Constrain - OneAndNone - Scream (Movies) [Archive of Our Own] (2024)

Chapter 1: Free

Chapter Text

August 17th, 1994

The first day of school isn't the worst, but it's a close second. No, the reigning crown ofWorst Daygoes to its predecessor, the night before school begins. It's the universallast day to get jiggy,whether that be smoking in the Blockbuster parking lot, or sneaking a drink from your parent's liquor cabinet, or dancing toSchool's Outin one final attempt to keep summer's firefly freedom tight. Every teenager, from nerd to jock, straight-edge to stoner, is putting their finishing touches on what is surely the best summer of their life, as every new summer is.

Chase is doing none of those things.

"What's crackalackin', homie?" The phone turns Stu Macher's voice tinny, but his overzealous flair remains. Sprawled along the living room floor, Chase half-heartedly listens on the other end. Their laziness has the phone cord stretched to its max, bent over the side table and couch with a previously unseen intensity. They wouldn't be surprised if the landline popped right off the wall.

"Absolutely nothing is crackin' or lackin'." They respond, dull, "Unless you're talking about the world beneath my feet, then yes. Everything is crackin' and lackin' and crashin'."

"Awww." Stu teases, "Widdul baby havin' uh'hawd tyme finkin' 'bout skool?"

"Yes." They deadpan. "I think I'd rather die. Can you come over and hit me with that fancy car of yours?"

Stu tsks. "What'd I say about that death talk'a yours?" He abruptly blows a loud raspberry into the phone. Chase feels the imaginary spit all over their face. "And I love ya darlin', I do, I'd do anythin' for ya-"

Chase sighs at his over the top cheesing.

"-but one more scratch on my car and I'm a dead man. A dead man! I'm telling you, my mom will hunt me down like the Griswold family squirrel."

"The Griswold's didn't have a squirrel." Chase scratches away an itch on their neck, "The squirrel just happened to be in their house."

"Nah baby, it's about the essence! If it's there, it's square."

"That makes no sense."

"You're just not thinkin' right." Stu dismisses, always an audience of one to the innerworkings of his mind. "So no, I'm not catchin' vehicular manslaughter for you." His tone oozes flirtation, "Maybe first degree though, if y'ask real nice - s'a bit more romantic, don'tcha think?"

"Funny. You're a real Bill Murray."

"Right, right- so when are you comin' over?"

In response, Chase pulls a pillow off the couch to lay on their torso. Their impromptu blanket has never felt comfier.

"Right after you hit me with your fancy new car."

Stu's humorlessfunnymakes Chase smile. "Don't be a Billy buzzkill. You swore you'd come to my fiesta!"

"Did not."

"Did too!"

"Did not."

Stu groans. It's borderline pathetic. "You're killin' me, Smalls. C'moooon, c'mon!"

Yeah, right. The last time they went to one of Stu's parties was seven months ago - the night Chase had first formerly met the infamous Woodsboro high duo. From said party they acquired one Stu Macher and Billy Loomis, as well as an irrational, unexplained fear of microwaves, a blackout so intense they aren't sure the party was even real, and a totaled car. They had shown up at school the next day more than half dead, tired from their two mile hike, and completely befuddled at the two tagalongs they had acquired.

To this day it's still a bit of a mindf*ck.

"Do you remember what happened last time I went to one'a yourbashes?"

They can hear Stu's grin. "Booyah, baby! Exactly! 'Course I do. Best night'a my life - best night of yours too if I remember correctly- which, I do."

"That makes one of us." Chase mutters. Stu continues pleading and bartering and bribing on the line. Chase takes the time to zone out, finger twirling and untwirling on the phone cord.

They had moved to Woodsboro two years ago in July. It had been a big change from the city; this sleepy, tight knit town. They had spent the first week unpacking, dreading, and lying about like the antisocial sack of meat they are. Their grand plan of ducking their head and finishing high school without a soul even knowing they existed was a spectacular fail. Despite their habit of squirreling away, it seems the entirety of the town had known their nameandtheir blood type within two days - and evenChasedoesn't know their own blood type. Word spreads fast in a sh*thole like this.

It had taken a while to get used to just how nosy and involved the residents of Woodsboro are - and it hadn't been of their own volition either. Like a parent forcing medicine down their child's throat, the teens of Woodsboro high had force fed Chase their niceties and curiosities until they had to either adapt or implode. Sure, they've gotten used to the social and verbal chokehold these people have, easily absorbing thewho when what where why and how'sof everyday interrogation, but that doesn't make them any less apathetic. On the contrary, their stoicism just seems to goad people on. Chase has never been popular, but they're close enough to it at Woodsboro High to wish they'd just bevehicular manslaughteredafter all.

All they wanted was a whole lot of nothing - studying, sleeping, burnout nights and dreary days - and yet, for whatever reason, they've been given a whole lot ofeverythingchaotically packaged into a neatly tied void of missing memories. Damn, Chase loves to do nothing but think about being hit by cars or being struck by lightning, but Stu and Billy and Randy are really good at making them forget about it.

Really, it's hard to think about being smote - smited? Smoted? Smitte'd? - when the gaggling trio of horror enthusiasts are there at every turn. If it's not Stu whisking them away for a newdonut test run, baby! Listen ta these wheels squeal!It's unskippable side quests in the form of (one-sided) debates with Randy- oh no, don't tell me, please don't tell me you have absolutely zero respect for the horror franchise!or treks around town with a quiet, but not unkind Billy.

"Hello? HelllloooooOoooOOoo!" Stu drags, ever so eager for attention. He's persistent till his dying breath, "The antenna in your noggin need some fine tunin'? 'Cause my touch is like lightning-"

Chase smiles to themself. Despite their moping and moaning and general apathy, it's hard to be anything but endeared around Stu.

"Like Edward Scissorhands, maybe."

Stu fakes a scandalized gasp. "That's slander, slander I say!" He changes his tune then, mocking, "What're you doing that's just soooo much better than spending time with your best friend Stu, huh? What's got you all tied up, Chu?"

"Chu?"

He responds like its obvious, "Chase plus Stu, duh. C'mon, get with the program. We're wastin' time here that youcouldbe spendin' with me - at the biggest and bestest bash of the year! Completely off the chain, yo!"

"...Right." Chase responds, "Bestest." They think really hard about Stu's proposition - but they had their answer before he even asked. "I'm not doing anything. I just want to keep it that way."

Stu's whine grows to epic proportions. "Awww, please! Please please please- it's the last huzzah of the summer, baby! You gotta be there, Chu. It's you or it's bust, and if it's bust I don't think I'll be able to live with myself. Help a guy out, wouldja?"

"Sounds like your party's gonna suck, then. Bye."

"Wai--"

Chase has already made their way to the dock, and with a firmtackthey hang up the phone. They get three steps away before it's ringing again. Rather than answer it, they clamor over the back of the couch and collapse onto the cushions. Blearily, their hand finds it way to theplaybutton on their remote. Georgie's paper boat disappears down the sewer in a heartbreaking, pivotal cinematic separation.

"Who's that?"

They pause the movie, peering up like a meerkat over the back of the couch. Their aunt has finally emerged from her dungeon, dressed like a middle aged woman stuck in the past. Good for her.

"Stu."

She hums knowingly, organizing her purse and touching up her makeup. "And what sh*tstorm has he managed to pull you into tonight? Arson? Vandalism? The ever so enticing lure of underage drinking?"

Chase's smile is sardonic. "Murder." They correct, hooking their armpits over the couch back, dangling their arms out like a mummy. Their aunt gives a teasing smile back.

"How fun."

"He invited me to a party." They reveal, eyes flicking about her form as she moves, "I said no. We hung out yesterday, and the day before, and the day before-"

"You never were much of a partier." She comments, flipping her compact mirror closed. Seemingly finished putting herself together, she heads for the door.

"No," Chase muses, "That was Katie's thing."

Their aunt - Jenny - grimaces. A thickness forms in the air that was once clear and amiable. Ice forms in their throat at their own misstep. Chase sighs.

"..Sorry."

Jenny waves her hand through the air, other clasped on the doorknob. "No, honey.. don't be. She's your sister-"

Chase mumbles an imperceptiblewasunder their breath. It's a soft noise, testing the waters. Still new, unattached. They don't want it to stick.

"I don't have a right to dictate how you speak of her.. or anything." Jenny approaches and tentatively ruffles their hair. Chase brushes her hand away, receding into more ways than one. Jenny's smile is wane. "How you heal is up to you, kid. Hell- party, don't party, set the house on fire-," she lists, "whatever you need. Go for it."

Chase is hardly paying attention now, flopping back onto the couch and turning away. Their response is a grumble. "I'm not going to set the house on fire."

"Well, good, 'cause I can't afford a new one." Jenny retorts, a grin in her words. "This isn't even a house to begin with."

"Hardly an apartment." Chase responds. Jenny snorts.

"Hardly." She echoes. After a beat she clears her throat. "Right, you know the drill. I'll be back at 6, call the bar if you need anything. Money is on the table if you get hungry. Have fun, be safe, blah blah blah-" Her twist of the doorknob signals the end of her spiel. Chase waves a blind hand up over the couch.

"Have a good shift."

There's a distantthanksand then the door closes. Silence envelops the room like a festering of cicadas, growing and surrounding and angry. It's loud enough to render Chase's hand immobile on the couch cushion, room barely lit by the paused screen of the box tv.

...They think for a while, then, to drown out the silence. About Katie, about their parents, the way their black suit had stained them even after they removed it. Blackened wrists and a crooked noose of a tie. They hear it again - the drag of a blade, the wet squelch of something red, the wailing and wailing of people and sirens and their throa--

Maybe they should bite the proverbial bullet and drag themself to Stu's place. Surely it'd be better than sitting and thinking and thinking andthinking.

Rolling onto their back, they drag a hand down their face. A pink, puckered line cuts through the skin of their left palm. They hover it above their head, tracing it with their opposing fingers. With a sigh they clench the scar away, arms falling beside them with world-heavythumps.sh*t. They should probably go to Stu's.

..Ah,but there's just so many people at parties. They just don't have the energy - even if they tried they wouldn't. Resigned to their festering, emotionally numb state, they turn to their side and resumeIT.Between the buzz of the television and their inky, molasses thoughts they're eventually lulled to sleep.

Chapter 2: Untethered

Chapter Text

August 18th, 1994

Okay, so maybe they were wrong. Maybe the first day of school really is the worst day.

Chelsea Richter has already gotten her gum stuck on Chase's sleeve, so instead of a comfy sweater they're stuck in their tank top - and then they ended up late to third period, and then they dropped their schedule in the toilet and therefore ended up late to fourth period, not to mention the essay they were assigned in English. On the first day. An essay on the first day!

Kill them.

They groan into the desk below them, hunched over with their bony fingers in their hair. This day is sh*t, complete and utter sh*t. While they had dozed off easy enough last night, they woke up an hour later with their hackles raised and their heart racing. They hadn't been able to fall back asleep in the empty, eerie shell of the apartment. Stupid goddamn nightmares.

Chase is out of class the second the fourth period bell rings. The hallway is already clogged despite their speedy exit - but there's a saving grace. A heavy arm falls over their shoulder when they eclipse the threshold.

"Chu Chu!" Stu greets, beaming with those long dimples of his. "You're just what I need right now, baby- hear me out- wait, wait, where'd your shell go, koopa?"

Stuck in Stu's spiderweb, the duo navigates the swarmed hall with minimal difficulty. Walking with Stu is always a gift - he's perpetually too tall and too broad to not cut through the crowd like butter.

"Got gummed."

Stu laughs, repeating the phrase to himself like a broken record. "Got gummed, got gummed, got gummed baby!" In one fell swoop he's stealing their bag and shirking his own sweater over them.

Stu throws his arm around them and continues yammering, "Do you--"

"Yes." They interject. In a surprising move Stu's face falls and he stops in the middle of the hall, Chase stopped by association. He turns to them, brows knit. His lip quivers in a mimicry of sorrow, voice all weepy and obnoxious.

"So you do hate me."

"What? No," Chase backtracks, "Why would I--"

"Awwwww man!" Stu whines, smothering them like a puppet with cut strings. His arms encase them like boa constrictors. Chase wheezes into his chest. "I thought we'd be together 'till the end, baby!"

"Stu," his tank swallows up Chase's complaints, "I'm pretty sure I'm suffocating. Also- I don't hate you-"

Chase teeters back dangerously under Stu's weight, backpedaling in a weird shuffle to the doors. Jesus, there's just too much of him, isn't there?

"But you hate me!" He bemoans. His face settles somewhere by their nape, so tall he's hunched over them like Quasimodo. His fingers are greedy around their ribcage, weirdly eager in their exploration. "I think- I think my heart's givin' out, man. First you ditch the party I throw for you-"

"Wasn't for me-"

Stu bemoans louder, "Now you're tellin' me you can't stand the sight'a me!--"

The duo continues their stumble shuffle out of the school. Chase pinches Stu's side repeatedly until the giant lets out a series of strangled giggles and releases them.

"You're such a man-child." Chase fails to steal their bookbag back, stumbling down the steps slightly when Stu throws an arm over their shoulder again. His fingers toy with their earring.

"If that's what it takes to get your affection," Stu cheeses, doing that annoying thing where he sags onto them, "then I'll be anything you want."

Chase scoffs, amused. "Is that how you won over Casey?"

Stu frowns, exaggerated. "C'mon, gimme some credit." The hand over their shoulder bends in front of their face so Stu can gesture to his beaming smile. "All it took was one look a'me. Hook, line, and sinker." Stu leans in close to their face. Chase pushes him away. He just talks into their palm. "Hell, I should just go down South and become a fisherman with all the babes I pull!"

"Yeah, straight to Crystal Lake."

Stu gasps, affronted. He can't fake it for very long, though - too emotive to be mad. "Are you- are you sayin' I'm Final Girl material?"

"Pfft--"

Stu sways away, hand up to his chest, suddenly flattered. He pretends to weep, "Aww, Final Girl material! You do love me! Chu, Chu, hear me out-"

The duo finally arrives at their conglomerate of friends. Slowly but surely their friend group is stabilizing; Serena and Tony gone, Stacy replaced by Casey - not a coincidence according to Stu - Derek intermingling every so often, and Sidney finally cemented in as a permanent figure. Randy gives a distracted wave, dick deep in a debate with Billy - again - about horror.

"I'm just sayin'--"

"You're always just sayin'," Billy interrupts, perpetually monotone, blunt, effortlessly unbothered. Randy groans.

"That's how talking works, dipsh*t - so yeah, I'm just sayin' that Halloween is a classic among classics-"

Billy pops a grape into his mouth, and then he disappears when Stu's torso sways into view.

"Sooo, what d'ya say?" He looks eager, anticipant. Chase, as always, has no idea what he's talking about.

"What do I say about what?"

Stu flails his arms about. "About comin' over tonight! Were you listening to me at all?"

"I stop after a minute and a half." They respond. Their answer tickles Stu so much his grin looks like it'll split his face. He pushes his head in close to theirs, wrapping them up in a smothering hug. He sways them side to side.

"I was thinkin' we could watch that movie you like, you know, the one.."

"You don't remember."

Stu makes a noise in their hair, chest rattling like a foreboding monster, "'Course I do! I just don't feel like saying it right now."

Chase can't help but crack a grin. "Sure, Stu. I believe you."

Stu hums around them, ignoring the grapes pelting along his back. When one hits Chase in the eye he merely turns his back on their friends.

"So is that a yes?"

Chase pretends to think, but it's honestly all for show. If Stu wants to hang out then Chase will make it work - because damn it, they really, really like hanging out with Stu. Introverted mind be damned, they just can't say no to him - unless it involves a party. f*ck parties. Never again.

"What time?"

Stu whoops, removing a hand to fist pump the air, all abuzz with that eclectic, enticing excitement.

"Cheeuh, baby! I'll meet you right here after class, capeesh? Or-" he peels back with wiggling eyebrows, "we could bounce now- what d'ya say, huh?"

Damn.. that sounds nice..

They open their mouth before clamping it shut. Their academic conscience will kill them if they ditch. It's all they've got left. "No."

Stu huffs out air like a dying balloon, more so amused than defeated.

"Worth a shot. You gonna come to my next party?" He asks. Chase, kind of expecting the topic, remains silent. Stu shakes them amicably. "It wasn't the same without chu, Chu. Don't get me wrong, it was a total rager- 'course it was," Stu steamrolls over himself, "but it wasn't the saaaaaaame. It was a banger, but you'd make it schweet."

"Why do you wanna get me drunk so bad, Stu?" Tired of standing, they wrench themself from his grip, dodging his grabbing hands to collapse onto the fountain. They squeeze between Billy and Sidney on the left and Randy and Derek on the right, forcing both parties to spread out so Chase can lay. Stu follows on their heels, hopping over them to sprawl on his side, propping his head up on his fist.

"He thinks you're funny when you're drunk." Billy drones, sitting somewhere above their head. Stu gasps again, outraged.

"I do not!"

Chase raises a brow. "So I'm not funny at all?"

"You're the funniest friend I've got," Stu forces an arm under them and one overtop, locking his hands together around their ribcage. It's a position they've become used to; Stu draped over them, head in their neck, an arm on their shoulder. It was weird at first - unwelcome, really - but akin to the proverbial medicine of gossip and nosiness, they had been forced to adapt to Stu, too. Now their only problem is that they're a little too comfortable with it - and f*ck, yeah, there was a time where they had started thinking of it less platonically than they know it is. Unfortunately, that feeling started six months ago and hasn't left since.

Damn it. Stupid heart. Stupid attachment issues. It feels like they're only able to breathe when their front door clicks shut behind them, alone at last - pining shed like a snakeskin.

"Billy buddy is just being a total tard," Stu says this pointedly, finding a home for his chin on their head, "You're all that and a bag of chips, Chu. Just wanna show everyone else how rad y'are, y'know? Can't do that when you're cocooning."

Chase has long since accepted their limb prison, merely bending their arm below their head and shutting their eyes. Twenty eight minutes left of lunch; twenty eight minutes to nap. This sweater feels so nice. They should just keep it.

"You've got Casey for that."

"S'not the same." Stu whines, fingers spreading over their ribs like he can't get enough. "You know you're my number one, right?"

Billy scoffs. Based on the impact against their skull, he's smacked Stu on the head.

"You get your heart broken last night? Smoke some of Tommy's stomped on spice? Drink so hard your brain fell out?"

"D'aw Billy, don't be a prick." Stu mutters, curling tighter, "So I didn't get to sleep my hangover off, so what?"

"So," Billy retorts, blasé, "it turns you into a total chick."

"Turns him into a baby, actually." Casey corrects, approaching. A peek reveals her short blonde bob neatly styled, a skirt short enough to be short but not too short, and a top tight like her skin. She's always been so pretty.

There's some shuffling and some scuffing of pavement before she presumably sits. She makes idle chatter with Stu, saying nothing of his conjoined position. The lanky teen is known for his wandering hands and clingly demeanor. His sprawls have long since been expected since his very first day of sixth grade - or so Chase has heard.

"Hey Chase." She greets, amiable with them the way friends of friends are. "Didn't see you last night, skip out again?"

"You know it." They respond, huffing a laugh at Stu's groan.

"AAAAHh, stop reminding me!"

"Stu was really tore up about it." She continues, teasing, "He totally harshed the vibe. I've never seen a party clear out so fast."

Sidney laughs at Casey's needling. "It wasn't that bad."

"It was just better when Stu wasn't around." Randy chimes in with that sh*tty, boyish insult in his tone. Stu defends his honor.

"Can it, dickweed."

The smell of body spray makes Chase wrinkle their nose, eyes opening. Randy has settled in front of them with a big grin and wiggling brows.

"You like? It's Obsession by Calvin Klein."

Chase inhales the earthy tone again before pausing. To compare, they peel one of Stu's hands away and hold it to their face. Annoyingly, his arm remains limp. They drop it, only for it to curl around their neck like a re-homed snake. Cupping their cheek with his palm like a cushion, Stu continues complaining and bemoaning and defending his party behind them.

"Too strong." Chase decides, shaking their head when Stu tries to wiggle a finger in their ear. Randy deflates. "It's a good smell, you just used too much. I'm pretty sure I could smell that in first period, wasn't your classroom across the schoo-"

Randy throws a chip at them, annoyed. "Can it, loser. Forget I even asked. New subject; you coming to Blockbuster tonight? I can't keep Creepy Karen off your case for much longer. IT has spent enough time burning a hole into your DVR."

