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Things are easy with Mike.

They just are. Bill didn’t know things could be this easy. It’s been decades since he’s felt the kind of softness Mike brings out in him, the gentled sweetness that they once shared as children, as teenagers, and now as adults, so long after they lost each other. Talking to him is like talking to himself, if not easier: no lies necessary, no hardship, open communication. Mike listens so attentively, and he speaks with such thought put into each word. It’s a kind of connection Bill hasn’t had since he lost the Losers.

“Hey,” Bill says. Mike is leaning over the railing of their front porch, trying to take a picture of the brilliant red sunrise on his phone. Their view is beautiful, in the suburbs outside the city; it reminds Bill of being back home in a warming way, rather than the creeping chill that makes his bones itch when he thinks of things like It or the sewers.

“Hey yourself, Denbrough,” Mike replies, snapping Bill back into the present. He slides up to Mike, because he can, and fits himself under Mike’s arm. Mike pockets his phone.

“What’re you thinking about?” Bill asks.

“How my fiancé tries to use my thoughts for free writing inspiration,” Mike tells him. Bill turns his face into Mike’s shoulder and laughs.

“No, s-seriously,” Bill tells him.

“I was actually thinking about you,” Mike admits. He takes a step backward, pulling Bill with him easily to sit on the cushioned bench kitty-corner with the railing juncture.

“What about me?” Bill asks.

“Patience is a virtue,” Mike tells him, arranging himself on the bench. He stretches his legs up so his sock feet are up on the low table in front of them, then gently reels Bill in to lean up again him. Bill tucks his head under Mike’s chin, tucks his legs up under himself. “Comfortable?”

“Mm.” Bill reaches for Mike’s hand, and Mike lets him take it. He strokes over Mike’s palm with the pad of his hand.

“I was thinking about the crush I had on you when we were kids,” Mike tells him. Bill lifts his head to look at him.

“What about it?” Bill asks, grinning. Mike rolls his eyes, but it’s so fond and warm that Bill has to lift his hand to press a kiss to the center of his palm.

“I thought you were maybe into Richie, for a while,” Mike says. Bill slides back so he can fix Mike with exactly the kind of raised-eyebrow look he deserves. “Well, obviously I was wrong—”

“Richie?” Bill demands. “Richie?”

“Nothing wrong with Richie,” Mike says.

“N-No, but with me? Richie and me?” Bill asks, incredulous. “I think we’d kill each other.”

“Luckily not a concern,” Mike reminds him. “I was just thinking. Reflecting. I think I had a crush on everyone at some point.”

“Did you?” Bill asks. He thinks about the Losers, says, “I d-didn’t.”

“Obviously not Richie.”

“Not really,” Bill says. “I knew him and Eddie for s-s-so long, and—” Bill stops, then says, “Well, I knew S-Stan a long time, too.”

“You had a crush on Stan?” Mike asks, laughing. “Man. Me, too.”

“He’s cute,” Bill exclaims.

“He is cute,” Mike agrees. “Then Patty stole him from us.”

“What could have b-been.” Bill leans up into Mike’s shoulder again, almost climbing into his lap to kiss him on the underside of his chin. Mike’s so fucking tall. Bill’s also kind of short, but still, nobody needs to be six-foot-four. At that point, in Bill’s opinion, you’re just showing off. Mike turns his face down, cups Bill’s jaw in his hand and kisses him on the lips. It’s a soft, close-mouthed press, Mike’s head tipping just to push in a little harder.

“What else?” Mike asks, when he pulls back.

“What else what?”

“Did you have a crush on anyone else?” Mike clarifies. Bill thinks about it, even if he’s more than a little distracted with Mike’s hand still holding his face like it is, warm and grounding. He leans into the touch a little harder.

“Bev.”

“Obviously.”

“Yeah, obviously,” Bill says. “She kissed me.”

“When?” Mike asks. “Then or recently?”

