Notes: Flashback chapter. Takes place between "A Human Affliction" and "Man Up". Post "Reality Bites" / "Taste Test".

Also known as - me trying to justify why I had them kiss at all. What other fanfic writers take for granted and pander about their works with such reckless abandon, for some of us readers, kisses are anything but casually done. And It would undoubtedly be on that boat.

Recommended OST: "Nothing Good Is Ever Easy" by Claudia Brücken.

(Also, happy 28th birthday, Bill!)

"Kiss And Make Up"

K+ (for language)

By the tick of the diner's clock, Beverly Marsh deduced it was somewhere ten minutes past three in the afternoon when her company found it prudent to appear. While not exactly punctual, she supposed there was nothing to actually be upset about.

He had shown himself, as promised, after all.

However reluctantly.

This allowance didn't mean she couldn't rib him a bit for it, though.

"Finally. I was starting to think you stood me up."

(Wait for it, audience.)

"But you're- already standing."

You idiot. At the risk of looking completely silly to the rest of the diner (you had to hold your ground in keeping a table when it was this busy), Beverly straightened from where she had been leaning against the bench booth's backrest.

"You know what I meant." She paused, looking her incognito companion up and down (mostly up). As It reluctantly promised, Robert Gray had shown himself. He was clad in the embroidered, laced-leather jacket-and-jeans ensemble, just as she remembered. And said outfit now seemed complete with the eyewear Beverly had suggested, even if it could be seen as an unwelcome reminder of the confrontation with Alvin at the market.

Unwelcome, but perhaps it was somehow acceptable, too.

"Back to the usual garb, I see."

Rob frowned, brows furrowing over the opaque lenses. "Ge... garb?"

"Clothes," Beverly clarified. She spared him an encouraging smile and pat on the shoulder. There, nice midway point between a handshake and a hug. "It's okay. They fit you. I wouldn't have expected them to change."

And you remembered the glasses. Nice touch.

Makes you look more a Rob, more than Bob, already.

The entity's frown eased from one borne of confusion to concern. He didn't look mollified by her compliments, spoken and unspoken. "Not... not even after- "

Beverly stopped him with a playful sleeve-tug. "Hey, c'mon, we're not here to talk about that." The redhead gestured toward the empty bench seat across the table from her own. "Sit. I already ordered for us."

As you probably already know.

Taking her place, Marsh paused to discard her hoodie, folding it up to stash against the wall. Her necklaces clinked together as she sidled back into position.

Looking on, Gray paused only to ask what he already knew. He tilted his head at the notion all the same. "Ice cream?"

"Why not?" Beverly smiled again, nodding toward the window, trying to seem purely casual - despite there being nothing casual about their recent history. "Warm enough out there today."

Among other... places.

"I... suppose." Removing his sunglasses, Rob didn't look outwardly convinced. He sat down and spared the window no special attention, focusing instead on the folded-up menu stashed at the table's head. "...So long as you let me buy."

Beverly knew better than to deny the offer. She had a scarce few dollars in her pocket, barely enough to afford the sprinkles. "Deal." She waited again, watching him try to busy himself with folding the glasses to stash inside his jacket. He avoided meeting her eyes.

Only when the din of the diner around them continued as normal, a fog of overlapping chatter, hissing stoves, and clinking cutlery, for perhaps a minute longer than it should have, did Beverly pry: "Well... are we gonna talk, or not?"

We have to, at some point.

While 'or not' was a very tempting alternative choice, she wasn't one to take the shier route. Wearing a human face, It apparently harbored no such desire to play the tough guy, then and there. He spared her a very sideways look at this prodding, as Pennywise always tended to when the clown was feeling unnecessarily put on, yet trying not to show it (funnily, enough, Bill had pegged that tic earlier than all of them; something about a rainy afternoon he spent, one on one, familiarizing It with televised entertainment). "You start. I'm- not sure where to begin."

"No?" She took her turn to frown. "...I am. Can't you tell?"

This drew his full mildly-irritated attention back. Rob scoffed, with a helpless-looking shrug to match. "Pretend I can't, Bevs. Human face, human perspective. This might prove- easier for you to understand if we- approach the subject that way."

You and your big words. Ben ought to be proud.