Randy mutters under his breath, then, something that sounds suspiciously like it's not even that good a movie - no, it's not even a good movie. For the sake of their twenty-five minute nap, Chase ignores the jab.

"..mmm. Maybe." Their response is half-hearted at best. When Randy opens his mouth to respond Billy clicks his tongue. A grape pops in his mouth.

"The Exorcist get restocked?"

"The Exorcist get restocked?" Randy mocks, talking with a tongue too fat to sound coherent. There's another smack followed by Randy's instinctive ow!

"Bite me, asshole. Of course it got restocked, it's Blockbuster - the crowing jewel of the 19th century."

"Awesome." Billy says, bland, "Set it aside. I'm renting it."

Randy looks around, arms outstretched. His voice is comical, exasperated. "Oh, yeah, sure thing Mr. Murray, let me just hop on my spaceship and get right on that for you. Better yet, I'll call up Jamie Lee Curtis to set it aside right now - I'm pretty sure she's clocked into your world of make believe."

Randy's facade suddenly drops, now stern. "Not. I can't set aside what I don't have, donut!"

"God." Stu mutters, impressed and amused, "You accidentally get into my old man's acid?" He begins laughing loudly to himself then, wrenching up with lightning in his veins, "Or- or maybe you went and got possessed, man!" He looks around sporadically, abuzz, "Right? Right? Just look at him-" he leans in over Chase's head, squinting. He murmurs now, "Yeah, man, I think I see the cross right no-"

Randy smacks Stu's hand from his forehead. "Eat my shorts, dickweed!" Stu devolves into giggles. It just annoys Randy further, "I'm not possessed, the devil couldn't take me even if he tried." He huffs, petulant, "Besides, I'm not even allowed to have a ouija board in the house."

"Luigi board, Luigi board." Stu chants, laughing boisterously. Casey yanks on a smattering of his short blonde hair, pulling a wince and a low ouch.

"He had it hard enough last night." Casey comments, although she seems amused at Randy's expense, "Ease up, alright?"

Stu collapses behind them once more, but he releases Chase to turn and wrap his arms around Casey's waist instead. Whatever he says is lost to the fabric on her stomach.

The group devolves into mixed chatter after that. Casey and Stu flirting or chatting or whatever Stu's feeling like dipping his toes in, Billy needling into an easily annoyed Randy, Derek and Sidney making soft, idle chatter, talking over one another to debate over just how sh*t the new school year is.

"I just think she's got no tact, you know? There's an unspoken agreement- a girl code- that you don't say sh*t like that." Casey rants.

Even the pacifist, Sidney chimes in, "Well.. maybe there's something going on that we don't know about?"

"Yeah, gals, c'mon," Stu interjects, now upright with his legs all over the place. His voice is a poor mimic of a girl's, "I mean, like, maybeh she's on herh periohd orh somethin', yea'?--"

Casey smacks him, fighting back a smile. "Oh shut up Mr. Feminist. I could care less about her point of view, she--"

The rest of lunch passes far too quickly, and soon enough the school day is back to dragging on laboriously in the classrooms. A year seems to pass before the bell rings at the end of the day, releasing a swarm of too-eager students from their academic hellhole.

Chase and Sidney head down the hall together, fortunate enough to be scheduled with Phys Ed. at the end of the day. Chase wipes their sweat on Sidney's shoulder, feigning innocence at her narrowed gaze.

"You're so gross." Sidney mutters, despite the smile stretched across her face. She sighs heavily at the weak, sputtering fans down the hall. "Say, you wanna come over tonight? I was thinking of inviting Tatum too," Sidney tucks some hair behind her ear. Chase furrows their brows, dodging a cluster of assholes from the football team monopolizing the hall.

"Tatum?"

"Mhmm." Sidney hums in affirmation before ahing to herself, "Right, you weren't at the party- we really hit it off last night, so I just thought.. maybe we could be friends outside of school, too, you know?"

Tatum, Tatum, Tatum... yeah, Chase has no idea who that is.

"I'd love to giggle and haha and paint my toes with you ladies," Sidney scoffs, ribbing them softly, "but unforch I already have the displeasure of making plans for the night. Maybe... next month?"

Sidney laughs. "How about tomorrow?"

Chase's soul leaves their body. Sidney seems to be able to spot it, continuing in a soft, playful tone, "You're so dramatic, hanging out with me won't kill you!"

"Maybe," they mutter, finally stepping out into the sunlight, "or maybe I have a social limit of exactly one hangout per month and I've already been booked."

"Yeah, okay- tell that to Stu and Billy." She smiles genially. She makes conversing with Chase seem easy, even though their dull, soulless monotone and one word responses are usually the perfect conversation ender. "You have no problem making time for them-"

"I'm usually just laying on the floor. Silent--"

With a twinkle in her eye that screams trouble, she continues, "-I think you just hate women."

Chase freezes; sputtering, stumbling, fumbling.

"You think I hate women?!" They exclaim - because holy sh*t, that's worse than social suicide! Their greatest nightmare is becoming popularly unpopular for something as heinous as a misunderstanding - jesus, they'll just run themself over with Stu's car to avoid it. "Seriously- you seriously think I hate women? Does anyone else think I hate women- because I don't!"

Sidney shrugs, mysterious. "Hmm, I dunno. Maybe, maybe not."

She just threw their response back in their face - that witch!

Ignoring Stu - waving increasingly sporadically in their peripheral - they grasp Sidney's wrist. Instead of finishing their trek towards Stu and his fancy car, they make a sharp right turn for the buses.

"Fine." They mutter, resigned to her obvious blackmail. She laughs that soft, pretty laugh of hers and trails behind them, "Fine! You win, I'll paint my nails and my eyelids or whatever the hell, and then I'm never going outside ever again. This is your golden ticket, Sid. No take backs."

"Fine by me."

Stu jogs up beside them, spinning to walk backwards without a care for what's behind him.

"Hey, hey, what's the big idea?" They duck under his arm, ignoring his frown, "Last I checked, my car is that'a'way." He gestures pointedly behind them, giving a bright, easy smile to everyone he backs into.

"I'm being kidnapped." Chase responds. "We can hang out next year."

Stu scratches his cheek, pointedly dragging his eyes up and down the duo. "Uh.. sure looks to me like you're doing the kidnapping here, Chu." He squints then, looking betrayed, "Why'd you go and snag Sidney when I'm right here anyway? What's up with that? I'm the best kidnapping material this side of the county - I'm practically begging for it."

Sidney tags in when Chase decides they're done with the conversation. "They'll hang out with you tomorrow, I promise."

"But we were gonna hang out tonight!" He holds a hand out dramatically, forcing the duo to halt when he steps in their way. "You promised, yo! A promise is a promise, man!"

At Stu's wilting form, Sidney begins to look apologetic. "..Sorry Stu. There's just.. ah.. some stuff I need to talk to Chase about. I'll make it up to you, okay?"

She reaches forward and gives the now immobile Stu's hand a squeeze. At the realization that Chase is actually ditching him for Sidney, his buoyant personality seems to have deflated.

"You're seriously ditchin' me?"

They nod. "I have to show that I'm not sexist."

Stu looks confused at the response, and then resigned. And then pouty.

"Fine-"

Chase fights a snort. As if he actually has the authority to decide where they go.

"-but you're all mine tomorrow, got it?" Stu points at Chase, looking a little more serious than they've seen previously. "You, me, and that one movie. You try and ditch, and I'm breaking your legs." He bends down and shakes their knee. There's no smile on his face. "Can't ditch with a couple'a broken legs, can you?"

Chase blinks before shaking his hand off. "Sure, Stu. Break away."

He leans back with a pleased smile, all suave and long limbs and overzealous energy again. They brush past him, hand still clasped around Sidney. The duo leaves Stu behind, but his bellow catches up to them with ease.

"Don't have too much fun, alright!" He's cupped his hands around his mouth, "Wait wait, have no fun at all, okay!? Save it for me!"

They dismiss him with a limp wave.

Sidney laughs, brows raised. "Does he always do that when you bail?"

Chase shrugs, grimacing at the smell of bus when they clamor on board. Their grimace deepens when they sink into a booth between some jocks. Gross.

"I don't bail. I either go or I don't."

"How knightly of you." Sidney teases. She hugs her bag in her lap, unbothered by the hooting and hollering.

"I try."

"When have you ever tried?" Sidney retorts. Chase lets out a low, unimpressed oooh.

"You got me there. Good one."

"Thanks," Sidney picks at her fingers for a bit, then. When the silence continues no one breaks it. Oh no. They know what this means. An uncomfortable feeling bubbles up in Chase's stomach - sh*t, they hope she's not thinking of asking for advice or opening up or-

"So.. You're close with Billy, right?"


Aw, double sh*t.

Chapter 3: Endless

Chapter Text

"All I'm saying is that a man would have made a move by now." Tatum comments, painting her nails with a precision previously unseen.

"Well, I wouldn't say that." Sidney defends weakly. "It's not Billy's fault. Maybe.. maybe he just isn't in to me? Maybe I read things wrong?"

Tatum scoffs. "Puh-lease, babe. He's def into you, there's no doubt about it - what I don't get is why he isn't making a move. I mean, he must know the feeling is mutual, right? Anyone with eyes can see the chemistry between you."

Sidney shrugs, eyes downcast. "I dunno." She mutters, "I haven't.. not given any signals.."

Tatum stares at Sidney before groaning. She presses up onto her knees, smacking Sidney on the shin indignantly.

"Are you yanking my chain, Sid? Nothing?? You've done nothing- not even, have you even given him the look?"

Sidney is skeptical. "The look?"

"The look." Tatum repeats, as if it's as dire as it is obvious. She throws her arms up when Sidney remains silent, "The- the goddamn look, Sidney! The look!"

Sidney is torn between a giggle and embarrassment. "Tatum, repeating the look, the look! doesn't tell me anything-"

Chase, slightly dumbfounded, can only ping pong their eyes back and forth at the display before them. Is this really happening? Why the hell are they here? No, really- why? Gossip?? Sidney invited them- nay, blackmailed them over for boy talk? To talk about crushes?

On the bus ride she had inquired about Billy's behavior - if he's talked about her, if he's seemed interested in her, if he's interested in anyone, if he has her number memorized, if he looks at her when she isn't looking - all innocent, crush-y questions. Normal, expected high school things. Things that Chase couldn't care less about coming from anyone else, the only problem is that Chase really doesn't want to talk about it with Sidney - because that means it's about Billy.

Chase is perpetually touch starved yet touch averse, unable to differentiate romantic infatuation from platonic admiration, and drowning in a self loathing so thick that any sort of attention is a saving grace. Suffice to say, being exposed to Stu's overzealous, touchy personality and Billy's selective affection has got their wires fried. Whilst they struggle daily to forget whatever weird thing they feel for Stu, the same could be said for Billy - haha, not that it would go anywhere, because of course it wouldn't - but that doesn't make seeing the two fancy other people any better. It definitely doesn't make playing wingman for the two any better, either. Gag them with a spoon.

Because among other things - other people, in this case.. means women. Something that Chase is not.

Sighing, Chase flops back onto Sidney's floor and stares at the ceiling. Tatum and Sidney talk in hushed, embarrassed whispers and boisterous claims, and Chase's chest churns. Damn it, damn it, damn it. They wish they had never moved here. They wish they hadn't gone to that party. They wish they hadn't gotten blackout drunk - which, honestly, how the hell did that even happen? Chase doesn't drink - and they wish they had never befriended Billy and Stu.

Their chest twists further at the thought. Part of them, maybe all of them, knows they would rather suffer this pathetic, one-sided heartbreak than never have met them at all. How f*cking cliché, and how damn embarrassing.

"-right Chase?"

"...Chase?"

"...Chase!"

Someone pinches their side. Jerking upright, rubbing their ribs, Chase glowers at Tatum. She has a slight furrow in her brow.

"Helloooo, anyone home?"

"No." Chase hunches over, crossing their arms and their legs lamely. Sidney chuckles.

"They're fine. They doze off sometimes."

"Girl talk is just boring." Chase mutters. It tastes like a lie. They actually enjoy it - never having been part of it before Woodsboro - they just wish it were about anyone or anything else. Seriously, anyone or anything else. Even Mr. Carter's foot fungus would be better than this.

"Alright, pouty Michael Myers," Tatum starts, jerking one of their hands forward to rest on her knee. Despite her small frame, she makes it impossible for Chase to wrench their hand back. To their further horror, she begins painting their nails a soft, cottony blue.

"What's the 411 on planet Chase?"

"Your mom." They answer, now frozen enough to imitate Tatum's impromptu nickname. The polish feels slimy on their nail - sick - they really don't want to feel it on their skin - oh, barf. It sucks, then, that in retaliation Tatum smears polish all over their fingertip.

"Gross!" They wrench their hand away, furiously swiping their finger into their jeans. Tatum and Sidney laugh at their expense.

"Don't be such a baby," Tatum jerks their hand back despite their grumbling, "c'mon, you can tell us. I'm good at keeping secrets." She casts a glance behind her, "Well.. I'm not so sure about Sidney."

"I'm great at keeping secrets!" Sidney defends.

"That's great." Chase deadpans, unable to keep disgust off their face when looking at their nails, "I'm really good at not giving them."

Tatum huffs. "Fine." She bites out, "Keep your boring little secrets. What lame tidbits are you willing to spare us, oh righteous one?"

"None."

The response doesn't shake Tatum. "And what do you think about Sid's chances with Mr. Perfect?"

"Mr. Who?" They feign, dull.

Tatum finally releases a sound of frustration.

Sidney smiles, unbothered by their silence. "Good luck, Tate. Even I can't get them to spill the beans - I still don't know their middle name. Or where they live."

Tatum pauses, giving them a new, scrutinizing once over. She looks from Chase to Sidney, Chase to Sidney.

"Hold on, you mean you don't know anything about them?" She clarifies, brows raised, "And you're completely fine sitting here in the dead of night, spilling all of your hot goss in front of them?"

"You are too." Sidney points out. Tatum is exasperated.

"I was unaware! Oh, Sid. Don't ever get caught up in a horror movie." Tatum shakes her head, resuming her nail-painting despite her verbal needling, "You'll definitely die first."

Tatum finishes painting their nails. They don't know the exact moment they resigned themself to following through with her womanly whims, just that they're donning new blue tips within ten minutes as a result. Tatum commented on their scar when she swapped to their left, but after a tense moment of silence she smoothly changed the subject.

Much like Sidney, Tatum makes talking seem easy.

Despite Chase's initial reluctance to join, there isn't much of a feeling of regret by the time the night ends. Tatum has a soft, unwavering confidence that brings an admirable life to conversations. Self assured, compassionate, with just enough sass to be comical and stern without being bitchy. By the time ten o'clock rolls around Chase has already begun thinking of Tatum as a new fixture in their life. Just as Randy, Sidney, Stu, and Billy have wormed themselves into Chase's orbit, Tatum is surely on her way.

Ah... Damn it. It kind of feels like trouble.

Chapter 4: The Second Thread

Chapter Text

August 19th, 1994

Stu picks them up in the morning.

After another sleepless night - which Chase spent peering out the living room window of the Prescott house - Mrs. Prescott had greeted them with the offer of breakfast. They had denied her other offer of Neil's clothes when noting their dirty outfit from the day before, but she made sure to force a banana in their hand before she left for work.

Ten minutes after she left, a bright and bushy 7:10am, the phone rang. And it rang, and rang, and rang. After realizing no one would be around to pick up, Chase had bit the bullet and answered. Stu was a welcome voice on the other end. Kind of.Yo, Sid-- Aha! Chu, baby - is that you? I rang your place last night, and after the fourth ghost I figured you were asleep - but you were just shackin' up with the enemy! I mean, c'mon man, you slept over? Seriously? You're only supposed to have sleepovers with me!

In the end, he had forced a ride on them despite the existence of Tatum's car, stating that it was too cold in his car to ride alone and that his car ran on their love.

What a schmoozer. They leave the house a few minutes later, checking Sid'a alarm to make sure it'll go off. Chase refuses to wake people up - that's what technology is for.

"Yeesh, man-" Stu startles at the sight of them. Fake grimace, eyes a little knit, brows tight, "Lookin' a lottle dead there, Jamie Lee C. When's the last time you slept?"

Chase shuts their eyes after the slam of the door, sagging comfortably in the passenger seat. Their hum is noncommittal, nose red from the morning chill.

"'Dunno."

"'Dunno." Stu mocks, boisterously leaning over and turning their head every which way, "Oh, I'unno, sometymes I jus close my eyes an' then it's bright out, an' sometymes I close my eyes an' it ain't."

Despite their exhaustion, Chase chuckles. They wave Stu's hand away, ignoring his lingering, unreadable gaze. Chase expects him to turn the engine and beeline it out of the driveway like the terrible driver he is, but - oddly enough - Stu isn't moving the car. He just sits there for a while. And he stares. And stares. And stares - like, what? What??

They eye him weirdly. After an extended amount of time he suddenly spurs to life.

"Ahh," he sighs loudly, deflating. He shakes his head to himself, glancing in the backseat momentarily. He's hunched in his seat like a snail, too tall to sit straight. "Yah, nah, no, I think we're skippin'."

"Wha'?" Chase jerks forward. Stu is already rousing the car awake with his long limbs, looking sneaky and distrustful and full of trouble, "No way, it's the second day!"

"Oh no, the second day!" Stu gasps, fingers up to his face. He laughs loudly, straining back to look out the rear windshield. "Don't be a wuss, you'll be fine. You'd probably drop dead the second you walked in." He gives them a long, charming smile. Instead of heading left towards school out of Sidney's driveway, he takes them right. "I'm doin' you a favor, baby. You're welcome." He emphasizes, goofy.

"I'm not welcome." They respond, turning back to look out the windshield. Sidney's house gets smaller and smaller in the distance, and then they glance down. They jolt.

"f*ck, Billy!"

He gives them a tight smile from the foot well. "Hah. Surprise."

-

Stu pesters them inside his house the way a farmer wrangles chickens. Stepping on their heels, hands touching and prodding and clasping their ribs, giant sweater slinking against the one they stole from him the day prior.

"Go in, lay down, get some zzzs." Stu repeats under his breath - again and again and again. He presses into their back to unlock the door, pushing it open with a flourish. "Go in, lay down, get some zzzs, and then we can get cuh-ray-zee, baby!"

"You're already there." Billy comments, shouldering past when Stu resigns to waddling, Chase in his arms. Stu laughs, looking proud.

"Yo, I am always there."

Chase frees themself from Stu's grasp, beelining to the couch. The second they roll over the back of it they're being hit in the face with fabric.

"Change." Billy orders, "You smell like ass."

"Wow, thanks Bill."

"Gross, Bill. Talk to the hand." He mimes Casey, grinning at Stu's eye roll. The two stalk the space naturally - and it probably is natural. Stu and Billy have been friends for eons, at this point they could probably swap houses for a week and their parents would be none the wiser.

"Dude, you're inviting her in when you say sh*t like that!" Stu whaps Billy with a new sweater, and the other boy merely grins sharply.

"Ooooh," Billy raises his brows, arms waving up by his face jokingly. It looks normal next to his wilting, crooked hunch, "The feminine ghost of Casey Becker will haaaaaunt you-"

"Man-" Stu laughs with an undertone of seriousness, "Shut it! She's pissed at me for ditching last night, I don't need her harshing the vibes of mi casa, alright?"

"Ditching?" Chase echoes. Weren't they supposed to hang out yesterday? Stu waves a hand their way, mouth all twisted.

"Ignore Billy, he's high."

"But you're the one that said it?" Their point goes unanswered.

"If you don't like her," Billy flops onto the armchair, legs kicked up on the table, "just dump her."

Stu jumps over the back of Chase's claimed couch, huffing and puffing by their feet. To keep his hands busy he leans in and begins ridding them of their shirts.

"Easy, dude. I totally did not say I wasn't diggin' her," he points at Billy sharply, one hand holding Chase's sweater neck above their head, "so zip it around the ladies, yeah? This is a no-rumor zone. A safe space."

Billy raises his hands in surrender, looking entirely unapologetic. "My bad." He mimes zipping his lips.

"Case is a babe amongst babes," Stu yanks Chase's arms up to slip the new sweater on them. His voice suddenly comes out hesitant, cautious. "I uh.. actually kind of think she's the one for me, man."

When the sweater drops past Chase's head it reveals an oddly solemn Stu. Even Billy looks caught off guard. The air turns stale.

"..You're kidding."

Stu hunches in on himself, arms crossed, annoyed. "I'm being forreal, man! She's got the ass, the gas, the-" he gestures to his chest exaggeratedly, "-these- and she's kind of funny when she tries. She's it, man."

