They’re 13 when it starts. Richie had invited all the losers over to hang out, now only Ben was left.
Ben asks him point blank, “Are you in love with Eddie?”
Richie splutters and denies for a solid two minutes, then counters with, “Are you in love with Bev?”
“Yes.” Richie is shocked by the honesty. “So, are you in love with Eddie?”
“YEAH, FUCKING FINE, I'M IN LOVE WITH EDDIE,” Richie shouts, a lot louder than he wanted to.
Ben grinned, “Knew it. Anyway, I was thinking we could start a mini club. Where we just rant about Bev and Eddie.”
“And as we spend more time alone together, we’ll get over our humongous crushes and slowly fall for each other instead, like a true romance novel.” Richie swoons dramatically.
“Didn’t realize you were so into romance novels, Trashmouth.” Ben teases.
“I’m a man of mystery, Haystack. I’m in.”
The first meeting is at Ben’s house. Because his parents aren’t home.
He puts out cookies to snack on and places a Beatles record on his turntable that’s mostly love songs.
Richie takes one look and says, “This is the gayest thing I've seen in a while. And I regularly think about making out with Eddie.”
“Beep beep, Richie.”
Richie finger guns at him before plopping himself on the couch and resting his feet on the coffee table. “So, Haystack, what does this mini club entail?”
“Just talking about our crushes. I figured since we were both pining, we might as well pine together.” Ben shrugs.
“We shall henceforth be known as The Pining Club then, my good sir.” Richie says, doing an aristocratic british accent. He drops it to ask, “What made you fall for my smoking buddy, Beverly Marsh?”
Ben doesn't even have to think about it. “She is so incredibly strong. She’s been through so much shit, but still manages to be strong and stand up for herself. She’s intimidating and beautiful, like a storm. She was also the first person in Derry who actually wanted to be my friend. Plus, she likes New Kids On The Block.”
“What does New Kids On The Block have to do with her?” Richie asks.
“They’re my favorite band.” Ben explains. He was already burning red from his speech, now from telling Richie something he never wanted Richie to know.
Richie snorts. “I barely know anything about you, Haystack.”
“I know a lot about you, because you feel the need to tell us everything.” Ben points out. “Anyway, what do love about Eddie?”
Richie stares at the ceiling. “He’s adorable, like a little, hypochondriac, rage-infused teddy bear. He really understands me. Sometimes he actually finds my jokes funny. He jokes back with me, too. We’re a good team. He’s most of my impulse control. Honestly, I could go on for hours.”
“We have time.”
They end up talking for three hours, the conversation eventually turning to other topics. They decide to make this a regular thing, and meetings of ‘The Pining Club’ are held every Tuesday after school.
They start talking about more real shit after a few meetings. Richie talks about how his parents barely acknowledge his presence at home, and how they should get divorced but won't. Ben talks about his life before he moved to Derry, how much he hates the scars on his stomach that Bowers gave him. They help each other through it.
Richie teaches Ben some of his best impressions, including but not limited to: Fozzy Bear, Yoda, Madonna and Sloth from The Goonies.
Ben makes Richie listen to New Kids On The Block, and Richie refuses to admit that he actually thinks they're pretty good.
Slowly, they become best friends. Of course, Richie will always be closest to Eddie and Ben will always hold a candle for Bev. But they are best friends.
One day, they meet in the clubhouse. Ben has homework to do, so Richie lays in the hammock reading comics and wishing Eddie was there.
Ben looks up at him suddenly, “I am so confused, this doest make any sense whatsoever!”
Richie pretty much falls off the hammock, because he’s oh-so-graceful. “Lemme see.”
Ben hands him the paper, a geometry worksheet. Richie takes one glance and says, “Dude, are you fucking kidding me? I expest Bill to be this much of a dumbass, but you?”
Richie helps him on the worksheet, showing him exactly how to do rotations and translations and everything else on the sheet. Ben would be lying if he said he wasn't surprised, because honestly, Richie acts like such a dumbass and you expect his grades to reflect that.
“I'm adding homework help to the Pining Club because I need your help.” Ben declares. Richie is happy to help when Ben needs it.
So, every meeting, they do their homework first, then talk. Richie helps Ben with his homework, but cannot for the life of him do his own. Instead, he’ll lay upside down on Ben’s bed and says things that would make a stranger think he was higher than a kite.
“I think I was Amelia Earheart in a past life.”
“What if our eyes were like mood rings and changed colors with our emotions?”
“I want an entire outfit of hawaiian print. Think Bev will make me one?”