And that eyeroll was totally Stanley of you.

"Gotcha." Nodding slowly, Beverly closed the gap, leaning forward to set her elbows on the table. With the glasses off, she took another, more-measured look at his visage. For the sake of pretending, she temporarily fooled herself into thinking if he appeared in any way ill, it would show there. "You're feeling better, then?"

Just needed some time, when all was said and done.

Rob's scowl proved short-lived. He met her gaze, eyes roving with small back-and-forth twitches, to follow her own. "Back to normal - close as there is to normal for me, thanks," he snipped, tightly, before following it up with a softer response, "And you, you're... okay, too?"

Beverly spared him a brief grin in reward, for showing some geniality. "Insofar as what that means for me, too, yes. Thank you." Waiting for him to offer more, expression dropping as he only indulged in another prolonged stare, she ended their respective inner tirades with a sigh. She leaned back.

The silences between had officially gone awkward.

"All right. Look, I won't beat around the bush any more: we... we were both there, caught up in the... moment. Whatever you were thinking... whatever I was thinking, it- it just... happened, okay? Arguing about it, however long we did, doesn't change that it did."

"Y... yes, but..." Listening to her, It went a noticeable shade paler, closer to the bone-white tones of his most-favored form. His words grew slower and halting as he pondered out loud: "I don't... know... what brought it on, talking like that, feeling like that, I... that was another side effect of being stuck, I guess. Narrowed senses... equals... narrowed thinking... like- trying to fill a funnel without waiting for it to drain first."


Beverly didn't think she would ever associate a kiss with that word. But it felt appropriate, to describe what her friend had endured. "Seeing me there, with my father, it upset you that much?"

"Yes. Not beiNg abLe to- " Rob stopped short, catching the acrid slip of his voice. The paleness faded, overtaken by an almost-bashful flush in his cheeks. His eyes went a bit wider, practically beseeching her for forgiveness, on multiple levels. "Thinking there was nothing I-I could do. I didn't- have to go with Richie to the arcade, after you and I talked, but... a-after you..."

After I brushed you off... Beverly continued, stringing the facts together. She threaded a hand against the back of her head in thought, fingers snaring themselves in the red hairs. Her rings snagged amidst the curls, but she paid it no heed. All too suddenly, her 'lunchdate' looked the definition of how he had probably felt after he saw the bruises on her neck (still visible now, albeit healing and mostly-faded).

"You must've felt pretty useless."

Not just for yourself.

And I didn't make it any easier, acting the way I did.

I thought I was being tough enough, you wouldn't need to worry.

Meekly, Rob blinked at her and his gaze dropped again. He looked borderline reproachful. Perhaps of her, perhaps of himself. He need not say anything to indicate which it was.

"I got it wrong," she concluded, folding her hands together atop the table. "I'm sorry, I thought you- you were overreacting again. Over nothing. I should've paid your warning more attention. But I couldn't know Da... my father would come to Neibolt Street. I didn't think he- worried enough to."

On this subject, It was never short on things to say. And he spared no commentary here. "He worries plenty, Bevvie. And I know how badly you wish he wouldn't."

Beverly frowned. Don't call me that.

Rob scoffed at her change of expression, raising an eyebrow. "See? It gets you, even now." As quickly as the smugness surfaced, it submerged again, overtaken by a considerate wince. "I'm sorry if it all- upset you, made things even more confused. That wasn't what I wanted. It was only... what I thought I could do, to help."

Beverly scratched the back of her neck, trying to puzzle out how to best accept the fact. Would it have been better if he hadn't helped, if he had stayed out of it completely? Probably. Odds are, Alvin would have dragged her home for another verbal beating before declaring her grounded the rest of the summer. He hated the fact she smoked, yes, but did it really warrant all the public bluster?

Either way, that she had stupidly even dared to, under the pretense of defiantly sneaking away from home to do so, had landed her in hot water.

Limited as he was on abilities at the time, It pulled together the best rescue plan he could on short notice, under the circumstances. And the best possible outcome had left him feeling apologetic, exposed, and hopelessly bemused, all for her sake.

He didn't need to be.