...what?

Chase is stunned. Their world has flipped on its head. No - it's exploded and spinning backwards and double-dutching and their chest is, too. Is he serious? Seriously?? Casey? Not that there's anything wrong with her, but sh*t, that's kind of the problem! Oh no - their chest f*cking hurts. They hope it's indigestion, or a heart attack. Please be a heart attack.

Stu may be boisterous and vivacious, but he's masterful at avoiding anything deep. Chase and Stu may be close because of Stu's lack of boundaries and tactile behavior - everyone is close with Stu, in a way - but Chase knows zilch about the way Stu actually operates. They can't recall ever seeing him mad, or sad, or genuinely bothered by anything that's happened in his life. He's had glimmers of snide remarks and feigned annoyances, but Chase has never been able to pinpoint just how deep the emotion goes.

Does he actually feel it? Does he hide his true reactions away? Is he just an incredibly chill and mellow comedic type of guy?

Ah.. Really, honestly.. when they lie awake at night and think about their sh*thole of a life - which inevitably leads them down the tracks of thinking about Billy and Stu and Randy and how they maybe hate living a little less than before - they find themself wondering if Stu is capable of feeling anything at all. Maybe everything he is is just for show.

So this? Chase has no idea how to handle it. At least Billy is somewhat obvious in his emotions. Exhibit A; disgust.

"You're f*cking mental." Billy dismisses, kicking his shoes off and turning his attention to the powered off TV. Stu bounces up to his feet, jostling the newly clothed Chase by association, filling the room with his frenetic energy.

"Billy, Billy, Billy, bro! Hear me out, man, I'm talkin' from the heart here! I-" Stu looks earnest, inhaling deep for a sincere confession.

"-am totally f*cking with you! Haha!" He bounces on his heels, finger pointed outward childishly, "Psyche! Of course she isn't it, there's no way I'd settle for Casey, man!"

Billy scoffs. "No sh*t. You can't lie to save your life."

Stu looks offended, hand pressed against his chest. "Ouch, buddy. I am too a good liar." He whips his finger towards Chase now. Chase - who definitely one thousand percent believed Stu was in love with Casey and therefore almost imploded. "I had Chu fooled!"

Billy shoots Stu down easily. "Chase doesn't have the attention span to know what they're even feeling."

Still dumbfounded, Chase can only offer a low mutter. "So true."

Their heart is still crackling in their chest. Stu's sweater is so giant and warm on their frame, same with the one pooled in their lap - and the thought of not being able to have access to Stu or his sweaters or his grabbing hands - because oh, sh*t, when he's in an actual committed relationship will he stop doing that?? - has their world narrowing and expanding all at once. They knew they were a little oddly and one-sidedly infatuated with him, but-

Oh no. Oh sh*t. Oh damnit. They might actually like him. Like, f*cking like-like him!

Their loud, sudden groan has Billy and Stu startling, eyeing them. Chase drops their head in their hands, rueing the day they ever met Billy and Stu. This will not work out for them, that much is obvious.

Coming to his own conclusion, Stu dawws, crashing onto the couch and worming his head under their arms.

f*ck! Stu just needs to hit them with his car.

"Don't worry bayhbee, I'm a great liar. Don't feel too bad, yeah? I could fool anyone." He says this with a self-absorbed pride. When they continue groaning into their palms he forces their hands from their face, intertwining their fingers. It just makes Chase's heart shrivel to dust.

"You're the only one for me." He cheeses, bringing their conjoined hands to their face so he can tap their nose. The phrase is a karate chop to the spleen. Stu looks around the room obnoxiously, topic dismissed.

"Rad - anyway. Now that you're here and I'm here and Billy's here, let's get down to what really," he stresses, "like, really reeeeeeally matters."

"Putting Chase to bed?" Billy reminds. Stu pahs, shaking his head.

"Girl talk!"

"Hell no." Billy rejects. He rises to his feet, rifling through the Macher family film collection. "I'm watching a movie, Chase is taking a nap, and you're f*cking off somewhere else."

"Or we can hear all the juicy lady gossip that Sidney just had to steal Chase away to reveal!"

At Sidney's name Billy subtly straightens. A second later he's dropping his VHS tapes to the ground.

"..fine."

Stu giggles to himself, flipping over and dropping two pointy elbows into Chase's lap. Head in hands, legs kicked up, he looks exactly as Tatum did when she stopped painting everyone's nails. His giant, comparably buff frame makes it a silly sight.

"Well?" Stu prompts, "Go on, then."

Chase finds his intrigue funny, but they don't care enough to blab. They're suddenly too tired, too weary, and too loathing to give a shmiple of a shmup. "I'm not ratting on Sid."

Billy shrugs, looking unbothered yet coercive at the same time. "No one says ya had to. S'just talk, right Stu?"

Stu grins, sharp like a shark. "Right, buddy. Just talk. We're just talkin', yea? Like we always do!" He sits up and scoots in, throwing a hand behind their head.

"Soooo.. what'd you say?"

"I said your mom." They brush off, standing up to clean the VHS disaster on the floor. Stu and Billy groan.

"Jesus, we're asking for girl talk, Chase." Billy emphasizes, "f*cking girl talk! My dad would open a can'a whoopass on me for even thinkin' it - you gotta give us something."

"Who's Sid crushin' on?" Stu interrogates, playful, "What's her room look like - no, what's it smell like? She got any panti-" he's cut off by a yelp, but he perseveres, "-any tinylittle tantalizing unmentionables lyin' about?"

"Pervert."

"Says you." Stu retorts, close enough to clasp his hands on Chase's shoulders. He slides them down into a neck hug, sighing contently into their neck. "You wanna know just as bad as I do, Billy. Your face says it all."

Chase snorts. "His face says nothing."

Stu bounces in place, teasing, "You made 'em laugh, Billy! You hear that? You made 'em laugh!" He releases them to spin them around. His face is dire.

"Really, Chase. Ya gotta help a bud out. Somethin', anythin'!" He's faux begging at this point. "You bailed on me, man! Bailed! On me!"

He points repeatedly into his chest. He has a point - Chase totally bailed like a backstabbing little bitch the other day. They don't like socializing, but they hate disappointing people more. They sigh, resigned.

"We talked.."

Stu nods fervently, grinning wide.

"Uh-huh."

"..about.. stuff."

"Okay, go on." Stu half-heartedly glares at Billy's any day now.

"And things."

Billy scoffs. "Forget it, they're not spillin'." Suddenly, he grins. He looks like he knows a secret - or like he knows he's about to start a total sh*tstorm.

"Probably don't wanna say 'cuz they talked about their crush."

Stu pffts, and then he laughs obnoxiously. It takes way too long for him to collect himself, rising up only to sputter and cackle once more.

"Chu doesn't have a crush." He dismisses.

Thinking five billion things at once and yet nothing at all, Chase does something very stupid. They tell the truth.

"Actually," Chase murmurs - or perhaps they've been possessed by the Exorcist girl because they hardly feel in control of their body right now, "I do."

Stu eyes them before laughing once more. It rattles his whole body. He hunches over, arm around his stomach, one finger in their face. "Hahaaha! Ha-ah, hah, ah.. good one, good one!"

"It's not a joke." Chase says. Stu continues smiling, disbelieving, but time passes and the silence makes his grin wane.

"..what?"

"I have a crush." Chase monotones, VHS tapes in hand - and yet they must be shovels for the hole they're digging themself right now. "On a person. That's alive."

".....what?"

"Think you killed 'im." Billy comments. His tone and words are normal, expected Billy things - but he's beginning to look a little put out in the face of their confession. He looks from Stu to Chase, Stu to Chase. He raises a brow.

"..you serious?"

Chase nods.

"You're not joshin'?"

They shake their head.

"...seriously?" Billy stresses. Chase nods again. Stu's jaw drops. For the first time ever he seems genuinely thrown off kilter - rattled, scrambling for footing. Billy is caught between amusem*nt and surprise.

"Hot damn." He mutters, moments before Stu begins to wail.

"What, what- what??! Who?!" Distressed, Stu shakes Chase like a ragdoll, "You got a crush?! You're not yankin' my chain- tuggin' my tail??"

He shakes his head, changes his tune. It's like he's having a conversation with himself. "Nah, not my Chu. No way, not allowed. You're jokin', you gotta be - c'mon, Chu, I'm all you need!"

As everything probably-maybe-possibly is with Stu, Chase is convinced his desperation is a ploy.

"Way over the top." Billy comments, now disinterested.

"Hey man-!" Stu snaps, aggrieved, "I'm goin' through something' here! This is real! I'm dyin' here, baby!" He tugs Chase to the couch, pushes them down onto the cushions before kneeling before them. He looks upset.

"You're jokin', right? You gotta be- you are." He clasps their hands, idly rubbing thumbs along the backs. "I think you're just drunk. You're just drunk!"

"Yep, I'm drunk." Chase says, because Stu is kind of getting a little too obnoxious for their energy levels. Instead of being elated, Stu groans epically.

"You're totally lying right in my face, Chu!"

Well, they just can't win, now, can they?

Stu leans in, intent and oddly intense, "Who is it, huh? Is it Randy? Is it Steve? Jordan? Joshua? Jeremy?"

"Why are you assuming I only like men?" Was Sidney right?Does everyone think Chase hates women? Stu scoffs.

"Of course you like men. You have a poster of Johnny Depp on your wall."

Chase can't tug their hands from Stu to defend themself. "He just looks cool in a crop top."

"Bzzt," Billy imitates a buzzer, "Liar." He looks way too invested in this new reveal.

"Why are we talking about this again?" Chase attempts to reroute the topic, "I need to go to bed, right? I'm just delirious."

Stu looks down, nodding to himself over and over again. "Right, right, just tired, yo. Go in, lay down, get some zzzs." He abruptly shakes his head and clicks his teeth. He stands, settling a strong point in Chase's face.

"Nah - now I can't stop thinkin' about it! You totally meant it-" he collapses next to them, suffocating them with his limbs, "-how could you, Chu? I'm all that and a bag'a chips! It's you and me, man - you and me!"

"You're dating Casey." Billy says this somewhat pointedly, twitching his head minutely. "Remember? Not Chase."

Stu's hands - previously wrestling with their own - go still. After a second he quickly resumes winding and swaying, but it's slower.

Stu scoffs. "What're you tryna say, Billy?" They feel him turn to look at Billy, but they're too wrapped up to look back. "Huh? That I- What're you insinuating, man? I just wanna make sure my friend isn't crushing on some total dip."

"Nothing." Billy's voice is deceptively light. "Not insinuating. Just sayin' you've got a gal, so Chase can have one too." There's a pause. A grin in his words. "Or a guy - dip or not. You sayin' Stacy wasn't a dip?"

Stu grumbles to himself, but it's less intense than it was before. Normal, clingly, overzealous Stu once again. "But they don't need a guy or a gal, right?" He jostles them for their attention, staring down at them with a cheesing grin. It looks a little.. off. "Not when you've got Billy and I."

"...right." Chase murmurs. Right, they don't need anyone else when their two best friends are the object of their affections and also interested in other people. Right, that's great for Chase. So great.

They sigh heavily, twisting out of Stu's hold. They ignore his teasing, whining no, Chu, come back! I'm bleedin' out here, you owe me! to lay face down on the couch.

"I'm going to bed." They say into the cushion. Stu tugs their legs on his lap, drawing fish and ugly dogs and swears with his finger. It makes their skin curl. "Goodnight."

"Dream of me." Stu teases. Billy laughs.

And damnit, Chase probably will.

You're dating Casey, remember? Not Chase.

"That's called a nightmare, Stu."

"Oh yeah?" He enunciates, imitating Randy's classic too-fat-tongue nerd voice, "Is it, Billy? It is reeeeahlly?" They feel him move to smack Billy. "Am I a real life Freddy Kruger; is that it, Billy? What's that make you then, huh?--"

Resigned to Stu and Billy's blabbing, Chase shuts their eyes and goes to sleep. In a moment of startling clarity, they realize they need to become best friends with Randy instead.

Chapter 5: Horizon

Chapter Text

August 22nd, 1994

The remaining week passes as slow as it possibly can. Chase's resolve to quit being friends with Billy and Stu shriveled up and died the second they woke. Stu, the only friend in the group with a car - rest in peace, Stephen (car) - had held Chase and Billy hostage at his house for the remainder of the day. Safe to say, Chase had forgotten their impulsive pact within seconds.

The crush talk that was seemingly dropped ended up having lingering effects. Throughout the week, Chase notices an increase in Stu sightings. Every time they talk to someone new - usually to dismiss class questions or give incorrect directions to freshman - Stu is scrutinizing the encounter in unnervingly silent detail from across the hall or down the corridor. When it goes on longer than thirty seconds, Stu is throwing an arm over their shoulder and swaying into the face of their conversation partner, becoming the center of attention with a snide quip or goofy remark. His smile is always a little too big, his interest always a little too caricature.

Whatever. They guess it's not really anything new.

Their attempts to decline Stu and Billy's hangout sessions are laughable - because Billy and Stu end up climbing through their window regardless of Chase's answer. They no longer spend even a second alone. Every night of the week is spent watching a movie, playing card games with a minimum four people required and therefore f*cking up the rules royally, or piling up on the floor or a bed or a couch to sleep.

Sleeping usually consists of stupid topics of conversation, tearing movies apart, rating the teacher on the ugly scale, or talking about how hungry they all are and what cars they would kill for. Chase is typically just a listener - unless someone brings up IT.

Chase fell asleep first one time during an impromptu sleepover and woke up with Stu's Chu written on their forehead in sharpie - so, safe to say they haven't slept in a while since. The next day Stu happened to fall asleep first, though, so Billy and Chase wrote f*cktard on his forehead until they ran out of space. They didn't tell him what they had done, and so he went to school. He was suspended for a day due to inappropriate behavior.

The forced cohabitation has gotten to the point where Chase has just decided to stop saying no. It's not as if they hate having the two around, anyway. Sure, Chase would much rather be alone most days to lay on the floor and think about how sh*t they feel, but their therapist says that's not healthy behavior. While it may seem like a laborious distraction now, I think hanging out with your friends will be beneficial for your healing.

Blah, blah, blah. Smite them.

So, despite Chase's original goal of disappearing into the mass of high-school forgettables, they remain tight with their gaggle of friends. Exhibit A; They barely manage a half-hearted wave to Mrs. Loomis before the door to Billy's bedroom shuts behind them.

The topic of conversation is always unexpected depending on the day, but as of late the dialogue coming from Billy's mouth seems to be revolving around one Sidney Prescott. Chase definitely has no feelings about this whatsoever.

"So.." Billy feigns disinterest, picking up and halfheartedly inspecting the rubik's cube in his hand. "What's Sid's deal?"

Stu, reclined in a desk chair, feet up, drops the ball he had been tossing right on his face. He pffts.

"You're serious about that?"

Billy lies back on his bed, nonchalant. "Never said that, Stu. Just askin' what her deal is. That's all."

Yeah, right. That's guy code for, I like her, but I want to know if she likes me before I make a move because I don't want to look a fool. Even Billy is susceptible to teenage brain. Great. Great!

It's been easier hearing about Sid, though. Maybe they're becoming desensitized to the topic - or maybe they're successfully shutting themself down, or maybe spending all that extra free time with Randy and Sid is finally distancing them from Billy and Stu enough to not hurt. Regardless, all Chase does is toss their bookbag to the ground before collapsing right beside it. Stu's discarded ball taps them on the finger, and so they continue the tradition of blankly tossing it up again.

"She likes you." They mutter, staring hard as the ball descends and ascends again. Ah, their self-destructive behavior strikes once more - as their therapist would say. Stu twists in his chair, creaking the desk.

"Oooohhh-" he laughs, interest roused, "-no way! Forreal? Sid likes-" Stu gestures Billy's way in exaggerated movements, "-that? Billy?"

"Shut up, f*cknut." Billy sits up. He looks no different, but they can tell he's pleased, "'Course she likes me."

"Uh, doy-" Stu patronizes, "Chase just told you. Of course you think so now- you've been cryin' about it all month-"

Billy smacks Stu's bicep with a boom.

"Ow, man!--"

"I wasn't whining." Billy spits, smacking Stu again. Stu whines.

"I am, man! Stop hittin' me!"

"It's a wonder you snagged Casey." Billy halts his offense when Stu collapses onto the floor, army crawling Chase's way. He throws an arm over them, wincing when the ball they had been throwing lands on his temple. Hilarious.

"I'm a total babe magnet." Stu defends, "Facts are facts, bro, and fact iiiiis- everybody wants a piece of this."

"Yeah, right- let's get back to the stuff I care about."

"--back to duh stuff I caur ubout." Stu mocks before pushing upright. He tugs Chase up by their biceps, propping them against his chest and between his legs. He leans back on his hands. "You gonna wine and dine her then, Bill? You're gonna f*ck up our dynamic," he tilts precariously to wave a hand forward, "-you know Randy's got the hots for her, too."

A second passes in silence before Stu bursts out into laughter. Even Billy laughs.

"Hah, as if! That nerd," Stu quickly feigns respect, hand on his heart, "-bless his soul - couldn't land Sid in a millennium!"

"His chances aren't bad." Chase hums, catching the rubik's cube Billy throws their way. They'll never solve it, but they try every time they come over. "He's funny, kind of. Got nice hair, a decent smile." They think harder, bracing their elbows on Stu's thighs, "..He doesn't smell bad."

Stu sounds disgusted. "Are you high right now?"

"Was I right, Chu?" Billy wiggle his brows, ignoring Stu's bzzzt, get your own nickname! "You got the hots for Randy?"

"No." They dismiss, "I just have a brain. He'd be a good boyfriend."

There's a weird, stale silence afterwards. Stu leans forward, moving Chase by association, and wraps his arms around them. Chin propped on their shoulder, his low, baritone voice is loud - inquisitive.

"And what makes a good boyfriend, hmm?"

Billy leans forward on his bed, resting his elbows on his thighs. He holds a limp hand up, face scrunched up in an emphasis of thought.

"Wait, wait, how would you know what makes a good boyfriend?" Billy, the sh*tstarter, prods them further, "Are you sayin' you've actually dipped your toes into the dating pool?"

Stu gasps. "Say it ain't so, yo!"

"Oh, shut up." Chase mutters, unable to quell a grin at their theatrics. They flip three yellows together in succession, "Of course I have."

"Who?" Billy goads.

Chase looks up with a small, sh*tty smile. "Your mom."

Somewhere further in the house, between the clamor of murmurs and bickering, a bell tolls. A clock ticks. The cogs begin to wind.

Chapter 6: A Loop

Chapter Text

August 25th, 1994

The first day of the second week, Billy ends up in their Phys Ed class.

"Uh.." Chase knits their brows, confused as to why Billy is entering the gym in Woodsboro's patented ugly gym uniform, "I think you've got the wrong class, Bill."

He gives a tight smile. "Schedule got changed."

Super weird. Since when has anyone just changed schedules a week in? Charles Tremlin tried to do it last year and ended up getting suspended for conspiracy to plot malicious and or nefarious deeds. Principal Himbry likes his words.

That being said, Chase's skepticism is easy to dismiss. Do they actually care? No. It's kind of cool that they'll have a class with Billy this year, though.

"What'd you do?"

"Why do you always assume I'm the one at fault?" Billy sidles up next to them, arms crossed in wait for Mr. Delaney. Chase eyes him a second longer before dismissing the situation entirely. Lo and behold, their eyes land on one Sidney Prescott. She gives a shy wave from across the room. Billy smirks back.

Chase's brain clicks. "Ooohhh."

Billy turns his head sharply. "What?"

They shrug noncommittally, eyeing Sid and her pretty hair and her soft smile. Damn, how did Billy do it? Chase needs to switch all of their classes to Randy's. Or Derek's. They haven't seen him in a while.

The girl next to Sidney nudges her shoulder - ah, wait, is that Tatum? Has she always been in this class?

"Nothing."

Billy follows their line of sight before scoffing. "Oh, f*ck you. You think I swapped for Sid?"

They raise their hands in surrender, and then move them to cover a yawn. "I didn't say it."

"Well I didn't." He hisses, leaning in when Mr. Delaney walks past. He eyes the teacher carefully, his dialogue covert, "Jason Carver and I got- you know what, I'm not sayin'."

"Cool." They respond. Mr. Delaney blows his whistle, and like a pool table everyone scatters. "Because I'm not listening."

