Every guy at the bar he’s ever asked has shrugged and said they’ve always known, and then brushed it off. You weren’t there to meet people, to form a relationship. You weren’t there to make small talk, you were there to fuck, to get each other off, and then to part ways forever.
Steve wipes his mouth, peering at his reflection in the grimy bathroom mirror tucked into the corner of a gay club in Indianapolis. He plants his hands on either side of the sink and breathes in and out, heavy and faster than he’d like. He’d like to think he was breathing evenly, calm, relaxed. But he can’t stop, he can’t stop –
His lips are swollen and his pupils are still the slightest bit dilated, and his hair is mussed up like he’d been running his hand through it in a nervous tic but fuck, fuck, fuck, anybody who looked at him twice would know he’d just been sucking dick on the floor of the bathroom stall.
This is the first time he goes, the first time he’s made it further than sitting in his car, hands tapping on the steering wheel in an anxious pattern, and his expression is one of disbelief, and as he locks eyes with his mirror-self he can see the fear in his eyes. But he can also see something else – wonder, glorious wonder, and amazement, his suspicions confirmed.
He splashes water on his face and does his best to fix his hair into its previous fluffy state but it doesn’t come out quite the same.
His breathing is still heavy as he looks at himself again, righting his jacket and buttoning the buttons of his shirt back up. The other guy had left the second he’d spilled into Steve’s mouth and Steve had sucked right through his orgasm, drank his come and swallowed it all.
And the worst part was, he’d liked it.
He saunters back through the club toward the exit, running his hand through his hair to try and make the mess look deliberate, hitting sweaty bodies here and there as he goes.
“Hey, pretty boy,” a hand curls around his arm and Steve jerks away in surprise as he whirls around to find a much older, buffer man. No one seemed to notice that he looked exactly like he’d just had sex. Or if they did notice, they didn’t care.
“Not interested,” Steve mutters, shrugging the guy off and making a bee-line toward the door. As he nears the exit, he catches sight of the guy he’d been blowing just minutes ago, a drink in his hand as he dances with some other young thing, similar build and looks to Steve. He catches Steve’s eye over the other guy’s shoulder and winks.
“I always sort of knew, I guess. Can we fuck now, please?”
It echoes in his mind as he thrusts his hand out, pushing the door open with more fervor than necessary. He runs to his car, slams the door shut, and drives 90 the entire way back to Hawkins.
I always sort of knew. I always sort of knew. I always sort of knew.
It plays over and over in Steve’s mind, reverberating throughout every part of his brain as he cuts the motor and locks the door, still playing in a sick mantra as he manually lifts the garage and prays to god no one can hear, repeating itself rhythmically to his careful steps as he slowly creeps in the garage door and up the stairs to his room, past his parents’ closed door.
God, if you only knew, Steve thinks. If you only fucking knew where I’d been.
The thing is, Steve’s not stupid. He may not be very book smart, and he may hang out with a group of middle schoolers more often than not, but he’s not fucking stupid.
So, he knows that Dustin can tell something is up with him. He knows that he’s been acting on edge lately, he’s letting his nervous tics show, but god, he’s so tired, and it’s so fucking hard to keep up a façade.
The nightmares started coming exactly a week after they’d fought the demogorgon the first time, the moment he’d gotten over the shock of what the fuck had happened. Nancy, shoving a gun in his face, blood trickling on the floor, goddamn Jonathan Byers, swinging a bat filled with nails because his brain was working on autopilot, the little Byers kid being stuck in another fucking dimension – well, it was a lot to handle.
A week after, the shock had worn off, and the nightmares had come. Great and terrible ones, where he hadn’t gone back in and Nancy and Jonathan died as he listened to their screams and cries for help from the safety of his car. Ones where he had gone back but he hadn’t been fast enough, and he was forced to watch as Nancy got eaten, her face mangled as blood dripped down her immobile body. Ones where they hadn’t extinguished the fire in time and he looked on helplessly as Jonathan screamed while his flesh slowly burned from his skin, sizzling in a sick taunt as the fire illuminated the now-dark hallway.
So, he didn’t sleep much.
