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There's one week since senior year started, and two until the day Nancy breaks up with him.

Things haven’t been going right- fights about this, yelling about that. Of everything that’s happened, Steve maybe hoped hardship would keep them together in that strange, hey, so, we worked together to defeat a demon from hell, lets get married – kind of way. Maybe not exactly, but Steve had faith it’d work out.

It hasn’t been right. Nancy shies away from him, pulls her hand out of his, half-ass excuses – and he can’t even have the mind to be mad about it, because she does it so kindly.

“It’s Byers, isn’t it?” He says one day, on that day, one week since senior year, two till their last. They’re on her roof, and she’s staring at her shoes like they’ll tell her the answers to the universe.

Nancy looks up, slightly startled, and reaches back to tuck a stray hair behind her ear. She’s distractingly beautiful as she says,

“What?”

“Jonathan Byers.” Steve tries to be nonchalant, “You like him.”

Nancy stares at him, with this half-offended, half amazed look in her eyes. She gives a short laugh and relaxes a little, bracing an arm behind her on the roof.

“Uh, no. We’re just friends.”

“You know you don’t have to lie to me. I’m not the best boyfriend-“

“Steve-“

“But I won’t be mad. If you choose him. I promise I won’t. I just want the truth.”

“I don’t like Jonathan like t – wait, what?” She stops, “You wouldn’t?-No, Steve, it’s really not like that.”

He can’t tell if she’s telling the truth or not. She seems to find it funny.

Steve pushes his bangs back and exhales, “Then what is it?” 

“Nothing,” she smiles, and lays her head on his shoulder, their last time together on that roof. “Nothing.”

 

He knows she doesn’t love him.

 


 

They’re still friends, so they say, but you know how it is. It’s still a little awkward when they pass in the hallway, but Nancy gives a little wave, and Steve always nods back.

It’s a heartbreak that he saw coming, so he refuses to feel bad for himself.

He will, however, feel bad for the fact that it’s a month into his last year of high school, and he has no goddamn friends.

Steve realizes it when he goes to find a seat in the cafeteria. He’s standing there, tray in hand, scanning the room like a new kid. Nancy would probably let him still sit with her – but that’s weird. She’s got these new friends, from some science team, or whatever, and she looks happy. He can feel the eyes of Nicole, Carol and Tommy, but they can go fuck themselves, so he flips them off for laughing.

He starts walking when he notices Jonathan Byers sitting alone in a far back table, pushed against a window. He’s fiddling with his camera, a spoon hanging out of his mouth, and he’s so focused he doesn’t notice the pudding cup he nearly knocks off the table, until Steve catches it on his way over.

“Oh,” Jonathan looks up. Steve sets it down on the table with his tray. “Thanks.”

“No prob.”  Steve looks to the camera parts scattered across the table. “Whatcha’ working on?”

Jonathan clears his throat, “Oh uh, my um…camera’s been acting a little weird. I think a parts wearing out, I just can’t tell which one.”

Steve starts to unwrap the soggy chicken sandwich and takes a bite, “Mm, must use it a lot.”

“Yeah, it’s, uh- hobby- can I help you?”

Steve freezes, mouth halfway open for another bite. “Got something on my face?”

 “No?” Jonathan stares, eyebrows together, like Steve is the bearded lady from the circus. He looks on edge.

“Am I bugging you?”

 “No- uh. You can stay.” He sets down his camera, and goes for another spoonful of pudding. “Why aren’t you with your friends?”

“Don’t really got any,” Steve says. He stops and thinks about it, “That aren’t thirteen.” He pauses again, “Oh my god that sounds weird.”

Jonathan smiles, but wipes it off with a bite, swallowing a solemn, “Right. I heard about uh. Nancy. I’m sorry.”

Steve flaps around his hand in the air, “No worries.”

There’s a short silence, just as Steve sips a coke, and Jonathan works at the bottom of that pudding. The lunchroom is loud; there’s a few stares his way, but Steve has fought worse than some eyeballs.

“Must be pretty desperate to be sitting with me,” Jonathan offers, a little short. “You shouldn’t look so worried. Some people like you.” Steve stares. “You’ll find new friends.”

“What do you mean?” Steve frowns and chooses to ignore half the things he just said. “Aren’t we friends?”

Jonathan looks shocked, only briefly, “Are we?”

Steve shrugs, “Shit, I dunno’. I figured working together to fight the Hall&Oates’ Maneater might make you friends.”

Jonathan doesn’t look convinced. His lips are a tight line, until he runs his tongue across his teeth, and starts to piece his camera back together.

“Yeah.”

Steve blinks, “Am I wrong?”  

Jonathan pauses, his thumb running along the edge of the lens. His hair is in his face, the camera protectively held in his hands, and it makes Steve think about the time he dropped it.

Oh.

It occurs, then, that maybe he still hasn’t been forgiven. He’s been so worried about changing; about being better for Nancy – that he realizes, perhaps, years of verbal abuse aren’t forgotten so easily.

“Sorry,” Steve starts to stand. “I’ll go.”

“No,” Jonathan looks up. “Stay.”

He says it so sternly. Steve sits back down, “I have a lot to apologize for – you, you know that time I went to your house, I wanted to-“

The bell rings, and students start to clean up their tables. Jonathan slowly puts his books back in his bag as he says, “Don’t bother. There was some stuff I shouldn’t have done. We’re even.”

Steve squints, “I don’t think we are.”

Jonathan gives a smile, a real one, and it’s jarring how quickly the weight shifts off Steve’s shoulders. Jonathan wiggles the camera in the air, before sliding it in his bag, “Oh, I think we are.”

“That traitor,” Steve scoffs, standing. “Nancy told you!”

“Nope,” Jonathan chirps, and pushes in his chair. “But you just did. Thanks for the camera.”

Steve feels so bamboozled, that he doesn’t notice Jonathan throwing away his trash until he’s walking away.

 


 

The weekends get lonely. Sometimes Dustin calls asking if he can borrow something obscure – like exactly thirty seven nails or a bucket big enough for “fifty gallons of orange juice” – of which, his weekend is spent dissuading the kids of whatever the hell they’re up to.

But other than that, Steve is mostly alone. With Mom still in the process of moving out with the divorce, and Dad gone Friday through Sunday, the house gets quiet. Especially when he remembers that there once was a faceless monster in his backyard. Sometimes he drives down to the quarry, just to have a smoke - get into a clearer headspace – all that hippy jazz Nancy used to go on about – but it’s fucking boring, so he throws a ball against the back wall until his neighbors curse over the hedges.

Jonathan was right though, about the friends. Steve buddies up with a few kids in math – they’re nice enough, a little dumb, but so is Steve. They seem to just float by, doing the bare minimum to get through school, and Steve can roll with that.

But he still sits with Jonathan during lunch. Well, Jonathan lets him. Most of the time, they don’t even say much; they sit slouched at the table, Steve picking at the cafeteria food, Jonathan harking down the lunch Steve is pretty sure he made himself.

But sometimes, Steve gets him to open up about his pictures, and Jonathan takes off like a rocket – on and on about the photos he’s taken. Where he wants to go – weird places, like abandoned roads in New England and deserts in Arizona.

“Don’tcha’ wanna’ go where everyone else goes for pictures?” Steve asks, with his mouth full. “Ya’ know. Like New York and Paris and whatever.”

Jonathan scrunches up his face, and taps his spoon against the knuckle of his thumb.

“Well. I’ve wanted to go to NYU since I was a kid but – the older I get, the more I don’t like big cities.”

Steve makes a long mmmm noise, and a muffled, phhbll? to which Jonathan barely smiles, and gives a short nod. The smile is gone quickly, eyes back to his spoon, dark again. Steve finds himself wishing they’d just stay all bright and sparkly.

He watches Jonathan fold up the remains of his sandwich, and shove them back in his bag. He reminds Steve of a deer. Mixed with a cat. And maybe a bear. Like an animal that spooks easy – but instead of running away, it punches you in the nose.

“Hey, there’s a game tonight,” Steve tries. “Wanna’ go?”

“I have work.”

“Ah,” Steve waves. “No worries then.”

“Yeah,” Jonathan stands. “See you in class.”

“Kay,” Steve takes a bite, definitely not disappointed.

 


 

Byers is in his government class. He sits in the back, and Steve never really pays much attention to him. Steve sits in the perfect middle of Ann Peterson and Jessica Jones, two baby blonde hotties from the cheerleading team, and he’s sure as hell not moving.

Mr. Robinson says “group project” and half the class groans, while the other half looks to their friends eagerly.

Ann and Jessica nearly football-tackle a poor kid while trying to get to each other. Steve turns around, and looks straight to Jonathan – who’s not even paying attention. He’s got this bored, half-asleep look in his eyes, like he knows he won’t have a partner and the teacher will find one for him. Not on Steve’s fuckin’ watch.

The chair skirts against the ground as Steve stands, and he makes his way over towards the back. He sits on the edge of an empty adjacent desk, and kicks out at the leg of Jonathan’s chair to get his attention.

“You ready to write a ten-page paper all about the joys of the judicial branch?”

Jonathan looks up, and Steve can tell he’s trying not to act surprised. He’s in black jeans and a black t-shirt, and he nearly blends into the blackboard behind him, if not for the scraggly blonde, unwashed bedhead.

“I’m ecstatic,” he deadpans. “When is it due? I fell asleep.”

“Shit, I don’t know.” Steve turns around, and elbows Matthew Hudson in the ribs. “Hudson. Whenssit due.”

“Next Thursday,” Matt rubs at his side.

“Thanks,” Steve turns, and looks to Jonathan, “Next Thursday.”

Jonathan runs a hand through his hair, which has gotten long enough to stick up in odd ways.

“Great.”

“We can work around your schedule,” Steve shrugs. “What days do you work?”

Jonatan is staring at him weirdly, “…Wednesdays after school and mornings on weekends.”

“Well…you know where I live,” Steve gestures. “Come over whenever.”

The disdained look on Jonathans face slowly fades. Like he realizes that Steve isn’t just fucking with him.

He sits up a little straighter, “Alright. I can check out some books after school today. I’m staying late to develop some pictures anyways.”

“I can stay and help?” Steve offers.

 The bell rings, and the teacher starts to usher them to their next class.

“Um, sure. We can meet in the library. If you even know where that is,” Jonathan jokes, and it throws Steve so off guard, he laughs.

“Fuck you!”

Jonathan laughs too, nudging Steve’s foot off his chair with his knee, “Library. 3:15.”

“Aye-Aye captain.”

Steve can feel Carol giving him a look from the front row, and he pointedly ignores it.

 


 

Jonathan shows up midday on Saturday. Steve is doing nothing but smoking out by the pool, so he stubs out the cig and leads Jonathan up to his room, because Mom took the kitchen chairs.

Jonathan is quiet, reading, scribbling down notes. He must’ve just come from work, because his hair is washed – actually styled, almost? Just pushed back, and its – it looks – good. It looks good.

Steve wants another cigarette, and he’s not sure why he’s so nervous. Jonathan is just…sitting on his bedroom floor, reading a book about an old court case, something Steve is also supposed to be doing, but Jonathan is in his room, and his hair looks nice, and this is a weird crisis that Steve can’t comprehend right now.

“You want a coke?” Steve asks, standing up to stretch.

“Hm?” He looks up. “Sure.”

Steve walks down to the garage, takes two out of the fridge, and presses one against his forehead to cool down his face.

He hands the other to Jonathan when he climbs the stairs. Jonathan’s back is against the bottom of his bed now, legs stretched out. He’s got holes in his jeans and his socks don’t match, shoes politely kicked off by the front door.

“Thanks,” Jonathan pops the tab, now flipping through the textbook with his free hand.

“Your job lets you wear denims?” Steve sits back down.

“Huh? Oh, uh, sometimes.”  

“I’m only just realizing I have no idea where you work.”

“Ah. I wait tables at the diner down the street.”

“That’s like, really close,” Steve takes a swig. “You enjoy it?”

Jonathan shrugs, “Tips aren’t bad.”

“I need something to do on the weekends,” Steve sighs. “Now that I’m not tagging walls or fighting monsters.”

“The video-store next door has been short staffed ever since Monny Jackson quit.” Jonathan looks up, and finally away from the book, and why the fuck are Steve’s palms sweating. “Maybe you should swing by.”

“Right by the diner?”

“Yeap.”

“I think I might.” And then Steve’s mouth says without any written consent from his brain, “You jus’ wanna’ hang out with me more, don’tcha?”

He’s allowed a brief moment to panic, before Jonathan snorts, and takes a swig of coke, “It’d be nice to have someone to eat with during lunch breaks.”

Steve puts a hand over his heart, “And here I thought you hated me.”

“Not really,” Jonathan says awkwardly, to Steve’s surprise. There’s an unsaid not anymore.

The slow silence makes the room feel stuffy, so Steve drinks down the rest of the coke, and shoots the can into the trash. Jonathan looks back to the book on his lap. He goes to tuck an invisible stray hair behind his ear. His mom must’ve just cut it, because he still scratches at the back of his neck every few seconds, and god, Steve just can’t stop watching him.

Steve looks up to the ceiling and sighs, leaning his head back on his shoulders, “Ugh. I really don’t want to do this fucking essay.”

“Me neither,” Jonathan sits back. He chews on his lip, and Steve is so busy watching it turn red, he nearly misses him ask, “Wanna’ go drive to the city for some Micky D’s?”

“Yeap.”

 


 

It’s not the best essay that’s ever been written, but they get it in on time. Steve is almost sad about it, because that means he doesn’t have any excuse to make Jonathan come hang out at his house anymore. All they ever did was work on that dumb project and eat food - but it was nice. Jonathan is easy to hang out with. He has no expectations. Quiet, but not mute. He’s funny when he wants to be, quick witted even, and he makes Steve laugh when he least expects it. But Jonathan is efficient with his time, and Steve never expects to hang out with him again.

However, much to Steve’s complete and utter fucking shock, Jonathan slides into their lunch table that next week, and asks if he’d like to come with him to the quarry after school.

“Yeah,” Steve sits up. “Uh, why?”

“I need some nature shots for my photography class, and Mom doesn’t really like me going out in the woods alone, since, you know.”

“Right.”

“I told her I’m fine, but-“

“Nah, fuck, I’d feel better if I went with you.” Steve shrugs, and takes a bite of pizza.

Jonathan grins, “You still got that baseball bat in the trunk?”

“Shut up,” Steve points, mouth full. “You shut up. Will told me you had a bear trap under your bed.”

Rather than look angry, Jonathan looks like he might laugh.

“I also had one in the closet. Mom almost stepped in it, and she made me throw it away.”

Steve breaks out laughing, leaning back in the chair and covering a hand over his mouth so he won’t spit out food.

“You would’ve been-“

“Dead, I know.”

The bell rings, but Jonathan doesn’t start packing up until Steve does. He actually walks with him to class, and gives a short later when he turns towards his classroom. Steve is left feeling all gooey on the inside, like his aunt’s marble pies. He’s not quite sure what to make of that.

 

There’s still a few hours of sun when they get to the quarry. Steve sits on the hood of his Volvo and smokes, puffing out in a direction that hopefully wont blow where Jonathan is kneeling, taking photos of the water. The hiss and grind of the shutter sounds louder out here.

Jonathan left his shitty car on, just to play the mixtape he has going in his stereo. Steve tells him he’ll run out the battery, but Jonathan says it’s due for a change soon anyways.

Steve watches him crouch, one elbow digging into the dirt, the other bracing his camera, as he shoots low across the water. He’s getting his blue jeans all dirty, but at least, now Steve knows why the knees are always worn out.

He turns the other way, to look up by the mountain. It’s the place where they fished out what Mike says was the fake body, or, whatever the hell they buried. Steve doesn’t have any siblings, so it’s hard to imagine what Jonathan was going through – but Steve’s stomach pits when he thinks about how much worse he probably made it. He takes a real deep drag and looks back to Jonathan, who’s sitting crisscross on the ground looking at the settings on his camera.

