Actions

Work Header

Billwise Drabbles

Chapter Text

It does not like being Robert Gray for long periods of time.

Something about wearing Its previous meal's face makes It feel restless, a predator pretending to be prey, just waiting until It can shed the pretense and go back to being what It truly is.

An apex hunter.

And a hungry one to boot. 

Still, It knows that no other form will allow It to discreetly observe the tight group of humans (snacks?) walking into the raucous pub.

Watching the group reminds It again of the frailty of Its prey, they've aged so much in just a few measly years. It is still the same, but they are no longer children, that much is evident, and yet, It is almost amused by how much they have stayed the same. Bodies worn and faces tired, the Losers could pass off as any other human in the bar. But here or there, It will catch a glimpse of the children they used to be in the smile on the female's face, or in the bounce of a curl when the loud one jokes.

It debates quietly in the corner as it watches.

It does not much like adult humans, too greasy and chewy in comparison to children, and yet, the idea of finishing what It started years back was tempting.

It stares intently at the quietly chuckling one, the one that used to make precious stuttering sounds like the bleating of a cornered lamb. It swallows back some drool when Its prey looks back, all wide blue eyes and bitten red lips.

Very tempting.

Perhaps It will make an exception.

 

---

 

There is a handsome red headed man watching them. 

Bill caught sight of him a few minutes after the Losers settled into the booth, and is momentarily struck still by the man's tall stature. Leaning against the wall, the man still managed to tower impressively over the other bar patrons.

There is also something arresting about the man's mannerisms.

He is too far away for Bill to properly see his features, but there is a stillness about his person which removed him from the rest of the bar.

If Bill felt more inclined to indulge his inner writer, he would have described the man as the calm before the storm.

It made something curl in the bottom of his stomach, and Bill couldn't figure out if the feeling was that of anticipation or-

"Bill?"

Bill looks away from the man and sheepishly faces the others, meeting Eddie and Beverly's concerned expressions with a brief guilty grimace. "Sorry guys, guess I zoned out a bit." 

"You alright?" asks Beverly gently, placing a hand on his right arm.

"Yeah," mutters Bill, "just the long flight getting to me." Almost against his will, he adds, "and was surprised to see someone so tall." 

The others peer curiously in the direction he had been looking in simultaneously.

Bill ducks his head and tries to melt into the booth so as to not be seen by the man. He feels mildly embarrassed by his friends' blatant ogling and idly wondering why, after 27 years, his friends appeared to have not learned any concept of subtlety.

Misinterpreting his gesture, Richie leans in and pats Bill's cheek companionably, "don't fret Big Bill, you're still my tall, dark and handsome knight in shining armour." 

"Beep beep Richie," reprimands Eddie, rolling his eyes.

"What?" says Richie, throwing up his hands, "I'm trying to comfort the guy here." 

"It's fine," Bill interrupts before Eddie could reply, "let's just get some drinks." 

Which turned out to be an excellent idea, because after the fifth round of drinks, Bill is more than happy to listen on as Richie retells some hilarious story from the filming of his first season, and laughing at the more absurd parts of the story.

It was nice to be back with his friends, his house had felt a little lonely after his divorce with Audra and he had missed the warmth that came with being in the company of those who understand.

Bill smiles at Beverly when she nudges him, a quicksilver grin on her lips and a sly, teasing gleam in her eyes. Age had mellowed his crush, but he would be lying if he said she wasn't still capable of stealing his breath away.

"I think you have an admirer," she whispers, cheeks flushed pink with alcohol.

Bill gives her a puzzled look, but obligingly looks in the direction she's pointing at.

It was the red headed man from earlier, except he was sitting now, a bit closer than before.

When they make eye contact, the man gives him a small quirk of his lips, almost a smile but not quite. Closer now, Bill could see that the man had long, slender fingers, curled loosely around a bottle. As he looks on, the man gently glides one elegant finger down the length of the bottle, likely tracing a bead of perspiration as it trickled down. 

Bill swallows thickly as a shiver runs down his spine.

The man's thin mouth stretches into a secretive smirk, blue eyes carefully holding Bill's gaze as the man licks at his lips.

"Wow," remarks Richie in an awed tone and effectively snapping Bill out of his daze, "I'm turned on and I'm not even the one he's seducing." 

Bill makes a startled noise and looks back at his friends, just in time to see Eddie exasperatedly smacking Richie on the arm and the others bite back a smile. He feels a flush rise up his neck, "he isn't se-seducing me."

Richie makes a rude noise and turns to Eddie. "Eds, Edster," he says with a winning smile and leans in close, "if I were to stare intensely at you and lick my lips like this, while sensually fondling a bottle that looked like a penis, would you think I was seducing you?" He tries to demonstrate by grabbing Mike's bottle, but is thwarted when Mike easily moves it out of his reach.

Eddie gives him an unimpressed look, "I don't know Trashmouth, I think if you ever tried to seduce me, I might have to barf in my mouth."

"Hurt, I am hurt, and here I thought I've perfected my skills. I mean, Mrs. K seems to appreciate my seduction skills."

