PART FOUR

Stumbling a few steps, Dean managed to not knock both himself and his brother down when Sam slammed on the brakes so fast he'd run straight into the kid. "Signal next time, will you?"

Sam turned around and completely ignored Dean's irritation. "Think about it, Dean. He takes us to that vampire town, and from what I remember of that book there were a lot of people sacrificing for those they love. Then the ski lodge in Colorado, and all that crap about powers and hearing things and how much you took care of me there when I had that headache, and then the Pet Semetery bit and bringing the dead back and…"

Dean stood motionless, staring at his brother. Sam was getting pale and talking way too fast. "Inhale!" Dean barked, hitting Sam's shoulder with the flat of his hand.

Clamping his lips together, Sam stopped talking and stood blinking at Dean.

"Don't do that, Sam. It can't be healthy."

"Oh and this shit is?"

One little brother, back from whatever minor mental breakdown he was vacationing in. Another mission a success. Now, if they could simply figure out this Trickster business they'd be good.

Sam sighed. "We need to figure out where we are now."

The air was pleasantly warm, trees full of leaves, the smell of cut grass mixed with blooming flowers to sweeten the air.

He tugged on Dean's jacket and nodded across the street. They had a short wait before there was enough of a break in traffic they could jog across to the row of stores lining the opposite side of the street. Near the middle was an electronics store with the obligatory television playing in the window.

There was a movie playing Dean didn't immediately identify until a Saint Bernard came on screen, slathering, drooling, barking and snapping. Cujo. Great.

"Dean." Sam whispered in his ear, voice a shaky, breathy almost non-existent sound.

Dean turned far enough to look at Sam and saw what Sam was staring at, pretty much looking like someone who hadn't hunted ghosts most of their life and just saw his very first one…up close, personal and naked.

His gaze fell where Sam's was. A sign in the corner of the store window read, Derry Sight and Sound, Derry, Maine.

Scratching at his head, Dean searched his memory; Cujo hadn't taken place in Derry…Bangor maybe?…There were so many and they were all starting to run together in his mind.

He started down the street, knowing Sam would be stretching those long legs of his to catch up and keep pace. Derry, what the hell novel took place in Derry? He should know this, he should…it was more important than the others, but why?

A young boy, thirteen or so, stood in the middle of the sidewalk ahead of them. He grinned broad and goofy, waving at them.

Derry, Maine.

And apparently clowns kill, Dean.

Crap. Shit. Damn. Mother effing Trickster!

The boy turned, pointed to a park at the end of the street and ran away, disappearing before Dean could see where he went.

Dean stopped mid-stride. Sam's fingers were curled tightly in the back of his sleeve. Sam didn't run him over, but halted at the same time as Dean.

Clowns kill.

At least their noses made a good target.

An ice cream truck was parked in the park, beside it stood a clown. Not just any clown, oh hell no, they had to have the mother of all nasty clowns ever. Walking toward the park, Dean didn't want to go there, and he sure didn't want to drag Sam along with him. That was exactly what was happening, however. His feet were moving without express permission from his brain to do so. In fact, his brain was being very explicit in its commands to stop and turn around.

Stupid feet.

And apparently clowns kill. Pennywise. They were in IT. This day was getting better and better.

Dean ventured a glance over his shoulder at his brother. Sam was close enough to feel his every movement and Dean was quite sure the kid had stopped breathing. This whole thing had just become personal.

The clown, complete with the bulbous, grotesque nose that was nothing but a bull's eye as far as Dean was concerned, stood by the ice cream truck holding a bunch of balloons.

They stopped out of reach, but close enough to hear the sounds of children coming for ice cream and the bizarre rustle of clothing from the clown's billowing costume.

Pennywise let go of one of the balloons. Before it got more than a few inches, he reached out and poked it with one finger. The balloon exploded in a violent gush of wind and red.

Blood splattered over the clown's face and the pavement at his feet. Taking a few steps forward he held out a balloon. "Do you want a balloon, Sammy?"

Dean glanced at his brother. Sam stood completely still, as if he were literally paralyzed.

The balloon popped, more blood. This time it speckled the grass between it and them.

"Come on, Sammy. Take the balloon." Another balloon blossomed with vibrant red. "And remember," three more balloons were released, all popping and spraying blood in all directions. "Yes they float Sammy, they float, they all float down here Sammy and you will too!!!"

"Dean." Sam's voice was thin and wobbly. He looked small and defenseless. He looked scared to death.

