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Mind Games

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It was cold, murky and damp. The blueish hued lights were bright and flickering down in the sewers, endlessly and unyielding. It was hard to concentrate and stay focused on Pennywise, especially with how fast he moved. Bill’s head felt fuzzy as a dull ache started to form from behind his eyes.

“For twenty-seven years…” Pennywise began, starting to stalk toward them, a predator about to pounce on its prey. “I dreamt of you,” he continued, voice booming with intensity as he sauntered towards the losers while they were backing away. “I craved you…” his bright fiery orange eyes scanned them. “I missed you!” the growl shook the entire room as his eyes were now fixed on Bill.

Bill felt a sense of uneasiness clawing through his chest as Pennywise walked closer, those piercing eyes practically stabbing through him. “I missed playing with you the most, little Billy. You know, you haven’t really grown all that much,” the clown sneered, baring his sharp and jagged teeth. Pennywise was so close now, almost inspecting Bill with those orange eyes that never looked perfectly symmetrical. One was always a little off, making the clown look cross-eyed. “Tiny little thing,” he mused, forming a tentacle-like arm out of nothing. It slowly snaked itself around Bill, earning a loud yelp from the man just as it completely tightened and lifted him up into the air.

“Hey!” a voice shouted, resulting in both It and Bill to turn their heads toward the source. It was Mike. “Leave him alone,” his voice was strong and stern as he walked up to the giant spider-form that Pennywise decided to take on. It wasn’t a cute look either.

“Oh, lookie here… looks like you have a knight in shining armor,” Pennywise teased as his voice dripped with menace, graveling and sending vibrations through Bill.

He could feel his cheeks heating up from the comment. He tried to squirm the best that he could out of Pennywise’s hold, but to no avail. He could hear him laughing, so cruel and evil that it turned his blood cold. “Let go of me,” was all he was able to manage, voice barely audible. 

Pennywise swiftly turned his head to Mike, unnerving and snappish. It reminded him of the Exorcist. “Well, Prince Charming? Are you going to rescue your damsel in distress, or what?” he raised Bill higher than before, purposely putting distance between him and Mike to make him seem unattainable. The slimy tentacle tightened its hold on him, making it a lot harder to breathe. If he weren’t so focused on trying to get his lungs to properly function, he would have been far more mortified by Pennywise’s comment.

“Cut the bullshit, clown,” Mike sounded so sure and defiant. Looked that way too. Bill admired that a lot about him; his bravery. He just had this way about him that made Bill feel automatically safe and calm. That everything was going to be alright with him there. He trusted Mike completely.

“I’ve always found fear so fascinating… so much fun to play with.” Pennywise was lightly jostling Bill around in the air, rolling his tentacles so it would spin him around. Mike let out an exasperated sigh as he wiped his hand over his face.

“They can stay the same an entire lifetime, or morph into something completely new as time ticks on by…” he taunted, attentively eyeing both Mike and Bill. So, it looked like he wanted to specifically “play” with these two at that very moment. That was just fine and dandy.

“What, are you giving us riddles to solve now? What the fuck is this shit, Blues Clues or do you actually have a point to all of this mumbo-jumbo?” Richie called out, resulting in all of the losers giving him the side eye.

“Richie…” Eddie hissed under his breath as he elbowed him in the ribs.

“Oh, does Richie want to play too? It can be one big game,” he chirped in a sickeningly sweet sing-song tone that made everyone’s stomach churn.

“Nah, I think I’m good.”

“Oh, come on, it’ll be fun… we can get Eds to join in too! It can be a four-player game,” he continued. His one eye shifted over to Eddie momentarily but the evil entity mostly focused his attention on Richie. “We could all play truth or dare,” he mocked, giving Richie the most sinister and knowing grin. It made him shift uncomfortably.

“Rich what the actual fuck is this Joker on steroids talking about?” Eddie asked as he shifted closer to him.

“How you wound me, Eds. That was not very nice,” and suddenly there was a whole new tentacle forming and it had clutched onto Eddie, swooping him away from Richie in seconds.

Richie barely had any time to react other than, “What the fuck?!” shouting so loud, practically burning his throat with the intensity.

Ben went to pick up the sharp metal weapon that had fallen during Eddie’s latest capture, pointing it at Pennywise. “Put them down,” there was no waver to his voice, only determination.