Bill tunes out their argument as Richie and Eddie fell back into their age-old bickering, trying and failing to repress his flush. He chances a peek at the man in the corner of his eye, and feels the knot in the pit of his stomach tighten when their eyes meet again, unable to look away from the man's gaze.

This is going to be a long night.

 

He is not wrong. 

Somewhere along the way, "drinking and catching up" translated to taking shots of the dirtiest sounding drinks to their fucked up childhood, and suddenly Richie's saying that they're not too old to be boring and he can prove it if they'll play Dare or Dare with him.

Dare or Dare being Richie's version of Truth or Dare. In the past, they had omitted Truth because there were no secrets between them, not after the forced bonding It had ensured with Its feeding spree. Now, Bill thinks that Richie omits the Truth because there was no point in ferreting out secrets from each other, not when they were all here for a greater purpose.

Mike shakes his head fondly at the lot of them when the rest of the Losers realize he doesn't intend to play, claiming that he “has to actually live in Derry thank you very much”, and he would very much like to keep his reputation intact.

Twenty minutes later, Bill is regretting his decision to not follow Mike's example of staying out of Richie's plans.

He tries to sink into the booth for a second time that night, but is prevented from doing so when Beverly sneakily pinches him in the side. Grumbling under his breath, Bill reluctantly re-joins the game of Dare or Dare, glaring at the empty bottle for having decided to land on him.

Richie's smugly smiling face beams at him from across the table.

"Bill, Billy Bob, Big Bill," Richie says with a slight slur to his words, "don't worry, I have your back. I have your whole back. In fact, I have your back so much that I'm going to get you laid. Like straight up laid. Or gay up laid. Because that's what good friends do, and I think you need a good hard fu-"

"Beep beep Richie," Eddie cuts off, jabbing a skinny elbow into Richie's side. This had the upside of shutting Richie up, but also the unfortunate side-effect of waking up the man up from his slight alcoholic stupor.

"Right, yes, the dare, the daringest of dares." Richie says, he gestures for Bill to lean in.

After another pinch by Beverly and a sympathetic pat from Ben, Bill does. 

"I dare you to kiss that man."

"No," Bill says immediately, not at all surprised by the sexual nature of Richie's dare. Richie's dares were almost always sexual and inevitably gets them kicked out of whatever establishment they happen to be drinking in.

Richie pouts. "Come on, don't pretend you don't want to. We've all seen you after a couple of drinks, and that man is giving you the bedroom eyes like no other. So win win."

Bill shakes his head. He isn't sure why he is protesting, since he usually was a bit too affectionate after a few drinks and tended to end up more handsy than he'd like to admit to but-

He chances another glance at the man, who stares evenly back at him, seemingly unembarrassed to be caught blatantly checking Bill out. 

Bill looks away first.

Something felt off about the man.

Despite being quite handsome, unfairly tall and dressed in a slim fitted suit, no one had approached him thus far.

This strikes Bill as strange in a crowded bar.

And that initial niggling feeling in the pit of his stomach is coming back. "I don't think I should, I feel-"

"Aroused," interrupts Richie, poking a finger in Bill's cheek, "because I am. There's way too much sexual tension, and I don't think I'm alone when I say you need to cut it out or rub it out or fuck-" 

Mike easily reaches over and slaps a hand over Richie's mouth.

"Point is," Beverly continues with a laugh, "it won't hurt to say hi."

"Mhnrch hmss," exclaims Richie into Mike's hand.

Eddie sighs, "you better go before Trashmouth decides that you should fuck him instead."

Bill hastily beats a retreat when Richie's eyes light up.

He knows when he's outvoted.

 

---

 

It is intrigued by the blush overtaking the man's neck.

Such a lovely red colour, like juices bleeding out from a Sunday roast.

It licks Its lips and tries not to salivate too obviously in Its seat. It had decided to move closer a while back, if only so It could be closer to Its tasty, tasty dinner.

It likes that Its prey keeps glancing over, because everytime he does, Billy Boy flushes a little darker and the life blood pumping in his veins roars like a crescending wave over Its ears. It plays with the beer bottle in Its hands and revels in the sound.

So enticing.

It thinks that Its preys have not yet caught on to what It is, because none of them have yet tried to stab a wooden chair leg through Its eye. This is good. It did not enjoy their last encounter and did not wish to be stabbed again, not unless It can have a meal first to speed up the healing process.

It perks up when Billy Boy moves, jerking out of his seat and leaving his herd to move closer, visibly blushing and looking much too uncertain for a man of his size and features.

It swallows down some more drool.

"Hey-hi," mutters Its prey with an awkward smile, hand half raised in a wave.

It takes a second to re-adjust Itself mentally, reminding Itself sternly that It is Robert. Not Pennywise the Dancing Clown. And being Robert means that It cannot speak like Pennywise, meaning the instinctive "hello there Billy Boy" was not appropriate.

"Evening," It says instead, after a beat, trying to emulate the same low, husky tone that It had heard countless male creatures use in this bar.