Beverly reached across the table on impulse, patting one of his hands in consolation. "I'm sorry, too. I don't know what came over me, before, or in the end. But- it's a good thing you had that- that light trick up your sleeve, yeah? I guess the kiss was my cue for you to spring it. Just the fix you needed."

Happy accident.

It's humanoid disguise stilled. His expression took little reading to see he clearly thought nothing of the kind. Beverly felt a weird quietness settle around her ears, as if an unseen increase in air pressure had caused them to pop. The clamor of the diner faded a few octaves.

Mouth slightly agape, Robert Gray stared at her in abject abhorrence.

Without breaking eye contact, he quickly pulled his hand away.

Challenged by the reaction, Beverly held his gaze, despite feeling a inward flicker of trepidation. "...What?"

"It wasn't a trick, Bevs. It... that- that was me."

"You?" She frowned, ears clearing. How oddly calm and monotone he now sounded, compared to how petrified he looked. "What... what do you mean?"

"What happened." His expression crumpled with distress. Anxiously, he brought a knuckle up to his mouth, briefly favoring the skin with a worried gnaw. "Just what I'm saying - that... that light, flying apart like I did, blinding everyone in the market - you've no idea how lucky you got."

Beverly blinked, shrugging, palms upturned, as she sat back in her seat. "If you say so." Rebuffing his anxiety, rather than playing along to it, was easy when she didn't have an inkling what the entity was referring to. "I mean, I closed my eyes, that's all. How is that 'lucky'?"

Rob scoffed again, sounding a little more choked than before. His unblinking eyes seemed to flare brighter with repressed lumens, as if a slider switch had been dialed up. "You didn't see me. That's lucky."

"Why? What would've happened if I had?"

"You saw what happened afterward, didn't you?"

Beverly had.

But like so much else, unbearable to face and impossible to explain, she had tried to put it out of her mind. At the time, there had only been a muffled snap. The feeling of lips against her own disappeared, the pressure vanishing as if it had barely been applied. The air went twice as dense, as though a blanket of humidity had set in upon the scene.

Yellow light, muted though it was by the protection of her eyelids, flared from somewhere and swallowed their surroundings. She didn't dare chance a peek.

Beverly remembered hearing several frightened shouts sounding off, some close by, some from afar. One voice, she recognized as Alvin's. He stumbled and yelled as though he had been struck. Beverly had thought, for one terrified instant, he was going to yank her away, backhand her there before so many of those witnesses.

Just as she had kind of hoped.

Then people would see, for themselves, she really was the victim. Her father was the abusive prick he was rumored to be after all. Word would spread. Things would take a turn for the better. He would think twice before raising a hand to her again.

Instead, she remembered opening her eyes to relative chaos. Bob Gray was gone. She noted so right away, then upon glancing around she noted where several customers had wound up: keeled over their shopping baskets, passed out on the floor. Most had dropped in heaps where they stood, as if a collective, chloroform-induced faint had taken place.

Alvin fell sideways, slumping against a shelf, sliding down to sit leaning against the endcap full of greeting cards. His eyes had dropped into a dull, half-lidded stare. His mouth hung ajar in a breathless sigh.

Without taking too much time to worry for him, or react otherwise, Beverly bolted from the scene. The bewildered crowd of people lingering at the front of the store, shoppers and store personnel alike, were making their way toward the apparent-victims as she brushed by. She rendezvoused with the Losers, waiting as they outside the door, and together they had fled back to Neibolt Street.

Mike theorized there was where It had presumably teleported back to, and to their mingled relief and puzzlement, it turned out to be true.

Oddly enough, Beverly hadn't wondered since what became of the collateral victims.

Neither had any of the guys. They only seemed to relieved to have their club's full ranks back together again.


Considering the remorseful stare Rob Gray currently favored the girl with, the answer was looking her right in the eye now.

She forgot, because that's what people in Derry did, no matter what their age.

They forgot.

Because of him.

Because this being, one she somehow counted as her friend and confidant, his very presence had permeated the town, like an undetectable poison of apathy? Years upon years of influence seeping into every living facet. Everyone was polluted, contaminated to some extent, and not because there was something in the water they drank.

