"Yeeeah, no thanks."
Richie balls up the oversized, colorful sheet of paper scrawled in bold black text: COME ON AND SLAM (WITH US)! and chucks it over his head. He lounges out on Eddie's cushy, expensive apartment sofa, kicking his feet up on the glass-topped coffee table. Maybe in hell he would go to some nerdfest poetry circlejerk.
Eddie marches across the hallway, yanking a baby blue polo over his stomach and wincing at the visible cranberry stain.
"C'mon!" he shouts. "Don't make me go alone, Richie. I hate crowds."
Richie ttches quietly, staring up at the ceiling. He doesn't get why a thing like this would be so popular. Listen to a bunch of people gripe about their shitty lives for entertainment? What ever happened to true standup as an art form — the stuff that would make you laugh until you pissed, instead of wibble like an infant?
"I thought Mike was gonna meet you there!"
He glances up dismissively as Eddie reappears, having switched out his polo for a more form-fitting, neutral one. It's too brown for grey, and Richie secretly hates at the tone against the ruddy warmth in Eddie's features. Maybe Richie shouldn't have let him near the tequila earlier. "He's got a date," Eddie says slowly, purposefully.
At this, Richie gets up and whirls around, clutching at the sofa. His eyes twinkling with renewed interest.
"With who?" he asks.
"Stan the man! Atta, boy!"
An enthusiastic cheer rips out of Richie. Eddie nervously hushes him, muttering about indoor noise volume and checking his pockets for his wallet. "Jeez, no wonder he looked so nervous earlier…" Richie adds, starting to laugh.
After a moment, he snaps his fingers for Eddie's attention and gestures pointedly to the nearby kitchen counter-top. Eddie groans in outright frustration, snatching up his wallet and his half-charged phone left behind.
"Richie, please," Eddie's pleading, semi-slurring voice filters in, and Richie resists groaning himself. Fuck. "It's only for an hour or two. Then we'll get wasted at Bev's."
Okay, now THAT sounds a lot more tempting.
"I just need to know one thing first, Eds… is… there gonna be any cute college-age girls?" Richie speaks up, getting to his feet and narrowing his eyes for an added emphasis. After all, how the hell is he gonna entertain himself… …
Eddie frowns, wrinkling his nose.
"Why would I know that…"
"God, I hope so," Eddie breathes out wistfully, grabbing onto Richie's elbow rudely and dragging him out.
The longer he's here, the more Richie wishes he had some of Eddie's tequila bottle. He could have sneaked it in.
There's hardly any lighting in the building, minus the blinding white spotlights on the main, leveled stage. Richie tunes out the low, humming music and the girl doing her poem about Garden Variety Hillbillies, sipping on a glass of nickel-tasting water and looking around occasionally. Eddie's waving to someone across the room, beaming.
Everyone claps. A new face appears on stage. Richie props his chin into his opened palm, glancing over curiously.
A boy around his age, possibly younger. His hair cropped and auburn-dark, his bangs flopping over his right eyebrow. One of them scarred. Richie's brain insists he's familiar, but can't even vaguely place where Richie's seen this boy in his life. "That's Bill," Eddie whispers, nudging Richie. "I told him we would meet up later."
Richie feigns an encouraging nod, and then slumps back onto his palm.
Bill doesn't sit or come near the wooden stool, keeping his distance. He faces the crowd with a solemn expression, including Richie, lightly grasping to the microphone.
"My brother died when I was thirteen. It's the unluckiest number in the world."
Richie considers tuning him out, or maybe heading for the washroom to call up Bev. She would have booze and the smokes Richie craves badly.
"Thirteen days later, my mom was hospitalized for jumping off the roof," Bill admits, in a soft, knowing voice, tilting his head a little. "And thirteen weeks later, my parents filed for bankruptcy. We lost pretty much everything. I should be grateful for what I had, instead of what I lost."
Jesus. What feels like a shiver goes up Richie's spine.
"I was thirteen when I realized I liked boys. I got my head bashed into a window between third and fourth period. My stuttering got worse. It's not the concussion's fault. I've always been stuttering, ever since I was a little kid." Bill unhooks the microphone from its stand, heading towards another end of the stage.
There's a glint like hardened ice to the blue of his eyes. Richie leans forward.
"Just letting you all know… it's complete bullshit when you know exactly what you wanna say, and can't get the fucking words to come out." Bill stretches out his arm as if in a reluctant, surrendering motion. "Thirteen fucking syllables: I like boys and I am not sorry for it ever."
Bill's fingers tick them off.
"My brother Georgie would have been thirteen this year," he says grimly, walking towards the other end of the stage and peering out. "How many syllables does it take to bring back someone who is rotting in the ground? I've been trying to figure that out myself." Bill scratches the back of his head when gazing down, mock-chuckling.
The energy around Richie seems to heighten, and he notices the people around him as memorized as him. Eddie doesn't even blink.