Billy's mouth twitches. He shoulders them as he walks past, stalking towards the dodgeball that's just waiting to ruin someone's day. "Tard. Can't believe we're friends."

Hah, neither can Chase.

As always, Chase takes their un-uniformed ass across the gym to the volleyball net. They don't do it to play - although sometimes they kind of want to but are too standoffish to ask to join - they just do it to look like they're playing. Mr. Delaney sucks, so it's easy to pass his class.

Unfortunately for Chase, so long as they keep up their no-uniform life they'll be failing epically.

"How long are you gonna keep this up?" Sidney inquires, amused. Right. Double unfortunately, their blatant dismissal of the dress code has them in the spotlight.

"Until I die." They answer. A pause. "Or I'm expelled."

"Can't you just.. I dunno.." She shrugs her shoulders, doing her best to support their dumbass stance, "change in the bathroom?"

"Same thing. I don't use the bathrooms here." They dodge a poor pass, idle while Sidney jogs to collect the ball. She serves it over the net halfheartedly and returns.

Her brow is raised. "At all?"

Chase shakes their head. Sidney looks equal parts impressed and dumbfounded.

"You can ruin your bladder doing that, you know-" she cuts them off when they go to answer, "-and I know you hardly eat so maybe you just.. never have to go, but still." Her tone oozes concern. "That isn't healthy, Chase. Someone has to look out for you."

Psh. They're fine.

Her face becomes a little lighter, then. "Someone that isn't six feet tall and operating with the brain of a child."

Chase almost - gross - smilesat the very thought. "Child is giving him too much credit. Stu is a toddler at most."

Sidney beams like she's won a Pulitzer. "I knew it, I knew it!--" she taps them on the shoulder, just full to the brim with some weird joy, "-You do like him!"

...What?

"What--" Chase sputters, caught off guard, "-No, no. I never--"

Her retaliation is smug, "I never said I was talking about Stu."

Her logic is wack. Completely wack and yet one hundred percent correct. "It was obvious!"

"What's obvious is the way he can't seem to ge--"

Sidney cuts herself off - which is kind of a shame because Chase's delusional sense of self was really interested in what she was going to say. Can't seem to ge--- what? Ge-- what?? Ge-- what???

They try to respond and wince instead. Oddly enough, Chase tastes iron on their tongue. A lone dodge ball bounces like a bomb on the floor of the now silent gymnasium. It innocently tap, tap, taps away before rolling into a smooth drag. They press their fingers below their nose. Their hand comes back red.

"Ah.. sh*t."

The room devolves into loud chatter and ooohs and oh man's!, as teenagers are ever so greedy for anything that takes their attention from school. They feast upon the scene like vultures, approaching rapidly to sneak a peek or feign winces for Chase. Mr. Delaney blowing his whistle does nothing to regain peace.

Hold on - were they hit in the face with a dodgeball? Seriously? Were theyreally?By who?

Sidney is the one to guide them out, carefully urging them backwards with a cloth held to their nose. Over her shoulder they see Billy bend down and inspect something in his hand. In the next second he's whipping a dodgeball right into Steve Orth's face like a heat seeking missile. It sounds like a sonic boom. The gym doors close behind them, sealing off the uproarious noise that sparks.

-

Chase glances around the office, a little too small and definitely too oak. They've never been in this room before - planned on never entering it, really. They understand why Billy and Steve are here, but why is Chase here?

"Suspended," Principal Himbry declares with an air of self- importance, "all three of you will serve a week's worth of suspension for your immaturity."

Billy looks overcome with annoyance. "A week? Seriously? For playing dodgeball?"

"Watch how you speak to me, boy." Himbry warns. "A week's suspension for assaulting someone," he corrects, pompous, "with a dodgeball."

Billy points a defiant finger towards Chase, "They didn't even-- they just got blasted in the face!"

"Yeah," Chase interjects, nasally. They still have crimson tissues wedged up their nostrils, "I'm pretty sure I'm just a victim."

"Please," Principal Himbry scoffs, "A victim? Steve tells me you walked into his throw so you would get him sacked." The accusation opens the floodgates of a rant. Himbry waggles his finger, demeaning, "I know your type. You come from the big city, thinking you're all that and you can do whateeever you want because oh!," he pitches his voice high, mocking, "This is a small, rural town filled with bumpkins and no latest MTV hits! It could never measure up to where I come from! and so you terrorize the status quo, shake the hierarchy-" Himbry finishes his rant in their face, low. He spits his words, "-all to satisfy your inflated, egotistical high school would-be dreams."

Wow. Talk about issues. From Chase's left, Billy is barely containing the seething downturn of his lips.

"You're f*cking--"

"When have I ever--"

Himbry steamrolls over the two.Himbry is right about one thing; rural towns suck.

"Eight days!" Himbry declares, sneering, "Keep talking and I'll make it nine."

"Make it a year." Steve mutters, nursing his own bloody nose. He sits equal parts proud, spiteful, and pouty. What a tool. Himbry turns his attention like a whip.

"And you! You're the star of the football team--" Himbry winds a hand into Steve's shirt, "--and you couldn't even dodge a dodgeball?"

Steve's bravado begins to falter, "Mr. Himbry, sir--"

Himbry cuts him off with a sneer, "I'll be having a word with Coach Tyler. You mark my words, Orth - one more visit to my office and you can kiss you sh*tty football career goodbye."

"Sir--"

"Nine days!" Himbry bellows, and then he's forcing the trio out and slamming the door shut behind them.

The three stand in silence, two bloody and one on-f*cking-fire. Billy is the first to move, tugging Chase by the collar of their shirt out of the labyrinth of faculty offices. He's sure to shoulder check Steve into the table behind him as he goes.

"Watch it, asshole." Steve snaps. Billy doesn't even turn around.

"Watch it asshole." He mocks, nasally. He leaves Steve with a middle finger and the slamming of a door. He forces Chase to stalk down the hall after him. Their shoes are the only sounds down the hall, a tepid clackclackclackclack.Chase idly wonders if Billy's wilting hunch hurts his back, because it sure looks uncomfortable.

Their nose stings with every jostle. With a wince they brush the tissues tucked inside, and then they think of Steve and the way he absolutely obliterated their nose. They swear they had seen a tear stream down his cheek when he entered the nurse's office after them.

Chase gazes at the back of Billy's head. His steps are resolute, his grip firm. He had pummeled Steve in the face with a dodgeball in retaliation. It fills their chest with a stupid, sh*tty warmth. Gross. Embarrassing - go away.

"..Thanks." Chase says out of the blue, "For blasting his nose. Kind of a dumb move, though - Mr. Nine days."

They're surprised when he turns to them with a wide grin. Somehow he still manages to look pissed.

"Worth it." Billy finally releases his hold on them, slowing to walk side by side. Their forearms brush. "'Sides, a little suspension never hurt anyone. Consider it.. an extended summer break."

Oh, f*ck! Chase groans, suddenly able to emanate human emotion, "sh*t, Billy - nine days! Nine! I'm going to have so much work to catch up on - it'll be on my record forever."

"Whatever, y'little teacher's pet." He seems entirely unbothered by the premise, "You know, it's weird that you're so into school, considering you can't seem to give a sh*t about anything else."

Hah. He got them there.

"You'll be fine. Just copy off'a Sid." He glances back at them. "No one's gonna give a sh*t about a little high school suspension."

"I kind of maybe give a sh*t!" They voice, "Besides, Sid got a B on her English essay." They mutter, "No way am I settling for that."

Billy seems amused. "Pretentious."

"Shut up."

"You shut up. You got nothing to worry about." He goes quiet. Odd - Billy doesn't have much of a filter.

"Your aunt won't even notice. My mom though-" he runs a hand through his stringy hair, "-sh*t. She's gonna kill me."

Chase puts an L up to their forehead with their fingers. Billy smacks their shoulder.

"Ow, careful!" Chase snaps.

"What?" Billy retorts, "Your nose on your f*cking arm now? You're fine."

"Dick." They mutter, and yet they kind-of-maybe smile. Gross. They glance over at Billy, hands shoved deep into his pockets. He looks annoyed - probably thinking about the reaming he's gonna get when he goes home. At least they're suffering together.

The duo pauses when they get outside - because, right, neither of them have a car. After a few seconds of spitballing they decide to wait for Stu and his fancy blue transpo. Phys Ed is their last period, so it's only a fifteen minute wait. Well, give or take a few minutes - depending on whether or not Stu and Casey want to get frisky in the janitors closet.

Bully spends it in a contemplative, stony silence on the fountain. Chase is spread along their stomach like a victim of the Spanish flu beside him, head by his thighs. At least the sun feels nice. California has one good thing, it seems.

"Got any ideas?" Billy questions a few minutes later. He tosses a flower stalk at their nose. Chase huffs out a ton of air, eyes shut.

"What?"

"Get with the program, Chase." He flicks another stalk at their nose. Chase scrunches the appendage up. "Got any ideas on how to kill our impromptu vacation?" Billy elaborates.

Chase rolls over to squint at him. Billy's face is blank.

"What, like - we have to suffer together?" They clarify, "Our vacation?"

"If your face didn't get totally demolished, I woulda been a free man." Billy leans to the side, arm braced outside their shoulder to remain upright. Chase resists the urge to punch him in the inner elbow-- because seriously?

"You're the one with no restraint!" They actually do punch him in the arm. Billy stumbles with a laugh, turning to lie beside them in the opposite direction. "I'm spending my suspension in a thick, loathing silence. You can do whatever you want."

"Boring." He responds, "C'mon, McCoy, you can do better than that."

"No," they deadpan, "I can't. Have fun doing something better than that, though."

With a sigh Billy moves his left arm up and props it on their ribs. Chase shoves it away, but Billy just puts it right back.

"Stop being annoying." He comments, deep in thought. Chase scoffs.

"Says you."

"We should go swimming. Y'know, down by Woodard."

"You mean the by the graveyard for my car? No."

"Prude."

Chase strains to push Billy's arm away again, but in retaliation he sits up and leans his torso on them. "That doesn't make me a prude!"

"You're right," he teases, staring down at them, "it just makes you lame."

Billy continues to propose plans and ideas in his dull, low monotone while Chase attempts to shove him away. In the end it doesn't work and Billy has already decided they're going camping up North, finally watching Halloween, and spending the remainder of their time together like thieves because it'll piss Stu off.

That beautiful, ugly asshole. Unfortunately for Chase, he's right.

Chapter 7: Tense

Chapter Text

"Suspended?!" Stu exclaims, "Yo, that's not fair! You mean to say I'm stuck going to nerd land while you two shack up and have an epic week? Together? Without me?"

"Yep." Billy pops his p.

"No fair!" Stu repeats, all frowny and indignant in the parking lot. He looks around at the students leaving the school grounds. Abruptly, he shakes his head like a wet dog. "No- I've got it. I'm just going to punch Mark Wallace right in the-"

"You're not getting suspended on purpose." Casey scoffs. Stu jerks back when she reaches out for him, visibly defiant.

"Well, why not? I wanna hang with Chu, too."

Casey rolls her eyes. She must have had a bad day. "Stu, you've gotta drop the whole Chu thing." He frowns further at the nickname leaving her mouth, "You're like, obsessed."

"I'm not obsessed." He snaps, defensive. Chase has never seen him so irate - let alone for so long. He's been pouting ever since he saw Billy and Chase waiting at his car. "Chu's my best friend - it's just normal to be upset when your best friend is going off to spend a week of fun with your other best friend and you're just--" he's talking too fast for his mouth, stumbling, "-stuck in a dumpy f*cking classroom while your friends rip rails or oogle--"

Casey raises an expectant brow, arms crossed. Stu quickly and obviously rethinks his words, "--dogs! Together - without you!"

He dismisses her to lean over his car, arms propped on the roof and outstretched for Chase. "How'd you get suspended anyway? Why? Why didn't you tell me?"

Billy grins over the hood of the car. "Wouldn't you like to know."

Stu literally stomps his foot. "Of course I wanna know - that's why I f*cking asked!"

Casey looks put off. "Jeez, calm down."

"No way!" He pulls away further when she reaches out again. It's the final straw for Casey, it seems, seeing as she heads for the buses straight after the buff. Stu doesn't even look back. "You shoulda let me in on it, man." Stu persists, caught between a warning and a whine. He genuinely looks shafted.

Billy shrugs. "Shoulda been there."

"Uh - doy! No f*cking duh!" Stu huffs. After a moment of silent, conflicted silence he deflates. Chase is hoping he'll unlock his car so they can get in and turn on the heat, but Stu merely rounds the car instead.

"How'd you two get suspended anyway?" He's visibly drooping, the epitome of pitiful. "Was it any fun? Did ya pants Mr. Himbry? Swap the cafeteria sugar for co*ke? Set off some fireworks in the women's locker room?"

Chase knits their brows. "How would we even do that?"

Stu shrugs, giving them a sad, puppy eyed glance. "I wouldn't know, ya know.. 'cause you didn't invite me." He even twiddles his fingers and everything. They know exactly what he's doing - but you know what? Fine. Whatever.

They relent with a sigh. One step later they're hugging him, fingers loosely interlocking around his spine. Stu perks up right away, hands spreading along their back and then their sides to wrap them tight.

"Wasn't anything cool, if it makes you feel any better. Just some stupid sh*t." Billy shrugs a shoulder, "Himbry being a douche as usual."

Stu hums into Chase's hair like an oversized cat, delighted, swaying side to side. "And what set off his douche-dar?"

"Chase," there's an undertone in Billy's voice that Chase can't place, "decided they wanted to get whapped in the face by a dodgeball. Blood everywhere, cryin', probably a recipient of the ugliest black eyes known to man."

That little liar! Chase's attempt at responding withers and dies when Stu goes still. They feel a change along his body; tightening, coiling, emanating something heavy and unhappy. They have a weird, instinctive thought - just for a second - that they're glad they can't see his face. What the f*ck? Are they startled? Anxious? They didn't even do anything wrong.

..Is this how meerkats feel when seen by a cheetah?

Is Stu.. mad?

"Cryin'?" Stu eventually repeats, "My Chu? Bleedin' and cryin'?" There's a tone in his voice that has their hairs raising, heart racing. They can feel Stu's fingers individually shift and tighten along their frame. Like a bear trap, pulling them further and further into his chest to hide away. "How- who? You? That why you got suspended?--"

His words are picking up speed, growing harsher the longer he remains unanswered. "How'd Chu get suspended for--"

"Have an aneurysm, why dontcha?" Billy comments.

"Screw you, man-" Stu hisses, and then his arm is jerking forward and there's heat at Chase's back. He's pulled Billy in, "That grin is startin' ta piss me off, Billy. I swear man, if you don't tell me-"

"Alright, alright." Billy yields, sounding satisfied - smug little ass - for some reason, "Just- take a chill pill, yea? Steve popped-"

"Orth?"

"-yes, Orth. Anything else, mom? Or can I continue?"

Stu remains silent. The second Billy steps back Stu's arm is around Chase once again.

"Steve popped Chase in the face with a dodgeball. Got sacked for hittin' him back. Chase got sacked 'cause Himbry's a prick."

"And Steve?" Stu stresses, "How bad he bleed? He still alive?"

"It's not that big a deal." Chase mutters. Stu steps back and tips their head to and fro. After blinking the blinding sun away, they notice the very unusual angry set of Stu's face. It makes his cheekbones sharper, his eyes lifeless. It tightens further when he spots the red in their nose. A thumb comes up to drag above their lip.

"Did it hurtcha real bad?" He murmurs. It's a complete dichotomy to his face. Chase has to blink for a second to right themself, because Stu is so close and he smells so good and his hand is so big and- f*ck. Maybe Steve did hit them too hard.

"..no."

"You lyin'?" Stu shuffles further in. There's so much of him - so tall, so broad - that it must be uncomfortable to stoop so low. Chase clears their throat.

"No, Stu. I'm fine."

"Didja really cry?"

"No, Stu. I didn't cry."

He just stares at them, then. He stares until the anger fades from his face and his eyes turn a little sweeter. He gives a small, tight smile that brings out his dimples.

"Okay, Chu. I trust ya."

"Steve bled." Billy answers after a beat. "Swore he cried, too. Big bitch."

Stu grins for a millisecond, fast enough that Chase thinks they imagined it. It looks.. wrong.

"Nahh," Stu drags, peeling back from Chase, "I'm not worried about it. Karma an' all that, you know?"

And just like that Stu is back to being Stu. Still, whilst he talks to Billy about how sh*t his classes were and how he's so jealous Billy gets Chu all to himself for the week, - yo, I'm totally crashin' after class though, sharing is caring, they can't help but feel like he's not his usual self at all. It looks too much like an act. His eyes still seem so heavy, smile like dried glue.

"You comin?" Billy gives Chase an expectant look, hand waving before their face. He's holding the passenger door open for them.

Chase blinks. Wipes it all away. "You're not hitching shotgun?"

Billy shrugs it off. "Carsick. All you."

"Pfft." Still, they're not going to turn down shotgun. Chase actually does get carsick, so the sentiment is nice. They clamor in, and before they even settle Stu is leaning aaaaall the way over to buckle them in. Billy shuts their door.

"It's not like I broke my hands." They say, scrutinizing Stu when he settles back in his seat. Billy pops his head up between their seats.

"Not yet."

Stu pushes his face back. "You're a creep, Loomis. No one's taking your hands, Chu." Stu shows off a bicep beneath his giant sweater, "See this? All muscle, baby - I gotchu. Those hands are mine, yo."

When he finally starts the car he pulls their left hand from their lap and onto the center console. His fingers slot between theirs easily, bent weird so he can trace the scar on their palm. When he had first started they had asked him why he did it, and he had claimed he likes the feel of it and is keeping it from bursting open like that scene in Alien by coating it with his love.

What a freak.

The way he traces it now is a little sloppy, a little fast. Like he wants to touch it all at once but he can't, and so he's unsettled. His left leg jostles in the footwell.

"You sure you're alright?" He asks again. Weird.

"Stu," they look him in the eye, brow raised, "I'm fine. Are you?"

He flickers his eyes between them and the road. He nods jerkily, thoughtlessly. "Yeah, yeah," he mutters, distracted, "I'm fine, man. Never been better."

Chase wonders why he lies.

Chapter 8: Knot

Chapter Text

The first day of suspension, Billy drags them from their house, onto his bicycle, and then down to the lake at Woodard. Chase throws themself off the bike twice before Billy wrangles them back onto the seat, purposefully sitting behind them as a makeshift human jail. Dick. In the end the duo makes it only somewhat un-unscathed. Chase doesn't end up swimming, but Billy remains smug the entirety of the day.

The great thing about Billy is his ability to entertain himself. Rather, it's the lack of attention he desires that endears him to Chase. He spends hours swimming through the lake, making low, idle chatter with the other brave teens that trickle in. This allows Chase time to lie on their back and watch the clouds, tracing rough fingers over their scar.

At one point they attempt to steal the bike and book it aaaaaaaall the way back home - but they only make it halfway to the bike before they’re tackled. As a security measure, Billy throws the bike into the lake.

Idiot. Dumbass. Why the f*ck?

Billy's impromptu beach day ends up being a great one, in the end. Chase, despite their initial distaste and complaints, really enjoys their day. They don’t tell Billy that, though.

The second, third, and fourth day he takes his mom's car, packs it full of supplies, and drives them out into the woods. When they ask if he's planning to murder them and dump their body in a ditch, he responds with you'd be the only one I wouldn't kill. Dingus.

Chase has never been camping before, and the last time Billy went he was too young to remember all of the important things - like how to set up a tent, or start a fire, or store food when you realize the ice you packed in the cooler won't last three days, or how to filter water from the pond you found because Billy drank nearly all the water on the drive there-

"We're going to die." Chase monotones. Their shared tent is sequestered off to the left - it had taken half an hour to put up, filled to the brim with comforters and blankets. The fire in front of them is weak but glowing, and the blanket over their shoulders is warm. It kind of worked out in the end, but all Chase can think about are bears and ghosts and dehydration and mosquitos.

There's a smack off to their right. Speak of the devil.

"I can't believe we forgot bug spray." Despite his words, Billy doesn't sound too bothered.

"You mean you forgot bug spray." Chase corrects, hunching forward, "And water, and sunscreen, and a--"

"Stop complaining." Their counterpart throws a stick into the fire. It crackles pleasantly. "We'll be fine."

"No." Chase drones. "We're going to die."

There's a smile in Billy's words. "Shut up, alright? We're fine. I've got a knife, you've got legs--" he spreads his hands out as if flattening the land, "-all we need."