Watching her muse, Rob waited until Beverly found the urge, and the will, to glare, near-accusingly, at him before ashamedly dropping his gaze. "And some of them, those people are still... in treatment. Some won't ever recover. The only good to come of it is they all, each for their own reasons, won't- remember. Including your father."

He didn't, apparently.

I went home the next day. He was lying there on the sofa, with half a concussion, and the only question I got was "D'we have any ice packs in the freezer, Bevvie? ...No. I don't remember where I bumped my head so hard."

Nor did he ask if I'd been anywhere I shouldn't have.

"They won't... remember," Beverly repeated, dully. "Just because they... saw you?"

Rob's eyes turned sharp, mitigated only by the barest glimmer of sorrow. She remembered seeing the look not all that long ago, in Neilbolt's foyer, and just to reinforce the memory, he seemed to repeat himself: "That's what I do, Beverly, and have always done. The face you're talking to now is a mask. Pennywise is a mask. All my physical forms are. What I- am is nothing your mind can comprehend and remain in one piece, and there is no explaining that to you, to anyone, in any sufficient degree. That's the... essence of my existence - to destroy, to consume. Eventually, that's what I end up doing. Always."


He didn't have to nod. A poignant blink from him was affirmation enough.


"And between bouts you... sleep?"

His scowl deepened. "If I didn't, nothing in existence would have a chance to be. It's... It's why I- why you won't- "

Tap, tap.

Startled, so enraptured by his small speech (he had a talent for them, however much he might protest to the contrary), Beverly jumped at the brazen interruption. Someone had tapped the window, from outside, with all the casual disregard one might a fishtank after reading a sign which specifically said not to.

Short of bearing his teeth, Rob glared accordingly.

His speechifying came at the cost of not keeping a veil of nigh-invisibility as tightly rigged as it should be.

The perpetrators turned out to be three teenage girls, perhaps her same age, or slightly older. The makeup probably added more years than they could actually lay claim to. Two brunettes and a blonde, Marsh thought she recognized them as tenth graders, whom may or may not have occasion to socialize with one Henry Bowers. They looked like the Gretta Keene types, besides. Their names and reputations temporarily escaped her.

All too suddenly, Beverly realized she didn't precisely... like the way their eyelashes were fluttering. Or how they stood so needlessly close to the window. Or the feathery smiles they sported. Or the very obvious way they chatted sidelong to one another.

It was as if they were trying their damnedest to look enticing, mid-gossip.


Only a matter of time before something of this nature happened.

Marsh barely refrained from rolling her eyes.

Oh, you girls have no idea who you're putting the moves on right now.

To her inexplicable relief, Rob didn't take the bait. He only scowled at the coy, flirtatious show and waved them away. Expression souring, he used the underhanded finger flick of be-gone, as though he were some old time nobleman banishing begging peasants from his presence.

Visibly disappointed, the trio of girls exchanged a miserable glance among themselves. One of them, the tallest, spared Beverly a simmering look of jealously before moving off down the sidewalk after her friends.

Rob feigned a sigh of relief as they found themselves relatively alone once more. "Bevs, wh-why were they... Why're you looking at me like that?"

Elbows back on the table, Beverly arched an eyebrow. She kept her face as blank as could be. "You're the mind reader."

Among other things.

"I'd... rather have you lie to me right now." He frowned, slowly pointing after the departing girls without looking at away from her. "Nothing their brains were saying is anything I want to hear."

So? Stop listening.

Eyes darting with thought, Rob frowned. He seemed to take the advice to heart (or whatever posed for one). Snapping his fingers, so quickly Marsh nearly couldn't see the blur of his hand, the shapeshifter conjured up an already-lit cigarette.

He did so completely heedless of the NO-SMOKING warning above the diner's exit.

Neutral face lost, Beverly blinked and stared. After all the times she could recall being harped on for her bad habit, here was her critic, going back on his word without so much as a blink of insecurity. "When did... you start smoking?"

Just now. Deal. The frown seemed to speak for itself, before Rob promptly stuck the filter between his lips. "I need the distraction."

How readily dismissive of him.

Beverly smirked. "So? You're kinda... cute, by our standards."

Your mask is, that is.

"Peh. Cute is not the word they were thinking of."

Beverly waited as he took a slow, measured drag on the paper, eyes averted. "Yeah? What's the harm in looking, then?"