Going back to school hadn’t been the fucking same. He had no desire to go back to his old group of friends, he knew he had been a dick because it was comfortable, it was easy, and because no one tried to find out your secrets when you were the king of the school. Nothing was comfortable or easy anymore, so it didn’t fucking matter.
What he couldn’t reconcile was having no desire to have any friends, not really. No one other than Nancy, than Jonathan, than those fucking kids could understand what he’d gone through, what they’d all gone through, why he had a slight panic attack every time his own shaking hand lit up a cigarette, craving the nicotine to stop his racing thoughts but heart jolting at the sight of a flame.
Who could be friends with someone like that?
Nancy waits a month and they make up, and he knows, he knows she wants Jonathan but he loves her and she’d come to Steve, so shouldn’t that be enough? He has someone by his side again, someone who gets it and understands, and he can throw himself into Nancy, into their social life, and he doesn’t have to think about anything more difficult than half-assing his college applications.
Halloween fucks everything up. The monsters come again, and he suddenly has a group of kids under his wing and he sees faceless creatures whenever he sleeps.
Dead Nancy. Dead Dustin. Dead Lucas, dead Max, dead Mike, boom boom boom boom boom, and it’s all because he hadn’t been fast enough, been strong enough, been good enough. He would try, swinging his bat and throwing himself in front of them, but it wasn’t enough. Never enough. Never enough. Not enough to stop the monsters from coming and attacking and opening up their faces and feeding.
Sometimes though, the nightmares come in different forms. He comes crawling back. Nancy isn’t gone that day he comes over with flowers, so Dustin doesn’t stop him, and he climbs up to her room as he’d gotten so well practiced at doing in the months they’d been together. Together, god, together, bodies flush against each other, his hands ghosting over her curves and he loves her, he loves her.
He apologizes for how he’d treated her grief with Barb, he didn’t know how to deal, he’d never had to deal with tough emotions before and then he’d had his own trauma. And he maybe wasn’t understanding enough and he’s sorry and he thought what he said was best and he was scared, he is scared, of what the government can do.
She takes him in her arms and he settles his head on her shoulders and cries and she rubs him gently and softly coos, “you’re so stupid, you’re so stupid, Steve Harrington,” as she ghosts her fingers up and down his back.
“I know, Nance,” he dejectedly whispers, smile playing at the edges of his lips. “I love you. I’m sorry.”
“You’re so stupid,” she continues, chuckling, making him chuckle too. He goes in for a kiss, and she changes. “You’re so stupid,” she growls, the pupils of her eyes bleeding out to fill the irises, the whites, until they’re deep black and he can see his own terrified expression staring back at him.
“What?” he asks, voice broken and desperate.
“You’re so stupid,” she says resolutely, “to think anybody could ever love somebody like you.”
It’s like this:
He loves Nancy. He loved Nancy. He loved Nancy? He loved (loves?) her enough to let her go. He knows this to be true.
So when the nightmares shift into something else, he can’t figure out why, why, why, and he’d give about anything for the nightmares about the monsters to come back. The nightmares about Nancy to come back. About anything else to come fucking back.
The monsters are replaced with faceless men, or men with faces he’s seen before but couldn’t place if you paid him, writhing against him as he sucks on their mouths, their necks, their cocks, all over their bodies.
Sometimes, he’s showering after a basketball game and next thing he knows him and the other guy in the shower are fucking against the wall, his head on the cool tile as the spray of the water ghosts over what parts of him aren’t covered by the other’s body.
Sometimes, he’s at a party and he’s sneaking up to a bedroom with some guy, both of them laughing and trying to quiet their drunken mouths so they don’t get caught before they’re safely locked in some stranger's room and their mouths are on each other the second the lock clicks.
Sometimes, he just finds himself there, in bed with another man.
It doesn’t really matter, because he wakes up the same way every time. Cock hard, leaking pre-come, body slick with sweat and he weakly rubs his hand up and down his shaft till he’s spilling, he’s spilling all over and all he can do is let out a sad and slightly hysterical, “what the fuck?” before he tries to fall back into an uneasy sleep.
He starts obsessing over his breakup with Nancy.
Is this why? She never gave him a reason, she told him he was bullshit.