“Kind of both,” Bill says. “Well, yes, both, but not recently. When we first went back to Derry. The way she looked at me afterwards, though— I think she was still figuring things out.”

“No shit,” Mike replies. “That’s why I’m not here with Ben right now.”

“That’s the only reason w-why.” Bill turns his head, catches Mike’s thumb between his front teeth before he kisses his fingerprint and pulls back. Mike takes his hand as he settles back against his side. “I had a crush on you.”

“Mixing it up.”

“Sh-Shut up,” Bill says, smiling. “You knew that.”

“I did,” Mike agrees, “but it’s still nice to hear.”

“So, your only competition was Stan and B-Bev,” Bill sums up.

“Fierce competition,” Mike says. The sun’s creeping up inch by inch and, when Bill looks up, Mike’s face is lit by the softest glow of orange-gold. Mike looks down in return, and his eyes catch the light, glinting like honey. Bill kisses him again.

“Not when I'm the judge,” Bill says. “Nobody holds a c-candle to you.”

“What a sentimental man,” Mike tells him, then grins at him.  “I had an idea.”

“Is this an idea like when you drugged me, or is this an idea like when you stole my proposal?” Bill asks. Mike snorts a laugh, reels Bill in and kisses the top of his head.

“I guess the second one,” Mike says. “I was thinking we should maybe get a dog or something. Or a cat. Or… something.”

“Are there other options?” Bill asks.

“Rabbits?”

“We’re not getting r-rabbits, they’re s-s-so gross,” Bill laughs. “We can get a pet if you want. I just thought— W-Well, you might not want to.”

“Why not?” Mike asks. The way he says even the simplest things like that, the way he says “Why not?” in such a soft, even tone, genuinely curious as to the answer. Not accusatory, not assuming. Just asking.

“Because,” Bill says, “Mike, you want to t-travel. Can you really see a cat just willingly traveling? That’s kind of a more, uhh, putting-down-roots th-thing. I think.”

“You think so?” Mike hums, then leans back a bit, slouches down on the bench. Bill goes with him, sliding down a little. A breeze ruffles his hair. “Then maybe it’s time I put down roots.”

Bill’s heart jumps into his throat. He laughs. “God, I just got s-so— I don’t even know the w-word. Excited?”

“Excited?” Mike repeats. “Why?”

“Because I have a crush on y-you,” Bill says. Mike laughs right back with him, pulling him closer, tightening his grip and kissing the crown of his head.

“We’re engaged,” Mike reminds him softly. Bill’s forearms break out in goosebumps.

“You always want to travel,” Bill says.

“Dogs can travel,” Mike says. “We’ll do research. Find one that’s good in cars, and on hikes, and stuff. Take him with us.”

“You think s-s-so?” Bill asks. Mike tips his face up, holds his chin to kiss him. Bill sighs.

“I think so,” Mike assures him. “I think it’d be a good thing. Don’t you?”

Bill thinks about it, about the concept of having a dog. He’s even considering the entire concept of having something so vital to share. An engagement is deeper than just dating, but all he has to do is take the ring off and it’s over, technically. A dog is a life, and it’ll rely on them, and it’s a real unifying next step. The ties that bind, and all that. After that, it’s— It’ll be marriage, and kids, and Bill starts to spiral a little bit. He wonders what Georgie would think, of him getting a dog, and thinks about Georgie as an uncle and them all as an old men, and he blinks.

“Hello?” Mike asks. Bill only half-snaps out of it, looking up at Mike with a furrowed brow.

“Do you want kids?” Bill asks. Mike laughs.

“We’ve talked about that,” Mike says, kissing Bill again, softly, then a second time, a little harder. Bill pulls back. “Of course I do.”

“You’ve spent so many years wanting to leave Derry and travel and explore and do all the things you never got a chance to do,” Bill says. He stops, then says, “Hey I didn’t s-stutter— Motherfucker—”

“Go easy on yourself, big guy,” Mike says. “Bill, you know what I wanted to do most of all when I was stuck in Derry?”