Steve leans back against the windshield and sighs, flicking away ashes. “So I got that job.”

Jonathan’s head snaps up, “You did?”

“Yeap.”

“What’d your Dad say?”

“He’s happy about it. Says I need direction, or whatever, shit. It’s just part time.”

“Good luck,” Jonathan nods, and Steve grins back.

Jonathan snaps a picture, lightning quick, and Steve barks, “Erase that!”

“Nah.” He smiles and snaps another, and Steve throws an empty can at him, because the way Jonathan is looking at him makes his throat feels dry. That hard glare in his eyes is gone – the one where he thinks Steve might turn and stab him in the back. He just looks...normal. Jonathan normal. Relaxed. Steve is overwhelmed by the teeny, tiny amount of trust Jonathan now has in him.

“Freak,” Steve says, but there’s no venom. Jonathan snorts, and stands up to start shooting pictures of the woods from a different angle. Steve watches until he gets bored, sliding off the hood to go chuck stones across the water. Duran Duran plays from Jonathan’s car. It’s no sexy weekend party – but it’s...not bad. 

 


 

“Been hanging out with the weirdo a lot, aye?”

Steve turns, hand halfway into his locker, and gives Tommy the most unamused look he can muster.

“Are we really doing this?”

“Hey, we might’ve had a falling out, but friends are friends,” Carol grins. “We’re just looking out for you.”

Tommy snorts, “Yeah man. Be careful ‘round that queer, yeah?”

”Watch it.” Steve snaps.

”It’s only the truth~”

“Oh shut up.” Steve slams his locker shut, “You know we made that up.”

Carol gives a surprised laugh, “What?”

“Stevie didn’t move here until sixth grade, remember?” Tommy slings an arm around her shoulders. “He doesn’t know.”

“Oh my goodness,” Carol laughs, “Literally everyone knows.”  

Steve scowls, “Knows what?”

“How lame-“

“I thought you told him-“

“Told me what?!” Steve snaps.

Tommy can hardly spit the words out, he’s so damn smug, “That Byers got caught kissing Robbie Brown behind the handicap stall in fifth grade.”

Steve pauses.

Carol snaps her gum, “Yeah. Got walked in on by a teach. Poor Brown couldn’t handle the shame, his family left town before, like, the start of sixth grade. Only the juciest thing to happen around here. Until, well.”

“The Byers are just endless entertainment, aren’t they?”

Steve has no idea how to feel about this – but Carol and Tommy are laughing, and he wants to break Tommy’s nose so, so bad, so he elbows past him, and starts to walk towards the front doors.

“Hey buddy, we’re just looking out for ya’!”

“Be careful he doesn’t kiss you!” Carol laughs, while Tommy makes kissy noises, and that doesn’t make Steve as upset as it should. 

 

See, the thing is, Steve knows they’re lying.

Unfortunately, it still keeps him up at night. He tosses and turns, thinking of every interaction he’s ever had with Jonathan Byers. He is – well, not normal, but weird in a good way. Just, different than everyone else, only because he seems to see past the preverbial highschool bullshit. It’s almost admirable, the more Steve gets to know him. If Jonathan is gay, Steve sure wouldn’t know it.

He kicks off his sheets and peels off his shirt, feeling hot, even if it’s nearly winter.

It never even occurred to him that it might’ve been the truth.

No. They’re definitely lying.

Not that it’d be bad if they weren’t – If Jonathans- that’s fine- it’s just – no reason to –

They’re lying.

 


 

“Oh,” Joyce blinks. “Steve!”

“Hi Ms. Byers,” Steve shorts a smile. He’s got his hands in his pockets, his hood down, because he doesn’t want to mess up his hair.

She steps back and opens the door, “Jonathan should be home anytime, but you’re welcome to come in.”

“Are you sure? I can wait-“

“Yes yes come on in!”

Steve does, almost forgetting to kick some of the mud off his boots before he starts to take them off at the front door.

“Oh, don’t worry about it,” Joyce waves. “We’re about to rip out this floor and replace it soon. The uh, hallway’s seen better days.”

Steve pulls his boot back up, “Oh. Okay.”

“Take a seat!” She gestures, and Steve has only met her a few times, but even now, she reminds him of a chicken with it’s head cut off. She’s scrambling through papers on her kitchen table, picking up ones that she knocks to the floor. Steve takes a seat on the couch, and looks around the livingroom. It is much cleaner than what he last remembers. The roof is all patched up too.

“How was school?”

Steve clears his throat, “Um. Good.”

“You and Jonathan have any fun plans tonight?” Joyce smiles, still digging around her kitchen for something.

“I think we’re just going to stay in and watch movies. There might be pizza involved.”

She stops mid hunt, and turns to Steve and points, “Right! Let me give you some money for that – Jonathan would never take it.” She starts looking for her purse, “Stubborn kid…”

“No no no-“ Steve starts, “Please don’t. I’ve uh, actually got a job now, thanks to Jonathan. It’s no big deal.”

Joyce pauses and frowns, “Not you too. You’re supposed to – shit I don’t know, go out and do kid things. It’s your last year of highschool.”

Steve shrugs, “I don’t mind. We hang out during lunch breaks on the weekends. There’s not much else to do around here anyways.”

The look on her face softens, and she...very much reminds him of Jonathan. “You know, while he’s not here, I really want to say thank you.”

“For...”

“Being his friend,” Joyce leans against the counter. “Getting him out of the house.”

“That’s definitely not something you need to thank me for,” Steve says firmly. “I um. I used to be not very nice.”

Joyce smiles anyways, “Will seems to think you’re pretty cool.”

“He does?” Steve leans forwards to peep down the hall. “Is he home?”

“No, he’s spending the night at the Wheeler’s-”

The front door unlocks, and Jonathan steps through, jean jacket pulled up to his neck, a scarf tugged over his nose. He yanks it down and shuts the door behind him.

“Hey dude.”

“Hi,” Jonathan peels off his jacket, “I saw your car in the driveway. Did you uh, wait long?”

“Nope.”

“Hi sweetheart,” Joyce smiles, and squeezes his shoulder in passing. “I’m just on my way out. I gotta’ take these papers down to the city hall,” she waves said papers.

Jonathan frowns, “All the way in the city?”

“Yes, but it’s fine. I’m meeting Hopper for dinner.”

“Oh, alright then.” He nods to Steve, “You wanna’ come pick out a movie?”

“Sure.”

Joyce tugs on her jacket, and waves a ten dollar bill behind Jonathans back, mouthing, pizza, before she tucks it in a houseplant, and hunts down her car keys. Steve has no plan of using it.

He follows Jonathan into his bedroom, who’s still peeling off layers. He chucks his scarf on his bed, and takes off his gloves with his teeth, which... makes Steve feel really, really weird.

His room is cluttered, but not overwhelmingly so. There’s posters on the wall, knick-knacks, lots of photos. It makes his own room feel a little plain in comparison. A stereo takes up most of the desk, but there’s a small shelf of VHS’s. They’re mostly horror movies, but there’s some obscure ones, like Clockwork Orange and Monty Python.

“Ooh, some of these look overdue,” Steve jokes. “The store won’t be happy about this.”

“We have a mutual agreement,” Jonathan thumbs through a pile of papers, and pulls out a few more movies. “I’m probably their most frequent customer.”

“I’ve noticed.” 

Jonathan asks, “What are you feeling?”

“I dunno’. Whatever I guess.”

“You like horror?”

Steve makes a face, “Not as much as I used to.”

Jonathan doesn’t seem judgmental, “I’ve got Blade Runner.”

“Never seen it.”

“You work at a video store and you’ve never seen Blade Runner?” he deadpans.

Steve shrugs, so Jonathan picks it up and says, “We’re watching it.”  

Steve gets on the house phone and orders pizza while Jonathan fusses with the TV. He’s on hold, shoulder against the wall, watching Jonathan as he slides in the tape, and sets the TV right. He’s got nice shoulders. He’s always in those thin t-shirts, thin enough that Steve can see the knobs of his spine, and the divots shift in his shoulder blades as he stands back up again. His shirt is tucked into a little black belt, and by god, he must have the tiniest waist Steve has ever seen –

“Hello?...Hello?”

Steve jolts, clearing his throat, “Um- hey. Yeah, can I get a large meat-lovers.”

 

 

Steve can’t help but keep one eye on Jonathan the rest of the night. He’s not even sure what he’s looking for – clues, body language, something, maybe, that’ll tell him if Carol and Tommy were telling the truth.

He’s not even sure why he cares so much, but he does; only, Jonathan acts like usual. He’s surprisingly talkative during the movie, pointing out this and that, plot holes, physical effects, stuff he likes, stuff he hates. His voice is so raspy it’s on its own wavelength, fuzzy in your ear – but he talks over all the dialogue, so Steve hits him over the head with his empty paper plate, and Jonathan, for the love of god, giggles.

“Shut up! Oh my god!”

But he doesn’t and Steve doesn’t mind all that much. It’s fun, and enough of a distraction from how closely they’re sitting together on the couch.

 


 

Steve has to call into work one weekend to help his Mom move one last truck up to Michigan. This one has the dresser from her bedroom, some gardening tools, a weird gnome or two, whatever.

He zones out for most of the drive, his Mom asleep in the passenger seat. He’s not sure if she looks happier or not – and he’s not sure if this is the last time he’ll see her for a while.

When he drops her off, she looks up at him, with her tired, brown eyes, and presses her hands to his cheeks like she used to when he was a kid.

“You sure you don’t want to move in with me? It’s not too late.”

He pats her hand and offers a smile, and she gives one sadly back.

The ride home is a little quieter. He hones through the radio, but nothing sounds right, so he turns it off. Steve finds himself wishing he had one of Jonathan’s tapes – there’s always something good on them, one or two weird ones, but better than the radio.

He squeezes the steering wheel, and watches the road dip under the hood.

 


 

The manager has him working double shifts this weekend, just to cover what he missed the last, and his back hurts by the end.

It’s dark out when he walks next door to see if Byers is still working. He peeks into the diner, the lights stark neon against the sidewalk. He can’t see very well through the window art, so he steps indoors to take a look around. It’s not busy; an old couple in a corner booth, and a few kids eating pie at the bar.

Jonathan is waiting on the couple, scribbling down something on paper as he hands them their check. He’s wearing the little diner apron and a button down, sleeves rolled up to his elbows; he tucks the pencil behind his ear and gives a genuine smile to the elderly couple, and for the first time in Steve’s entire life, he looks at another man and thinks oh my god, he’s fucking adorable.

Jonathan turns to him and gives a surprised blink, before a half smile. He wipes his hands on the apron and walks over, “Hey.”

Steve rubs his nose, totally nonchalant, “Hey man. You still working?”

“Covered for someone,” Jonathan leans against a gumball machine. “Looks like you did the same. Did you walk today?”

“Uh, yeah. Wasn’t worth the gas. When do you clock out?”

Jonathan looks to his watch, “Umm, about thirty minutes. If you don’t mind waiting, I’ll drive you home.”

“I was actually gonna’ ask,” Steve lowers his voice, “if you wanna’ come over and have a few.” He wiggles his eyebrows.

Jonathan looks behind him to his manager at the counter, and back to his watch, running a hand through his hair.

“Sounds damn good right about now. But I’d have to drive back.”

“Tell your mom you’re spending the night,” Steve shrugs. “I mean, if you wanna’. The couch is yours.”

Jonathan arches an eyebrow, “Your dad isn’t home?”

“Nope.”

Jonathan nods, “Alright. You can sit anywhere.”

Steve finds a booth by the window. He fiddles around with the salt shaker, and watches Jonathan slide over to the kids at the counter. He talks to them in a low voice, and the kids laugh.

Steve runs his thumbnail along the edge of the shaker, as he tries to look at literally anything else.

He’s not sure what the hell he’s doing, inviting Jonathan over. All he knows is that he doesn’t want to be alone in his house. It’s Saturday night, and Dad still hasn’t replaced all the furniture Mom took, and his feet hurt too bad to go find some party to go to.

Whatever identity crisis he’s having, it’s definitely not as bad as spending the weekend by himself.

 


 

 “Why is your Dad always gone?” 

Jonathan’s shoes are kicked off, legs dangling off the edge of the bed, his back against the wall. He doesn’t seem to be a lightweight, because he’s on his third beer, and he’s holding up alright.

Steve kicks an empty can off the bed, “Work. Women. I dunno.”

Jonathan hums, and plays with the tab on the beer, until it snaps clean off.

Steve’s radio isn’t as nice as Jonathan’s, but it’s currently doing the job. The local station is fuzzy from his room, so it’s not really anything other than background noise.

Awkward silences used to frustrate him, but Jonathan’s aren’t too bad. His head is against the wall, eyes a little hazy, and this must be him drunk, because he looks the most relaxed Steve has ever seen him. They’ve drunk together before, usually just one, nothing too crazy, but he’s kinda’ cute like this.

Fucking hell.

“You mind if I grab a tape from my car?” Jonathan suddenly asks. “I can’t listen to this anymore.”

It’s the same Madonna song the radio has been playing for two weeks, and Steve nods in agreement. It takes Jonathan a moment to slip off the bed; he half shoves on his shoes, before disappearing down the stairs.

Steve closes his eyes, and lets his head swim a little, body fuzzy and warm. When he opens his eyes again, it is to Jonathan closing the door, sheepishly holding up a tape.

“I actually uh...made this for you.”

Steve rubs his eyes, sitting up, “Wait, really?”

“Yeah,” Jonathan heads over to the radio, and flips the tape in. “You don’t have to keep it if you don’t want. We were just – when we were driving around last week, you said you liked some of my music, so I um, put together some stuff I thought you’d like. Erm, sorry.”

Steve laughs, not at him, but at how rambly he is. He’s flattered.

“Dude, that’s awesome. Thanks man.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah. I’m keeping it.”

Jonathan settles in next to him against the wall, and picks up the can he was working on. The tape clicks on, and it’s already better than what they were listening to.

He watches his fan spin on his ceiling, before he huffs a laugh, “Nancy likes this song.”

“That’s right,” Jonathan smiles.

“I heard you guys hang out sometimes,” Steve shifts. “What do you guys do?”

Jonathan shrugs, “Nothing much. I take her out in my yard so she can practice shooting.”

Steve laughs, “Really?”

“Yeah. Way better at it than I am. I think she likes it.”

“Ha…” Steve trails off. He runs his bottom lip through his teeth, and gives another short laugh, “Funny, isn’t it.”

“What is?”

“Neither of us got the girl.”

Jonathan turns to look at him, but immediately glances away. There’s this weird, reserved look on his face, like he’s hiding something. He almost curls in on himself, but not really, just shifting to look somewhere else.

“Yeah, I guess.”

“I thought it was gonna’ be you.” Steve says, because his mouth is already running before his brain. “I really did.”

“We were… we were never like that.” Jonathan peels off the label on his can, as if he can’t sit without his hands being busy.

The music sounds a little louder now. They say nothing. Steve is still trying to decide if Jonathan is telling the truth. His hair is scraggly again, sticking up where he ran his hands through it. Steve pushes back his own bangs, stomach twisting up all weird, suddenly anxious.

He figures why not.

“Hey Byers.”

“Yeah?”

“Did you kiss Robbie Brown in the fifth grade?”

Jonathan’s entire body tenses, like gripping an electric fence.

His shoulders freeze up by his ears, eyes wide and fixated on a spot on the door. After all this time, Steve had almost forgotten what Jonathan’s walls looked like, until they all went flying up at once. He sees his eyes flicker from his shoes, to the door, and Steve grabs him by the arm in hopes of getting his attention.

“I don’t care, really. Either way. I was just- I was just asking. You don’t even hafta’ tell me.”

Jonathan looks to him, shoulders dropping, but his eyes are still dark and dangerous, and Steve’s face aches with a dull reminder of what his fist feels like.