"I’m Bill," Billy Boy says, flashing a brief smile that It desperately wanted to return ten-fold, preferably with a few more rows of teeth.

"Robert," It parrots back, "pleasure."

There is a moment of silence, It takes the chance to breathe in deeply, briefly annoyed to find no trace of fear in Bill's scent.

"Right, I’ll just um, be right back." Bill is red again but before he could move, It grabs onto Bill's arm.

"No," It says, harsher than It intended to. It coughs and forces a smile when Bill's arm tenses under Its hold, "please, I would love the company. I'm just-" It searches for the most appropriate word, "unfamiliar with this."

"Oh," Billy Boy says, "I-I am too, but well, you looked like you might want some company." 

"Yes," It replies, trying on a genuine smile on Robert's face, careful to keep Its teeth blunt, like a human's would, "I was hoping you would come over." 

Bill gives It a shy smile. "Are you new to Derry?"

It considers the question. "I just came back recently, and you?"

"Me too, I-"

"You gotta do it or you forfeit!" shouts the loud one, effectively interrupting their conversation.

"I’m not going to just-" Bill protests.

"CHICKEN!"

It watches on in confusion as the curly haired snack begins to screech like a dying rooster, flapping his arms wildly, while the rest of the group collapses amongst themselves in various stages of laughter.

Humans are such odd creatures.  

"Fuck," says Bill and It abruptly swerves Its head back.

Something about such a crude word coming out of such a sweet looking mouth made Its mouth water. It swallows again. 

"Fuck?" It repeats, curious despite Itself.

In response, Billy Boy makes a noise like he's having difficulty breathing then blurts out, "I can't believe I'm doing this, but just, correct me if I'm wrong." 

Then he leans in and kisses It on the mouth.

Baffling, It thinks to Itself as their lips touch in a tentative kiss, humans really are very odd creatures.  

It is not sure what the appeal is and is about to see if It can take a bite out of Bill's lovely face when the human makes a soft needy noise against Its mouth and tries to push himself closer.

It freezes.

"Shit," says Bill a second later, having felt It tense and misinterpreting the tension for rejection. He pulls away, breathless and eyes wide with sincere apology, "I-I'm sorry, I thought-" 

It growls in the back of Its throat and drags the human back, crushing their mouths together, desperate to hear a repeat of that same noise. It decides to mimic what It has observed humans doing in the past and tries to lick into Bill's mouth, making a pleased noise when the human immediately opens his mouth to allow It access. 

Bill's mouth is wet and warm, not dissimilar to chewing on a juicy bite of flesh, and It feels Its own mouth water in response to the mental comparison. It breaks apart momentarily to swallow down the drool, suspecting that Its Little Buddy might not enjoy the sensation of excess saliva.

It eyes Bill, taking in the heavy lidded eyes and parted lips.

It feels a tendril of satisfaction curl up warm and deep in the pit of the void that resides in Its belly, much like the last time It swallowed a dying star and felt the hot aftershock of the explosion.

It likes the feeling.

A sharp whistle disrupts the moment, causing Bill to step back unconsciously and flash an embarrassed look in the direction of his herd.

It spares a uncharitably vicious thought towards the curly haired human for the constant interruptions. Maybe It will eat him first.

"I-I'll see you around?"

It slowly turns back to Its Billy Boy, and he is, Billy Boy is Its now, It has decided this much after those lovely kisses. It smiles with Robert's face, and tries to squish down the desire to drool when Bill openly smiles back.

"I'm sure you will, it's a small town after all."

It grabs a hold of Bill's hand and kisses the back of the hand, like It once saw an outlaw do to a lady of the night a few centuries past.

"Until then."

 

---

 

Bill slowly makes his way back to his friends, still feeling rather dazed by the intensity of Robert's kisses. No one has ever kissed him like they wanted every part of him before, like they would happily consume every part of Bill without judgement or question.

He responds to Richie's suggestive eyebrow wiggles and wolf whistles with a bashful grin. Feeling quietly pleased with tonight's events, Bill settles back into the booth, allowing the warm chatter of his friends' light hearted teasing and snickers wash over him.

When the Losers finally move onto another topic, Bill allows himself to lick his lips, and thinks to himself that Robert almost tastes like...buttered popcorn?

Bill looks back at the table where the man was sitting, only to find the man gone. A quick glance shows Robert leaving the bar, and Bill starts to smile when he catches Robert's gaze.

Then he freezes, because Robert is smiling back, but-

His eyes looks almost gold under the yellow lights by the door and his teeth look almost...pointy.

No, Bill thinks to himself with a growing sense of horror as the unease from earlier that night comes flooding back. He feels the bottom of his stomach drop out, the way it did when he saw Georgie’s ruined yellow raincoat amongst the scattered remains of Its feeding frenzies in the sewers 27 years ago.

It can't be.

Bill swallows hard. Eyes intent upon the doors of the bar which had swung open with the force of Robert's departure and, where he can see much to his mounting panic, a bright red balloon, floating calmly in the middle of nowhere.

