladder. Sweat was quickly dampening his forehead, and a stale scent pervaded his nostrils. He clambered up quickly and stumbled to the edge of the clearing, where he heaved his entire breakfast out of his stomach. Richie was a nervous vomiter, which must have been what happened. Richie’s weak stomach must have come with the body as opposed to being a psychological thing. 

Stan straightened, and ripped a large leaf off of a low hanging branch to wipe his mouth with. 

So. He and Richie had fought. Stan knew that. Stan had known that he and Richie had fought. Finding out what the fight was about should have been a relief. Instead, Stan was at least ten times more stressed than he had been a mere five minutes ago. 

He needed more details. Had Richie told Stan he was in love with him? As a sick joke of some sort? How had Richie known that Stan was— 

But no, no, Richie had seemed sincere, in Stan’s mind’s eye. Richie had seemed desperate, pleading, furious. Richie had seemed like he’d meant it.

Stan was not queer. He’d decided that when he was 10. He’d sat down in front of the mirror, and he’d told himself, “You are normal, Stanley.” 

And he’d believed it. He’d believed it enough that he was able to dismiss the way his eyes seemed to naturally trail up Bill’s side when they got changed for gym, the way his stomach fluttered when Mike laughed at a joke he’d cracked. Stan could dismiss all of that. But what had he meant? What sort of floodgate had opened on Saturday night? And god, what sort of flood had come pouring out?

A hand clutching a water bottle appeared at his side. Stan accepted it without looking to see who gave it to him, and chugged about a quarter of the bottle.

“Thanks,” he said quietly.

“No problemo, Stan-the-man,” Stan’s own voice replied. Stan shivered and turned to face Richie, wearing Stan’s own body, looking at him concernedly.

“Richie,” Stan muttered.

“You feeling all right?”

“No thanks to your fucking body.” Stan hated how shakey his voice was. “Forgot you were a nervous vomiter.”

“Hey, guys?” Bev’s voice called from the ladder. “Is Richie okay? Eddie’s freaking.” 

Stan’s eyes widened. Shit, Eddie. He bolted across the clearing and stuck his head down through the trapdoor.

“Eduardo, you good?” Stan called.

“H-he’s having an as-asthma attack,” Bill explained. “B-because you were in the hammock with him.”

“I’m not sick, Eds!” Stan said, trying to inject some sense of comfort into his words. “You don’t have to worry! It’s okay! You know I puke when I experience, like, any strong emotion ever!”

“How do you know you’re not sick?” Eddies shrill voice replied. “My mom’s gonna fucking quarantine me for two weeks if I throw up! And don’t call me Eds!”

“I swear I’m not sick, Eds! But I’ll wear one of Stan’s shower caps over my face if it’ll make you feel better.”

“You’d fucking suffocate, asshole!”

“I think that’d be nicer for everyone involved,” Richie said loudly.

“Shut up, Stanley!” Stan said.

“B-besides,” Bill said, quickly cutting Eddie off. “With small v-viruses, by the time the s-symptoms start to show up, th-the person is no longer contagious, and y-you didn’t see Richie at all yesterday, which would have been p-prime virus catching time.”

Stan thought that sounded a little bit like complete and utter bullshit, but it also calmed Eddie down enough for Stan to be allowed to climb back down into the clubhouse.

“So,” Stan said, a fake smile plastered across his face. “Mike’s girlfriend, huh?”

The other losers seemed to quickly forget Stan’s episode, dismissing it as Just One of Those Richie Tozier Things, and they turned their conversation back to bugging Mike.

So. Stan knew what the argument was about. Something to do with love. With want. 

Unfortunately, until he remembered anything else, that was all Stan knew. Of course, then the next big question came. Did Richie remember?

“Okay, but here’s the most important question,” Ben was saying. “Is there going to be a second date?”

Mike rubbed the back of his neck. “She asked me if I wanted to go to the movies with her on Thursday, and I said yes. I don’t think it’s a date though.”

“Sounds like a date to me,” Bev said, grinning.

“I just don’t think I like her in that way.” 

“W-why n-not?”

“I dunno,” Mike said. “She’s an awesome friend, but she’s not really my type.”

“All right, all right,” Stan said quickly. “Let’s not crowd the man, can’t you see he’s getting uncomfortable?”

“What is that, the first time in your life you’ve pulled anyone back from a joke?” Eddie said from the hammock. “Who are you and what have you done with the real Richie Tozier?”

Stan opened his mouth and closed it, mind racing a mile a minute. What the fuck. Eddie couldn’t be that perceptive, could he? Sure, along with Bill, Eddie had known them the longest, but—

“Close your mouth, Richie, you’ll catch flies,” Eddie said. Stan shut his mouth.

 

Their lips were connected only briefly, but it was enough. Some kind of electrical spark jolted through Stan’s body and he pulled away, eyes wide.

And Stan sucked in a sharp breath, and Richie smiled, and Stan was thinking that if this was what he had been missing out on, then he and Richie really, really needed to do this more often. He leaned in further, his hand reaching up to cup Richie’s cheek. Richie nestled into the touch as if the two of them had been doing this for years, whatever this was. Stan pressed his lips against Richie’s and Richie’s mouth was warm and soft and it fit against Stan’s like a perfectly cut puzzle piece. Stan moved in closer and Richie’s hands moved, one hand reaching up to cup the back of Stan’s head, the other on Stan’s knee. Then the hand on Stan’s knee moved to Stan’s thigh and Stan was breaking the kiss and pushing Richie away, both their faces flushed.

 

What the fuck. Stan might have puked again if he had anything left in his stomach. As it was, he lifted a trembling hand and pulled his glasses off his face, cleaning them on the hem of his shirt (Richie’s glasses, Richie’s face, Richie’s shirt!)

He had kissed Richie on Saturday night. And he had liked it, god, he had gone in for a second one. That didn’t sound like anything Stan would have done, that didn’t feel like him.  

“No, crabs are badass as hell!” Eddie was saying, and wow had the conversation changed since Stan last checked in. “You chop off a claw and they grow a new one right back!”

“That doesn’t sound right.” Bev tapped her finger against her cheek thoughtfully. “I think that’s starfishes.”

“Pretty sure it’s just starfish. The plural, I mean,” Richie said, his face (Stan’s face!) pensive.

“I think octopi grow tentacles back too,” Mike added.

“Okay now you’re just fucking with me,” Eddie said. “It’s crabs, crabs are the ones that grow back their limbs.”

“Imagine growing back a limb after it gets chopped off,” Ben said. “I think that’d be pretty gross, really. Like the regenerative process would be really slow.”

Bill sidled up to Stan. “H-hey, Richie, ” he said quietly. Stan quirked an eyebrow. Bill continued even quieter than before, “I usually ask Trashmouth, but since th-that’s you right now, it kinda b-becomes your job, sorry, Stan. Just, c-can you make them quit it w-with the severed limbs talk?” 

Stan’s eyes widened. He hadn’t even thought about how Bill might feel about the conversation. “I think,” Stan said loudly. “That if your dick grew a sixteenth of an inch every time you jacked off, that’d be pretty fucked up.” Bill shot Stan a look that was equal parts thankful and amused. Stan shrugged.

“What the fuck goes on inside your head, Richie?” Eddie said, twisting in the hammock to face Stan.

“You’d be surprised,” Stan muttered, drawing a laugh from Bill. 

“No, I’m serious, where did that come from?” Eddie asked.

“Was thinking about Wolverine’s dick,” Stan said in a faux-confession.

Richie had his entire face buried in his hands and was shaking with suppressed laughter.

“See, look what you’ve done, Trashmouth!” Bev said, forcing words out through her own laughter. “You’ve made Stan cry!”

“Like mother like son, I guess,” Stan said absently. “Andrea gets overwhelmed when the conversation turns to cocks as well.”

“B-beep beep, Richie,” Richie said, still desperately trying to conceal his laughter.

“What does wolverine’s dick have to do with penis enlargement?” Mike asked, looking genuinely interested.

“Oh, Hanlon, Baby, you’re gonna be so glad you asked,” Stan said. This was perfectly easy. Turn off his brain-to-mouth filter as best as he could. He couldn’t face any repercussions, it was Richie’s body doing all the talking. Stan launched into an explanation about how he was considering how Wolverine’s regeneration would affect his dick if it got chopped off, and if it changed size or shape or anything when it grew back. Nobody interrupted him, so Stan kept talking. Stan said that if his dick got just a tiny bit bigger every time he chopped it off, he’d spend a lot less time jerking it and a lot more time up in his room with a bagel slicer.

Bill finally cut him off, teary-eyed with suppressed laughter. He grabbed his shoulder and whispered, “S-Stanley Uris, I didn’t know you had it in y-you.” 

Stan grinned sheepishly. “This is going to be so fucking embarrassing if we don’t figure out how to fix this before the others find out,” he whispered back. Somehow, though, Stan couldn’t find it in himself to care.

The losers eventually unanimously agreed to migrate out of the clubhouse and in towards town.

Stan walked besides Eddie, who was oddly quiet. Stan didn’t mind the quiet. He let the rest of the Losers lead the way along the path, happy to bring up the rear with Eddie.

“You all right, Trashmouth?” Eddie finally asked. 

“I’m just fine, Eddie, why?” Stan said.

“I mean, that was a perfectly normal human sentence that you just said right there. And you called me Eddie, which you kinda just...like...don’t do? I mean, sue me, Richie, I’m just sorta worried about you.”

Stan considered spilling the beans right there. Eddie was looking at him so earnestly and kindly, like he really wanted to know. Stan was tired, tired from the hour he’d spent standing in the clubhouse, tired from pretending to be Richie, tired from the war raging between his mind and his Saturday night memories. Stan barely had it in himself to pretend to be Richie any more.

To Stan’s horror, tears pricked at the corner of his eyes, and he had to stop walking to push his glasses up and wipe them away.

“I’m, I’m just— fuck, no, shit, I’m not crying. It’s j-just, Eddie, I—fuck! g-g- god! I’m so fucking tired, Eddie!” His voice sounded tear-laden and hollow, even to his own ears. “I’m so fucking tired, and nothing’s getting any better!”

“Richie?”

“Fuck,” Stan swore, and rubbed his eyes furiously in an attempt to staunch the free-flowing tears. “I can’t fucking do this anymore.”

“Okay, Richie,” Stan heard his own voice say. Bill and Richie had joined Stan and Eddie, while the other three Losers hung back, looking worried. Bill motioned for them to leave, and with one last glance back, Bev, Ben, and Mike turned and continued along the trail. Richie seemed to wait until they were out of sight, and then grabbed Stan’s hand. “Okay. Come with me, remember Bill said he’d help us today? We’re going to figure it out, come on, Rich .”

“Y-yeah,” Bill said. “We said w-we’d fix it t-today.”

“Fix what?” Eddie looked between the three of them. “What’s wrong with Richie?”

“What if we can’t fix it?” Stan said hoarsely. It was the first time any of them had voiced the fear out loud. For a moment, Stan, Richie, and Bill were alone in the world, just staring at each other, terrified. And then Eddie asked a concerned question, and Stan was harshly reminded that they were not alone.

“Sorry, Eds,” Stan said.

“Not my name,” Eddie said, but he didn’t look angry.

“C-can you do us a f-favor, Eddie?” 

“Sure, Bill.”

“The others are going to ask you wh-what happened. C-can you not tell th-them anything Richie said? It’s not s-something we’re comfortable talking about r-right now.” Bill was talking to Eddie, but his eyes were firmly on Stan.

“But—”

P-please, Eddie.”

“Okay, Bill. Sure. But, uh, keep me in the loop, maybe?” Eddie was looking at Stan with something dangerously like pity in his eyes. Don’t pity me, Eddie, please god, do anything, but don’t pity me. 

“W-we’ll let you know,” Bill said firmly. He then not-so-subtly gestured with his head as if to tell Eddie to get a move on. Eddie looked offended for a moment before apparently deciding that arguing with Bill just wasn’t worth it. 

Eddie left the three alone. 

It stung a little to keep Eddie in the dark. Before the summer of 1989, it was just them in the Losers Club. It was Stan, Richie, Bill and Eddie, so closely knit that they became StanRichieBillandEddie, never really mentioned without the others. When the other three came in, they fit into the group as if they’d always been there, sure, but the dynamic was different now, and it didn’t feel quite so traitorous that the three of them knew something that Eddie didn’t. It would have been a big deal before, but now— 

Stan sank onto a large rock and buried his face in his hands. Or, he tried to bury his face in his hands, but Richie’s fucking glasses were right there and in the way. Stan ripped them off of his face (Richie’s face, Richie’s face which he was wearing, he was wearing Richie’s face) and bit down on his wrist (Richie’s wrist) to muffle his scream of frustration.

Bill and Richie glanced at each other worriedly.

“S-Stan,” Bill started. 

“Shut the fuck up, Bill,” Stan said quietly. He heaved a great sigh and pushed himself to his feet, refusing to look at Richie. “We need to fix this. Right now. I’m sick and tired of this shit.”

“I h-have the list,” Bill said. Stan knew Bill was talking about the list of things they’d come up with in the library, the list of ways to try to fix it.

Stan was tired.  He’d spent the last two and a half days pretending to be his best friend, who was a very tiring person to pretend to be. He’d thrown up, talked for almost five minutes about Wolverine’s penis, been looked at as if he were the scum of the earth by his own mother, made a sex joke about his own mother , smoked multiple cigarettes, taken a shower with the lights off, and had at least three semi-public breakdowns.

He had kissed his best friend and there was no going back from that.

“What’s number one? On the list, I mean,” Stan said finally. 

“It’s...el-el-electrocute you both at the s-same time, from that one about the woman who swaps with her cat.”

“Easy enough,” Richie said with an exaggerated grimace. “Toaster in the bath.”

“Not fucking funny, Richie,” Stan said. “Let’s hold off on electrocution for now, Bill.”

“N-number two is h-hook your brains up to each other w-with those w-wires they use in hospitals, like in that political dystopia.”

“Oh, yeah, sure, let’s just pop down to Keene’s drugstore and buy some of those,” Stan said harshly. “What else can we try?”

“S-sleep in the same b-bed, like in that robot r-romance.”

“I can’t imagine why that would do anything, but either way we’d have to wait until tonight” Stan was getting increasingly frustrated. “Anything we can try to do right now?”

“G-get abducted b-by aliens, like in—”

Stan threw his hands in the air. “This is bullshit! These are all bullshit! I can’t believe we wasted an entire day in the library for this shit!”

“We’re going about this all wrong, anyway,” Richie added. The other two turned to look at him. “We can’t hope to solve a problem if we don’t know what caused the problem. That’s like trying to staple together two pieces of wet paper when you can’t tell that they’re wet.”

“That's a really bullshit metaphor.”

Richie shrugged. “It’s a simile, actually, but that’s besides the point. What I mean is that Stanny and I don’t even know why we ended up like this anyway. We know we argued on Saturday night, but we don’t remember anything that happened. It’s like I’m drawing one big blank from when Staniel got to my house until the next morning, when I was woken up by my own face.”

“That is st-strange.” Bill tugged at the hem of his shirt, clearly lost in thought. “M-maybe if you remember what h-happened, y-you can try to recr—fuck, you can try to re-rec-recr—”

“Recreate,” Stan said.

“The events of S-Saturday night. Thanks, Stan.”

“Yeah.” Stan pushed himself up from the rock and started back and forth between the two. “Recreate Saturday night? I’d rather have my toenails pulled out one by one,” he said calmly. “Fuck, I’d rather be alone in the sewers with a clown eating my face for the rest of time. No thank you, Bill.”

“D-do you remember Saturday?” Bill asked.

“You told me you couldn’t remember anything.” Richie sounded accusatory and hurt, and Stan hated it. 

He pushed them both aside and practically stormed up the path. He knew it was unfair. Bill didn’t know what he was asking Stan to do. Richie couldn’t remember anything that had happened.

Still.

Stan grabbed his bike (Richie’s bike, Richie’s fucking bike) from where he had stashed it in a bush, and kicked off from the ground. 

One great thing about being Richie Tozier was that no adult expected you to behave rationally. Stan hurtled down main street, weaving between the few cars that shared the road with him. He was riding faster than he’d ever ridden before. He shot like a bullet over the crosswalk, missing his least favorite teacher by less than a foot. 

He rode, not knowing exactly where he was going. 

All he could hear was his tires against the pavement and all he could feel was the wind in his hair. 

Stan rode past Ben’s house, and past Bev’s aunt’s apartment. He shot past his own house and didn’t spare it a single look.

He was Richie Tozier, and Richie Tozier could do whatever the hell he liked.

He was Richie Tozier and probably nobody would care if Richie Tozier kissed a boy. 

He was Richie Tozier and nothing could do anything to him.

Stan didn’t realize where he was headed until he finally pulled up outside. Of course, once Stan found himself there, it made perfect sense.

Stan left Richie’s bike lying on its side on the front lawn of the house on Neibolt.

Chapter Text

Stan’s feet carried him up the steps before he could let himself think better of it. He gently pushed the door open and stepped inside. 

He was instantly hit with an overwhelming aura of Bad Things. It was like everything the town had been feeling in the summer of ‘89 compressed into one place, and it was suffocating.

This was stupid. He wasn’t even in his own body, and if this body got hurt, it was Stan’s fault he’d gotten his best friend injured.

Yet, somehow—

An old memory resurfaced. It had been the third grade, and Henry Bowers had told him: “In the house on Neibolt, nobody can hear you scream.”

At the time, Stan had been terrified of the sentiment, but now he was filled with an overwhelming calm. He shut the door behind him and stepped further into the house.

The house was quiet, but not eerily so. Not the kind of quiet that comes from a parent right before they start yelling, and not the kind of quiet that comes from an air conditioner suddenly shutting off. A kind of comforting blanket of stillness that wrapped Stan up and pervaded his lungs.

Although the air smelled like mildew and rotten things, Stan took a deep breath. 

In the house on Neibolt, nobody can hear you whisper.

“I kissed my best friend,” Stan said, so quietly he almost couldn’t hear it. It felt more like a breath of wind than a real sentence, but Stan had said it. 

Stan felt suddenly spurred forward and took a couple large, quick steps into another room. A mirror stared at him from the opposite wall. All he could see in it were his head and shoulders. Richie’s head and shoulders. The face Stan was wearing.