“You can forget I asked,” Steve lets go of his arm. “Tommy and Carol probably made it up anyways.” 

A pause.

Jonathan lets out a long sigh, and pushes back his bangs. He leans back against the wall, and finishes off the can, before setting it with more empty ones on the bedside table.

“He kissed me first.”

Steve swallows.

“What?”

“Robbie Brown,” Jonathan says. “He kissed me in the woods behind Benny’s. We were too scared to hold hands anywhere other than in his room, when his parents weren’t home. I kissed him at school the next day, and the vice principal walked in.”

Steve isn’t sure why his stomach hurts so bad, but it does. He’s going to blame it on the alcohol.

“Shit, what they’d do?”

“Suspended me.” Jonathan shrugs. “Rob’s family moved because they couldn’t handle the talk around town.”

Steve can’t help it; “Fuckin’ cowards.”

Jonathan gives him a look, but smiles a little, “He was soft.”

“And...your mom?”

“She knew I was bent way before that. We agreed not to tell my dad.”

Steve sits and stares at the foot of the bed, trying really, really hard to make sure his words come out as sober as he wants.

”I’m...I’m kinda jealous.”

Jonathan’s head snaps his way, “What??”

”You know exactly who you are. Everyone around here - they make fun of what they don’t understand. Nobody has themselves figures out yet...but like...” Steve shrugs, “...you never try to be anything other than yourself. It’s cool.” 

Jonathan goes queit. Steve sniffs, and rubs his nose. His face goes hot.

After a moment, Jonathan softly says, “Thanks.”  Steve shuts up and looks away. Jonathan continues, “No – really. Thank you. From you...thats...”

They’re still an armlength away, but Jonathan’s cheeks are red, all the way down to his neck, probably from the alcohol. His jeans are rolled up to his calves, and Steve is so mixed up – because the guy looks cool, like an actor from a movie, but also kinda’ cute, like the girls he’d bring up to his room.

Wonder if he kisses any good...

Steve reaches over and into his other bedside table, and pulls out a pack of camels.

“Light?”  

“Sure.”

 


 

When he wakes up the next morning to Jonathan asleep on the floor, bed-head slicked up the side of his face like a cowlick, drooling over his own arm - and the first thing Steve thinks is oh lord, I wanna kiss him –

That’s when Steve knows he needs to get laid.

Jonathan wakes up all sleepy and soft, not even embarrassed about how he looks. He cooks Steve breakfast in his own home, and it’s really fucking good. When Jonathan finally leaves, Steve sits in the shower and has the longest existential crisis of his life.

 

On Tuesday he slides up to Amanda Peterson at her locker. She’s a redhead dyed black, with big round lips and C cups that Steve has had personal experience with.

“You down to study this weekend?” Steve asks, arms crossed, knowing Amanda Peterson has never had to study a day in her life. She has six different guys doing her homework for each class. Major respect.

“Why Harrington,” she smiles, biting that round bottom lip. “We haven’t studied together in ages.

“About time, right baby?”

“I’m free after school tomorrow.”

Out of the corner of his eye, he can see Jonathan standing at the water fountain, head turned the other way, waiting for Steve so they can walk to class together. There’s a twist of guilt that falls in his stomach, and he has no idea why. He’s doing nothing wrong. Jonathan shifts impatiently, turning to shoot Steve a look – and he can’t meet his eye.

Steve smiles, and slyly leans down to kiss her cheek, “I’ll meet you at my car.”

 The next day she comes to school wearing a miniskirt and a tube top that Steve cannot wait to take off. He drives Amanda back to his place, and they share a beer by his pool, Amanda mostly drinking, Steve tasting it down her throat.

His dad won’t be home for another three hours, which is more than enough time for them to fool around at least twice, so Steve isn’t sure why he can’t relax. Amanda has his hair in her hands, nails at the base of his neck, lipstick smudged against his chin, and it should be uber hot, but Steve’s head is just not in it.

Amanda is shirtless in his lap, all smooth, flawless lines of skin, except for a few moles here and there. She has two little beauty marks on her neck, and he can’t help but think of how they look a little like Jonathan’s, if only they were a little higher –

Her hand slides down his pants, beneath his underwear, and yeah, he’s hard, her tits are dinner and a show -but he can’t focus. Her tongue slides behind his teeth and Steve moans in surprise, jerking away when she gives him a squeeze.

“Ah, hey,” Steve pulls off, hands sliding back to rest politely on her hips. “It’s uh. Getting late.”

She sits back and frowns, “What?”

“I think I should take you home.”

Amanda stares a moment longer, before she laughs, and starts to tug down his jeans, “Don’t be ridiculous-“

“Oh! Uh, ha, oops- totally forgot I have a late shift tonight,” Steve looks back, as if he could see the kitchen clock all the way from here. “I’m such an airhead, totally my bad, I can-“ he turns back, and stops short, because she’s staring at him like looks could kill.

She asks slowly, “Are you telling me to leave?”

Steve wiggles, and pulls his jeans back up. A beat of silence. 

“Yes.”

She grinds her teeth and sits back, covering her chest with an arm, “You jerk-“

“I’m sor-“

She grabs the empty beer bottle, and whacks him over the head with it – not hard enough to break, but enough to fucking hurt. Steve hisses, vision swimming, as his hands shoot towards his head. Amanda grabs her shirt and stomps off.

Steve scrambles out of the chair, yelling, “Hey! Wait-“ because he’s not sure how she’s going to get home, and he doesn’t want her to walk alone, but by the time he gets to his front door, she’s already climbing into some car.

He swallows, and shuts the door.

 


 

People are staring before he even walks through the school doors, so Steve can only assume that Amanda told effectively everyone.

Some guy makes a crude gesture with his hands and laughs, “King Steve can’t put out anymore, aye bro?”

Steve rolls his eyes and heads to class, ignoring the talk on his way. It’ll be old news by next week; responding will only make it worse – but it’s not to say it’s fucking annoying.

Class is miserable, mostly because of the headache he’s had since last night. His forehead turned a lovely purple and blue this morning, so the name Herpes-Head! comes up once or twice. Great. Cool.

Steve is exhausted by lunchtime. He’d kill for an Asprin, or an ice pack, or a black hole to thrust himself into, preferably. Steve must look like a mess when he sits down, because he gets a weird look from Jonathan.

“H..hey.”

“Yo.”

Steve sets his head down on the table, and closes his eyes. Jonathan doesn’t say anything, one hand flipping through a book, the other holding a sandwich up to his lips. He’s allowed a few moments of silence, before there’s laughter at the next table over, and insults thrown their way, (they’re not worth repeating).

Jonathan starts to wrap up his lunch, and for a brief second, Steve worries he’s going to leave, but instead he asks, “Do you want to go to the darkroom?”

“Yes,” Steve answers quickly.

Jonathan leads them down a hallway Steve rarely travels through. They reach a room at the end, and Jonathan takes out a key, and unlocks the door. It’s, true to the name, very dark. Jonathan walks in and sets aside his keys, immediately getting out his camera.

“Oh, this feels so much nicer,” Steve rubs his temples.

“There should be a chair in that corner.”

Steve finds it and takes a seat, setting his bag aside. Jonathan immediately sets to work, meticulous, like he’s done it a hundred times before.

“Got a lot to develop?”

“Not too much,” he says. “Just some pictures from Will’s science fair.”

“Oh,” Steve blinks. “How’d he do?”

“Second place,” Jonathan smiles.

“Wow, smart little shit. Tell him I said congrats.”

Jonathan nods. He sets a photo in the solution, and hangs up another one to dry. 

Steve’s head still thumps, but dully now. Jonathan’s profile reflects against the wall from the red lights. It’s warm in here, so he eventually slides off his jacket, and sets it aside. Again, Steve can’t help but study his body, because it’s just so damn nice. His shoulder to waist ratio is honestly ridiculous, and he always wears those jeans that make his ass look-

Jonathan turns around, and Steve looks away, pressing a hand to his goose-egg.

It’s quiet, except for the sound of the whirling solution, and the dripping photos. Steve sniffs, and stares at the floor.

“Aren’t you going to ask what happened?”

“No.” 

“Oh.”

“I don’t care about rumors,” Jonathan continues. “And I don’t see what the big deal is anyways. You’re allowed to say no.”

Steve chews on the inside of cheek and shrugs, “I guess.”

Jonathan pauses, before he turns to look at Steve. His voice sounds tight.

“Did she do that?”

“Could’ve been worse.”

Jonathan frowns, and gives a short hm, before he turns back around, and works on developing his last photo.

Jonathan doesn’t press it any further, and that’s good, because Steve isn’t sure what he’d say.

I couldn’t do it because I was thinking about you.

It occurs to Steve that he definitely needs someone else to talk to.

 


 

“You want to take me out to lunch?”

“Not on a date,” Steve says quickly. “Just, you know, a friendly outing.”

Nancy raises an eyebrow, and leans back against the school bleachers.

“Why?”

“Why?” Steve repeats. He shrugs, “I dunno. Believe it or not, you’re still important to me. I’d really like to act on that whole lets stay friends thing.”

Nancy slowly stops chewing her gum. She stares at his face, reading him like she used to. Just when Steve is about to call it off, she smiles.

“Okay. Where to?”

“...Burgers, maybe?”

They decide on fast food. She sits across him at a booth, dipping her fries in her milkshake in a way that used to drive Steve crazy, but now just makes him smile. She’s cute, as she rambles on about what she’s been doing the last few months. She talks about the student council, about college applications, about her brother, and it’s nice. Familiar.

Steve is able to nod along, head in his hand, and not feel that old heartbreak, but rather, something new and warm. It’s closure, he thinks, because he looks at her and feels entirely different.

“I heard about your job from Jonathan,” Nancy says, after she has politely swallowed. “A video store, huh?”

“It’s pretty new, but business isn’t bad. I get minimum, but I just restock videos and work register.”

“You’re so different now,” Nancy says. “Good different.”

Steve looks from his drink, to the window, and back to Nancy, before he smiles, “Thanks.”

Nancy frowns, “What’s wrong?”

“What?”

“Are you okay?” Nancy shifts a little, pushing aside her fries. “I heard about the whole…thing, last week.”

“Oh, yeah,” Steve waves around his hand, “Don’t worry about it.” He tries to lighten the mood, “Word in a small town travels like the devil, doesn’t it?”  

“I know we haven’t talked in a while, but you can tell me,” she says honestly.

“I’d...really hate for you to think I brought you all the way out here just to tell you my laundry list.”

“Do you want me to go first?” Nancy smiles. “I was diagnosed with a depressive disorder.”

Steve blinks, freezing, “R-Really?”

“Yeah. Getting help – it’s, it’s been the best thing. My parents didn’t believe in medication at first, but now, it’s really changed my life. I feel like I have a future now.”

Steve grins, “That’s – that’s great, Nance. I’m sure you’ve been through a lot.”

“It’s getting better,” Nancy smiles, and steals a stray pickle off his plate. “Now it’s your turn.”

Steve lets out a long breath, and sits back in the booth. He chews on the tip of his thumb, before he looks back to her and sighs, “It’s Jonathan.”

Nancy saddens, “Oh no – really? I thought you guys had become close.”

“We have been. We’re not, like, fighting or anything.” Steve runs a hand through his hair.

“That’s good,” Nancy pipes. “He thinks of you as his best friend, you know.”

Steve groans, and sets his head in his hands, “Fuck.”

“Is something wrong?”

“I... uh...”

Nancy sits and waits while Steve tries to come up with the right words, but because Nancy is no average bear, she places a hand over her mouth, and suddenly jolts forwards.

Do you-?!”

“Shh!”

“No, I’m not-“ Nancy sits back, and lowers her voice. “That’s great, Steve!”

“It’s kinda’ not.”

“Why?”

“Why??” Steve looks up, “We live in Hawkins Indiana, not hippe-downstate California.”

“So?” Nancy crosses one leg over the other. “Mary and Beatrice have been living happily in love for the last ten years.”

“They’re two widowed seventy-year-old women who work day and night at the soup kitchen,” Steve deadpans. “Nobody in Hawkins has the balls to say anything about them.”

“I think stranger things have happened around here other than two boys dating.”

“That’s- that’s not even my point. I don’t really give a shit what Hawkins has to say – but, but Jonathan is going to think I’m fucking with him. He’ll hate me.”

Nancy rolls her eyes, “That’s definitely not true.”

Steve sits back and exhales, trying to calm down the way his heart is jumping sporadically.

“I don’t know what to do.”

Nancy laughs, and Steve shoots her an offended look. Nancy covers her mouth, but he can see the smile in her eyes.

“I’m sorry – I just.” She drops her hand, “You’re Steve Harrington. I’ve never seen you afraid to go after something you’ve wanted.”

Steve pauses.

“It’s kind of freaking me out,” she continues. “You must really like him to be all spazzy like this.”

“I am not spazzy.”

“Denial isn’t just a river in Egypt.”

Steve runs his tongue along the back of his teeth, before he asks, “You think I’ve got a shot?”

“Just as good as anyone else.”

“Shit.”

 


 

He’s lounging on the couch when the phone rings. Wow, there’s three things mom didn’t take; the T.V., the couch, and the phone. 

Steve waits to see if his dad is going to get it, but it keeps ringing, so Steve heaves up with a sigh, and tucks the bag of chips under his arm.

The phone is on it’s last ring when he answers, “Yello.”

“Steve?”

“Uh…yess?”

“It’s Jonathan.”

Steve straightens up from his slouch, as if Jonathan can see him.

“Oh, hey. What’s up?”

“Are you busy?”

“Well, I was getting frisky with this bag of Fritos.” He crinkles the bag next to the receiver.

He can hear the amusement in Jonathan’s raspy voice, “I need your help.”

“Oh – is everything okay?”

“Yeah yeah, it’s not anything serious.” Steve can hear him shift the phone to his other ear, “The local newspaper is having a photography competition that nobody felt the need to tell me about. The uh, deadline is tomorrow, and I need help sorting through all my pictures. I seriously don’t even know where to start.”

“I can be there in twenty,” Steve turns to look at the clock on the T.V. “Lemme’ put on some pants.”

“You can bring your Fritos,” Jonathan teases.

“It’s a date,” Steve says, and then cringes at himself so hard he feels the veins behind his eyes pulse.

Jonathan doesn’t even miss a beat, “See you soon.” He hangs up.

Steve scrubs at his face and fixes his hair, before throwing on jeans and heading out towards the Byers. He doesn’t bother telling his dad where he’s going.

He gets there earlier than expected. Will opens the door wearing a wizard hat and robes.

“Oh,” Will blinks. “I thought you were Lucas.”

“Unfortunately not,” Steve pouts.

Will leans back and yells, “JONATHAN! STEVE IS- oh, Jonathan, Steve is here.”

Jonathan comes around the corner and ruffles Will’s hair on his way.

“Hey man.”

“Yo.” Steve lifts the bag, “I got Fritos.”

Jonathan laughs, and gestures with a tilt of his head, “Come on. I’ve started sorting in my room.”

Will shuts the door and wiggles his eyebrows in Steve’s direction – something Steve isn’t quite sure what to make of. Jonathan ushers him in, and shuts his bedroom door.

There’s maybe a hundred photos laid out on his bed. There’s the beginnings of three piles, but they fall when Steve sits on the bed.

“Holy shit, dude.”

Jonathan gives him a sympathetic look and says, “That’s not even all of them,” before he takes a plastic bin, and dumps out another hundred or so onto the bed. Some fall into Steve’s lap, and he picks them up one by one.

“And I thought was unorganized.”

Jonathan takes a seat next to him on the bed, and their knees knock together.

“The category is The Perfect Moment. Could it be any more cliché?”

“That’s horribly generic,” Steve says.

“I know. I started a No, Maybe, and Yes pile. Just start sorting, and I’ll go through the Yes and Maybes later.”

Steve leans down and picks up the bucket lid, setting it at the edge of the bed to give them something sturdy to build piles on.