“Go to Florida?” Bill asks, because he’s pretty sure Mike’s said that a thousand times, to each of the Losers, at different points in their lives.

“No,” Mike says. “What I really wanted most was to see you all again. I missed you all every single day. Staying behind, letting you all live normal lives, knowing that I’d have to drag you back to Derry eventually— That was the worst part of it all.”

Bill sniffles, rubs at his nose. “You— God. Mike.”

“God, Bill,” Mike teases. Bill kisses him, cradles the back of his head and pulls himself up to climb into his lap while he does. Mike holds his hips, lets him cup his face and open his mouth, lets him deepen the kiss. The hot weights of Mike’s hands slide up his waist, over and across his chest until his hands are skimming the buttons of his pajama shirt.

“I missed you,” Bill murmurs.

“You didn’t remember me.”

“Doesn’t matter.” Bill kisses across Mike’s cheekbone, down to his neck. “I love you.”

“I love you, too,” Mike says. Bill buries his face in his throat, sighs. A breeze stirs across their skin, and Mike just hugs him, his fingertips skimming lightly up and down the knobs of Bill’s spine. “Do you want a dog?”

“Let’s adopt a dog,” Bill says, feeling wild. “Let’s— I don’t know. Let’s adopt a d-dog and let’s go to— go to Italy, or Ireland, let’s g-g-go to Japan.”

“You want to go to Japan?” Mike asks.

“I want to go everywhere with you,” Bill tells him. “I want to marry you a th-thousand times.”

“What’s gotten into you?” Mike asks, but Bill’s already pulling him to his feet.

“Let’s go get dressed, let’s adopt a dog,” Bill says eagerly. Mike doesn’t question him, not in the least, just lets Bill drag him through the house to the kitchen. He kisses Mike pushed up against the counter next to the coffee machine, fumbling for the power button on the machine while his other hand cups Mike’s jaw.

“You’re too fucking distracted,” Mike murmurs against his mouth. “One thing at a time.”

“Don’t you want coffee?” Bill asks.

“I want you,” Mike reminds him. He kisses him again, then backs off and releases him. “Get dressed, Bill.”

“Tell me twice,” Bill says.

“Get dressed,” Mike tells him, and Bill lays his hand on Mike’s chest.

“Tell me again,” Bill says, “and see if I go.”

Mike huffs a small laugh. He puts his hand over Bill’s, pulls it up so he can kiss the thin skin of his wrist. “You’re so fussy all the time.”

“Is that what you call it?” Bill asks. He knows he’s a little breathless, but it’s hard not to be when Mike’s looking at him like that, like he wishes they could melt together. “Fussy?”

“Power bottom?” Mike suggests.

“Stop going on Google.” Bill stretches up onto his toes, and Mike bends to meet him, to hold him close and kiss him hard. “You’re going to h-hurt yourself.”

“Oh, I’m going to hurt myself, old man?” Mike says, threading his hand up through the grey wisps of hair that weave through the brown. 

“Yeah, you are,” Bill tells him.

“You’ve aged like milk.” Mike teases. Bill laughs. “No, sorry, strawberry milk, look at that blush.”

“S-Stop,” Bill says. Mike stops, but only because he’s busy kissing Bill again instead, letting Bill twine his arms around his neck and pull him down to his height. He spins them, crowds Bill up against the counter again so he’s backed into the corner where the cabinets meet the fridge. “Mike—”

“Yes?” Mike asks softly, kissing up the line of Bill’s jaw, cupping his face as he nips at the shell of his ear. Bill shudders, and Mike exhales warmly near his ear, all the air in his lungs punching out at once. Sparks shoot up his spine from deep at the base core of him, and Bill makes a soft sound into Mike’s chest.

