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A Bittersweet Victory

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The seven of them watched as Pennywise backed away, a look of fear in his eyes that hadn’t been there before. Stan realized he was moving toward the well, moving slowly like maybe they wouldn’t notice. Bill looked down on him with disdain as he told Pennywise they weren’t afraid of him.

He’s going to get away, Stan thought wildly. 27 years, right? That’s what Ben and Mike had said. We hurt him but he’ll be back, I can’t do this a second time, we can’t let him go, we can’t let him get to the well –

His heart pounded in his chest and his hands shook as he glanced around to see what each of his friends held in their hands. Nothing looked sharp enough, nothing – there were fence posts on Bill’s backpack, that would do it, but he wouldn’t be able to grab one without being noticed, the pipe in his own hands wouldn’t pierce, he wouldn’t be able to – he wouldn’t be strong enough –

As Bill continued to taunt Pennywise, the entire group slowly moved forward, pushing the clown back, pushing him toward the well, and fuck this isn’t right, this isn’t what we should be doing –

He thought back to Neibolt. They had hurt him, Beverly had injured him, fence post through the head. Bill had shot Georgie with –

It had been unloaded. Mike said it, and Bill ignored him, taken the shot anyway, and it had worked. Could he pretend his pipe was really something else? Something that could get his hand inside Pennywise, the way Ben had punched his arm into his stomach after he stabbed him, and where did that weapon go?

He looked to his right. Richie had the baseball bat. Maybe he could give him some kind of signal, something to tell him what Stan was thinking, because Stan couldn’t do it.

But they had backed Pennywise as far as he could go. His back was against the edge of the well, and there was no time –

He didn’t want to be here. Disgusting, in a disease-ridden place filled with dead children and a shapeshifting monster that he so desperately didn’t want to believe in. But he was real. It was real when the woman from the painting had her teeth in his face. When his friends had left him –

But they hadn’t actually left him. It was one of Pennywise’s tricks. His friends wouldn’t leave him this time, either. He had to believe that. He loved his friends more than anything, and they loved him back, he knew it.

He didn’t want to be here. But more than that, he didn’t want to have to ever come back.

In a moment of terror-fueled adrenaline, Stan lifted the pipe – no, the spear, it’s a spear if you believe it’s a spear – and ran directly at the clown. He madly plunged his weapon – his spear – into Pennywise’s chest.

“HIS HEART!” He screamed madly, dimly aware of the chaotic movements of his friends behind him. “WE HAVE TO KILL HIS HEART!”

He wasn’t sure how he knew this, but he did. Pennywise had turned into the woman from the painting again, her teeth sharp and ready for him, and he jumped backward just as Richie’s bat made harsh contact with the side of her face.

With huge relief, he saw Ben reach into Pennywise’s chest as Eddie and Mike held one arm down, and Beverly and Bill held the other. Richie held the bat, ready to swing again. He watched with wide eyes as Ben yanked out the heart.

“SQUEEZE IT!” He yelled; another thing he wasn’t sure how he knew.

“We gotta hold him down – “ Mike argued as Stan and Richie rushed to Ben, their hands clasped tightly around the heart.

“He won’t move, we can’t do this without everyone, we – “

Beverly was the first to let go, and when Bill felt no extra resistance from her absence he let go too. Within moments all seven pairs of hands crushed the organ, and watched in amazement as Pennywise the Dancing Clown began to fade, inky black streams of life escaping his body.

And then he was gone.

For a few moments they stood in stunned silence, staring at the place Pennywise had just been.

And then, “What the fuck, Stanley?!”

He turned to Richie with a wry grin. “There’s no way I was risking having to come back in 27 years.”

“How did you know that would work?” Ben asked.

“I just knew. It popped in my head and I just knew. Nothing else was killing him, but nobody can live without a heart, right?”

“Holy shit, Stan,” Eddie said in amazement. Stan grimaced at the filth covering his body; he bet as soon as the adrenaline and excitement wore off, Eddie would be gagging until he’d washed it all off.

“Hey, Bill – “ It was Mike who noticed that Bill was moving away from them. As they all turned to see where he was going, they finally realized what was happening – the kids were floating down.

The sound of Bill crying distracted them, and Stan felt a pang in his chest when he saw Bill was clutching a yellow rain jacket. The Losers moved in unspoken agreement, and they spent a few long moments huddled together, clutching each other, before the first rock fell. It was on the other side of the cistern, and they all jumped. After the first rock, more began to fall, and with panic they realized the cistern was collapsing.

“Run!”