Chase looks around the small grove they've settled in. His mom's 1980s Volvo covers the weird empty spot off to the right, trees at their back, pond up ahead and a little off to the left. Crickets call and frogs croak, and the water glimmers in little pockets of light from fireflies.

Chase breaks a particularly long piece of grass in half by their knee. They guess this isn't so bad.

"Okay, fine. I'll quit whining."

Billy leans forward on his knees to look at their face. "That's a good little Chu. This'll be fun, alright?" He gives them one of his rare smiles. It's a little small and unused, meager and ugly and crooked. "It's been a while since it was just us two. Got some catchin' up to do."

Chase groans. "I don't want to talk about Sid anymore--"

"Not Sid," Billy is quick to correct, "I wanna hear about you."

"Ew, no." They feel repulsed at the very idea. Their fingers lock immediately, squirreling their scar away on instinct, "Why?"

"'Cause I like you." It's a simple response, an honest one. "Because we're friends."

"You know my favorite color," they mutter, "what more do you need?"

Billy stares and stares and stares at them. The fire crackles. Chase throws rocks and twigs and leaves into the light to add to the popping and crackling. After a while they figure the topic is dropped, and then Billy speaks.

"What happened to your parents?"

Chase bolts upright, blanket falling from their shoulders.

"Yeah, I'm going to bed." They ignore Billy's regretful hissing, his sh*t, I'm sorry and his just, we've been friends for months and you never talk about it - and you're all f*ckin' wound up, just wanna talk, y'know? I wanna- I wanted ta help as they duck into the tent.

"Night."

"Chase, c'mon-" he doesn't sound mournful, but he's upset, "I f*cked up, okay? Don't ignore me," he shuffles in after them. They notice the fire has been put out when the flap opens.

"-we've got two more days out here- just, I'm sorry. Okay? I'm sorry- can we forget I asked?"

Inside their blanket cocoon, Chase rubs their thumb into their hand. Their stomach is rolling and twisting and their heart is beating weirdly slow, so they finally inhale.

"Hold for three, two, one, and release. Good," their therapist coaches. She's kneeling before them, hands hovering over their knees. Always so professional. "Anxiety is different for everyone. Trauma like yours can manifest in various ways, so it's good to try out every technique available at your disposal. If this doesn't work - which, I think it may - we can move on to something else."

"This-" Chase gasps, hand wound tight in their shirt, "-fu-uking- sucks- thisf*ckingsucks--"

"You're doing really well, Chase." She praises - not unlike the way a mother would praise her child, "You're making great progress. See? You're able to talk now. And three, two, one, just breathe-"

"I f*cking hahha- aate brea-" they hyperventilate, tears in their eyes - the epitome of rock bottom. Red, bloodshot tear ducts, unbrushed hair, smelling like they've never had a bath in their life. They're falling apart at the seams, drowning.

"-I don't want to breathe--"

"-And inhale- good. Three, two, one, exhale." Their therapist gives them a smile kinder than they've ever seen, and Chase continues to mourn, despair.

"I don't want to keep breathing--"

They exhale after three. Their heart begins to resume its natural pace.

"..Maybe another time." Chase murmurs in a daze, blinking at the hand Billy's rested on their shoulder. They wonder when it got there, what he was saying, how long they've been clenching their hand shut. When they release their grip their fingers tingle.

"..Okay." Billy whispers. A second later his hand is peeling away and he's rustling the sheets. "Another time."

Chase does their best to fall asleep. In the end they fail - as they always do. They remain still when Billy turns in his sleep, arm clasped onto the meat of their shoulder. They remain still when he nudges their neck with his nose, when he tangles his legs with theirs.

Billy wakes up saying nothing of his position, and the day resumes as if the previous night didn't happen.

They spend the second day traversing the woods. They both end up with ticks on their ankles, taking turns prying them out for one another. It's really, really f*ckin' gross.

Billy suggests taking a dip in the pond. Chase responds with a classic I'd rather not catch hepatitis, thanks. They spend the rest of the day attempting to make snares, failing, and then foraging for mushrooms and berries and mint. They crush it all up into a fake stew - for fun - that they then throw away.

Their inner child is pleased.

The third day they hike for hours and hours. Billy swears he spots a cougar, and Chase claims him to be a liar. Chase actually does see an elk an hour later, but Billy declares them full of sh*t. It's hard to say what's real and what isn't between the two - but Chase totally did see an elk. It was huge.

That night they sit close together by the fire. They split the last of their jerky and some lukewarm berries, a Hi-C floating between the two. Billy talks about a whole lot of nothing, and it's the most they've ever heard from his mouth.

He voices his stupid, critical thoughts on movies, how he can’t wait to move out of this dumpy f*cking sh*thole they call Woodsboro, how he can't wait for Steve to f*ck up like the f*cktard he is so Billy can take his spot on the football team as quarterback. He confesses in a low, solemn tone that he doesn't like his father very much, that he doesn't really like spending time with people - but he'd rather be with Stu or Randy or Chase than be at home. He says it in a way that's casual, that keeps his self-sufficient, brooding image intact, but Chase thinks it's a little deeper than that.

He talks about how he thinks Sid is not bad to look at, skirting around the words like and crush but emanating it all the same. Chase finds that it doesn't bother them all that much anymore. When the night ends and they shuffle into the tent, Chase wishes they could stay in the woods forever. They know it won't happen, but they imagine it all the same. Stupid, stupid.

"Someone tried to kill me." They murmur, half an hour after settling into bed. Their eyes bore a hole into their hand, into the symmetrical line cut through their palm. Two inches long, three centimeters wide. "They didn't, but they made sure to get everyone else."

Billy doesn't offer any words of acknowledgement or consolation. They're sure he's asleep, none the wiser to their confession, until an arm snakes over their waist. His fingers carefully interlock with theirs, tucked tight against their chest. It's all Chase needs.

"...just don't tell Stu." They whisper, throat tight. They feel Billy curl in closer. His exhale is warm.

"Tell him what?"

Chase gives a ghost of a smile.

The fifth day of their suspension is now regarded - by Billy - as the Stupendous Meltdown of '94. Chase is royally confused to find Stu pacing their living room when they return home - at 5:54am no less - and even more confused at the haggard, borderline manic look in Stu's eyes. Hair mussed, knuckles bruised, clothes crooked and looking wholly and utterly wrecked. Turns out - Billy had never told Stu about their camping trip. Their three day camping trip. It was a f*cking disaster.

"Chu?" Stu had mumbled, blinking furiously - as if they were a ghost. Utterly confused at whatever the hell was going on - how had he gotten in? Why? How long had he been there? - they had remained stock still while he stumbled forward, unsteady, and then barreled into them. It had taken him minutes to let go, a hand bordering on painful scrunched in their hair, the other locked around their back. He was muttering into their temple about sh*t Chase couldn't decipher, but it had made him seem unstable. The whole f*cking thing was weird, really.

Billy, however, didn't seem too surprised. In fact, he had walked into their house a few minutes later - after sorting out the car - with a near invisible, knowing uptick of his lips. Stu's nose flared at the sight, tense, before launching a very impactful punch to Billy's sternum. It had knocked the wind right out of him. Stu hadn't let go of Chase once.

Turns out Stu was convinced they either A; were kidnapped, B; were murdered, C; abandoned him, or D; turned invisible like the 1933 horror film The Invisible Man. Option C seemed to have the most intense effect. No - the fact that Chase was unreachable at all seemed to genuinely, visibly f*ck with him. He had been staying in their house the past three days - sleeping in their bed because man, if you were invisible you'd have to sleep somewhere, right? - hell, he’d even filed a missing person’s report at the police station - and what a f*cking embarrassing thing to go to the police station for.

Hello officer; I know the station is in a tizzy looking for me and you’ve spent tons of manpower and resources setting up a search party, but I wasn’t kidnapped or murdered, I just went camping.

…You just went.. camping?

I know, officer. You should just shoot me with your gun and put me out of my shameful misery right now.

For days afterwards Stu's visibly high-strung, a little paranoid, and watching their every move like it's all he's programmed to do.

Where ya goin'? Whatcha doin'? Nah, I'll get it for you, sit, sit! What- you needa go potty? Let me carry y'over with these guns. What're you moving for? Look'it me, baby - I'm practically made for grabbin' blankets. Your hand looks a little empty, here- I'll hold it. You're too hot? Just take your shirt off. You wanna move? Bzzzt, too bad! Doctors orders; one Stu a day keeps the suspension away.

I'm already suspended, Stu.

Well, sittin' with me will keep it from extendin'. C'mon, the best part's comin!-

Apparently Stu had ended up catching his own suspension after getting into a fight. He wouldn't say with who, or why, but Chase has a list of suspects. Now free from his scholarly chains, he decides to spend every waking second of his overlapping suspension with Chase - and Billy by association. Stu has always been close to Chase, but his presence after their forest-y journey borders on suffocating. No, it teeters past it.

He's jolting awake when they try to sneak out of bed - because he's sleeping over every night, now - sloppily rubbing his eyes and asking where they're going - gimme a secon', just gotta find m'socks, with a hand clenched around their wrist. He's brushing his teeth behind them, leaning into their back to remain upright, chin on their head. He dresses them in his shirts, leaping off the couch to corral them into their room - or his - to change their shirt if they wear one of their own. They cook breakfast together - Stu grabs stuff from the cupboards when they can't reach, and he cuts and toasts and cleans as they manage the stove.

He’s sh*t at all those things though, so he watches while Chase goes over everything a second time.

There's always an arm over their shoulder, or around their collarbones, or in their belt loop, between their fingers - he's everywhere. It gets to the point where he and Casey take a break because he refuses to leave Chase to go on date nights - or to spend any time with Casey at all. He doesn't seem too bothered by the split. He had answered the aforementioned call spread along the couch, Chase laying back on his chest - and he had merely dropped the phone onto the floor when he was finished.

When they watch a movie he settles them between his long legs, arms interlocked and resting on their pelvis. When they go grocery shopping he's pushing them in the cart. When they decide they want to get a piercing, Stu decides he's going to come with and get one, too.

"What d'ya think?"

Chase turns to find Stu bent hilariously close to the counter. It's about hip-height on Chase, so Stu looks just like a shepherd's crook.

They obediently cross the parlor, curious. He's got a long finger pressed up against a barbell.

"It's.. nice."

It's a plain barbell. What're they supposed to say? Stu hums to himself, fingers now tip tapping along the glass like a spider.

"Nice isn't good enough." He moves on down the counter. Chase can't help but stare at him; oversized white tee, sagging pants, slightly overgrown hair and those pretty dimples of his. He looks at ease now - finally. Just normal, over-the-top foot-in-his-mouth Stu with his lanky frame and his grabby hands and his comical expressions.

His face is actually the most relaxed they've seen it, aside from when he's asleep. High cheekbones, randomly smiling and snickering to himself when he sees a prince albert or a sign for nipple piercings, idly touching everything in his path. He totally doesn't fit in with the gothic theme of the tattoo parlor, but that makes his presence all the more endearing.

Chase sighs to themself. It seems their stupid goddamn crush is still haunting them. Shart.

"I need something schweet- nah, nah, dynamite to compliment my totally hot bod." Stu informs them, squinting at the hoop he's holding up to the light. "Hey- what'll Casey like?" He playfully raises his brows, trailing his free hand up his stomach to settle at his chest. It swirls slowly. "Nips? Tips?"

..Great.

Stu carelessly drops the hoop onto the counter, meandering back over when Chase turns their attention away. He falls against their back with an oof, dangling his arms over their shoulders and mounting his chin on their head. He oohs and ahhs at the hardwire they pick up, stealing them and holding them up to Chase's nose, eyebrow, and lips to model.

"You're making this difficult." Chase steals a nose ring back and returns it to its case. Stu hums around them like a content cat.

"Tell me somethin' I don't know, babe." When they don't respond he continues. "What're you gonna get, anyway?"

They shrug under the weight of his arm. In response he curls it loosely across their sternum to grasp his own bicep. They shuffle together down the counter.

"Eyebrow, I think. Or a tragus."

"Is that an ass piercing?"

Chase snorts. Stu shakes them lightly, pleased. "No, it's not an ass piercing." They reach back blindly to snag his ear. They trace around until they find the little flap in front, wiggling it softly. "It's this one. Helps with headaches."

"Widdul baby ben havin' sum headaches?" He coos. He pinches their own ear. "S'a hot spot. Get it - nah, get 'em both. On me."

"You're not paying for it." They decline. Stu pinches harder, relentless.

"What's that? I can't hear you over the sound of me paying!"

They duck under his arms like lightning, rubbing their ear with a glare. "Ow, asshole. That's my ear flap!"

Stu bares his teeth apologetically. "Right, sorry. Sorry."

They grumble when he stalks over and wraps around them again. He's been doing that a lot, too - flopping over them like he can't bare to look at them head on. Billy was right about their black eyes. Chase looks atrocious. You look like you should just die now, Randy had said, or the morgue will think one of their bodies just up and walked away.

"You're just so darling, darlin'," Stu cheeses, "can't help myself sometimes."

"Whatever. Have you decided yet?"

Despite his terrible commitment and searching skills, Stu hums an affirmative. "Found the perfect one. Gonna get me on the fast track to Casey station in no time."

Chase's stomach twists. Double shart. "You're actually gonna try and get her back?"

"Uh, doy." Stu quips. He backs away to smack the bell on the counter with a grin. "Have you seen her?" He hisses, playfully blowing out his finger, "Hot!"

Chase zones out while Stu continues talking about Casey and her breasts and the way she used to scratch his scalp just right, and they continue to ignore him when he goes on to talk about this TV show he saw where they renovate homes and how they should learn a thing or two from this parlor because whooo, baby! This place has it all, it's like a teen's wet dream! Or- or a child in a candy store but, like, older and harder-

Chase kind of can't believe Stu is planning on getting back with Casey - but really, they shouldn't be surprised. Stu has had a dame on his arm since they met him. He's known for being perpetually desirable, and chronically locked into a relationship. Stu is a serial dater at heart. Hell, he's been single a collective total of eight days since they've met him, and three are a result of his split with Casey this past week. That means he's only been single for a total of five days in the last nine or so months they've known him - five.

Damn. They need to get over it.

The piercer emerges a few minutes later. He guides out his last customer - donning some sick new snake bites - before greeting them with a smile. He eyes Stu impatiently when Stu continues touching all of the merchandise on display.

"Have you two decided what you're getting?" After receiving two affirmative nods, the man walks them through the paperwork they have to sign, the payment, and unlocks the cases to grab the duo's desired hardware. Chase ends up getting two - because Stu had loudly paid for both without bothering to ask if they even wanted both - and Stu gets a hoop.

Chase knits their brows at the sight. "Are you getting your lobe done?"

"Nope." Stu pops, playful. "You'll just have to wait and see, won'tcha? Patience is a virtue."

“Eyebrow?”

“Patience, baby!”

"Nipple?"

Stu giggles to himself, wiggling his brows and covering his mouth. "Chu, you're such a perv. You know, if you wanna see my nips all you've gotta do is ask."

They push his face away when he leans down. The piercer guides them into a curtained room near the back. He makes a weird face when they both step in, but says nothing of it. Instead, he begins setting up his station.

"Alright, who's first?"

"Chu Chu!" Stu sing-songs, pushing them forward by their shoulders. "They're gonna be brave and bite the bullet first. I'm a lil' nervous, ya see-"

"Shut up." They mutter, climbing atop the cushioned seat.

"Great. Chu-"

How f*cking embarrassing! "My name is actually Chase."

Stu is jittering with excitement in his seat, bent legs swaying in and out like a kid, hands rubbing up and down his thighs. The chair is too low for his tall body, knees bent high.

"Could you throw in a nipple piercing too?" He asks, partially serious and partially playful, "I think it'd look rea--"

"Shut up." Chase hisses. The piercer looks like he's fighting amusem*nt and/or annoyance.

"Am I going to have to kick you out?" He asks Stu. Immediately Stu straightens up and shakes his head, zipping his lips. He even interlocks his fingers on his lap like a schoolboy. He's always so much.

The piercer - named Steve, funnily enough - marks their brow and their ear with a marker until Chase likes the placement. The crunching sound for their tragus is downright atrocious, but the pain isn't as bad as they had expected. Stu makes comical, animated winces and oooohs over Steve's shoulder all the while.

Their eyebrow piercing hurts like a bitch, completely and wholly. They even have to blink furiously to keep their watering eyes from spilling in the aftermath. Stu loudly drags his chair in to swipe them away.

"Awww, widdul baby can't handle a needul, poor Chu Chu." He coos, coy. He squeezes their bicep. They can't bat it away - and they think he knows it, "Not stwong enuff to handul du pain, s'okay, I gotchu." He leans in and leaves a giant, sloppy kiss on their temple.

...huh?

"Alright, you're all set." Steve dismisses. He gives them a look that says you're so brave, I don't know how you put up with him - and Chase reciprocates with a tight smile.

"Thanks Steve. They look great." And they do. He had pierced near the tail end of their right brow, just outside the dark bruising of their black eyes. Their tragus is a soft red, but the barbell is dead center. Chase runs a finger over the bridge of their nose, eye level. It would kind of be cool to get one there.

Their eyes flicker to the damp spot on their temple. Their hand quivers ever so slightly. f*ck.

"Alright, spaz is up."

Chase snorts at the moniker, turning from their reflection to spectate. Stu bounces in place, eyes locked with Chase's, excited. Steve finishes up sterilizing the chair before indicating that Stu sit, and Stu jostles his shoulders in anticipation before shuffling into his plush seat.

"Oooh, it's happenin'! Just you wait Chu, I'm gonna be on California's most wanted in no time."

Chase settles into the chair Stu vacated, leaning their chin in their palm.

"Oh? And what crimes will you commit to get there?"

Steve mimes lifting something, and Chase is confused until Stu lifts his shirt obediently, lying back to let it pool above his abdomen. Oh- oh no. Is he getting what they think he's getting? No way. Chase can't look away. Oh god - look away, look away, abort, abort-

He's got a flat, toned tummy, chiseled by his hip bones on either side. A trail of thin hairs leads from his belly button down into the depths of his waistband. Chase swears they aren't a pervert, but goddamn. Stu was right in his choice - a belly button piercing would look perfect on his - to quote Stu - tight bod.

Smite them!

"Gonna be charged with evoking mass hysteria." Stu answers, grinning like the cat that caught the canary. He props a hand behind his head, neck bent to look down at his stomach. His eyes flick Chase's way, "The media is gonna be all over me when this gets out, baby. California's most desirable honey pot."

Steve, finished sterilizing Stu's stomach, makes a dot at the top of his belly button. Stu nods eagerly.

"Great spot, yo. Looks gnarly."

"Alright." Steve unwraps a needle and hovers it over Stu's belly. "Are you ready?"

"Booyah, baby! Let's g--" In one quick motion, Steve jabs the needle through.

Stu jolts, yelping. "Hey- careful, man!" He whines, staring down at his belly button in horror. "That's my happy spot, alright? Easy!"

The piercer looks unamused. "It's a piercing. It's supposed to hurt."

"I think it should hurt a little less, yo!"

Steve follows through with the little silver hoop Stu picked out, dabbing blood in the aftermath.

"Yeah? You think?" Steve muses. He tips a chin Chase's way. "Your friend seems fine. Maybe you've just got low tolerance."

"Hey!-" Stu snaps, lips slightly tense, brows furrowed. He brings a stern finger up near his face, "You take that back."

"And you're all set." Steve ignores Stu entirely, peeling his gloves off to toss in the bin. Chase stretches up from their seat to hide a grin.

"Take it back!"

"C'mon, widdul baby." Chase teases. Stu gapes at them, betrayed. "Let's get you home so you can have your sippy cup--"

They grunt when Stu throws them over his shoulder. While he may not care how he acts in someone's establishment, Chase is highly embarrassed.

"Hey! You- my eyebrow is gonna leak!"

"Oh no," Stu mocks, "I better get you home and get you your paci. Don't worry, baby - I've got you covered."

He clomps out of the store, waving a careless hand and a thanks for the penetration to Steve. Steve mouths pretentious f*ck behind Stu's back, and then they're exiting the store. Chase decides they'll never be going back. Ever. Never ever.

The eighth day of Stu-spension is spent on Stu-watch at the Macher residence. He’s sprawled across the couch, curled onto his side, moaning about how bad his happy place hurts.

"Aww Chu, please-" he whines, "-c'mon, please please please, I'm beggin' here!"

As they have for the past hour and a half, they deny him. "It's unsanitary."