“Yes,” Bill agrees. “Yes, yes—”

“Yeah, Bill?” Mike shifts, slides his thigh between Bill’s legs, and Bill can’t help but press into him. He can feel his skin heating up, flushing just like Mike said, and Mike pulls him close, lets him moan openly into his skin. Bill pulls at Mike’s pajama pants, dips his hand in and wraps his fingers around his dick. Mike crowds him in closer, smiles like he’s lit with sunshine from the inside. Bill wants to write a thousand poems about him, a million books, a billion sonnets, he wants to create, he wants to manifest in Mike’s name.

“I love you,” is all he can manage to say, out of all that. Mike moans softly like he understands exactly what Bill’s thinking, though, and sometimes Bill really thinks he does.

“I love you, too,” Mike murmurs. He wraps Bill up in him, kisses him hard and sweet, opens his mouth and licks behind his teeth, whispers sounds that sound a lot like Bill’s names deep down his throat. Bill shudders, hand sliding hard over Mike’s cock. The rhythm of it only spurs Bill on, and then he’s pushing up against Mike like they’re in their mid-twenties instead of pushing forty, grinding against his thigh and gasping. “Look at you, huh? You look amazing like this, Bill.”

“Come on,” Bill sighs, dropping his head against Mike’s shoulder. He twines his arms around Bill’s waist, and now there’s nowhere they’re not touching; they’re lined up everywhere, shoulders down and ankles up, Mike’s hands doing the work for Bill to help him thrust up, and in, harder every time. Bill clutches at his shoulder with his free hand, moans long and low as he gets closer and closer, his other hand still wrapped around Mike’s dick.

“Yes,” Mike whispers. “Yes, Bill, please, yes—”

Bill doesn’t respond, because he can’t, reaching under Mike’s shirt for his warm skin, desperate for any contact he can get. Mike pushes against him, harder, faster, kissing along his cheek, whispering his name over and over as Bill tips up and over the edge. He shuts his eyes, lifting his chin up so they can kiss softly as Bill comes. His hand on Mike stills before he remembers himself, and he really applies himself, still over-sensitive and flushed hot.

“Fuck,” Mike murmurs. Bill shivers at the sound, and he kisses him again, sliding up, down, up again, harder again, and Mike comes in his fist.

“Fuck,” Bill agrees, and Mike huffs a laugh as he comes down from his high. Bill looks down at his hand, at the sticky mess of Mike’s cum all over him. He shifts and frowns against the rough dampness in his pajama pants. “I should’ve worn underwear to bed.”

Mike laughs so hard it’s a revelation, and Bill understands he has to spend the rest of his life making Mike laugh like that. He kisses him and tells him as much.

“Save it for the books,” Mike tells him. Bill slides his hands along Mike’s jaw and up through his hair.

“Will you shower with me?”

“Will you let me drink coffee in the shower?” Mike counters.

“Yeah,” Bill agrees, and starts stripping off his pajamas.

“Then yes,” Mike answers. He scoops Bill up and hauls him off.


After they’ve showered, dressed, looked up animal shelters and breeds online, and made enough pros and cons lists to put Eddie’s fucking endless notebooks to shame, Bill pushes Mike out the door and into their car. After a brief game of rock-paper-scissors that Mike wins, he drives on the way there so that he doesn’t have to on the way home. Bill still tries to distract him, runs his hands over Mike’s thighs, kisses his neck whenever the road’s empty.

“You’re going to be such an irresponsible dog dad,” Mike tells him, when Bill bites down gently. He swats him off, and Bill goes, laughing. He turns on the radio instead as they zip down the road. Mike gets them there in one piece and record time.

“Do you have all the n-n-notes?” Bill asks. Mike pulls them out of the pocket of his jacket and waves them in the air, and Bill snatches them. Mike grabs his free hand up, kisses the back of it. He steps back, lets Mike take the lead once they’re actually inside.

“Hey, I’m Mike, I just called this morning,” he says, as Bill wanders to look at the pet photos on the wall.