Rob exhaled with a sniff of disdain, smoke wafting from his nose like an affronted dragon. Further stoking his temper might not be the smartest thing to do, lest he start breathing fire - for real. "Did you not just hear everything I said, about what danger there is in looking at me?" As she failed to answer, the entity twirled the cigarette, baton-style, between his fingers. "One way or another, it always leads to... trouble."

Pondering once again, Beverly tapped a finger against the table. She wasn't one for restless thought, typically. Maybe a smoke would have soothed her twinged nerves, as well. "Well, then that begs the question, and- no, don't cut me off. Bill says he's brought it up to you, before, and you couldn't explain then, either. If you're so dangerous, what good do you think making friends of us does you, or... or anybody?"

If there's no good endgame possibility, why just set yourself up to fail?

Again, Rob didn't answer for a while. His idle fingers drummed against the table. "It's not a question of doing one good, Bevs. It's... seeing what can be so good. About humanity's... idea of good, that is."

Versus... what?

What expectation did you have? Why're you... pitting yourself against?

Beverly sighed. Once more, the answer was only half satisfactory. The full scope of his ideals was out of her grasp. "I... guess. Again. But if it's all- doomed, in the end, if it's your... fate to destroy whatever you know, why bother?"

"You ever look up the defintion of 'fate'?" Further illustrating his point, Rob sighed through an imitation-cloud of tobacco smoke. The sight was strangely odorless. "Why d'you bother to keep smoking after your Daddy lectures you about not doing it, time and again?" Eyes half-lidded, his voice was almost a careless drawl.

James Dean would approve.

Without getting into specifics, or too much emotion that would somehow spoil her point, Beverly summarized her argument:

"Because I... I can. Because it's my... it's my choice."

You recall how ticked I got at the thought you'd ever talk me into quitting?

He remembers (...he remembers...)

Marsh would have thought the echo imaginary, some random tangent of her own mind reaffirming the words, had Gray not taken a very pointed glance at her. He stared through the smokescreen her vague answer comprised, masking a not-so-vague multitude of reasons.

Just as she often looked through him.

"...You're your own girl, Beverly. No one can tell you what to do, not Alvin, not me. No one. You demonstrated that pretty clearly the other day. You made a choice to do what you did, no matter how bad the outcome."

Cutting himself off, Rob paused for another very-in-practice drag on the cigarette. He seemed to regard the next exhale of smoke as if searching for something, blue-green irises roving through the whisps before refocusing on her. "You and I, we're not so different in that regard. No one can tell me what to do, even if, in the end, I can't escape what I am. No one can think to tell me anything. One glance at the actual me robs them of that capacity. As it should." He stopped, letting a slow, near-satisfied grin crease his face, appreciating the comparison from yet another, more-human angle. "Like you and being so... attractive."

I guess that follows. The guys do have a tendency to clam up around me.

Guys can't help it. They do that around pretty girls.

"Aw. Well. That's almost... flattering." Beverly teased, before the reality of just what she was joking about (and who with) caught up and sobered her with its slap. "In a... cosmically-messed-up kind of way."

Rob scoffed, flicking imaginary ashes away, not even bothering to aim for the preprovided ashtray. They promptly fizzled out of existence, midair. Watching them disintegrate, he smirked. "Eds would agree with you."

"Really? About the flattering part?"

The smirk dropped. A degree of doubt crept back into his once-smarmy words. "No, the... messed-up... thing. He's said so more than once. Comparing me to you, or vice versa, I'd say that qualifies."

Beverly picked the gesture up where it fell. She leaned across the table, smiling, trying to meet his downcast eyes. "Now who's depreciating themselves?"

"Like you never have," he fired back, expression flat through the tops of his eyes.

Something nudged her foot, his boot against her shoe. The smile disappeared. "Sure, when I deserve it, but- "

"For Ga- God's sake, would it kill you to take a compliment once and a while?" Rob interrupted. Matching her note for note, he leaned in, so close their foreheads almost touched, and she couldn't wonder at his little slip of slang usage. "Not everything has to be a struggle, you know."