 

---

 

It watches Its Little Friend (an elevated status from all the other tasty humans in that group) from the shadows and snickers when Bill turns pale upon sight of the red balloon and rushes off to the washroom, where he proceeds to noisily puke into the nearest toilet. It hums quietly to Itself as Bill stumbles out of the washroom, pale and shaken, and excuses himself from the group.

It reminds Itself to be patient and silently follows the human through the empty streets and into the small hotel the group was staying in, pleased to see Bill's shoulders draw tighter and tighter. It breathes in deep, reveling in the delicious combination of fear and anger that radiated off of the man.

Then Its Little Buddy is in his room. 

All alone.

It slowly materializes behind the man and, staring down at Bill's pale neck from behind, It curls a claw carefully against a shaking shoulder and says, "I told you that I'll see you again."

It smiles, with all Its teeth this time and bends down to press Its mouth briefly against the tousled auburn hair. 

"Did you miss me?"

Chapter Text

There is a boy wandering around in Its woods.

It follows the boy curiously from the shadows and feels a stab of mean-spirited amusement when the human trips over a mushroom gnome, hidden beneath some rotting leaves in a drunken stupor.

The boy flails and goes down hard.

The mushroom gnome sways unsteadily onto its feet and bares its sharp teeth, visibly displeased at being disturbed.

The boy clumsily takes out an iron dagger, brandishing it with a trembling hand.

The gnome hisses. It shrinks back from the iron, but does not flee, eyeing the boy speculatively, likely thinking that it could still make a tasty meal of the child.

It growls softly from where It was watching in the branches.

The mushroom gnome freezes. Despite being drunk, the creature is evidently not stupid because it casts a cautious look around and, upon catching sight of Its golden gaze, immediately stumbles off in the opposite direction.

The boy, stunned, stays a moment longer on the damp cold ground before he scrambles to his feet.

It tilts Its head to the side.

“Who’s the-there?”

It decides that It is intrigued enough by the boy that It will allow the human to live for a bit longer. It considers Its options for a moment, before It decides on a muted version of Its favourite form.

It allows Its body to lengthen until It is nearly human, save for the claws and teeth.

“Good evening,” It says and steps into a small patch of moonlight, allowing the boy to fully see It for the first time.

The boy swallows hard, momentarily tightening his grip on the dagger before he lowers it, though It notices that the boy does not put the dagger away. Smart boy. “Go-good evening si-sir.”

It approves.

It has eaten many a human in the past for their discourtesy and It is glad that It would not need to do the same to this boy. At least, not yet.

“It is not safe for one as young as yourself to wander through these woods alone,” It admonishes, “let me accompany you home.”

The boy slowly begins to back away. “N-no thank yo-you, I wo-would not wi-wish to impose.”

“Nonsense,” It says, “I insist.”

“I-I can not leave ye-yet,” the boy replies, looking ill at ease, “please si-sir, I beg yo-you, do not tro-trouble yourself no fu-further.”

It decides to switch tactics.

“My name is Robert,” It says, deciding against using Its favourite name. It has a suspicion that the boy might suspect it weird for a dancing clown to be about in the woods.

The boy swallows hard, “ple-please call me Bi-Big.”

“Big?” It repeats in a slow drawl, “why, that almost sounds like a false name.” Its face darkens and It advances towards the boy for the first time. “I should hope you are not repaying my kind overtures with lies.”

“N-No,” denies the boy with wide eyes as he tries to back away further, “tha-that is what fo-folks ca-call me sir.”

It smiles sharply when the boy backs into a tree and makes a surprised noise.

“Little Buddy,” It says instead, ignoring the provided name for the cleverly constructed conversational side step that it was. “These woods are not safe for young ones such as yourself.” It offers a deceptively innocuous hand to the boy, “why not let me accompany you home?”

The boy shakes his head again. “I re-really ca-can not sir.”

It watches the boy for a moment longer, enjoying the human’s obvious unease, before It smiles and shrugs. “Then I insist that I accompany you on your trip.”

“O-Oh, no sir, ple-please-” begins the boy endearingly, trying to talk his way out of the situation.

“I really must insist,” It interrupts, all hints of joviality erased from Its tone.

The boy stares at It for a moment, then abruptly the fight seems to drain out of him. “Ple-please sir,” he says imploringly, “I-I know I am trespassing, bu-but I can not le-leave without my li-little brother. Ple-please let me fi-find him be-before it’s too la-late. They say the-there is a be-being in the woods that ea-eats children.”

It steps forward again, causing the boy to tense though he does not move. Instead, the boy allows It to draw near, close enough that It is able to use the sharp tip of a claw to tilt the boy’s face upwards until their gazes meet.

The boy is frightened, his thin limbs are shaking tremulously and his lower lip wobbles tellingly. However, It is taken in by the hint of steel in the boy’s gaze, so much so that It decides that It made the right decision to not eat the boy earlier.

It likes this boy.

“Very well,” It concedes and leans in close, “you may proceed with my blessings, Little Buddy.”

