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Casting Stones

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Summer evenings are Bill's absolute favorite. 

The discomfort of the heat is gone, and it doesn't get cold enough to notice--a warm breeze occasionally blowing through. Every time it does, he pauses what he's doing (tonight, it's painting) to tilt his head towards his window, savoring it. This was why he kept his window open, even if it risked the mosquitoes. He didn't care.

He just loved these evenings, even down to the muted blues of the dusk sky. The sun had mostly dipped out of the sky, but when he closed his eyes, it was there again. In the memories that flashed against his shut eyes--the sun on his friends' faces, reflecting off the quarry, alighting his eyes. 

Bill bit his lip and came back to reality, finding the section of water color he'd been working on had dried. He cursed softly and re-wet his brush, getting back to work. 

He had managed to be completely consumed by his art, which was a zone he was beyond grateful to fall into. Nowadays, it didn't take much for his mind to wander. Whether he was painting or writing, it seemed a pen or a brush on paper just wasn't enough to keep him tethered. His mind still ended up in the clouds every time.

He was ripped rather violently from his focus when a rock landed right in his cup of paint water. 

Once he remembered to breathe, he did so heavily; throwing his head back with a loud sigh. "Mike..." he groaned. 

Bill could exaggerate his exasperation all he wanted, but when he rushed to lean out his window, it was pure excitement that drove him. Mike was standing in the street below, hand over his mouth in shock. "Oh my god Bill, I thought your window was closed!" he called up as quietly as he could. 

Bill couldn't help the laugh that bubbled up out of him, hanging his head, shaking it in disbelief. When he finally looked back at Mike, he was smiling ear to ear--so it seemed the sun wasn't gone for the night just yet. 

"M-Mark that one down as another f-fail." Bill said, making them both laugh. 

 

As of late, Bill and Mike had taken up an interesting sort of game. 

Every Friday, they had movie nights--usually consisting of horror or thrillers, but on one night, rooting through Bill's parent's movies, they found some old cheesy romance movie. It was mostly a joke that they decided to watch it, and it was entirely as cliche as they had predicted. They had a whole conversation about how real people definitely do not throw stones at each other's windows and actually make it romantic. Mike playfully challenged it. Bill playfully accepted that challenge. 

So it began. 

The very first time, Bill took the initiative--it was hard to quietly get to Mike's room when every step he took alerted the animals, even if he was by the house and not the barn. He eventually managed to just get there, then began searching for a stone. 

The one he found rested in his palm, almost filling it. It had a little weight to it, but he didn't think much of it. That is, until he threw it against Mike's window and cracked it. Mike had ripped open his window and they had just stared at each other in silent shock for a moment. 

"That sucked," Mike had eventually decided. 

And that was the beginning of many failures. 

There was when Mike slept through about five stones Bill threw before Bill finally gave up; or when Mike accidentally hit the window just hard enough to wake Georgie up all the way in his own room. They both had an instance tossing stones when the other wasn't even home. Overall, it turned out that so far, Bill was definitely right: There was no way to throw stones at each other's windows and actually make it romantic.

 

This little hobby became completely natural to them throughout the years. 

They didn't try as often, but there was still an attempt made once every week or two--always with some consequence, and always ending with them laughing together. 

By the time they were seventeen, their windows were scuffed and chipped an almost ridiculous amount. As long as nobody else noticed, they could avoid getting in trouble for it a little longer. The other Losers didn't even know about it. And Bill and Mike had somewhat of an unspoken agreement to not tell them about it either. It was solely theirs. 

He was seventeen years old now--Bill wished he could say he was better at not daydreaming now that he was older, but he was just as bad. Even now, laying in his bed and staring at the ceiling, he was seeing something else entirely. Reliving something else this time.

Bill wasn't one to dwell on stupid things; he did stupid things a lot. Thinking about them just made him flustered, and there wasn't much he could do about them now anyway. But he couldn't get this one off his mind. He had asked his school if people outside the school could attend prom. They told him yes. He told Mike that they just casually informed them, of course--he left out the fact he waited in the office for fifteen minutes until the principal was free just so he could ask. But that didn't matter, what mattered was that he told Mike that he could come.

Of course, he realized he had just come rushing to him with this information out of absolutely nowhere. Sure, he had been thinking about it a lot, but he hadn't even mentioned the idea to Mike.

He told himself over and over again it shouldn't make him feel awkward. He was just inviting his friend to go to prom with him and the other Losers; nothing else. Nothing more.

Though sadly, telling himself that didn't make it true. 

Friends were the farthest thing he had in mind.

But that's not what he said. 

Instead, he said: "So you can come to prom with me if you want to. As friends, of course." 

Just thinking about it now made him groan, throwing his hands over his face. It's not like he ever really tried, and definitely had no faith in it, but knowing he just dug his hole deeper--that he was another step farther from being anything more with Mike--really just made him want to fall asleep for as long as possible and forget the whole thing. 