Pennywise tutted playfully. “I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” he sang out, voice way too chipper and pleasant. He ducked his head down close to Ben, “unless you would also like to join in on all the fun,” there was suddenly a new tentacle starting to form, hovering over Beverly’s head. She gasped, shrill and loud, leaning into Ben to try to shift away from the grimy thing.

“Okay what the fuck is this? What’s your angle, dipshit?” Richie called out, patience thinning. He let out a strong huff of air through his nose as he tried to remain calm. Well, calm enough for the situation at hand at least.

Pennywise’s tentacle tightened around Eddie with a noise of pained agony escaping his lips. It was constricting his ability to breathe, difficult for his lungs and ribs to expand under the pressure. He started making choking sounds as more pressure was applied.

“You know what? That’s it, clown-fuck, I’m done with your horse shit." He had ripped the weapon from Ben’s grasp, barreling towards the clown seeing nothing but red and rage. All he could focus on was the sight of Eddie a near shade of blue as he gagged on the little amount of air that he had left that wasn’t being squeezed out of him.

Eddie couldn’t make out what Richie said, everything was muffled and hazy to him. Multi-colored spots were now dancing across his eyes. He thought he heard Richie screaming something. Or maybe it was someone else. If it were Richie, he figured it was probably something brash and bone-headed, which slightly amused himself despite being in such a dire situation. He would smile at the thought if his head wasn’t swimming or his chest didn’t feel like it was about to burst into flames.

Before he could comprehend anything else, he felt a cold and sharp rush of air at last rush through him, filling his lungs. But not so long after the collision with the sharp and rocky ground followed, sending a throbbing jolt straight through him. But he was breathing. He could inhale and exhale. He wanted to reach for his inhaler, but his arms felt like jelly.

Spots were still fluttering around in his line of vision. Through the rainbow clusterfuck that his eyes were conjuring up from a lack of oxygen, he managed to see Richie’s face slipping through the colors. Eddie internally laughed to himself, thinking ha, Richie is rainbow colored, in his state of delirium.

“Eddie? Eddie, hey. You okay buddy?” Richie asked kneeling besides him, eyes flooded with concern and care.

Eddie dumbly nodded. “Yeah, m’fine,” he wheezed.

“You need your inhaler?” he asked as he went to fish for it in his jacket pocket, knowing which one it was in. He went to adjust Eddie slightly so he could be sitting up more properly, then brought the cold piece of plastic to his lips. “Ready?” he asked as he looked at him, waiting for Eddie’s response. He nodded. Richie then pushed down on the inhaler, and Eddie deeply sucked in then slowly let escape a drawn-out breath after holding it for a few seconds.

“Better?” Richie asked.

Eddie nodded. “Thank you,” he responded with a slight smile. “But maybe next time keep your wise-ass mouth shut so the giant shapeshifting demon clown doesn’t almost literally squeeze the living shit out of me,” he complained.

Richie rolled his eyes. But before he could even get a word in, their little bubble around them dramatically popped as they heard what sounded like Bill and Ben shouting at Pennywise. He now had Beverly and Mike wrapped up in his snake-like tentacles, both frantically squirming to break free despite it being futile.

“Wait what the fuck did we miss?” Richie hissed to Eddie, looking over at him with a mix of confusion and exasperation all rolled into one.

Eddie narrowed his eyes at him quizzically. “Clearly enough, Einstein. Now shh.” Richie put up his arms in mock surrender.

“Let them down!” Bill shouted, now the one with the sharp weapon in hand, swinging it violently at Pennywise. He merely let out a haughty laugh that sent vibrations throughout the sewer as it loudly echoed.

“You itty bitty creature. So adorable, trying to hurt me,” he persisted in his taunts. “I do know how to hurt you, though. Your newest born fear,” he droned on with a devilish smile slowly forming on his face, cracks splintering in his pale alien-like skin. There was such gravel and intent to his voice, it sent Bill’s stomach tangling itself into knots. He didn’t like the way his tone sounded. It made him completely freeze in place, time seemed to almost stop.

“What the fuck are you talking about?” he managed to choke out, shifting his eyes between Pennywise and Mike. Pennywise’s smile grew.