"What are you, a bloated baby?" Billy chomps on popcorn. He's decided to laze around in pajamas all day - seeing as Mr. And Mrs. Macher will be gone for another four days, he doesn't care to keep up appearances.

"Nah, man - I'm a totally buff, reasonably in pain and totally in need of comfort baby!" He peels a hand from his tummy to grasp Chase's sleeve. "Please, Chu. I need ya Chu, please."

They continue to watch Halloween in silence. Stu yanks them inward with his legs - jesus, how strong are his calves? - and tugs their hand out.

"Hey!-"

"You've given me no choice!" He pulls up his shirt and places their hand below his belly button. He hisses immediately, stomach jerking away, before sighing, slipping the tips of his fingers between their own to spread them out. Chase is still enraptured by the way his abdomen had recoiled away from their ghost hands - jesus, are you dead?

His skin is warm, warmer and softer than the skin of his hands. This is way too intimate for someone like Chase - whose most romantic gesture encounter was an eskimo kiss three years ago. Smite them. Are they high?

"Feels good." Stu mumbles, dropping his head back onto the couch cushion once more. Every time their hand attempts to pull away Stu just presses it further into his skin, so they quit.

"Great." Chase responds, doing their very very best to not sound how they feel - which is overwhelmingly infatuated. "I feel like a pervert."

"The truth hurts." Billy jabs.

"Dick."

He leaves his spot at the armchair to sit at their left. With a sneaky grin to Chase and a peek at Stu's content, closed eyes, he drags a finger down Stu's foot. Stu immediately yelps and bolts upright, feet tucked safely in Chase's lap. He winces.

"f*ck, man! My belly - that f*cking hurt my Stu jr!" He curls inward and cups his belly button with his massive hands. It should be illegal to have so many prominent veins running along them.

"You shouldn't have gotten it, then. What happens when you get jumped, huh? All you've done is given yourself a weak spot." Billy reaches out to poke Stu in the stomach. Stu smacks his hand away like lightning before contact is made.

"It's armor." Stu defends. After scanning Billy for any other ulterior motives, he falls onto his side and resumes his position once more. He tugs his shirt up to his ribs with careless bent fingers, placing Chase's hand below his navel once more. "It's literally metal, bro. I'm like the Tin Man from Oz. Or- or Frankenstein." His skin ripples in goosebumps when Chase's pinky accidentally bumps the base of his belly button. His toes curl.

"Hey, hey-" he dramatically bends one of his fingers up and pushes their pinky away, "you're gettin' very close to the chub zone, yea? Easy there, alright?" He waggles his other finger admonishingly. Firmly returned to its previous spot, Stu interlocks their fingers over his stomach once again.

"You're the one moving my hand." Chase mutters. They receive a hum in response.

Stu moves his right hand under his head, looking like something from a magazine. Legs bent over their lap and tucked against their left side - the backs of his thighs against their right, shirt pooled up to his sternum. Their hands intertwined just above the hem of his boxers - peeking out from beneath his pajama pants. It's a dangerous sight. Chase is certain their heart will explode.

Chase does their best to casually bring their gaze back to Stu's TV, but they can feel Billy's eyes like the sun. After a full minute of being subjected to his stare, they turn to meet his gaze. His face reads, really?

What? They mouth. Billy flicks his eyes from Chase to Stu, Stu to Chase, and back again. Chase glowers. They flick their eyes between Billy and the TV until he takes the hint and looks away. He throws his right arm behind them on the back of the couch. He seems smug.

"Why don't you just grab an ice pack?"

Stu sucks his teeth, displeased. "Not the same. Won't work as well."

"I'm pretty sure it'll work better than my hand." Chase says. Stu pushes his bottom lip out.

"Nah, man, it won't."

He isn't going to budge. Stu Macher can be incredibly stubborn when he wants to - and totally flippant and uncaring a second later. For the millionth time in their life, Chase wonders what's going on inside Stu's head.

"You know," Stu's voice is a little strained - as it has been since he got home after his piercing. What a giant, dramatic baby. "Think I'm gonna get, like, a chain attached to my ring."

"Good." Billy drones, "Get all the dumb ideas out now. Keep goin'."

"Or a bell." Stu continues, squeezing Chase’s fingers intermittently like a heartbeat. He peels two fingers away to circle his new hoop, head bent to peek at it. His stomach ripples with the movement, sinewy and lithe.

"That's a good way to catch a snag." Chase advises. Then they hum. "It would look cool, though."

Stu grins boyishly. "Consider it done, m'lord."

Chapter 9: Slack

Chapter Text

September 3rd, 1994

It feels like their suspension ends all too soon. Odd, because they hadn't wanted the time off in the first place. The grass is always greener, as they say.

Their first lunch back they're pestered by Randy - again - about their never-ending rent of IT.

"All I'm saying is that you're gonna get me fired - again!" He descends into Rabid-Randy at once, "And it's not even a good movie! It's literally sh*t - literally! Jesus, couldn't you have picked My Bloody Valentine or Psycho or Halloween?"

Stu perks up. "Jamie Lee?"

Randy whips a hand out in a show of approval, "See?! Even he gets it!"

"Hey-" Stu intones, frowning, "that sounded a hell'uva lot like an insult."

Randy turns to face Stu. "It was one." He then turns back to Chase, who is pointedly ignoring him. They're doing their best to braid Billy's hair back from his face before he gets too caught up in his fragile masculinity. They wish Stu's hair was longer. He'd let them braid it.

"I'm going to have to resort to the big B and E if you don't turn yourself in. I swear - I'll do it, I will."

"Oh yeah, tough guy?" Stu challenges. Hold on, isn't it Chase's problem? "I'd like to see you try. If you wanna get to Chu, you gotta go through me."

Randy eyes Stu silently before snorting. He doesn't even deign Stu with a response.

"I'm working tonight. Swing by then."

Chase sighs. While their legs bracket him in on the stoop below, Billy decides to tie their shoelaces together in his lap.

"Fine. What time?"

"Six?"

"M'kay."

"I'll drive you over." Billy adds. Chase undoes a braid only to redo it.

"In what car?" They finish the smallest braid known to man before leaning back on their hands. Randy starts blabbing to Sidney and Stu off to their right about the murder a few towns over. Dreary nerd. Chase glances at the empty spot at Stu's side for a few seconds too long. Casey still isn't back.

"In Stu's car." Billy remains seated before them, bringing his arms up to rest on their thighs. "I've gotta return The Exorcist anyway. Two birds, one vehicle."

"Wow." Chase deadpans. "You lose too many brain cells? It's two birds, one vehicular manslaughter. That's pretty embarrassing, Loomis."

Billy sighs like it pains him, but he's fighting a smile. Chase leans inward to peer down at him. "I'm perfectly capable of walking to the video store by myself. I'm not gonna die just because you two aren't around for twenty minutes."

"You won't." Billy agrees, "Stu will. Can't function without you these days." He glances up at them. There's something in his eyes that gives Chase pause.

"..Never could."

Chase snorts to shake off the weird, prickly feeling coursing their body. "Whatever. I'm walking."

"We'll see you after school." Billy, like Randy, completely ignores them. The bell rings. Lunch is over. Billy undoes their laces.

Chase rises, slinging their bag over their back. "Walking."

An arm sags over their shoulder, Stu's torso warm against their side. "What's this about coming to my place after school?" He looks down and purposely steps on a shoelace. "Hey, think your shoe's untied."

They stare at him blankly. He giggles and removes his foot.

"Hell- you're coming to the video store!" Randy scrambles to catch up. It's impossible to stay together with the flood of students reluctantly entering the building for class, but Randy perseveres. Sidney dismisses herself with a small goodbye and a wave before disappearing into the crowd.

"Nah, man-" Stu turns back with a dimpled grin, spread hand in Randy's face, "They're with me tonight. Ya snooze ya lose."

"They're always wit-- I said it first!" Randy explodes - or as Billy and Stu like to say, has an aneurysm.

"I thaid it furst!" Stu mocks, high pitched. He spins to walk backwards, his arm slung around Chase's front. He's entirely careless to the throngs of students behind him. "Jeez. We'll stop by your nerd fest, Randy - don't sweat it." Stu turns coy, "Well.. maybe."

"That's it." Randy snaps, "I'm breaking in."

"I'm walking." Chase corrects. They press a finger above Stu's bellybutton and he immediately curls in on himself like a salted snail, left in the dust. It’s a critical hit. Betrayed.

"Chu! My happy place!"

They leave Stu behind in the crowd, moping and awkwardly grasping the hem of his pants. Randy takes his spot but keeps his hands at his sides.

"You're gonna stop by." It's a demand. "I've had to cover for your sorry ass for too long- no," he raises a finger, leaning into their side when the halls become too tight, "you know what? You owe me. Big time."

Chase reciprocates Billy's tight lipped wave when he heads into class. They turn and consider Randy. He's kind of right.

"Fine. What's up?"

He grins wide. "So what's Sid's deal?"

Chase swallows the mother of all groans.

Chapter 10: Fraying

Chapter Text

September 27th, 1994

Casey and Stu get back together. Sidney and Billy start dating. Randy and Chase often consider dating each other just so they're not double fifth wheeling every-f*cking-thing anymore. They don't, of course - because Randy's heart is branded with Sidney's name and Chase is destined to be alone forever, but the sentiment is there.

...but actually they are.

Standing before the lunch fountain, the four seated in front of them are completely and utterly flabbergasted. Sidney looks least surprised, hovering between what? and oh. My. God. with a caught-off-guard Billy halting his nibbling at her neck. Casey looks uncaring, but a little put off. Aren't you both.. like.. kind of guys?

f*ck you kindly for your incorrect thought, thanks. Randy had quipped with a snide grin. Chase isn't a man, and even if they were - gays always survive the horror movies. It's basically plot armor - unlike the blonde slu*t archetype.

Stu laughs and laughs and laughs for minutes until Randy says no, this isn't a joke - please find it in your cold, unfeeling heart to not dismiss our fledgling love as anything but serious.

After that - and a heavy, lingering silence - Stu looks torn between laughter and tears. The image of shock; complete and utter disbelief.

"No." He mutters.

"No?" The group courses. Randy looks annoyed.

"There is no no-" Randy intertwines fingers with Chase, bringing them up as a show of.. what - togetherness? "This is happening, thanks. And yes, I'm delighted."

He's a terrible actor. Still, the fact that Randy and Chase are the way that they are - high strung and perpetually monotonous respectively - seems to confuse everyone enough into buying their secret-for-show dating spiel. Deep in the pit of their new circ*mstances, Chase takes a second to reminisce over the sounds of denial, incredulity, and Sidney's soft enthusiasm.

"So.." Randy trails off behind his work counter, peering over his shoulders before leaning in. "Billy is into her? And she's into Billy? Seriously?"

"Seriously." Chase affirms. They eye the IT VHS next to Randy's elbow. Maybe they can snatch it back without him noticing...

Randy drops his head onto the counter, hands clasped in prayer. A defeatist's slump.

"Aw man, this isn't good - no, this is the complete opposite of good!" He suddenly bursts up and grasps Chase's wrists. He's got a weird look in his eye.

"Go out with me."

"I- what?" Chase sputters. They yank their hands away. "No offense Randy, but no."

"None taken, I don't want to date you either. You're not exactly my type." He rebuffs. Now Chase is even more lost.

"What? Then why-"

"For appearances!" Randy bursts, "Obviously! Our friends are going to be shacked up in no time - and you know what that means? Fifth wheeling. Everything. All the time."

sh*t. He's right.

"Besides-" he continues, "maybe it'll be a wake up call for Sid. She'll see how utterly amazing I treat you and come to her senses - and voila! Together time!"

Ah, there's his motive.

"Together time." Chase echoes, but they're seriously considering his words. Jesus - what other f*cking thing do they have going on, anyway? Nothing. Absolutely nothing aside from a mountain of homework - nine days worth and counting. Sure, they like doing nothing - but only when everything else is done. They need something to keep them afloat during their catch up phase.

sh*t. Who are they kidding - it just sounds kind of entertaining.

"Maybe." Chase murmurs. They tap their fingers on the counter, turning their head to the doors when they jingle. Billy and Stu walk in - and after spotting Chase the two immediately head their way.

Shart. Chase can never seem to find the time to be alone. Maybe deep, deep down they're more scared of the fact that they don't want to be alone than anything else.

"Maybe." They repeat.

That maybe turned into a yes - and here they are. Happier than ever, x amount of days later.

"Break up." Stu actually stands from the fountain and stumbles forward. He grasps Chase and Randy's conjoined hands and rips them apart. "You're not- this isn't happening."

"I'm pretty sure you can't decide that." Billy quips from the fountain. Sidney is nodding beside him, seemingly over her shock and beaming in support. Stu shakes his head fervently.

"This isn't happening." He repeats. Randy pries his arm from Stu and intertwines hands with Chase once more. His palm is incredibly dry - jesus, does he ever get nervous? He pulls the two back from the group.

"We're in love." Randy declares. "Or, no. It's too soon to say. We're in like."

Stu looks disgusted. His jaw tightens, his eyes narrow. "No way-"

"Stu." Billy's voice is sharp. Stu fights a frown or a sneer, hesitating a second before turning.

"What?"

They stare at each other for a while, communicating in a weird silence. Stu's hands clench. Billy speaks - knowing, warning. A warning for what? "You're spillin', man. They're together. It's fine."

"No- nah, man, it's not fine-"

"Why're you getting all weird?" Casey adds, leaning back in a way that makes her all the more beautiful. "Leave them be. Who cares?"

"I care!-" Stu's meltdown is cut short.

"Funny-" Randy snarks towards Casey, "considering this is coming from the resident hom*ophobe."

"Woooah there." Billy raises his hands at the word, playful, "Careful what you say, Meeks. That sh*t sticks."

"This is an important moment. Emotions are high - maybe he meant a different word?" Sid offers.

Randy is unshakeable. "No - hom*ophobe is what I meant."

Billy laughs, at his wits end. "Jesus." He mutters.

"I'm not hom*ophobic, Randy! Jesus!"

"Yo - I can't believe I'm the only one that sees something wrong with this!"

"What - like the fact that Chase's hand isn't in yours? And won't be for the foreseeable future?" Billy muses. Stu whips his arms out.

"Uh - duh! Chase and me are like this!-" he intertwines his fingers and shoves his hand in everyone's face. He then whips around and does the same to Chase and Randy, "but we can't be like this if Randy and Chase are like this!"

"Uh, babe-" Casey sing-songs, annoyed, "You and I are like this."

Stu waves her off, distracted, "You're not seeing the problem here, man-"

Casey scoffs, taken aback. "Did you just call me man?"

"That's kind of my thing, man." Stu, stressed, cups his face in his hands. He shakes his head. "This isn't happening."

"Chase is allowed to date people." Sidney reminds. It just makes Stu's face fall, his frame sag. He's genuinely disturbed. "Besides, I think Randy and Chase make a cute couple. You're making a big deal out of nothing."

Stu looks wounded. Face all twisted up, torso turned slightly away from Chase and Randy like he can't bear to face reality head on.

"Don't say that. This is a big deal." He murmurs. His fingers twist in his sweater above his sternum. "This just isn't right, man. It's me and you, Chu. What're you doin'?"

Their chest twists. Is he seriously upset at them for fake dating - not that he knows - Randy? He's allowed to date people - but they aren't? How does that make any sense? This isn't even real, anyway! He's acting like the world is ending. This is so stupid! And fake! And totally fine! What the shart!

"Dating Randy."

Randy nods. "Dating me."

"Well stop!" He's pleading with them now. Both of his hands tug their free one forward, cupped between his palms. "You drink last period? That hit to the nose break your brain? I mean - come on, Chu! Randy?"

"Hey-" Randy snaps, "I'm right here, thank you very much - and I'm a total catch!"

"You can't date him, yo." Stu ignores Randy entirely. It looks like he's hanging on by a thread, and Chase has to remind themself to breathe. This moment has quickly become something else, something Chase had never wanted to see play out - a serious moment.

The moment; facing the reality of their infatuation - and how to navigate it should their situation change. Chase likes Stu. Like, like-likes him. It's ridiculous, and strange, and totally one-sided - but that's the way life works, isn't it? It throws sh*t your way and watches, in anticipation, for your inevitable breakdown. This moment feels like one of those life-sh*t moments, and Chase can't sweep it under the rug and let it slide. If they don't do this now - confront thewhy -then things will change in the way that they'll stay the same - but turn shallow and awkward. They'll be cordial friends with Stu - but will they really?

Chase swallows, fingers tightening in Randy's hold. They're sure he's looking at them a little closer than he ought to - because he's Randy and he's smart - but Chase doesn't care.

"Why?" It comes out low. Stu looks confused at the question, the volume, and then he blinks.

Stu flicks his eyes between their own, fingers rubbing gentle, mindless lines over their scar. Their heart leaps up into their throat when Stu looks down at it, brows knit. Conflicted.

"I don't want you to." He says. It seems like he isn't sure himself.

"Why?" They repeat, heart racing. It's so stupid - so dumb - but their mind is deluded and fractured and stupidly attached, and so they wait with bated breath for a confession that'll never come. They know where they stand - as his friend. Sure, maybe he treats them a little different, or hangs out with them more than his girlfriend - but they know that's just because in Stu's mind they're just friends. Best friends - 'til the end, baby! You and me, Chu. S'all I need.

Stu's face contorts. His grip tightens, and yet it feels like he's pulling away.

"I don't want you to." He repeats.

Randy looks between the two like he can see the importance. The tangibility.

He breaks it. "Yeah? Well, that's too bad." He shakes their conjoined hands in Stu's face. Stu takes in the sight with a thinly veiled heartbreak. A kid that's lost his favorite toy. "Now that Chase and I are dating, I'm initiating a no-contact policy." It's a declaration.

Stu's eyes widen. He pulls Chase's left hand into his chest. "What?!"

"You heard me." Randy doubles his stance on the matter. "No touching! At all! Ever! For as long as we live!"

He pries Chase's left hand from Stu's grip unsuccessfully. Stu is shaking his head rapidly, fingers holding on tight.

"Nah, man- c'mon, that's not fair!"

"Life isn't fair." Randy retorts. He prods a finger into Stu's stomach, snatching up Chase's other hand when Stu doubles over, groaning.

"Stu Jr!"

"Damn. That's rough." Billy comments, blase.

"Welcome to the dawn of a new age, folks." Randy projects, "Everyone has heard of Stu and Casey and Billy and Sidney, but now's the time you prepare for Randy and Cha-"

Stu outstretches an arm, desperate, "Don't say it!"

Chapter 11: Who Can Blame Him?

Chapter Text

Time passes painfully slow now. For some stupid, archaic reason Stu actually abides by the no contact rule. No more sneaking in through their window, no more whisking them away in his car after school - donezo. Instead, Chase spends weeks finishing their stupid assignments and watching movies with Randy. They also go to the park with Randy. And go bowling with Randy. They're kind of doing everything with Randy now - to keep the image alive, duh! We can't just say it, we have to sell it - and it's been dreadful, but also.. fine-it's been nice. He's actually pretty tolerable. Sometimes. Primarily when he doesn't speak.

Stu has taken to staring at them from across the fountain - they sit at opposite sides now, with Chase on the outside and Randy just beside them - next to Sidney, of course. Stu is the same as he's always been on the surface, but the friend group knows better. His hands and legs jitter a lot, he's easily distracted - always thinking silently when no one is engaging him. Stu doesn'tdothinking - so something is clearly very, very wrong.

Casey routinely tells the group during lunch about her and Stu's weekly relationship talks. She paints a picture of their communication exercises and how she thinks they're going really well. When she asks an affirmative right, babe? Stu isn't even paying attention. She pinches his side to get his attention, upset. Stu offers a noncommittal hum and a whatever you say, babe as a lame consolation.

Casey smiles with thinly veiled annoyance afterwards, and then Stu reboots like an old windup toy and falls back into his role as comedic relief. It must be his oh, sh*tradar going off, Billy had said. Perched upon his roof one night, a tray ofLunchables nachos teetering precariously between them, Billy spoke with ease about Stu's faults.Little sh*t talker.

Stu is weak for women, but he hates talkin' and feelin' and all of that bullsh*t. Dunno' how he's even managed to snag half the chicks he's gotten. All he's good for is bein' a tard.

Chase, as always, is riveted by Stu's backwards existence.He hates talking and feeling.. Isn't that the point of a relationship?

Yep. Billy snipped with a snide, sardonic grin. He's sh*t. Speaking of sh*t, was that you in Phys Ed today?