She didn't move away. Enduring such biting words demanded she defend herself. "Well, I'm sorry, but it takes some time to shake that mode of think- "


Beverly stopped dead. From so close a vantage point, she couldn't miss the fresh ripple of agony shuddering through her friend's expression at hearing the word. He didn't make any moves to hide it, merely clenched his jaw and looked away, toward the street.

She heard a tiny crackle. The cigarette's glowing tip flared cold, then died to a black husk in his hand. The smoke trailed off into nothing.

A few tense minutes passed before Rob dared speak again.

"Georgie knows."

Watching him, Beverly felt her mind go momentarily blank. All she could think to utter was a soft, "Oh."

They regarded one another in dismal, dreadful silence for a while. There was nothing either could fathom necessary to put to words. When it came to the matter of George Denbrough, on that there was no cause to argue.

Beverly swallowed. "He... he does?"

Grasping for yet another distraction, Rob snuffed the half-spent cigarette out in the tray, neverminding it was already extinguished. "He brought it up."

Slowly, Beverly leaned back, giving him some breathing room - whether he actually needed it or not. "How... how long ago was that?"

"A few days, after all- all of this nonsense happened," the human lookalike continued. Idly, he tugged reddish-brown strands of hair above his ear, winding them around his long fingers - just as she had before. "How he found out, I... I don't care enough to really dwell on. Like you don't about what happened at the market. I don't want... It doesn't matter. He knows, we talked. And I didn't- dis... disillusion him. Billy was right: he had to find out, sometime, and I was... wrong for not telling him sooner."

...Wrong, wrong, wrong...

Beverly felt her eyes sting. Rapidly blinking the sensation away before it could overwhelm her, she tried for another question, the exact same one It didn't want to face. Ignoring it wouldn't stop her from wondering. "How'd he find out?"

Rob paled again. His gaze went even more neutral and distant, as if it were all he could fathom being as he answered. "Richie, and the others. I think... Georgie heard them talking. At the creek, a few weeks ago." His eyes dropped shut. "I was... napping."


Not just pretend?

For real?

Beverly frowned, sympathetically, for the first time since sitting down. "You think he... asked Bill first? If it was true?"

Eyes reopening, Rob shrugged. "He may not've had to. Georgie knows how to listen when he thinks no one's paying him any mind, the little imp. That innocence mask serves him well."

"Among other things he's learned from you - how to hide in plain sight."

"Plain sight... more like, complicat- hello, get lost, goodbye."

Before their visitor had enough time to contemplate a greeting, the disguised entity's head whipped around. The girl stopped just short of their table, hand half raised in greeting. Beverly recognized her from shortly before, one of the same three strangers who had tapped on the window.

Given the touchy nature of what they had just been discussing, Rob didn't look very thrilled to possibly make her acquaintance. Whatever power he used to keep them from being noticed had gone slack again. And a nameless, pretty face was the least of what should be turning his eye right now. He stared back at her with all the affronted outrage of a poised cobra, hood flared.

The buffer slid back into place. Wordlessly, expression gradually blankening as though she had not seen nor heard anything amiss, the teenager turned and kept on walking. Her friends had already taken the corner booth at the far side of the diner.

"Yesss... that's right. Just keeep on walking, you skan- "

Beverly intercepted with her own hiss: "Rob."

He blinked. "What?"

God. Thumbing his nose behind their back, then acting the innocent when you call him out on it.

Typical Richie move. Only meaner.

But I guess he... isn't feeling too chipper any more, knowing Georgie knows.

"That's not very nice," she noted.

Were he there, Georgie would have said the same.

"Hmph." Rob snorted softly, rolling his eyes most carelessly - just as she imagined a cheeky younger sibling might. He spared the offender one last dismissive glance, crossing his flare-cuffed arms with a creak of leather. "Neither were her thoughts of me."

"Now who doesn't know how to take a compliment?"

His upper lip curled in a half-snarl. "Pft. They can keep their kind of compliments, Bevs. The only ones mattering to me are yours' and the guys, for better or worse."

"Only ours'?"

"That's what it is to play favorites, isn't it?"

Fair... enough.

Or as close to fair as their situation could ever be summed up as being.

Again, as she got lost in thought and declined to go on, Rob picked up the conversation anew. Carefully, he steered around any more mentions of Georgie Denbrough. The kid's name didn't need to be bandied about any more, here and now.