“Oh, yeah, of course,” the woman behind the counter says. She hesitates then says, “I’m sorry, is— is that Bill Denbrough?”

Mike laughs as Bill turns and offers a little wave.

“Yeah, that’s him,” Mike tells her. Bill comes over, shoving his hands in his pockets.

“It’s great to meet you,” the woman says. “I’m Jackie, I love your— Sorry, I— We can— We have a bunch of mutts. In the back. You called about the mutts, right?”

“That’s right,” Mike says. Jackie leans through a back open doorway, seemingly thankful for the escape.

“Hey, Mike and Bill Denbrough are here,” she shouts. Bill watches curiously as Mike blushes all the way down his throat and under the collar of his shirt. She motions for them, says, “Follow me,” and they do. Bill catches Mike’s hand.

“What’re you thinking about?” Bill asks. Mike shakes his head, and Bill considers for a moment before he grins. “Are you thinking about Mike and Bill Denbrough?”

“No,” Mike says, obviously lying. Bill laughs.

“Do you want my last name?” Bill asks. “You don’t want to hyphenate? Or have me take yours?”

“Shut up,” Mike hisses under his breath.

“As you wish, Mike Denbrough,” Bill says smugly. Mike huffs at him, but he doesn’t let go of his hand and, when Bill looks up at him, he’s trying not to smile.

“Here you go,” Jackie says, leading them through to a back kennel. She motions to one wall of pens. “These are all dogs that are good with kids and enjoy travel and exercise. Let me know which you—”

“This one,” Mike says, already standing in front of the fifth pen, pointing. Bill follows after him, leans in to see the dog licking at Mike’s hand and smiling stupidly up at them. He can’t even begin to tell what breeds went into making this dog, but he’s all brown with white paws and blue eyes; even better, when Jackie opens the pen, the dog runs right at Mike and nearly bowls Bill over in the process.

“I can’t believe it,” Bill comments. He watches Mike kneel down and bury his face in the dog’s fur. “How the hell did you do that so quickly? All those n-notes—”

“He was looking right at us,” Mike says, framing the dog's face in his hands. “Didn’t you see?”

He hadn’t, but that’s because he’d been staring stupidly at Mike, watching him try not to smile, and he’s not about to confess to that, so. “No, I— I was looking at the, uhh, th-the other d-dogs— What’s this dog’s n-name?”

Mike laughs as Jackie says, “We call her Parsley. We call them all different fruits and vegetables and herbs and things like that, it’s our joke.”

“Does she answer to Parsley?” Bill asks. Mike ruffles the dog’s fur as she turns her head to look at Bill. “Well.”

“That answers that,” Mike answers. Bill leaves him there to play with Parsley while Jackie gives him what seems like a thousand forms to fill out and read and sign. Every time he glances over and sees Mike getting tackled by the dog, he’s so excited he sort of just wants to run over and hug him. He speeds through the last forms and does exactly that.

“She’s adorable,” Mike says, the second Bill’s in his hearing range again. “Should we call Richie and Eddie, see if we can bring her over for family dinner tonight?”

Family dinner had been instituted by Richie in a fit of fury when he texted them all im too codependent to go this long w/o seeing u all, come over for family dinner sunday @ 6, and they’d had family dinner every Sunday at six every week since, rotating houses. Even though all seven of them don’t make it to every dinner, they try their fucking hardest to be there, and it’s one of Bill’s favorite nights of the week.

“Call ‘em,” Bill agrees. Mike dials and mounts the phone on the dashboard of the car.

Mike calls Richie on speakerphone, because he’s figures he’s the better option of the two to get a yes out of them. “This is the Kaspbrak family, Richard speaking.”

“Ugh, Richard?” Bill asks.

“Bill!” Richie exclaims. “Mike, hello, how are you both? If you’re calling to bail on family dinner on the same day and one of you isn’t dead or dying, I’ll find a spell to shrink both your dicks.”