"There's this guy from high school, and I'm pretty sure he walked out of a novel about main characters who are hot as hell for no reason at all." An echo of laughter. Bill finally cracks a smile, and the top of Richie's chest feels hot and runny on the inside. Like he's melting. "I hope he never caught me staring. He's really pretty. When he smiles, there's two dimples." Bill's fingers present out, keeping a tally. "He has two big, dreamy brown eyes and a pair of glasses. Two hands I've fantasized about. Two arms, two legs, and a nice—wooo—going a little off the rails there." More laughter and wolf-whistling as Bill rubs at his neck, walking again, appearing flustered.
Whether or not it's an act, Richie's sorta impressed.
"Too many freckles to count. Too many black curls of hair. It's always in his face." Bill wiggles his fingers, smiling again. "If you weren't keeping up, that's 12 now."
Richie tucks a strand of curly, black hair behind his ear, and then freezes.
Eddie folds his arms on their table, sneaking a meaningful look.
Oh my god, Richie wants to punch himself in the goddamn, stupid face. How did he not know?
"I don't feel cursed around him. I don't feel like I'm worthless. Have you ever looked at someone and noticed how they shine?" Bill's face relaxes. "He's incandescent. He may have been born with particles of the universe inside of him—the ones we see in the night sky. When we are lonely and wanna go home—"
He blinks, trailing off and meeting Richie's eyes down below in the crowd.
Richie feels his chest squeeze, overflowing. Bill's mouth opens, like he's struggling to choke out his next set of words. The clapping begins, growing louder and to a roar. Bill shakes his head, recovering long enough to murmur and head off-stage.
Eddie stands up with the rest of Bill's audience, chanting out and stomping their feet. Richie stands up as well, quickly fleeing towards the building's exit.
A headache blares right in the middle of Richie's forehead.
He massages the area, over his sinuses, cursing himself for not thinking about bringing a pack of cigarettes. Rainwater sloshes and bubbles under Richie's white sneakers, as he paces in a crooked, oval-like circle, then drops himself against the alleyway wall, running his hands over his face.
Richie jerks to attention when someone else joins him, holding out an already lit cigarette.
"Doing okay?" Bill asks, patiently waiting as the other boy takes a long, greedy puff, exhaling in relief.
"I didn't recognize you without the stutter," Richie points out, handing back the cigarette. He visibly grimaces when Richie's own words register back. "Trashmouth, sorry. I'm not known for any fucking tact." Bill's mouth creases into a thin, humored smile.
"Or being subtle," he says. "You looked t-t-terrified when I saw y-you, Richie."
"So did you." Richie's grin exposes his teeth and gums. "Not expecting your crush to show up at Mic Night, huh?"
At the obvious, warm teasing, Bill's cheeks flush again.
Richie gestures for the dying, Pall Mall cigarette again, sucking in. He notices Bill glancing him up and down, out of the corner of his eye. These days, Richie's used to being scoped out. They're usually looking for a hook-up while doing this, and Richie's not shy, but with Bill next to him… this feels like he's getting admired.
THAT — he doesn't know what to do with.
"Remember in high s-sch-school when we found that turtle in the quarry?"
"You wanted to take it home and name it Yurtle the Turtle," Richie says, as if digging up the memory with some reluctance. "Still a lameass name, Big Bill." He bursts out laughing when Bill hisses out air between his teeth, chuckling and bumping his shoulder against Richie's.
"You're th-the lameass."
"Think I prefer being known as pretty," Richie counters, murmuring thoughtfully. "Or home."
He's not sure what to do with the intensity or the blue darkening to blackness in Bill's eyes, but Richie tries using that gravitation pull, examining him closer. Bill hasn't changed by much, except for how gently he kisses. In sipping, slow licks within the confines of Richie's mouth, feeling him out. They relock lips, breathing in deeply, this time with Richie's hand digging into Bill's plaid, red button-up. He feels Bill's fingers trailing against the side of his neck, sliding down to Richie's shoulder.
"Ohokay—" Eddie chokes out, amused as he stumbles out of the exit, catching sight of them.
Richie growls low in the back of his throat, partly irritated, staring around at his best friend with a glare. Bill scrubs at his mouth with the heel of his palm, wide-eyed.
"We leaving or are you staying, Richie? Bev's calling."
A crackle of lightning reverberates in the distance, and Richie tugs on Bill's hand, leading him determinedly with Eddie towards the street.
Beverly can make room for one more.
IT 2017 doesn't belong to me. Back again with another replacement gift for the It Fandom Secret Santa! This one is for R (sunflowerstozier on Tumblr) who asked for anything book/miniseries/2017 movie as long as it was Richie-centric and named a few ships! I decided on Bichie - I do love them. A lot. I hope you like this, R! And I hope everybody else does too! :) Comments/thoughts appreciated!