If he's honest with himself ( and he's not, very often ), he's not sure why anyone likes his stories. The words seem clunky, the plot meandering, the characters mostly hollow, his endings leave much to be desired ( the story hasn't ended yet, so how can he end it, there's no bite ). When Bill tells the Losers that he forgot, he was lying again ( maybe he forgot favorite colors or the sound of laughs, but he could not forget their souls ).
The first book that gets published is a love letter ( and if he's honest, they all are ). Critics love his Final Girl. A redheaded tomboy who chainsmokes cigarettes and never lets the ones who knock her down, keep her there. Critics tend to ignore her flaws; the refusal to open up and tell the truth, the vicious sharpness of her smile that completes a mask ( behind the teeth is only a craving for blood ). The critics pretend her reasoning is for the greater good, but Bill knows her reasoning is vengeance. She is a protector, yes, but the critics try to reason that she is not a predator and Bill knows better.
The critics do not like his next book. The book about two boys who were closer than brothers investigating a mystery. They call it homoerotic because of how the fast-talking, loud boy lingers his hands on the delicate, sharp-witted boy's face, sides, hips ( the editor took out each press of lips on skin, of how hands made their way up lean legs ). They say annoying instead of funny, and hate how much time Bill spent describing crooked teeth ( the editor took out how those teeth found collar bones and hip bones and how the pain was worth the bite ). Where he wrote delicate, they read weak and ignored the quiet strength and determination ( the editor takes out how delicate hands would always be gently touching anywhere and everywhere, a reminder and an anchor ). They say Bill spent too much time writing on how their limbs tangled together in a shared bed after they didn't save someone in time ( even though it could be read platonic [it shouldn't be]). Bill did not let his editor take out how they were Jewish and they harp on that too. His readers loved it ( they say despite of, but they mean because of ). Bill refuses to speak on who inspired the characters, but remembers instead the two birds he watched in his yard. One always loudly cooing before getting pecked by the other, but neither of them appearing without the other.
Bill is horrified with himself for the next book and so he horrifies those that read it. It follows two boys, like the last, but the monsters are closer to home. A small boy and a big boy. A hot-headed, snarling boy and a gentle, steady boy. Two boys that face the world and all those who say they do not belong there. One monster keeps the vicious boy leashed by telling twisted lies and feeds him pills that only serve to keep him close to her. He snaps at the leash,but can't get away. The other monster is more sympathetic, but nevertheless damaging, so worried that the mellow boy would be nothing, that she forces him into the box herself and weighs it down so that he may never leave it. He drowns under the weight of her expectations. The book ends in blood, but not of the monsters, and Bill cries as he sends it to his publisher. This book infuriates a small group of mothers who see themselves in the pages, reflected on as monsters. Baring teeth, Bill tells them each that they are monsters then and he hopes they burn. Bill's agent stops agreeing to Q&A's with the fans for him after that.
His latest is a controversy. He writes of the experience of a black boy in a town of hate. Of a boy who becomes a man in a town that wishes he hadn't succeeded. Of a man who refuses to keep a pet because he tried that once and can still see a foam covered muzzle and hear taunting laughter in his sleep. Of a man who doesn't drink outside his home because of stories about a nightclub and how its burning lit up the sky ( the firefighters would arrive after the ashes settled ). Of a man who doesn't eat meat because he can still feel the raw chunks that made it past his teeth as his face was pushed into what they wanted to make him ( a dead animal who can no longer fight back ). The boy who found friends (here's where the critics say things about white saviors ), but the truth is the boy saved himself because they showed him he was worth saving. They say he's the most honorable character he's ever written ( he agrees ). Bill receives a postcard from a town he should have forgotten that simply says, "Do you remember" in handwriting he carries in his heart. So he goes home to him.
He shows up with a suitcase and a backpack and cannot lie to himself when strong arms wrap around him; he simply hugs back.
The town continues hating, but forgets the strength of one who was born in hate and that they were both forged in its flames. Bill shoots someone in the stomach with a smile the next time they try to burn a cross into their yard. The man dies and no one tempts fate by trying to attack them again. The hateful ones think that if they could just get one of them alone, it would be easy. But in this town, the men remember, and they know better than splitting up.
They had attended a carnival ( mostly for the corndogs, if they were both being honest ), but they saw the writing on the wall when they heard raised voices and saw bared teeth aimed at two Others. To be Other in Derry was already a sin, but to be proudly Other brought a reckoning. They were not there for first blows, but they were there before they could toss Adrian Mellon off a bridge. They had no weapons except righteous anger and strong arms from working on a bought-back farm. The clown still got fed, still horrified the men who now knew without doubt that the reckoning had been brought back indeed, but two other Others had been saved and sent out of Derry with a check for at least a month's rent anywhere but here.
They called each Loser, dread washing over their bones at each agreement. Bill called Stan five minutes after Mike did, an ache in his gut that didn't go away until he made Stan promise that he would see him tonight ( he ignored the way Stan was crying, put aside the guilt to be picked up and looked at after IT, didn't hang up until Stan left the house in a taxi ). The hours before dinner could have been spent preparing, going over research one more time, but they weren't. They were spent quietly and in love. Remembrance, desperation, and fear colored what they shared with bites and bruises, but that was washed away as they came together again.