The boy jerks in surprise and It grips onto the boy’s face in response, hard enough that Its claw cut shallowly into the boy’s skin, drawing beads of blood.

The boy looks nervous, having caught onto Its new trap. “O-Oh, sir, n-no, I can not ask-”

“But know this,” It continues as if the boy has not spoken, “I will not forget this favour.”

It licks the blood of the tip of Its claws and watches as the boy’s face falls, fully understanding the situation and the inadvertent deal he had struck with It. After a few seconds, the boy’s expression hardens.

“I-If this is a fa-favour,” the boy says, “the-then I request tha-that we state the te-terms.”

It really does like this clever boy.

“I allow you to pass in exchange for a future favour,” It smiles mirthlessly, “these are my terms.”

The boy grits his teeth, looking like a newly born bicorn, too inexperienced to be properly vicious but brimming with potential. “Ple-please allow me to ta-take my brother home sa-safely sir, in exchange fo-for a future fa-favour.”

It chuckles and walks a slow circle around the boy, heedlessly of the dagger, It is much too old to be seriously injured by mere iron.

“I hardly think you are in a position to refuse my terms Little Buddy.”

The boy’s shoulders draw in tight. “I-I dare not re-refuse your ge-generous offer si-sir,” bites out the boy. “I-I,” the boy starts and stops, floundering for a moment before he gives in to the inevitable, “I will do an-anything sir, if you wi-will help me re-return my brother home sa-safely.”

It smiles and reaches out to grip the boy’s chin again, noticing for the first time that the boy has lovely blue eyes.

It thinks the boy will grow up to be a splendid adult.

“Final offer Little Buddy, I help you escort your brother home safe and sound, and in return,” It smiles with all Its teeth, “you will return to me when you are of age.” It decides to omit the fact the boy’s brother is meant to be Its dinner, missing one meal will not be too big of a loss if It can have this boy.

The boy looks briefly confused, before he flushes a blotchy red, having clued in to what It was insinuating.

“Bu-but my brother wi-will be safe,” the boy says doggedly, obviously thinking better of trying to hash out why It needs him to be of age.

“Oh yes,” confirms It readily, “I have no interest in your brother.”

The boy nods firmly.

“I-I agree.”

It smiles and takes in a deep breath, savouring the residual scent of the boy’s fear before It waves a hand.

The will-o’-wisps that have been hovering in the background blinks in and out in response, before lighting up obediently, their ghostly blue glow casting a solemn trail into the dark woods.

“Follow the path Little Buddy.”

The boy readjusts his grip on the iron dagger and sets forth, only to stop a few feet away. He turns around to face It with a complicated look of part distaste and part gratitude. “Tha-thank you sir,” the boy forces out, affecting a surprisingly graceful bow, one that spoke volume about the boy’s parentage, “go-good evening.”

It watches the boy leave with a wide smile.

It is looking forward to seeing the boy again.

In the meantime, It allows Itself to shift back into Its normal form. When It moves again, Its heavy hooves leave rotted grass in Its wake. It trails after the boy silently, flitting from shadow to shadow, and kills what few creatures are stupid enough to still try and make a snack of the boy.

After the third blood pixie is torn apart by Its antlers, the other creatures leave a wide berth for the human boy.

It snorts quietly when the boy finally stumbles across the clearing with the bound children and immediately uses the dagger to clumsily cut through the ropes on a younger boy in a yellow shirt. The boy then hesitates before using the dagger to cut loose the other children as well. He gathers the children in a tight circle and whispers something to them, before they break apart.

The will-o’-wisps remain unhelpfully dark, waiting for Its reaction to the boy’s implicit default on the terms of their deal.

As the seconds tick by, the other children started to trade terrified whimpers.

Its Little Buddy draws in a deep breath and says loudly, voice ringing in the clearing, “Al-all of us ne-need to stay together if I wa-want to get my brother home, the-there is safety in nu-numbers.”

One of the other children begins to cry softly when nothing immediately happens.

But Its Little Buddy had nothing to fear, It is not mad.

It is too busy laughing.

Such a clever, clever boy.

With a stamp of Its massive hooves, the will-o’-wisps flicker back into life, creating a wavering, and dangerous, pathway out of the woods. The boy is not the only one who knows how to fulfill a bargain in essence but not in good faith.

It turns away when the boy breathes out and begins to guide the other children along the path.

It can not wait for Its Little Buddy to grow up.

 

---

 

Ever since that chance meeting in the woods, pixies have been following Bill around town.

This is less cute than it sounds.

Bill quickly realizes that he is the only one who can see them, and that they are not friendly.

The one time Bill got close to one of the flitting creatures, when they first started following him around, it had snarled at him and bit him on the hand, drawing blood.

Bill had jerked back but before he could put up his arms to protect himself from the incensed pixie, he noticed the other pixies murmuring to one another. Then, in unison, they started to dive bomb the one that bit Bill.