No, Billy - I didn't sh*t my pants. I told you, it was chocolate-

Rather than come off as normal, Chase starts to find the reemergence of silly-Stu a little unnerving. They have no idea what's real and what's a ploy, but they guess that's just the Macher charm. Like flies to honey, people fall again and again for the mysterious and the unknown - and if Chase were to be reborn as anything, it would undoubtedly be a fly.

Still, Stu's become so far removed that they hardly have the ability to evenlookat him these days. Now it's just stupid-ass fake dates with Randy -why? No, really, why? -and late nights with Billy, traversing the town to find dams and ditches and roofs to sprawl along. Sometimes they deface things with chalk if they're feeling spicy.

Why chalk?

Spray paint is for the rich. I'm not shellin' out a few dollars just so you can violate the town with some drawing that'll scorch my eyes.

Wow, Billy. Your vocabulary is becoming so sophisticated. Your mother must be proud.

I'll show you proud, you little sh*t nozzle- c'mere-

Ah. God, life has become such a drag. A pain Chase has long since numbed has started fizzling back into reality. While depression leads Chase towards a proclivity for solitude - it's not like they actually want to be alone. Or abandoned.

When Billy slowly begins weaning off to spend more time with Sidney, Chase spends a lot of time at night staring up at the ceiling, thinking about everything and nothing.

"You're regressing," their therapist had said, "what happened?"

Silence. She sighs when they don't respond.

"We've been over this before, Chase. Keeping everything inside doesn't do you any good. Forget mental, I've even noticed a physical change in your demeanor - what's changed since we last spoke?"

Chase shrugs, stalling. Their stomach is in knots. Their hands are wet. They hate this place.

"Nothing."

Their therapist - Lydia - looks unimpressed. Chase sighs heavily.

"It's.. it's nothing. That's the stupid part - it really is nothing."

"If it's making you feel this way-" she raises her brows pointedly, "-like your feelings are childish or insignificant, then I haven't been doing my job well enough. No matter how small or foolish you think your reason may be, the result - the feeling it evokes in you - matters a great deal."

Chase hides their face under the guise of rubbing it. They take some time. Their fingertips trail from their forehead to their tear ducts, gentle along the strong boning of their cheeks. The line on their palm stares back, bold.

They relent. Their hands remain. "Okay. I'm feeling.. alone. And- it's not like it's real or a forever thing, I did it to myself.."

They shake their head and lean back. They won't meet Lydia's eye. Instead they rub a thumb into their left palm like they can scrub the scar away.

"I'm fake dating someone, and now I'm not hanging out with the guys.." Their fingers tap intermittently. They don't like being honest. "I like being.. friends with. It's an easy fix, but I just can't.. fix it. Maybe it's not even a fix at all."

This is so stupid. f*ck! It's so stupid.

"And why is that?"

Chase shrugs. Lydia waits.

"Do you feel like.." she starts, gentle, "you aren't allowed to ask for things?"

"No." They respond. "I know I can - I'm not a baby." Despite the dull quip, they consider her. A pause, a sigh. Reluctance.

"I feel like I'm not worth enough to have things." They flick their gaze up to peek at Lydia. Her face is patient. They look away, hands twining anew. "I think.. it's narcissistic of me to ask for someone's time, or company. Why should I assume that they even want to talk to me - let alone spend time with me? What gives me the right to assume.. I have any say?"

Their therapist hums - as if she sees their every problem now, "And where do you think this thought stems from?"

They dig a thumb into their palm. They hear the wet squelch of a knife, wailing and screaming and despair.

Chase frowns a heavy, waning thing.

"I don't want to talk about that today." They murmur. Lydia respects it.

"Let me ask something else, then. Was this a conscious act of self-destructive behavior?"

Chase jostles their leg. Their hands are just so interesting. "No.. I was just.. I dunno."

"You know." Lydia affirms, soft, "And you can tell me - I'd like to hear. I won't judge you."

Fine. Who would either of them tell, anyway?

"I guess I wanted to help him- Randy-" stupid, stupid, "-my friend.. out. I didn't think anything would change, really. A lot has changed though. Or maybe it hasn't and I'm just f*cking stupid."

Lydia hums, a soft sound. Even her lean on her desk is kind, welcoming. "You're not stupid, Chase. What have I said about the self-deprecating talk? I can see where your discontent is coming from - such a sudden change in your routine must have been a shock. I know change is hard for you-"

Chase sinks their teeth into their cheek.

"-especially with a routine you've grown to love."

Chase scoffs to distract from the leap in their chest.

"Love is a stupid word."

Still, she was totally right. Chase hates change - it's one of the few things left in this world that they feel strongly towards. Change, hospitals, the moment cereal turns soggy.

Not being stupidly close friends with Stu.

With a sigh they push up from their desk. A chorusing echo of other chairs follow, and the lingering chime of the bell fades. Chatter erupts.

"Did you see Stacy's tit* last period? Talk about overflow!"

"Dude, I could die happy between those puppies. I can't believe Stupid Stuart dumped her ass - and her ass! I mean, come on!"

"You finish up the essay for Mrs. Starlin?"

A scoff. "Puh-lease, I finished it last week. An analysis on the societal impact of the Gulf War? We did that last year. I mean, can't this dump come up with anything new?"

"Right? Hey- have you heard about the guy that died three towns over - you know, in Claudsdale?"

"Ugh. Gag me with a spoon-"

Chase hands in their assignment before squeezing out the door. No arm drops around their shoulder, no weight sags on their frame, no fingers twiddle with their earrings. It's a dreary era. It's been weeks and they still haven't gotten used to it. They don't want to.

Such is life.

Randy greets their displeased, perpetually unhappy face with his own suffering sigh.

"This sucks." He greets, intertwining fingers robotically, "Not that you suck or anything - but this totally sucks."

"Your plan backfire?" It's more of a statement than a question. Randy guides them through the rapidly filling hall. The destination; the lunch fountain.

"You know it did." He snips, "Sidney actually likes us as a couple. Can you believe it? I'm going to Beetlejuice myself just to subvert the misery."

"Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetl-"

"Don't actually say it!" Randy covers their mouth with a look of horror, "We may be gay, but we're not invincible! Jesus!"

"-uice." They finish. Randy groans, a hand knit in his hair. "Just trying to help. Congrats on coming out - should I throw you a party?"

The two step out into the sunlight. A chill cuts over Chase's torso, goosebumps break out over their exposed biceps.

Right. They don't have sweaters anymore. It's not as fun wearing their own.

"You're unbelievable." Randy mutters, stomping down the steps. "You and Stu are perfect for each other."

Chase is an impenetrable wall, so Randy is none the wiser to their stupid affection for Stu, but the phrase strikes through them like lightning.

They clam up. "Shut up."

With a defeated, resigned air, the two meet up with the rest of their group. The couples are cuddled up to combat Autumn's chill, Casey and Sidney seated between the prison of their boyfriend's limbs. Ever since Chase acknowledged their idiotic affection, the sight has hurt. Months later and it still runs through them.

Stupid.

"-extra sweater in your locker. Just put it on." They catch the tail end of Billy's comment when they approach. Stu disagrees.

"That one isn't for me. You know-" he shifts as he talks, "like, how you have that can of beer in the fridge just to have a can of beer in the fridge?"

Sidney laughs. "Stu, that's ridiculous."

"It is not, yo - it's peace of mind." Stu looks up at Randy and Chase and the air turns.. almost awkward. Great. The fingers of Stu's leaning hand tap on the fountain. Smite them now. Smite Chase with a big, giant, monstrous lightning bolt.

"Sup, Chase." Stu gives a head nod. Chase physically stops in their tracks at the greeting - smite them! Do it! - and immediately Stu is shooting up off the fountain and enveloping them in a hug. Chase's heart leaps up into their throat, racing a million miles an hour. Lack of exposure has made them weak.

"As if. Hell- f*ck that, man! I can't do it anymore-" he sways them side to side, eyeing Randy, "-respectfully, I'm going to straight up disrespect your rules, yo. They suck hardcore."

"You're a real man of integrity, aren't you Stu?" Randy flops down beside Casey, arms crossed. "I should have expected it - I should have known you'd be too cool to listen. That's on me."

"Eat my shorts." Stu responds, simply. Without breaking away he manages to shrug out of his big oak sweater and slip it over Chase. It's big enough that it even goes over their bookbag. He wraps them back up, long limbed and warm and familiar.

"I'm getting lunch with Tracy." Casey mutters. If that was a queue for Stu - he fails. She eyes him pointedly for a second before scoffing and leaving.

"Missed you, man." Stu jostles Chase in his arms, content. "Miiiiiiiissed yooouu." As if nothing has happened the past few weeks, he continues blabbing, "You miss me too? Awh," he squeezes them tighter, nuzzling his face into their hair, "-it'd make me so happy if you missed me. It's only fair- speaking of happy, my happy place has been downright miserable, yo. You still got that cleaner second-rate Santa gave ya? Stu jr. is lookin' angry. Must be upset about the divorce."

Chase blinks, exhales, and accepts their place in the world. "Yeah," they say into his tee. Goosebumps erupt on his neck, "I've got half a bottle left."

"Schweeeet," Stu grins, pulling back to wiggle his brows at them, "I'll see you after school then."

They shake their head. "I'll just drop it off on my way to Randy's."

Stu frowns at the reminder. His fingers tighten. "Nah. I'll pick you up."

Randy whistles a two-note sound, waving. Stu reluctantly turns his head. Randy grins, passive aggressive. "Yeah, hi. It's me, boyfriend extraordinaire. How about I drop it off - gotta head to the video store after Cece stops by."

"Cece?!" Stu gawks, "Stop! No- yo, you cannot give them a nickname!"

"You're not-"

Stu cuts Billy off, loud and fast, "Iknowwearen'tdating, but still! I started it, that's my thing!"

"You didn't invent nicknames, Stu." Sidney laughs. Stu mimes zipping his lips before pointing a warning finger her way.

"My bad Sid, darlin', but I'm two seconds from flipping my lid. Capeesh, flapeesh, all of the peeshes- Whatever- fine!" He faces Chase once more, resolute. "I'm just going to ignore.." He shakes his head rapidly, clenching his eyes shut. His hands are on their biceps now.

"Tomorrow." He prompts.

Randy clicks his tongue in the background, popping a piece of cheese in his mouth snottily. "Taken."

Stu frowns. "Wednesday."

"Already booked."

Stu tries again. "Thursday." His gaze is imploring, unwavering from Chase's.

"Date night." Randy quips.

Stu's voice is shrill. "Zip your lid, yo!" He walks forward a good distance, backing Chase away from the group in turn. "Please, Chu. I'm going crazy here, man." He pulls his shirt up above his belly button, looking from Chase to his tummy. Past all of the lean muscle and little hairs it's glowing a furious red. Chase fights an ugly grimace. Disgusting - gross, he's so disgusting and gross.

"Haven't you been cleaning it?" They squint at it. Stu's stomach tightens at their attention. His voice is mopey, bending to nose the top of their head.

"I can't clean it the way you do."

"Shut up." They mutter. His piercing looks infected. "When's the last time you cleaned it?"

"The 24th." Stu answers, immediate and lifeless. Chase can only deadpan. The 24th - the day Chase and Randy started fake dating.

They lean back. "Seriously?"

Stu looks around before stepping in. He nods, intertwining their fingers. "Hurts like hell." He confesses, "Need your ghost hands and your dope little healing fingers. I'll die withoutcha, Chu. No lie." He looks between their eyes. Abruptly, he continues. "We haven't hung out in ages. I don't like it."

Chase stares at Stu. His eyes are ringed with bags, his mouth downturned. They turn their brain off so as to not look into this moment more than they should. Stu is a dog chasing a car, just moving on instinct with no concern for the why.

"Fine." They relent. Stu squeezes their fingers with fervor. His face brightens. "After school."

"Cheeeuh, baby!" He beams, high-fiving the nearest person in celebration. He picks Chase up off the ground and shakes them around, elated. "Stu and Chu, back together again! Yo, tonight is gonna be dope."

"What about Casey?" Sid asks. Stu turns to face her with Chase in his arms, uncaring. Their feet don't even skim the ground.

"What about her?"

Billy chuckles. "Dude. Tonight is your date night."

Stu scoffs. "Yeah, with Chu."

"Dude, you can't just diss your girlfriend." Randy admonishes, "Basic horror movie etiquette; keep your partner happy or it's a knife in your back." He shakes his head, annoyed, "And it's not date night when they're my date!"

Stu releases an unflattering pshh.

"She's fine." Stu waves the topic away, penguin waddling Chase back to the fountain. "She'll forgive me. You can't stay mad at the guy that gives it to you six ways till Sunday."

Randy grins sharply. "Oh - are you speaking from experience? Is there something you and Billy would like to share with the class?"

Billy, with a tense face, punches Randy in the sternum. Randy winces.

"Watch it, Meeks. We don't need anyone overhearing your delusional, movie-freaked ass."

"Jeez." Randy mutters. He rubs his chest. "Sore subject, I get it. The truth hurts - whatever. You know - being gay is a privilege."

Chase almost snorts. What a heterosexual hypocrite.

"Babes like Casey are a dime a dozen, man." Stu says, "But no one in the world is like Chu. It's called having priorities, Randy." Stu gives a fake smile, "You should try it sometime."

Randy reciprocates. "Funny, coming from the guy always pining after my partner."

Stu frowns, defensive. "It's not pining, dickweed. You know-" he shifts in place on the fountain, settling around Chase like some content dragon - horde redeemed. His tone is theatrical, patronizing. "You'd understand, man - if you had any friends. It's a privilege."

"We're literallyfriends right now!" Randy waves a hand between Chase and Stu, "But this! This is not friends. When have you ever done that to anyone else?"

Stu grins, schmoozing. "Aww, you jealous, Randy?" He drops his grin. He speaks as if confessing a long hidden secret.

"We're on another level, yo. Chu and I are best friends."

"Are we?" Chase wonders. The sentiment floods them with an icy hot warmth. Bittersweet - friends. Stu fake gasps.

"Chu! When'd you get so mean?" He wields his point like a weapon towards Randy, wailing, "You've ruined 'em, dog! They don't even recognize their best friend anymore! I'm gonna have to train 'em all over again!"

"Trainme?"

"You're such a drama queen, Stu." Sid shakes her head to herself, smiling. Billy nibbles her ear, conspiratorial.

"Tell me about it, you shoulda seen him last night. Blubberin' about oh- oh Chu. I can't keep livin' like this man- I need Chu back. S'not the same without 'em- Randy and Chu aren't even happy together, man, not the way Chu could be happy with me!-"

A sharp whap cuts Billy off. The teasing atmosphere abruptly disappears. It leaves behind a tense discomfort.

"Watch it, Billy." It's almost an order. "Or should I tell the audience what you said last night?"

It's a clear threat. Discomfort blooms in Chase's chest, a flicker of confusion passes Sidney's face. Still - Stu had talked about them? Like that?

Don't look into it, don't look into it, don't look into it.

"I dunno Stu." Billy's tone is as unreadable as his face. Has something happened between them? What have they missed? "Do you wanna go there?"

Randy doesn't care to respect the atmosphere. "What in the holy hell is happening right now?"

A silence, a blink. Stu's voice is a poor attempt at carefree. "Ahh, Billy's just feelin' a little confused, is all. Right Billy?"

Billy scrutinizes Stu for a tense few seconds before smiling tightly. He leans forward, and with a patronizing pat to Stu's face, speaks. "Right, Stu. Just feelin' confused."

Weird, weird, weird. Chase decides they'd rather suffer lonely pining with Randy than try to untangle whatever that was. When Chase goes to escape Stu wraps a blind hand around their bicep, tugging them back in place.

"Where ya goin'?" His voice is deceptively light. His grip is firm. "I just got you back, man! You can't leave now."

Chase blinks. "How about now?"

Stu, like nothing weird or tense or uncomfortable just happened, fake wails. He drapes himself over them, tight against their back like a turtle shell. He sways back and forth on the fountain - and permanently sleepless Chase finds the metronome incredibly comfortable. So comfortable, in fact, that while Stu waxes poetic about all of the sh*t he's had to put up with and all the pain he's experienced a la his happy place and no, Randy, I don't want to copy off of your history essay - but if you've got Laura Schnapp's then I won't say no, Chase falls asleep.

When the bell rings to signal the end of lunch, Stu remains in place. When his flock of friends gets up one by one, giving prompting brows and expectant glances to the snoozing Chu in his lap, he exaggeratedly shoos them away. When curious onlookers wander over to chat, he shushes them silently and gestures with an embarrassed wince - at Chase's expense - to their sleeping form. What can you do, amirite?

When the Autumn chill sweeps over his bare arms, he merely holds Chase tighter. His shoes scuff on the pavement when they cross beneath the sleeping teen in his lap, and his fingers wander under their sweater. His sweater - on their body. His fingers - on their stomach. With a flutter in his own tummy he carefully glides his fingers up, breath held in his throat. He thumbs softly over a scar on their chest. The hairs on his neck raise, warmth pools low in his stomach.

With a heavy, content sigh Stu nudges his chilly nose into Chase's neck. Their shiver makes him smile wide, dimples exposed. The bell rings again to signal the start of fifth period. Stu cups Chase's ears with a hand and his own cheek to keep the noise away.

He'll stay there till the sun sets if he has to. They're just too much in his sweater, all warm and hidden edges and looking like his. He knows they don't sleep much anyway - hardly slept at all the weeks they've been apart. Poor little Chu. His poor little Chu.

And really - he just got them back. Who can blame him?

Chapter 12: The First Thread, March, 1993

Chapter Text

The Macher residence is any hormonal, ill-advised teenager's wet dream. Two stories, a labyrinthine layout, a yard big enough to stage a make-shift dirt bike track - it's the holy grail of teenage imagination. As one of the more well off residences in all of Woodsboro, it's an obvious hotspot for underage drinking, smoking, nay-do-welling, and general shenanigans. Shenanigans - meaning parties.

During spring break of '91, it girl Valencia Pinkman lost her virginity in the shed out back. That same night Jordan Kernwall drank so much beer that he threw it all up, and then he threw up so much that he started throwing up blood. To this day, it's still referenced to as The Crimson Rain. Summer break of '92, world class prude Jordan Whitman single handedly drank all of Stu's dads' Vladivar Imperial Vodka before fixing the faulty wiring in the downstairs bathroom and the garage-

-He later threw up so hard he puked blood. It's referred to as The Crimson Rain Revamped.

Halloween of '92 Billy Loomis accidentally broke a light bulb in Stu's kitchen. It's not anything big, but the fact that it was Billy's fault - Woodsboro's Mr. Perfect - really made it memorable. To this day, people still quote the low, instinctive uh oh he had let out.

March of '93 - a belated Christmas break extravaganza (or an early St. Patrick's celebration) - is on track to claim another unforgettable moniker. Janice Kortowski will hook up with Rachel Maddens, Pete Skrull will accidentally lock himself in a closet for seven hours and thirteen minutes - thus wetting himself - and Stacy Arlo will unexpectedly be dumped by Stu Macher. It's a night to remember, truly - and for one it will be a night to forget.

There is another smaller, less innocent reason for this party's notoriety, but that event will only be known by two.

-

The Macher house has never been more packed. Close to achieving maximum occupancy, all doors and windows have been opened in an effort to encourage teens to spill out into the yard. Music spills from the exits, lights flash through closed curtains, and shouting has become the new baseline for conversations. All the makings of an unforgettable party.

Stu Macher spends the night making vivacious rounds; egging people on when they so clearly want to get jiggy, encouraging kegs and refilling cups, doing poor imitations of Randy to random bystanders when Randy isn't looking. A good portion is done with a bottle in hand, expertly watering his body with the sweet, hazy enticement of alcohol. Parties at the Macher residence are always rad, but soon something catches Stu's eye that turns it schweet.

March of '93, settled against a wall in the foyer at a ripe 9:41pm, Stu suddenly chokes on his drink. Blindly, he backhands his companion in an endless flurry, other hand outstretched in a sharp point.

"Jesus, Stu-"

"No way, no way, no way," Stu hisses, completely derailing his story about the big ji*zz patch on Mr. Roberts' pants, now frantic, "-that's Chase McCoy, man! Chase McCoy! In mi-" he emphasizes, "-casa!-"

"Y'ever heard of a chill pill?" Billy complains, rubbing bony knuckles into his abused chest. He scrutinizes the person at the end of Stu's point. Unimpressed. "Am I supposed to know that tard?"

"Watch it." Stu snaps. His excitement quickly takes hold once again. "Chase is the only they in the school, man - that's so- rad! Moved here like, six months ago or whatever. I've been trying to befriend them for ages," he leans obnoxiously to keep them in his sight, but eventually they disappear into another clogged room. Stu tsks but remains ever so buzzing.

