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Whenever I'm Alone with You

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Richie has never been happier to be in the middle of fucking nowhere.

After grinding out a grueling summer working at his uncle’s car shop back in Derry, he couldn’t wait to blow a kiss to his piece of shit hometown, get in his piece of shit car, and get back to Middlebury. The only reason he hadn’t stuck around campus after freshman year ended was because he couldn’t afford to--which had been the whole impetus for him taking the gig at his uncle’s shop. He didn’t want to be in the same position next summer.

And now, he’s back. Back with his friends in his new adult life, where he belongs. Away from his parents. Free. Dancing at the first party of the year, the one on the football field, the big one, the one the night before classes start, the one that fucking everyone goes to no matter what their vibe is. It’s certainly not his scene (or his friends’), but he grabs a plastic cup, puts as many glow necklaces as possible around his wrists, and breaks it down to “Another Night” by Real McCoy. He’s high on his rediscovered freedom.

(...And soon, he, Bev, and Mike will also be high on the weed she promised to bring tonight.)

Around the second “rap” (if you could call it that), Bev stops them, turning their attention to the locker room doors, which have just been flung wide open. It’s a sea of color: glitter, rainbow accessories, makeup, and some flashy-ass outfits.

“LGSA,” Bev squeals. “Woo!” She throws her arms up.

Mike smiles, watching the group’s fabulous entrance. “Awesome.”

Most of the other students there cheer. Anyone who’s potentially inclined to do the opposite is discouraged by how fucking big and loud the group is.

A soft smile melts over Richie’s face as he sees who the group is holding high above their heads and carrying across the field Rudy-style: none other than his old best friend Eddie Kaspbrak.

“Rich, aren’t you a member? Get in there,” Mike encourages.

“Nah, they don’t allow filthy bisexuals into Club Queer, I’m afraid.”

“That’s not true.” Bev pinches his side. “You’re such a bitter half-’mo.” They all turn their attention back to Eddie. “Go, Eddie!” Bev claps, jumping up and down.

It has been a fucking ride witnessing Eddie’s transformation over the last year. Their friendship may have dissolved as high school wore on, and even continued to as Eddie and Bev reconnected in college, but Richie’s always paid attention, so proud of Eddie for taking a leap, getting the fuck out of Derry and away from his nightmare mother, and finding himself.

Turns out the real Eddie is super fucking gay.

The LGSA takes up residence right smack in the center of the dance floor, and everybody happily makes room for them. Eddie’s finally lowered to the ground. He shakes out his limbs, feigning dizziness, and is immediately pulled into the fray with a couple of guys looking to grind with him.

Eddie finally had a major spurt the summer right after high school, but his face basically stayed the same, so he’s about 5’9” and conventionally good-looking enough to pass for a fucking frat boy. He ditched his swishy red little short-shorts years ago (if Richie’s honest with himself, he kind of misses them) and opts for polos in pastels and light denim jeans. Even tonight he isn’t flashy--just some rainbow stickers on his face--but he’s as fucking cute as ever in Richie’s eyes.

Richie’s still taller, though. His face has gone way more angular than it used to be, and he’s graduated from his clunky, thick frames to contacts (and a decidedly hipper pair of glasses for when he takes them out at night). He lets his dark curls hang low in his eyes and around his ears and paints his fingernails in dark, dark purples and greens and blues, even sometimes classic black. Eyeliner is a thing he saves for special occasions, like his band’s gigs and parties. Like tonight.

Eddie’s getting spun around by a big bear type named Derrick. They’re not dating or anything; Richie would know. (Again, he’s been paying attention.) But it doesn’t stop him from feeling a tiny prickle of jealousy at the pit of his stomach. He sips on his beer for a distraction, nearly choking when he sees Eddie laugh at some ridiculous move Derrick pulls. His smile is still exactly the same as it was when they were kids, when Richie was usually the one putting it there (and taking it away, too, if he’s honest--Richie loved little more than giving Eddie constant shit). Seeing it so bright under the stadium lights fills Richie with a mixture of longing and comfort.

“Rich. ...Rich.” Mike claps him on the back to get his attention. “Wanna go get blazed?” He nods to Bev, who points playfully to the joint tucked into her bra.

“Wow, that’s where it’s coming from? Sweet ambrosia. I’ll just get it out with my mouth.” He leans toward Bev’s chest just enough to get her to hit him upside the head.

“Come on, asshole.” Bev takes him by the collar and starts pulling him toward the exit.

Mike giggles, strolling beside them. “Classic Trashmouth.”