Did she know? Did she know the whole time that he was a queer? This whole time he’d been convinced Jonathan was the reason they broke up, but maybe…
Maybe there’d been a grain of truth in her words. Maybe this whole fucking time he’d really been bullshit, and she was Nancy, perfect and smart, and wonderful, and he was Steve, who hadn’t ever submitted his college applications and was having wet dreams at the age of 18.
He runs everything over in his mind once, twice, one thousand fucking times. His mind flits around like some sort of blind fly, aimlessly racking through his brain, through every interaction he’d ever had in his life.
He’d never had a crush on a guy before, he’d always, always liked girls. He did. He liked girls, and he’d slept with plenty before Nancy. And he loved her. God, he loved her.
He knew that to be true.
But now he couldn’t stop...he couldn’t stop…
He feels like his mind is on fucking overdrive and his eyes had developed some sort of sick superpower where all he can fucking see are guys. Every time he turns the corner, there was one against a locker, leaning up, talking to some girl. There was one bending over at the water fountain to get a drink. There was fucking Jonathan with Nancy, arm slung around her shoulders and a soft smile on his face as he looks at her.
Steve thinks about it for a second. Walking down the hallway with a faceless guy, his arm over Steve’s shoulders as they walked to his car to share lunch. It could be nice, he thought. It could be…
Fuck no. It could be his fucking downfall. He liked girls and he definitely liked girls and this whole thing was a fluke and he would put it out of his mind and it didn’t matter because he liked girls.
He couldn’t put it out of his mind. He had to know.
He finds himself in a gay club, tucked into a seedy part of Indianapolis one Saturday night. It didn’t fucking matter anymore, because he doesn’t have any friends his own age and no 13 year old is hanging out past 9pm on a weekend night. So he finds himself here, leaning up against the bar, beer in his hand like a fucking lifeline, and god, he needs a cigarette.
He shudders. If he saw fire right now, he’d bolt. He’s had enough of burning things for a lifetime. If the first time in the Byers house hadn’t been enough, watching writhing fucking tentacles scream and squelch under flames as him and the kids scrambled to get out the tunnels in time certainly fucking was. Well, fuck. Just add it to the list of ongoing shit he sees whenever he closes his eyes.
He scans the club, taking it in, looking around, for someone he might find attractive, for someone he might know (run away immediately), for anything. He keeps an eye on the door because if the supernatural somehow followed him out here that would be just his fucking luck.
He’s surprised at the variety of men here, and he realizes he’s had the small-town stereotype of a queer sitting his head for ages. He thought he couldn’t be, he couldn’t be, he couldn’t be queer. He liked girls, didn’t he? He played sports, he liked girls, he had guy friends, he wasn’t.
But the men here, they were all different. They weren’t what he thought, effeminate and obvious. He wouldn’t know, wouldn’t guess, if they weren’t all here together, hiding in this shithole club.
“Hey,” someone says in his ear, an arm sneaking around his waist. “What’s a pretty boy like you looking for on a night like this?”
Steve looks up into the eyes of a slightly older man. He’s attractive, there’s no denying it. He’s tall and looks like something off a record cover, with his button down with all the buttons but one undone and tight jeans that show off his legs and his ass real nice and a bandana tied around his head to keep his long hair out of his face. He’s dressed for the club. Steve still has his jacket on.
“Depends who’s asking.”
He’s done this before, he’s done this a million times with girls and it shouldn’t be any different now, so why does it feel so fucking difficult?
“What’s in a name?” The guy winks. He’s right. What’s in a fucking name? He’s just here to see if the dreams are only dreams or not.
“Nothing, I guess,” he murmurs, eyes downcast in nervousness but he hopes the guy takes it as shy flirting. He doesn’t know what the fuck he’s doing.
“Thought so. Can I get you something other than a beer?”
He shrugs again.
“Bourbon on the rocks,” he says, because that’s what his father drinks and former king of Hawkins or not, he doesn’t really know anything other than beer and shit drinks at parties.
The guy lets out a low whistle.
“Well, alright sweetheart.” He turns to the bartender. “A bourbon on the rocks for my new friend here.”
Steve downs it the second it’s in his hand. Liquid courage. The guy sips on his own drink in amusement, eyebrow quirking up.
“What do you say we go to the back and have some fun, huh?”