Disclaimer: I do not own Stand By Me-if I did, I would be super old right now.

I tried writing a Stand By Me fic about the boys in high school and it just didn't seem right. Here is my spin on the Ray Brower adventure. Enjoy.

-*-

California was everything I'd expected and then some. The air was always crisp, the sky always blue, the ocean always gleaming, and the people always welcoming. The two weeks I'd spent there would have been the best time of my life were it not for the severe case of homesickness I drug around with me throughout the entire trip. Not only did I miss my parents and sibling, but I missed my friends dearly.

Christopher Lee Chambers is the most important person in my life. Warm-hearted and mature beyond his age, he's the sweetest, most protective, and level-headed person I've ever met. Chris's father is a real jerk who takes out his anger on his children and wife. His older brother Bill, 'Eyeball', also tends to beat Chris whenever he feels like it. Because of this, everyone in town is either scared of or picks on the Chambers family, claiming they're low-life's with no place in this world. Though that's semi-truthful about Eyeball and Mr. Chambers, Chris, his mother, and his younger siblings are not.

Somehow Chris manages to put up with it all and still be an amazingly wonderful person. It was no surprise that in the time it took for us to complete grammar school, we'd become best friends-along with Gordon Lachance. Theodore Duchamp and Vern Tessio often tag along as well.

Gordie is quite possibly the smartest person alive; the most creative too. Gordon has a way with words, though he rarely expresses them. He's shy and cute but has been sort of a mess since his older brother Denny died last April. His parents ignore him most of the time and were it not for Chris, I'm not sure Gordie would be doing all that well mentally.

Teddy, as well, had a rough childhood. His dad's psychologically unstable and often has fits of rage. Once he held Teddy's ear to a stove, nearly burning it off and killing him in the process. Thankfully, his mom sought help and his dad is now receiving treatment up north somewhere. Teddy's kinda crazy. He's super impulsive and very adolescent but we are kids, so why shouldn't he be?

As for Vern-o…well, there's not much to say about him other than he's a really sweet kid. He's not the brightest bulb in the box but he's good for a laugh and he's a surprisingly good listener if you find yourself in need of a shrink. Though Vern's a bit of a pussy, he tries to seem manly which often causes him to look even stupider. Like I said, he's good for a laugh.

Sometimes they could be the most obnoxious people on the planet but when they are great, they are really and truly great. I can honestly say that my friends are the best in the world.

Thinking this, a smile tugged on my lips. I grinned seeing the sign of Castle Rock city limits. I sat up, gripping the door handle. I shot my aunt a smile in the rear-view mirror. "I take it someone's glad to be home."

"Like you wouldn't believe."

She giggled slightly as we drove down Main Street. Rounding the corner, we passed the Blue Point diner. I felt giddy all of a sudden. The idea that in mere moments I would be seeing my family and friends again made me anxious. Suddenly, a familiar sandy blonde caught my eye.

"Stop the car!"

"What?!" my aunt Cassidy shrieked, slamming on the breaks. "Why?!"

As I lunged forward in my seat, I rolled my eyes, and threw open the door. "That's my friend, Chris."

"What? Ah! Danielle, get back in the car." I ignored her, grinning like the Cheshire cat. I spoke to her through the window, "I'll meet you at the house."

"What? Danielle!" but I was already running down the block. Chris obviously sensed my presence as he was now staring curiously over his shoulder, squinting from the sun.

"Christopher!" I squealed with delight, my stomach doing flip-flops and the all-too-familiar burning sensation building in my chest. Suddenly, his eyes grew wide. "Danni?!"

"Chris!" I echoed myself as I sprang into his grasp. His arms locked around me, my legs wrapped around him. Chris spun me in circles, our laughter filling the summer air of Castle Rock, Oregon. Dropping me on the ground, he smiled, "You're back already?"

"Obviously," I quipped sarcastically, my huge grin still plastered to my face. "You don't miss a beat, do ya Chambers?"

"Nope," his wolfish grin spoke. "Hi Danni."

"Hi Chris," I rolled my eyes. I pulled him in for another bear-hug relishing in the fact that his arms were around me once again. The cotton of his white tee shirt rubbed against my cheek and the familiar breath of Winstons filled my lungs. Chris buried his face in the crook of my neck, my long, thick, auburn hair flailing all over the place. As I tightened my grip, I muttered, "God, I missed you."

"I missed you too, Danni," he spoke. "Jesus, man, the guys are gonna flip."

"Where are they?"

"At the tree house; I was on my way there."