He stepped closer to the mirror, and if he tunnelled his vision just so, it was almost as if he were looking at Richie in person, and not at his own reflection.

Stan closed his eyes so he wouldn’t have to watch Richie-in-the-mirror’s mouth move when Stan spoke.

“I kissed you,” he whispered. “I don’t know what happened that night but I kissed you, and you kissed back, and somewhere along the way, something went wrong, and I went home crying. I wish I could give you more than that. I wish I could tell you the whole story, but I kissed you. I think we kissed twice.” His voice grew steadily more supported until it was less of a whisper and more of a murmur, and then eventually a full mumble. Stan cleared his throat and looked into Richie’s eyes, staring back at him from the mirror. If he just looked at Richie’s eyes, if he didn’t let his peripheral vision hone in on Richie’s mouth, then he could pretend it was really Richie he was saying this to.

“I think I like you,” he said finally, still mumbling. “I also think I’m not supposed to. I think I’ve liked you for a very long time, and I know I’m not supposed to.” He closed his eyes again and rocked back and forth on the balls of his feet. His voice was louder when he spoke again. Almost a normal speaking volume. “I think I like boys. No, I know I like boys. And I don’t know if that’s wrong, or if there’s something wrong with me, or if you’d hate me if you knew, but I like boys.” Stan opened his eyes and spun away from the mirror, jogging towards the stairs. He took them two at a time, ending up on the second floor. Stan had never been on the second floor, but according to the others, they had seen some awful things here. All Stan saw was a mattress with a large tear in the center and a hallway with a giant hole in the middle.

There was no clown here.

There was only Stan Uris, and Stan Uris was Richie Tozier, and Richie Tozier was brave.

“That’s what I like about you,” he said into the empty house. “You don’t take shit from anyone. I’ve spent my entire life lying flat on my back letting the world run me over with a steamroller.” His voice grew steadily louder. “I think I’ve liked you, really really liked you for a very long time. If I kissed Bill, it probably wouldn’t matter, really. I think I’d panic about it for a day or two and then move on.” Stan took a step towards the hole in the hallway. This was where Eddie had fallen through and broken his arm. He got down on all fours and stared through the hole at the fridge. The clown had crawled out of that thing, and he, Mike, Ben, and Bev had come running in.

“I’m not afraid of what’s in that fridge,” Stan said, just a little louder. “Because there’s nothing in there.” He shot to his feet. “And I’m not afraid of myself, because there’s nothing wrong with me.” He turned and shot back down the stairs, and didn’t stop. He ran through the kitchen and down the first few basement stairs, leaned over the railing, and looked at the well. That fucking well.

There was nothing there. 

“I’m not afraid of what’s down that well,” he said. Because right now, he was Richie Tozier, and Richie Tozier was brave. “And I’m not afraid of who I want to kiss. I want to kiss my best friend.” He ran back up the stairs and stood in the kitchen, and looked up through the hole in the ceiling. “My name is Stan Uris,” he said, his voice smaller than he’d intended. He cleared his throat and spoke louder. “My name is Stan Uris,” and his voice lifted into a shout, into a battle cry. “My name is Stan Uris, and I want to kiss boys!”

 

Richie swung his door shut and grinned at Stan. “And now it’s just you and me, Staniel-the-Maniel.”

Stan rolled his eyes. “Yeah, yeah. You said you had a new comic you wanted to show off?”

“I do! Here, it’s still flat.” Richie pulled a comic out of his backpack and shoved it under Stan’s nose.

“Wow,” Stan said with faux superiority. “The one thing you’re supposed to do with a comic book is keep it from folding, and you’ve done that, thereby achieving the exact bare minimum required in comic book care. Do you want a medal?”

“Are you offering one?”

The two of them collapsed onto Richie’s bed, Stan leant against the headboard, book propped open on his lap. Richie sprawled across the bottom of the bed, his legs waving lazily in the air. They sat in comfortable silence, the kind of quiet that only years of trust and friendship can usher in. 

Stan turned a page and Richie wiggled around to face him. 

“Hey, Stan, do you ever think about what it would be like if you were a girl?”

Stan raised an eyebrow. “My mother not enough for you, Richie?”

“No, god bless her heart, what a gal, absolutely divine in bed—”

“I get it, Richie.”

Richie stuck his tongue out at Stan. “No, I just mean, Stan, like, if you were a girl, who would you want to date?”

Stan’s stomach dropped out, leaving a gaping chasm in his gut. He swallowed. “Don’t know why you’d want to know something like that, Trashmouth.”

“I mean, I’ve already had this conversation with Bill, I guess. I just kinda wanted to know what you thought. Like Ben’s a catch, right? Any girl would be lucky to have him.”

Stan frowned. Something wasn’t right about this conversation. Richie wouldn’t meet Stan’s eyes, they were instead darting all over the place, looking at the bed, the wall, the comic book, anywhere but Stan.

“What do you mean you’ve had this conversation with Bill?” Stan finally said.

Richie looked up, surprised. His brow furrowed. “I mean, I’ve already asked Bill which of us he’d want to date if he were a girl.”

“Why does he have to be a girl? You know he likes Beverly.”

“I think he’s over her by now, to be fair,” Richie said. “Besides, the whole point of the question is about what guy you’d be into if you were a girl.”

“Why do you have to be a girl to like a guy?” Stan snapped, and then instantly wished he could recall the words. Richie was looking at him with an unreadable expression, and Stan sank backwards into Richie’s headboard, wishing he could disappear under the covers, wishing that he could leave, or that he was at his own house and could tell Richie to leave.

Richie smiled sadly and rolled over until he was staring at his ceiling. “I don’t know, it’s just the way things are, isn’t it?”

“Yeah, it is the way things are, you’re right. Girls like boys and boys like girls.” Stan’s words sounded harsh even to his own ears.

He wasn’t saying anything wrong though. He knew the way things were supposed to be. And girls were very pretty. Stan liked pretty things, like girls and sparrows and unusual trees and Richie and larks and flowers and doves and— 

Not Richie.

Richie wasn’t pretty. He was pretty weird looking.

Richie wasn’t pretty in the way girls or birds were pretty.

“What are you thinking about, Stan?” Richie asked softly. Stan met Richie’s eyes. The dark haired boy was wearing an expression Stan had never seen before. It was soft, open, almost vulnerable.

“You,” Stan said, finding himself unable to lie to Richie when he was looking at him like that. Stan almost tried to retract the statement, but he saw the ways Richie’s eyes crinkled and suddenly his denial was caught in his throat.

“What are you thinking about me?” Richie said, sitting up. Stan joined him so they were both sitting on the edge of Richie’s bed.

“I think you’re really pretty,” Stan whispered. If he’d tried to say it any louder, he knew he wouldn’t have been able to force the words out. But right then, it was just him and Richie and they were the only people in the universe. The words felt like a confession, like an admittance of weakness or an admission to some horrible secret.

“Well, it’s kinda funny how the world works, isn’t it?” Richie said, and oh god, Stan had not realized how close Richie’s face was to his. “Cause I think you’re really pretty too, Stan.”

Richie was so close. Some deep, instinctual part of Stan’s brain whispered, closer.

Stan leant in closer.

Their lips were connected only briefly, but it was enough. Some kind of electrical spark jolted through Stan’s body and he pulled away, eyes wide.

And Stan sucked in a sharp breath, and Richie smiled, and Stan was thinking that if this was what he had been missing out on, then he and Richie really, really needed to do this more often. He leaned in further, his hand reaching up to cup Richie’s cheek. Richie nestled into the touch as if the two of them had been doing this for years, whatever this was. Stan pressed his lips against Richie’s and Richie’s mouth was warm and soft and it fit against Stan’s like a perfectly cut puzzle piece. Stan moved in closer and Richie’s hands moved, one hand reaching up to cup the back of Stan’s head, the other on Stan’s knee. 

Then the hand on Stan’s knee was on Stan’s thigh and Stan was breaking the kiss and pushing Richie away, both their faces flushed.

“Well, hot damn, Stan-the-man! Someone call the fucking fire department, because I am burning up here! Yowza!”

“Shut up, Richie,” Stan snapped. “I need to think.”

“What? What do you mean? I liked that, Stan, I liked that a lot!

“I did too! Or, no, I didn’t. I didn’t like that much at all, actually.”

“What?”

“I’m not queer, Richie. Fuck.” Stan stood and started pacing.

Richie shot to his feet as well. “Well you’ve got a funny way of showing it,” he said, arms crossed firmly across his chest. 

“What about Eddie’s mom? You’re always talking about fucking her. What happened to that?”

“Really Stan? You think I’ve actually legitimately got the hots for Sonia Kaspbrak? I make jokes about it cause Eds is cute when he’s angry.”

“Stop! Stop talking about this as if it’s normal! I can’t do this! Where’s my bag, I have to go—”

“What the fuck, Stan? You think I’m okay with this? I’m panicking! I just kissed someone for the first time in my fifteen-year-old life, and it’s you! My best fucking friend! I’m trying to treat it like its all fucking normal, and you’re making it into a big deal and that means that I’m freaking out about it now too!”

“Richie, we can’t do this! I can’t do this! What the fuck, I’m not queer!”

“Stan-the-man gets off a good one, I guess!” Richie threw his arms up into the air. “At the expense of the resident Trashmouth, no less. Waka waka, Stan, you’re a real comedic genius.” Richie sounded genuinely upset.

“It’s not a joke, Richie! It was never a joke for me, but apparently you think so little of me that you’d believe I’d joke about shit like that!”

“I mean, what am I supposed to think, Stan? What am I supposed to think at this point? How about you just fucking man up and—”

“Oh, man up? Man up? I need to man up? Hey, you know what? Fuck you, Richie. I can’t fucking stand you. How about you quit it with these goddamn mind games and just—”

“Just what, Stan? Just tell me what to do and I’ll fall at your fucking feet. Tell me that you love me and I’ll follow you to the ends of the goddamn earth.”

“Richie—”

“Tell me you want me and I’ll stick my tongue down your throat, Stan. Is that what you want to hear?”

“I do love you!” Stan whispered harshly. Richie froze. “I do want you. Is that what you want to hear? I think I’ve loved you since I met you! I can’t deal with this, Richie! Derry is already shitty enough without piling this...this queer shit on top of everything else!”

Stan barely noticed the hot tears pricking the corners of his eyes, but it was impossible to ignore when the first tear rolled out of Richie’s wide eyes.

Stan sank down onto Richie’s bed and stared at his hands. Richie swallowed and turned away, pulling his spare sleeping bag down from his closet and unrolling onto the floor. Stan shucked his shoes off and put them down against the wall by the door, making sure they were perfectly aligned with each other. Richie said nothing, and Stan didn’t break the silence.

“Are we going to talk about it?” Richie finally asked, wriggling himself into his sleeping bag. Stan frowned as he crawled into Richie’s bed.

“Uh, no, Richie, we’re repressing it and pretending it never happened. I thought I made that clear.”

“But I want to talk about it. This isn’t nothing to me, Stan, this is a really big thing for me.”

“It matters to me too,” Stan said quietly.  “Just go to sleep, Richie, we can talk about it in the morning.”

“I want to talk about it now, Stan.”

“In the morning.”

“No!” Richie sat up and squirmed quickly out of his sleeping bag and stumbled a bit on his way towards Stan. “No, Stan, because in the morning, you’re going to pretend this never happened, and I’m going to let you because I won’t want to push it because this is the scariest thing that’s ever happened to me and I don’t want to lose my best friend to some stupid crush. We have to sort this out, Stan, I’m going to go crazy trying to sleep in the same room as you when I’m so in love with you I can’t even look at you without my entire body feeling like it’s on fire.” And oh shit, if Stan had thought Richie was crying before, Richie was definitely crying now. Tears slid down Richie’s cheeks faster than Stan could count them, and Stan was going to go insane if he kept watching this.

“I can’t talk about this, Richie,” Stan said finally. “It’s not an option for me, but please stop crying.”

“It’s not an option for you? Bullshit, Stan! Bullshit. It’s not an option for either of us, you know it’s not! We’re not allowed to be like this, but we’re Losers, aren’t we? Fuck, Stan, if I knew that one day I’d get to kiss you, all the shit we’ve gone through, all the fear, all the fucking everything, Stan, it would all have been worth it! And you’re going to walk away from this as if nothing ever happened. Please tell me you love me, please just say it again, I can’t take this, I can’t fucking do it if I don’t think you love me.”

“Richie, please stop crying, please, let’s just start over, we can start tonight over and do whatever we like, just stop fucking crying, you know I don’t know what to do when people cry.”

“You’re fucking crying too, Staniel, you’re in no position to talk.” And oh, Richie was right. Stan was crying. 

“You know we can’t do this, whatever this is. I’m sorry, Richie.” Stan stood. “I have to go.”

“Please don’t,” Richie said.

Stan picked his shoes up and pulled them back on. “I’m leaving. This never happened.” He made eye contact with Richie, daring him to challenge the statement.

“Fine,” Richie said bitterly. “This never happened.”

Stan left, tears still tracing their way down his cheeks. 

 

Stan leant against the wall, surprised to find himself still standing in the Neibolt house. Light streamed in through the windows, and the sun looked a lot lower in the sky than it had when he had entered the house. He was crying again.

“My name is Stan Uris and I want to kiss boys,” he said into the empty air. “My name is Stan Uris and I want to kiss Richie Tozier.”

Stan walked back into the foyer, moving as if in a dream, and stared around at the decaying walls and the thick layer of dust coating the furniture.

He felt like he should have felt different, somehow. Like he’d just made some massive breakthrough and he should suddenly feel braver or stronger, or even just more at peace. If anything, Stan felt a bit nauseated.

There was nothing in this house that was scarier than what he had just said.

If a clown crawled out of the basement now, Stan would laugh in Its fucking face. 

Of course, he’d run away immediately after, but the point still stands. 

Stan hopped off of the front porch, choosing to forgo the steps. He grabbed Richie’s bike from the lawn and pushed off of the ground, quickly pedalling to keep pace with how fast his heart was beating. 

It must have been mid-afternoon, and Stan had no clue how long it had been since he had run from Bill and Richie. He pedalled into town quickly, following the fastest route to town square.

“Richie!” a familiar voice hollered from one of the houses as Stan rode past. Stan stopped and squinted towards the house, which was blindingly backlit by afternoon sun. It was Ben’s house. Ben himself came bursting out of the front door a moment later, his dog coming up fast behind him. He came to a stop on the curb next to Stan, and scooped his ridiculous tiny dog into his arms.

He stared at Stan for a moment, while his dog squirmed until it was settled securely in his embrace. “Richie,” Ben said quietly. “Stan and Bill have been looking everywhere for you. You really worried them. According to Stan, Eddie had an asthma attack when he found out you’d gone missing. Bill said that Mike said that he saw you almost run over Mrs. Henson, but that was hours ago. Stan and Bill haven’t stopped looking for you, they’ve biked past my house at least four times in the past three hours. You can’t do that to us, you know that. We all promised, Richie, we can’t disappear on each other.”

“I know, Ben,” Stan said tiredly. He didn’t have the energy to pretend to be Richie or to crack a joke or anything. “I’ve been dealing with some shit, I’m sorry.”

“Come inside, Richie, I’ll call Stan and Bill and they can come chew you out. I’m too relieved that you’re okay to be angry at you, but—”

“But Stan and Bill will have my head,” Stan finished. “Sure, I’ll come in, Ben. Thanks.”

Stan leant Richie’s bike against the side of Ben’s house and stepped inside.

He sat down at the kitchen table and listened to Ben make a phone call. And then another phone call. And then three more.

Ben poured him a glass of water and sat down too.

“Stan and Bill are still looking for you, but I told their parents and the other Losers to tell them to come to my place if they see them. They’ll be here soon. So, Richie.” Ben’s voice took a more serious tenor. “Where were you?”

“Woods,” Stan said.

“Bullshit,” Ben replied just as quickly.

“Quarry.”

“Try again.”

“Neibolt.”

“Fine, don’t tell me.” Ben reached across the table and laid a hand on Stan’s. It took all of Stan’s willpower to not pull his hand away as if it had been burned.

“Ben,” Stan started hoarsely.

“You don’t have to tell me anything,” Ben said. “But I want you to know that if you ever do want to tell me anything, I’ll listen.”

Stan was three seconds away from spilling it all. He opened his mouth. Closed it. Took a deep breath. “Ben, I’m not Ri—”

The phone rang. Ben leapt to his feet and pulled the phone towards Stan, where they both leaned in to listen to the voice on the other end.

“Ben, it’s Bev. Stan and Bill are on their way over to yours and they are fucking livid. Richie’s about to get the lights knocked out of him, I swear.”

“Don’t worry, Bev, I won’t let them hit Richie.”

“No, Ben, I was going to ask you if you could get it on video.”

“Fucking rude,” Stan chimed in.

“Richie, is that you, dear?”

“Yeah, it’s me, Bev.”

“If Bill and Stan don’t kick the shit out of you, I will.”

“Noted,” Stan said dryly. 

A loud hammering came from the front entranceway. 

“Richie Tozier, you piece of shit, open this fucking door!” Stan heard his own voice call. 

“They’re here,” Ben said. 

Bev laughed. “Good luck, Richie!” She hung up. Ben put the phone back on the receiver and started down the hall. Stan followed at a distance. 

“Open the fucking door,” Richie yelled.

Ben opened the fucking door. 

Richie barreled in past Ben, not stopping to acknowledge the other boy, and hurtled head first into Stan’s arms.

“You fucking asshole!” Richie yelled. “I was so worried! Fuck, we need to talk. Ben, Bill, leave us alone.”

“This is my house!” Ben said. 

“Then we’ll go outside.” Richie grabbed Stan’s hand and dragged him outside, squeezing past Ben and Bill.

“I’m sorry, Richie, I panicked,” Stan said. Richie said nothing, and pulled Stan around to the side of the house, where they were hidden by a well-groomed shrubbery.

“Richie,” Stan started again. Richie grabbed Stan’s face and pressed his lips against his.

Stan’s brain short circuited. He froze, completely, as Richie pulled away, eyes still shut. Stan watched Richie open his eyes, and watched the disappointment flash through them.

“I thought that would work,” Richie said sadly. “I really thought that would work.”

“Why,” Stan asked, feeling wholly incapable of coherent speech. “Why did you think that would work?”

“I don’t know,” Richie said, looking down. “It doesn’t matter.”