And apparently clowns kill.

Interesting thing about that.

Apparently Dean did too.

Throwing one arm out and catching Sam's side to shove him back a few paces, Dean growled at the clown. "Dude, you have messed with the wrong person. And messed with your last person."

Stepping forward as Sam was stumbling backwards, Dean pulled his gun free. In a smooth, lethal movement he took aim and, without further thought, fired.

The bullets ripped through the clown, tearing its clothes and putting holes in its hands and face, marring its idiot make-up job.

What they didn't do was take the bastard down.

"Huh." Dean took a few steps back. "Those were silver tipped."

"They didn't even slow it down." Sam stared at the clown. It was peppered with dark marks where the bullets contacted, but it stood upright, watching them.

"Going to come on down to my home with me, Sammy? Dean can see how you float when you're dead?" Pennywise clapped his hands together.

Dean seriously considered reloading and emptying another round into the thing for no other reason than because he could.

"Even the great and mighty big brother, Dean Winchester, can't keep me from making sure little Sammy's body floats."

In a flash of red, Pennywise was gone.

"Goddamn!" Dean spat and pounded his fist against thin air with his free hand. "When I get a hold of that miserable, sorry excuse for a…a…the Trickster…he's dead. As if clowns weren't bad enough, that clown is worse."

"We need to find a library and that book. Find out what the kids did to beat the clown." Sam voice had a soft tremble, as did his hands. He pointed to the shopping plaza. "Pay phone."

Dean took a few deep breaths and stowed his gun away. Dropping his hand on Sam's shoulder he turned his brother away from the ice cream truck and back toward the shopping plaza. They jogged to the phone both. Sam grabbed the phone book from its holder under the phone and started flipping through the pages.

Sam pulled out a page with library listings, another with high schools and a third with bookstores. "One of these places will have that book. Did you read it, or see the movie?"

Shaking his head, Dean said, "No. What he writes isn't exactly entertainment."

Snorting, Sam grinned, "No kidding."

Fortunately for them, this town was as small as the last one. Finding a bookstore was their closest option, they wasted no time getting there. Stephen King had a decently large section and finding a copy of IT wasn't a chore in the least.

Dean did his best to refrain from snickering when Sam pointed out the book but refused to touch it. The cover was a vibrant and large likeness of Pennywise. The snicker finally found its way loose when Dean got to the register and paid for the book. He and Sam found an out of the way booth in a nearby diner and went to work figuring out how the clown was banished, Stephen King style, which Dean was finding out needed far fewer bullets and far larger suspense of reality than Dean and Sam Winchester style.

Sam pulled his chair around and scooted close enough to Dean he could read the book over his brother's shoulder. Flipping through the pages Dean scanned through the contents.

"There," Sam pointed to the middle of the page.

Flattening the book so it was easier for them both to see and read, Dean ran one finger down the page, then the next. "According to the story the group of kids used a ritual that worked in part, or mostly worked because of how close they were to one another."

"Their loyalty to one another was their biggest weapon."

"Yep." Dean looked up, meeting Sam's eyes, being sure Sam was listening to his next words. "Sammy, we have it all over these kids, or anyone else for that matter when it comes to that."

Sam's lips curled to a small smile. "Yeah," he agreed in a soft voice. "Yeah, we do."

It took about twenty minutes with both of them searching through the book and writing down the basics of the ritual using crayons left on the table.

"You're really not going to like a key part of this ritual, Dean," Sam sighed.

Dean scrunched up his nose and glanced up from where he'd been staring at the growing pile of napkins Sam had been jotting notes on. "I don't like any of this so that doesn't really surprise me."

When Sam started to explain more of the ritual, Dean held up his hand, forestalling him. "Just tell me about it on the way; I don't need my pie spoiled by something that you, geekboy, deem gross."

Sam snorted and frowned but didn't argue. "We'll have to go into the sewers, it's where Pennywise lives. I don't know if confronting him down there is going to make it harder or not."

Dean nodded and flipped at the collection of napkins Sam had been writing on. "I think we've reached new highs, Sammy. Rituals on diner napkins, written in crayon."

Sam shrugged and grinned. "Whatever works." He stood up. "Sewer?"

"You sure do know how to show a guy a good time, Sammy. Where do you take chicks? Filtration plants?" When Sam did nothing but roll his eyes and stand staring at him, Dean shrugged and pushed away from the chair and to his feet. "Okay, then, sewer."