He starts looking at the photos closest to him. Jonathan turns up his stereo just a little, and they start working. Jonathan sorts much quicker than him, only because Steve takes time to look at each one. He adds more to the Yes pile than Jonathan.

“These are really good,” Steve holds a photo up to the light. “Where was this?”

Jonathan leans over, shoulder brushing Steve’s, “Oh, um. A random dirt road in Ohio.”

It’s pretty, leaves scattered all over the road, trees lining the edges.

“You can add that to the maybe.”

“I’m putting it in Yes,” Steve says. “Stop being so hard on yourself.”

Jonathan doesn’t answer, looking between two photos, before he puts them in the No pile.

Steve finds a handful of Will photos; some at Castle Byers, others at school, or on the living room couch. Steve sneaks one into the Yes pile.

Jonathan suddenly laughs, “Hey, look at this.” Steve leans over. “Perfect moment, huh?”

It’s of Tommy and Carol, one that Jonathan must’ve took behind a hallway door. They’re mid-yelling, probably at each other, and they look goofy as hell.

“That’s amazing,” Steve points, “Definitely a yes.”

“Maybe,” Jonathan smiles, and sets it aside.

There’s lots and lots and lots of pictures of the woods. Steve looks through them all, amazed at each one. Jonathan sees things so differently; light reflecting through leaves, footprints in the dirt, trees grown wonky.

“You could make postcards out of these,” Steve says. He holds up a photo of the town main street, “Welcome to Hawkins.”

Jonathan tries not to smile, and turns down to the photos he’s sorting through.

“Sure.”

“I’m not kissing your ass, dude. If you sucked, I’d tell you.”

Jonathan thumbs at the corner of a photo of his mom, before he sets it away. He lightly elbows Steve, “Thanks.”

Steve reaches for another handful of chips, before starting on a whole new pile. He’s not paying attention to the time – but they’ve been through two of Jonathan’s albums, so they must’ve been here for a while. He wiggles to stretch his back – but pauses mid-stretch when he spots a photo of himself.

He grabs it, and holds it closer; he’d completely forgotten about this. Back when they went out to the quarry.

The photo has nice lighting. There’s a bit of the water and the mountain behind him, as he sits on the hood, cigarette in hand. He’s laughing, and oh wow, his hair looks horrible, but it’s the best picture he’s ever seen of himself.

“I thought you got rid of this.”

Jonathan looks over, and clears his throat.

“I was going to. But I thought it was too nice to throw away.”

Steve grins, and finds another one of himself, this time him looking away, and up at the mountains.

“Wow, I look so thoughtful.”

“I like this one better,” Jonathan grins, and shows him another photo from the quarry – but this time it’s Steve yelling at the camera, pointing with his cigarette.

Steve laughs, “Holy shit, that’s a yes.

Jonathan smiles, and softly sets it away from any of the piles, as if keeping it for himself.

Steve starts thumbing through more photos. “How come you don’t have any photos of yourself?”

Jonathan shrugs, “I can’t exactly take my own picture.”

“You should,” Steve says, still absently sorting. “You’d make a good model.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah. Good jawline n’ stuff. Chicks really dig it – or uh, guys, probably – “

He looks over, and Jonathan is sitting closer then he remembers, staring almost through him. Their knees are still touching, and Steve nearly inhales his tongue when Jonathan tips his head a little closer.

“You should let me take more pictures of you.”

Steve panics, “Or- that. Whatever you want.”

Jonathan looks so fucking smug. His hair is back to being scraggly, and there’s dark shadows under his eyes, and his sweatshirt is so big he cant seem to keep the sleeves up, and Steve likes him so so so much he’s practically vibrating with it.

Jonathan goes to move away and back towards the photos, but Steve stops him with a grip around his wrist. Jonathan turns back to him, lips parting in question, and Steve says fuck it all, and kisses him.

It’s slow. Something experimental and shaky. Because maybe Steve doesn’t want this, maybe he’s confused; his heart is beating out of his ears like a drum, hands sweating like it’s his first kiss again. Maybe he won’t like it – maybe -

Jonathan makes this surprised little noise, and Steve pulls away – but Jonathan hooks an arm around his neck and yanks, hard enough for them to kiss again, but this time they kiss, and oh my god – there’s no maybes, if, ands or butts about it, Steve fucking loves this.

They kiss so hard and real, so solid Steve could hold it in his hands. He can feel invisible stubble rub against his, and Jonathan’s lips are slightly chapped from the winter, and the grip around his neck is suffocating, and it’s the most mind-blowing experience Steve has ever had. There’s no control, no submission, just an equal push and pull. Steve brings his hand towards Jonathan’s waist, just so they can fit a little better.

Steve inhales through his nose when it’s hard to breathe, and Jonathan pulls back only long enough to wet his lips and this time, somehow it’s even better. Jonathan’s hand grips up into his hair, so strong that there’s no way he could mistake him for a girl. It’s so different from what he knows, equally amazing in a whole new way.

The bubble pops around them with a record scratch. Jonathan jerks away, breathing, “Oh my god- what am I –“

Steve goes numb, head swimming, blinking rapidly.

Jonathan scoots across the bed as if burned. He presses a hand to his chest, and another to his forehead. “Oh my god, oh my god.”

“Are you –“ Steve starts to ask, but Jonathan hangs his head in his hands and groans.

“I’m a moron.” 

“Jonath-“

“A goddamn- fuck you, fuck you and your stupid face, and your stupid hair – “

Steve feels his heart start to drop, “What’s wrong?”

Jonathan looks up, and his lips are so red, Steve almost misses what he says.

“You. You’re what’s wrong.”

Steve swallows, “Ouch.”

Jonathan points between them, “We are not doing this.”

“Why?”

“Why??? You’re – you’re youYou like girls, Steve.”

Steve sheepishly rubs at the back of his neck, “I can like both, can’t I?”

Jonathan looks flabbergasted, and it’s the most flustered Steve has ever seen him. His face hardens,

“I don’t know who you think I am, but I’m not going to be your little experiment.”

“That’s not- fuck-“ Steve closes his eyes, and tries to set his head straight. He opens them, and braces a hand on Jonathan’s knee so he won’t bolt, “Jonathan, I really like you.”

Jonathan pauses.

He stares, searching Steve’s face for lies; but Steve has never been more honest in his life.

“Steve…I don’t…I don’t know.”

“Look,” Steve exhales. “If you don’t like me, that’s one thing-“

“That’s not…”

”- I get it, we’re totally different because you’re all super creative and focused and I’m still figuring out what I’m doing and who I am, obviously-“

“Steve!” Jonathan snaps, blushing,  “Thats not the problem. Of course I like you.”

His heart skips. “Then don’t you think we’re worth something? A shot, at least?”

“You’ve never been with a guy,” Jonathan says, “I can’t have you just…walking out because it’s not what you expect. Because I’m not what you’re used to.”

“I don’t want you to be anything other than yourself,” Steve huffs. “Maybe stop chewing your nails when you’re nervous-“ Jonathan breathes a laugh, “-but really. I wanna’ date you ‘cause you’re you.”

Steve immediately feels his face go hot. Jonathan sits there for a moment, thinking. Eventually he gives a smile and says, “That was cute.”

“Shut up.”

Jonathan shifts closer, less like a spooked animal now. His voice lowers, “Do you really like men?”

“I like you,” he answers easily.

Cold fingers reach and hook behind his neck. Steve shivers from the temperature. He sits still, and lets Jonathan just look at him. It used to be a little creepy – the way he stares - but now it’s just so very Jonathan. Eyes skim from his forehead, to his ears, to his lips, before Jonathan leans up and gently kisses him.

The knot in Steve’s stomach starts to unravel. He leans into him, eyes rolling shut, head going blurry from the slide of his tongue. Steve kisses back strong and Jonathan meets him, thumb now resting on his jugular, and adrenaline spikes down to Steve’s toes. Jonathan is a decent kisser – he goes slower than Steve would like, but it’s addictive, like he’s hanging off of every kiss, waiting for the next.

Jonathan pulls back with a peck, “Never buy me flowers.”

Steve pouts, “But I like flowers.”

 


 

They decide to keep their relationship on the downlow.  

It’s a struggle for Steve. He wants to drape his arm over Jonathan’s shoulders at school and kiss him against the hood of his car in the parking lot. He’s an affectionate guy, okay, give him a break.

But they’re both in agreement that it’s better this way. Maybe not easier, but safer, for now.

Jonathan is good at acting like he usually does, but Steve must look like a lovesick puppy, because he’ll kick Steve from under the table and hiss stop staring!

“But you stare at me all the time!”

“No I don’t,” Jonathan says too quickly, and Steve laughs back I’ll get a camera, and you’ll see.

Steve sees Nancy in the hall, and gives her a thumbs up. She beams, giving him a double thumbs up back, and Steve lets himself feel a little proud.

They argue over their first date; who takes who, who pays what.

“I kissed you first. I take you out first,” Steve folds his arms.

“That’s exactly why should get to take you out first,” Jonathan replies, just as stubborn.

“Fine. But I’m paying.”

“No – that’s not – whoever asks is the person who pays.”

“Then let me take you, and I’ll pay.”

“But-“

Will yells from his bedroom, “Oh my gosh! Just take turns!”

Steve and Jonathan share a look, and they’re both burning pink. Jonathan gets up and slams his door shut.

“Rock paper scissors.”

“Deal.”

 

Steve wins best two out of three, so they go to the movie theater to see Temple of Doom. Steve pays for the tickets, and Jonathan buys candy at the convenient store, to sneak it in his coat pockets.

The movie came out weeks ago, so the theater is not very full. Just a few kids doing exactly what they are – a couple up front, a group off the side. Jonathan insists that the best seats are in the very back, right in the middle of the row.

“Kinky,” Steve whispers.

Jonathan pushes his shoulder, almost making him trip, “Shut up – the acoustics are the best back here.”

“I’m sure they are~”

“I don’t need you here to enjoy the movie,” Jonathan teases. “I already got my ticket.”

Steve clicks his tongue as he takes a seat, “Damn. Dad always said, they’ll drain ya’ of every penny and leave.”

Jonathan actually laughs this time. He pulls the candy out of his pockets and drops it in Steve’s lap. He sits down, but doesn’t bring down the middle armrest, so they can sit a little closer.

The trailers are still going on; Steve opens a bag of gummy worms. He leans over to Jonathan and mumbles, “Is it weird that I’m nervous?”

Jonathan nearly laughs, “Yes? Why are you nervous?”

Steve shrugs, “I want you to be impressed when I yawn and sneak my arm over your shoulder.”

It’s dark in the theater, but Steve can still see the corners of Jonathan’s eyes crinkle when he smiles. He hesitates, before he slowly brings a hand up to Steve’s jaw; Jonathan gently leans over and kisses him, for a short-lived second, then he pulls away.

“Awww,” Steve grins. “That was so sweet.”

Jonathan wordlessly holds up his hand, and Steve takes it.

As expected, Jonathan talks through most of the movie. Steve lets him, because whenever Jonathan leans over to whisper something, his lips brush his ear, and that’s way more entertaining than whatever they’re watching.

”That was totally fake.”

”Well, yeah.”

”No- the bugs. They look like puppets - oh, but they redid that scene from the first movie, that’s nice.” 

“Mmm.”

Steve has fun fidgeting with Jonathan’s hands. Their fingers are nearly the same length, Steve’s palm just a little larger. He pinches Jonathan’s fingertips, kneads his thumb into the scar on his palm, squeezes his fingers – all the stuff that used to annoy his girlfriends in the past. 

The movie isn’t bad. Jonathan goes silent through a few scenes, seemingly entertained. Steve is disappointed when it ends, because that means they have to detangle from where they’re cuddling.

Steve lights a cigarette as soon as they exit the theater. He smokes as they walk to the car, Jonathan going on about the movie- but he stops to pat Steve’s thigh, and Steve passes the cigarette to him. Jonathan breathes in deep, and exhales through his nose, before passing it back.

When they get back into Steve’s car, Jonathan lets out a sigh from the passenger seat.

“We have school tomorrow.”

Steve turns the key to the ignition, and copies his groan, “Don’t remind me.”

Jonathan takes the cigarette from between his fingers, and stubs it out in the ash tray. “What hours do you work this weekend?”

“Nine to one straight through.”

“Hmm, they have me closing Friday and Saturday,” Jonathan fiddles with a tape (another one he made for Steve), until the music starts playing.

“Sunday then?”

“Huh?”

“We’ll hang out,” Steve throws an arm over Jonathan’s armrest, and goes to pull out of the parking lot. “You can choose. I don’t care if we go out of town, or nap all day-“

He stops short when Jonathan suddenly grips his knee and pulls. Steve’s foot slips to the break, and the car jolts a little. Jonathan reaches over and slides the gear into park.

“Hey-“ Steve looks down, then up, “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” Jonathan reaches down and pops Steve’s seatbelt; it hisses, and flies up towards the door. “I don’t want to go back home yet.”

Steve starts, “You said yourself we have school tomorro- o-oh, okay-“

He bites off his words when Jonathan turns the overhead lights off with his knuckle; he reaches over until he hooks a hand around the back of Steve’s neck. Steve gets the hint, leaning over so they can make out over the console. Jonathan tastes like candy, but bitter from the cigarette smoke, and Steve chases it, tasting his lips corner to corner.

Jonathan makes a winded noise, barely audible behind the tape still playing. Steve blindly fumbles until he can feel his keys to turn off the engine. The kissing sounds so much louder now.

Their noses bump when they lean back to breathe. Jonathan’s fingers scramble to feel behind his ears and down his jaw, and Steve cannot fucking handle it; he leans over to kiss down the side of Jonathan’s throat, and the sound he makes has Steve’s stomach dropping to his knees.

Jonathan’s hand flies to scratch against the console, gripping at the lip for purchase. His head lolls when Steve prompts him to and shit, Steve could stay here forever. Build a house and settle down. He wants to suck down and bite, but he resists, for Jonathan’s sake.

The middle console is digging into his hip, so he adjusts a little; but Jonathan pulls impatiently at his shirt and whispers, “C’mere.”

“We won’t fit,” Steve sighs.

Jonathan’s jaw clenches with determination. He reaches over for the seat adjuster, and slides it as far back as he can. Jonathan pulls at Steve’s beltloops, and Steve yelps when he’s stronger than he expects. Steve is already halfway over, so he swings a leg until he’s straddling Jonathan’s lap. The latter tugs him into place with a single yank.

Steve is not sure if it’s more comfortable – his head is hitting the roof of the car, but at least there’s nothing digging into his stomach. Jonathan’s thighs are hot on his, denim against denim.

Jonathan hits another switch on the seat, and it leans back, enough so Steve’s back isn’t slumped, and he lets out an, “Oh – that’s – that’s better.”

Jonathan smiles, and grips up behind his thighs, and Steve braces an arm around the back of the headrest so he can hover and kiss him.

It takes a moment to work up the right rhythm, slow enough for Jonathan, but deep enough for Steve. They settle inbetween, Steve sucking on Jonathan’s bottom lip and utterly loving the breathless sound he makes. Jesus, if there’s anything Steve can do right, it’s making out.

Fingers knead into the backs of his thighs, then up to his hips, and Jonathan is strong, controlling in how he pulls, and Steve kinda’ digs it. He’s getting hard and Jonathan can probably feel it, but Steve is way more preoccupied with his mouth. 

The window is fogging next to them, and Jonathan leans back to give a raspy laugh, “This is so stupid.” 

“This is - not my fault for once,” Steve says, and pulls down Jonathan’s collar so he can mouth over his adam’s apple. He feels it bob when he swallows; Steve breathes a groan and noses under his jaw. “I actually hate this.” 

Jonathan freezes under him, mid ass-grab, “You do?”

“Yeah. I just wanna’ touch you n’ i can’t,” he huffs, still holding his weight off the headrest. 