“What if the northern lights were just a bunch of space unicorns joining together and creating lights with their horns?”
After he says that, Ben turns around and asks, “Do you think you might have ADHD?”
Richie turns himself right side up, pausing a moment for the head rush. “Is that an STD?”
“Nah, I don't think so. What if the stars were actually God’s eyeballs?”
Ben decides to recommend a book that he thinks Richie will like. He gives it to him at their next meeting, and Richie turns it down at first.
“Hey, Rich, I think you should read this.”
“Fuck no, that shit’s for nerds and virgins.”
“You're a virgin, Richie. You told me two weeks ago.”
“Fuck.” So, Richie takes the book home. Because his best friend gave it to him, and damn if he’s not gonna consider his friend’s opinion and read the book.
The title of the book is Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy. Richie thinks it’s going to be dumb.
He lays down on his bed, thinking he’ll probably read a page and forget about it like he does with all other books, but then he reads the first sentence.
“In the beginning, the universe was created. This has made a lot of people very angry and has been widely regarded as a bad move.”
Richie laughs a little at that, thinking, ‘okay, this is kinda funny’.
He keeps reading and when he looks up, two hours have somehow passed. His head is cloudy and his eyes hurt, but he lost track of time and is already late. He had promised Bill he would pitch for him, because Bill needed to practice for the upcoming baseball season.
He rushes out of the house, barely acknowledging his parents, and bikes down to the baseball field. He keeps thinking about tomorrow, when he’ll be able to talk about the book with Ben.
He rushes to Ben’s house the next day, and instead of greeting him normally, he just shouts, “HOLY FUCK THAT BOOK WAS GOOD!”
Ben laughs and lets him inside. “Do you want the next one?”
Richie whirls around, eyes wide, “THERE’S A FUCKING OTHER ONE?!”
“Yeah. And when you’re done with that, I have tons of book recommendations.” Ben smiles.
Richie looks him dead in the eye, “Dude. The Pining Club has evolved. We are now the Pining Homework Helper Book Club.”
“The PHHBC.” Ben likes acronyms.
They read books from all genres. Horror, sci-fi, romance, comedy, and non-fiction.
Richie develops a system where he reads the first chapter of the book they decide on, then decides from what he’s read if he wants to finish the book.
He finishes all of the comedy ones, of course, all of the sci-fi ones, and the romances that have comedy to back them up.
Ben, on the other hand, actually loves reading books and can stay focused on them. He reads them all, but the ones he really enjoys are romance, of course, nonfiction, and horror that has romantic aspects.
They talk about the books, Richie impersonates at least one character from each book, and Ben actually gets into the themes and metaphors and symbolism.
In the end, The Pining Club has gotten a whole lot better.
They read a romance novel, which prompts Richie to complain about Eddie.
“I wish Eddie loved me like that.” Richie whines.
“I'm on your team, you know.” Ben tells him.
“You and Eddie. I like you two together.”
“Well, I’m on you and Bev’s team.” Richie decides.
Ben looks doubtful. “But you and Bill-”
Richie cuts him off with, “Fuck me and Bill. We’re all losers, Haystack, we all care about each other, and I’m on you and Bev’s team.”
Ben smiles, happy to know someone believes in him and Beverly’s relationship.
They keep their mini club going for two more years. They’re 15 when something interesting happens.
Al the losers are at Bill’s, because it’s board game night. They really want to play Sorry, but there’s only four players for that.
Easy solution: three pairs of two and one person on their own.
Richie and Eddie pair up, because they both want to be red. Ben decides he wants to be green with Bev.
Then the interesting things start happening.
“I’ll partner with Bill!” Mike exclaims.
Bill raises his eyebrows a smidge, but happily partners with him.
Stan gets to be on his own, which he appreciates.
Mike acts weird throughout the whole game. Whenever he makes even the slightest physical contact with Bill, he pulls away like he’s been shocked.
Richie makes a stupid joke about Mike and Bill secretly fucking, and Mike’s eyes go as wide as Richie’s thick glasses.
Stan wins the game of Sorry, to no one’s surprise.
They continue with the board games, and Mike continues acting weird as fuck.
When it’s time to leave, Richie pulls Mike aside. “Hey homeschool, mind if I stay over yours for a bit? Wanna talk about something with ya.”
“Sure?” Mike agrees.
They bike to Mike’s house in silence. Mike is extremely uncomfortable, because Richie is never this quiet.
When they get to Mike’s, Richie asks, “Why are you acting weird as fuck?”