"So... you... prefer to call this face Rob, over Bob?"

Grateful for the change in topic to something less trying, as she had no better ones to resort to, Beverly looked him over again. Was starting to think you wouldn't get around to mentioning that.



Beverly nodded. "Yeah, I do."


"Why not?"

He squinted. "What's wrong with Bob, though? It's simple, unassuming."

Smiling, Beverly shook her head. She didn't care for the nature of this excuse. "You mean, it's way too misleading, Stripes. You're anything but simple behind that face."

True as the words were, Rob didn't take to them with visible relish. He squinted all the more tightly. "Was that a compliment or an insult?"

Beverly shrugged. "Take your pick."

Knowing you, both are true in some measure.

Like it or not.

Deciding to save the decision for later, Rob unfolded his arms. "Well, there was one other matter..."

"Please tell me it's something easy to answer, for once."

"Should be. It was your idea."

"What is it?"

Opening the flap of his jacket, he removed the sunglasses, unfolding them with a deft wristflick. "You think these really work?"

Beverly smiled again. "They were my idea, you know."

He slid the frames onto his ears, bridge positioned at the tip of his nose. "Yes, but as far as looks go..."

"They fit you. I say keep 'em."

The ice cream, waylaid for an indefinite amount of time for whatever reason (besides the diner being ridiculously busy for a Thursday afternoon), was brought out not long after. Removing his glasses, Rob feigned a moment of repugnance, looking not at the slices of banana included, or the adorning cherry, but at the strawberry drizzled over the vanilla scoops.

The color scheme and what it resembled did not escape his notice, Beverly thought.

Besides... besides the syrup looking kinda like blo-

The next move caught her by surprise. Timely or not, Beverly couldn't stifle a laugh as Rob lowered his face and nosed at the ice cream, as a dog might a treat it hasn't seen before. Then, apparently deciding that wasn't silly-looking enough, he took a very deliberate, yawning bite out of the dessert.

Without a spoon.

"Rob. Please. It's for eating, not wearing."

Snickering, Beverly cupped a hand over her brow, fighting another urge to grin. She couldn't bear to watch all of a sudden, to compare the hoplessly-endearing, purely-childish act with the sheer gravity of what they had just discussed. Were anyone present actually able to see her company for what he was, she might have thought to be embarrassed for both of them.

Him for playing the fool.

Her for taking so long to realize he was.

How did you ever fall for this idiot?

"So. You've kissed Billy before?"

Smirking, Beverly let her hand fall to her side. The white smears on his mouth and chin almost blended with his skin, were it not for the red smears.

What a perfectly normal thing to ask.

Coming from someone whose norm was anything besides.

She supposed she had set aside her definition of normal in ever thinking he was worth her time. The rest of the club were just as guilty, dragged in by proximity, with little Georgie Denbrough blazing the trail.

It somehow meant today had come to pass. Here she was, on a not-date with their not-human mascot.

Sliding her sundae aside, Beverly took her turn to roll her eyes, smiling tolerantly. There was no use in getting angry at It for prying into her memory archive, without permission, here and now. He did the same with everyone in his town. And he had put himself through enough painful encounters as of late, she needn't throw fuel on the fire, stoke it all over again.

Small wonder the icy treat didn't immediately melt into a bowl of cream, being placed so close to him.

Rob wouldn't have noticed. He was too preoccupied in eagerly awaiting an answer.

"Did you?"

"Yes, I did," Beverly affirmed, easily opting for the less serious reply. Without ceremony, she pulled her napkin from under her bowl, gesturing with a come-hither quirk of her index finger. He leaned over and she met him halfway, reaching across to wipe his face clean, despite the pretended grimaces of revulsion he paid the gesture. "Years ago, in a school play."

It was a nice kiss, though.

Stilling under her touch, Robert Gray arched an eyebrow at her fussing. For a fleeting, beyond-crazy instant, looking at him with his fake-yet-somehow-real face, she could forget everything else, and Beverly decided the one at the supermarket hadn't been half bad, either.

But nothing good is ever easy
I ain't gonna give up just yet
I've been down so long it looked like up to me
And before I forget I'm gonna be stronger