Jonathan grins something evil, fingers moving up and under the back of his shirt. Steve shivers because his hands are still fucking cold, but they trail up the knobs of his spine, and Steve shivers again. 

 "Alright," he says, skimming down Steve's sides, shirt falling down around his wrists. "I guess we should go." 

"Wait," Steve breathes. "One more-" and leans back in. 

Two more, three more, six more.

 


 

"Welcome to Home Video," Steve yawns, slumped over the counter. “How can I help you?

"Well, you're very enthusiastic." 

Steve jolts up, "Ms Byers!" 

Joyce smiles, purse tucked under her arm, "Long day?" 

"Long weekend," Steve corrects. "Is there anything I can help you with?"

"Oh, maybe! Will is having a sleepover with his friends, and they want a movie called," she reads from a paper, "Texas Chainsaw Massacre." 

Steve tiredly laughs, "It's right over there." 

"Thanks sweetheart," She pats the counter, and heads that way. "I also brought you a present." 

"Huh?" 

The door chimes, and Jonathan walks in, tucking his car keys in his coat. 

Steve perks, "Well look who it is." 

Jonathan walks up and leans against the counter, "You look tired." 

"Thanks," Steve deadpans. "You always make me feel good." Jonathan smiles.

Joyce comes back, movie in hand, and sets it on the counter. "Would you like to eat with us tonight?" 

"Tonight?" 

"Sure. Isn't that what you're supposed to do? Dinner with the parents?" Joyce teases. Jonathan looks around to see who else is in the store, but it's just an old man browsing in the adult section. 

"You don't have to come," Jonathan corrects, just as Steve chirps, "That'd be great!" 

He adds, "Although, I don't know if I can reciprocate..." Steve rings up the movie, and punches in the cash register, "You know...my dad..." 

Jonathan nods, and Joyce gives Steve a sad smile, as she hands him a few dollars. "You know you're always welcome over, Stevie."

Steve grins towards Jonathan, "You have the coolest mom." He smiles, and lets his mom squeeze his shoulder. 

"Yeah." 

Joyce found out last week, when Steve came over to pick up Jonathan. They were headed into the city for the opening of a new record store, and Will had opened the door and yelled JONATHAN, YOUR BOYFRIEND IS HERE. 

Joyce had run out of her room like a loony toon yelling Your what??!!, as Jonathan slumped in the hallway with his face in his hands. Will felt bad afterwards. Steve thought it was pretty funny.

Jonathan and Joyce run a few errands together, and come back to pick him up when his shift ends. He didn't bring an extra shirt to change out of, but Jonathan takes pity on him, throwing him a sweatshirt so he doesn't have to sit in his Home Video T-shirt all evening. 

It fits pretty well. Jonathan watches with an eyebrow raised as he smells the sleeves. 

"And you call me the freak?" 

"It smells like you," Steve sniffs the armpit, and Jonathan hits him over the head with a pillow. 

Dinner is nice. Joyce isn't the best cook, but he sees Jonathan throw in some salt and pepper when she isn't looking, and it helps. The food isn't the point anyways. Will goes on about school and his friends and the campaign he's writing, and Joyce talks about work, and Jonathan talks about school, and Steve doesn't have to hide how much he adores watching him talk. 

Joyce and Will poke in about their dates, and Jonathan gets flustered, but Steve doesn't give a shit. Jonathan kicks him from under the table when he tells them what a gentleman he is. 

Damn, it’s hard to have a taste of this -  the home cooked meal and the family and the goodnight kiss at the door - just to leave it behind at the end of the night. 

 


 

Mom comes to visit the next weekend, because it’s Christmas. Steve manages to sneak out Christmas Eve to slip the Byers a few gifts. He gets Joyce flowers, because shit, if Jonathan probably won’t take them, she definitely will. He gets Will these fancy dice that Dustin told him he’d definitely like (which doesn’t seem like something a kid would want, but damn, you should’ve seen his face). He leaves a few extra gifts for Will to give out to his buddies. Nothing big. 

At last, he gets Jonathan a new lens for his camera, and god damn was it pricey, but when Jonathan unwraps it he nearly drops it, scattering over to kiss Steve like it’s going out of style.

“I gotta- I gotta go- my mom – waiting – “ he manages, painfully trying to push Jonathan away.

Jonathan sets a small box into Steve’s hands before he leaves. Steve wasn’t expecting anything to begin with, knowing that most of Jonathan’s checks go towards the electricity bill, so he’s tempted to say no. But Jonathan shoves him out the front door before he can say Merry Christmas.

It’s another mix tape. Beneath it are photos that Jonathan must’ve recently developed, because they’re all of Steve from the last time they went into the city. Browsing through records, driving behind the wheel, picking out sunglasses, slicking his hair in the bathroom – hey, when did he –

Each photo is taken so lovingly, with Steve in the center of each frame. Steve smiles, already excited to see Jonathan again.

Christmas isn’t the train wreck he expected. Mom and Dad get along civilly (sort of), and they pull together to get him his own T.V., and some nice seat covers for his car.

He has to wait until school starts again to give Nancy her gift, because he and Jonathan bought it together. It’s a gun, a small, cheap one that Hopper helped them get - but she’s so damn excited she hooks her arms around them both and swings, insisting she take them out for pie after school.

Steve is pleasantly surprised at how well that goes. She sits across from them at the booth and smiles like Steve’s grandma used to when he brought home a girlfriend in elementary school.

“So,” she wiggles her eyebrows. “A one month anniversary soon, hm?”

“Shit, already?”

“You don’t know?!” Nancy gasps.

“You act like we pay attention to that kind of stuff,” Jonathan sips.

Steve turns to Jonathan, “Has it really been a month?”

“Dude, I don’t know.”

“I’m so disappointed in you two,” Nancy pouts, head in her hand. “Where do you guys even go for dates?”

Steve looks over to Jonathan, who’s wearing a white turtleneck under his jean jacket, because of the hickeys Steve put there last night.  

“Places,” Jonathan shrugs.

“Whatever,” she rolls her eyes. “At least do something special this weekend.”

“I thought you celebrate once you reach a year?” Steve asks.

“Oh my god men – you’re supposed to celebrate the first month, the sixth month, the 1st year, and all the years after that.”

“Shit, is that why you got mad at me that one time?”

“Yes,” Nancy sighs. Steve sits back and has an existential crisis in the booth.

Jonathan elbows him good heartedly, and Steve turns to him.

“I guess we’ll have to do something fun then,” he says.

Steve thinks, “We still have some of the good vodka left over from Christmas.”

Jonathan holds up a fist, and Steve bumps him. Nancy hangs her head in her hands.

 


 

They mix the vodka with 7-Up and sit by the electric fireplace drinking it out of a mug like it’s hot chocolate.

Steve downs half his cup in under a minute, and immediately regrets it. He lays on the floor across Jonathan’s lap, waiting to sober up a little.

“Was that supposed to impress me?” Jonathan sips.

“Not…enough soda…” Steve mumbles, staring up at the ceiling as his vision swims. Jonathan hums, and brings his free hand down into his hair. Steve practically purrs when he scratches his scalp.

“I think you’re due for a hair cut,” Jonathan says. He gently pulls at the strands, and there’s now enough for a little ponytail.

“Yeah…Mom used to do them. Hard to find someone I trust around town.”

“I don’t blame you,” Jonathan takes another swig, and sets the mug aside. “I made the mistake of going to a barber onceWill said I looked like a handsome thumb.

Steve breaks out laughing; he stops short when he kicks out and stubs his toe on the nearby chair. Jonathan gently yanks on his hair, “Anyways. My mom isn’t too bad. She could trim it for you.”

Blinking away painful tears, Steve looks up at Jonathan, “Really?”

“Yeap.”

“That’d be nice.” Steve hums, “Your mom is nice.”

“You never told me how Christmas went.”

“Oh. Um, gooood. Mom looks…better.”

“Do you regret staying?”

Steve snorts, “No. My Dad is like, never home. It’s great.”

Jonathan gives him a look, like he knows how sad that sounded. Steve wraps an arm around Jonathan’s waist, and turns to nose into his stomach.

“Mmm, sshly. Ss fine.”

“Does your dad treat you right?”

Steve pauses.

“Yeah.”

“No lying.”

“He hit me around as a kid, but who’s dad didn’t, ya’ know?” Steve rolls back over, onto his back. “He cared less the older I got. Still hates when I throw parties and steal his scotch though.”

“You gonna’ get in trouble for this?”

“Probably?” Steve shrugs.

Jonathan frowns, and pushes Steve’s bangs back from his head. His fingers roll around to pull on his ear, and Steve mumbles ow.

“Lonnie is an asshole,” Jonathan grits. “So long as your dad isn’t like him. I’ll sleep at night.”

Steve looks up, oddly touched that he cares. Jonathan looks cute from this angle, but Steve can still see the hickies healing on his neck, now a shade of brown. Jonathan catches him staring. Steve reaches around and pulls at Jonathan’s neck, so he bows his back. Steve meets him halfway, barely brushing their lips together, before he slumps back into his lap.

Jonathan taps Steve’s forehead, “You still drunk?”

“I’m better.”

“Good.”

Jonathan leans back down to kiss him again. Steve scrambles to sit up, and he’s barely upright, before Jonathan crawls into his lap.

Steve holds him tight to keep them from toppling over. Jonathan is slowly working down his neck, and combined with the heat from the fire, Steve feels his face go warm.

He’ll never get tired of squeezing Jonathan’s little waist. He feels his ribs through his shirt and hums happily, as lips skim over his jaw and up to his lips.

They kiss for a long time – Steve speeding up, rolling his tongue along his lips and swapping spit, only for Jonathan to slow it down, to draw it out slow, to leave Steve waiting, eager, chasing after him whenever he pulls away.

Jonathan shifts in his lap, sitting up a little, and plays with the hair behind his neck. He tugs, and Steve’s head lolls back. Teeth skim his jugular, and Steve doesn’t bother hiding a moan, nails digging into his hipbones.

“Ah ah-“ Steve swallows, and leans away, rubbing his nose along Jonathan’s ear. “Hey. As fun as this is, we should go upstairs.”

Jonathan hesitates. He says, “You don’t want to stay here?”

“The floor is great and all, but I really want less clothes, and more,” Steve gestures, “you naked.”

Jonathan looks away. Steve frowns.

“I mean, unless you don’t want to…”

“Me?” Jonathan blinks, “I’m worried about you.”

“What? Why?” Steve grips his shoulders, and slides his hands down to Jonathan’s biceps. “You think I’m scared.”

“I don’t want you to run off when it’s not what you expect,” Jonathan says, but almost cracks a smile at Steve’s eyeroll.

“Come on,” Steve swats his ass, urging him to stand. “If you don’t have at least 50% less clothes by the time we reach my room, I’m calling the cops.”

“Oh, Hopper would love that,” Jonathan replies, but is already standing, helping Steve to his feet.

They take the stairs two at a time. Steve shucks his shirt off at the door, and Jonathan throws his onto Steve’s desk. Steve pins him against his plain bedroom wall and kisses him, holding him hard enough to hike up a thigh and hold part of his weight. Jonathan is shorter, so he leans up a little higher, meeting Steve kiss for kiss.

Fingers scramble against his back, and Steve shivers from it. Their teeth click and they laugh– but Jonathan uses it to lick into his mouth. Spit connects them, and it should be gross, but their lips are sticky and Jonathan is shirtless and Steve can’t waste any more time not touching him.

Fingers undo his zipper lightning quick. Steve blinks, and his jeans drop to the floor. He kicks them away, and by the time he looks back, Jonathan is already sinking to his knees, Steve’s heart going down with him.

“Oh shit-“ Steve starts.

“Hold on,” Jonathan mumbles. “Let me just…” He pulls Steve’s boxers down to his thighs, and his cock bounces up to his stomach, and oh, he’s really very hard, and he should be a little embarrassed about that, but Jonathan wets his lips and shifts on his knees, and fuck Steve is going to die.

Jonathan wraps a hand around him and leads him to his lips, wetting them once more with his tongue, before he softly slides him against his tongue. Steve immediately slots forwards, one hand bracing against the wall, the other going to rest at Jonathan’s shoulder.

Jonathan closes his eyes, swallowing once, as if he’s the one on cloud nine, before he swirls his tongue and pulls back with a satisfied inhale. He opens his eyes and looks up, “Hey. Tell me if you don’t like something.”

“Aye-aye cap,” Steve manages, strained.

Jonathan swallows him down without another moment wasted, bobbing his head slow, agonizingly thorough. His lips are stretched, eyelashes hiding most of his eyes, ears red, and Steve tries to look away, but he can’t. His heartrate is sporadic and his hands are sweating and his entire body throbs each time he moves.

Steve suddenly has a flashback, to the rare times that Nancy would give him a BJ, and it was cute – nice, very sexy, but very different from this.

Jonathan inhales deeply through his nose, and takes him all the way down, until the stubble of his jaw meets Steve’s inner thigh, and Steve chokes.

“Oh god- Jonathan –“ he tugs gently on his shoulder. Jonathan pulls back per request, and Steve squeezes his eyes and counts to ten.

Jonathan sits back on his heels and wipes at his lips, watching Steve with a smug look. His cock throbs twice in Jonathan’s palm, before Jonathan goes back, this time lightly sucking at the head, tongue tracing circles.

Youuu-” Steve drawls, squirming, “You’ve done this before, you fuck – you cheater - ”

He feels Jonathan try to smile, but he quickly recovers. He starts gently pumping his hand to meet his lips, as his head shallowly bobs. Steve’s hand falls to his neck, just holding his hand there, but Jonathan gives a short moan around him, and Steve goes lightheaded.

They haven’t even made it to the bed, but Steve’s stomach is tight, heartrate going so fast he can’t breathe. Jonathan’s free hand reaches around his thigh, hand sneaking up and under the boxers bunched there, so he can squeeze under his ass. Jonathan’s rhythm falters a few times, only so he can lean back and swallow spit, but it’s too late. His lips are all sparkly and red, and Steve has that mental image locked away forever now.

Just when Steve thinks he might lose it again, Jonathan leans back to breathe. He braces his forehead against Steve’s hip and exhales, as if he’s the one that might come any second. He hikes up Steve’s boxers and kisses his inner thigh, cheeks as pink as his lips.

“You’re fucking gorgeous,” Jonathan breathes, nosing back into his cock, and Steve’s legs nearly buckle. “Keep making noise.”  Steve grips Jonathan’s hair - who then groans, immediately sucking him down and swallowing.

“Oh fuck,” Steve presses his knuckles into the wall, briefly closing his eyes. “Jonathan – I really – oh – Jonathan-“

Jonathan’s hand speeds up and he wraps his lips tight around the head and alright, okay, this is what we’re going with then, because Steve has no choice in the matter.

He makes a punched noise and arches over him, hand drawing tight into the back of Jonathan’s hair. His body throbs, and his knee braces against Jonathan’s shoulder, nothing but the wall keeping him upright. He assumes he said Jonathan’s name, because the fingers around his thigh squeeze tight. Steve peels an eye open just in time to see Jonathan swallow most of it, before pulling back, and getting the rest on his hand.

He wipes his lips and breathes, pupils unfocused, hair ruffled from Steve’s fingers. Steve gently lets go, smoothing back Jonathan’s bangs.

“Sorry,” he croaks.

Jonathan looks up and grins,  “I’ve wanted to do that since our first date.”

Oh sweet baby Jesus, his voice is so raspy. 

“At the Indiana Jones sequel?!” Steve gapes. “You talked through the whole thing.”

“You kept playing with my hand,” Jonathan presses his face back into his hip and kisses it, before rocking back onto his feet, and standing up. “I wanted to blow you in the theater.”

“Good lord,” Steve leans half his weight on him, and swings in for a kiss. Jonathan parts his lips and he tastes bitter, but he’s sticky and soft, and Steve enjoys the lax sound he makes when he licks along his tongue.

