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Filling the blanks

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His house is empty. Not the ‘regular day’ kind of empty, when he walks through the door and he announces himself, just to remember that Audra is supposed to be out, in a charity event or even at the other side of the shore, filming her next big project. Not when he shouts her name and she’s sitting in the backyard or reading with her headphones on. Those times, he can tell she’s going to be there sooner or later. He never intended her to be an ‘all-American housewife’, who would wait for him with a homemade meal on the table and the happiest of smiles on her face —he knew whom he was marrying when he decided to propose, and he’s certain none of them could have taken that style of life— so it’s no big deal.

But today it’s different. Today he just got off from a plane and went through customs like he would do every time he would go out of the country, with the unavoidable idea that Audra wouldn’t come back to their home. A home that is no longer ‘Mr. and Mrs. Denbrough’s home’, but only his.

Now it’s all about him. People from Hollywood and New York and all the important cities will send Christmas cards to him alone. When producers and celebrity agents call, they will only need to talk to him. Contracts, bills to pay, postcards will only include his name, because there’s no need to another one. Because he doesn’t have anybody else.

It’s going to be hard. He knows it’s going to be hard. Reporters already know what happened —something involving a car accident during their improvised travel to Derry, a complete but somehow comforting lie— and they will be all over him in no time. Probably tomorrow. For a few days, he will have to sit down or stand up behind a thousand microphones, answering every uncomfortable question, lying to the faces of people who made him who he is, and accepting condolences for something that didn’t happen, forced to keep the secret for the rest of his life.

After the initial shock, everyone will start to forget. And he will forget, too. Maybe they’ll make him remember in a year or two, asking him to deliver a speech about her in a tribute, or wanting to find out, in interviews, how someone can be as strong as him when it comes to losing a beloved-one. But it will all be a blur. He will recall her red hair, her freckles, the feminine curves of her body, but not a single thing that she told him, or the sound of her voice, or the touch of her skin. It will feel like telling stories about a distant ancestor who he never got to know.

He already feels like he loves her less than he did when he left Derry. It will only take him three or four days to start to remember her like a forgotten high school girlfriend, and, to be frank, the thought isn’t that scary. Now her memory is interlocked with the memory of It and what It did to them. Bill doesn’t want to ever be capable of recalling it again. He wants to sleep his eight hours at night, he wants to be able to look at a paper boat or a sewer drain without feeling like crying… he wants to be left alone.

But he also wants her. Not only her red hair, her freckles or her shape. He wants the things she used to say, her voice, her skin. The warm presence of her body pressing up against his back when the winter became too much, her laugh lighting up the stunning emptiness of this haunted house, the sound of her shoes against the floor. He desperately needs all the details that proved Audra was there, was with him, was alive.

He can feel it. The unforgiving hand of oblivion taking her from his hold and into the darkness. Just like it will take all the Losers —like it actually did once—. Just like it will take Stan and Eddie, no matter how much it hurts right now.

It doesn’t make any sense. He doesn’t want it to hurt, but he somehow wishes he could keep the pain, too. His whole life is made out of these people. They were his wife and best friends. They went through so much to get to this point. He doesn’t want to wake up one day when he’s old and see his past as a cloud of confusing images that aren’t enough to make a single whole picture. He doesn’t want to forget all the sacrifice they all made for him. He doesn’t want to forgive himself.

It hurts now, he repeats to himself, leaving his suitcase on his bed —his and only his, no more cold feet looking for each other under the blanket, trying to warm up—. It won’t hurt forever. I forgot once and I can forget again.

Getting out of the bedroom and shutting the door —he can’t stand being there right now—, Bill can’t help but thinking about Georgie. He died at six years old. They only spent six years together almost three decades ago, and yet the memory is so vivid now he feels he just lost him again. It was defeated for good, they killed It, but that won’t bring Georgie back. That won’t bring his childhood back, or the moments they couldn’t share, or the afternoons when he would want to play something silly and Bill would tell him to go away, because that was for children and he wanted to be a big boy.

Today he’s a big boy. He’s a fucking big boy who wishes he would have done things differently. He wishes he had the chance to actually talk to his brother, help him to get a girl to like him in middle school, the whole ‘I’ll tell mom you were doing x or y’ experience. His prom, his eighteenth birthday, applying for college. How would it feel to hold his nephew? He couldn’t even have children of his own, and now he’s certain that he never will.

But, most of all, it makes him feel sick, how after all this, he forgot what happened to Georgie. It makes him feel sick how he’s going to forget him again. He was ready to sacrifice his friends for this personal battle, and he can’t even keep the victory with him. They trusted him enough to follow him to the end of the world, and he couldn’t even protect them. He couldn’t make sure they all were safe.