“Why did you think that would work, Richie?” Stan asked. 

“I don’t know!” Richie snapped. He closed his eyes and pressed his fingers into them, massaging them gently. “I got worried about you, and I thought, hey, kissing kinda fixes everything in movies, doesn’t it?”

“No, not really,” Stan said. “Kissing usually just makes a lot more problems.”

“Yeah, well it didn’t mean anything, so there shouldn’t be a problem. Let’s just go back inside.” Richie turned and started walking towards the front of the house. 

I know it doesn’t mean nothing, Stan thought. This isn’t nothing to you. I remember Saturday, Richie, I know you want to be kissing me too.

Still. It was much safer to not kiss Richie than it was to kiss Richie.

Stan followed Richie inside.

Chapter Text

“I want to tell the others today,” Stan said, bringing his toothbrush to his mouth.

“Bill said we had until Thursday,” Richie said.

“No sense in waiting. We’re not going to be able to fix this on our own. Maybe the others will have some ideas.”

“Are you sure, Stan?” Richie asked gently.

Stan hated this new side of Richie that he was experiencing. This soft, caring side. He wanted Richie to tell him that he fucked his mom, not remind him to take his socks off before bed.

They had spent the night at Richie’s house, in Richie’s bed, hoping that somehow their proximity would fix the issue. 

Stan made a face, and Richie-in-the-mirror did too. Proximity had not fixed the issue.

“I’m sure. I’m tired of pretending to be you. You’re exhausting. And I bet you have a thousand pent-up sex jokes you’re just dying to get out.”

“They’re not the only pent-up thing I’m dying to get out,” Richie said, rinsing his toothbrush.

“Low hanging fruit. You’re out of practice, Tozier.”

“I’ll just have to overcompensate for a bit.”

“Not the only thing you’re overcompensating for.”

“Stan-the-man gets off a good one! Oh, Stan, this is going to be fun. I’ve missed this.”

“I haven’t,” Stan said, leading the way out of the bathroom. “You’re obnoxious as hell.”

As they stepped back into Richie’s room, Richie said, “God, I am gonna make so many jokes about Eddie’s mom. Let’s call Bill and tell him now.”

Richie looked happier than he’d looked since Sunday morning. Stan had been so busy stewing in how miserable it was to have to pretend to be Richie that he never paused to think about how miserable Richie might have been pretending to be him. Richie looked so gleeful at the thought of implying that he had slept with Sonia Kaspbrak again.

“Okay, Richie, go ahead and call Bill.”

Richie whooped and burst out of the room, practically galloping down the stairs. Stan laughed and quickly changed into some of Richie’s clothes. He paused. Then he reached into the back of Richie’s wardrobe and pulled out a simple pinstriped dress shirt that looked like it hadn’t seen the sun in years. He put it on and buttoned it up, making sure it was securely tucked into his pants. He double-knotted his shoelaces and briefly attempted to tame Richie’s hair. 

Richie came bounding back up the stairs and into his room, and stopped short when he saw Stan.

“Staniel, my lad, you finally look vaguely like yourself!” Richie said. His smile was wide and infectious. Stan found himself grinning too. This was going to be okay. This was Richie, the Richie he’d missed. The Richie who didn’t have to pretend to be anybody other than Richie. All awkwardness left over from the events that had transpired the day before seemed to have evaporated, completely forgotten in the giddy joy of the decision to be themselves. Richie reached into Stan’s backpack and pulled out the change of clothes he’d packed. 

“The jeans are fine,” he mused. “But I can not wear a button up another day. I’m gonna dip into my closet.”

Richie ended up wearing one of his own graphic shirts and Stan’s button up, but he rolled the sleeves up to his elbows and left it unbuttoned. Stan watched, smiling widely, as Richie put both of his hands in his hair and messed it up irreparably. 

Stan had missed being himself, but he hadn’t realized how much he’d missed having Richie around. The real Richie, not a Richie who looked like Stan. This Richie had Stan’s face, sure, but he still looked like Richie. He was Richie. 

Stan joined Richie and they looked at themselves in the mirror.

“We look like ourselves,” Richie observed quietly. 

“That we do, Trashmouth,” Stan said. “Come on, the others will be waiting. We’re meeting at the Quarry.”

“Again?”

“Richie, we only have like three places we hang out.”

“Fair enough. Onwards and upwards, Cocker Staniel!”

They sprinted down the stairs and out the door, barely stopping to secure their backpacks over both shoulders before they threw themselves onto their bikes and hurtled down the street towards Bill’s house. 

“Bill!” Richie hollered when they arrived. “Billiam! Big Boy! Come on down!” 

Bill came jogging out a few moments later, canvas bag in hand.

“I’ve g-got some f-food for a picnic,” he shouted, locking the door behind him. “J-Jesus, you two look like yourselves.”

“Don’t we?” Stan asked giddily. “I’ve never been so happy to double knot my shoes in my life.”

“We’re telling them today, for better or worse,” Richie said. “You’ll have to back us up when the time comes, Billy Goat.”

“O-of course. Let’s get going.”

“Come on, boys, we’ve got places to be! Tally-ho!” Richie pushed off first, and the other two followed.

The three of them rode away, and Stan thought, This is right.

The unnatural energy that had been hanging over them for so long, the awkwardness, the tension in the air; it had gone completely, and things were okay again. 

Stan and Richie had kissed twice on Saturday night. Richie likely still didn’t remember, but he’d still kissed Stan yesterday. That was three kisses total, and Stan didn’t care.

He wasn’t scared. 

The three of them pulled up to the cliff overlooking the Quarry. Stan peered over the edge, and saw the other four lounging on the sun-soaked rocks.

Stan, Bill, and Richie took the long path down around the cliff, and joined the others on the shore of the lake. 

“I b-brought a picnic,” Bill said. Ben stood up to help him set it out.

Bev was the first to notice something was strange. She pulled her sunglasses down and looked at Stan, then at Richie, and then back at Stan, scrutinizing. “You two look like you lost a bet,” she said. 

“Th-that would be a lot m-more simple.” Bill pulled out a full bottle of lemonade and a handful of plastic cups. “It’s a l-lot more fucked up than th-that, though.”

“I’ve been stuck in Richie’s body since Saturday night,” Stan said bluntly.

“Oh, you’ve been stuck inside my body, Stanny?”

“Beep beep, Richie.” Stan was sure that his patented Stan Uris Exhaustion was creeping into his voice, but for once he wasn’t bothered by it. Surely they’d recognize the tone.

The other four looked at Stan and Richie for an achingly long fifteen seconds.

Then they burst out laughing.

“Oh man, all that for a joke?” Mike said, breathless. “Costumes and everything? Stan, how on earth did Richie get you to go along with this?”

“I’m not going along with anything!” Stan said indignantly. “We’re telling the truth!”

“I-its true,” Bill piped up. “These two have b-been driving me in-in-ins-in—driving me mad.”

“Oh god, they got Bill in on it too. Okay, sure, let’s go along with your joke,” Bev said, taking her sunglasses off and letting them dangle from one hand. “You say this has been going on for how long?” 

“Saturday evening,” Stan said.

“Right,” Eddie snorted. “You expect me to believe that all that shit about Wolverine’s dick yesterday was Stan ? No way man, that whole conversation was Richie Tozier through and through. If you’re ever gonna try to convince us of something this stupid, maybe make your story more believable.”

“I’ve been pretending to be Richie!” Stan burst out. “All that Wolverine shit was me!”

“Right, and disappearing for like five hours afterwards and scaring us all to death was Stan too,” Ben said.

Mike grinned. “Yeah, and all that teasing about Anna? One hundred percent Stan Uris.”

“Climbing into the hammock and annoying the shit out of me is definitely a Stan move.”

“Love sharing a smoke with Stan Uris, who wouldn’t go near a cigarette if you paid him.”

The teasing wasn’t mean spirited, but it still kinda stung.

“I really thought you guys would believe us,” Stan said. 

“Yeah! Pretending to be a functioning human being is exhausting as hell!” Richie complained. “I don’t know how Stan does it!”

“They’re telling the truth,” Bill said firmly.

“Prove it,” Eddie said.

“We shouldn’t have to prove it!” Stan said. “The seven of us have been through enough bizarre shit that I really thought we could trust each other by this point!”

“Woah, hey, no need to get angry,” Ben said nervously, hands full of different half-eaten bags of chips. He set them down on the picnic blanket and looked between Stan and Richie. “You have to understand why our first instinct is to think you’re joking, guys.”

“Yeah,” Eddie said. “Not the kinda thing we’re gonna reply ‘Oh yes that makes sense,’ to.”

“Th-that’s pretty m-m-m-much exactly what I said when they t-told me,” Bill said idly. 

“Man handled it like a fucking champ,” Richie said, slapping Bill on the back.

“I still can’t tell if you’re joking or not,” said Bev.

“I’ve done enough joking over the past couple days to last a lifetime.” Stan adjusted his shirt. “I am never making a joke again as long as I live, and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to make eye contact with my mother, either.”

Richie let out a sharp laugh. Stan glared at him.

“Is it crazy that I sorta believe them?” Mike asked. The others all turned to look at him as he tapped his lower lip thoughtfully. “I just mean, well, just this right now? This feels way less forced than whatever’s been going on the past couple of days. There’s been something in the air between you two, and it’s finally cleared up. It’s nice. You look comfortable again.”

The world was silent for a moment, and then Richie leaned over to Bill and said, in a stage whisper, “I totally forgot that Mike’s a fucking empath.”

Mike laughed and shook his head. “I just know my friends. And that’s gotta be Stan in Richie’s body over there, because the top button is done up, and Richie would never willingly button something up that tightly, as evidenced by the fact that Richie-in-Stan’s body here hasn’t had the top button done up since Sunday, even when he was pretending to be Stan.”

“This guy said ‘As evidenced by the fact’ in casual conversation, shut the fuck up Mike, you’re so fucking smart,” Eddie grumbled. “Okay, sure. If Mike believes you, I’ll believe you too. Mike’s the only one I trust.”

Bev nodded slowly. “Okay. I think I believe you. I just need a moment to process this.” She joined the others on the picnic blanket and picked up an apple. She tossed it from hand to hand for a while, and then waved it through the air to punctuate her next words. “So, why didn’t you tell us the second it happened?”

“Because it would have been embarrassing as shit,” Richie said through a mouthful of potato chips.

Eddie scrunched up his nose. “Close your fucking mouth when you’re chewing, Richie—oh god it really is you, huh?”

Bill laughed. “I-it took Richie’s h-horrible manners to prove it to you?”

“No,” Eddie mused. “It was more like it felt more natural to call him Richie than to call him anything else. Like, fuck, I dunno, like something in me recognized who he actually is. My mouth called him Richie before I could stop to think about it.”

“I think that’s why it’s so easy to believe, once you get past the unbelievability of it,” Ben said. 

The others made quiet noises of agreement.

Stan picked at the sandwich he had made, feeling supremely un-hungry.

“What’s wrong, Stan?” Mike asked.

“Nothing, I just—” Stan put the sandwich down and ran his fingers through his hair. “I’ve been freaking out about this whole thing absolutely non-stop since I woke up on Sunday morning, and I just feel kinda stupid now. Like, you guys aren’t making a big deal out of it, and you believe us, and I don’t know what I was so scared of.”

Stan did know what he was so scared of. He had been scared of the things he’d forgotten. He’d been scared of the others piecing together what he had been hiding.

“I don’t know what you were scared of either,” Bev said, reaching out to put a hand on his knee. “You know we’d be there for you, always, right Stan? Oh yeah that is weird, your name just slipped out.”

“Right?” Eddie said. “Completely subconscious!”

“What I’m curious about—” Mike said. The others turned to look at him. “Is how and why this happened. That’s what you were researching at the library on Monday, right? Did you find anything?”

Bill shook his head. “N-nothing useful. Read a b-bunch of sci-fi n-n-n-novellas. No real fix-it st-st-strategy.”

“We thought the way to fix it is to get to the root of what caused it,” Richie said, drumming his fingers on a sun-soaked rock. “But Stan and I don’t remember what happened on Saturday night, so a fat lot of good that’ll do us.”

“I know what happened on Saturday!” Bev said suddenly. The others all turned to look at her. 

“Y-you do?” Stan spluttered out. Shock thrummed through his body and quickly settled into a quiet dread. “Are you sure?”

“Yes!” Bev said. “It was past midnight, and my aunt came into my room with the phone, ‘cause you know she’s got one of those ridiculously long phone cables so she can have a conversation anywhere in the house, and she said ‘Beverly, it’s one of your friends on the phone,’ and I was half asleep, but Stan was definitely crying and—” Bev cut herself off and looked at Stan sheepishly. “And, uh—”

“Maybe this is a more private conversation,” Stan said quietly. Bev nodded, looking embarrassed for having said so much.

“We fought,” Richie said to the group at large. “Stan and I fought, and that’s all we know.”

“So you just have to resolve your argument, right?” Ben said. “That’s what the solution would be if this were a movie.”

“Yeah, well it’s not a fucking movie, Ben,” Stan snapped. He took a deep breath. “Sorry, sorry. It’s just, man, it can’t be that simple. The real world doesn’t work like that.”

“S-said the guy in h-his best friends b-body.”

“Touché.” 

“Even if it doesn’t fix the issue, you guys should still resolve whatever you were fighting about,” Mike said. “I get that you’ve had to put your differences aside to deal with this slightly more pressing issue, but entire friendships can dissolve over one festering wound.”

“D-damn, you should be the wr-wr-wr-writer, Mike, not me,” Bill muttered. 

“Or maybe a marriage counselor,” Eddie said.

“What about this has anything to do with marriage?” Stan said sharply. Beverly met Stan’s eyes and he flushed, looking down.

“So, Richie and Stan sort their argument out, and we all cross our fingers and hope that something changes,” Eddie summed up.

Richie snorted. “Yeah, real great plan, Eds. Except Stanthony and I can’t remember what we fought about.”

“B-B-Beverly knows,” Bill said.

Stan glanced at Bev, who was eyeing Stan suspiciously.

“Stan knows too,” she concluded finally. 

“What?” Richie practically jumped to his feet. “I fucking knew it! I fucking knew it, Stan! Yesterday, when Bill said we should try to recreate Saturday and hope it fixed things, and you looked like you were about to throw up and then you ran away and we couldn’t find you for like five hours—”

“Yes, okay? I remember Saturday night,” Stan said, throwing his hands into the air. “I remember all of it. But I didn’t remember until yesterday, and quite frankly, Richie, it’s a lot to process in less than twelve hours, so maybe cut me some fucking slack!”

Stan didn’t notice Beverly quietly motioning for the others to gather up the picnic and move away from the site. Stan stood slowly and pointed a shaking finger at Richie. “I had to do a lot of soul searching yesterday, and it was fucking exhausting, Richie.”

“You should have told me the second you remembered! It’s my business too!”

“Yes, okay, I know that!” Stan looked around and saw that the other Losers had moved at least fifteen feet away and were increasing the distance quickly. He quietly thanked them for the privacy. “I was going to tell you, Richie, really, I was.”

“What did we fight about, Stan? It’s been killing me not knowing! Fuck, it’s been eating me alive!”

“I thought maybe—” Stan took a deep breath. “I thought maybe you remembered too. On Saturday, I mean.”

“Why would you think that?” Richie didn’t sound angry anymore, just frustrated.

“Because...because... fuck, Richie.

“Because what, Stan?”

“Because you kissed me again,” Stan said, his voice dangerously quiet, even to his own ears.

Richie must have heard, however, because he sucked in a deep breath and took an involuntary step backwards. He looked at Stan with wide eyes and whispered, “ Again ?”

“Again, Richie, again. Because we kissed twice on Saturday night, and I couldn’t handle it. I was too much of a fucking coward to handle it. So I told you I wasn’t queer, I basically told you to fuck off, and I rode home crying. Apparently I called Bev too, but I don’t remember that part.”

“When did you remember this,” Richie asked after a long silence.

“Saturday. It came in bits and pieces. I remembered us fighting about, uh, about…” About love , he wanted to say. But even though Stan Uris was Richie Tozier and Richie Tozier was brave, Stan Uris would never be brave enough to say ‘love’ out loud, no matter who’s body he was in. “About kissing,” he said. “And then I threw up.”

“That’s what that was about,” Richie said quietly.

“And then I remembered actually kissing you, and I didn’t throw up then, because somehow actually kissing you was less scary than fighting about kissing you.”

And it’s possibly the closest Stan’s ever come to admitting how much he cares about Richie.

“So when Bill suggested we recreate it—”

“I already knew what had happened. And I was scared, Richie, I was so scared. I was so in my head about it, trying to convince myself I’d hated it, trying to convince myself I wasn’t qu-qu-queer.”

“Careful there, you’re starting to sound like Bill.” There wasn’t any real bite to the comment. Stan ignored it.

“And I ran and hopped on your bike and shot through town like a rocket, and it was like this beautiful catharsis because I suddenly didn’t have to care what the world thought of me. So I went to Neibolt—”

“You what? ” Richie recoiled. “You went back there?

Stan nodded, aware that large hot tears were starting to leak from his eyes. “I thought, if I was ever going to be brave enough to go back there, it would be while I was...not me.”

“Stan,” Richie whispered, reaching for him. Stan knocked his hand away.

“I’m not done. I got in there and I had this fucking movie montage moment where I walked through the house and gave myself a pep talk about how much I want to kiss boys and how much I was not scared of that.”

Richie laughed wetly.

Stan pressed on. “And the second I admitted to myself, out loud, that I wanted to kiss boys? I remembered everything. Except calling Bev, but, really, that’s hardly important. Except, uh, she probably knows that we kissed.”

“I don’t care if Bev knows. I just wish I could remember it.”

“We fought, uh,” Stan wiped away a tear and laughed. “The reason we fought at all—it was all me. You were fine until I started making a big deal about it. I just had my own shit to sort out. And I did, Richie, I sorted my shit. But it was all my fault we fought. I wish I could take it back, because I’ve made peace with it, I have, really, but I fucked it up. That’s on me.”

“No!” Richie shouted. He grabbed Stan’s shoulders. “ No, ” he said. “It’s not. We both fought, Stan. I promise, there is no universe in which I was not freaking out just as much as, if not more than, you were. Fuck, Stan, you have to know, you have to know, I like you so much.”

