It was an awful, terrible, wrenching feeling in your stomach, strangely unlike the ones you would sometimes get right before he got to you, the ones that signalled his arrival that you wouldn’t register until it was far too late. It ate away at you all day, this forebodingly persistent gut feeling, and a creeping prick on the back of your neck seemed to whisper dreadful things in your ear. By all accounts, surely all of this meant he was coming to you… Right? It was true you were quick to assume the worst in nearly any situation, and now was no exception. Pennywise was always delighted to exploit this paranoia in you; it made him giddy, it gave him joy, especially when your misgivings would almost inevitably turn into nothing and he could tease you to the moon and back for being so flighty and skittish, so silly and cute.
But now… Now was different. To tell the truth, the roiling in your stomach was beginning to scare you. At first you thought you might have eaten something dubious and were now experiencing the apex of the worst bout of food poisoning in recorded history, but given that you hadn’t eaten much of anything in the past couple days it seemed reasonably unlikely to you. It felt like… The blood underneath your skin, flowing through your veins, was restless. It screamed out for something and it wouldn’t stop. Your life force was inconsolable, wailing and shrieking for something you couldn’t pinpoint, and finally you couldn’t take it anymore. You went to him.
Pennywise hadn’t been awake for very long, and neither had you. He’d taken you long ago, during his last cycle, 27 years previous, and made a companion out of you. He was content to claim you and leave you to continue your life in the world above, interrupting you frequently with interludes of his childish games, often salting you up with fear before he pinned you beneath him for devilishly depraved things. He loved the taste of your fear and pleasure, the delicious blend of your essence addicting to him in a way that made a rather compelling argument for your own continued survival. Once Pennywise had picked someone out, be they food or something else entirely different, they didn’t tend to last long even in the best of times. His attention span was like that of a child’s, it was fickle and capricious and if you stopped amusing him for even a second that was the end. But you were different. Your love and adoration for him was so earnest and unwavering, he could taste it. To be honest, Pennywise had never tasted something so pure and sweet, that rolled off his tongue the way you did, and given how rare of an occurrence this particular flavor was for him, he was hard-pressed to get rid of it. Somehow, with you around, he felt… Stronger, more enriched, more substantial and secure. He wanted you to stay, so he kept you with him while he was awake and when the time finally came for him to go back to sleep, you’d gone with him.
Waking up practically no older than you’d been when you’d gone to sleep so long ago was hard to process, as was the revelation that everyone you loved and held dear had deserted the town to grow old elsewhere following the shock of your sudden disappearance. Everyone had moved on without you and now you were quite literally an artifact of another time lost in a modern world you hadn’t seen develop because it had built itself up in your slumber. It was disorienting to be sure, and you were heartbroken at the loss of your loved ones, but the one you loved most had chosen you, he wanted you, and somehow that made it all worth it in the end. When you awoke with him he had thankfully recovered from his last altercation with them, with those kids, but you remembered the dreams you shared in your sleep together. He was obsessed with finishing it once and for all, to give back to them tenfold what they had made him feel for the first time. It made you uneasy, of course, as you had all the confidence in the world for your monstrous lover, but it was clear a similar force of nature had chosen those kids to hamper him much in the way that he had chosen you, and it was not as simple as ability or who had the upper hand. It was destiny. That terrified you.
When you came upon his lair that feeling in your gut only seemed to compound inside of you, your heart pounding against your chest as you made your way down into the deepest, cavernous reaches of Derry as you’d so often done before. The way down was familiar in a way you couldn’t fathom, like a memorized dance ingrained in the way you carry yourself on your feet, crawling through the intricate tunnels of the sewers below, and before you know it you’re stepping back into the hollow where he made his home, where you’d slept together all those years, burrowed underneath the cistern in a place that existed to no one else in the world besides you and him. The aftermath of a no doubt brutal confrontation is evident in your surroundings and although your body is insistent that he’s here, you can’t feel him, you can’t see him anywhere. You’re hesitant, swallowing hard. Its difficult to find your voice.
“P-Penny?” You call out timidly. The cave answers back, mimicking your own voice in a sneering echo. You feel small.
“Are… Are you here? Penny? Please… P-please answer me…” You feel like you’re talking to yourself more than anything, but you continue your search, stepping over jagged rocks and being careful not to trip. You’re persistent despite your nerves, determined to find him, find your beloved clown, the self-proclaimed love of your life. Even in times like this when you deliberately sought him out he would speak to you in your mind, offering up teasing little hints to his whereabouts or some other such riddle-like banter to occupy you while he stalked you from behind, searching for the right moment to pounce. The silence in here was deafening and uncharacteristic, and it made your blood run cold. You wanted to assume he was just playing games as he always did, but some part of you knew better. Somehow, you knew.