They didn't need much, and they spent the time searching out a sewer entrance memorizing the words of the ritual. Finding a side street with few buildings and almost no traffic, they pried the manhole cover near the middle of the street up and peered down into the dark.

"At least he's not looking up at us." Sam's laugh was nervous and shaking. Dean caught a tremor running through his brother's body.

"Let's do this." Dean lowered himself slowly into the hole, and put his feet securely on the ladder leading down. He had to climb nearly three quarters of the way down before Sam could get himself completely onto the ladder and follow. Jumping from the ladder, Dean landed solidly on the ground, splashing in a shallow puddle. "Ugh. I hate sewers. Nothing good is in a sewer."

"Nope." Sam climbed slowly from the ladder and stood beside Dean. He glanced up and down the tunnel. "Which way?"

Dean shrugged. "One way is just as good as another as far as I'm concerned. You're the one with all the spidey senses, you pick."

Sam huffed a breath and pointed to one side tunnel off the main section. "I think, that way."

"That's the way it is then." Dean stepped around Sam and led the way down the sewer, carefully avoiding puddles of water.

Five minutes of walking and they hit a cold patch. Rubbing his arms with his hands Dean glanced back at Sam when his breath froze in the air as he exhaled. They stopped, moving so their backs were pressed together. Dean drew his gun. He felt Sam shift against him and his arms come up, hands in a defensive position in front of his body.

"See anything?" Sam whispered.

Dean shook his head, knowing Sam would feel the movement. In response he felt another tremor snake down Sam's spine. The kid was scared; Dean knew it without seeing Sam's eyes or face. The clown thing may have been irrational, but that wasn't a consolation to Dean and he knew it wasn't one to Sam either. He was proud of his brother, doing this despite how much a clown, this clown, frightened him.

"Sam."

"Yeah? See anything?"

"No. I just wanted…um…you're doing really good with this." He sidestepped, keeping time with Sam's steps, moving them farther down the tunnel and keeping them in the center at the same time.

Dean felt how Sam's shoulders relaxed and the tension eased away from muscles of his back. Sam tipped his head down and to the side. He glanced back for a second; Dean could feel that too, as well as picture how the expression on Sam's face went from confused to understanding in a split second.

Message received.

Not a moment too soon either. A darkness shimmied and took shape in the sewer a few yards from them. Dean pressed his shoulders against Sam's, swiveling them so he was more facing Pennywise than his kid brother. Sam twisted on his heels, and stepped up behind Dean, facing off the clown with its stupid fat red nose along with Dean. Fear was one thing that never kept Sam from Dean's side; it never impinged on his loyalty. That was something Dean never took for granted and never ceased to be amazed by: the bottomless depths of their loyalty to one another no matter what.

Pennywise giggled and took a few steps toward them. Dean felt Sam tense behind him, but he didn't move otherwise.

The clown's voice came out screechy and loud. "The water is deeper farther down, Sammy, time to see how you float."

Dean needed to get Sam back in the game. "Sammy, you said there were a few ways to get It into an easier to kill form. I think now would be a good time."

Sam shook his head, dazed eyes shifting to laser focus. "We need to avoid the deadlights...whatever you do, don't stare at it when it's in its true form. Some of the characters were driven crazy when they saw it. But I can't stare at the clown any longer. We need a joke, or a tongue twister...we need to get it to laugh. And we need to swap spit."

Dean remembered the goofy name of the ritual now. Ritual of Chüd. Unfortunately Dean's mind was blank. They should've brought the napkins with their crib notes with them.

Wait a minute…swapping spit?

"There is no way in hell I'm swapping spit with you. That's just…ewww." Dean swiped the back of his hand across his mouth, grimacing.

"Not on my list of things to do either. But I didn't write the damn book. What do you want to do?" Sam's new-found composure was starting to crack around the edges, his voice lifting higher up on the scale.

"Skip the spit and try a tongue twister. It's time for Bozo to say goodnight."

"Werewolves and wendigos wash Impalas." Sam's body was drawn tight, all focus now. The words were ridiculous though and Dean couldn't help but look at his brother with surprise.

Sam merely shrugged at him.

Dean wasn't the only one taken aback by Sam's nonsensical speech. The clown barked an incredulous laugh, the sound ricocheting wildly around the tunnels. "That's not how it works, boys. My turn."

Pennywise dropped to all fours, bent and morphed. Colorful, billowing clothing tightened down and turned dark brown and black. Arms and legs lengthened and became pointed and fuzzy. Two more sets sprouted from the creature's middle.