And that was that. There it was. Out in the open. Stan’s tears were falling freely now, pouring down his face thicker and faster than he’d ever cried before. 

“I…” he choked out. I like you too. “Yeah. Yeah, fuck, Richie, I think I always have.”

The two stared at each other for a while. 

Stan finally let out a tiny huff of laughter. Richie cracked a grin. Then they were both laughing and wrapping their arms around each other and holding each other so tightly Stan thought he could just snap in half.

Then they weren’t hugging so much as they were wrapped around each other. Not squeezing, not hugging, just holding. In each others arms.

Stan choked on a sob. “Fuck,” he said quietly. “My dad’s gonna kill me if he finds out about this.”

“What, because I don’t keep sabbath? Isn’t it enough that I’m Jewish?”

“Because you’re a guy, dumbass.”

“No difference between finding a nice Jewish girl and finding a nice Jewish boy. Donald can deal.”

“Don’t call my father Donald ,” Stan said, pulling out of the hug.

“Why not? What else am I supposed to call him?”

“Uh, Rabbi Uris?” Stan tugged on Richie’s sleeve. “Come on, Rich. Let’s go back to the others.”

“Are we gonna tell them? About...”

“I’m not ready for that, I don’t think,” Stan said. “I’m sorry.”

“No, no, don’t apologize. I’m so glad, fuck, I’m not ready either. But I think…I think that being with you could inspire me to become ready.”

“You’ve been awfully sappy the past couple of days.”

“Comes with the body, Sappy Stanny.”

They made their way back to the others, who were looking at them expectantly.

“Did you resolve it?” Bev asked. 

Stan nodded. “We’re not fighting anymore.”

“But you’re still Stan,” Mike said slowly.

“Yeah,” Stan said. “It’s still Stan in here.”

“And I’m still the notorious Mother Fucker himself,” Richie added.

“Okay,” Ben said. “But you’re not fighting anymore?”

“We sorted our shit,” Richie said.

Bev looked at Stan with interest. Later, he mouthed. She nodded.

“So what now?” Eddie asked nervously.

“We finish the picnic, dumbass,” Stan said. 

“No, I mean about—”

“Eddie,” Stan said firmly. “We’re going to have a picnic. And we’re going to have a nice time. And none of you are going to stress about this.”

“But what if it never gets fixed?” Ben asked nervously.

Richie shrugged and squatted down on the blanket, which Bill had just spread out again. “Honestly, Ben, there are worse things than having to adjust to a new body. If this never sorts itself out, I guess I’ll find a way to start thinking of this body as mine.”

“That’s pretty zen by your standards, Richie,” Mike said. “Stan, you can’t really think—”

“Look.” Stan took a seat next to Richie on the blanket. “We don’t know why things are the way they are. We don’t know what unholy power forced us into each others bodies, and we don’t know how to reverse it. We don’t know if there is a way to reverse it. I’m kinda just tired of panicking about this. Richie and I sorted our shit. He’ll sleep over with me at his house again tonight, but he’ll say he’s sleeping at Bill’s, because Donald and Andrea can’t stand the sight of me.” He rolled his eyes. “Of course I don’t want to spend the rest of my life in this asshole’s body, but also, it wouldn’t really be the end of the world if I had to.

“Well put, Stanthony.” Richie tugged up a piece of grass and ripped it down the center evenly. “Life goes on.”

Bill grinned at the two of them. “R-remarkably mature of y-you two.”

“What do you mean remarkably?” Stan asked, affronted. “I’m very mature.”

“Not around Richie,” Bev said with a gentle laugh. “Richie makes you act like you’re 15.”

Stan frowned. “I am 15, though.”

Bev reached over and put a hand on his shoulder. She adopted a mock seriousness. “Stan, honey, I love you dearly, but you have been forty since you were nine.”

Richie let out a guffaw and Stan glared at him. 

“A-anyone want s-s-so-some pop tarts?” Bill asked.

“Only if they’re not fucking strawberry,” Eddie said loudly, standing up and walking across the blanket. “I will eat any flavor other than strawberry. They taste like—”

Bill rolled his eyes. “We kn-kn-know, Eddie. They t-taste like cough syrup and underdeveloped g-g-gluten.”

“They do!” Eddie grabbed two packets from the box Bill was offering. He looked at them as if they’d offended him personally, weighed them in his hands, sniffed haughtily, and then tossed one of the packets to Richie. “That one’s strawberry,” he said. “You like that shit, right?”

“Yeah, cheers!” Richie toasted Eddie with his pop tart packet and tore into it.

“Watch it, jackass!” Stan nearly knocked the pop tarts out of his hands.

“What, why?” Richie complained.

“Kellogg’s uses beef-based gelatin. You can’t eat that shit in my body.”

Richie grumbled and shoved the open pop tart packet towards Mike, who accepted.

“W-w-wait, Richie, you’re k-keeping kosher?” Bill asked interestedly, opening his own packet.

“For Stanny’s sake,” Richie said, reaching for a bag of chips. “Not my idea, believe me.”

“That’s thoughtful,” Bev said. 

Richie scoffed. “Right, like I’d do anything else. I’m a jackass, not a monster, Big Red.”

Stan nudged Richie’s knee gently with his own. “Thanks,” he said quietly. 

“So, uh...” Mike said nervously. He cleared his throat. “I spoke to Anna on the phone last night.” Attention all snapped to him. 

“Yeah?” Bev asked, grinning encouragingly. 

“Yeah. She was nervous about Thursday and wanted to make sure that I knew it was a date and not just a friend thing.”

“I fucking knew it!” Richie grinned broadly. “I fucking knew she was into you, my guy!”

“Yeah.” Mike rubbed the back of his neck. “She’s really cool, but I don’t know if I should go for it.”

“Why wouldn’t you?” Ben asked. “I think it’d be good for you.”

“Yeah, probably. I was going to bring it up sooner, but then all of this Richie and Stan stuff happened and I didn’t want to override it.”

“That’s considerate,” Stan said. “But talk to us, yeah?”

“Yeah, I just wanted some advice, I guess. I know that nobody here has much romantic experience—”

“Damn right,” Bill muttered into his cup of lemonade.

“But I thought I’d present the dilemma anyway,” Mike concluded, ignoring the interruption.

“What is the dilemma, then?” Bev asked.

“She’s crazy smart and diligent, and kind and funny and all kinds of great stuff.”

“Then what’s the problem? She not put out? You usually have to wait until the first date, and dinner with her parents doesn’t count.”

“Shut up, Richie.”

“I don’t care if she wants to sleep with me or not, that has no bearing on this,” Mike said, ever patient. “I just don’t know if I like her, and I’m worried it would be disingenuous to go on a date with someone if I’m pretty sure the only kind of feelings I have for her are platonic.”

“Don’t people usually date with the intent of finding out whether or not they could be romantic in future?” Ben asked. “I love a good love story just as much as the next guy, possibly moreso, but I’m pretty sure dating just has to come from mutual attraction, as opposed to romantic feelings.”

“You’re so fucking wise, Ben!” Richie said, jabbing a fork in his direction for emphasis.

“I guess you’re right,” Mike said. “I don’t know why I’ve been so conflicted, I just—”

“What, is there someone else?” Richie asked. “Some secret flame you’ve been hiding from us?”

The corners of Mike’s eyes crinkled, but his mouth remained neutral as he said, “Yeah, actually, you’re right on the money, Richie.”

“Wh-wh-what?” Bill demanded.

Mike nodded. “Yeah. Her name’s Maggie Tozier, and we’ve been getting really close—”

“Mike Hanlon!” Richie shouted in delight. “Did you just imply you were sleeping with my mother?”

Mike broke out into laughter, unable to maintain his straight face and further and nodded, hiding his grin behind his hand.

Richie sniffed into an imaginary handkerchief. “They grow up so fast,” he said, soppy housewife voice in full force.

“This is so fucking weird,” Eddie said quietly. Stan watched as Richie flung himself across the picnic blanket and onto Mike’s lap, knocking the other boy over and leaving the pair a giggling mess on the ground. 

“What’s weird, Eddie?” Bev asked, in equal volume. It felt almost private, but if Bev and Eddie didn’t want Stan listening, they should have taken their conversation somewhere else.

“Logically and instinctually, like, I know that’s Richie with the dumb voices and the overzealous physicality.”

“You swallow a dictionary there, Eddie?” Bev asked.

“Shut up, I was doing summer work last night. But it’s just...Bev, it’s fucking weird to see Stan’s body doing that shit. And, I guess…” Eddie trailed off, looking practically miserable.

Bev picked up on it right away. “What? What’s wrong?”

“Nothing, never mind, it’s stupid.”

“Eddie…”

“Lay the fuck off him, Trashmouth! The man can’t fucking breathe!” Eddie said loudly, clearly signaling to Bev that the conversation was over.

Stan took a bite of his sandwich, concern twisting his gut. He’d talk to Eddie later.

Chapter Text

Chatter continued for a while, the Losers slowly wearing down their food supply as the sun climbed higher in the sky. It was at its peak, noon, when Richie came to a sudden realization and started smacking Stan on the arm repeatedly.

“Dudes!” Richie said. “My Stan impressions are gonna be so fucking funny now!”

“You’ve b-been d-d-doing a Stan impression since Sunday,” Bill said, unimpressed. 

“No, no, like my joke impressions! Hang on, hang on, wait just a minute, wait just a fucking minute.” Richie scrambled to his feet and took a few steps back from the picnic blanket. “This is so funny hold on hold on hold on.” He cleared his throat and crossed his arms. He exaggeratedly rolled his eyes, following the movement with his head. “Richard Reginald Tozier, you absolutely disgust me,” he said, voice high and haughty. “Human decency is completely free, and you still choose not to waste money on it. I’m going to go stick my dick in a bird now, farewell to you all!” He turned and strutted away, nose so high in the air that he almost walked into a tree.

Stan snorted. “I don’t fucking sound like that,” he called as Richie sprinted back towards the blanket. “And your middle name isn’t even Reginald, it’s Theodore.”

“It’s Theodore? ” Eddie threw his empty chip bag onto the ground. “I’ve been trying to guess this jackass’s middle name for three years, and it’s fucking Theodore ?”

Stan laughed again and leaned backwards. “Sucks to suck, I guess, Eddie.”

Richie picked up Eddie’s chip bag and put it in Bill’s backpack, where they were collecting their trash.

“That was super conscientious, Richie, thank you,” Mike said. 

Richie stuck his tongue out. “Gross, please refrain from speaking to me using words that have more than three syllables.” 

“W-we should wrap this up,” Bill said. “We’ve f-f-finished the f-food, pretty much.”

“Right you are, Billiam,” Richie said. “I’ll fold up the blanket.”

“What are you doing?” Eddie asked suspiciously. 

Richie frowned, starting to pick up the blanket. “What do you mean, Eds?”

“Not my name. Why are you acting all responsible and shit?”

“Oh.” Richie rubbed the back of his neck. “I dunno, Eds, I guess it has something to do with pretending to be Stan. You try it for a few days, and then come back and tell me that you’re not instinctively reaching to organize your sock drawer.”

“Stan’s been a lot more relaxed, too,” Ben said, and all Stan wanted in that moment was for his friends to shut up. “It’s nice, it’s like you’ve learned how to be better versions of yourselves from pretending to be each other.”

“The fuck is that supposed to mean?” Eddie asked.

Ben shrugged. “It made sense in my head, but now that I say it out loud—”

“No, no, it does make sense, Ben is right!” Bev said. “I just couldn’t put my finger on it. All day, you’ve been more like yourselves than you have been all week, which I guess makes sense. But you’ve also just been that much different, and I’ve seriously been trying to figure it out. It’s like pretending to be Richie has got Stan to chill out a bit, and pretending to be Stan has got Richie to be more considerate.”

“What the fuck does that mean? Was I so anal before all of this that...that I relax for one day and suddenly I’m a better version of myself ?” Stan didn’t know where the anger was coming from. “Yeah, real nice of you, thanks. I’m probably the first person in the world who’s ever been told to be more like Richie.”

“I didn’t mean anything by it, Stan, I just think it’s nice that you’ve relaxed a little.”

“Right, shit, cause that’s what was wrong with me. That’s the grand hiccup that needed fixing for a perfect Stan Uris.” All the anger suddenly drained from his body. “Shit, you don’t think...you don’t think all this shit was to teach me a lesson, do you?”

“Stan,” Eddie started. 

“No, shut up, let me think.” Stan started pacing. The other six looked on in concern.  “That’s gotta be it, right? That’s gotta be it. This resolves all my issues like one magic little package wrapped up in a bow and delivered to my doorstep. I’m too high strung? Pretend to be Richie for a few days! I forget to let myself have fun? Just pretend to be Richie, it’ll be fine. Richie knows more about our friends than I ever thought I would? Just pretend to be Richie for a few days, share a smoke with Bill! Find out that Bill smokes! What the fuck!”

“Bill smokes?” Eddie asked angrily. 

Stan couldn’t hear Eddie, or Bill’s stammered excuse. He was in his own world, he was tunnel-visioned. “The argument was about shit I’m scared of, so I had to be Richie to not be scared, because Richie is brave. That’s what all this bullshit is, it’s some cosmic entity giving me a fucking life lesson. Bullshit!” Stan threw his hands up into the air. “And Richie too! Richie doesn’t take shit seriously, Richie would rather joke with his friends than have a serious conversation! Richie would rather die than sit still and say nothing! Oh, no, that’s it! He can just pretend to be quiet, controlling, anxious Stan Uris for a few days, and he’ll be right as rain! They’ll learn their lessons! They’ll grow as people! They’ll sort their shit out!” Stan felt as if he were getting hysterical. The others looked legitimately alarmed. Stan pressed on. “Well guess what, cosmic entity! I did it! I went to the fucking Neibolt house, and I wasn’t fucking afraid!”

“Neibolt?” Ben asked. “You were serious?”

“I nearly ran my teacher over on Richie’s bike! I sorted out the argument! I’m not even wearing a belt today! Just pants! No belt! I’ve had my fucking character development! Now I want my fucking body back!”

His words hung in the silence of the clearing.

There was no crack of lightning, no grand cosmic event, no shift in the air. Stan’s eyes were shut, and he was unwilling to open them. 

“Stan,” Bev’s voice said gently. Stan opened his eyes. 

Nothing had changed. Nothing had fucking changed.

“As much as I admire and condone shaking your fist at god, Stan, I really think we should be getting you home,” Richie said.

Stan deflated. He rubbed his forehead tiredly. “Gosh, ugh, I’m sorry, everyone, I didn’t mean to have such a…”

“Breakdown?” Bev supplied.

“Freakout,” Ben said, more kindly.

“Psychotic break?” Eddie said nervously.

“Moment,” Bill said. “You h-had a moment.”

“I had a moment,” Stan agreed. “I am going home though. Well, to Richie’s house. I really need a nap. Call if you need me.”

“I should head over to the library,” Mike added. “I work Wednesdays.”

“I’d better get home too,” Eddie said nervously. “Ma will want me to tell her that I’ve eaten lunch so she doesn’t worry about malnourishment. Do you guys want to hang out again later?”

“Ice cream at four?” Richie asked.

“Sure,” Bill said. “We’ll all g-g-go for ice cream at f-four.”

“Okay,” Mike said. “I can probably get out of interning by then.”

“Eddie,” Stan said. “Walk with me? I wanna talk to you.”

“Oh,” Eddie looked around at the others. “Uh, sure.”

“I’ll be crawling through your window at three, Stan, so watch out for that!” Richie called after Stan as he started to lead Eddie away. Stan flipped him off over his shoulder.

“What’s wrong with the front door? Why can’t he use that?” Stan asked. 

Eddie let out a breathy laugh. “We’ve all got our idiosyncrasies.” 

“Jesus, you did swallow a dictionary.”

“Shut up, I was doing summer homework last n—wait. I’ve already had this conversation.”

“I overheard you talking with Bev, sorry. That’s actually what I wanted to talk to you about.” 

Stan took Eddie gently by the arm and pulled him off the path, behind a large tree where they had some semblance of privacy. He looked Eddie straight in the eyes.

“What’s wrong, Eddie?” he asked.

Eddie took a deep, stuttering breath and gave Stan a strained smile. “Nothing. It’s stupid.”

“It’s not stupid.”

“It is.”

“It really isn’t.”

“Don’t worry about it, Stan.”

“I’m already worried, Eddie, I’m not gonna suddenly stop worrying just because you told me not to. That’s not how worrying works.”

“Shit, I just...before we were the lucky seven, it was, well, just us, wasn’t it? It was you, and me, and Richie, and Bill. And we told each other everything. And now the entire group dynamic is completely different, and Bill’s been in on this whole...thing. He’s been in on it since the beginning! And it kinda stung, I guess. Because a part of me still thought that we told each other everything. And yesterday, you guys just shoved me to the side to deal with your own shit, and I understand, obviously, but it still hurt. Because I used to be a part of that circle, and suddenly I’m not, anymore. Fuck, Stan, I just...I guess I was just thinking that if anything like this happened to me, I’d want to be sure that you three were the first I told. And I’ve just been told at the same time as the rest of the group. And I know it’s dumb to want some kind of higher priority just for having been friends with you guys first, but it’s all three of you, and not me. Bill and Eddie and Richie and Stan, minus Eddie. I’m just not used to that.”

Stan reached out and wrapped his arms around Eddie’s shoulders. “I’m sorry we ever made you feel that way,” he said. 

Eddie sniffed and melted into the hug. “It’s stupid, right? Like I’m being selfish.”

“You’re not.”

“I am definitely being selfish.”

“No, Eddie, you’re not. You’re allowed to feel that way, fuck, I’d probably feel the same. More than anything, I hate not knowing things. I found out that Bill smokes from Bev, and I was furious! It’s just a little thing, but it’s something about my friends I didn’t know, and I hated it.”

“If it’s any consolation,” Eddie said, voice muffled from where his head was pressed into Stan’s shoulder. “I didn’t know Bill smokes either.”

Stan laughed and pulled away from the hug. “Thanks for trusting me, Eddie,” he said.

“Thanks for asking, I guess. Ugh, I hate this, I hate talking about feelings ,” Eddie said. 

Stan laughed again. “You’re not gonna have many successful relationships then.”

“I’ll have you know your mother and I are very happy together,” Eddie said. 

Stan snorted. “Looks like I’m not the only one Richie’s rubbing off on.”