Feeling completely battered, thinking about Audra, he remembers the woman in New York, waiting for her husband to come back with no one to tell her he is gone. Or the other woman in Atlanta, who found the love of her life in a bathtub full of his own blood. Now he knows how it feels like and he shares the pain, but it won’t ruin his life like it ruined everybody else’s. Maybe he was supposed to die instead.

With the giant boot of guilt pressing him against the ground, Bill decides to do the only thing he can think of. The pain —especially this kind of pain— will eventually die, but he’s got the power to make it immortal. He never wanted anything more than the Losers, his brother and Audra to be immortal. So he gets into his studio, opens up his laptop and starts to write.

It doesn’t come out easy. He sits in front of his desk, staring at the accusing blank document as the dim streetlights filter through the blinds and paint a bit of orange in the darkness of the room, for half an hour with everything in his mind but nothing to say. The tic-toc of the clock on the wall becomes critical, pressuring him, warning him about how his time is running out. Nothing will be the same tomorrow. Every minute that passes without him writing is a step closer to the abysm, to oblivion.

He doesn’t understand. Words used to be his thing and now they’re gone. Perhaps he wasn’t as strong as he thought he was. He could be strong because he was with his friends, and any other feeling of influence that didn’t come directly of being around them was a façade, a false hope. Now he only has himself and he has to find that strength in his own heart.

Suddenly, it happens. He pushes a button and a letter appears on the bright screen. A few more letters become a word, and that words team up with another one to build a sentence. After that it feels so natural again. Simple, short sentences, full of truth and meaning. They start to fill the page. His fingers travel over the keyboard, taking no time to think about the style or literary value of what they’re typing. Like the old times. Paragraphs begin to get more and more heavy, complex, but most of all, honest. Without him even noticing, they’re telling a story.

The story he was always meant to write. The story about seven kids finding strength and trust in each other, overcoming all their fears, defeating the evil monster that was not only in their hometown, but also inside themselves. Everything because they had friendship; because they loved each other more than anything. And finally forgetting, going separate ways, recovering their lives.

Nobody would know. Nobody will know, except Bill. It might not be the best choice, or the healthiest way of living, but it feels right. It makes him feel bold, in full control, drunk in power. If he keeps writing and revising every day, they will stay with him. It couldn’t take them away, not even getting killed in the process. Bill has challenged the limits of what is possible, and of course it’s exciting, of course it’s a pinch of vigor in the middle of so much tiredness, so much resignation.

Then something happens. A spark. A sudden rush of adrenaline that goes from the soles of his feet to the top of his head, making him shiver. It isn’t like anything that had ever happened to him and he can’t put it into words. He almost jumps out of his seat, completely taken by surprise. Maybe that’s how it feels to get electrocuted.

But it’s not over. That’s not half as scary as what happens next. In a fraction of seconds, just a brief instant, his sight gets full of images that travel at the speed of light, overwhelming him because, somehow, he can process them all. Like a movie in fast-forward inside his head, right in front of his eyes.

A white room. Doctors, so many doctors. The sewers. A church that looks more like a haunted house. An enormous woman lying on her back, opening her legs. It makes him want to puke. Damn, he’s going to puke. A toilet. A fucking toilet with water raising up, but the water isn’t water. It’s red. A hand reaches out from inside the toilet. It seems to be some kind of monstrous claw. No, wait, it’s not. This is God’s hand. He can tell, feel it. The sewers again. Everything hurts. Richie is crying. He wants him to stop crying, but he’s fading away. The world around him is fading away as his heart gets filled with joy.

The last moment is like being in a giant uterus made of honey. Even though it’s a weird image, that’s what it feels like. He’s in a safe and sweet place, protected, fulfilled. The pain is gone. The visions are over.

Bill is horrified. This can only mean one thing; It is back. Of course! It was so innocent of them to think they could get out of this. He suspected it, but he didn’t dare to say anything. Everyone seemed so happy after defeating It, so eager to come back to where they were. He wasn’t selfish enough to rain on their parade, and now he realizes he was wrong. It obviously wanted them to believe they were out of danger. It was a part of its plan.

He needs to get up and call them. He can find them easily, in a question of minutes. No matter if it ruins their lives again, they made a promise. It can’t be out there, hurting people, and probably hurting them sooner than later. This is their responsibility now.

But he can’t move. Not that he’s simply shocked; he physically can’t move. His body won’t take orders. All it will allow him to do is just sit there, staring at the screen. He can’t even scream. He’s helpless.

“I-I’m not af…” He tries to mutter, “Af-afraid of you.”

Nothing happens.

“D-did you hear me? I-I’m not afraid.”

More silence.

“You can’t do an-anything to me. We k-k-killed you.”

His left arm starts moving. His left arm starts moving without him telling it to do so. His hand is raising towards the keyboard, slowly. So slow that he doesn’t notice it until it’s almost there. So slow that it doesn’t feel human.