“I think you know,” was all he said as Mike was suddenly gasping for air, face twisting into a pained grimace.

Bill’s heart nearly stopped. No. “No!” he shouted, and it was a blood-curdling shout. He wasn’t even thinking anymore after that. He couldn’t think; his mind was in a fog clouding over all rational thoughts, or any thoughts for that matter. It was as if he were on autopilot floating over his own body. He was swinging at Pennywise like mad, like his life depended on it. He kept jamming the rod harshly into the spider-legs, gnashing and brutal. He couldn't stop, going harder and harder each time he swung as he put all of his strength and passion into it. His mind was on fire, all he could see was scarlet red as if his thoughts were bleeding. He just wanted this evil thing to let go of Mikey. Mike.

“Don’t… you… fucking…” he was shouting completely mindless things with each thrust, completely out of breath. Every inch of his body ached and burned as more fury was filling him and coursing through his veins. Pennywise then decided he’d had enough, supposedly, and smacked Bill with one of his legs that sent him flying back against the ground. He could hear that fucking clown laughing, still.

Bill bit down hard, clenching his jaw. You could see the bone gently popping in and out as he kept biting down and grinding his teeth in anger. He got up in a sudden burst of adrenaline, and with all his energy and might threw that weapon and aimed right for the tentacle that was wrapped around Mike. It went right through, ripping the slimy flesh. It began unwinding around Mike in an instant, collapsing into dust. Mike fell alongside the dust to the hard ground with a thud, and Bill went rushing over to his side without a second thought. Or even any thought at all. 

“Mikey!” he shouted, falling to his knees right at his side. His eyes were closed, and he looked pale. Bill furrowed his eyebrows, eyeing him intently. “Mikey…” he kept on, gently shaking him, hand on his shoulder. “Mikey wake up. Open your eyes,” he whispered, voice closing up on him. His vision was starting to blur, making it hard to picture Mikey’s face. Mike’s face. Everything was blending together in a jumbled haze.

The only thing he could hear in his head was this mocking voice that kept saying he’s dead he’s dead he’s dead he’s dead he’s dead, over and over on repeat. It sounded a lot like Pennywise’s voice. But he knew it was in his own head. Is that what his inner demons sound like that taunt him, now? All his bad thoughts and emotions take the form of Pennywise? Makes sense, the evil clown-fuck plaguing his mind.

He kept hearing that voice though, like a broken record. He’s dead he’s dead he’s dead he’s dead he’s dead he’s dead, it was all he could hear. Hot tears spilled down his cheeks, a choked-out sob escaping him. “Mikey, please,” he panted, he barely felt like he could breathe. The sewer air suddenly became thick and suffocating, like a new tentacle was choking him by the throat. But there was nothing there.

“Bill…” Richie started, just looking at him solemnly. Almost… knowingly? Like he understood. He picked up the weapon that Bill had recently thrown to the ground in haste, handing it to him. “Go fuck up that clown.”

Bill’s deep desperation and heartbreak at that moment morphed into a newfound anger and determination. As if an internal switch in him flicked off, his wet and sorrowful eyes drained away, the emotion gone now to cold and distant. Hot wrath simmered through him and turned him murderous with a newfound vigor bubbling up trying to reach the surface. “You fucking piece of shit!” he screamed, going wild on Pennywise. Like he was a feral animal just released from its cage, swinging mercilessly at the giant spider-clown, despite it dodging every hit.

The clown just let out a rumbling cackle that ripped through Bill. “I appreciate the effort, little one. The things people will do for love,” his mock-filled singing voice had returned. Bill’s blood ran cold, like ice freezing over his veins.

“Son of a bitch,” he grumbled, ready to throw the rod in his hand yet again, in a heat of passion thrusting it back, resentment completely flooding his vision and his mind until he heard something. He thought he heard someone’s voice. It couldn’t be though.

“Bill?” that was Mike’s voice, and it made Bill’s heart stop. The rage was gone. Completely melted away. He felt it leave him as soon as he saw his face and his eyes looking at him like that.

Tears suddenly welled up in his eyes. He’s okay, he thought to himself. His eyes are open, and he’s looking at me. “Mikey?” his voice was soft and broken, almost disbelieving. He didn’t even realize he lowered the weapon that was in his hand.