Eddie’s eyes glinted. “That’s what she s—”

“Fuck you for real, Eddie,” Stan deadpanned. Eddie burst out into bright laughter. “I’ll walk you home?” Stan offered.

Eddie frowned. “Ordinarily, I’d say yes, because my mom thinks you and Mike are the only sensible ones in the group—”

“She’s right.”

“But you look like Richie right now, and she fucking hates Richie. It’d probably be better if we go our separate ways. But, uh, ice cream at four, yeah?”

“Yeah.” Stan’s voice sounded hollow to his own ears. “Ice cream at four.”

Eddie stepped out from behind the tree and trotted up the path. Stan leant against the tree and sighed.

How bad of a friend was he, huh?

The other Losers came walking up the path a few moments later, loud and raucous. 

Stan sank further into the bark of the large tree, almost wishing the wood would swallow him.

The group passed. Stan went unnoticed. Even as he thought thank god, a part of him twinged spitefully. 

Stan walked back to the Tozier’s house in silence. 

He collapsed face-first onto Richie’s bed, the smell of cigarettes and Richie’s deodorant overwhelming his senses. He breathed deeply.

Richie liked him.

What the fuck.

Now that was something Stan had barely stopped to think about, after he and Richie had hugged and made up.

It was like the world had just kept moving, and this monumental moment was just another photo on the projector reel. The pictures just kept flashing past, and if you blinked, it was gone.

But Richie had said he liked him.

They’d kissed on Tuesday. And on Saturday. On Saturday, it had meant too much. On Tuesday, it had meant nothing. 

And they hadn’t kissed today.

Stan found that that didn’t bother him.

Richie liked him.

Stan took a nap, because he deserved it, goddamn it.

Richie, true to his word, crawled through Stan’s window at 3:00.

“You could have just used the front door,” Stan said groggily, having just been woken up by Richie slapping him gently on the face repeatedly.

“No fun in that, Standrew.”

“Oh, that’s a new one, Ricardo.”

Richie grinned. “We’ve got like forty-five minutes to kill before we should head out, if we wanna make it to the ice cream place by 4:00.”

“Look at you, planning things. Being moderately responsible with your time management. Maybe Beverly was onto something.” Stan sat up and picked Richie’s glasses up from the nightstand. He slipped them on, and Richie’s face (and when did he stop thinking of it as his face and start thinking of it as Richie’s?) suddenly came into sharp relief.

“Ugh,” Stan said, and pulled Richie’s glasses back off. 

Richie laughed. “Are you that repulsed by the sight of your own face?”

Stan shrugged. “Not really mine at the moment. I’m more just repulsed by your general existence.”

“Ooh, Stanny, you do care,” Richie crooned. Stan put Richie’s glasses back on and Richie joined him on the bed.

“Okay,” Richie said. “So I’m not usually one for serious conversations, but—”

“But we were kinda limited at the Quarry,” Stan agreed. 

Richie nodded. “I just feel like there was more to be said.”

Stan nodded too. They looked at each other. Stan kept his mouth firmly shut, waiting for Richie to continue. Unfortunately, it seemed like Richie was doing the same. Stan laughed breathily.

“Okay, I’ll start,” Stan said. “It’s been coming on slowly for three years now, you?”

“Like you said at the Quarry,” Richie muttered. “Always. But it kinda took me until last year to figure it out. I’ve been so scared of myself, and everything that being myself implies.”

“I get it.”

They lapsed into silence for a while.

“Henry Bowers has a cousin who looks a lot like you,” Richie said finally. 

Stan frowned. “What?”

“Nothing,” Richie said. “It was stupid. Can I, uh…” Richie trailed off, gesturing vaguely at Stan’s hand. Stan said nothing, just took Richie’s hand in his.

Richie pressed his face into his other hand, and Stan looked determinedly anywhere except Richie.

“I think we’ll be okay, Richie,” Stan said, still not looking at him. Richie’s hand was warm in his, and it was his hand and Richie’s hand, and honestly, it didn’t matter who’s was who’s. Because Stan and Richie’s hands were entwined, and Stan and Richie were entwined, so closely together that Stan could almost hear the oppressive weight of Richie’s thoughts, Richie’s misgivings.

“I hope so,” Richie said finally.

“I know so.” Stan’s voice was as firm as he could muster, but it still trembled a little.

“What do you think we should do,” Richie asked. Stan heard Richie shift and turned to look at him at last. Their faces were so close they were almost touching. 

A silent agreement passed between them and they pulled away from each other, putting a safe distance between their mouths.

“What do you think we should do?” Stan asked.

Richie ran his hand through his hair (and it was either Richie’s hair or Stan’s hair and it didn’t matter which). “I don’t know,” he said. “I don’t know, Stan, I don’t know. I don’t know anything about this.”

“I have an idea.” Stan, feeling a little daring, rubbed his thumb over Richie’s hand. The responding squeeze made him smile. “I think, maybe, we can just...go on dates.”

“Dates? With me?” 

“No need to sound so shocked, Trashmouth. Sure, dates. Nothing has to change before we want it to. We don’t have to make out, or have pet names, or—or declare a relationship. We can, maybe, just hang out and...move forward with the mutual understanding that it’s... allowed to develop. That we don’t have to be afraid of what we...what we feel or think.”

“Yeah,” Richie breathed. “Let’s do that.”

Stan grinned at him.

Richie smiled back. Richie’s unabashed smile no longer looked out of place on Stan’s features. It was Richie smiling, and that was what counted. 

Stan squeezed Richie’s hand gently. “So, uh...I’m not very good at this, but, if you don’t mind our friends happening to be there as well, we could...treat ice cream like a date. It might actually be easier, because the others are there.”

“Yeah,” Richie said, returning Stan’s hand squeeze. “It’ll be easier. Let’s do that.”

At 3:45, Stan and Richie put on their backpacks (barely noticing who’s was who’s), took their bikes (each just reaching for whichever was closer), and rode towards the ice cream shop.

Bill and Ben were waiting for them when they arrived, and Stan grinned and raised a hand in greeting.

The others wouldn’t know, had no way of knowing, but Stan was on a date. A date with Richie Tozier. A date with Richie Tozier, one that didn’t scare Stan one bit. Not like it would have a week ago.

And it didn’t even matter that the others were there because Stan was on a date. 

Bill grinned at them. “G-glad you two could make it.”

“Wouldn’t miss it for the world, Billiam,” Richie said. “Love me some frozen dairy delight.”

“Frozen Derry delight,” Ben said quietly. Stan stifled a laugh.

Bev rolled up next, Mike standing on the back of her bike. He hopped off and waved, while Bev pedalled towards the bike rack to drop hers off.

“Sorry, I think we’re late. My bike chain got dislocated, and those things are a pain to fix in a hurry. Bev lives closest to the library, so I gave her a call.”

“No worries, M-M-Mike, you’re not l-late. We’re just w-waiting on Eddie now.”

“No you’re not! I’m here!” A small voice called as Eddie whizzed past on his bike, full speed. He turned sharply and pedalled in a small circle to slow himself down, before dropping his bike off and joining the group, breathing heavily.

“Jesus, Eddie, calm down, you’re not late.”

Eddie shook his inhaler violently and shoved it into his mouth. “No, no, I’m not stressed about being late or anything like that. I just had to outbike this absolute asshole in a really expensive looking car. Total Bowers clone, just probably minus the stabbing.”

“Only probably though, this is Derry,” Ben said. “All kinds of stabbing to be had here.”

“That should b-b-be the town motto,” Bill said, leading them into the shop. “All k-kinds of stabbing to be had here.”

“We’ve got hate crimes, homicides, and demon clowns!” Mike said as he passed through the door. “Take your fucking pick.”

“You’re spending too much time with us, Mike,” Bev said. “That was almost bitterness in your voice right there.”

“I’m plenty bitter,” Mike said. He knocked on the window over the counter gently. “Can I get one scoop of rocky road, please?”

The girl behind the counter turned around and rolled her eyes. “Oh,” Greta Keene said. “It’s the losers.”

“That’s Losers with a capital L to you, Greta,” Eddie said. “Get Mike his damn ice cream.”

Greta raised her hands in surrender. “No shit, okay. Here you go, homeschool. That’s 1.98.”

Mike fished around in his pockets and pulled out two crumpled dollar bills. “Here you go,” he said, customer-service-brand fake smile firmly in place. “I don’t need change.”

Stan stepped up to the counter next. “Can I get vanilla, chocolate sprinkles?” he asked. 

Greta popped her gum. “Sure thing, Tozier. Changing it up, I see.”

Right. He was Richie. He sent Greta a bright, almost leering smile. “I gotta keep you on your toes somehow, Dollface.”

Greta stuck her tongue out. “Literally do not talk to me. Here’s your ice cream. Two dollars even.”

“What about the two cents?”

“It’s my tax. For dealing with your shit.”

“Oh wow, two whole pennies,” Stan said, pulling his wallet out of his backpack. “You’ll be set for life. Think I can be your sugar baby?”

“You’re fucking gross, Tozier. Here’s your ice cream.”

Stan took the cone and handed over the money. 

Richie stepped up to the counter next. “Hey, Greta.” He gave her a placating smile. “Cookies and cream, please.”

Greta snorted. “What, you and your boyfriend swap orders for the day?”

“Are you so obsessed with us that you have our orders memorized?” Richie shot back, cool as can be. Stan grinned into his ice cream.

Greta sighed. “That’s 1.98, Uris.”

A thought struck Stan, and before he could decide against it, he acted. “Stan,” he said. “Didn’t you forget your wallet?”

Richie eyed Stan. “No, I don’t think so—”

“Yes, you did,” Stan said firmly. “I’ll pay for you.”

Stan payed for Richie’s ice cream. Richie accepted the cone that Greta handed over quietly and joined Stan at the back of the group. 

As the others made their orders, Richie quietly said, “I didn’t forget my wallet.”

“No,” Stan licked his ice cream. “I wanted to pay for you. That’s what you do on...you know...on dates.” 

The last word was barely a whisper, but Richie must have caught it anyway, because his eyes lit up with understanding and a small smile stretched across his face. “Yeah. That’s what you do. Thanks, Stan.”

The Losers took their ice cream and headed outside, where they all crowded around a picnic table.

“Sugar baby,” Bill murmured, and then everyone burst out laughing.

“How did you guys keep that shit up for so long?” Bev demanded. “Knowing that Stanley was the one spouting all that, I was this close to losing my shit.”

“It was a s-struggle,” Bill said. “It w-was really fucking f-f-funny, though.”

“Wolverine…” Eddie said quietly.

“Bagel slicer,” Mike added solemnly. 

Stan buried his face in his free hand, the other one still clutching his ice cream. “I fucking hate you all,” he said into his palm. 

Richie laughed. “You love us, really.”

“Yeah,” Stan said, voice still muffled by his hand. “I do.”

Ben said, “Aww,” and nudged Stan with his leg. “Stan Uris has a heart.”

“Don’t get used to it, I’m only borrowing Richie’s.”

As the conversation turned to other topics, Stan felt Richie shift slightly on the bench next to him. Suddenly, Richie’s thigh was pressed against his. Not obviously, not anything that the others would ever comment on, but the soft pressure reminded Stan that this was real, that this was a date , that he was on a date with a boy, that he was on a date with his best friend .

When Eddie’s watch beeped an hour and a half later, the group groaned in unison. Eddie stuck his tongue out at them and walked over to the bike rack to grab his bicycle.

“Ma will freak if I’m even a minute late, you all know that.”

“Yeah, we know, Spagheddie,” Richie said. “Give the beast a kiss from me.”

Eddie rolled his eyes. “Sure, will do.”

“Clubhouse tomorrow?” Mike said. 

“Arcade?” Richie asked hopefully.

“I wouldn’t say no to the arcade,” Bev mused.

“S-sounds good,” Bill said. “3:30? I’m d-dogsitting for the Newbys until then.” 

“3:30 works,” Mike said. Everyone nodded.

“Do you want me to walk you home, Eddie?” Stan offered.

Eddie shook his head. “Ma hates Richie, sorry, Stan.”

“I don’t blame her,” Stan said, pressing his thigh more firmly into Richie’s. “Safe trip home, Eddie.” 

Eddie was the first to ride away, but one Loser leaving usually meant that the rest followed. Mike and Bev left next, Mike hopping up onto the back of Bev’s bike. Bill left not long after, and Ben, Richie, and Stan were the only ones left.

Ben smiled at them softly. “I hope you guys sort this thing out.”

“Thank you, Ben.”

“Yeah, thanks, Haystack. See you around.”

Ben swung his leg over the side of his bike and rode off. 

Stan stood up from the bench and walked towards the bike rack. Dusk was just barely setting in, only painting the very edges of the town. 

“I had a good time,” Stan said, lifting his bike from the rack. 

Richie joined him. “I did too.”

“Do you want a second...y’know, a second one?”

“Yes,” Richie said quickly. “More than anything.”

“More than anything, Trashmouth?” Stan asked. 

Richie was silent. 

“Hey,” Stan said softly, nudging Richie with his shoulder. “It’s okay. I want that too.”

“Okay,” Richie said. “Okay, good. Your place or mine?”

“The Uris residence,” Stan said. “Donald and Andrea are going to have to get used to having you around. I know they don’t like you, but it’s bullshit that I’ve let them control who I hang out with for this long. I’m fifteen years old. I can make my own bad decisions.”

“Ooh, am I a bad decision, baby?” Richie asked. 

The two set out on their bikes as Stan scoffed. “The worst decision I ever made. You do realize you’re gonna have to go to bat for me. You’ll have to argue with my parents as to why I’m allowed to be there.”

“Oh, no problem, Stan. I’ve always wanted to yell at your dad.”

“I mean, yeah, me too, but try to keep things a little respectful, Richie, I don’t want to get kicked out.”

“You could always come live with me, and Maggie and Went.”

“As if we could keep up the charade around your own fucking parents, if we were both living there. They’d be on us in a heartbeat.”

“We could just tell them we’d swapped bodies.”

Stan frowned. “That wasn’t the charade I was talking about. I kinda assumed if you moved back into your own house because Donald and Andrea kicked you out for being fucking obnoxious, we’d tell Maggie and Went. I meant...the other thing.”

In the dimming light, Stan could see the dwindling golden rays of the sun shining on Richie’s flushed face as the other boy stared ahead, biking along in silence. 

“Yeah,” Richie said quietly, still bright red. “The other thing.”

They pulled up outside Stan’s house and rolled their bikes into the garage. Richie took the lead as they slipped into the house quietly. They trod silently through the kitchen, towards the stairs.

“Should I call your parents and tell them I’m staying over here tonight?” Stan asked. 

Richie shook his head. “They won’t care, dude. They’re chill.”

“Yeah, not knowing where your son is for the night sounds super chill,” Stan muttered.

“Stan? Is that you?” his mother’s voice called from the living room.

“Yeah, it’s me!” Richie said back. “I’m home. Richie’s sleeping over tonight.”

“Oh! Richie is? That’s lovely.” Stan’s mom appeared in the doorway, smiling in a way that didn’t reach her eyes. “Hi, Richie. Stan, can we talk for a moment?”

Richie glanced back at Stan before going with Stan’s mother into the living room. 

Not sure what else to do, Stan sat down at the kitchen table and let his hands rest firmly on the table, palms and fingers splayed. He could hear two voices speaking lowly and angrily in the living room. He took a steadying breath, and flinched when he heard a thud, as if someone had slammed something down forcefully. And then his father’s voice joined the hushed argument. 

Stan hated this, being an outsider in his own family’s argument.

“I’m fifteen years old!” Stan heard Richie say firmly. “If you never let me make my own bad decisions, how the hell am I ever supposed to grow into a decent human being?”

Stan’s mother let out a noise of frustration. “It is our job as your parents to protect you from the bad decisions you make in your youth. Richie has always been a troublemaker, Stanley, and he’s just gotten worse as you grow. I really thought that the argument you two had would make you see sense!”

“I’m seeing sense for the first time in my life!” Richie replied. Stan, as if in a trance, stood from the table and drifted towards the hallway. He stared across the hall towards the living room, where he could just make out Richie’s back from his vantage point. 

“Stanley, really, this rebellious phase has gone on long enough. I don’t know where we went wrong with you.” Donald’s voice was angry, but his tone was low. That was how he argued, never a yell, never enough for the neighbors to notice they were anything other than perfect.

“Richie is my best friend, Dad, and I plan on keeping him around for a very long time, I’ll have you know. You’ll just have to get used to him, because I’m not going to stop hanging out with him. This is one of those things you just have to accept.”

Stan moved across the hall, and stopped in the doorway. None of the people in the room seemed to notice him.

“That boy has been smoking cigarettes since he was twelve years old, and he’s never done an honest day’s work in his life. You have to be responsible with your choices in friends, Stanley, we’ve raised you better than this.”

“Fuck you,” Stan said from the doorway. The three turned to stare at him. Sharp, aching, hot anger coiled in Stan’s stomach. He wasn’t sure who he was angrier for, himself or Richie.

“Richie, come on—” Richie started. 

Stan leant on the doorframe, crossing his arms. “No, fuck you, Donald. Acting as if you have a right to control Stan’s life, as if you have a say in who he spends his time with. I am worth five of you, and Stan is worth ten of me. Stan and I have been best friends since like, the second grade, dude. You kinda just have to give up on this vendetta you have against me at some point. If it weren’t obvious by now, I’m here to stay. Stan, c’mon, you don’t have to fight them about this. Let’s go up to your room.”

“This house is my property,” Stan’s dad said dangerously. “I could have you removed, Richard.”

“And Stan will leave with me,” Stan shot back. “Right, Stan ?”

“Of course I’d leave with Richie,” Richie said. “If you kick Richie out, you lose me too.”

“Good night, Mr. Uris. Mrs. Uris,” Stan said coldly. “Come on, Stan.”

Stan and Richie walked up the stairs in silence. They made it to Stan’s room and took seats on the bed.

Stan looked at Richie. “I’m sorry they said all those shitty things about you.”

Richie shrugged. “It’s no big deal. I’ve heard worse and will continue to hear worse. I’m sorry that your own parents think it’s okay to treat you like that.”

“It’s no big deal,” Stan echoed. 

“They still shouldn’t talk to you like that.”

“And they shouldn’t talk about you like that either.”