And then, you see it. You could see the remnants of him, of his face, screaming in frozen terror, etched into a calcified mass near the base of the cave’s center teeth, and you finally break. All the dread, the fear, the wrenching pain in your stomach suddenly comes through you, welling into your eyes and you collapse to your knees with a heartrending shriek, your legs giving out from underneath you as you grieve for your love, for the one thing that had grown more important to you than anything else. You weep bitter, inconsolable, anguished tears, your sobbing playing back to you in hollow reflection from the cave’s inner walls, almost mocking your suffering. You hold what’s left of him in your arms, pressing your cheeks wet with hot tears against his screaming visage. This cave was once buzzing with life, the energy of him, his deadlights, and now there was… Nothing. All that once was was now nothing, the ashes of a once roaring fire and you couldn’t stand it. You couldn’t stand it.
You never stopped crying, and hours felt like days as you sobbed into his remains. It felt as though this is what remained of existence, damned to mourn the loss of your lover until the sands of time condensed into glass just like he did. You don’t even remember falling asleep, going limp in the base of the cave until you transcended this cruel plane of existence into one a little more forgiving, one where you could forget for a time what you lost and be with him again, even if only in your thoughts. A heartbeat is ever-present in the corridor you walk, matching each step of your feet as you trudge through the darkness into something unknown. You hear voices, you hear names, you hear them, they’re hurting him. He’s hurt and you can’t stand it. You’re reliving his last moments, excruciating pinpricks jabbing into the side of you as you force yourself to continue, keep moving forward, towards what you had no earthly idea but you couldn’t stop nonetheless. The revelation of what had happened is becoming clearer to you, like mist in a sleepy lakeside town dissipating to betray a truly ugly picture underneath. Each slight against him is a slight against you in equal measure, and every time he’s wounded you feel those pinpricks dig a little deeper. By the time they’ve reduced him into nothing and squeezed his still-beating heart between their fingers you’re screaming out for them to stop, but you can’t get to them in time, can’t get to him. It pops and the ever-present heartbeat ceases. You stop walking. The corridor seems darker than before. You call out for him.
Silence. Nothing but silence.
“Pennywise, please… I can’t take this. I h-heard what they did to you, I saw… But I know you can survive it, you can survive anything. Please… Please.”
You fall to your knees with a heaving sob.
“I… P-please… Give him back to me… Give him back… I love him…”
Love isn’t enough. Belief is what you need.
Belief? You look up from your hands, greeted by nothing. The voice speaking in your head was not yours, nor Pennywise’s. You didn’t recognize it. You waited for it to speak again, whatever it was, but it was already gone.
Belief… Of course, it was what Pennywise had thrived on. The belief in his presence, indomitable and imposing and otherworldly, the belief in what he could do and what he could inflict. The belief in him as the driving force behind the grim atmosphere of Derry, as the eater of worlds and the utter scourge of humanity. The belief in him as an influential force of nature that wasn't a question of being, he always just was. They might have believed that they could kill him with their words, with their belief in his vulnerability, but you believed he could live, that this wasn't the end for him, for something so infinite and powerful and everlasting. He had seen thousands of years before you were ever a speck of potential existence within this universe, before any of them were, and he would see thousands more, with you at his side if he so wished it. You believed that a spark of his deadlights still existed in this world, either within you or embedded in the earth where he came so many years before. Regardless of where, his essence still lingered, it was undeniable, and you believed that it was capable of revival. You believed that your belief was enough, that your love for him was enough to bring him back to you. Stupid as it sounded, you believed it. You believed in him.
“What’s that, sweetling?” You hear a voice, a familiar voice, say.
Your heart skips a beat and you choke back another sob, blinking back another eyeful of tears as you look around wildly. The corridor is dark enough that you can’t even see your own hands let alone your surroundings, but an encompassing warmth is starting to take over where there was once a cold, dead chill.
“Say it. Say it for me.”
“I… I b-believe.”
“More. More, girl. Tell me more.”
“I… Believe in y-you, Pennywise. I b-believe you’re still alive, that you can survive a-anything. I believe.”
“Who am I? Tell me, pet.”
“T-the… The e-eater of worlds.”
“l o u d e r.”
It’s a growl, guttural and demanding, but desperate and insistent all the same. You can hear in his voice that he’s still weak, that he needs you. Needs your help.