Bill had watched on in horror as the other pixies proceeded to swarm the one that bit him in an angry cocoon of sharp little claws and vicious teeth, and heedless of the pained screams, the swarm did not dissipate until a few minutes later. There was nothing left of the pixie that had bit Bill, except for a few drops of dark green blood on the ground and a torn wing.

Bill understands then that the pixies are sentries for the creature he met that night.

He largely ignores the pixies from that point on.

It helps that Georgie is back, safe and sound, that his parents are on speaking terms again and that he now has a new group of friends in the children he had rescued that night. On bright sunny days, Bill can almost pretend that the encounter in the woods never happened.

He can almost forget that he went against all that he knew of the creatures in the forest and entered into a deal with one of the Fair Folk.

Almost.

“I-I will keep my word, the-there is no need for yo-you yo trouble yourself by ke-keeping watch,” Bill says one night, when he comes into his room and finds a mangled pixie on his desk. He idly notes that it is the same one that had laughed uncontrollably when Richie had accidentally nailed him with a rotten apple earlier that morning.

He picks up the pixie with a shaky hand and begins to wrap it carefully in an old shirt, planning to bury it by the edge of the woods the next day.

There is a flutter by the window and when he looks up from his task, there is a humongous raven perched by the window sill.

It politely taps a claw against the glass.

Bill’s heart stutters in his chest but he forces himself to move, remembering his etiquette lessons.

“Go-good evening,” he says to the bird once he is close to the window, eyeing its talons with caution. “I-I was not expecting a la-late night visitor and ha-have nothing prepared. May I su-suggest ano-another e-evening?”

The bird responds by smiling, stretching its beak grotesquely, and Bill forces himself not to flinch back even as his instincts screamed at him to move away from the unnatural creature.

As Bill watches, the bird reaches up to tap against the glass again.

With a silent sigh, Bill closes the last bit of distance between himself and the window, opening the latch with a quick flick of his wrist and backing away quickly.

The raven nudges the window open and waits expectantly.

Bill realizes after a second that it was waiting for an invitation, clued in by the slow turn of its head from Bill to the edge of the window that separates the outside and his room.

He thinks carefully about his next words. “Wi-will you jo-join me in my ro-room for to-tonight?”

For a second the raven simply stares at him, then, disconcertingly, it begins to laugh. As it did, its form begin to protrude and contort oddly, stretching and reaching until it is not a bird but a man.

Or what passes off as a man.

Bill swallows thickly.

“Si-Sir,” he says cautiously, edging slowly towards his bed rest, where the jar of verbena infused cream sat innocently.

“Little Buddy,” Robert says in response, blue eyes twinkling and obscenely red lips lifted in a manic grin. “Thank you for inviting me into your room for tonight.”

Robert had obviously caught on to Bill’s attempt to limit his invitation, but seems more amused than angry by the restriction to only one night and only Bill’s room.

Bill tries not to frown, he has the disconcerting sensation that he has been bested but is not yet sure how. He would very much have preferred to not let Robert in at all, but he had no choice, Bill could not risk upsetting one of the Gentry by dismissing a call for conversation without proper cause.

“Of co-course,” he says instead, “ple-please make yourself comfortable for to-tonight.”

Robert tilts his head, still smiling that peculiar smile. “What about tomorrow night?”

Bill pales, “I-I would not pre-presume that I have the ho-honour of your company for mo-more than one ni-night.”

“Oh Little Buddy,” says Robert with a disappointed shake of his head, “you have no idea how many nights I want.”

Bill ducks his head in false modesty in response, careful not to rebuke Robert’s unspoken compliment even as his stomach roiled with fear.

“Do not fear Little Buddy,” Robert continues as he turns away to gaze curiously around the room, “I am patient.” He walks over to examine a portrait of Georgie and Bill whilst the latter tracks his progress with a wary gaze.

A wariness that is proven to be necessary, because between one blink and the next, Bill finds himself pinned against a bedpost.

He bites down the instinctive cry of surprise.

Robert is leaning over him, impossibly tall and gaze much too hungry for Bill’s liking. Almost in a re-enactment of that night in the woods, Bill finds his chin being lifted up so he could look directly at Robert.

Much like the other creatures that dwelled in the woods, Robert is beautiful and deadly. His skin pale and his hair is a deep red, but the most striking feature is his eyes. As Bill watches, Robert’s eyes flicker from blue to gold, and his pupils shift into slits, giving him a distinctly cat-like appearance.

“You are mine Little Buddy,” Robert says in a soft whisper, “you will do well to learn this lesson, and in time, you will also learn to want to be mine.”

Bill swallows and lowers his gaze. “I-I am flattered si-sir, but I fear I-I am not worthy of yo-your esteemed affections.”

“I will be the judge of that. But for now, I think you should be in bed.”

Bill feels his eyes widen, mind racing at the implications of the words-

Robert huffs a quiet laugh, and backs away, settling comfortably into the armchair by the fireplace, where Bill spends his time reading before bed every night.

“Fret not Little Buddy, as I said, I can be patient.”

After a few seconds, during which Robert begins to studiously flip through the novel Bill had left on the small stand by the chair the night before, Bill exhales shakily and moves to get ready for bed.