He reaches for Jonathan’s belt, but he stops him, hand on his wrist.

“Wait,” Jonathan pops back, flustered. “You don’t have to.”

Steve gives him an unamused look. He steps back, and points to the bed. “Go.”

“Steve-“

"Fuck dude, you’re still wearing jeans – that looks painful.”

Jonathan’s neck goes red, like he wasn’t just swallowing his cock like a little sex demon. He pulls his belt out with a hiss. Then, he shimmies out of his jeans and sits back on the bed; Steve pulls his boxers up, and crosses the room. He kneels between Jonathan’s legs, and arches an eyebrow.

“Come on.”

Jonathan chews on his swollen lip, before flopping onto his back. He reaches down and rolls his underwear down his thighs, before kicking them off one leg, and onto the floor. It’s not even a strip tease, but it’s got to be one of the sexiest things Steve has ever seen. He immediately leans forwards, hands going to his thighs to spread his legs. Jonathan chokes a noise in complaint, but Steve just runs his hands down his thighs, to hook under his knees, feeling everything he can.

“Wow,” Steve reaches up to pull at his hips, sliding Jonathan so he’s partway in his lap as he kneels. “You’re so soft.”

“Steve.

“Long legs too.” He pushes at one, just to see how flexible he is. “Stretchy.” Jonathan glares.

Steve grins, still looking him over. Jonathan’s cock is curled up under his bellybutton, twitching every moment or so. Jonathan looks like he’s about to start yelling, so Steve leans up and over him, bracing a hand by his shoulder, so he can kiss him quiet. Naked legs bracket by his thighs, and his back arches up as he leans to kiss back. There’s too much Steve wants to do all at once – but Jonathan’s cock bobs up against his stomach, so he figures it can wait for another day.

He pulls away from his lips, so he can lick his palm, before reaching down between them and gripping his cock. Jonathan must not have expected him to be so straightforward, because he gasps by his ear, and squirms beneath him.

He pumps three times, just to get a feeling for it – and it’s not as weird as he thought it might be. Kinda’ nice, actually.

“Now, here’s something I know,” Steve teases, and gets a bite to the shoulder for it.

He rolls his wrist and thumbs at the head, sometimes glancing down between them just to watch – and oh, this is kind of a lot better. It’s like a marionette – if he twists here, or squeezes there – Jonathan arches up, breathes heavy, flops back against the bed or whines his name. Just like any other sex he’s had. Steve has totally got this.

Fingers skim up his chest, before hooking around his back and digging into his shoulderblades. Jonathan’s hips roll up and into him, building some sort of rhythm, but Steve’s hand starts to ache from the angle. 

He sits back on his heels to get a better look. Jonathan exhales unhappily, suddenly having nothing to hold onto – but Steve parts his thighs, throws a leg under one arm, and spits in his other hand, wrapping it around him and watching him writhe.

Red bleeds down into his chest now, Jonathan’s stomach a smooth divot up into his ribs as he breathes. He’s watching Steve with hazy eyes, and Steve smiles at him, working his hand faster. He tips his head and presses a soft bite into the inside of his left knee.

He nearly gets a kick to the face for it, but whatever, totally worth it.

Jonathan doesn’t last much longer – but Steve is determined not to miss a thing. He squeezes tight, pauses to watch Jonathan open his mouth and moan, before Steve thumbs the underside, and he’s coming, mumbling obscenities as he throws an arm over his eyes. Steve watches it all.

His fingers are all sticky, so Steve reaches over and wipes them off on the jeans he threw on the floor. He tosses them towards the laundry basket, just to be safe.

Jonathan is sitting back up when he looks over, and he looks ethereal, face glowing and pink, a little sweaty, but-

“Cute.” Steve grins. “That was fun.”

“Way to ruin a moment,” Jonathan mumbles, but makes grabby hands, until Steve crawls over to him. Jonathan flops back sideways on the mattress, and Steve follows him, throwing an arm over his chest. Jonathan kisses his hair. Steve’s heartbeat goes all funny.

He reaches down to throw the sheet over them, and Jonathan rolls, so Steve can tuck his head under his chin.

Jonathan exhales, a hand coming back up behind his head.

“You like my hair,” Steve accuses.

“Hm?”

“You said it was stupid. But yer’ always touchin’ it.”

“It is stupid,” Jonathan affirms. “That’s why I like it.”

Steve snorts. He feels around Jonathan’s naked back up towards his shoulderblades, then down to his waist. 

Jonathan suddenly freezes.

“Really?”

“Sorry,” Steve laughs, angling his half- erection away from Jonathan’s hip.

Jonathan breathes, amused, “I don’t know what I was expecting.” He tucks a stray hair behind Steve’s ear.

“Did you think I wouldn’t be into it?” 

Jonathan doesn’t answer, which probably means yes. There’s another short silence, just the fan whirring above them, before Jonathan pushes at his shoulders, and rolls Steve to his back.

“One more,”  he jokes, and dips his head between Steve’s thighs.


 

The old lesbian couple, Mary and Beatrice, come into the video store that weekend. They’re looking for a kids movie to watch with their granddaughter, browsing the shelves as they hold hands, and Steve finds himself wishing he was that brave.

 


 

“Uh, are you supposed to have that?”

“I’m a kid. Apparently I’m not supposed to have anything,” Lucas answers, before he flips over his goggles and lights a blowtorch.

Hey hey hey-“ Steve jumps in, and tries to snatch it out of his hand. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?”

“We need all of this,” Mike says, gesturing to the wall in Steve’s garage. “Load it up guys.”

“You said you needed rope.” Steve sets the blowtorch back on his dad’s workbench. “I thought you were talkin’ about making a fort or something, damn.”

“Oh no, we’ve moved onto microelectronics,” Dustin answers. “We’re trying to build something better than these shit walkie talkies. Eleven said she could get us some mercury.”

Steve plucks a sawdering iron out of Dustin’s hand, and sets it up high. Dustin glares.

“Can’t you guys go like, throw around a ball? Or do something that doesn’t involve radioactivity?”  

“No,” the three of them say.

Steve turns to Will and Max for help, but they simultaneously shrug. Max picks up the nailed baseball bat, and gives an experimental swing. 

Steve eyes Will, “Does Jonathan know you’re here?” 

“Uh….no…”

“Dude. If he finds out you’re- Dustin stop – if he finds out I gave you any of this, he’ll kick my ass.”

“Oh please,” Will rolls his eyes. “He likes you too much.”

Steve clears his throat and hisses “Hey.” He pointedly looks towards the other four, who are already disassembling something on his garage floor.

“Give it a rest,” Mike snaps. “Nobody cares about your stupid crush on Will’s brother.”

“Crush?” Steve scoffs. “We’re dating.”

“Oh? Congrats, I don’t care.”

“Alright, out,” Steve points, “Scat. Scram. Go play princes and dragons or whatever.”

“It’s-“

“Don’t bother, Dustin.”

“Thanks for the blowtorch,” Lucas waves, and mounts his bike, the tip of the torch sticking out of his backpack. Steve chases him halfway down the block, before he gives up.

 


 

Jonathan hasn’t been looking so great the last week. Steve already knows why.

The deadline for college applications is about to pass, and it looks like neither of them are going to be submitting anything.

Steve is already at peace with it. He’ll probably go to trade school. Work a few different jobs around town. Maybe work for his dad. Jonathan seems to have similar plans. He needs to stay home for his mom, he says. They can’t afford college, and at this rate, Will won’t either.

“I’d rather Will go,” Jonathan says. “I’m hoping I can be an assistant manager at the diner within a year.”

Steve sees the disappointed look in his eyes. He feels shit too, because Steve is kind of a fuck up, but Jonathan is too talented for Hawkins.

He takes Jonathan out to the cliffside above the quarry. Government mandated they install more street lamps along the road, so it’s not as dark as it used to be. They sit on the hood and smoke to keep warm, Jonathan tucked between his legs, head under his chin. His hair tickles his nose with the breeze.

Steve pulls away to smoke, breathing out away from Jonathan. Fingers brace on his knee, so Steve brings his right hand around, holding the cigarette between Jonathan’s lips, until he breathes out too.

Jonathan finds his left hand and holds it.

“Cold?” Steve asks.

“No.”

He presses his nose into Jonathan’s hair, and flicks away the ashes towards the dirt. He’s tried not to pry, knowing Jonathan prefers to hold in all his problems in until he passes out and dies, but he’s been quieter than usual, and Steve is worried.

“I know you’re doing the right thing…” Steve mumbles. “But I think your mom wants you to be happy.”

Jonathan’s thumb strokes across his.

“I’m happy.”

“You’d really rather stay?”

“I don’t have to go to college now,” Jonathan says. “I hate the social construct that you’re expected to leave right out of highschool.”

“There’s still more that you can do with your pictures,” Steve says, leaning around to prop his chin on Jonathan’s shoulder. “Your photo got into the newspaper. You could sell at the city, or do freelance or something.”

Jonathan brings Steve’s hand, the one holding the cigarette, up to his lips. Steve holds it for him, letting him breathe in the last bit, before he tosses the bud into the dirt. He watches smoke float up and over the street lamps.

“Would it be bad if I told you I loved you.”

Steve freezes. He pulls his chin away from Jonathan’s shoulder, so Jonathan can turn around to look him in the eye. Their legs tangle a little, and Steve has to brace a hand behind him to keep them from sliding off the hood.

Steve opens his mouth, and then shuts it, totally stunned. He opens it again to ask, “Is that why you’ve been acting weird?”

Jonathan sniffs, nose red from the cold. He tugs on the sleeves of his coat, before he looks Steve in the eye.

“I didn’t want to freak you out.”  

Steve doesn’t know what to say. He brings a hand up to cradle the side of Jonathan’s neck. He leans in, pressing his lips to his cheek. It’s hardly a kiss, more of a linger, before he pulls back, and presses another long kiss to the side of Jonathan’s mouth.

“Do you really?”

“I don’t know how to say…” Jonathan trails. “You’re beautiful. You treat me like…”

“Like I love you too,” Steve sweeps his thumb along his jaw. “Have you never dated anyone that loved you back?”

Jonathan looks away. Steve pretends to bite his nose. Jonathan pulls back with a smile.  

“I’m cold now,” Steve says flippantly. “The waffle house should still be open.”

Jonathan’s eyes sparkle, “I’m paying.”

“Don’t you fucking start with me.”

Jonathan laughs, and steals the keys out of his pockets, sliding over the hood, and opening the driver-side door. Steve doesn’t have the heart to fight him on it.

Instead, he holds Jonathan’s right hand as he drives, playing with his fingers, just for the last few minutes he can. Then when they reach the diner, they politely keep their hands in their pockets, and lock ankles beneath the table.

 


 

It’s hot in his room.

The fan is going, the window cracked to let in cool air, but Steve still has hair sticking to his forehead, and Jonathan is no better.

The first time they tried, Steve panicked, every attempt after that ending before they reached home base. But this night it’s been slow, Steve’s T.V. humming with white noise in the background, as Jonathan twists the sheets in one hand, his head turning one way to hide his eyes behind his wrist.

Steve kisses him, but nearly misses his mouth, fingers trembling as he pulls them out, sticky with lube.

“Are you sure you’re alright?”

“I swear to god,” Jonathan grits, “If you don’t fuck me tonight, I’m going to break your nose again.”

“I don’t want to hurt you,” Steve defends, sitting back a little, so he can stretch him again with three fingers. Jonathan squirms a little, grunting when it’s not the angle he wants.

“I told you I’m fine. I told you last week I was fine-“

“You made a face like it hurt!”

“I said to give me a s-second!” Jonathan jabs back, hitching a knee by Steve’s hip and rolling down, trying to get his fingers just a little deeper. Steve curls them and Jonathan groans, back arching, head scraping the bars of the headboard.

Honestly, Steve could do this for hours. Once he figured out that he could turn Jonathan Byers into the human equivalent of jello, he hasn’t felt the need to take it any further. This is all Steve could ever need. Apparently Jonathan feels differently.

“You’re going to make me beg, aren’t you?” he hisses, voice extra gravelly in Steve’s ear. He shivers from it, kissing down to Jonathan’s throat. He curls his fingers again, pressing down hard, and Jonathan openly moans, that big bad attitude bleeding out of him as he writhes on the bed.

“Oh my god, I am obsessed with you,” Steve mumbles against his ear, before he sucks down on the skin beneath it. Jonathan groans his name, and hooks a hand into his hair. Jonathan’s cock digs into his stomach, swollen and forgotten, and Steve’s own throbs from where it’s stuck beneath the elastic of his boxer-briefs.

“You good?”

“Yes – shit, come on.”

Steve stands up to find condoms and more lube, and by the time he’s back on the bed, Jonathan has scooched towards the end, and propped a pillow under his back. Steve grins, pulling his legs apart and kissing the beauty mark on the inside of his knee. Jonathan wordlessly hooks a hand under one of his thighs, holding it up so Steve can kneel on the bed and slick up the condom.

“Ready Freddy?”

“I’m going to kick you.”

He smiles to hide his own nerves, and looks Jonathan over once more. He’s so fucking sexy, neck red and bitten, lips swollen, hair sticking up in strands. Steve could come like this, so he grips Jonathan by the hip and starts to slide home before it’s too late.

Jonathan helps, rocking back towards him, and Steve immediately groans, grip going iron beneath Jonathan’s ass.

“Fuck. It’s tight.”

“No s-shit.”

He slides his hand up to Jonathan’s thigh and holds him, squeezing his eyes shut from the heat. He slots forwards, and curses when the slide goes surprisingly quick. Jonathan’s jaw hangs open in a silent moan, and his hand flies up to grip around the headboard bars.

“Oh gosh Steve – Steve you gotta’ move –“

“Give me a second,” he strains, wading off the tight feeling in his stomach. He pulls back just a little, and oh shit, he hasn’t done this in a while.

“Come on baby,” Jonathan pants, “Come on.”

Steve swallows and arches over, bending Jonathan for an easier angle. He thrusts up and in, the start of some kind of rhythm, and Steve nearly bites a hole in his tongue trying to hold back. His body tingles head to toe, cock throbbing, and they’re one, so close Steve can smell nothing but Jonathan. Sweat sticks his hair to his neck, and Steve gasps when Jonathan is the one to meet him on the next thrust.

“Steve.”

He looks up.

Jonathan reaches a hand towards him, “I won’t break.”

Steve takes his hand and leans up so he can kiss him, just once, for his own sake. Their lips graze, a gentle spark, before he slams forwards, and Jonathan arches back, a groan revving from deep in his throat.

They fumble, the rhythm falters, Steve nearly bites a hole in Jonathan’s shoulder and Jonathan’s nails mar lines into Steve’s back and it’s so incredible, Steve doesn’t know how they’ll ever top this.

Steve can’t say it’s the first ‘meaningful sex’ he’s ever had, but it’s remarkable in a different way. Jonathan is watching him intensely through his lashes, like he’s the one that can’t bear to look away. He urges him on, deep rasps of Steve’s name, calloused fingers curling into the knobs of his spine. He’s a man, flat chested, messy hair, strong hands, and Steve takes it all in, stores it all away.

The bed groans from their weight. Jonathan fucking takes it; he goes silent for long stretches, before he hisses out and moans, toes curling at the end of the bed. Steve doesn’t last that long, just enough for him to sneak a hand between them and make Jonathan sob against his palm. Steve can’t stop kissing him, even when he’s too tired to kiss back. Fingers trace up and down his cheeks, urging him to come, and Steve does, right when Jonathan asks.

The adrenaline, the exhaustion, the tingling in his chest, the fingers digging moons into his back – it makes Steve laugh, giggling up into Jonathan’s hair.

“Yeah yeah,” Jonathan wheezes, and pats his back, “You did good, get out of me.”

Steve laughs again, but pulls out to throw away the condom. Jonathan sits up and stretches, joints popping, and he looks like the epitome of sex. The sheets are pooled around him, hair frizzed from the pillows, eyes red rimmed, skin smooth with afterglow. Now that’s a picture.  

