Note: just saw the new adaptation of IT! The ending scene stayed in my head after the film, and I wondered how things might have played out if the Losers had taken Pennywise up on the offer to trade their freedom for Bill's, and what it might have taken for them to agree to the deal. I've seen both films but haven't ever quite made it through the book, so apologies if anything is out of place here - consider it an alternate universe of sorts! Keen to hear what you think, please leave a review if you're so inclined :)

"I'll take all of you, and I'll feast on your flesh as I feed on your fear. Or..."

The clown's otherworldly voice trailed off, his eyes alight with sudden excitement, his arm around Bill's neck tightening as the other six Losers stared in horror at their captive leader. They all knew in the pits of their stomachs that a deal with Pennywise was not going to lead to any kind of happy-ever-after.

"You'll just leave us be," he rasped, stroking Bill's trembling cheek.

"I'll take him, only him... and I'll have my long rest... and you will all live to grow and thrive and lead happy lives... until old age takes you back to the weeds."

A heavy silence hung over them, as Pennywise's cruel offer stabbed at their hearts. Leave Bill behind, to a fate worse than death? And live the rest of their lives like none of this had ever happened?

Before anyone could say anything, Bill's voice broke the silence.

"Leave," he choked, his voice shaky but his eyes firm. Pennywise grinned down at his captive. "I'm the one who dragged you all into this. I'm s-s-so, I'm s-sorry."

"I'm s-s-sorry!" mocked Pennywise, his grin widening.

The Losers stood motionless, staring at Bill.

"Go!" he shouted.

Bev looked around at the others, her eyes brimming.

"Guys. We can't," she pleaded, knowing deep in her heart that they were all considering the offer, even briefly, even against their will.

Richie was the first to move, scooting backwards on the ground.

"Sorry," he croaked weakly, as he got to his feet. His voice strengthened and his eyes hardened as he stared down at his friend.

"I told you Bill. I fucking told you... I don't wanna die. It's your fault."

The clown's lips twisted in a satisfied smile as Richie's words filled the space between them. Bill's expression was unchanged by Richie's words, as if he felt deserving of the accusation.

"You punched me in the face," Richie continued, pacing on the ground. "You made me walk in shitty water, you brought me to a fucking crackhead house..."

Pennywise's expression faltered, the smile dropping from his face.

"And now..." Richie didn't break eye contact with the clown as he pulled a bat from the junk pile. "I'm gonna have to kill this fucking clown."

Pennywise snarled, furious at this turn of events. Richie took a step towards them, brandishing the bat with far more bravery that he felt internally.

It seemed almost imminent that the clown would charge at him... but then Pennywise stopped, his eyes flickering with the ghost of an idea.

"Wait," the creature said, looking down at the defiant Bill. "I have a better idea."

Pennywise made a gesture with his hand, and suddenly their gaze was drawn upwards to the terrifying carousel of floating children above their heads. A small shape was slowly floating down towards them, out of the spiralling bodies. Bill's eyes filled with tears as he saw the yellow rain jacket encasing the shape, which rapidly resolved into that of a small child.

Georgie's body came to a stop above their heads, hovering. The place where his right arm had once been was only a stump, darkened to black with pooled blood, severed above the elbow. They could make out his face now, pale and dripping with water, his eyes the same hollow white that Bev's had been when they found her floating above the ground. Ben was the first to realise what that meant, and he gasped.

Bill had come to the same realisation.

"Georgie's... a-a-alive?" he whispered, the tears leaking out the corners of his eyes.

"Yes," smirked Pennywise. "Only just. I kept him, saved him for later, knew there was something special about the boy with the wax boat..."

His eyes dropped again to Bill, his gloved hand brushing the hair from his head in the mockery of an affectionate gesture.

"I didn't realise that special thing was his brother."

Bill was crying now, struggling against Pennywise's grip, desperately trying to get to his little brother. He'd spent the last year trying to find Georgie, trying to convince himself that against the odds he was just missing - not dead - even if no one else believed, even as his parents' pitying eyes judged him, even though he was slowly coming to terms in his heart that Georgie was gone forever...

"No," he cried, his hand reaching out. "Georgie!"

"Here's my deal," snapped Pennywise, his humour disappearing, his teeth sharper than ever. "Same as before, but I'll throw in dear Georgie as a bonus. Billy stays with me."

"No!" cried Eddie, sensing what was coming.

"Yes." Bill's voice wasn't wavering this time. He was still held by Pennywise, but his face was set. "Take Georgie, p-please. Get him to a hospital. I'll be fine."

He barely stuttered in his words to them, and the Losers all felt their hearts sink at the words of their friend who no longer wanted to be saved. Pennywise had played the meanest trick of all, knowing Bill would willingly go to his grave to save his younger brother. After all this time, Bill still felt the most responsible for what had happened to Georgie that grey stormy day.