Once he is in bed, he props his back against the bed and goes back to watching Robert cautiously, feeling a bit more safe in the especially commissioned bed which was crafted from a blend of rowan and hazel bark.

“Shall I tell you a story Little Buddy?”

Bill hesitates, but eventually nods when it became apparent that Robert was waiting for a reply.

Robert makes a pleased sound and begins to talk.

Bill is not sure what language the creature is speaking in but finds, much to his dismay, that it is causing his eyelids to droop.

The last thing Bill remembers before he falls asleep, is the sight of Robert’s smiling face and the sensation of a cool hand caressing his hair.

When he wakes the next morning, Robert is gone, and so is the dead pixie.

Bill stares at the bloodied shirt for a few seconds then decides to bury it anyway, suspecting that the actual body did not receive the proper burial he had planned the night before.

As he leaves his room, he notices a bundle of red flowers carefully propped against his door, looking not dissimilar to wild daisies. Bill cautiously bends down and picks up the bouquet and freezes when he sees the carefully written tag, which read simply: ‘For my Little Buddy’.

The bouquet drops from his hands.

Bill swallows down the sense of nausea, and runs quickly down the hall to Georgie’s room, barging in with a bang and breathing a sigh of relief when Georgie turns around to give him a puzzled look.

“Bill?”

“No-nothing Georgie, so-sorry.”

Closing Georgie’s door, Bill tries to slow down his panicked breathing, secure in the knowledge that Robert did not go back on his word and hurt Georgie, despite having free access to the rest of the Denbrough household.

Bill is beginning to suspect that Robert is not just any ordinary fairy.

He has never heard of a creature from the woods being unafraid of iron, being able to enter the space protected by rowan and hazel or being able to go against the carefully worded invitation of the host.

Deciding that he can research the matter in more detail later, Bill rushes off to ready himself for his morning lessons. He hesitates when he catches sight of the bouquet and considers dumping the flowers for all of two seconds before his shoulders slump in resignation, unwilling to discard a gift for fear of offending Robert.

Instead, Bill grabs the flowers and makes his way downstairs, passing off the bouquet to the first startled housemaid he saw and mumbling about placing it in a vase.

By the time he finishes breakfast and makes his way up to the study with Mr. Cottingley, his elderly tutor, the maid had done as asked and placed the freshly cared for bouquet on the table.

Mr. Cottingley squints at the flowers as he slowly sinks into his usual chair.

“Do yo-you know what ki-kind of flowers the-these are sir? I received the-them as a gi-gift.” asks Bill.

The man thoughtfully stroke his beard, “I believe these are aster flowers my boy.” Mr. Cottingley continues with a soft chuckle, “they symbolize patience and elegance. It appears that you have an admirer.”

Bill forces a smile and tries not to think about the way Robert had towered over him last night or the hunger in the creature’s gaze.

But for the rest of the lesson, whenever he looks up from his notes and catches sight of the flowers, Bill hears an echo of Robert’s word in his head and feels the phantom touch of a claw through his hair.

I can be patient.

 

---

Red Aster

Patience

Chapter Text

1715

There is pain and darkness.

It breathes in and opens Its eyes.

 

1740

It is not sure what awoke It from Its slumber, but It feels a vicious sense of excitement when It realizes that there are new creatures milling about in Its territory.

It did not enjoy Its last traipse through the barren lands.

The animals who resided around the hole where It fell had been mindless and bestial. They knew fear on an instinctive level but the emotion soured their flesh and made them ultimately, bland snacks.

It crawls slowly out of Its nest and makes Its way towards the source of the tantalizing stink of fear and decay.

There are wooden cabins and small pits of fire, cloistered tightly within the clearing which separates the homes from the eager hunger of those that live in the woods.

It spends some time watching from a tall tree.

These creatures are funny little things.

They are not mindless.

They communicate in choppy sounds which results in them chaotically rushing about from one destination to another, frantically killing things and consuming their burnt flesh, desperately gathering broken branches and using them to feed the constantly hungry fire and regrouping for more of the same.

All the while, reeking of terror.

Such odd critters.

It eventually focuses on the smallest of the lot.

It hears the creature first, crying piteously in its abode, smelling of dissatisfaction and confusion and fear.

It cocks Its head to the side and makes Its way down from the tree, Its limbs pierce through the bark of the tree with ease and It imagines doing the same to the tiny little snack.

It is easy to slip past unnoticed by the bigger creatures, preoccupied as they were by their various tasks.

Soon, It is standing in front of the tiny animal.

The thing is crying harder now, loud sobbing shrieks brought on by the presence of something as unnatural as It.

It opens Its mouth.

And feels a blinding sense of pain.

It rears back in a whirlwind of anger and hurt and turns Its many eyes around.

There is another creature.

It is not much bigger than the small snack It had been trying to consume.

But this one is holding something in its hand and looks ready to fight.

A protector.

It eyes the creature then the thing it is holding with an assessing gaze. It does not know what the object is, but it is smoking gently.

