Mike Hanlon woke abruptly to the sensation of someone squeezing his hand and the soft sounds of sniffles. He kept his eyes shut and tried not to tense up; given the attack that put him in the hospital and driven the rest of the remaining Losers back into the sewers, he thought it might be safer to feign sleep – at least until he figured out who was in the room with him. He didn’t have a real plan, the drugs made it hard to think, but Mike knew enough that it wasn’t safe.
“I wish you had been there with us,” the person holding his hand whispered and Mike felt something in his chest relax.
“Beep-beep, Bev,” he croaked out, throat dry, and smiled at her, forcing his gummy eyes open. She looked pale in the washed-out hospital lights, her hair pulled back into a ponytail that reminded him of easier days and the sight of that red hair flying in the wind as he biked behind her on their way to – anything really. She laughed at his response, voice still quiet, and it gave lines to her face around her eyes. Beverly squeezed his hand.
“We’re home, Mike.” He swallowed back tears of his own and fumbled for the cup of water with his free hand near his bedside table. Beverly reached over to help him, but he waved her off.
Mike waited until he’d taken a few sips of the room temperature water before asking, “The others?”
Bev turned a quick, almost hunted, look toward the room door, tilting her head to listen to the noises outside before answering. “Eddie – he –” She broke off and just shook her head. “Bill found his wife and everyone else is fine.” Beverly stopped again, and Mike just ran his thumb along her hand, encouraging her. “Richie and Ben are both a little shook up.” Her eyes went wide, making the faint lines on her face, the dark circles under her eyes, and the remains of bruises on her neck stand out even more. “It had eggs,” she rasped, her voice thin and horrified. Mike felt his stomach drop and he knew he didn’t have to look at the machine monitoring his heart to see evidence of it racing. Bev’s grip on his hand got almost painfully tight before she got herself under control. “They’re destroyed.”
“And It’s gone,” he added, after taking few deep breaths himself.
Beverly smiled at him and the beauty of it lit up her face, reminding Mike of all the times when they were kids and he looked at her and thought, she’s so pretty. Out of all the Losers, he thought Bev had probably aged the best of them. “We won.” The smile dimmed some. “Again,” Beverly noted.
“You think It might come back.” Mike licked his lips and reached for the cup of water again.
“I don’t know but It survived when we were kids. Facing It was easier then, don’t you think? We won’t be able to beat It back again, not if the cycle continues.”
Mike smiled at her ruefully. “I doubt we’ll be able to hunt around in the sewers in our 60s,” he agreed.
“That’s not all we should worry about,” Beverly commented, finally pulling her hand out of his to fiddle with the hem of the blouse she was wearing. “Mike, what do you remember about the Barrens?”
He raised his eyebrows, a little confused by the question. “It’s that tract of land near the landfill,” he answered slowly, not quite understanding what Beverly wanted him to say. “The town council wanted to raze it recently and expand the landfill.”
Beverly smiled faintly at his answer, but it didn’t make her look happy. “We played there as children, Mike, but I can’t remember what sort of things we did.”
At her comment, he finally understood. “Oh.” It came out weak and he looked away from her.
“We’re all losing them, the older ones first,” Beverly said softly, her voice gentle. “I thought –” She sighed. “I’d hoped you would remember.” When he looked over at her, there were tears slipping down her cheeks and her nose was red. She sniffed and reached up to wipe her face with the back of her hands. “It wasn’t fair you did!” Bev burst out and then started crying in earnest. “It wasn’t fair you had to stay and now –” She hiccupped and, through her sobs, moaned, “I don’t even remember Stan’s last name!” Mike sighed, keeping his wince off his face as best he could, and levered himself up out of the hospital bed so he could reach Beverly and pull her into a hug. She went willingly and easily, shuddering in his arms. Eventually, she pulled away and Mike gratefully dropped back down onto the bed, holding an arm against his side. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to let that out on you, Mike.” She finally noticed his posture and frowned. “Should I get a nurse?”
He shook his head at her. “No, I’m okay.” And as he said it, Mike realized it wasn’t a lie; the sharp pain in his side had eased to a manageable dull ache. “You needed it.”
She gave a little hiccupy laugh. “You know how I realized I was forgetting?”
Her cheeks reddened, and Mike was absurdly glad to see some color back in her face after her crying fit. “I was with Ben last night,” she confessed, and Mike repressed a smile. Finally got the girl, Haystack. “And he quoted a poem to me he wrote. I remember it was important, but I couldn’t remember any details. It terrified me, Mike. The Losers were the best friends I’ve ever had and now with Ben...” She trailed off and looked toward the hospital window. Mike followed her gaze, but his room only provided a view of the hospital parking structure across the street. “Do you think we could last?” Beverly finally asked, not meeting his gaze but voice strong. “Even if we don’t remember the foundation? If I got in Ben’s car and we just drove off into the sunset and forgot Derry, and Richie and Bill and you, forgot It, would we last?” The words came out in a flood, quick enough that Mike wasn’t sure he caught everything. Mike studied her, watching as she caught her breath, seeing the way she didn’t flinch, the paler skin on her ring finger.