Mike panics a little. “Fuck, I’m so obvious, I’m being weird cause I’m gay and I like Bill and I’m already so fucking scared to be in this town and the older I get the worse it gets and please don’t tell anyone-”
“Woah woah woah,” Richie interrupts, “Calm your tits, holy shit dude, I promise I’m not gonna tell just please calm down.”
Richie can’t handle panicked people that aren’t Eddie.
They sit down and Richie pats Mike’s back in what he thinks is a comforting manner while Mike breathes deeply.
In an attempt to comfort him, Richie says, “I’m also… that.”
Mike gives him a look, “What? In love with Bill?”
“No Mike I don’t have shitty taste in guys.” Richie teases.
It makes Mike laugh, which is all Richie wants. He thinks about when Ben freaked out about Bev kissing Bill years ago, which gives him an idea.
“Hey man, so me and Ben have like… a club.”
Mike looks at him like he’s on crack. “Yeah, Richie, The Losers. I’m in it.” He speaks slowly, like he’s explaining something to a child.
Richie rolls his eyes. “No dude, it’s like a secret club without the rest of you fuckers. We basically just… complain about… feelings. For other people. He complains about Bev and I complain about…”
There’s a really long pause where Richie doesn’t think he can say it out loud because he’s only ever said it to Ben. Then he sees Mike’s reassuring, albeit slightly confused smile. He remembers that Mike loves him and won’t judge him.
“Eddie. So, uh, if you wanna join and complain about Bill or something, I’m sure Haystack won't mind. He’s probably sick of my hour long rants about my Eddie Spaghetti.”
“Alright. I’m in.”
So, the next meeting of The Pining Club is an initiation.
They meet at Ben’s house and Richie insists on doing a ridiculous initiation ritual thing, but is shot down by Ben and Mike.
“I just think it would be fun to have an initiation. Like he has to perform a love song for us, or he has to read a speech or eat 15 lollipops or-”
Richie ends up pouting and standing in the corner, where Ben sent him for a time-out.
“So… what do you guys do here” Mike asks.
“Uh, well, we listen to sappy love songs, complain about romance, and-”
Richie interrupts from the corner, “We vibe Mike. We just fucking vibe.”
Ben cuts in, “What the fuck did I tell you, you’re in time-out!”
Richie flips him off and turns to face the wall. Mike laughs and thinks this club is gonna be pretty great.
The club was amazing before, but it’s even better now that Mike is there.
Richie definitely enjoys having another gay person, because Ben can’t understand everything he feels.
Plus, Mike agrees to sing a duet with Richie.
They put on a performance for Ben, singing ‘Don’t You Want Me’ by The Human League.
It’s fucking awesome.
They do an encore performance for all the losers the next day.
They keep the club going, and it’s getting kind of sad.
Bill has gone through a few girlfriends, Bev a boyfriend or two, and Eddie’s still single as ever.
Ben decides to put an end to his pining, because it’s homecoming, and all the losers are going.
He asks Bev out, giving her a bouquet of wildflowers and reciting the poem from when they were 13.
Bev says yes almost immediately, and kisses him full on the lips.
Ben is slightly dazed for the rest of the day.
He still attends the Pining Club and has more to say about Bev. Richie and Mike can only hope they end up as successful as him.
A few weeks after homecoming, where Richie kept a jealous Mike company as they watched Bill dance with some girl, Eddie comes out.
They’re all talking about how Richie’s new shirt should be burned to ashes when Eddie interrupts.
“Guys, I’m gay.” he says, matter-of-fact.
Richie’s eyes go wide and his face turns red as his ugly shirt.
“Me too.” he says, without thinking at all.
The rest of them share a look, then Stan says, “Cool. Anyway, can I light Richie on fire?”
“D-Don’t you m-mean Richie’s shirt?” Bill asks.
“If Richie catches fire with it I think we’ll all be fine.” Stan says ominously.
Richie backs away and hides behind Eddie. “Protect me, Spaghetti!”
Eddie just shoved him towards Stan.
“I thought you loved me, Eds!” Richie gasps, pretending to be affronted.
Eddie just shrugs, blushing a little. Richie doesn’t notice, because he’s oblivious.
Later, at the meeting of The Pining Club, Richie is bouncing off the walls.
“I have a chance! He’s gay, I have a chance!”
“You should just go for it, Rich. I believe in you.” Mike says encouragingly. Eddie had said something to him in private about his feelings for a certain boy wearing a very ugly shirt.
“You really think so?”
Mike nodded, and Richie didn’t miss the knowing look in his eyes.