"What the—" Dean fired.

"Like in the book. One of its forms is a giant spider."

"Now he tells me."

Before Dean could get any more shots off, white, sticky webbing shot out from underneath the spider and wrapped around the gun, yanking it away. Next his hands were bound and he was yanked off his feet and dragged over the ground. Giant pincers appeared at the lowest point of the triangular head. They opened and snapped shut with a loud clack. Something foul smelling and runny drooled from between them.

"Dean!" Sam pounced on him, trying to pull the sticky mess away from Dean's hands.

"Mine. He's mine. Give him up and I won't make you float."

"No!" Sam threw his weight back, but was dragged toward the spider along with Dean. Narrowing his eyes, Sam stared hard at the creature. Letting go of Dean with one hand, Sam held it out in front of him and closed his eyes.

Dean waited. Nothing happened. No wind, no dimming of sounds, nothing. "Sam, it's not…" His words were cut off when Sam dove over him and latched onto the webbing with both hands.

"I can't do anything. It's not working." Frantically Sam jerked and tugged. His jaws clenched tight, his face pale, eyes wide and wild with panic. Feet scrabbling along the slick ground, Sam was being pulled ever closer to the thing.

Throwing his bound hands up, Dean slammed them into Sam's shoulder. "Knife, in my boot."

"But you'll—"

"Sam, you'll be fast enough. I know it." Dean gritted out and yelped when he was jerked a few more feet along the ground. "You're not powerless, not by a long shot. You don't need that crap to fight."

Jumping over him, Sam's fingers wound in Dean's jeans and pulled the material back, exposing the ankle sheath. He yanked Dean's knife, silver edged, free and flung himself at the webbing. Two sure strokes and Sam sliced right through the silk the spider spun out.

Flipping over, Dean shoved away from the thing, kicking at it as he went. Sam grabbed him under the arms and helped hoist him to his feet. Holding out his wrists, he nodded down.

Sam arched an eyebrow. "Hold still."

The knife sawed through between Dean's arms, freeing him.

Together they turned to face the creature. Sam's whisper tickled Dean's ear. "I think it's time for the rest of the ritual."

Dean didn't want to play tonsil hockey with his brother but he wanted to die even less. He grasped the back of Sam's head and yanked him closer, ignoring his brother's gasp. "Here goes nothing…"

-0-

The Trickster's eyes nearly popped out of his head. Which was really saying something in his current form, beady eyes pointing in different directions—gave him an intimate understanding of the term wall-eyed that he didn't necessarily want.

That, of course, was beside the point. The point was that it looked like the Winchester Brothers were going to kiss.

Ewww.

That was enough proof for the Trickster. Sam and Dean were loyal to each other without a doubt. Willing to face off against monster clowns and spiders and even complete the Ritual of Chüd in its entirety. Which really, where did Stephen King come up with some of this shit? The Ritual of Chüd was a spell in which a shape-shifting monster called a "talus" and a human shaman locked tongues and told jokes; the first to laugh devoured the other.

Well, okay, maybe it wasn't so far out there. The Trickster remembered the time that he—

Dean was pulling his brother against his chest and this was really too much.

With a loud clap of thunder and a bolt of white-hot lightning the Trickster morphed himself into his human form. It was a bit over the top but it was enough to get Sam and Dean's attention.

"Bravo! That was really quite impressive. Fighting off the giant, alien monster with…saliva? Ingenious." The Trickster smirked at the brothers who were staring at him incredulously, eyes wide and nostrils flared.

Dean, all bluster and bombast, stalked forward toward the Trickster. "Listen you smarmy, demented demi-god, we're sick of this little game of—"

The Trickster quit listening to the older brother when he saw the younger slip his hand into the inside of his jacket and withdraw something. It looked like a wooden stake, filed to a sharp point.

He'd worn out another welcome. Sigh. What was a demi-god to do?

Concentrating, he shortened his stature, widened his head and other than a few odd strands of gray hair made himself bald. All he needed was a slim pond and a few Jedi Knights to complete the ensemble.

He blinked owlish eyes and raising his hands in front of him, the Trickster stopped the brothers in their tracks. Stopping hunters with a flick of his wrist. How cool was that?

This was more fun than he'd had in a long time, at least since he last faced off with the meddling do-gooders. Maybe he could play one more trick on the brothers. It was in his blood after all.

Clapping his hands together, the Trickster watched as the Winchesters gained the use of their limbs again.

