Bill Denbrough and Richie Tozier first met in their sophomore year of college in the coffee shop in the second to last day of exams week. It was a most stressful time, one that neither had really experienced before. At least not so far as they could remember. They also realized that they don’t believe they’ve ever even crossed paths before which is also mighty unusual, considering they realize that they have the same lecture period every Monday and Wednesday. Sure it’s a class of around a hundred people, but Richie is sure that he would have noticed the red roots growing in with the hair dyed beyond a recognizable color; and Bill is equally sure that he would have heard some other kid in his class doing a weird voice whenever he’s called on.
It seems to give Richie more of a sense of security in what he’s saying. It doesn’t so matter if it’s wrong, the voice saying it isn’t his own. It also seems that Bill has a habit of trying to stand out, his looks and even how open he is about his thoughts in class. Maybe, just maybe, if he makes himself memorable nobody will ever forget him, nobody will be like his family when he was young.
In the cafe they had bumped right into each other chest to chest, both of them as breathless as if they’d just run a marathon. Bill had just run from across campus- well- he’d call it speed walking. But Richie just gets out of breath quite simply, bumping into the boy nearly of his own height had knocked the wind out of him.
“Hi, I’m Richie, I need to get a coffee, see you around,” the brunette breathes out. Bill gives him a curt nod and steps to the right side at the same time Richie happens to, quiet chuckles of embarrassment coming from the both of them, looking to their feet as they both go to step to the right as well. Then they look each other in the eyes again, almost like they’d been cued to, like thin and clear twine had pulled their faces up to meet again. “What? Do we need to coordinate how to move past each other without breaking our faces?” Richie jokes, finally stepping further to the left to avoid it further happening.
“M-maybe,” Bill pauses in a huffy frustration for a moment, his face already beginning to turn reddish. He stutters when he thinks too much about what he’s to say next, at least Richie doesn’t know that yet. “We should exchange snapchats, st-study for the exam together later,” he suggests. He’d like to think of himself as smooth but really he’s an idiot who can blurt out something that sounds good on occasion. It doesn’t make for good interpersonal skills but it does make for good stories and a measured way of wording things on a page.
Richie nods, slightly taken aback by the forwardness of the young man before him. He’s never had an easy time making friends, his own social skills leaving their mark on him that often leaves people running, especially the girls he happens to like. He’s too loud and too messy and makes everything an event, he can’t even get a straw without blowing the wrapper at anyone he’s with. He pulls out his phone and lets Bill take a picture of his snapcode, just being the easiest and quickest way to get this done when it’s eight in the morning and he has places to be.
They do end up studying for the exam. More or less not actually studying and actually ending up ordering some Chinese food from the place down the street and playing one of the older Mario Kart games. Richie calls Bill names and teases him for his “old taste in game” but really they both enjoy each other. Deciding to actually hang out more hadn’t even been a question. They make a habit of playing games together. The first to lose three times pays for their takeout.
Afternoon to early evening hang out sessions turn into nights going out partying, these two are each others only friends really. One hot, energetic, intoxicated night really changes the air around them. They end up on some girls couch, music flowing through the background pleasantly. Bill straddles Richie’s hips and asks if he can kiss him, and of Richie says yes. He’d never known that Bill swung that way, it had never been so obvious. The kiss comes across to even random strangers around them as something that was a long time coming. It had been creeping in the back of both of their minds, lingering at fingertips that longed to trace the skin of someone they love.
Richie had his first time that night, and he doesn’t even remember most of it, just the feeling that came with it. A feeling he never wants to get up.
They end up making it official a week after that. Not much changes between them after that, just more physical contact added in with what they’d always done. Instead of games, sometimes whoever came first would have to pay for dinner, or whoever gets a comment on their bruised up neck usually ends up being the bottom in their next activity.
By the next year of their college career a lot has changed for them. Their junior year finals brings back stressful memories for some. On the Sunday night before the first exam week Bill spends his time alone with a couple grams and his car. He drives around aimlessly, taking pulls from a joint that leave him coughing hard and his lungs aching.
He’s reported missing the next morning, those who leave themselves so vulnerable so often do. Three weeks later, they find him at the bottom of a river, mutilated, and Richie is beside himself. There’s faint memories in the back of his mind, things from his childhood and his hometown, but nothing he could recollect accurately. He drops out of his classes.
He spends his own nights alone on the fire escape nursing a different bottle of vodka each time. It’s one of his lowest points, he doesn’t think he’s ever been this low, he doesn’t think he could ever get any lower. These drunken escapades always end in bad decisions, and one of them lands him in the hospital after an accident.
He lays in a hospital bed, being cleaned up and bandaged up by an intern to an on call nurse, who he’s been assured is extremely qualified. The intern is a man with dusty blond hair and dominantly brown eyes. “What did you ever have against bicycles?” the man jokes with him. His name tag is in view this time even through Richie’s cracked glasses, it reads ‘EDDIE’ in all capital letters.
“Ah, my boy, lose someone you need and eventually you’ll have something against about everything,” Richie says in an airy voice, offering Eddie a smile.
Eddie checks the chart again to be sure there’s nothing else he’ll need to do or be aware of. “Y’know, Tozier? I think you’ll be alright,” he says in a voice he uses for all his patients. Although, Richie doesn’t know this, and he takes the words to heart. And for the first time now, he feels the slightest bit alright.
Maybe not even from Eddie’s words. In his mind, he can almost hear Bill’s stuttering words. “It’s not your turn yet, being strong is all you can do.” and that, those words from someone he cared- cares for so deeply, that’s enough to make an attempt to change his mindset.