“ALRIGHT I'M GONNA DO IT!” Richie leaps up and runs out the door, leaving Mike and Ben to their own devices.
Richie sprints to the Kaspbrak house and knocks loudly on the door. Sonia answers.
“What do you want, hooligan?” she greets him.
“I wanna see Eddie, is he home?” Richie tried his very best to be polite so he can get what he wants.
Sonia gives him a disapproving look, but calls for Eddie anyway. “Eddie-bear, there’s a ruffian at the door that wants to talk with you!”
Eddie practically falls down the stairs to get to the door. He kisses his mother on the cheek and runs out of the house, grabbing Richie’s hand to drag him along.
They run down the street and start walking once they turn the corner.
“Thanks for bailing me out of there, Richie.” Eddie says.
“No problemo, Eds.”
“Don’t call me that.”
“You love it, Eds.” Richie realizes Eddie still hasn’t let go of his wrist.
“Yeah, I fucking do.” Richie is confused, but then Eddie’s lips are on his and all coherent thoughts have gone out the window.
Eddie pulls back, “Sorry.” He doesn’t sound sorry at all.
Richie just whispers, “woah” under his breath. Then he says, “Spaghetti, you beat me to it.”
Eddie looks up at him. “Really?”
Richie nods and kisses him again.
Mike and Ben are in for a really long rant about Eddie’s lips tomorrow.
Eddie and Richie decide they are a couple, and only act like one when they are alone or with just the losers. It works for them, and they’re happy.
Now, more than half the losers are in relationships.
And that’s when Stan gets a girlfriend.
Her name is Patty, and he met her in their Chemistry class. She’s funny, she likes birds and she gets along with all of the other losers, so she’s pretty much perfect for Stan.
The next meeting of the Pining Club, after Richie’s seventh 20 minute rant about Eddie’s kissing skills, Mike makes a decision.
“Fuck it, I’m gonna ask Bill out!” Mike says. It has absolutely nothing to do with what they’re talking about, but Ben and Richie drop their conversation to support him.
“Hell yeah, Hanlon, you go for it!” Richie shouts.
“Yeah, I believe in you, Mike.” Ben reassures him.
Mike takes a deep breath and says his goodbyes, then bikes to Bill’s.
He knocks on the door. Bill answers almost immediately.
“H-hi, Mike!” Bill says with a wide smile.
“Hey Bill, could I come in?”
Bill lets him inside and they go to Bill’s room. The second Bill closes the door, Mike pulls him close and kisses him hard.
Bill’s eyebrows are in his hairline and his eyes are wide.
Mike pulls back and promptly panics, because surely he’s been possessed by a demon or the spirit of Richie Tozier. This is so out of the ordinary for him. Mike is the kind of person that makes a plan and sticks with it. Spur of the moment doesn’t work for him most of the time.
But then Bill says, “T-Took you lo-long enough.”
Mike has just kissed the boy he’s been in love with for nearly a year now, his brain is mush. “... What?”
Bill laughs. “I l-like you, Mike. A lot.”
Bill has a pretty pink blush on his cheeks, and it’s just begging Mike to kiss him again.
So he does.
The Losers have pretty much become the only safe space in Derry. They hang out in private as much as they possibly can.
Patty has become a full time member of The Losers. Richie actually gets what he wants this time, and she has to do an initiation.
All they do is make her jump from the quarry.
Stan jumps in immediately after to make sure she’s okay, scooping her into his arms and kissing her cheek.
The rest of them follow suit, jumping into the slightly green water below.
A game of chicken commences, because they finally have an even number of people.
Patty gets on Stan’s shoulders, Beverly on Ben’s, Eddie on Richie’s and Bill on Mike’s.
Patty and Stan emerge victorious, because they are an unstoppable team.
The losers are at the best they ever have been. They’re all happily in love and they have no worries.
As for The Pining Club, they keep meeting. They have so much to talk about now. They go on double dates and group dates and they just have fun.
Little do they know, there is a second mini club.
Bev, Eddie and Bill had formed their own pining club just a year after Richie and Ben.
No one ever finds out.
Stan knows about both clubs, but never lets anyone know that he knows.
The Pining Club makes a deal that at their weddings, Ben will be Richie’s best man, Richie will be Mike’s, and Mike will be Ben’s.
They continue meetings for a very, very long time. Even after all of them are married to the people they’ve been pining over since the club started.
It’s their thing, and they keep it up for as long as they possibly can.
Because they are the Pining Club, and they will always be pining for their respective loves, no matter how old they get or how much that person loves them back.