“As touching as this reunion is,” Pennywise chimed in, “I’m getting a little bored.”

Before either Bill or Mike could respond, Eddie emerged out of the shadows. “Okay, I think it’s time for you to shut the fuck up,” he retorted as calm as ever, a newfound defiance in him. Richie felt himself smile with pride. You go, Eds, he thought to himself fondly.

He in one swift movement took the weapon from Bill’s hand and lunged it right at Pennywise’s head. The clown-spider stumbled back in shock, spurts of blood emerging from the fresh wound where the rod was lodged. They could all hear the yelling and gurgling escape the creature as it was shifting through different forms, different beings that showed up in their pasts once before. A very vague distant memory from twenty-seven years ago. Just like this thing was about to be. A distant memory.

It finally collapsed back onto the ground, twitching and writhing, blood still spitting out of it. Then suddenly the slight movements stopped. Everything was still.

“Oh my god. Did I do it? Did I kill it?” Eddie yelled in excitement, absolutely beaming with joy. Richie couldn’t help but smile wide.

“I think you did, Eds. I think you did,” he replied with such warmth to his voice, wrapping an arm around his shoulder.

“Fuck yeah! I just saved all of your asses,” he yelled jokingly, pointing at the other losers. They all smiled.

“Damn, that was pretty anti-climatic though. Just a stick to the face and he’s dead? What a weak-ass bitch,” Richie said, shaking his head mockingly.

“I wouldn’t go as far as to say anti-climactic…” Bill responded, still out of breath and visibly drained. His eyes were red-rimmed and stained with tear streaks. Richie gave him a knowing look of sympathy. He didn’t know if Bill would understand it, but he did it anyway.

“Yeah okay, let’s get the fuck out of here. It’s unsanitary and gross, we’re literally standing in piss and shit water right now,” Eddie added as he started walking. The rest followed him.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The losers had later relocated to the quarry, washing themselves off from the filth of the sewers. Eddie audibly groaned at this idea, completely hating it. Richie laughed, of course, and the others just ignored the comments.

“This isn’t much of a step up from the piss water,” Eddie grumbled, splashing Richie in the face.

“Oh, you asked for it, dick bag,” then returned the favor with an even bigger splash, making Eddie cough and gag dramatically.

“Jesus fucking Christ, you got it in my mouth! Now I’m going to fucking die due to my mouth rotting from the inside out.”

“Don’t be so melodramatic, jeez.”

Bill smiled at their back and forth bantering, enjoying the fun and light energy in comparison to what he felt like just a little while ago. His heart stuttered in his chest just thinking about it. So, he stopped and continued to listen to Eddie and Richie’s bickering.

In the corner of his eye he noticed Mike’s presence directly beside him. The water shifted as he approached, sloshing around his sides. He could feel himself tense, and he didn’t even know he was holding his breath until he started feeling a bit lightheaded, a puff of air hissing through his lips in one giant rush. 

“Bill?” his voice was soft, tender almost. Like he was trying to be gentle. Bill wanted to curl in on himself.

Bill went to look at him, not trusting his voice. He didn’t want to start crying again. He was sick of crying. But the fact that the tone of Mike’s voice was making his throat restrict just like it did before made him want to scream. Stop fucking crying, don’t you dare fucking cry, he kept telling himself. This time the voice in his head sounded like his own.

“Earlier, back in the sewer…” he started, but he kind of trailed off, hoping Bill would put the pieces together of what he was trying to say. And answer his subtle, unasked question. Like, what was that about earlier? Why did you go absolutely batshit crazy? Why did Pennywise keep making those odd jabs…?

Oh, god. Suddenly his stomach did a somersault. What if he knew? What if he could just see his feelings written all over his face, the way he acted? What if that was why he was giving him this look of pity? Did he just feel sorry for him? Bill just wanted to slip underwater and hide. Let the water engulf him and put a barrier between him and people watching him. His embarrassment was creeping in on his cheeks, his face growing flushed and hot. He hated it.

“Bill,” he repeated, a steadying hand now resting on his shoulder. Nope, he couldn’t do this. He couldn’t. “You’re shaking.”