“Wow, you had that ready to go,” Mike comments.

“Can we b-bring our new dog to your place for dinner?” Bill asks. There’s a beat of silence before Richie shrieks.

“What the fuck was that for?” they hear Eddie shout, far away from the phone.

“Bill and Mike adopted a dog and they want to bring him over!” Richie shouts. Bill winces, and Mike laughs, holding Parsley calmly as she looks out the window. “Eds, hey, the girls aren’t allergic, we tested them before that zoo trip, remember—”

"What kind of a dog is it?” Eddie shouts.

“What kind of a dog is it?” Richie relays. Mike and Bill look at each other, and Mike shrugs before Bill looks back to the road.

“Miscellaneous?” Bill offers.

“Mutt,” Mike says.

“Are we down to one word at a time?” Richie asks, laughing. "Yes! No! H—"

"Can we or no?" Bill asks.

"Eddie's face is all red," Richie reports. "He's— Yup, it'll be fine."

"What's the dog's name?" Eddie asks, closer to the phone now. "You're sure you don't know her breeds? And she's had her shots, right, and she's good with kids, or she wouldn't be—"

"I'm assuming you're both responsible adults who aren't bringing rabies-infested monster dogs to my apartment?" Richie cuts in. Eddie makes some sound at him down the line that Bill can't discern.

"You assume correctly," Mike answers. "I can carry her easily. She is not large or vicious."

"Large is relative to you," Bill comments.

"The world just seems gigantic to tiny people like you," Richie replies. "Sure, bring her over. The more the merrier."

Mike grins at Bill as they turn onto Richie and Eddie's street. "Beep, beep."

"What did I—" Richie laughs when he hears Bill honk the horn twice. "Oh, man, park, I'll let you up, bring her up."

"We're coming," Mike says, but his phone's already beeping with the disconnection from Richie hanging up. There's a snuffle from the passenger seat, and Bill turns to see Mike smiling into Parsley's fur.

"You're—" Bill says, starting to tease him, but then he changes his mind and says, "Actually, you're adorable. Love you."

"Love you," Mike murmurs back.

"Music to m-my ears," Bill replies. Mike lifts his head.

"Oh, did you think I was talking to you?" Mike says. "I'm so sorry, Bill, I was talking to Parsley—"

"You know, I was gonna make f-fun of you, and then I didn't, because I'm a great fiancé," Bill insists. "And yet you, in a h-heartbeat—"

"I love you," Mike says again, and this time he's looking up at Bill when he glances over. They both smile, and Bill has to look away, face heating up. "Strawberry milk."

"Shut up," Bill mutters, pulling into Eddie and Richie's guest parking spot. He watches Mike shoot off a text to the group chat that they nabbed the guest spot before they set to the task of getting Parsley up to the tenth floor.

As soon as they get to the door, it's thrown open. They don't even have a chance to knock or get out their ring of extra keys to the Losers' places before Richie's there, hands out.

"Please hand me the dog," he says, and Mike hands the dog over without hesitation.

"Positive reinforcement," Mike says to Bill, in response to his raised eyebrow. "He said please. We're gonna need to learn training tricks sometime."

Bill laughs as Richie says, "Oh, fuck you, Mike Hanlon, get in my house, you handsome son-of-a-bitch—"

"Speaking of M-Mike Hanlon," Bill says, and Mike groans.

"Really? You're gonna tell them when we're barely through the doorway?" Mike complains.

"Tell us what?" Eddie asks. He has Riley clutched in his hands in a white-knuckle death grip, eyeing Parsley intensely. "Something about the dog?"

"No, " Bill says. "Something about Mike D-Denbrough here."

"Did you fucking elope?" Richie demands. "If you eloped without me—"

"No, God, he just—" Bill starts, but Mike cuts him off.

"I want to take his name," Mike says. Bill looks at him and can just feel himself melting, can feel his face going warm and stupid. "The lady at the shelter called us Mike and Bill Denbrough."