It opens Its mouth again, allowing Its face to distend until there is nothing but rows and rows of sharp, glinting teeth.

The protector does not move.

And more importantly, the protector is not afraid.

Instead, the bigger snack says something to It in that strange language and waves the object in its hand menacingly.

It does not understand.

The protector must notice this, because instead of speaking again, the confounding thing does something with the object and a burst of bright fire pain pierces one of Its many legs.

It scuttles back into the comforting embrace of the darkness and bares Its teeth, but there are more things coming now. It can sense their panic as they rush to congregate at Its location.

The object which summons pain and fire is also calling the rest of the pack to this tiny wooden house.

It makes a growling sound but tactfully retreats.

It does not like this protector.

But It is also not stupid.

It will reassess the new information and come back when the protector is gone.


1769

It awakes on a rainy September day, when a small brawl between a furious British officer and an equally incensed colonist resulted in the latter being beheaded and mounted on a spike for the town to heed as a cautionary tale.

There is a war coming.

It can sense it in the general uneasiness and impotent rage of the human colony near Its nest. It feels a thrill shoot up Its curved spine and slowly unfurls Itself into Its normal shape.

Its many legs strike the ground with heavy thuds as It circles in place and stretches out Its many limbs.

It is glad that humans breed so quickly.

After that first encounter with the baby, It had returned to Its observation spot and kept watch to better understand Its prey. It quickly picked up the primitive language and learned that the creatures called themselves humans.

It learned about their fears, their hopes and their routines.

It waited for the protector to show up, but when, upon Its second week of surveillance, It still saw neither hide nor hair of the boy, It decided to try again.

It crept into the baby’s room slowly and, when the protector does not show up with the damn musket, It widened Its jaw and crunched down on the soft wiggling human.

And felt something close to happiness.

The tiny babe was delicious, a significant improvement from the animals It had eaten in the past.

Thus began Its new diet.

It kept Itself hidden at first, and allowed the small colony to flourish, being careful to only have the occasional snack.

It watched patiently as the humans built more houses, gave birth to more humans and so forth.

It counted down the days.

Then, on the third anniversary of the boy’s appearance, It gorged Itself and, over the course of three days, It decimated the small logging town.

Then It went to sleep.

But there are more snacks now, like cockroaches and rabbits, the humans have been busy breeding and repopulating themselves.

It cracks Its neck and blinks Its many eyes to rid Itself the last vestiges of sleep.

Then It makes Its way slowly to the new human colony. There are still wooden houses but the structures are bigger and taller. There is an acrid stench which overhangs over the town, which It attributes to the many plumes of black smoke billowing out of the houses.

It salivates when It realizes that the current human population has more than quadrupled the township.

So many tasty morsels.

It ventures closer, shifting as It did, until It is a more manageable size and is no longer at threat of creating a disturbance in the bushes.

It waits.

Soon enough, It sees a couple of children running Its way.

It drools.

It likes children the best.

Such soft, sweet snacks.

The children draw nearer and It unhinges Its jaw in anticipation of swallowing them whole, It will take Its time with Its next meal, when It is not blinded by hunger and the last dregs of sleep.

There is a click.

It turns slowly.

Impossibly, contrary to all of Its knowledge of humans and the lengths of their lives, the protector is back.

It stares at the boy.

The boy stares back.

There is no fear.

Just a determined sense of helplessness.

“Do-don’t eat the-them.”

It blinks a few of Its eyes.

How precious.

The boy stutters.

“Why no-not?” It mocks, trying out the human language for the first time in thirty years.

The boy flushes a dull red. “I wi-will shoot you again,” he waves the gun.

It frowns sharply.

It does not like guns.

But guns are slow, and require reload, so if It can dodge the first bullet, the second one should theoretically never be loaded in time.

It lunges.

The boy raises the gun and shoots, his hands surprisingly steady.

It flattens Itself and avoids the bullet, and opens Its mouth to ready Itself for the bite.

A second bullet lodges into Its forehead.

It freezes mid motion.

Then growls.

It fucking hates the pain.

And there is pain.

It does not know what is in the bullets but they hurt much more than the ones the townsfolk used to wield. It lets loose an unearthly shriek and rushes towards the boy again, It will tear this human to pieces and slowly devour the remains and-

Another bullet lodges into Its face.

A crack appears in Its facade, and It feels part of Its form disintegrate.

It needs sustenance.

It is not at Its prime.

“I will end you,” It hisses at the boy, whose face is pale in the dim lighting of the woods but whose gaze remains resolute.

“Try-try It,” the boy spits back, and pulls out another gun.

Against all odds, It feels a rush of something close to excitement in the pit of Its endless stomach, not unlike the hot heady rush of swallowing a comet.

None of Its meals have ever put up this much of a fight before.

It weighs Its options.

“I will be back,” It promises, as It begins to withdraw into the dark obscurity of the woods.

“No-no you won’t,” mutters the boy, and shoots.

It escapes with three more bullet wounds and an intense desire to make the boy scream.