Bill closed his eyes and covered his face with his hands. Fuck, he just wanted to hide. He couldn’t talk. He couldn’t think. And he could feel the tears involuntarily slipping through his eyes again, fuck, he cursed himself. Fuck, fuck, fuck. Stop being such a wuss.

Suddenly he could feel himself being wrapped up in an embrace of warm, strong arms, his face automatically slumping onto his chest. “Hey, hey, hey… shh, it’s okay,” Mike whispered, voice smooth and reassuring, holding onto him tightly. Bill let out a soft sob muffled into his shirt, tears soaking through the material.

“Mikey…” was all he was able to let out, and it sounded like a strangled choke almost. He cursed to himself for being like this.

Mike ran his fingers through Bill’s hair, nice and soothing strokes. “It’s okay. I’m here. You’re okay.”

Bill shook his head. “I thought I lost you,” he whispered through soft sniffles, his crying subsiding. His face was still hiding in Mike’s chest, he couldn’t bare to look at him at the moment.

“About that,” Mike started, still carding his fingers through his hair softly, “I wasn’t expecting you to… I don’t know. It was surprising to see you like that.”

Bill stiffened. Mike could easily tell this statement made him tense up. “It’s okay, you don’t have to explain anything to me. We can just stay like this,” Mike comforted. He started rubbing circles into Bill’s back now. He liked how comforting being in Mike’s arms felt. He wanted to tell him that, but he just couldn’t find the words to speak. Or find his voice at all.

There was a long pause of silence. Just the two of them like that, in each other’s arms, listening and feeling the other breathing. Their hearts beating. Bill found it comforting to feel Mike’s heartbeat as his head was lying against his chest. To know he was alive. Bill smiled to himself.

“Here, let me see something really quick,” Mike said, starting to lift Bill off him gingerly. Bill let out a quiet whine almost, disappointed at the loss of contact. “There we are, there’s that face,” he spoke in the most tender voice, with the sweetest smile on his face that nearly made Bill melt away into the water. His eyes were pinned on him in a way that made him feel like they were the only two people in the world. 

“What my red, puffy, tear-stained face?” Bill joked, half smiling. It didn’t reach his eyes and Mike could tell it was semi-forced.

“Barely even noticed.” He wiped away the tear streaks on his face, sending a sharp jolt through Bill at the contact. He didn’t even want to know how he looked right now, how much wanting and pleading that was probably showing through in his eyes.

Mike was staring very intently at him still, eyes shifting back and forth between his own eyes and his lips. Bill was left completely frozen under his gaze. He kind of still wanted to hide and run away, but he also wanted to stay and have Mike keep looking at him like that. Was he looking at him in that way? No, he can’t be, he thought to himself miserably. He’s too good for you. Why would he want someone like you? That voice was starting to somewhat sound like Pennywise again, and it made him scrunch his eyes closed. He just wanted to block out and ignore that voice.

Suddenly, though, he felt a warm hand cupping his face and soft lips crashing against his own. It knocked all of the air out of him. He was breathless, this shock of electricity pulsing through his entire body, his mind swimming, his heart pounding in his ears. He felt dizzy.  He desperately clutched onto Mike as hard as he could, trying to bring him down as close to him as humanely possible, as if there being no distance between them could possibly make them one. He clung to him for dear life, never wanting to let go. He wanted to feel his heartbeat again. He wanted to feel his hands running through his hair, down his back. Just like he was doing then.

“Ahem,” they suddenly heard a voice in the distance. It was Richie, with a shit eating grin on his face. Mike and Bill pulled apart, Bill looking absolutely mortified, blushing madly. Mike just smiled.

“You know, I was always rooting for you two,” Richie stated, then started clapping. Followed by Eddie, then Ben, and then Bev. Richie even started whistling. Bill’s face was on fire. He ducked into Mike’s chest again, burying his face there to hide forever. But then all he heard was a bunch of “aww’s.”

“Oh, for f-f-fuck s-sake!” Bill mumbled into Mike’s shirt. He could feel Mike laughing against him with the small hiccupping movements his body was making. The other losers kept laughing and clapping, cheering for the happy couple.

“Okay, now onto our next lovebirds. Eddie, Richie. How blind do you think we all are?” Ben finally cut right to the chase.

“Oh, fuck off.” It was obviously Richie who said that.