“You’re… Y-you’re the eater of worlds.”
“Do you love me, precious? What am I? What am I to you?”
“...Irreplaceable.” You sob. “Irreplaceable. I… I c-can’t live without you.”
“Do you believe that? Answer me.”
“I can’t live without you. I can’t. I feel so empty, like there's a part of me missing.” You’re sobbing into your hands, inconsolably weeping, wishing more than anything that you could feel the silk of his suit in your fingers again, if even for a second. “I want you b-back, I… I-I love you more than anything..."
“Do you believe that I am a part of you, pet? Do you believe that we are one and the same, that my light exists within you?”
You sniffle, taking a deep breath. “...I do. Yes.”
The warmth gets more intense with each passing second, with every new exchange, with each assurance you give him he’s more enriched, less lost to this world. You can almost feel the flicker of his deadlights, excited by belief to feed on, surging with renewed life at your words. But still it asks for more. He's still weak.
Something presses into your chest in the darkness, pawing at the place where your heart lies beating against your ribcage. It's not a hand, you can only feel a single point of contact. It feels more like a talon, sharp and harsh, bruising.
"I need… I need… A part of you. Give me… Give… Help..."
He sounds so broken and hurt, it wrenches your heartstrings. You can't tell if he's genuinely distraught or simply trying to manipulate you into giving him what he wanted. You were too far gone to care either way.
"They crushed my heart. My deadlights can't survive without it. But maybe… Maybe if I found a vessel, a replacement…"
"You want me to live, don't you? You love me… You love me, and you'd do anything to save me, wouldn't you?"
Of course the answer was yes but… You were so scared.
"A small sacrifice, pet, that will bring me back from the edge of death. You can do it… You can. Help me. Help me…"
There's no other choice, you know it. You swallow, taking a deep breath, stifling your fear for him.
"I'll do it."
Not another word is spoken between you before that spindly talon plunges into your skin and you scream out, the blackness of the void swallowing up the shrill, piercing tone of your voice while he digs into your chest; digging, rooting, probing, feeling around your wounded flesh for his prize, what you so graciously offered up to him.
"Such a sweet, giving girl. Giving her life for me, so willing, so loving. Good girl. Good."
The voice is more distorted now and you're whimpering, sobbing as he tears you open. You don't fight him, you lay back and let it happen, even as his leg curls around your beating, pulsing heart and rips it from your body. The pain is so blinding that you can't breathe, can't even summon the air to keep screaming. The warmth envelops you and your sight goes completely black. Just before you pass out, you catch a glimpse of blinding lights, pulsing and flickering, calling to you…
You wake up in the cavern, drinking back a gasping gulp of air as consciousness reclaims you. Something wriggles and writhes inside of you, something warm, something burning. He looms above you, the clown, wearing an impossibly large grin. He's holding you close, his grip crushing you against the broadness of his chest, nuzzling your face with his own as he hums, sings chirping insectile sounds of delight to comfort you.
"Good, precious girl… So selfless and sweet for me, willing to give up everything to save her precious Pennywise..."
You can't believe you're really seeing him again with your eyes, and despite the discomfort of his vice grip you return his embrace, clinging to him desperately, sobbing into his chest and feeling him with your hands in disbelief. You had to wonder how you were still breathing alongside him, until you see him move his head downward to nuzzle at your chest and you finally understand. Your ribcage is buzzing with warmth and life, and you can feel something convulsing inside where your heart had once been. He takes your hand in his and presses it to your bosom to feel the heat and luster, the glowing, burning brilliance inside. He's beaming.
"It was the only way to repay what you had given me, little one. Pennywise could not let such a sacrifice go unrewarded, and he couldn't bear to let such a loyal pet slip away. No… This way you'll stay with me, stay forever…"
Your cheeks flare up with color and you meet his eyes with your glossy gaze, enraptured. He rubs your chest with a smile, that big, impish buck-toothed grin that made you melt with such little provocation.
"A heart for a deadlight. More than a fair trade, don't you think, sweet one?"
You're overcome with such adoration for him; pure, all-encompassing love for your clown, blooming in your gut and pulsing in the calefaction of your veins. You want this moment to last forever, here with him, staring into the passionate swelter of those intense, golden eyes and feeling the warmth of his firm embrace against your weakened, recovering form, laying together in the isolation of the cave while you healed.
It was true what they said, that if you took care of IT, IT would take care of you. Yes…. You believed he would be just fine, because after all...
Pennywise lives, and so will you.