“Can I just say though,” Richie said. “That that was immensely hot?”

Stan let out a very undignified splutter and shoved his face into his hands, his ears burning. “What—” he managed carefully, “what was hot?”

“You standing up to your parents like that. Like leaning against that doorframe, telling Donald to fuck off? Holy shit, Stan.”

“Didn’t know you found yourself that attractive, Richie.”

“I mean, yeah, my body is smokin’ and I am an undefeatable sex god, but putting that aside— fuck , Stan, who taught you to play with a man’s heart like that?”

“I learned from the best,” Stan said. “From my favorite Tozier.”

“From my mom?” Richie asked, grinning.

“No,” Stan said quietly. He took Richie’s hand, feeling brave, so fucking brave. 

“Oh,” Richie said. “That wasn’t a mom joke. See, I thought it would be a mom joke, but actually it was a compliment or possibly flirting, and I’m not mentally equipped to handle either, but—”

“Beep beep. You’re such a moron.” Stan squeezed Richie’s hand to let him know he didn’t mean it, and then stood to get changed for bed.

Stan’s bed wasn’t made to hold two people, but he and Richie squeezed on anyway, because there was no rebellion remaining that the two would shy away from.

“Stan, when I am 16 and I can drive and I have a red pick-up truck, and your parents have finally learned to stop trying to micromanage your life, I’m going to put you in the passenger’s side and we’re going to drive all the way out of here. We’re going to drive out into some clearing or overlook or something and we’re gonna not worry about anything. It’ll be you, me, and the birds. Or maybe we’ll go to Portland. Spend the day as city boys. See what life is like on the other side of hell.”

“Bold of you to assume I’ll ever willingly get into a car with you driving it,” Stan said.

Richie snorted. “I’m trying to be mushy, here. Play along, please.”

Stan took a deep breath. “I never thought I could have this,” he said.

“Yeah, like that. Very mushy, Stan.”

“I’m not being mushy, Trashmouth, I’m opening up.”

“Got it. Feel free, Staniel.”

“You’ve ruined it. You’ve ruined the moment.”

“Stan—” Richie was laughing and Stan had to physically turn away from him to hide his own grin. 

“You’re sleeping on the couch tonight,” Stan said, facing the wall.

Richie let out a delighted HA and wrapped his arms around Stan’s waist. He buried his face in Stan’s shoulder, where it nestled in as if his shoulder was made to hold Richie’s chin. Stan took a deep breath. 

“Is this okay?” Richie asked, voice muffled. 

“Yeah,” Stan said. “This is okay.”

Stan fell asleep with Richie’s arms wrapped around him.

Stan woke up with Richie’s arms wrapped around him. 

Stan nestled further into the embrace.

Chapter Text

“N-nothing? Really?” Bill asked disappointedly.

Stan shrugged, feeding his dollar bill into the token exchange machine. “We kinda don’t care at this point. We’ve solved our argument, we’ve hugged and made up, we’ve had our character development. There’s very little else we can do, really.”

“I g-guess so. I just wish there was m-more I could do to help you t-two.”

Stan glanced over at Richie, who was arguing with Eddie over a pinball machine. Stan smiled softly. “I think we’ll be okay.”

Bill followed Stan’s gaze. Richie slapped the machine animatedly and shouted something about Eddie’s mother. Eddie let out a small howl of frustration and launched himself at Richie, who was laughing so hard a tear was trickling down his cheek.

The Losers were the only ones in the arcade, it being a sunny and not-too-hot day, leaving very few kids indoors.

“I th-think you’re right. You will b-be okay.”

Bev appeared at Stan’s side, and linked her arm through his. “Come with me, Stan. I want to play Mrs. Pacman.”

“I hate Mrs. Pacman,” Stan complained, but followed Bev anyway.

Bev leaned over the machine and began moving the joystick expertly. Stan stood off to the side, watching the small figure of Mrs. Pacman move through the maze.

“You called me on Saturday night,” Bev said. 

Stan nodded, but realized she couldn’t see him, given the focus she had on the game. “Yeah,” he said. “But I don’t remember the call.”

“Maybe that’s for the best,” Bev said. 

“No, I want to know what you know about Saturday.”

“Yeah, you’re right. It’s your business. I mean, you called me, crying, and you told me, uh, everything.”

“I need you to define ‘everything,’ Bev.”

“Oh, Stan, I don’t know.” Bev’s voice dropped to a whisper, her eyes still trained on the game. “You told me you two kissed and that you were freaking out because you thought something was wrong with you.”

“Yeah,” Stan said, throat dry. “That’s what happened.”

“And I told you that you should come round for dinner sometime, and you can meet my aunt’s girlfriend.” 

Bev did look up from the game now, where the game over message was flashing. Stan stared at her, his eyes wide, and his mouth slightly open. Bev smiled, and Stan hesitantly returned the gesture.

“We don’t talk about it, obviously, because it’s Derry, but they have a really healthy relationship. I think she’d like you. They both would.”

Stan nodded.

“Yesterday, when you said that you two sorted it out...” Bev continued. “I know it’s not my business, but…”

“We’re...trying it,” Stan said. 

Bev put another token in the machine. “I’m glad. I think you two balance each other out.”

Stan snorted. “Yeah, you’ve made that clear enough.”

Bev rolled her eyes, still focused on the game. “It was a compliment, you dumbass. You’re good for each other.”

“I hope so,” Stan said. “Don’t...tell the others? Just yet? Please?”

“Yeah, of course, Stan, it’s your business. I’m not a jackass. I’d be more worried about your boyfriend.”

“He’s not my…” Stan swallowed. “You know. But this is a secret I know he can keep. I’m not worried.”

“I know, Stan.” Bev smiled at him briefly before turning her attention back to the game. “I’m happy for you two.” The game over message flashed on the screen once more, and Bev groaned frustratedly.

“Yesterday, when we got ice cream, that was a date,” Stan blurted, because he wanted to tell somebody. “I paid for his ice cream because that’s what you do on dates, he didn’t forget his wallet at all.”

“That’s really sweet, Stan. I’m glad you two feel safe enough around us to take that risk. I know it wasn’t much, and that it’s frustrating that it’s not safe for you guys to just...date normally. I’m really sorry.”

“It’s okay,” Stan said, but the words came out hollow. 

Bev smiled sadly. “It’s not, it’s awful. I’m sorry Derry ever made you feel like you need to hide.”

Stan was silent. Bev patted his shoulder understandingly.

Stan watched Bev play one more round on Mrs. Pacman before she gave up. 

“I get why you hate that game,” she said as the two rejoined the rest of the group. “It’s so frustrating.”

“That’s not why I hate it. I hate it because it’s repetitive.”

“Ugh, Stan, can’t you hate video games for normal reasons? It’s not high entertainment.” Richie complained.

“Getting boring is a perfectly normal reason,” Stan said. “And you have yet to give any reason why you refuse to play Street Fighter anymore.”

Fuck Street Fighter,” Richie said emphatically. 

“Mike, you’re seeing that movie with Anna tonight, right?” Ben asked. 

Mike laughed uncomfortably. “Yes, we’re meeting outside the theater at 4:50, to see the 5:00.”

“What! I-it’s already 4:00! Were you j-just going to b-b-bail on us?”

“Sorry, Bill, I just forgot.”

“Forgot about a date?” Bev asked. 

Mike shrugged. “Was just excited to hang out with you guys. It slipped my mind.”

“You h-hang out w-with us every day, Mike. Th-th-this is a special occasion, isn’t i-it?”

“I just prefer your company, Bill. All of your company. Anna is really nice, but I don’t think I want to date someone like her.”

“She ugly?”

“Looks seriously do not matter to me, Richie, but she’s actually very pretty. That’s not the issue.”

“Then what is?”

“It doesn’t matter. I’ve already been rehearsing what I’m going to say to her at the end of the date. She’s very reasonable, she won’t mind.”

Bev frowned. “Obviously you should do what feels best, but we do want you to be happy, Mike.”

“Guys, I am happy. With all of you. I don’t need a girlfriend, and I’m not going to get a girlfriend just for the sake of having a girlfriend.”

“Always knew Mike was the best of us,” Richie said. 

“I’m going on the date,” Mike said firmly. “And then I’m going to tell her that I’m very happy to have her as a friend and that things should stay that way.”

Bev squeezed Mike’s shoulder and he grinned at her.

The Losers gathered around the Galaga machine as Bill tried to beat his high score, cheering and groaning at appropriate intervals.

The back of Stan’s hand brushed against Richie’s, and a jolt of electricity spread throughout his entire body from the point of contact. 

Was this also a date?

When Stan’s watch read 4:40, Mike excused himself quietly. Stan watched Mike slip through the arcade door and hop onto his recently mended bike. Mike pedalled away, eyes downcast.

“I hope he’ll be all right,” Stan said quietly.

“Of course he’ll be all right,” Eddie said. “It’s just a date.”

“Dates can be really scary,” Stan replied.

Eddie laughed. “Right, like you’ve ever been on a date, Stan.”

Bev brought a hand to her mouth to hide her smile.

As the rest of the Losers cleared out of the arcade, Bev took Stan and Richie aside. 

“I want you two to come over for dinner tonight,” she said. 

“Why?” Richie asked. 

“I have someone I want you to meet,” she said with a smile. 

Stan rolled his eyes fondly. “There’s no need to be cryptic. Richie, Bev wants us to meet her aunt’s girlfriend.”

Richie sucked in a long, slow breath. “Why?” he asked carefully.

“She knows, Richie, remember that I called her on Saturday night?”

Richie let out the breath sharply. “Right,” he said. “And…”

“And I told her we’re...trying it.”

“Right. Okay. Bit of a big step to take without consulting me, Stan.”

“It’s Bev, man, she already knew we kissed on Saturday. I thought it wouldn’t be a big deal.”

“No, you’re right, it’s not a big deal, I’m sorry. Fuck.”

“I know,” Bev said. “It’s like you always have to be on guard.”

“Because we’re constantly in danger,” Stan agreed. 

Richie nodded slowly. “We can do dinner. Just...not right now.”

“Why not?” Bev asked.

“If there’s any chance of this getting fixed,” Stan said, catching on to what Richie was saying, “We’re gonna want to wait until we’re ourselves before we meet new people, especially something this…”

“Emotionally charged,” Bev finished. 

Richie nodded. “Stan said it better than I would’ve, but yeah, that’s the gist of things.”

“Then…” Bev bit her lip. “I hope you guys get things figured out soon.”

“Thanks, Bev,” Stan said. She nodded and hopped onto her bike, pedaling off in the direction of her house.

“Now, it’s just you and me, Stanny-boy!” Richie said. 

Stan nodded hesitantly. “Do you...do you want to...I mean, Richie, it’s only 5:00. We’ve got daylight left.”

“Yeah?” Richie was smiling encouragingly, and Stan plowed forwards.

“I mean, if you want to catch a movie or get fast food or something…”

“There’s nothing I’d like more, Staniel. Let’s be off!” Richie swung a leg over his bike and smiled at Stan. Stan returned the expression and climbed onto his own bike.

“Movies?” Richie asked. “We could sneak in, I know a guy.”

Stan rolled his eyes. “Richie, you don’t ‘know a guy,’ you walk into the theater and announce what movie you’re going to see, and the manager lets you see it because he’s afraid of the havoc you’ll wreak if he doesn’t.”

Richie sped up on his bike just enough to pedal a circle around Stan, laughing out loud. “Yeah, Stan, and that’s gonna be your job! Nobody’s going to be afraid of the havoc Stanley Uris could wreak.”

“I could wreak infinitely more havoc than you, Richie, and you know it.”

“Yes, well, I know that, Stan, but the manager doesn’t. He fears my face, not yours.”

Stan scoffed. “Yeah, all right, I’ll pull your shitty movie stunt. What if we run into Mike and Anna?”

“Tell them the truth. It was a coincidence, we just wanted to see a movie together. Mike won’t think we were spying.”

“The way you say that makes me definitely think that Mike’s gonna think we were spying.”

Stan and Richie pulled up outside the theatre and locked their bikes into the bike rack.

Stan glanced at Richie, who gave Stan an enthusiastic thumbs-up, and pushed open the double doors to the theater. The senior working the box office’s eyes widened, and he shook his head frantically. Stan bounded up to the counter and leaned across.

“Heyy…” Stan leaned in, scanning the teen’s chest for a name tag. “Stuart! Stu, Stuzie, Stuarticus, how’s it shaking?”

“Richie,” Stuart said carefully. “Are you going to be paying today?”

“What,” Stan said, “You mean in something other than my dashing good looks? You want an autograph?”

“What movie, Trashmouth?” 

Stan faltered for a second. He wasn’t used to the nickname being used with such malice. The Losers always meant it kindly or teasingly, always. It hadn’t even struck Stan up until that moment that the nickname could be used as a taunt like that. 

“The 5:00,” Stan said softly.

Stuart nodded. “Just head in. Maybe buy some concessions? Support the business? Perhaps?”

Stan shrugged. “We’ll see what happens, Stu.”

Stan and Richie stepped past the ticket counter and into the theater proper.

“I want popcorn,” Richie said.

“It’s already 5:01, we’re gonna miss the film.”

“Previews,” Richie shrugged. “Let’s get a large, we can share.”

Stan found himself unable to say no to Richie, because obviously he couldn’t say no to Richie.

They found their way into the darkened theater just as the studio’s logo flashed its way across the screen. There were maybe 15 other people in the room, but nobody paid them any mind.

They settled into their seats as the opening scene started to play.

Richie took a handful of popcorn with his left hand and left his right on the armrest between them.

That was an invitation if Stan had ever seen one.

It took almost ten minutes for Stan to get up the nerve, but finally, he rested his own hand on the armrest between their seats. 

It took another five minutes, and plenty of furtive glances cast around to make sure nobody was looking at them, but Stan finally linked his pinky finger with Richie’s.

It was all either of them dared to do.

And somehow, it was enough.

A quiet queer rebellion, enacted only by being themselves. How fucking powerful it felt.

When the movie finished, Stan and Richie booked it out of the theater as quickly as they could, not wanting Mike to spot them, if he was indeed seeing the same film. 

Richie stepped into the bathroom, leaving Stan to lurk behind a large square pillar.

Mike emerged close to the end of the crowd, accompanied by a very pretty girl with light brown skin, curly dark hair, large curioius eyes, and tidy metal braces. Mike smiled at her anxiously, and gestured towards the pillar where Stan was hiding. Stan jerked back around the pillar, praying Mike hadn’t seen him.

“Anna,” he heard Mike’s voice say. “I’m really flattered that you asked me out like this.”

Stan shouldn’t have been there. He cursed inwardly, knowing that if he moved now, Mike would know he was there, and assume the worst. 

On the other side of the pillar, Anna said, “But you’re not interested in me like that.”

Mike coughed nervously. “You could tell that easily, huh? I’m really sorry. You’re a fantastic friend, and I’m really lucky to know you. I feel really bad, as if I’ve been leading you on or something.”

“I went into this knowing you didn’t feel that way, Mike. I kinda knew I was just fooling myself. There’s someone else, isn’t there?”

“Anna, you’re an incredible girl, and you’re going to make someone very, very happy one day. Whoever you end up with is going to be so lucky to have you.”

“But it’s not going to be you.”

“But it’s not going to be me. I’m sorry, Anna.”

“Don’t be. I’m glad we tried it, at least. But...there is someone else, right?”

“Yes,” Mike admitted. Stan blinked. He knew nothing of this.

“Will you tell me about her?”

“Anna, I can’t. I’m sorry.”

“I want to be friends, if we can, Mike. I really do. And I want you to trust me. I won’t tell anyone. Is it that Beverly girl? She’s really pretty.”

“No,” Mike laughed. “It’s not Bev. Two of my friends like her, I’m not going to be another member of that club.”

“You don’t have to tell me who it is, I just want to know about her.”

Stan heard the very faint sound of Mike tapping his fingers against his leg, which he recognized as a nervous tic of his. “Yeah. Yeah, it’ll be nice to talk to someone,” he said. “I trust you.”

Stan could almost hear the smile on Anna’s face as she said, “Thank you, Mike. Go on, though, tell me!”

“He’s...great,” Mike breathed. “He feels like home.”

Anna inhaled sharply, which was good, because it covered Stan’s identical inhale from the other side of the pillar. 

Stan sank to the ground, hand over his mouth, eyes wide. Mike and Anna were talking softly, but Stan tuned it out. He’d already heard too much. 

He slipped away as quietly as he could, darting quickly into the bathroom, just as Richie emerged from the stall.

“Staniel!” Richie greeted, reaching for the faucet. “How nice of you to stop by. I just dropped a major shit, and—”

“Richie, shut up,” Stan hissed. He glanced out of the door and scanned the building. Mike and Anna were leaving, Mike gesturing wildly and Anna laughing good-naturedly. The doors closed behind them, and Stan let out a long, slow breath. “Okay, let’s go,” he said. “Dry your hands.”

Richie and Stan left the building and climbed onto their bikes, Richie chattering about the film.

“I mean, it wasn’t as good as the first, but I really enjoyed it! I’m gonna have fucking nightmares about that bunny scene, though. Who thought that was a good idea? Stan? Wanna weigh in?”

“I don’t have an opinion,” Stan said, his tongue heavy in his mouth.

Richie snorted. “Right, like Stanley fucking Uris doesn’t have an opinion. You’ve got an opinion about everything, dude.”

“Well I don’t have a fucking opinion about the bunny scene, Richie, so drop it.”

“Geez, who took a shit in your Wheaties?”

“Nobody took a shit in anybody’s Wheaties, Trashmouth.”

“Then why are you in a bad mood? Did…” Richie stopped pedaling and Stan turned on his bike to face him. “Did I do something wrong? I know we didn’t talk much, but as far as second dates go, I thought that wasn’t too bad.”

Stan shook his head fiercely. “It’s nothing to do with you, Richie, I just overheard something I shouldn’t have, and I feel weird. I like hanging out with you, Rich, I like...whatever we’re doing. It’s good.”

Richie smiled. Really smiled, and Stan thought his heart could just melt right out of his fucking chest. 

“Let’s sleep over again tonight,” Richie said. “Either house, it doesn’t matter to me.”

Stan’s house was closer. Well, Stan’s parents’ house. They slipped in through the door in the garage.

Stan couldn’t resist stepping into the living room and smugly waving hi to his parents, who looked peeved at his presence. Well, at Richie’s presence. 