Unfortunately both brothers were on a collision course with him now. So much for more play time. It was definitely time to make like a tree. "Remember, in each other trust you must. Mental or physical you separate not. Counting there are many on you in the war upcoming."

The Trickster didn't like what the future had in store for them any more than the brothers did if their expressions were anything to go by. But talking like Yoda was definitely fun.

Touching his middle finger to his thumb, the Trickster snapped the air in front of him. Both young men went down hard, bowling pins taken out by a hard strike.

Next he twitched his nose back and forth. It looked so cute when Samantha on Bewitched did that. The only thing it made the Trickster want to do was sneeze.

"Later, boys!"

The Trickster zapped himself back to his tropical paradise. Rod Longfellow had some business to attend to now that he was assured 'the heroes' were on track.

-0-

Sam was shaking and he couldn't stop.

Eyes snapping open, he found Dean looming over him, hands gripping his shoulders tightly. The shaking was from Dean rocking him while calling his name in a panic.

"Hey, Sam, you with me? About time. Let's sit you up. Last thing I want is for you to fall asleep again."

Sam found himself tugged upright and leaned against something soft. Pillows. His eyes roamed around the room. It was the same motel room they'd stayed in while in New York.

Something damp was thrust into Sam's hands. "Here, you had a nose bleed."

A wet washcloth. Sam dabbed at his nose, smearing a sticky substance around.

"Give me that." The washcloth was snatched out of his hands and Dean wiped his face with a ferocity that made Sam want to jerk away. He wasn't a kid anymore.

Although, when they'd faced off against Pennywise he'd felt very much like a kid. He'd pretty much hidden behind his big brother. And Dean had let him. Dean had even said he was proud of him for facing up to the clown. Not exactly in those words but Sam knew what he meant.

He submitted to his brother's harsh ministrations while staring at Dean's face. His brother was pasty white, eyes too large and bloodshot in his head. Dean looked like he'd been through the wringer. "It was just a dream?"

Dean took one more swipe with the washcloth before launching it toward the open bathroom. It hit with a muted thud which was followed by Dean clearing his throat. "The Ghost of Christmas Future might have been a dream but Twilight, The Shining, Pet Semetary and It were all courtesy of that weasely little Trickster. The only thing that was real was our job at the New York City Library and that was ala Ghostbusters."

Dean was angry. Sam could hear it in the low rasp of his voice and the way his brother paced the small motel room.

Sam was confused. And his head hurt. "Why? Why did the Trickster do that to us?"

His brother stopped moving and sank on to the edge of the bed. "Do you remember what he said when we were in the sewer? He spouted a bunch of Jedi crap about the upcoming war and sticking together."

Sam did remember the Trickster saying that. He also remembered something else. "He said we'd proven our loyalty to each other, too."

Dean's face turned a bright pink, even the tips of his ears glowing brightly. "I don't ever want to hear a word about that ritual again."

It took a moment but then Sam remembered what Dean was talking about. Sam was going to suggest that they spit in their hands and shake, maybe that would be enough of a figurative representation of locking tongues. But he hadn't had a chance to say anything when Dean had taken action.

At least the Trickster had been good for something. Although, they never would have been in that predicament if the trickster-god hadn't put them there. Just thinking about it all made his head spin.

Dean, cold and crazy in the future. Sam's powers running amuck. Dead things should stay dead. Killer clowns and sticking together.

The last was something Sam intended to follow through on. Sticking together. Trusting one another.

He wondered what the little trip to Forks had been about. He'd doubted Dean's sanity a little with that one but it was the damn moose head at the café that really got to him. He rubbed his temples, trying to massage away some of the pain.

A glass of water and two white, round pills magically appeared in front of him. "I think we should head out if you feel up to it. I'm not really interested in sleeping any time soon."

Sam gamely swallowed the pills down. Something nagged at him. It was future-Dean. "I'm not going to let it happen, Dean. I'm not leaving you."

Dean's expressive face turned blank for a moment. "I can't lose you again, Sam. I just can't."

Reaching out, Sam touched Dean's arm. He thought his brother was going to jerk away but he didn't. "You won't, Dean. Not this time."

Dean's eyelashes lowered and then he looked up at Sam, confident once again. "Let's pack up and then get some breakfast. I'm starving.'

His brother was always hungry.

His brother also always looked after him, protected him.

Their little trip to Derry and Pennywise had brought that little lesson home. As much as Sam wanted to be independent, he never wanted Dean to stop being his big brother.

The End