They’re sticky and gross. Steve is almost willing to overlook it in favor of going to sleep, but Jonathan pulls him in the shower by the hair, and they make out against the glass until their skin gets pruney. 

 

Of course, that next morning, neither of them are expecting Steve's dad at the breakfast table. 

"Oh," Steve pauses on the stairs, forcing Jonathan to run into his back. "You got new kitchen chairs." 

"You like?" Dad looks down at them, "Some dumb shit was selling them at a garage sale. Almost the full set." There's three chairs. 

"Uh," Jonathan starts, and Steve jolts, moving down the rest of the stairs so he can see. "Hi Mr. Harrington." 

His dad blinks. "Byers?" 

"We were up late studying and we passed out," Steve quickly explains. 

His dad raises an eyebrow, "On a Saturday night?" 

Shit. "Uh...yes." 

Dad shrugs, "Whatever. Stick around Byers, that kid ain't never studied on a Saturday in his life." 

Jonathan and Steve share a relieved look, and move to start working on breakfast. 

 


 

Nancy’s dad needs help installing a new sink, because their old one mysteriously broke. Steve won’t point fingers, but he’s pretty sure he knows who did it.

Anyways, Nancy is worried about her dad installing it alone, so Steve offers to help after school.

They get the sink lifted off the trunk and into the kitchen. It takes time to detach the old one, and they’re screwing in the water main when Nancy comes by with orange juice.

“Take a break, son,” Mr. Wheeler squeezes Steve’s shoulder. “You’ve done good. I’m going to go grab the last few parts from the truck.”

“Alright,” Steve leans against the counter, and takes the juice from Nancy. “Thanks Mr. Wheeler.”

The front door slams, and Steve sighs, slumping into the kitchen chair.

“He wears you out, doesn’t he?” Nancy grins.

“I’m pretty sure neither of us know what we’re doing.”

“He’s too stubborn to call a repairman,” she sits too, sipping from the cup that was meant for her dad.

“Some stuff is starting to make sense.”

“Shut it,” Nancy jabs. She taps the table to get his attention, “Hey so. My parents are going out for date night on Saturday, so my friend Lori and I are watching a movie. Do you want to bring Jonathan?”

“Uhh…” Steve thinks, wiping sweat from his forehead with his sleeve. If Lori is the Lori Steve knows, she’s a quiet girl that’s been in his last two English classes.

“She’s cool,” Nancy says, reading his mind. “You two wouldn’t have to put on an act.”

Steve gives her a weary look.

“I swear,” Nancy nods. “We’ve been friends since the year started. She um – she’s bi too.”

“Oh,” Steve blinks. “Um, I’d have to check with his schedule. But last I heard he was only working until two.”

“Cool! If you guys are busy it’s fine. But my mom gave us money for pizza, so, free food.”

“Nah, we’ll probably be there. Jonathan will have to come by anyways to pick up Will,” Steve sips. “I’ll warn you though, he-“

“Talks through the movie, I know,” Nancy laughs. “How do you put up with it?”

Steve shrugs, “It’s cute.”

“Funny. I asked Jonathan how he dealt with your sleeping habits and he said the same thing.”

Steve scoffs, “What sleeping habits?”

“You’re a big koala bear. I always woke up sweating.”

“Oh,” Steve rubs his nose. “If it gets hot, Jonathan just elbows me until I roll over.”

“Wow, modern romance.”

The front door opens back up, and they both simultaneously reach for their cups, sipping orange juice as Mr. Wheeler comes in with the rest of the parts. They share a look, and try not to laugh.

 


 

Lori and Nancy sit up on the couch, while Steve and Jonathan cuddle on the floor. Jonathan is a little shy in front of Nancy’s friend, but he still throws an arm around Steve’s shoulders and fidgets his fingers against Steve’s. There’s yelling from the kids downstairs, audible through the door, so Nancy turns the volume up.

Jonathan talks, only a little quieter, partially to himself, and it makes Steve smile because it’s cute.

They stop the movie halfway through when the pizza comes. Steve goes down to the basement and yells to the gremlins, and they come sprinting up the stairs, shouting about giant spiders and headless horsemen.

There’s not enough room at the kitchen table for them all, so Steve hops up on the counter. Jonathan stands by him, balancing his plate on Steve’s thigh.

“And then-“

“Pshhh!” Mike makes an explosion motion with his hands, “Everyone died.”

“It wasn’t my fault this time,” Dustin chews. “Lucas wouldn’t pay the fare to the undertaker.”

“I’m not giving that creep my money! I can swim just fine, thanks.”

Nancy turns to Lori, “I wish I knew what they were talking about.”

“I’m still learning,” Eleven- or Jane - says, quietly tucked up in her chair. Will gives her a thumbs up.

“I used to play games like that when I was a kid,” Lori smiles. “I was raised by three brothers.”

“God bless you,” Nancy sighs.

“What’s so bad about brothers?” Mike asks with his mouth full, and Nancy stares him down. Steve laughs, and almost knocks Jonathan’s plate off his lap. Jonathan wordlessly catches it, placing it right back where it was.

Steve turns to him, “Oops, sorry.”

“You’re fine.”

“Is that Hawaiian?” Steve asks. “It was all gone when I went to get some.”

“Yeah,” Jonathan lifts the half slice up to Steve, “Want?”

“Yess,” Steve leans down and takes a bite. “Mm, thanks.” When he swallows, he taps his lips twice. Jonathan gives him a look, lips set in a frown, and Steve taps his mouth again.

“No.”

“Please?”

Jonathan eyes the table, where they’re laughing at Lucas, who shot soda out of his nose. Steve pouts, burning holes into the side of Jonathan’s face. He knows he’s won when he sees his shoulders slump. Silently, Jonathan leans up high on his toes to place a soft peck against his lips. Steve grins, totally satisfied, and goes back to his pizza.

Nancy is smug behind her glass, and Lori is pointedly looking away. The rest of the kids have already started to throw away their paper plates, and head back down to the basement. Napkins and cups are left scattered across the table. Nancy chucks her own plate in the trash and asks, “Ready to hit play?”

“Yeah.”

“I’m good.”

Steve hops down from the counter, and wraps an arm around Jonathan’s waist. “I can’t wait to see who dies next.”

“Definitely the girl,” Jonathan says, walking with him. “There’s no way this movie is going to have an actual plot.”

“Don’t lose faith yet,” Lori smiles.

“I lost faith when she ran up the stairs and into the closet.”

“Can’t you just watch the damn movie?” Steve pinches him good-heartedly, “Stop analyzing everything.”

Jonathan doesn’t say anything, but he smiles a little, and lets Steve jostle him. They settle back in where they were before, but this time Jonathan is a little more relaxed, fingers resting still between Steve’s. They don’t worry about anything, for those few hours.

 


 

The hallway is busy. He's fifteen minutes early, because he meant to go find his English teacher and turn in a late assignment for partial credit. Maybe get some coffee. Say hi to some friends.

Instead Steve stands there, backpack hanging off one arm, slack-jawed at the spray paint across his locker. Written in pink: 

FAG. 

Everyone's watching him, some subtly, some not. There's laughter down the hall - and Steve looks to the only other locker covered in graffiti. Jonathan's. 

"King Steve~" Carol grins, sauntering over with her new friends. "Someone's got the queer disease~" 

Steve turns with a snap, "Did you do this?" 

"Me? No," Carol laughs. "But someone definitely deserves an award for the cafeteria." 

"The caf..." Steve pushes past them, down the hall, and slams open the door to the cafeteria. 

There's already two lunch ladies trying to take it all down. But there's hundreds of the same picture stapled to the announcement wall:  Steve and Jonathan, kissing goodbye on the Wheeler’s doorstep. Steve numbly picks up a photo from the ground, and stares. 

"Careful, don't touch him," Tommy laughs, playfully shoving Carol far behind him. "You'll turn gay." 

Steve turns, teeth clenched, "Who did this?" 

"God. He's coming for your sins~" 

Steve shoves at him, knocking Tommy a foot back.

"Don't make me ask again." 

Tommy shoves him back, and Steve's back slams against the locker. 

"Get off me, freak," Tommy spits. "I don't know who did it, but they're a fuckin' hero." 

Steve balls his hands into fists, and pushes past them, stalking down the hall. They shout after him, but it's numb to Steve's ears. He has to find Jonathan - he has to make sure he's okay - 

He rounds the corner, ready to start running, but stops in his tracks. He finds Jonathan leaning against a wall, books in his hand, waiting for class to start. He’s wearing the same fur-lined jean jacket he always does, with a little striped shirt and ripped jeans, and he’s so relaxed you’d never know anything was wrong. There's students staring at him, but Jonathan hardly seems fazed, eyes half asleep. 

"Jonathan!" 

He startles. 

"Steve?" 

"Are you okay?" Steve looks him over. "Did you see -" 

There's murmuring down the hall. A few assholes from the football team stalk their way and shout hey queers! hey! come here- 

"We have to go," Steve grabs Jonathan's wrist and pulls. Jonathan startles, tripping after him. 

"Where are we-" 

Steve pulls them to the dark room. It's unlocked, and thankfully empty, so he pushes Jonathan inside, and locks it behind him. 

"Fuck," Steve curses, leaning against it. "Fuck, this is so bad." 

Jonathan blinks, still trying to process what's going on. 

“Are you okay?”

"Did you see the cafeteria?" Steve holds up the photo he grabbed. "Someone took this!" 

"I saw..." 

"This looks like last weekend." Steve stares at the photo, heart sinking to his feet. "Who took this? Who - who found out? How..." 

"Class is starting," Jonathan steps aside. "We should go." 

"We - no. We have to fix this," Steve's hands are shaking. "This is bad, Jonathan, is this not registering to you? The whole school knows!" 

"So what? Someone saw us?" Jonathan huffs. "It's not the end of the world." 

"Not the end of the-" Steve breaks into a fake laugh. "If you thought the bullying was bad before, it's about to get a whole lot worse." 

"And?" Jonathan squints. "Oh, wow, Steve Harrington has to deal with a few bad names for once. Woop-de-doo." 

"What's your fucking deal?" Steve snaps. "The whole town is going to know by tomorrow!" 

Jonathan rolls his eyes, "They were going to find out eventually." 

"But not like- this!"  Steve waves the picture. 

"Today, tomorrow, what's the difference?" 

"A choice is the difference.  I'd really like to choose when I'm outed to everyone I know."  

"Sounds nice," Jonathan snips. "I never got that privilege either, so get over it." 

"Why are you being such a dick?" 

"Why are you so embarrassed to be seen with me?" 

"T-That's not-" 

"I'm not ashamed of anything we've done." 

"Well neither am I!" 

"Obviously you are!" Jonathan throws out his arm, "Otherwise you wouldn't care what all these kids have to say." 

"You've already been suspended for this once," Steve grits. 

"What'll they suspend me for!? We haven't done anything!" 

The late bell rings, and it pops the air around them like a bubble. Steve suddenly feels stripped down, bare, too small in the empty room. The red light mocks them, reflecting shadows off the wall. Steve sighs, and wipes a hand down his face. Jonathan quietly looks away. 

"We should talk about this after school," Jonathan says, softer now. 

"Yeah," Steve swallows. "Maybe we shouldn't sit together at lunch." 

Hurt falls across Jonathan's face, but he wipes it off, eyes turning cold. "Okay. Whatever." He leaves the darkroom, and slams the door shut. 

Steve rubs at his eyes, swallowing his heart back down into his stomach. 

 


 

 Class is unbearable. 

He can't hear a thing, eyes unfocused, staring at the board. Steve's brain runs over a thousand things to say to his dad, but nothing sounds right. He's not sure how to work damage control with Jonathan, and his head runs so wild, he worries he won't have a job by next week. His manager never seemed like a homophobe, but it's always the quiet ones, right? 

People keep looking over at him. The photo burns a hole in his pocket. 

Jonathan doesn't even show up to lunch. Steve sits at their same table anyways. He picks at his food, apatite gone. By the time lunch ends, he considers skipping class to go talk to him. Steve can't do this alone, and he sure as fuck can't do this with Jonathan mad at him. To his surprise, it’s Jonathan that skips their governnent class. So Steve is forced to wait until after school. 

The next two periods go sooo damn slow. Steve doesn't bother taking notes. Some kid spends half the class throwing paper wads at him, but the teacher catches him halfway through and sends him to the dean, so that's nice.  

He can see Nancy fidgeting outside his classroom, waiting impatiently for the teacher to let them go. When they're finally released, she barrels in, elbowing her way to over. 

"Steve!" 

He throws his bag over his shoulder, "Hey Nance." 

"Are you okay?" 

"Uh, well." Steve rubs his eye, "Ha, we'll see."

"I have no idea who took that picture," Nancy rambles. "Lori swears it wasn't her, she was still inside when you guys left. And, and it couldn't have been the kids, they'd never -  I swear Steve, I'll find out who did it." 

Steve sets a hand on her shoulder and squeezes, leading them out of the classroom. "Don't worry about it. I don't care who did it." 

"You...don't?" 

"Well, I do. But um, Jonathan and I kinda' had a fight this morning, and I want to make things right with him before I go sticking my nose anywhere else." 

Nancy frowns, and stops in the hallway. There's a janitor scrubbing the last of the graffiti off Jonathan's locker. "Steve, I'm so sorry this happened. I feel like it's all my fault." 

"This is definitely not your fault," Steve offers a smile. "We'll figure something out." 

Nancy sighs, and leans a little into his side, "Okay. If your dad - if your dad does anything - I'm sure I can convince my parents to let you sleep in the basement." 

"It shouldn't come to that," he nods, "but thanks." Steve looks around, "Do you know if Jonathan is still here?" 

"He should be. I saw his car in the parking lot." 

"Alright. I guess I'll go wait for him then." 

"Good luck!" Nancy squeezes his arm. "Not everyone is against you guys." 

"Thanks," Steve half-smiles. "See you tomorrow." 

Nancy waves, and Steve heads out towards Jonathan's car. He finds it parked where it usually is, towards the back of the lot next to the wall. He leans against the door and waits, hoping Jonathan didn't stay after school for anything. But it's not cold out today, so Steve doesn't really mind waiting. He runs over what he wants to say a few times. 

Well, twenty minutes pass, and then he starts to mind. What the hell. Steve shifts impatiently, watching more and more cars leave the parking lot. He waits another five minutes, before Steve huffs, and starts to head back towards the school. Jonathan is probably still in that damn dark room. Steve walks to the back of the school, because the side door is faster than walking all the way through the front; but there's the unmistakable sound of a fist hitting skin, and Steve pauses mid-step. 

He looks around the corner, and there, in the space between the two school buildings, is Jonathan on all fours. He's drooling blood, face split down the side, and his knuckles are busted. He's outnumbered five to one - all football dickheads from this morning.  Jonathan stands up and swings, catching Michael McDonald by surprise. He grunts and swings back, and Jonathan tackles him against the wall with a grunt. 

Two of them are bleeding from the nose. A guy they used to call Gummy in middle school is nursing a split lip. Steve feels a shred of pride. 

Jonathan is ripped away by the back of his neck and kicked to the ground, and even if Steve joins in, they have no chance of winning; but that doesn't stop Steve from running in with a shout, jumping a good foot in the air, and knocking the teeth out of Michael McDonald. 

 "Fuck!" Michael spits, blood spilling down his chin. "Harrington?" 

Steve shakes off his hand, before he extends it to Jonathan, and helps him to his feet. 

"Steve," Jonathan starts, "You need to go." Blood is running from his cheek, down his neck, and into the collar of his jacket, and Steve feels anger start to constrict in his chest. 

He turns to Michael, "Listen dude. We used to cheat off each other in math. We don't have to do this." 

"No, we don't." Michael spits again, rubbing his mouth. "But then you had to go get involved with the queer." 