When they made it up to Stan’s room, Stan shed his shoes and hopped onto the bed, where Richie joined him. Richie leant against the headboard and Stan sprawled out across the foot of the bed, and Stan was suddenly brutally reminded of their positions at Richie’s house on Saturday night. Just...reversed. Maybe Bev did have a point after all.

“Stan,” Richie said. “I meant to tell you this morning, but—”

“Hm?” 

“But I remembered Saturday. Last night. In my dreams, I mean. I just had like, super clear linear memories. Like I know they weren’t dreams. It was definitely memories of Saturday.”

“Oh,” Stan said. “Okay. And?”

“I hate arguing with you,” Richie said, playing with the hem of his jeans. “I don’t ever want to argue with you about that sorta thing again.”

“We won’t,” Stan said firmly, and he meant it. “Not about that. We’ll argue about other things, but not that. We have to communicate. I don’t want to miscommunicate about this shit, Richie. I want you to tell me everything.”

“Okay. Okay, well, there is actually something I’ve been sitting on, something I haven’t told you.”

Stan nodded, nervous. “Yeah?”

“I, uh, shit, Stan. This is actually really hard to say.”

“Just say it, Richie, there’s no judgment, you know? Anything you want to say, I want to hear.”

“Okay. Okay.” Richie dried his palms on his jeans. “Okay. Stan, I, uh...I fucked your dad.”

Stan sighed. Richie grinned at him, putting his hands behind his head relaxedly.

“Richie,” Stan said seriously. “No matter what Beverly says about us developing into better versions of ourselves, or whatever, I forsee absolutely no future in which you are any less of an ass.”

Richie’s grin grew even wider. “Oh, you do love me, Stanny!”

Stan said, “Jackass.”

“Stick-in-the-mud.”

“Trashmouth.”

“Prick.”

“Dipshit.”

“Stanley Urine”

“Richie Toe-sucker.”

“Boyfriend?” Richie blurted. 

Stan blinked. “What?”

Richie seemed to sink in on himself. “Shit I didn’t mean to say...I mean...do you want...to be boyfriends? I mean, obviously we don’t have to, I just kinda thought that we were headed in that direction and if you’re not opposed to the idea, going on dates is fun and being with you makes me happy and—”

“Richie, shut up,” Stan said. “Yes, fucking obviously yes. I want that, I do.”

Richie’s eyes were shining. “Boyfriends?” He asked.

Stan nodded quickly, feeling giddy. “Yeah, fuck, yes, Richie.”

Richie reached out and grabbed Stan’s hand, and Stan squeezed Richie’s. They could do that. Stan could just hold Richie’s hand, and not worry about whether or not Richie wanted that. Richie wanted that. Richie wanted that enough to ask to be boyfriends. Fuck, Stan wanted it enough to agree. 

“My boyfriend,” Richie said wonderingly. “Stanley Urine, my boyfriend .” He rubbed his thumb across Stan’s hand and Stan felt his ears heat up. 

“Richie Toe-sucker, my boyfriend,” Stan said. 

Richie let out a short, hysterical laugh. “ Boyfriend, ” he said. “Take that, you fucking clown.”

“Clown?” Stan asked. 

Richie waved his hand dismissively. “The clown. It hated gay people. Attacked me for being gay. Who knew?”

“I think the clown hated everybody, to be fair. Definitely antisemitic.”

Richie looked horrified. “Did it attack you for being Jewish?”

“No, but I’m Jewish and it was inconveniencing me.”

Richie laughed again, and god but Stan loved his laugh. His bright, loud laugh. His shining, joyful laugh. 

“I’ve always loved your laugh,” he told Richie, because he could, because Richie was his boyfriend. 

Richie flushed and Stan let out a soft giggle, an actual honest-to-god giggle. What the fuck.  

Richie reached out suddenly and wrapped Stan in a hug. Stan returned it without thinking. He sank into it, he held on tightly, and he let himself be held. 

As Stan let himself relax into the hug, thoughts rose into his mind, unbidden. About his mother wanting grandchildren, and the face his father made whenever he saw Stan (in Richie’s body). He heard Bowers saying things that shouldn’t be said to anybody, things that feel infinitely harsher if they’re true. A word said as if it were a horrible thing, a dirty thing to be. 

Stan started to pull away from the hug but stopped. More things rose to his mind. Other things. Bev’s smile when she talked about her aunt’s girlfriend. The dream-like tone to Mike’s voice as he told Anna his crush was a boy who felt like home. 

Stan pulled Richie even closer and closed his eyes.

It would be okay.

It would be okay.

Really and truly, it would be okay.

 

Something in the air shifted.

 

Stan’s arms had been on top, wrapped around Richie’s shoulders, but now they were holding his around the waist. His cheek was pressed against Richie’s neck and Richie’s breath was warm against his ear where he was pressing into Stan. Stan opened his eyes slowly. 

The first thing he saw was a mop of dark hair. Dark, loosely curled hair. 

He pulled away, holding Richie at arms’ length. 

Richie, who looked like Richie.

Stan let out a strangled shout of joy and Richie’s eyes flew open. Richie took a moment to register before his eyes widened and a smile split his face.

“Stanny!” Richie cried, throwing himself forward and tackling Stan onto the bed into another hug.

“Richie!” Stan shouted breathlessly, pulling back and putting his hands on Richie’s face. He stared at him, taking in every detail, drinking him in.

Richie let out a loud, relieved laugh. “Its you! It’s you! You’re you!”

Stan grinned and pulled Richie close to him. “And you’re you.”

And then, as if they were made to fit together, Stan’s lips slotted into Richie’s and he kissed him. 

And he kissed him so gently, so kindly, so honestly, pouring everything he wanted to say into that kiss. He knew Richie felt it, knew Richie had to have felt it, having spent so long in Stan’s mind, in his body. Richie’s body against his felt like a second awareness, like another body that was almost his own, linked to him, reaching out for him, clinging to him.

Richie kissed him back. And he kissed him so fiercely, so passionately, so earnestly, that Stan felt as if he could combust. He knew Richie meant it, knew Richie was leaving so many things unsaid because Stan knew, and he didn’t have to tell him. So many words that passed between them silently because there was no need to speak aloud. 

“Holy fuck,” Richie said softly, pulling away. “Fuck me sideways.”

“Not yet,” Stan said. 

Richie’s smile grew Cheshire-esque. “Not yet, Stan?”

Stan rolled his eyes and extricated himself from Richie, lifting himself off of the bed and onto the floor. 

He stretched his arms far above his head and reveled in the familiar curve of his own forearm. He smiled at Richie, who was still stretched out on the bed. Richie undid the top button on his shirt, so it wasn’t so tight against his neck, and warmth filled Stan’s chest. Richie, in Richie’s body, with Richie’s quirks and mannerisms. And Stan was himself. He ran his fingers through his own hair ( his own hair ) and breathed easily. 

He turned to face Richie fully. Richie raised a questioning eyebrow and Stan snorted. 

“Move over, I’m getting in bed with you.”

“My my, Stanthony, how forward of you.”

“Beep beep,” Stan said fondly, climbing into bed next to his boyfriend. 

Chapter Text

“Stan!” Stan jolted to consciousness as Richie shook him back and forth. “Stan, wake up!”

Stan blinked in the darkness. “Wha...Rich, what time is it?”

Richie glanced at Stan’s bedside table, where Stan knew his digital alarm clock was. “It’s 4:09.”

“In the afternoon?” Stan asked blearily, mind too slow to process things.

“No, in the morning.”

“Then why the fuck am I awake?” Stan grumbled, rolling over to go back to sleep. 

“I just had the best fucking idea, Stan, and if we keep sharing a bed, you’re going to have to be used to being waken up at 4:00 in the morning to hear my great ideas. ‘Cause I’ll finally have someone to share them with.”

“You’re a fucking enigma, Richie.”

“Thank you. No, but listen to my idea, my plan. Listen to it. Listen listen listen!”

“I’m listening, Richie,” Stan said. His eyes were sort of adjusting to the dark now, and he could see Richie’s wide smile. Richie’s hair was messy and he was squinting, presumably from the lack of glasses.

“We shouldn’t tell them we’ve switched back.”

“What?”

“The Losers! Let’s not tell them, let’s let them figure it out. We’ve pretended to be each other for this long, why not longer? And it would be really fucking funny.”

“Hm,” Stan mumbled, still sleep-laden. “Sure, okay, Rich,” he said, barely aware of what he was agreeing to. He rolled over and went back to sleep. 

When Stan woke up next, it was to his alarm clock going off at 8:00. He was pressed against the wall, Richie’s arms wrapped around his waist like an octopus.

“Ugh, Richie,” Stan groaned, trying to pull Richie off of him. “Move, I’ve got to piss.”

Richie huffed gently into Stan’s shoulder and snuggled further into Stan’s back.

“Richie you are squeezing my bladder, ” Stan said. “I’m going to wet the bed if you don’t let me go.”

“Nooo,” Richie complained. “Stay.”

“What the fuck happened to the wide-awake Richie Tozier I met at like four in the morning?” Stan asked, physically prying Richie’s arms off of himself so he could climb over Richie and out of bed.

“Fuck you, Stan, I want to sleep,” Richie said.

“Then sleep, dumbass.” Stan turned and left the room, jogging down the hall towards the bathroom to brush his teeth. His father was already awake, and was just leaving the bathroom when Stan arrived. 

“Stanley,” his father greeted. 

“Donald,” Stan replied in equal monotone. 

His father walked away silently, leaving Stan alone. Stan sighed and pushed the bathroom door open. 

When Stan made it back to his room, Richie had his feet swung over the side of the bed, and was blinking blearily. 

“Where are my glasses?” he asked. 

“Here.” Stan picked them up from the floor. “You have to be more careful with these, you’re gonna step on them one of these days.”

Richie stuck his tongue out at Stan and slipped his glasses on. “God, I did not miss being as blind as a bat. It was nice to be able to wake up in the mornings and just... see.

“I won’t miss it either,” Stan said. “I don’t know how you function, Richie, I really don’t.”

“Hey, hey, Stan, guess what,” Richie said. 

“What?”

“We’re dating,” Richie said, bouncing up and down in his seat. 

Stan sighed and threw a shirt at Richie. “Yeah, we are. Can’t imagine why.”

“You are so lucky to have me, Staniel. I got dudes lined up around the block to get a bite outta this.”

“Shame. You’ll have to break up with Eddie’s mom, now.”

“Stanny my heart, my sweet, you know the relationship I had with Sonia Kaspbrak was purely physical. You’re the one I care for, dearest.”

The pet names were jokes, but Stan flushed all the same. Richie must have picked up on it, because he let out a short, joyful laugh. 

“Do you like it when I call you ‘dearest,’ Stan?” Richie asked, standing up from the bed. He crossed the floor and took Stan’s hand. Stan, still blushing furiously, didn’t meet Richie’s eyes. “Or , maybe you were especially fond of ‘my sweet’?” Richie said, leaning in close and leering at Stan. 

“Beep beep,” Stan said, but even to his own ears it sounded half hearted. 

“I think you like pet names, Stan! I really think you do!”

“Yeah, sure, Babe.” Stan rolled his eyes.

Richie squeaked and Stan’s eyes flew to Richie’s face. Richie had his mouth covered with the hand that wasn’t holding Stan’s, and he was looking away. Richie’s ears were fire truck red. 

It was Stan’s turn to be delighted. “Richie, you’re flustered too! Babe!”

“Sweetheart,” Richie muttered back, voice muffled by his palm. Stan spluttered in spite of himself and turned away again. Neither of them seemed able to meet the other’s eyes.

“Maybe we should hold off on pet names for a bit,” Stan said quietly, face aching.

“It’s too much for my poor heart,” Richie agreed, and Stan nodded gratefully. “I was kinda wondering, though,” Richie said. “How did we get back to normal?”

Stan frowned. He hadn’t even thought about that. “I guess…we finally sorted our shit.”

“So what, the universe was waiting for us to get together? We didn’t even smooch until after we were back.”

“I don’t know, Richie. I don’t know anything about this. I’m kinda trying not to look a gift horse in the mouth.”

“I hate that saying,” Richie muttered. “Like what does it even mean? Who’s looking at a horse’s tongue for fun?”

“It’s about the teeth, actually,” Stan said. “You can tell how old a horse is by looking at its teeth, I think. So if you look a gift horse in the mouth, you’re checking to see if its an old horse, when you’ve just been gifted an entire fucking horse, y’know?”

“Huh. I always thought it was about the Trojan Horse or something…”

“Surprisingly common misconception,” Stan said. 

Richie frowned. “Does it like...get an extra tooth for every year it’s alive? Like a tree has rings?”

Stan blinked. “No?”

“‘Cause that would be really funny. I don’t know how old horses live to—” 

“Like 30 years,” Stan said. “Sometimes more.”

“How do you know all this shit?” Richie asked wonderingly. 

“I only know useless facts, though,” Stan said. “Not like, actually useful things with a real life application.”

“I dunno. You talking about horse longevity is getting me a little hot under the collar. Talk trivia to me, Stanny!”

Stan rolled his eyes. “Owls can’t move their eyes at all, but they can spin their heads up to 270 degrees. Not 360 degrees, though, that’s a myth.”

“Oh, keep going, Stan,” Richie said, fanning himself.

Stan laughed in spite of himself. “Over half of the 154 sonnets Shakespeare wrote were addressed to an unnamed male lover.”

“Oh Stanny you’re really doing it! Don’t stop now!”

“A pig’s orgasm lasts 30 minutes.”

“They’re not the only ones!” Richie yelled with delight.

“I knew you’d like that one,” Stan said.

“I fucking loved that one. Oh god, I have even more reason to call Eddie’s mom a pig now.”

“Jesus christ, Richie.”

Richie just waggled his eyebrows. Stan shoved him gently.

“Are we still doing your dumb prank idea?” Stan asked.

Richie pretended to look offended and pulled his hand out of Stan’s. “Dumb? My dear lad, my genius is unparalleled! But yeah, you agreed to it, Stanley, so you’re stuck with it.”

“Nothing is legally binding at 4:00 AM, Trashmouth,” Stan said with an eye roll, but he grabbed Richie’s Hawaiian shirt all the same. “You have to button up to your collar, though. They’ll catch on, otherwise.”

“Actually, I changed my mind, this is a horrible idea,” Richie said.

Stan rolled his eyes again.

They got ready in companionable chatter, Richie blabbering about something-or-other, Stan only chiming in when he had something to contribute. 

They left the house quickly, not really paying mind to where they would go.

“Let’s go to Bill’s,” Richie said. “We can call the others from there, bring them over. Ooh, should we get Bill in on it?”

Stan frowned. “No,” he said. “We should get Eddie in on it.”

Richie cackled. “You’re right! That’ll be so much funnier than Bill knowing. Let’s go pick him up now, it’s only 9:00, his mom will still be asleep.”

It wasn’t a matter of how funny it would be, Stan thought as he pushed off of the pavement and began to ride in the direction of Eddie’s house. It was a matter of reminding Eddie that he was also one of their best friends. Bill knowing about this dumbass prank when Eddie didn’t would probably just be the final nail in that particular coffin.

They pulled up outside of Eddie’s house. Sure enough, the lights in Mrs. Kaspbrak’s bedroom window were off. Luckily for them, however, Eddie’s light was on. Richie dropped his bike and grabbed the drainpipe, shimmying up it quickly. Stan rolled his eyes and leant against the wall of the house. He heard the distinctive rap of Richie’s knuckles against glass and a muffled yelp. The window was pushed open and Eddie’s head and shoulders emerged. 

“Stan? You’re still Stan, right?” Eddie asked. “What are you doing here, man?”

“Let me in, I gotta unlock the door for that pussy down there who thinks he’s too good to climb drainpipes.”

“What?” Eddie asked bemusedly. Still, he stepped aside and Richie disappeared into the house. 

It was almost comical, the way Stan could track Richie and Eddie’s progression through the house just by the sound of their bickering. They were lucky Sonia Kaspbrak was a heavy sleeper. 

Eddie finally swung the door open and met Stan’s eyes. “You’re back,” he said. It wasn’t a question. 

Stan stepped inside. “What gave it away? Richie being the world’s most obnoxious dumbass, or me refusing to climb the side of your house?”

“Both,” Eddie said. “What are you two doing here?”

Stan rolled his eyes. “Richie thinks he’s a comedic genius, and we need an ‘accomplice’,” Stan said, making air quotes.

“I am a comedic genius, Stan, but yes, we need an accomplice, and you’re the best man for the job.”

Eddie scowled, but he still looked pleased. “What do you need?”

“We’re not gonna tell the others we’ve switched back,” Stan said. “Richie’s plan, obviously, but—”

“That’s so fucking funny,” Eddie said. “I’m all in.”

Richie grinned. “Hell yeah, Eds, bring it in!” He reached to wrap Eddie in a hug. Eddie squawked and tried to squirm away.

“Let go of me! Fuck off, Richie, jesus! And don’t call me Eds!”

Stan smiled softly at the scene. Sure, he’d never lost Richie, not really. Richie had been at his side practically 24/7 since they’d woken up on Sunday. But watching his own body interact with Eddie in this way had been jarring. Watching Richie’s body wrestle Eddie into a sideways choke hold and plant a noogie on his head was comforting.

“We’re gonna go to Bill’s,” Stan said. “You’re in, right, Eddie? You’ll help?”

“Obviously,” Eddie said. “See how Big Bill likes having the wool pulled over his eyes. Let me just grab my fanny pack, I’ll be out in a sec.”

“Let me just grab my fanny pack!” Richie mocked, voice high.

“Shut up, Richie!” Eddie said, retreating up the stairs to his room.

“We’re not telling the others that we’re together, right?” Stan asked lowly, once he was sure Eddie was out of earshot. 

Richie shook his head. “I didn’t think so. We can, I guess, but—”

“No, you’re right. I don’t think we should. Not yet, anyway.”

“But we will, eventually?” Richie asked.

“I hope so,” Stan said.

Eddie came barreling down the stairs a moment later, barely stopping to say “Ready to go?” before shooting out the door. 

Stan and Richie followed. 

The bike towards Bill’s house was alive with chatter and angry yells and loud laughs. Stan was smiling so wide he thought his cheeks would burst. 

“Do you think Bill’s awake yet?” Richie asked, as they pulled up outside the house. 