"Bill, no," whispered Ben. Bev's hands were over her mouth, her eyes welling as she shook her head slowly. Stan and Richie were silent, their eyes dark. Mike tightened his grip on his metal pipe, his knuckles white. Eddie was twisting something in his hands, over and over and over.

Tears slowly trickled down Bill's cheeks as he spoke.

"Prove he's alive."

This was directly at Pennywise, who cocked his head to the side, silver eyes gleaming in the darkness. The still body of Georgie drifted down to ground level, where it landed gently in the water in front of the other Losers. They rushed to his side, crowding around him as his eyes slowly faded from milky white to brown. He blinked, causing a sharp inhalation of breath from Eddie, and hazily looked around but didn't move.

"Tick tock, Billy boy," chimed the clown in his ear. "The after-effects of suspension will wear off soon, and missing an arm has gotta be painful for a little kid like that."

Bill breathed in, his throat dry, looking sadly at his friends and brother.

"T-t-tell Georgie... tell Georgie I love h-him."

Their hearts breaking, the Losers stood unmoving.

"Go," he repeated his earlier statement. "GO!"

His friends looked from him to his brother, knowing they wouldn't be able to change his mind. Knowing there was nothing they could say or do that could fix this situation, that Pennywise had held all the cards all along. Bev was the first to move, scooping the small frame of Georgie up in her arms carefully, and nodding once through her tears at the first boy she'd ever loved.

"We'll make sure he's safe," she vowed. "I promise. Come on, everyone... let's go."

The others, stunned into motion by her words, gathered their things. Pennywise watched them through slitted eyes, his grip tightening possessively on Bill, breathing heavily. He clearly didn't trust them to keep their word.

The Losers, in one tight knit group around Bev and Georgie, took a final look at their brave leader, across the cold cavern. Bill tried to ignore Pennywise's wet breath on his neck as he forced a weak smile at them, thanking them with his eyes for taking care of his brother. For them, there were no words, what could they possibly say, nothing seemed like it could ever be enough to summarise the sacrifice Bill was making. Even Richie, for the first time in his life, was lost for words.

So they filed silently through the open pipe, towards the indifferent world above, leaving Bill and Pennywise to the eerie silence of the clown's watery lair.

Pennywise abruptly let go of Bill, throwing him to the water where he splashed against the shallow surface, coughing, on his hands and knees, his face still wet with tears.

"You're a fool," Pennywise said, his voice almost lyrical. "All that for a no-good kid with only one arm."

"Shut up," Bill said through gritted teeth, refusing to look at the clown and instead staring at the murky water. "Just kill me already."

"Oh we're going to have some fun first, Billy, darling," drawled the clown, pulling him up by his hair from the water to face him. He cried out in pain, his hands grasping at the clown's tight grip. "In all my years here in the charming town of Derry, no one's ever even gotten close to stopping me, let alone raised a small army of children against their deepest and darkest fears."

He reached a gloved hand to grab Bill's chin roughly, forcing the boy to look straight at him.

"You, however... you taught them not to fear. You brought them together, even despite my best efforts to tear you all apart. You were the binding force, the key to their power."

Bill glared at the clown, his green eyes dark with hatred.

"Now you're mine," Pennywise smiled.

With one sharp movement, he threw Bill across the cavern to the rocky wall, where he hit it hard. He heard a crack in his chest, some of his ribs had broken from the impact. He tried to get up, but the impact had dazed him and everything was suddenly wobbly. The next second, Pennywise was there, pulling him up against the wall, his glowing amber eyes staring into Bill's, rows and rows of teeth rippling with anticipation.

"Oh, I will so enjoy devouring your flesh and licking your bones clean," Pennywise whispered, a dark promise, his sharp fingernail tracing a bloody path down Bill's damp cheek. "And you can take comfort in knowing that you will have died in vain, that my cycle will continue forever and no one will ever, ever, get as close as you and your band of Losers did."

Bill felt the horrible empty aching in his chest that Pennywise sought to induce, felt the hopelessness and futility crushing him, and against his will, the flutter of fear for what fate awaited him. His chest burned with pain, as the clown pressed cruelly on his broken ribs. But regardless of his fear, or in spite of it, he swallowed the lump in his throat and met the clown's steady gaze.

"You're wrong." His small voice stilled Pennywise, whose eyes flashed with anger at the defiance. "I know my friends. I know their power. They will defeat you."

The clown hissed, infuriated.

"They will defeat you," he repeated, a vow of the distant future, a wish despite the longest odds.

Pennywise opened his mouth, revealing dozens of rows of teeth, an infinite tunnel of teeth just waiting to sink into Bill's skin. Faintly glowing orbs at the end of the tunnel of teeth drew Bill in, captivated him with their luminescence, and he felt his awareness melting away into the soft orange glow.

"...they will defeat you...", he whispered, the light fading from his eyes.

And then there was only darkness.