Stan took off, following Beverly who had her hand clutched in Mike’s. In front of Mike, Richie was tightly gripping Eddie’s hand on his good arm, his other hand in Mike’s. Stan blindly reached for Beverly’s hand in front of him when he realized she was holding it out to him. With a glance behind him, he saw Ben and Bill, and he grabbed Ben’s hand when they were close enough. They ran through the tunnels, a seven-piece chain, hardly noticing the graywater as the walls and ceiling collapsed around them.

Stan was hardly looking where he was going, fear clutching his chest. What was happening? How was this happening? Did he really kill an alien clown just to die in rubble?

He wasn’t aware of his surroundings until bright sunlight hit his eyes. The group stumbled to a stop in front of the Neibolt house, and they watched as it collapsed into nothing.

 


 

“Hey, Richie,” Stan called. Richie looked at him, eyes magnified behind his glasses. “Wanna walk together?”

Their houses were two blocks apart, in a separate neighborhood from any of the other Losers. They were about to reach the intersection where they would all part. Somehow, Stan knew that if they hadn’t killed Pennywise, this would have been the last time they were all in the same place. Relief settled within him as he realized that wasn’t going to happen.

“I’d be delighted, dear Staniel,” Richie responded in an accent, though Stan wasn’t sure what accent it was supposed to be. Possibly the British guy, even though the British guy usually sounded a little Australian.

“We sh- sh-should meet up tomorrow,” Bill suggested. “Su-summer’s almost over. One last t-t-t-trip to the b- barrens?”

“As long as my mom hasn’t dragged me to the emergency room,” Eddie groaned. They all laughed.

“Yeah,” Stan found himself agreeing. “It’ll be nice to hang out without the constant threat of death looming over our heads.”

“Jesus, Stanley, you’re sunshine and rainbows, aren’t ya?” Richie joked. Stan rolled his eyes. Richie turned back to the others, as they had reached the street where they would part ways. “See you Losers later! I’d hug you, Eds, but you’re more disgusting than your mom’s underwear.”

“Oh, shut the fuck up, Richie, as if I’d even want a hug from a Trashmouth.” Eddie's words were biting, contradicting the way his lips twitched upward at the corners.

Stan rolled his eyes. “Okay, let’s go, Richie.”

They all said their goodbyes and Stan and Richie walked their bikes slowly down the street that led to their neighborhood.

“You really think Eddie’s mom’s gonna make him go to the hospital?” Richie asked after a few minutes.

“Probably,” Stan answered. “But I don’t think they’d keep him, he’s perfectly fine. I’m sure he’ll be there tomorrow.”

Richie didn’t answer.

“I’m a bit worried my parents might want to take me to the emergency room,” Stan commented. “I don’t know what to tell them about all of this - " he motioned toward his face. “Dad’s still pissed about my Bar Mitzvah.”

“Uh, you mean the coolest thing anyone in this stupid town has ever seen?”

Stan grinned. “Totally worth the grounding.”

“Does it mean you’re not a man, though? Did they still chop your dick off?”

“Beep-beep,” Stan muttered, rolling his eyes.

“Tell ‘em you got attacked by a snake or something,” Richie suggested. Stan gave him an incredulous look. “Hey, just trying to help! Maybe say it was a sex thing and that you’d rather not talk about it.”

Stan rolled his eyes again, not bothering to answer. They turned onto Stan’s street. He started to feel a nervous rolling in his stomach as he thought about facing his parents. He wondered if he could convince them he fell in the barrens into some kind of plant with sharp edges.

“Hey, Stan?”

“Yeah?” They began to walk slower, getting closer to his house. Richie was looking at his shoes as they walked, and his voice sounded shaky. Stan watched him, waiting for him to talk.

“I wanna tell you about – or, ask you about, I guess – I don’t know, there’s something…” Richie paused, and Stan could see his knuckles were white where he gripped the handlebars of his bike. “Never mind.”

“Just tell me.” Stan frowned; it wasn’t like Richie to get nervous about anything. “I’ve known you since we were four, there’s pretty much nothing you can say to surprise me at this point.”

Richie glanced up at him and looked back down again. Stan began to worry.

“I’ve never told anybody.” His voice was quiet.

“Not even Eddie?”

This seemed to be the wrong thing to say. Richie’s fists somehow tightened even more around his handlebars, and he huffed out a laugh that sounded anything but amused.

Definitely not Eddie.”

It had to be about Eddie, then, Stan figured. What would make Richie so nervous, though? Over the last year Richie and Eddie had gotten much closer. It hadn’t bothered Stan that he and Richie weren’t really best-best friends anymore, because they were still best friends and besides, Stan had taken to hanging out with Bill much more often. He tended to roll his eyes much less when hanging out with Bill. He was surprised his eyes never just got stuck in the back of his head from rolling them at Richie so much over the past nine years.