"You should've seen his face," Bill says, smiling. He knows he's grinning like an idiot, but he can't help it when Mike just brings that warmth out in him.

"Ugh, I get it," Richie says. He's hoisting Parsley up and ruffling her neck fur as Eddie hesitantly creeps closer with Riley. "I still get a little turned on when I hear 'Richie Kaspbrak.'"

"For the love of fuck, don't say turned on in front of her," Eddie says, and Riley reaches out for Parsley.

"Fuck," she demands forcefully, stretching for the dog. Richie inches closer, grinning.

"New favorite word," he informs Mike and Bill. "I think she's starting to think it's my name, Eds shouts it at me so much."

Ben and Bev show up next, loudly harassing Bill and Mike for taking the guest parking spot until they see Parsley and lose their shit. Ben looks like he's going to melt apart into a puddle on the floor just looking at Riley finally getting to pet Parsley, tiny fingers buried deep in her soft fur.

"Her name's Parsley," Mike announces, as Stan shoves the door open.

"Whose name is Parsley?" Patty asks. She exclaims when she sees the dog. Stan eyes it warily.

"Where the fuck'd you get a dog?" he asks Richie.

"She's not mine, she's Bill and Mike's," Richie says. Stan holds out his arms, and Richie passes Parsley's gangly dog limbs over. Bill's impressed by how calm she is being handed around; he's seen Riley angrily try to lick people over less.

"The next step," Stan comments, bouncing Parsley like she's a baby. Based on the look on Mike's face, she kind of is. "Adopting a dog. Soon you'll be like the rest of us."

"Old men, all of you," Richie says. "Mike, you and me, we'll keep our vitality."

"If we're not married by the time we're forty, let's go," Mike jokes. Richie lifts his left hand, rolls his eyes theatrically, jerks his head in Eddie's direction.

"I would but, tragically, Eds found the lamp and rubbed me off and now he technically owns me," Richie tells him sadly. Bill chokes on a laugh.

"You do not rub lamps off, you fucking cretin," Eddie hisses. "What— That's a disgusting image."

"Just fondle the nozzle, Eds," Richie says, and Eddie gags.

"What's for dinner tonight?" Bev asks, clapping her hands together. 

"Glad you asked!" Richie exclaims, hauling her over to the stove to show off his dishes and explain them loudly and one at a time. Audrey starts crying down the hall, and Eddie surrenders Riley to go get her. When they come back, she looks pissed, all red-faced with wet cheeks, and she'll only go to Richie when Eddie tries to hand her off.

"Hey, squirt, what's ailing you?" Richie asks, bouncing Audrey in one arm while he and Bev keep working through the pots with his free hand. Ben, Bev, and Riley, are playing on the floor with Parsley while Mike supervises, ready to grab Parsley if anything looks even a little off. He can see Eddie hovering nervously, periodically backing off before shooting back over. Stan and Patty are quietly making a salad together at the counter, Stan cracking jokes every now and then that make Patty laugh so loudly Bill's ears almost ring.

He loves how busy it is, with the movement and the noise. It's so homey, so comforting and so domestic, he just can't help but fold into it. He takes out his phone and takes a panorama of the scene, then kneels down to take a closer picture of Parsley. He texts them both to Georgie, still staying at their parents' place in Derry most of the time, when he's not visiting Bill.

Mike and I adopted her today. Her name is Parsley!, he sends, with a slew of different dog emojis, then hearts. He knows Georgie loves the emojis — or, at least, they tend to make him smile — and so he sends as many as he can.

you adopted a dog??, Georgie texts back. wow!! i have to come visit!.

Bill leans over to Mike, shows him his phone. Mike grins at him. "Anytime he wants, our home is his home."