Bill hugged Beverly with relief, taking in the bruises and the tanline on her ring finger. He cupped her face in his palms in much too intimate a way for almost strangers, but Beverly was always good at adapting and she just smiled up at him ( he used to complete this with a kiss ) before breaking off and greeting Mike.
He greeted Richie with a hug and a pat on the back, laughing almost immediately at the stream of consciousness that left his mouth. He didn't dare cup his face as he had with Beverly's ( Richie had always been more scared than he let on ), but his eyes lingered on the teeth he could see flashing joke after joke ( he still has an accidental scar on his shoulder from those teeth ).
Ben had eyes mostly for Beverly, but he allowed himself to hug and be hugged ( Ben gave the best hugs, even better than Mike's ). His smile was genuine as he looked down at Bill and how Bill had clasped his forearm.
Eddie allowed Bill a quick hug, but was off talking at a-mile-a-minute to everyone ( Bill remembers when Eddie used to let himself be held, when he was still for hours in the comfort of one of their arms ).
He hugged Stan the longest. Stan curled his fists into Bill's shirt and kept his face buried in his hair until the gasping breaths that had started when he walked in, calmed to normal breaths ( he then hugged each and every one of the Losers for a long time, not even the Trashmouth commenting on what seemed like a grounding moment ).
IT was upset. They were all supposed to forget and Stanley was not supposed to make it. It would not be the last time things did not go to plan. IT tried to crunch on arms with teeth like daggers and stick claws through chests, but all that got him was dripping in burning acid and broken beyond repair. IT tried to trap and ensnare, but time away had not made the children gentler, but had turned them into monsters. If IT hadn't been fearing for its survival, IT would have been happy about how corrupt they came to be. As some of the children came into its mind, as the others lay waste to its outside, seeking to end IT once and for all, IT felt fear and pride. Perhaps they will finish eating the world once IT is gone.
They sit on the banks of the Quarry, drip drying and looking cleaner, but still covered in blood and sewage and other such mess. They don't talk, but they don't need to yet. Their hands find each other and they hold on tight. For they are the reckoning that came and there is blood in their teeth that cannot be washed away.
But after a reckoning there is supposed to be peace. The Losers have only been lucky a few times and never for anything as small as peace.
Tom Rogan had never seen behind the mask of his wife, a mistake that would never leave him as men surrounded him and showed him that strength is not just in hate, but also in love. After a year of him missing, he is presumed dead ( his body is never found deep in the sewers of a town that had more bodies than people ). Beverly, now Marsh again, does not cry at the funeral, but the press assumes it's because she has already cried her tears ( she has of course, but they were never for Tom ).
Richie goes with Stan to pack up his things from his wife. If Stan had gone alone, the memory loss from his wife would have been too much to bear ( Patty feels terrible, of course, before Derry they had been best friends and lovers, but there is something that won't let her remember ). As it is, Richie's good humor at the situation helps ground Stan and keeps him steady as he calls on some favors from old colleagues ( at the end of the day, as they fly back to Derry, one Stanley Uris is dead, but another is having new identification sent back to Derry [she was his wife after all, she deserves closure instead of a half-remembered ghost]). Richie stays with him in bed through the night, grieving for the loss of an old life, even if he is excited for a new one.
Ben is excellent at listening to Myra wail and whimper about unfairness as Eddie organizes everything he needs and the lawyer he's getting ( for although Myra forgot, she has always had such a hard time letting go ). Ben nods and hums at the right parts, keeping her tea cup full of brandy with a splash of tea. Eventually, as she snores into the kitchen table, Ben holds Eddie from behind as he's on the phone. The nervous pacing stops and something like contentment keeps Eddie from moving.
Mike, a man full of love, gets the farm cleaned up and ready for new residents. He speaks of home improvement projects, like an in home recording studio and a craft room, happily to anyone who will listen ( funny, how quickly hate can leave people [of course there are still people who do hate, but they are now far fewer]). He cries when Ben gets him a dog, but names her after one of Ben's buildings anyway. Beverly drags him out dancing at The Falcon, friendly and kind enough that the regular patrons don't mind that she's there. Eventually, all the Losers end up there as regular patrons ( and as a group, they threaten anyone who might have a problem, for though no one knows, everyone can tell that blood is an old friend to them and they do not mind when she comes calling ). Someone friendly once asked them why they stayed in Derry. "Afraid of forgetting," they would say. "Forgetting what?" They did not answer, the scars on their palms shone in the dim lighting of the bar ( a pact again. Not for fighting a monster, but to stay together no matter what ).
Bill writes one more book. It's about friendship and love. The publisher refuses to publish it; there are only 6 people who like it ( because really, he doesn't like his own writing at all ). It is celebrated with mouths on mouths, hands on hips, nails on back, blood on teeth, and love.
Above all, love.