"Well shall we?" I pulled back, nodding my head in the direction of the lot. Chris flashed me a smile and nodded, "Lets."

I took his arm and off we went. As we walked, I glanced over at him and frown, "Your hair got longer."

"You don't like it?" he laughed, lifting a hand to brush his hair. I shook my head, pouting, "No I do. I just don't like that I was gone long enough for your hair to grow out."

Chris smiled, "You weren't gone that long."

"Too long," I scoffed. My ratty, ancient converse scoffed the pavement, the noise echoing throughout the open air. In the distance we could hear the faint sounds of a car radio. Here and there a few voices could be heard but other than that, Castle Rock was quiet and at peace. We entered the vacant field that sat on a perch, overlooking the small town. The weeds and dry grass had grown taller; they now reached well passed my ankles. I grinned at the sight of our beloved tree house that Denny and his friends had built when we were just infants. I shot Chris a smile as I broke free of his hands and dashed across the field. Chris wasn't too far behind and reached the fortress just as I rapped my knuckles on the trap door.

"Wrong knock!" Teddy's muffled voice grumbled.

"Well, Jesus Duchamp I was gone for two weeks you expect me to remember the damn knock?" I shouted.

"Danni?!" he screamed. I heard footsteps and something fall. I rolled my eyes, flashing Chris a knowing look. He grinned up from his spot on the ground. Suddenly, the door flew open and I was being yanked up. Teddy had somehow pulled me off the ladder and into the tree house.

"Ouch, you wet-head, I hit my knee," I yelped clutching my wounded limb. Chris followed up the latter and shoved Teddy back into his chair, "God, Teddy, she's back for five minutes and already you try to break her."

"Sorry, jeez," he rolled his eyes as he pulled off his classes cleaning them on with the hem of his white shirt. Slipping the thick, black eye-classes onto his pale nose he grinned, "So how was the sunshine state? Shiny I imagine."

"It was okay. Hot though. And the people were really weird-everyone kept calling me bra."

"Ha," Chris snorted. "You don't wear a bra."

"Shut up, Chambers," I chucked the first thing I could grab at him. The flimsy comic ricocheted off of him, slipping onto the floor. Chris grinned at me as he and Teddy engaged in a hand of poker.

"You in?" Teddy ask, pausing his deal. I shook my head no; I was too giddy to concentrate on a petty card game. I sat back on one of the abandoned crates that filled the semi-large tree house. Leaning against the wall, I drew my knees to my chest and wrapped my arms around them. I was glad to see that the tree house hadn't changed much. In fact, it hadn't changed at all. The tiny hammock was still on the west wall, Vern's empty Pez wrapper still sat on the floor under the short table in the right corner next to Gordie's crime comics stack, there were still two empty barrels that Henry-Denny's friend-had stolen from the junk yard, and there were still three milk crates used as tables and chairs. The poster of Uncle Sam that Teddy had tacked up about two years ago, still stood untouched. Cigarette butts still littered the floor along with faint traces of ashes. Empty coke bottles and bubblegum wrappers were strewn across the floor. The cheap window covers still smelled slightly. Everything was as it should be and I had to give it to them-Denny and his friends sure knew how to build. Comfort swelled up inside of me. I was glad to be home.

Suddenly, there came a knock at the door. We each listened carefully-it was correct. Chris picked up the cigarette I hadn't seen him lit as Teddy moved the milk crate and let the door swing open. "Hey guys," Gordon Lachance's familiar face popped up. "Hey, have you guys seen my flash light? I think I-" His eyes bulged out of his head. "Danni!"

"Howdy, Gordie," I smiled as he hopped up into the tree house and scrambled over everything. He plopped down next to me, hugging me.

"Now how come I didn't get a hug?"

I shot Teddy a look. "You have diseases."

"Only according to your mother."

"Mother's always right," I joked, rolling my eyes. "How ya been Gordo? How've you all been actually? And where the hell is Vern?"

"Good."

"Eh, I'm okay.."

"Kill me now, please."

"Who knows where he is?"

"Why do we care?"

"Pussy."

All of their voices shouted out at once. I winced, tossing my hands up, "Guys, shut up." Gradually, they fell silent. "Idiots."

"Hey, I resent that," Gordie mocked fake hurt. I scoffed and mumbled, "You should."

Gordie decided to join their poker game and soon, the bickering started. "Hey, how do you know a Frenchman's been in your backyard?"

"Hey, I'm French, okay?" Teddy declared as he drew another card. Chris ignored him and flashed me a smile, "Your trashcans are empty and your dog's pregnant."