It's the simple, easy things like that. It's Mike acting like Georgie's always been his little brother, too. It's how simple it seems to come to him to be warm and kind, how it's second nature even after all the complete and utter bullshit life has forced him through. Now, Mike can say things like "our home," and blush and smile and kiss Bill pressed up against their kitchen counter. Now, they can adopt a dog and travel together and get married a thousand times, if they want to. Mike can see the sights and Bill can write his books and they can move in tandem, day by day, mile by mile.

"I love you," Bill says loudly, over the multiple conversations and Richie's loud laughter. It's probably at least the hundredth time he's said it today, and he'll maybe even say it a hundred more. He says it whenever he feels it; there's no point to keeping it inside. Life is short, fleeting; he knows just how short and fleeting. He's not about to waste time not telling Mike how much he means to him.

"I love you, too," Mike answers, so easily. Second nature, to him, all of it: loving, expressing, talking, feeling. Mike just feels so much, it makes Bill want to protect him, to keep him this happy forever. He resolves to.


Getting back to their place after family dinner, the movie night they had afterwards, and then shopping at an all-night superstore for pet supplies means Bill all but collapses once he's through the front door. It's late, and dark outside, and he dumps all their bags down as Mike escorts Parsley in himself.

"This is your home now, little lady," Bill hears Mike tell her. He laughs. "You're the head of the household now."

"I assumed as m-much for her," Bill comments. After the noisy chaos that family dinners tend to be, and Richie and Eddie's place brings out in them, their place seems comparably tomb-silent. Bill goes to his old record player and flips on one of Mike's records at random. He doesn't even look at the album cover, just pulls out the record and sets it up. The needle hits the skin and it's The Cranberries.

"Nice," Mike says. The soft music fills their home as they watch Parsley sniff around and eventually hop up into Mike's armchair, where she curls up and falls asleep. Mike has the biggest heart-eyes looking at her, Bill has to take a picture. He sends it to Georgie automatically, like he does with pretty much everything.

what's got my big brother looking so dumb?, Georgie replies.

looking at the dog, Bill answers. Georgie sends back three crying-laughing emojis.

"I feel like my ears are ringing," Mike says.

"Tonight was a wild one," Bill agrees. Mike falls backwards onto their plush loveseat, and so Bill follows, folding himself into Mike's warm side. He reaches for the throw blanket hanging off the arm of the sofa, tugs it up and over them.

"She can have the last name Denbrough, too," Mike comments. When Bill lifts his head, it's to find Mike looking appraisingly at Parsley as she sleeps. He glances down at Bill after only a moment. "Parsley Denbrough sounds like a horrible pen name. You should use it."

"It still has my s-s-surname in it," Bill laughs. Mike's growing sleepier, he can tell, sinking heavily into the couch cushions, his hand curved up to drift absently through Bill's hair. It's so wonderfully comforting; Bill shuts his eyes and leans into it.

"Think Parsley would like hang-gliding?" Mike suggests quietly, over the sound of the record moving to the next song. Bill snorts a laugh.

"Hangdog-gliding," Bill jokes.

"So quick-witted and yet, the joke was so bad, I'm legally obligated to kill you for it," Mike says, in such an even and gentle tone that it takes Bill too long to process what he's said. By the time he has, Mike's already smothering him with a throw pillow. Bill flings it off, laughing breathlessly and recklessly up at Mike as he does.

Mike ducks his head down, holds Bill's face and kisses him. Bill leans up into him, one hand resting at the hollow below Mike's throat as they kissed so gently, Bill could still feel Mike's small intakes and exhales of breath. The song changes again, and Bill hears a spring in the armchair far too late. Parsley jumps up between them, separates them with her wriggling body and long, wagging tail. Bill catches it, laughing, as Mike scratches behind her ears. She settles between them.

"Third wheel," Bill comments. Mike laughs, pulling him over Parsley to kiss again. She tips her head up and starts licking at their chins, trying to get where their mouths are joined, and they separate with such shock Bill almost topples onto the carpet, laughing.