And that was indeed his plan--he had gotten lost somewhere between sleeping and waking when a rock hit him in the chest; it was small, it didn't hurt, but it definitely wasn't a very romantic delivery. 

With a grin, he got up and rushed to the window, mouth already open to inform Mike of another failure when he saw that Mike was already walking away. He simply looked over his shoulder, smiled, then waved. Then he turned back around and continued on his way. 

Bill watched him go until he had disappeared down the street, as if he might turn around again and say something. But he didn't. Bill was utterly thrown off; it was such a routine to laugh and tease each other afterwards, even just for a few moments at least. 

A bit lost, he went and sat back on his bed. He glanced over at the stone, surprised to see a note taped to it. Eagerly, he unfolded the little scrap of paper and couldn't help the way his heart twisted.

"Prom? Not as friends, of course." 

Bill smiled from ear to ear, not able to contain it. And despite how cliche it was, he hugged the little note against his chest--though obviously it was well established he wasn't afraid of cliches.

And maybe a little part of him was glad Mike hadn't stuck around. Bill didn't have it in him to admit that, just this once, that was pretty romantic. 

 

After that, they stopped throwing stones. 

There was no particular discussion that brought about its end--perhaps it was that, even if Bill never said it, they both knew that last one was indeed romantic--Mike's point had been proved. Or maybe they were just too busy with each other now to even make time for it. There was really no need to throw stones when you were already together, after all. 

And together was how they stayed. 

When school ended, they moved away together. They were together from tiny apartments and working jobs they hated; all the way to being together while living rather comfortably now, both with their dream careers. 

Yet, even in his dream career, Bill never shook the habit of having absolutely no focus. 

He was currently in his study, seeing how far he could lean back in his chair before he started getting dangerously close to falling--a half written novel in front of him that was definitely not going to be touched for the rest of the night sitting abandoned on his desk. How he made his deadlines was a miracle even he didn't understand. 

A soft knock snapped him out of it, almost sending him falling back. He managed to save himself at the last minute, quickly putting all legs of his chair back on the floor, breathing a sigh of relief. "Mike, you don't have to knock," he called, quickly pretending he was writing. 

Mike stepped in, smiling. "Can you afford to take a break?" 

"Yeah, I can," Bill said, pretending he had to consider it for a moment first--of course, Mike didn't buy that. He knew damn well Bill was getting nothing done at the moment. At least he had the good graces to play along with Bill's performance, anyway. One of the many reasons he loved him.

Bill stood, then promptly sat right back down again, on his desk this time. "What'cha got, Mikey?" 

Mike stood before him, retrieving something from his pocket. "Hold out your hand." 

"Okay..." Bill said suspiciously, doing as told. 

Of all things, Mike placed a stone in his hand. 

Bill laughed. "Are we doing this again? Cause I'd rather not break any of these windows--" 

"No," Mike laughed. "Turn it over." 

Bill grinned at him, once again doing as told. A little note was taped to it. "Oh geez, how nostalgic," Bill said, amused, as he unfolded it. The moment he saw it, his face fell. 

"Marry me?" 

Bill was pretty sure his heart stopped, and even as it started beating again he was still reading it over and over, as if he could have somehow misread this--these two little words. A shocked laugh rasped out of him as he looked up at Mike. "Mike..." he shook his head in disbelief. "Did you just propose to me with a rock? Is this actually serious?" 

Mike fidgeted nervously, choking out something almost like a laugh. "Well, that depends on what you say. If you say no, then no--it's just a joke." he smiled at him anxiously, doing his absolute best to actually keep eye contact with him. 

This really wasn't a joke. 

"Mike!" Bill exclaimed, throwing his arms around him, yanking him down into a hug. "I can't believe this!" the emotion that rushed through him forced the most stupid looking smile to his face, he was sure of it. But at the moment, he really didn't mind. "I mean, yes, of course! But a rock? Really?" 

Mike hugged him back tightly. He laughed too, but it shook out of him; delicate and unstable. "Awe c'mon, it's kind of romantic right?" he paused thoughtfully, never letting go as he did so. "Well... It might've sounded better in my head." 

"No, it's wonderful." Bill assured, smiling against his shoulder. "Very romantic." 

Mike pulled away with a gasp. "Did you finally just admit the rock thing was romantic?" 

"No." Bill said stubbornly. "You didn't throw it, it doesn't count." 

Mike grinned, shaking his head. "Oh shut up," he muttered fondly as he leaned in and kissed him softly. 

 

And maybe at the wedding, they decided to not tell the Losers how the proposal really happened. It just wasn't worth the hefty explanation it would need to make any sense--and even then, it still probably wouldn't. Not to anyone else, anyway. 

And, just maybe, neither of them minded adding this to the moments that belonged to only them.