Gordo and I erupted with laughter as Teddy grumbled, "I just said I was French, didn't I?"

"You are not French, Teddy," I mumbled as I began the search for my notepad.

"I knock," Chris grinned.

"Shit," Teddy breathed. He picked up one last card as Chris threw down, "Twenty-nine."

"Twenty-two," Duchamp sighed. Gordie gave a light groan, tossing his cards aside, he exclaimed, "Piss up a rope!"

Teddy nudged Lachance, taking a long drag off his cigarette, "Gordie's out! Old Gordie just bit the bag and stepped out the door." The three of us giggled at his outburst as he burrowed down into the hammock reading his latest comic-True Crime. I quickly found the old notepad I kept up here, and scribbled down the score.

"Come on, Teddy, deal," Chris encouraged. Teddy left Gordie alone, shuffling the deck, and dealing. I leaned over the barrel, looking at Gordie. "Hey Lachance, hand me that coke, will ya?"

"Sure thing," he nodded reaching down and snatching up the half-empty coke bottle. He maneuvered around Chris, handing it to me. I smiled, taking a sip. "Thanks."

"No problem."

"I knock."

Chris looked at Teddy, "You four-eyed pile of shit."

"A pile of shit has a thousand eyes," Teddy countered. Once again we all laughed. Teddy sat up straight, "What? What'd I say? Come on, I got thirty. What've you got?"

"Sixteen," Chris laughed despite his defeat. Chris gathered the cards as I once again recorded the score. I began to doodle little designs on the edges and corners of the paper absent mindedly watching Chris deal. Teddy glared at his laughing friends, "Okay, fine, keep laughing."

"Aw, don't be a pussy Teddy, you won," I chuckled, my pen moving on its own.

"Your mother would-" Teddy began but was quickly cut off by a swift knock on the door. I glared at him, kicking him in the shin as Gordie moved over to the hammock shouting, "That's not the secret knock!"

"Ah, I forgot the secret knock! Let me in. Come on, you guys, let me up," even muffled, that all to familiar voice still managed to be whiny as hell. We all chorused, "Vern."

The boys sat back as Chris pulled the door open. Vern came bustling in, immediately jumping down on a crate. "You guys are not going to believe this. Sincerely. This is so boss. Wait to you hear this. On man-it's unbelievable." His breathing was labored and he looked flushed. "Oh hey Danni. When'd you get back?"

"Today," I mumbled. "What the hell happened to you?"

"Hang on, I got to catch my breath," he seethed. "I ran all the way from my house."

"I ran all the way home," Chris busted into the chorus of a new Impalas' song Sorry. Gordie, Teddy, and I instantly joined in. "Just to say I'm sorry. Sorry-o. Why can't I say it?"

"Oh you guys come on!" Vern threw his hands up. "Alright. I ain't gotta tell you nothing."

"Hold up guys," I grinned feeling sorry for Vern. I was back twenty minutes and already picking on the poor kid. (Remember, I told you he was good for a laugh.) Our chuckles subsided as he beamed, obviously pleased we'd stopped, "Okay, great. You won't believe this sincerely-"

"I ran all the way home!" Chris began once more.

"Screw you guys!" Vern huffed, leaning back against the wall. Our giggles and chuckles echoed off the enclosed space around us. Chris took another puff off his cigarette, still chuckling, "Forget it. Okay, man, what is it?"

"Can you guys camp out tonight? I mean if you tell your folks we're gonna tent out in my back field?" he asked.

"Yeah I think so," Chris answered as he moved the crate back and began to shuffle. "Except, my dad's kinda on a mean streak. You know, he's been drinking a lot lately."

"You got to man!" Vern pleaded, watching him deal. "Sincerely! You won't believe this. Can you Gordie?" He turned his attention to the skinniest member of our little group. Gordo didn't bother looking up from his comic as he muttered, "Yeah probably."

"So what are you pissing and moaning about Vern-o?" Teddy asked as he picked up his cards. Before he even had time to look at them, Chris rapped his knuckles on the table. I picked up my notepad as he muttered, "I knock."

"What? You liar. You ain't got no pad-hand. You didn't deal yourself no pad hand."

"Make your draw, shit heap," Chris demanded, flashing Gordon an all-too-familiar grin. I rolled my eyes, chuckling slightly. Then, in the midst of our good time, Vern Tessio muttered eight little words that would change each of our lives forever, "You guy's wanna go see a dead body?"