“Probably is, Stan, ” Stan said. Eddie snickered.

“Okay, Richie, ” Richie said. “Let’s go in.”

Stan walked up to the front door and slammed his hand against it multiple times. “Bill!” he yelled, slipping easily back into his Richie impression. “Big Bill! Billy! Billiam!” 

The door swung wide a moment later, to reveal a thoroughly unimpressed Bill Denbrough. “H-hey, Richie,” he said. Stan grinned and shoved his way through the door, past Bill.

“Denbrough baby, how’s it going?”

“Ch-charming as ever, Tozier,”

“You know it!” Stan said. “We’re coming in, in case you couldn’t tell.”

“I c-c-could tell. Mike’s here already, but B-Bev’s not answering our calls. Ben’s on his w-way over. We couldn’t get in contact with y-you guys, so I assumed you’d already l-left.”

“Just lucky we picked your place, then,” Eddie said, joining them inside. Richie came in last. Bill shut the door behind them.

“Any reason we can’t get in touch with Bev?” Richie asked. 

“We were just about t-t-to call her again when Richie decided to d-do his best impression of a j-j-j—fuck. Of a j-j—”

“Jackhammer,” Mike supplied, joining them in the foyer. Bill shot him a grateful smile.

“On my door,” Bill finished.

“Wow, Mike, Bill, you guys are like, on a wavelength,” Stan said, offering his best Richie-Brand-Shit-Eating-Grin. 

Mike looked bashful.

Stan decided to plough ahead, in true Richie Tozier fashion. “How was the date? She take it well?”

Mike nodded. “She was really respectful about it, and we’re going to hang out again platonically on Sunday after meeting. At the library.”

“Nerds,” Stan said.

Mike shrugged. “Maybe.”

A sharp knock on the door sounded and Richie stepped aside so Bill could open the door.

Ben waved hi from the step, Bev tucking both of their bikes away into the bushes behind him.

“H-hey, Ben. Glad you got Bev.”

Ben shrugged, stepping inside. “Was just worried when you said you couldn’t reach her. Turns out her aunt was just on the phone.”

“Yeah, so it’s fine,” Bev said. “Sorry to have worried you guys.”

“It’s no p-p-problem,” Bill said. “But l-lets get out of the v-vestibule, I’m getting cramped.”

“It’s called a foyer, Bill,” Stan said, following Bill back into the kitchen.

“It’s a vestibule,” Richie said from the back of the group. Stan turned to glare at Richie, knowing full well that Richie didn’t care about whether it was a foyer or a vestibule, and was just trying to get Stan riled up.

Thank you, Stan,” Bill said. Eddie smirked.

The Losers were all gathered around Bill’s kitchen table now, some sitting but most standing.

“Wh-what do you guys want to do today?”

“We’ve spent like every day this week together,” Bev said. “I’m running out of ideas.”

“We could just chill in the living room for a bit,” Eddie said. “Your parents aren’t gonna be home until tomorrow, right, Bill?”

“That’s r-right. So we can j-just do whatever.”

“Let’s watch a movie,” Ben suggested. “I can make some cookies, if your parents won’t mind me using your ingredients, Bill.”

Bill shook his head. “They w-won’t mind. How about we all help make the cookies so Ben’s n-not stuck in here on his own.”

“That sounds fun!” Bev said. “Cookie gang?”

“There are seven of us,” Mike said. “Let’s split up. Ben can pick his cookie-making team, and I’ll lead a brownie-making team.”

“Ooh, cookies and brownies,” Stan said, leaning across the table, still in full Richie-mode. “You sure know the way to a gal’s heart, Mikey.”

Richie scoffed in his well-practiced Stan impression, and said, “Calm down, Trashmouth.” 

Eddie had to pretend his shoe was untied so he could duck under the table to stifle his laughter.

Bill insisted that Richie and Eddie not be put on a team together, as he said he’d prefer to not have to scrub flour and dried egg out of the floor tiles.

Of course, that meant that inevitably, Richie and Eddie were indeed put on a team together, as Bill was currently under the impression that Richie’s body still had Stan’s brain in it.

Stan instead joined Ben’s cookie making team, along with Bev. Mike took Bill, Richie, and Eddie.

“No fair,” Ben complained. “Why does Mike get all the responsible ones?”

“Are you kidding me?” Stan asked. “They’ve got Eddie. We’re living the high life, Haystack, we can lick the bowl without a single salmonella lecture.”

That cheered Ben up only a little, but made Bev grin wickedly.

As Stan had learned over the past four or five days, one of the greatest advantages that came from being Richie Tozier was that Stan could obey every single impulsive thought that crossed his mind. Pour brown sugar into Bev’s hair? Sure, why not, it’d wash out. Coat your nostrils in flour and stand in the corner, trembling and making intense eye contact with Ben until he laughed? Classic Richie move.

Stan had never had so much fun in his life.

Across the room, Stan could almost feel the strain of self control radiating off of Richie. His boyfriend (his boyfriend!!) was standing stock still, holding the bowl steady for Bill to use the electric mixer. Richie looked up and met Stan’s eyes. Stan smirked and stuck his finger into the bowl of cookie dough, pulling out a glob, and popping it in his mouth. 

Richie almost whimpered. 

You did this to yourself, Stan thought. You and your stupid prank idea. Now I get to eat the cookie dough and you don’t. How does it feel?

Richie didn’t answer of course, just stared mournfully at the bowl of brownie batter.

True to form, Eddie had launched into a loud discussion of salmonella risk. Presumably because Bill had snuck a lick of the batter off of his finger.

“And another thing, that’s also, super, super unsanitary, Bill, you using your finger for that, are you trying to get us all killed? Spreading your germs around like that?”

Stan could see Richie practically physically restraining himself from sticking his finger in the bowl to annoy Eddie too.

Stan rolled his eyes and came up beside Richie. The rest of the group seemed to have forgotten their respective tasks, in favor of watching Eddie chew Bill out.

Eddie whipped around, something dangerously like mischief in his eyes. “Stan,” he said, eyes on Richie. “You agree with me, don’t you? Surely, a sensible man like yourself…”

The group’s attention was on Richie. Richie, whose mouth was pressed so rightly that his lips had disappeared entirely. Richie, whose hands were flat and rigid against his thighs. Richie, who looked like he was about to burst if he had to keep from teasing Eddie for another minute.

Stan rolled his eyes and nudged Richie in the side. “Go on, then, if you must,” he said.

“What, no!” Eddie cried. “You’re seriously gonna let him—”

“Oh thank god, ” Richie said at the top of his lungs, instantly plunging his entire hand into the brownie batter and wiping it across Eddie’s face. Eddie screamed and shoved Richie away, leaving Richie on the floor, a cackling mess.

“Stan’s finally cracked,” Ben said sadly.

“That’s not Stan,” Bill said.

Stan offered a hand to pull Richie up from the ground. “I should have known your incredible, insatiable need to be as much of an asshole to Eddie as possible would be the downfall of this little escapade. Other hand, Richie, I’m not touching your right hand until you clean it.”

“Stan,” Richie complained. “The brownie batter was right there. ” As if to demonstrate, Richie took a long lick from his hand.

“You wash that off in the bathroom, Eddie can wash his face in the kitchen sink.”

“Why do I have to go to the bathroom?”

“Because Eddie is fucking vibrating. I think if you’re in the same room as him for another moment, he’s actually going to rip your head off.”

Richie sighed and trotted off down the hallway towards the downstairs bathroom.

The rest of the Losers stared at Stan, mouths open and concern in their eyes.

“I can’t believe he blew our cover,” Eddie bemoaned as Stan led him to the kitchen sink.

“Eddie, y-y-you knew?” Bill asked.

“Fucking obviously, Bill, keep up. But Richie seriously had to be that dumbass and blow things just to make fun of me.”

“Well, you shouldn’t have riled him up,” Stan said.

“That sounds an awful lot like victim-blaming, Stan.”

“Wash your damn face, Edward,” Stan said tiredly. Eddie leant over the sink and Stan turned back to the other four Losers.

“Y-you switched back,” Bill said finally. 

“We did,” Stan confirmed. The group seemed to take a moment to acknowledge it before they broke into tentative smiles. Stan continued, “It happened last night. Then, obviously, Richie thought it would be really funny to pretend we never swapped back, because we’d gotten so used to impersonating each other anyway.”

“And what’s the use of a top-notch Richie Tozier impression if you can’t use it?” Richie asked, shaking his hand dry as he re-entered the room.

Bev laughed loudly. “You guys are so annoying,” she said fondly. “You get back to your own bodies, resolving this huge supernatural issue, which has been a strange and confusing week for all of us, and the first thing you guys decide to do—Ha! The first thing you guys decide to do is play a stupid prank.” She ran a hand over her forehead and laughed breathily. “You are so annoying,” she reiterated. 

Richie raised an imaginary wine glass towards Stan. “To being incredibly annoying,” he said.

Stan thought for a second about denying the joke, but instead raised his own imaginary drink. “Cheers,” he said.

“I’m not touching those brownies,” Eddie said firmly, emerging from the sink with his face sopping wet. “It’s cookies only for me.”

“How?” Bill asked.

“How what?” Eddie asked.

“H-how did you swap back?”

Stan glanced at Richie and grinned. “Must’ve been a time limit or something. Can’t think of anything that happened that would have swapped us back.”

Richie laughed. “Yeah. You can take the Richie out of the Richie, but you can’t keep the Richie out of the Richie.”

“Richie, w-w-what the fuck i-is that supossed t-to mean?”

“You can take the Richie out of the body but you can’t keep the body out of the Richie?” Mike mused.

“You can put the Richie in the Stan, but you can’t keep the Stan inside the Richie,” Eddie said.

“You can take the mind out of the Richie but you can’t keep the Richie out of the mind,” Bev chimed in.

“So…” Ben said, sounding confused and a little worried. The group turned to look at him. Ben was twisting his hands together anxiously. “So…that was Stan that made that cocaine joke?”

Stan snorted. “Yeah, that was me. I thought it was kinda funny.”

“I was watching from across the room,” Richie said, throwing an arm over Stan’s shoulders. “It was fucking hillarious.”

“Damn,” Stan said, ducking out from Richie’s arm. “I changed my mind, it was a horrible joke.”

Richie grinned.

This would be okay, actually. The warm pressure of Richie at his side was familiar and comforting in a way it had never been before.

“Also, I’m gay,” Stan said.

The low thrumm of chatter ceased instantly and six pairs of eyes were on him. Stan swallowed but smiled carefully. 

“Thanks for t-t-t-telling us,” Bill said finally.

Stan’s smile grew wider. “Sorry to just drop that on you guys. It had to be a bit like pulling a band-aid off, so I didn’t even let myself think about it beforehand.”

“Aren’t you scared?” Eddie asked suddenly. The Losers all turned to look at him. Eddie was trembling and his voice was quiet and shaky. “Of getting sick?”

“No!” Richie burst out. “Of course—”

Stan laid a hand on Richie’s arm in a very obvious ‘calm down’ gesture. “No,” he said. “I just have to be careful, you don’t get sick just by virtue of being gay. There’s more to it than that.”

“Oh,” Eddie said softly. “Ma always said…”

“Come on, dude, your mom says a lot of things,” Richie said angrily. “You can’t believe anything that comes out of her mouth, and you know it.”

“Richie, it’s not Eddie’s fault—” Stan said.

“Bullshit! You deserve more support than whatever the fuck that was. Come on, guys! Stan just admitted to something that’s really scary and really hard to say out loud, and all he gets is a thank you and a question about AIDS? Fuck you guys.”

“Richie, come on, don’t be like that,” Mike said. “It was just a shock, is all. Stan, we’re super proud of you and really grateful that you trust us.”

“Please don’t make a big deal about it,” Stan said. “Richie, it’s seriously fine, I don’t want a lot of attention about this.”

“My aunt’s a lesbian,” Bev said. “Her girlfriend’s bisexual.” She stared around the group challengingly. “If any of you have issues with queer people, you should tell me right now.”

“Bev, Richie, I appreciate the support, but I really would rather we just move on,” Stan said. “Really.”

“Don’t think I can’t feel the heterosexual disapproval radiating off of you in waves,” Richie said hysterically. “I can feel it! Just say you hate gay people and leave!”

“Richie, nobody’s saying they hate gay people,” Stan pleaded. “They’re all fine with it. Please leave it alone.”

“Richie, please listen—” Ben started to say.

“Of course we don’t hate—” Mike began.

“No, no, fuck all of you!” Richie was breathing heavily. “I’ve seen this before. This has happened before. Stan, you’ve gotta run, fuck, Stanley, you have to run, now—”

“Richie!” Stan yelled, grabbing Richie by the shoulders. “Calm the fuck down!”

Richie’s eyes were darting back and forth and his breathing was labored. “Stan,” he started.

“I’m safe, Richie, you’re safe, we’re all fucking safe, so how about you calm down, yeah?” Stan said, attempting to infuse his voice with both finality and comfort. 

“Right,” Richie said, staring downwards. “Right.” He took a deep breath and looked up at the others. “Sorry,” he said quietly.

“We don’t hate queer people, Richie,” Ben said. “And even if we did, we’d never hurt Stan.”

“Yeah, c’mon, dude,” Eddie scoffed. “You’re not in any danger here.”

“Have you ever had a panic attack before now, Richie?” Mike asked gently. 

Richie laughed shakilky and pushed his hair out of his eyes. “That wasn’t a panic attack, Mike, I don’t get panic attacks.”

Eddie raised his eyebrows. “If that wasn’t a panic attack, then what was it?”

Richie shrugged. “I dunno, I just get like that sometimes.”

“Then you get panic attacks sometimes,” Mike said. “That was very clearly a panic attack.”

“Nah,” Richie waved his hand. “Just like...a really strong memory.”

“Like a flashback?” Eddie asked worriedly. 

Richie rolled his eyes. “Panic attacks and flashbacks are for chumps.”

“I get them, and I’m no chump,” Bev said. Richie looked at her quickly. She smiled gently, leaning against the counter. “From the clown and from my shitty old man. It’s trauma, man, it does that to you. I’ve been seeing a therapist in Bangor.”

Richie swallowed. “But—”

Mike raised his hand. “I have these moments where I’m about to have a panic attack, and I recognize the signs because I used to get them, before the clown. But now, when I’m about to have a panic attack, I just suddenly get really detached from my body, as if I’m not the one inside it. It’s like I become both the video game character and the guy at the arcade machine. It’s probably not healthy, but it does happen,” he said.

Eddie nodded. “I sometimes have to shower for upwards of three hours, scrubbing until my skin is like, cracking and bleeding. Because I can still feel the greywater and the blood and the clown vomit on my skin, and I think I’ll never be clean.”

“I g-go nonverbal. E-e-entirely, sometimes. Like, I c-c-c-can barely grunt or sigh, like th-there’s something in my th-throat, stopping me from t-t-talking, or making a-any noise at all. Like my st-stutter, when I get hung up on w-w-words, but instead I get h-hung up on e-every sound I want to m-m-make. It usually happens when I g-get reminded of G-G-G-Georgie, or the f-fucking clown.”

“I can’t go into the library basement,” Ben said. “Or the kissing bridge. Certain hallways at school. Not anymore. Sometimes I can’t even get out of bed.”

“I’ve thought about killing myself,” Stan said softly. He looked up at the group with challenging eyes. “Don’t look at me like that, I obviously haven’t done it,” he said. “And I don’t plan on it. But sometimes all I can see when I close my eyes is that fucking woman in the painting and her goddamn teeth.” Stan reached up to run the pad of his pointer finger over the faint scars lining his face. 

“So it’s okay if you get panic attacks, Richie,” Bev said.

Eddie crossed his arms. “It might actually be weirder if you didn’t.”

Richie looked away. Stan grabbed Richie’s arm and tugged it gently. “Tell us whatever you’re not telling us, Richie. We won’t force you, obviously, but we’ve told you our stuff. We’ve all been hurt by that shit.”

“Henry Bowers has a cousin,” Richie said in a rush.

Stan frowned. “The one that looks like me?”

Richie nodded. “And, uh, that summer, while we were all fighting—”

Bill coughed into his hand, looking embarrassed. 

Richie ignored him. “I met his cousin but I didn’t realize he was...y’know, Bowers’s cousin. So, we were playing Street Fighter, and—”

“Oh, Richie,” Bev breathed. Stan looked at her. She clearly had a better idea where this was going than Stan did.

“And Bowers walked in and his cousin said that Bowers hadn’t told him that his town was full of...fairies, and—”

Stan understood now. He wasn’t going to interrupt Richie, though.

Richie was rocking back and forth on the balls of his feet, not looking at any of them. “And Bowers asked me if I was trying to bone his cousin, and I got basically kicked out of the arcade, and then the fucking clown showed up and—” Richie inhaled sharply. “And—”

“It’s okay,” Stan said. “We can figure out the rest.”

Richie laughed shakily. “So, uh, surprise, I’m gay too. And last time any group got any wind of the fact that I’m queer, I got—”

“Almost beat up, thrown out of your safe place, and instantly attacked by the clown,” Eddie finished. “Jesus christ, Rich.”

“No wonder you wanted Stan to run,” Mike said kindly. “It’s okay, Richie, we’re not like Bowers.”

“I know that,” Richie said shortly. He laughed and ran his fingers through his hair. “I do know that, I just—”

“It’s okay, Richie,” Stan said. “It really is.”

The oven beeped loudly, indicating that it was done preheating.

And collectively, silently, miraculously, the Losers all agreed to continue on as if nothing had changed, as if they hadn’t spontaneously bared their souls to each other.

When they made it into the living room, with two plates of baked goods and one large bowl of popcorn (courtesy of Ben), they were tired but happy.

Stan sat next to Richie, who’s smile hadn’t left his face since the conversation had broken off.

“I want to tell them,” Richie muttered, his grin still wide.

“Riding the high of acceptance all the way, are we?” Stan asked, scooting a little closer to Richie. “Go ahead.”

Bill walked into the room clutching three VHS tapes. “I-I’ve got F-Ferris Bueller , Die Hard, and F-Footloose .”

“Stan and I are boyfriends,” Richie said.

Bill’s face remained impassive. “Good for you, but which m-movie do you want to see?”

And that was that.

And if Stan and Richie held hands throughout the entirety of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off , that was nobody’s business but their own.