“Are you guys fighting?” He finally asked, when Richie seemed unwilling to continue. Richie just shook his head. “Rich, I’m not really following here. You don’t have to be scared to tell me something, we’re best friends.”

Richie glanced up at him. “Best-best friends?”

It was something Richie came up with when they were six and met Bill and Eddie in their first grade class. The four quickly became best friends, but Richie had been adamant that there be some kind of distinction for Stan.

“Best-best friends,” Stan agreed, biting back a smile.

“That means you can’t… you can’t hate me, or call me names, okay?”

Stan furrowed his brow. “I wasn’t planning on it.”

“Well, you don’t know what it is, yet,” he argued.

“Okay, I won’t hate you or call you names.” Stan watched Richie, who looked to be on the verge of throwing up. “Can you just tell me? You’re freaking me out a bit.”

Richie looked back down, staring at his handlebars as though they were the most interesting thing in the world. Stan had to strain to hear what he said. “I like someone.”

Stan stopped. Richie looked up, surprised, and stopped as well.

“All that for liking someone? Geez, what is it, do you actually love Eddie’s mom?”

Richie dropped his bike and rushed to the grass, then threw up.

Stan was aware that Richie had a weak stomach. He’d been so nervous about starting kindergarten that Stan’s mom had had to pull over for him to throw up on the way there.

Stan stood his bike up with the kickstand and walked to Richie, who was now sitting on the curb with his head in his hands. He sat next to him and put an arm over his shoulders. What Richie was trying to tell him hit him slowly, and he took a moment to process before he said anything. He wondered how he hadn’t realized it before.

He could hear Richie sniffle and he tried to think of the best thing to say. He knew a lot of people thought it was wrong, that it was a sickness, but Stan had never really thought too much about it. But it was Richie. His best-best friend for almost their whole lives. Richie was definitely disgusting, but not because of this. He suddenly felt a wave of protectiveness wash over him, a slur he heard in the hallways all the time ringing in his ears. Richie probably heard it just as often as Stan did, and unlike Stan it probably didn’t roll off his shoulders without a thought.

“You’re still my best-best friend,” Stan said quietly. “It’s okay.”

“You don’t even know!” Richie cried, lifting his head from his arms. His eyes were puffy and red.

“You like Eddie,” Stan said simply. Richie paled. Stan hurried to continue, “And like I said, it’s okay. I’m never gonna hate you. Besides, you’re already in the Losers Club. Losers don’t really have room to judge other losers.”

Richie still looked terrified. “He’s gonna hate me.”

“No, he’s not,” Stan assured him. “Besides, you don’t have to tell him. You don’t have to tell anyone, it’s your own business.”

“Pennywise knew,” he whispered. Stan’s eyes widened. “He used it against me. Right after – after Bowers called me a…”

“You don’t have to say it,” Stan interrupted, the word ringing clearly in his ears.

“I wasn’t even – I was just playing Street Fighter. And I asked this boy to keep playing, and I wasn’t even – it wasn’t like that, but he ended up being Bowers’ cousin. And I ran outside and I was – I was on the bench in the city center by the Paul Bunyan statue and it came to life. Tried to get me with the giant axe. And then Pennywise was there telling me all my friends would find out my dirty little secret and they’d hate me and he’s right, he’s right, Eddie’s gonna think I have a disease or something –“

As he spoke his words tumbled together, and Stan had to focus to understand everything he said. It seemed like they were words Richie had been waiting to say for a while.

“You don’t have a disease,” Stan told him. “And as for Bowers, he calls all the Losers that. Everybody sees it as just a mean name, nobody’s gonna think – “

“We should get home,” Richie interrupted abruptly. He wiped his cheeks with the back of his hand and sniffled loudly. Stan watched in surprise as Richie stood up, brushed off the seat of his pants, and picked his bike up.

“Richie – “

“I don’t wanna talk about it anymore, Stan. I’m going home.”

He began walking, and after a few steps swung his leg over the seat of his bike and peddled away. Stan sat in shock as Richie reached the end of the street and turned, and then he was out of sight. As he slowly got on his own bike, his mind was racing. Obviously he had to help Richie, but if he didn’t even want to talk about it how was he supposed to? Maybe they could just ignore it? He could bring some comics over and they could hang out and pretend like they’d never even had the conversation.

Stan worried that that would be exactly what would happen. He sighed. Couldn’t Richie have given at least a day of reprieve from the whole clown-killing-thing before he brought up another doozy? He pulled his bike into the driveway and parked it next to the garage, pushing thoughts of Richie out of his mind and preparing a story about a crazy sharp plant in the barrens that he had fallen into.