"-but they treat me like Michael f*cking Myers at every turn. Just ignores me every time I try 'ta strike up a convo - won't even look at me!" Stu turns to Billy, incredulous, fingers against his chest, "Me!"

Billy seems to swallow down an I wonder why. He eyes Stu for a while; his missile eyes, his frantic hands, his swaying frame. It looks like he's suddenly taken a hit of ecstasy. It's a wonder Stu is able to remain at Billy's side - jesus, Stu must really be in deep for this poser that he's never even talked to.

"Aren't you datin' Stacy? What, you need more than that?" Billy pointedly gestures off to the left. Behold; Stacy Arlo in all her bubblegum, princess glory. Everyone at this damn party is collectively waiting for her breasts to spill right out of her top. Stu even started a bet. Five bucks by eleven o'clock. He's gonna buy a new car with his winnings.

"Billy, Billy, Billy," Stu chants, disparaging, "You don't get it, man. Chase is like me and you, buddy," Stu frantically gestures both hands between he and Billy, bending and swaying, "Not some vixen I'm gonna dust in a few months. No, Billy, this is like me and you."

Billy's face is void, considering, and then kind of grossed out. "So.. you want a friend."

"Exactly!" Stu exclaims. He frantically whips his head back towards the living room, searching for another glimpse. "This is a forever thing, yo. Not a bump and dump."

Billy takes a sip from his cup, shrugging behind the rim. "Okay, so go talk to 'em."

"That never works!"

"Maybe it'll work this time." Billy raises a thin brow, "I mean, this is your house, isn't it?"

The cheering and hooting and laughing crescendos in Stu and Billy's silence. Troy Wilkins runs down the foyer completely nude, pulling ooohs and aaahs and sounds of excitement from the partygoers. He bumps into Stu's shoulder, knocking him from his daze.

"Aw man!" Stu suddenly whines, turning briskly, wringing his fingers into his short hair. Beer spills from the bottle in his hand. He doesn't seem to register it. "My house, Billy, my house!"

It's said in a mild panic, and then it's said with a sort of slow realization. "My house," he mutters, low, and then he's frantic again, "they're at my house, yo! I gotta say somethin'. What if they buff me again, man? I can't take it anymore - I can't, man, I can't!" He turns dilated, overwhelmed eyes onto Billy, "I swear on my mom, yo, if they ignore me one more time-"

He's spiraling, wholly and completely fixated. Billy either has to pacify Stu now or standby while the house burns down around him - at the suddenly yearning, perpetually sloppy hands of Stu Macher. Either way, at least Billy won't be bored. f*cking finally.

"Or," Billy interjects in a low tone. He eyes the crowded room, leaning in close to continue, conspiratorial. "You could just.. make it so they can't."

Stu blinks for a while, cloudy and overwhelmed, and then he grins.

-

Chase has been nursing the same drink all night. The same one.

"It isn't working, Billy." Stu mutters. He's been following Chase around like a ghost for over an hour, handing drinks off to teens with the premise that Chase had forgotten them and yo, you should probably get that back to 'em, man. Keep the party rollin'!

Every drink - spaced far enough apart to not be suspicious, according to Billy - has been pawned off to a stranger. Every drink! They've been drinking the same 8 oz. Arnold Palmer for two hours - and it's non-alcoholic!

"So your friend is a bit of a prude," Billy mumbles, "who woulda thought?"

Stu blindly smacks his companion, peering at Chase and Derek from behind his red solo cup. "Classy." Stu corrects into the rim, "There's class in stickin' to your guns, man. Classy."

Billy clicks his teeth, "I hate to say it, Stu, but classy ain't gonna get you in their pocket."

Stu scoffs - but it's a distracted sound. He's still busy staring like a Discovery Channel meerkat for the object of his.. whatever-the-f*ck. "I know, Billy-" he throws Billy a heavy glance, "-you don't think I know? It's all I've been thinkin' about."

"That's new." Billy ribs, smirking at Stu's offended gasp. He rounds behind Stu like a lion, slinky and with ill intentions. "Well, if they're not gonna get drunk on their own volition, we'll just have to encourage 'em."

"Encourage?" Stu echoes, but he's unable to continue. His face abruptly changes tune when a junior comes up, now all suave arms and charming, amused chatter - party host of the year.

The new teen stumbles, hiccupping and sloshing his half-full cup around, "'Ey man, wherrrrzz.. whhhhurz th'- ttthhh- thhh bo-oooze?"

Stu shakes the kid genially, an eager smile on his face, "Think you found it, bro! Damn, looks like you found all of it-" he urges the teen towards the kitchen with a gesturing hand, playfully miming drinking behind his back, yikes! Some girls laugh.

"-Tell ya what, my old man's got a wicked stash, yea? I gotchu, bro- I gotchu."

He deposits the teen near the kitchen island, squeezed between some hammered ladies. Stu holds up a giddy finger.

"Wait right there-" he backs away dopily, bobbing and knocking into bystanders, "I'll be right back!"

Stu beelines back to Billy through the crowd, quickly corralling him with a shouldered arm. He's hunched low to talk in Billy's ear - giving wide grins and high-fives to those he passes, none the wiser.

"Hey, hey, hey- my ma's got some kick ass pills, Bill." His eyes are anticipant, seeking approval, "That's good, right? I mean," Stu paces himself before Billy, gesticulating wildly and heading up the foyer steps backwards, "can't taste it, right? Just gotta crush it up real small, drop it in, and bam! Gone, yo."

Stu wiggles his brows, "In more ways than one."

"I'm sure you'll find a way to f*ck up." Billy digs, but Stu sees it as the green light he's been waiting for. He hoots, looking every part the drunken, irresponsible teen he should be. The crowd upon the stairs instinctively hoots back, raising their cups in a toast. None the wiser, wholly blind.

"Yo, I am so smart!"

-

It works. It actually works.

Chase has been nodding off for half an hour on the couch, their second Arnold palmer - delivered by Stu to Randy to Kate and then to Scott before finally making it to them - now tilted precariously on their lap. Chase stopped jolting awake at the Texas Chainsaw screams ten minutes ago, meaning they definitely wouldn't notice Stu pulling them away under the guise of the responsible, yet immature, party host.

Hah - good thing it isn't even a guise - it's true!

"Talk about a banger, amirite?" Stu mocks bewilderment at their expense before cackling loudly, "Yo, it ain't a party if you can remember it!"

He gets a chorus of affirmative cheers.

"Alright, alright, I better get this one outta the way," he tugs Chase up by the wrist, fighting back a trilling giggle when they stumble into him. His other arm finds a home across their back. He raises his brows playfully. "Bow wow, I am just irresistible."

"Shut up, string bean." Randy shoos Stu to the side, "You're totally co*ck blocking the best part- hey!" Randy snaps when Stu moves to block the TV entirely, finding delight in the attention and various boos. "Go f*ck off somewhere else!"

Yielding, Stu shuffles away with Chase. "Yeesh, alrighty man. Your wish is my command, oh Randy oh pal." He shakes Chase playfully, "Killin' the vibe anyway. Totally not a good look, ya know? Havin' a sleeper on the front cover- s'bad publicity."

"Go away!" Randy urges again, annoyed. Seconds later he's perking up and peering over the back of the couch. Stu has almost exited the room, "Oh!- but get me another beer first, wouldja?"

Stu snorts, scoffs, and then deadpans. "No. I won't. Tootles!"

Randy deflates, scorned. Stu makes his escape.

Stu guides Chase upstairs, heart beating wildly in his chest. Part of him is wary that the crowd will catch on to the shake in his hands and the stutter in his breath, but Chase continues to sway and stumble up the steps and no one is any wiser. Good. Good, good, good good good goodgoodgoodgoodgood.

"Go on, go on," Stu goads in a low, soft tone, playfully miming winces of embarrassment to those curious enough to look over, plastered already? How embarrassing! Couldn't be me!Onlookers laugh at their expense.

Stu continues muttering into Chase's ear when the looks dissipate, hands careful along their waist, "Gotcha', yeah? Just you and me, baby. Just you and me. One, two, c'mon, just a few more-"

He peeks up and down the east hall - empty, empty, empty, like the world knows what he's doing and it approves - before he coaxes them into his room. It's the easiest thing he's ever done. Under the clamor of the party, the rattling of his mom's sleeping pills are near silent in his pocket.

He deposits Chase on his bed before backtracking to shut the door. The sounds of partying and jeering die with the click of the lock, and Stu is frozen in place. His heart beats like a train in his ears. He's done it.

He eyes the bed - consumes it, really. Chase, usually stoic and unamused, now dopey and shaky and flopped onto their side. On his bed. In his sheets. His -his, his, his, his, his hishishis-

Unable to keep his twitching, tapping foot away any longer, Stu steps forward. Again, and again, and again, and then he's crawling over them, propped up by his hands that are so much bigger than theirs, staring.

They smell better than he remembers. Warmer, too. Warmer, sharper, all tired and overwhelmed and drunk - drugged - just drunk in his bed.

Stu grins a wide, delirious thing. A moment later he's lowering himself onto Chase, long limbs wrapped tight around them, sliding so his chest slots into their back. He stuffs his face in their hair, breathing in deep. His fingers splay over their ribs, their throat, legs tangled with their own. After a moment he removes a hand, fumbling for the hem of their shirt before slipping inside. Their stomach is hot, flinching from his touch. It just makes Stu giggle.

Yeah, yeah, this just feels right.

Stu hushes them softly when they grumble, blackout drunk and helpless. Good thing Stu is here then, all boxy shoulders and long limbs to keep them in his bed - safe. Good thing, good thing.

"You and me," he murmurs into their nape, nudging their hair with his nose, tracing his name onto their stomach. In a slow, easy move Stu is sitting up, propping their side on the inside of his knee to keep them upright. He slides both hands under their shirt and then he's slipping it up and off their body. His fingers drag on their skin. Freckled, twice scarred in the front, too-hot and too-bony.

They're too drunk to grasp for their shirt. Good thing Stu is here then. He'll keep it safe just like them, make sure they get it back. They're lucky he found them on that couch - it's a shame they drank so much. Don't they know this is a party? Jesus, anything could happen.Anyonecould come up and snatch 'em away -jesus.

Stu is draped over them, arms long enough to wrap across their front and grasp their biceps. He drags a palm across their scars, marveling at the pretty puckered pink. Chase shivers in his hold, smacking their mouth and wrapping their hand around his wrist. Their fingers move to tug him away, but they're all numb and weak and limp. Stu just grins widely at the act, coiling tighter around them. Must be cold without their shirt, can't believe they lost it. A shame. Shame, shame, shame. He'll keep 'em warm with his own body, just the perfect size to tuck them in.

His tone is patronizing, yet giddy, "Jeez, Chu. Dontcha know better than to get wasted at a party? Basic horror movie etiquette, baby. Never drink. Hell - in any movie."

He tips them over, kicking off his pants and his sweater before draping himself over them once more. There's a knock on his door that has him tensing, narrowing eyes fixed to the wood - but nothing else happens. He coils tighter, the anaconda to their mouse. Without looking, Stu reaches back for the edge of his bed sheet. He pulls it up to his shoulders and tucks it loosely around Chase - now wholly and completely passed out. They're gonna smell like him- f*ck. They're gonna smell like him and he's gonna smell like them, all mixed up and tangled in his bed.

Blackout drunk, passed out, helpless. Mm. Good thing Stu is here.

He gives one final glare to the door before dismissing it. He spends the night memorizing the track of Chase's ribs, counting the freckles on their back, intertwining and releasing their hands. He's wrapped so closely around them that it's impossible to tell where Chase ends and Stu begins, and it feels good good good.

He mouths a wet kiss on the back of their neck. The hairs on his own raise. Stu knows well enough to not leave any marks that can't be explained, so he slides his nose down their spine until it bumps the center. Once, twice, he nips the skin - and then he sucks a fat welt and his teeth are closing around the bone like a handcuff. In, in, in them - hah,hah- f*ck- Stu could just about blow-

Memories of stumped passing periods and avoided greetings are wiped clean with fantasies of wide grins and intertwined bodies. Every attempted greeting, every blank look Stu would receive in return to his attention, every image of Chase's back and their retreat - gone. Chase buffing Stu in the hall? Hah!- That didn't happen, no, because they're likethis.

Coulda driven him mad - if it were true. Woulda lost his mind if Chase had ignored him all those months, spurned his advances and dismissed his attention. f*ck, he woulda lost it. Good thing that never happened. Good thing, good thing.

He dresses them again at 6. They're hardly coherent, tilting and jolting to awareness periodically on his bed. He sits them up and puts their shoes back on, one hand pressed against their chest to keep them from tipping. It has Stu elated. His face hurts from smiling so wide, so much. He's never felt better, all mussed hair and red-rimmed eyes, teeth that are a little too red.

Before he sends them on their way, Stu leans his torso onto their lap. He tucks his face in their stomach, his hands under their shirt, and he breathes deep. Chase - gooey, blackout drunk Chase - merely collapses over his back. Stu trills. He holds them tighter, fingers the bumpy groove he left on their spine, nips at the hem of their jeans. In one swoop he hoists them up and over his shoulder like a firefighter, carefully unlocking the door. He can't wait to see them at school. Better get rollin', hah, gotta catch 'em before the bell.

He leaves them with Randy - trustworthy, nerdy Randy.

"Whazzaaap, man - they got sooooo drunk last night, it was insane, wasn't it?! Dunno if they slept it off, but they can't stay here, man." He hands them off to a newly sober Randy, projecting loudly to the deadbeats still in his living room. "Party's over! Brrriiing briiing, school's in session!"

Randy can't keep up with his new responsibility, sputtering, hungover, "Why am I babysitting this kid?"

Randy's complaint is swallowed by the chorus of weak, angry groans. Stu feigns pity, miming a lone tear down his cheek, before carelessly prodding some kid with his shoe.

"I know, I know - so sad, boohoo, yadda, yadda, yadda. Thanks for coming, but now's the time you dip!" As teens rouse awake, Stu points to Randy, "Chill out, Dandy Randy. I did my part, now you do yours, baby! Part of throwing a party is being responsible." Stu feigns an overt sincerity, "And being responsible means not dying at or around my house. Are you down for a court case, Randy? 'Cause I'm not."

Randy sighs heavily. He's been awake all of two minutes and he's already annoyed. A new record.

"Fine, that doesn't- fine. I'll bring them home - wait, why am I bringing them back? It's your party."

Stu's grin is winning, the cat that caught the canary, "Exactly, dingus. It was my party." He holds his long arms out, still warm from Chase's body. On him, on them, all mixed up as one. "And it's my party that needs cleaning, unless-" Stu looks at Randy expectantly, teasing, "-you're feelin' charitable?"

"Hell." Randy stomps his shoes on, guiding a wobbly Chase to the door, "No. You're lucky I know where they live, you know. You owe me, Macher."

Stu grins, pleased. "I gave you a night to remember, yo. I owe you zilch."

Half an hour later Stu is saying his final goodbyes and thanks for coming, man - see you at the next one! Haha, that was hilarious! They spilled everywhere, got a band two inches wide, man, I'm the king of bets-And shutting the door. He spends time wandering through the house, arms pulled from the sleeves of his sweater to wrap around his bare torso underneath. His fingers trace Chase's name, face fixated in a giddy grin. Minutes after that he's greeting Billy with a soft, dopey shoulder check in the kitchen. His savior's nursing a cup of coffee.

"Go well?" Billy asks, hungover, curious. Stu buzzes with pleasure, an answer all on its own.

"Great, man. Great, great, great-" in the privacy of his now empty home, Stu explodes, "BOOYAH, bro!" His hands launch into the sleeves of his sweater and beyond, "It worked, it totally worked! Yo, I have never been happier!-"

Billy raises a brow. "Never?"

"Never." Stu repeats, wholehearted, grinning. "It was just Chase and me, buddy - and Chase was-" Stu giggles, "-gone! So it was all me, all the way! It felt good, Billy." Stu stresses the word, tastes it on his tongue. He clasps Billy's shoulder with a sweater hand, shaking him, "It was good. It was fffhun."

Billy smiles slightly, weighed down by sleep. He pats Stu once on the shoulder. "Happy for you, man. Even though it's a one and done."

Stu knits his brows at the phrase. "What? No- I didn't do nothin'- Jeez, Billy--" Stu scoffs. Billy cuts him off, patient in that annoyed, judgmental way of his.

"Never said you tapped 'em, Stu. I'm just sayin'," Billy raises his hands, face tight, almost coaxing, "those pills work well, right?"

Stu's face tightens, offended. "They're the best on the market, yo. My mom doesn't skrimp."

"--Soooo," Billy drags, stepping closer, "How're they gonna remember you two," he gestures his hands in circles before Stu, "are as close as you know you are?"

Stu scratches at his forehead, pausing. He goes through the five stages of grief like a kaleidoscope before hissing to himself.

"Awf*ck, Billy!"

Billy hums, lips pressed together in sympathy. Like most of Billy's compassionate or positive emotions, it looks fake. "That's just the way the cookie crumbles, Stu."

Stu is pacing the kitchen like a tiger, bobbing and shaking his head in thought. f*ck, Chase was gone gone - Billy is right! Screw cookies, this needs to be cement.What's he gonna do, what's he gonna do,what's he gonna do?-

A minute passes before Stu perks up, alight with an idea. He backtracks to the living room and peers out the window with a dubious, intrigued Billy on his tail. If Billy were to emanate an emotion, it would be a mixed what now?Stuthinking?f*ck, call the fire department.

"Hey, Loomis," Stu trails off, squinting. Billy peers past him and out the blinds. There's one car in the driveway, and one hidden next to some brush on the side. Stu could recognize it in his dreams, followed it enough times that it may as well be his own. Chase, Chase, Chase - what a perfect spot.

"Stephen is a piece of sh*t, but I refuse to park him next to some DUI aspirer."

Derek's weirded out. Stu taps his beer against his lips from around the corner."So you park in the forest like some troll?"

Chase is unflinching. "That's exactly what I did, isn't it?"

Stu's racing mind is visible on his face - apprehensive, unbothered, alight with an idea, excited, and then enticed. He has a new goal in mind, and he needs Billy to see it through. Yeah, yeah - it'll work, he'll make it work, no problem-hah!- easy, easy-

"You maybe.. know how to get rid of that?"

-

Stu didn't sleep a wink, but he's the most energetic he's ever been when he rolls up to Woodsboro high. There's a kind of unsightly, frenzied curl to his smile and a skip in his step that's easily dismissed as a lingering, keg stand adrenaline from the night before. Everyone is a bit off after last night's rager - therefore Stu's behavior is no cause for concern.

It had taken a lot of work to wrap Chase's car around the big tree at Woodard. Really - it had only worked because of Billy's careful planning and meticulous word sleuthing - and one or two lucky bricks. Hah, but it had worked! Good thing so many people saw Chase - who ended up blackout drunk - arrive to the party in their now demolished car. Good thing everyone was too plastered to take note of it - still parked in the same spot - when they left Stu's house that morning. Good thing Randy got them out before people could notice, so they'd thinkblackout drunk Chasewas stupid enough to try and drive home. Good thing Stu has a shiny new car to tote people around in.

Good thing, good thing.

Just one thing left - one thing, and Stu's not gonna f*ck it up this time.

Stu slings an arm over Chase the moment he spots them, weaving like a missile between hungover kids and the nerds that didn't make it to his fiesta. Chase stumbles at the weight, and they look wholly confused as to why Stu Macher is suddenly at their side. Over their shoulder.

"Yo, Chase! Great party last night, right?" Stu cups his hands around his mouth, inadvertently dragging Chase closer with his arm, "WOOO, KILLER PARTY!"

Stu gets a chorus of exhausted - yet thrilled - cheers back from the scattered student body. He laughs loudly, tongue out to high-five a senior. When Stu looks down Chase looks empty-brained. Haggard. Still struggling to peel themself from his mom's killer pills-nah, nah, they just drank too much! Blackout drunk - silly, helpless Chase.

They have no idea what's happening. Stu's arms jerk at the sight. He plays it off coolly, furthering his lean.

"...huh?"

Stu grins. It looks genial and bright, but it feels so sharp. He licks his teeth. They taste like Chase. He's not gonna f*ck up, not gonna f*ck up, he isn't, he won't-

"You don't remember? It was a blast, baby!-"

Constrain - OneAndNone - Scream (Movies) [Archive of Our Own] (2024)
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