He attempts to stop it, trying to move his other arm. But he can’t even feel it.

“We defeated you once, w-we defeated you twice, we c-c-can…”

The hand finally reaches his laptop. Bill is hypnotized by it. He’s not capable of take his eyes off of it. Something terrible will happen, he knows.

His index finger touches a key. His pupils go back to the screen, watching the letters appear, one by one.

B… I… L… L

Now he really can’t talk. His voice can’t find a way out. His mouth won’t make a sound.

“P-p…” He forces out, “Please.”

No answer.

“W-what do you want? We w-won. We already won.”

Two words.

Help me

“I-I don’t know how to h-h-help you. You’re a f-fucking monster! What would you…”

N… o… t… It

Not It, not It, not It. If this isn’t It, then what is it? It’s an entity that can take control over his body, for God’s sake!

He has to choose his words carefully.

“W-who are you?”

His fingers curl for a second before pressing the buttons to spell a name. The last name he would have think about in that moment.

Eddie

Finally, he can move. Not completely, but just enough to throw his back against the back of his seat and shake his head from side to side, in absolute amaze and denial. This can’t be. This can’t be happening.

When he manages to talk again, his voice sounds raspy and inhuman.

“N-no,” He whispers, “No, you’re l-lying.”

His arm remains still and Bill feels panic burning inside his chest.

“You’re lying!” He accuses, now shouting, “E-Eddie is gone.”

Tears are blurring his vision as his mind grows full of memories that are still too fresh; wounds that aren’t closed yet. Whatever it is, who or what is doing this, it’s cruel. He couldn’t even take Richie subtly blaming him of abandoning Eddie down in the sewers, and this thing —at this point he hopes it’s It, because he can’t imagine what he’ll do if it’s something even more evil— wants to bring it all back. But he knows better. He learned from Georgie and he won’t get fooled again.

“Eddie died,” He remarks, more for himself than for anything else, “I-I watched him die, okay? I’m not falling for your… your bullshit. I’m n-not scared!”

His arm raises once more towards the keyboard.

“Le-leave me alone! I w-won’t… you won’t… Leave us all al-alone!”

His hand keeps getting closer to his laptop.

“I don’t trust you, I don’t trust you, I don’t trust you…” Bill repeats, swaying back and front.

Please, Bill

“N-no, fuck you! You’re not Eddie! E-Eddie left in our arms. And y-you killed him! Let him rest now. Let me rest now!”

You know I’m telling the truth

Bill can’t help but exhale a brief, sarcastic laugh at that.

“H-how could I know? I-I mean… how could it be? You’re just trying to f-fuck up my head! Y-you’re mess-messing with my head, aren’t you?”

Bill

“Shut the fuck up! G-get out of my body!”

I don’t want you to cry

“T-then leave me alone!”

I can’t

Bill gulps as his sobs start to recede.

“W-why?”

Probably-not-Eddie doesn’t answer.

“Why can’t you leave me alone, Eds?”

This is the first time he accepts the possibility of this being Eddie. He doesn’t believe it, but he has to tell himself that it might be, just so his terror won’t take over again. And as soon as he does so, an intense wave of pure happiness shakes him violently. If he wasn’t so frightened, it would be the best feeling ever.

“A-are you… trapped?” He insists.

Y… e… s

Bill shivers.

“Who? Who t-trapped you? Are you… are you scared?”

No…

Just lost…

That’s why I came here

“S-so you want me to help you to… to find the way o-out?”

Please help me

“How?!” He desperately questions, “H-how can I help you? I-if you’re actually him—”

I’m Eddie, trust me

“I want to trust you,” Bill whimpers, “But it’s so hard. It’s so fu-fucking hard.”

You can’t help me if you don’t trust me…

You know I’m Eddie

“I don’t! I don’t know a-anything!”

But you feel it

“F-feeling is not enough!”

You’re my best friend, Bill…

You feel it in your heart

That somehow makes a click. A literal ‘click’ sound inside his head, which snaps him out of his hypnotized state and makes his hand drop. It’s gone and he’s the owner of his body again. He finally can breathe.

He flexes his arm and watches his fingers, mesmerized by them, in absolute freedom. He moves them and even counts them, and when he’s sure the nightmare is over, he feels operated by a completely different force. An unpredictable impulse of turning his hand and rest it against his own chest.

Suddenly, he becomes aware of his heartbeats and, immediately after doing so, the same rush of bliss threatens to push him out of his seat. He holds on to the chair and closes his eyes tight. This constant overwhelming should be enough to give him an infarct, but it doesn’t. Instead, it makes him think he heard something.

Bill bites his tongue and tries to listen with attention. It’s like someone whispering and he can’t tell from what part of the house it comes.

For a few seconds, it’s just silence, until, at last, he can hear it loud and clear.

Thank you

It comes from inside his mind. And it’s Eddie’s voice.