Mike reached out and took her hands back, squeezing them tightly. “I don’t know about It. I don’t know what will happen if It comes back,” he confessed softly and hoped that, at least, his diary would be enough. Or that he was forgetting too meant that It was gone for good. “But I do know that some things last even through the memory loss – for all of you.”
“Like Richie’s voices,” she murmured, some of the tension leaving her shoulders.
Or Bill marrying your lookalike, Mike thought but didn’t say. “The cores of you,” he paused and amended, “of us, didn’t change whether we remembered or not.”
“Will you go too?” Bev’s voice was soft, almost reverent as she asked the question. Mike had the strange reminder of someone’s hushed whispers in the middle of a church sermon.
He shook his head in response, grateful for her concern. “No, my life is here. I have things to do here.” Mike chuckled a little. “I’m supposed to read fairy tales to the kids next week; I wonder if I’ll get out of here in time.”
“Take a vacation, at least.” Beverly rubbed her thumb along his palm. “You could get in the car and drive off into the sunset with us,” she pointed out. “Neither of us would mind.”
He felt his smile grow as he pictured it but shook his head again. “I’d be hunted down by determined seven-year olds before we even made it out of the state.” Mike pulled her hands up to his lips and kissed them softly; Bev’s breath caught in response and her cheeks flushed. “If I’m not in the library next week, I bet they’ll just show up here, book in hand.”
“This town doesn’t deserve you, Mike,” she told him softly. “Maybe I should stay; there’s nothing for me in Chicago.”
“Once our memories go, there probably won’t be anything here for you either, Bev.” He raised his eyebrows at her. “Besides, you might be able to pick up and leave your life behind but could Ben?”
She snorted and shook her head. “No, I suppose there’s not much call for an architect in Derry. I just don’t want to leave you alone, Mike. Not after I just found you all again. You’re the best friends I’ve ever had.” Beverly’s voice was quiet but solid and Mike could almost picture her forcing her feelings into her words, to try and make him believe it – or feel it. Things like that happened in Derry.
He squeezed her hands tightly. “You want to do something for me, Bev?” He waited until she nodded slowly, inhaling like she was bracing for a hit. Mike suspected she had far too much experience with that in her lifetime, but it had made her one of the strongest people he knew. Beverly Marsh was a survivor and that bought her a place in the Losers; it was really what she brought to the table. Bill’s vision, Ben’s heart, Richie’s humor, Stan’s practicality, Eddie’s loyalty, Bev’s endurance. All those qualities had been necessary to survive and win as kids. Losing Stan before they’d come together, losing Eddie to It in the sewers… Mike swallowed back the frog in his throat at the irreparable holes in their bond and then turned Bev’s hands over, so her palms were up, showing the scars there. Mike traced his fingers along the faint line that cemented the promise seven young children had made to each other and watched the hair on the back of Bev’s arms raise in response. “Tomorrow morning, wake up and kiss Ben good morning.” Her cheeks reddened but she nodded again, watching him trustingly. “Then pack your bags, check out of the hotel, get in his car, and leave Derry for good.” Mike smiled at her and let her hands go. “And the last thing you can do for me? Have a wonderful life.”
She reached up and swiped the back of her hand over her eyes. “I wish I could take you with us, Mike.” She leaned over the bed and kissed him softly. “But if that’s what you want, that’s what I’ll make happen.” Beverly stood up, ran her hands over his forehead and hair gently, and said, “I love you, Mike Hanlon.”
He grinned at her; after all, that was a much better way to say goodbye. “I love you too, Beverly Marsh.” She returned his grin, wavering, and then left the room.
That’s them sorted, he thought as the hospital door slid shut behind her. Richie would recover on his own, with time, and that just left Bill and Audra. Mike had an idea to help there too. He let his eyes shut and relaxed against the pillows.
Four weeks after he left the hospital, Mike Hanlon received a postcard. He squinted at picture on the card – Wishing You Were in Beautiful Lincoln! – and wondered who he knew in Nebraska. Maybe an old library patron that used to participate in one of his programs? He flipped it over to read the inscription. I’m pregnant; we’re naming the baby after you. Love, Beverly Hanscom
That still didn’t clear things up about who had sent him the card but Mike found himself smiling fondly and tracing the words anyway.