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/prologue/

 

Changes are never easy.
When you're at the end of adolescence, changes are not easy at all.
The past full of dark tangles, knots and upside downs don't make this new and ordinary reality easier for Will and Mike.
The sudden goose bumps, the pleasant jolts, still remain incomprehensible.

Chapter Text

(Chicago) November 18, 1990

The dark room smelled musty and the fabric of the chair felt itchy against his bare arm. Will moves uneasy for the umpteenth time and pushes his hair out of his forehead.

He doesn't like the dark -he never stopped feeling chased- and, as much as he acknowledge the King Stephen King, Will's never really been a horror lover. He's not very manly, but it's the truth. 

He feels Mike breathing by his side, he can recognize his slow rhythm when he's relaxed.

At the umpteenth twist, Will flinches and squeezes his friend's arm who, without saying nothing, clutches at his hand.

Sometimes, he thinks, it seems like he never stopped letting go of it during the past six years.
"I won't tell anyone," Mike whispers in his ear, his tone amused and warm.
Will blushes and replies "Thanks", turning to find his gaze.
Mike owes him. Will went to see that movie with him just because Dustin and Lucas were busy, and Mike was really into horror movies.

They're still all together, like always. It's reassuring and comforting, like one of his mother's lullabies, but since they went to university, rhythms and habits have changed.
They all live together and it was strange getting to know themselves again, in a more deep and habitual way.
But as soon as he can, Lucas runs off to Madison to see Max, and Dustin is totally all
over Lisa, who attends physics class with him.
They don't spend their days anymore playing videogames or going with their bikes in the city, or playing "trick or treat", all they share together are meals and cleaning shifts.

Maybe something terrifying happens at some point, because people in the cinema are screaming and Will tries to distract himself as he stares at the hair of the person in front of him.
The next week he's going to New York with his mother and Hopper. Jane -always El to them- and Jonathan both live in the Big Apple, and they decided to give themselves a holiday
Will likes how his family turned out now, he likes living with that ordinary banality they finally achieved.

 

   ***

 

When they get out, bright lights block his view and the sensation as if he's just woken up makes him numb.
Mike laughs, this time loudly, and he puts an arm around his shoulders, "You look like a fawn that's been blinded by two headlights" his voice is raspy and his messy curls jump every time he moves.
Will flinches again, but this time it's pleasant.

 

   ***

 

Mike is in front of the fridge, looking for something to eat. In these moments he truly misses his mom and her delicious meals.
He takes a quick look at Will, who is all huddled on the couch trying to find something to watch,
"Are you hungry?" he speaks up, to get his attention.
Will nods with a shy smile (Is it ever going to disappear, that sensation of relief that grows
spontaneously and warms him, every time Will replies to him? Every time he checks to see if he's safe and sound?)

"This morning I got for you a chocolate pudding before Dustin could devour it", Mike claims as he gets close to him.

Chocolate pudding is probably Will's favorite sweet in the world, he found out the first day they met. Right after Mike made him open up to him.

He knows that, and he knows as well that Will would never blame Dustin, even if he devours the whole box in one day.
He sits on the couch and starts laughing again -it happens often when he's with Will- when he sees what his friend chose: on the screen he reads the title "The Aristocats".

The laughter quickly turns into a smile, when he turns around to look at him. He's got chocolate all over his mouth and his eyes were focused of the screen -it raises in him something that just makes him think about one word: cute. (What the hell?) Mike's not too sure if he actually could define his best friend as cute.

He moves closer and, with his thumb, takes that chocolate away from his chin. He's sure he saw Will blush and the situation not only amuses him, but kind of makes him extremely satisfied.
"Oh Jesus- really, Will, are you sure you're eighteen?"


Will pouts, rolling his eyes. An angry kitten or, in his eyes, he's still a tiny twelve years old with his cute bowl cut. Because even if he's grown taller and he's got more masculine features, yet androgynous, Mike still sees him in that way. With his shy smile and those childish cute dimples.
He ruffles his hair and goes back to watch the movie, his mouth still curved up.

 

   ***

 

Mike jumps when he hears a muffled scream and opens his eyes wide. The room is completely dark and the screen of the television is off; they must have fallen asleep. He hears that noise again and gets up trying to figure out what's going on.
Will had beads of sweat on his forehead and he crawls up in a ball, his expression clearly meant he was in pain.
Mike grabs the other's shoulder and shakes him, then again, harder this time. 

Will's nightmares scare him, and make him frustrated, because they're the clear sign that he's not doing so well after all. That maybe Mike (maybe Will himself) will never get through some things.

"Will", he sighs "Will!"
When he finally opens his eyes Mike holds him tight, a spontaneous gesture that comforts both of them.

"Do you wanna talk about it?"
"There's not much to say" he whispers, his voice trembling and hoarse.
He doesn't let him go though, and buries his face in the space between Mike's neck and shoulder as he tries to find that familiar scent.
Mike puts his chin on his head and says nothing, caressing his back until he stops trembling. He backs away a little and watches his face, now relaxed, as he sleeps.
He brushes a strand of hair behind his ear and he thinks he would never want to wake him up, just to see him always this calm and safe.

He's in close proximity to his face and kisses his forehead; he's glad it's dark and nobody could see him, as if he's done something that he shouldn't have done, something forbidden.
In that moment, he's glad to be alone with Will.

 


   ***

 

Mike quickly leaves the house (he's late, like every morning) heading towards the campus.
Before class starts he has to see Will, because he forgot a book at home and he literally begged him to bring it to him.

He arrives, the sound of his laboured breathing around the café, and finds a smiling Will standing and rocking back and forth on his heels.
He's got a cup of coffee in his hand "This is for you," he says, still smiling.

"You know, to thank you"
Mike tries to pretend he's annoyed but failed miserably when he sees Will smiling again.
'Thanks Willy!" he replies ironically.
'You're an idiot"
"And you're too happy, duh" Mike pouts.

"Any particular reason?". Actually, he wanted to ask him that question because for someone who's stressed because of the forthcoming exams and busy with intense study sessions, lately Will is weirdly happy.
Will ignores him and pushes Mike inside the café.
"Come on, I want to show you my new project!"

 

 

They're talking about his drawing, when a guy comes up and puts a hand on Will's shoulder. Mike stares at him attentively, shocked to see how Will seems to be comfortable.

He's tall and lanky, his eyes are dark as chocolate and he's got a constellation of freckles on his cheeks. His hair are curly and messy, under the hat, but above all, he seems a bit absent-minded and it reminds him of someone who knows too well: Nancy. There's something (definitely annoying) familiar about him.
The stranger looks at him and grins, he doesn't introduce himself and he doesn't take that hand off Will's shoulder, who in the meantime turned around to face him.
Even his look is familiar.

He realizes, after a while, that it's the same look in his eyes when he search Will's gaze.

"Shall we go, shorty?"