"Look. You hit hit him, you hit me," Steve gestures, rolling up his sleeves. "Simple as that." 

"Then I guess we're doing this then," Michael growls. He gestures towards his little motley crue, and they start to approach Jonathan from the side. Jonathan squares up.

 "I guess we are," Steve says, and punches McDonald in the jaw. 

 


 

An insufferable clock ticks on the wall. There's muffled talking from behind the door, but the clock ticks louder, the hour hand approaching four. Steve wonders if anyone will notice if he yanked it off the wall and ripped out the batteries. Hopper probably would. 

Steve shifts, and the bag of ice in his hand crinkles. He cringes, the entire right side of his face throbbing. The room feels too small. Steve's knees hit the desk in front of him, and he shifts back a little. 

He steals a look over to Jonathan, who's angled slightly away from him in the other chair. His lip is split open, left eye swollen shut, and his cheek is completely sliced, like he was punched with a ring. His nose doesn't look broken, but boy, is it bloody. The longer Steve stares, the more his heart starts to hurt. 

Jonathan is staring at a spot on the floor. He brings the ice pack up to his eye, but he immediately jerks, and pulls it away. 

"Hey," Steve whispers. "Let me see." 

Jonathan looks over to him, but doesn't move. Steve holds out a hand, and it hovers there, in the space between them. Jonathan stares long enough for Steve to feel awkward. Jonathan eventually turns his head. Steve figures that's all the permission he'll get. Softly, he braces a finger under Jonathan's jaw and tips his head a little more, to see the full extent of his injuries. Steve can't help but mumble sadly, "Oh...baby..."

Jonathan looks anywhere but at Steve. He brings his own ice-pack up to Jonathan's black eye, who silently cringes. Finally, Jonathan looks up - but he looks pained. Steve doesn't blame him; he hasn't looked in a mirror, but Steve is sure he looks like dog shit. He can't breathe out of his nose, and his jaw is rubbed raw from the pavement. 

It's Steve's turn to jerk, when fingers softly trace beneath his chin. 

"I'm sorry," Jonathan says, soft and pained. 

Steve goes still. "You're sorry?" 

"Yeah. I was - I was really insensitive. I forgot that, that all of this is still new to you. I never should've left you to deal with it alone," Jonathan drops his hand into his lap. Steve does the same, fingers cold from holding the ice. Jonathan scratches at some of the blood dried on his neck and continues, "I thought you were embarrassed to be seen with me. I was scared." 

"I'm sorry too," Steve says. "I didn't - I shouldn't have overreacted like that. I never wanted to make you feel like, like I was gonna' leave. You know I'd never." 

Jonathan softly smiles, even if it looks painful, "I know." 

"Also, we totally won that fight." 

Jonathan snorts. "If we won, we wouldn't be sitting here." 

"But when you kicked Gummy in the face? Amazing." 

"I thought it was pretty hot when you busted your hand over Marshall's nose." 

Steve grins, and it hurts, "I'd kiss you, but it would probably hurt really bad." 

"Worth it, maybe?" Jonathan tries. 

Steve shrugs and leans over, closing his eyes. Jonathan meets him, barely brushing their busted lips together. There's so much dried blood, and their raw chins rub, and they both wince a little. Steve pulls back. 

"Not worth it," Jonathan corrects. Steve laughs. 

He cuts himself off when the door swings open. 

Hopper walks in, very unamused. He shuts the door behind him, and gives them an exhausted look as he rounds to sit behind his desk. Steve swallows, and slowly brings the ice-pack up to his own jaw. 

Hopper sighs, and leans over to light a cigarette. "Listen. I know you've seen too much shit to be throwing fists over nothin' at school." Steve and Jonathan stay quiet. Hopper eyes them, "The only reason you're in here is because Byers threw the first punch."

"We're in here because those shitheads are fucking cowards," Steve says. Hopper gives him a look, and he slouches, "Sorry." 

The chief smokes, and holds away his cigarette, pinching his nose. 

"Byers. Why'd you do it?" 

Jonathan wets his bottom lip, and squishes the ice in his hands. "They were saying shit about Steve." 

Steve feels his heart kinda sorta stop dead and die, because holy shit he loves him , he loves Jonathan so much - 

Hopper prods, "Sayin' what?" 

"Stuff they were gonna' do to him. Stuff they were gonna make him do." 

Hopper sighs, and briefly closes his eyes to gather his thoughts. When he opens them, he uses his cigarette to point between them. 

"I heard about the vandalism at the school. I don't really give a shit about whatever you two get up to in your own time, but we're getting too many call-ins about fights from Hawkins High, so I'm gonna' have to start staffin' there."  Hopper takes a drag, and blows away, "Shit, just wait until they punch first before you go around hittin' back. Then I can at least let you off on self defense." 

Jonathan politely nods, "Thanks Hopper." 

He gives them the start of a smile, and nods back. "I owe you two, so consider this even. Don't go lettin' phobes push you around." 

"Yes sir." 

"Alright. Get out of here." 

Jonathan and Steve simultaneously stand. They share a relieved look, and bolt the fuck out the door. Joyce is sitting in the waiting room when they walk out. She jumps to her feet and runs over, frantic, "Oh my god- look at you two!" She presses a hand to Jonathan's cheek, and then to Steve's. "What did he say? Is everything alright?" 

"Everything's fine, mom." 

Her face changes from concerned, to angry. She pinches Jonathan's ear, and he yelps, "You are an idiot.

"Ow ow- I'm sorry-" 

"You too," Joyce snaps, and Steve jerks, nodding shakily. 

She sighs, and adjusts her purse under her arm.  She then says, "I heard about what happened at school. I'm so sorry that someone did that to you guys." 

Jonathan shrugs, and Steve just presses his lips into a sympathetic smile. 

"I talked to your principal - they said they tolerate absolutely no prejudice against students, and if anything else happens-" 

"Mom, it's fine," Jonathan squeezes her hand in his own. 

"It's just highschool," Steve smiles, and Jonathan smiles back. 

Joyce sighs. "Do you need a ride home Steve?" 

Steve looks up and out the front window, where he sees his dad getting out of his truck. 

"Looks like I'm covered." 

Jonathan grips his arm quick, and sucks in a breath, "Steve-" 

"I'll be fine," Steve nods. He smiles again, and fuck it still hurts, "See you tomorrow."  Jonathan stares after him, wide eyed and concerned. 

The front door to the police station dings. Steve's dad looks around, lost, until he spots him. His face hardens, and yep, there's the good old fear of god. 

"Steven?" 

Steve peels Jonathan's hand away, and waves goodbye. "Later Mrs. Byers." 

"Let's go." His dad holds the door. Steve nods, and walks through, and hears him mutter, "Shit, look at you." 

Steve climbs into the passenger seat, and as soon as he sits, the headache starts to settle in. His stomach twists, as his dad silently climbs into the drivers seat, and starts the engine. It's quiet. 

He can't tell what he's thinking. Steve can see his jaw set in anger, fingers flexing on the wheel, and Steve wonders if his already busted face wont save him this time around. After another minute, Steve can't handle the silence. If he's going to get yelled at, he'd rather just get it over with. 

"Did you get a call?”

"Yeap." 

"What did they tell you?" 

"Enough," Dad says. Steve nods. It goes quiet again. Steve stares out the window. They've only been driving for fifteen minutes, but this is probably the longest amount of time they've spent together since Christmas. Steve's nose starts to bleed again, so he finds a few napkins in the glove compartment and wipes his face.

His dad breaks the silence. 

"Still got that job?" 

Steve looks over, stunned. “Huh?”

“The job.”

"Uh. So far.” 

"Mm." He nods. A pause. "Stayin' in school?" 

"Er...yeah." 

"Grades?" 

"No D's."  

"Got plans after graduation?"  

"Believe so." 

"You’re fuckin’ eighteen years old. I don't give a damn who you hook up with, alright?" His dad glances over, and it startles Steve. Is this actually happening? The dash looks a little fuzzy...but no, it's real, 'cause Dad sighs and combs back his hair, "I haven't been a good enough pa' to be bustin' your chops over it anyways." 

"We're not just hooking up," Steve says, "I really care about him." 

"Yeah? Couldn't tell from the napkins hanging out of your nose," Dad points. "Don't remember you taking a beating like that for no girl." 

"Haha- ow - whatever."

"But-" His dad glares through the window, "- if I find you at Hoppers one more time...your ass is grass." 

"Gotcha'." Steve nods, "No more fighting." 

His dad nods. A heavy weight lifts from Steve's chest. He still cant breathe, from his swollen nose and his bruised lips, but despite all the blood, he feels clean. Open. Steve lets his head hit the seat, and he lets out a hot breath. 

"When were you thinkin' of telling me?"

"Uh. Preferably, never." 

"Hm." His dad scratches the scruff on his neck. "Do me a favor and spare me the details.”

“Couldn’t agree with you more.”

 


 

They get looks, ‘cause duh, they look like they fought a bear, and the bear fuckin won. Steve is putting the rest of his shit in his locker, Nancy chattering about something, Jonathan nodding along, and there’s talk, rumors already spreading about their matching black eyes. There's a group of underclassmen watching from their lockers. Steve feels like a fish in a bowl. 

Jonathan suddenly turns, fed up with the noise, and points to his busted chin, “You like it? You should’ve seen the other guys.”

The underclassmen scatter like roaches, and boy is it satisfying.

Nancy’s eyebrows raise, “They kicked the shit out of you.”

“Nobody else needs to know that,” Steve shrugs, and slings an arm over both their shoulders.

 


 

Weather’s getting warmer. They could go out, somewhere, anywhere, really. But they both worked full shifts this weekend, and spent all their free time studying with Nancy and Lori for a big dumb test on Monday, so Steve is perfectly happy where he is.

The T.V. is on in the background, once again forgotten. They’re laying halfway across the couch, mostly supported by pillows; Jonathan has Steve pushed all the way back, so he can lay across him and suck face. It’s lazy and sleepy and great, cause Steve can grab his butt all he likes, and Jonathan can’t do a thing about it.

Making out with Jonathan is fun because it’s always different. They haven’t been able to do much, since they had to wait for the bruising to go down. But now Jonathan uses his new height leverage to steer them kiss for kiss. Steve is lax and happy so he lets him do what he wants; he’s having more fun tracing the seams of Jonathan’s jeans.

Fingers curl around Steve’s collar. They pull a little, softly dipping in to trace around his collarbone. Jonathan’s head bobs with the kisses, and Steve can tell he’s totally zoned out, cause his fingers are tracing gentle circles around Steve’s neck, nose breathing out happy little sighs every so often. Neither of them have shaved today, and the extra friction makes his face tingle. 

He knows Jonathan isn’t a huge tongue guy – finesse, and all that – but Steve decides to fuck with him, drawing out Jonathan’s tongue with a hard kiss and sucking on it. Jonathan tenses, eyelashes fluttering with a surprised inhale. Steve grips around the backs of his thighs and pulls, heaving him up a little higher.

Jonathan pulls back with a slick pop and a smile, “Stop that.”

Steve starts to pat his butt to the theme of the bubblegum commercial playing on T.V.  

“Stop what?”

“That,” Jonathan laughs. He has to roll onto one shoulder, to reach back and tug at Steve’s hands.

“But it’s so compact.”

“I think that’s the worst thing you could’ve said.”

Steve gives a cheeky grin. He runs his arms up and around to squeeze around his waist, Jonathan’s shirt bunching up along the way.

“Happy?”

Jonathan looks down at him, skeptical, and pecks him once, then again, slightly longer. He noses down into Steve’s neck and sighs. Steve runs his hands up and down his back, fingers skimming under his shirt. Jonathan is complete putty, all the tenseness in his shoulders long gone. Steve counts himself lucky to see him like this.

Steve feels his collar yanked down, and lips skim the spot he was tracing with his fingers. He nips a little, sluggish, not hard enough to hurt.

“What time is it?”

“Uh,” Steve squints at the T.V. clock. “Almost nine.”

“I have to pick up Will soon,” Jonathan plants his face straight into Steve’s chest. “Come with me?”

“Of course,” Steve hums. “Why?”

“I’m really tired. Not sure if I should be driving alone,” Jonathan muffles.

“Long shift?”

“Shitty customers.”

“I can go with you. Want me to drive?”

“I’ll make you lunch tomorrow.”

“Oh my god yes.

Jonathan’s hand traces the shiny new scar on his jaw. The T.V fusses about, and Steve gets lost in the trail of cold, calloused fingers.

“Do you think it’s been worth it?”

“Huh?”

“Everything.” Jonathan shrugs. “I’m sure it’s easier to go be with some girl.”

“Oh, it definitely would be.” Steve says. “But Mom always said, nice things take a leg and an arm. And I can’t feel either of mine.”

“Oh ha-ha,” Jonathan snaps, but does roll a little, and ease the pressure off Steve’s arm.

Steve flexes to get the feeling back, “You’ve been reading too many books dude.”

“Yeah. Maybe you should try opening one.”  

“I know what you’re doing,” Steve sings. “You’re still jealous from last week.”

“I am not.

“Oh ho, methinks you a liar. Jessica Jones flirted with me over the Home Video counter and I saw you break the handle off the Bazooka gum dispenser.”

“Shit.”

Steve cackles like a batman villain. 

"Admit you were jealous." 

"No." 

"Admit it." 

"No." 

“Admi-ah- hey- what are you-“

Jonathan tips his head to bite into the side of Steve's throat. He sucks hard, and Steve goes spineless into the couch. He finds himself leaning into him, against his own good judgment. Jonathan kisses the new bruise and bites it once more for good measure.

“I was jealous.”

 


 

Patty Goodman is throwing a birthday party the weekend her parents are out of town. Nancy begs Steve to go, and he hasn't been out drinking in a while, so he agrees. 

Graduation isn't for a long time, but with everything that's happened, it's not the same. Some kid is drowning himself over a kegstand, and yeah, its fun as hell to watch, but Steve is kinda' over it. 

Steve has a cigarette in one hand, and a beer in the other, and he's got his feet up on the coffee table, watching an underclassman take a running dive off the banister. People scream and cheer when he doesn't fucking die. 

"Where's Jonathan?" Lori asks, perched on the arm of the loveseat. 

"You know he doesn't like this shit," Steve says, and takes a drag. "Plus this is his game night with Will." 

"That's cute." Nancy holds up a glass, "Another shot?" 

"Sure." 

It's blue and it tastes like dish detergent. Steve cringes, and chases it back down with his beer. 

"Gross, what the hell was that?" 

"Tequila-something." 

Four jocks come barreling through the room from a drunk piggyback race. They knock over a bookshelf and keep running towards the pool, a crowd trying to keep up behind them. 

"Do you miss that?" Lori asks. 

Steve thinks for a moment, running his hand through his hair. He says, "Nah." 

"Not dumb teenagers anymore, huh?" Nancy smiles. 

"I'd like to think we're somewhere inbetween. Like an Teenult. Or a Adnager." 

"Or a...young adult?" Lori tries. 

"Nahhhh." 

Nancy swirls around her soda chaser, "How's that tequila." 

"Fuckin strong, Jesus." Steve wipes his eyes. "Since when did you start holding your alcohol better than me?" 

"Since I got that shiny new fake ID." 

 "You need to hook me up." 

There's noise behind them. "Awwww, look who it is~. The queer missing his little boyfriend?" 

Steve turns around to look over the back of the couch. Tommy and his friends are hanging out by the doorway, having stolen the entire punch bowl. 

Steve pouts, "Yeah, kinda'." 

 "Fag," Tommy laughs. 

"Call me whatever you want," Steve lazily flops his hand around, and stops to stub out his cigarette. "Doesn’t bother me anymore." 

 Tommy's jaw ticks. He shoves the punch bowl into the arms of his friend, and stalks over, "It fuckin' should. You're a disgrace to traditional family morals." 

"Fancy words there. Learn that from your mommy?" 

Tommy grips his collar from the back of the couch and yanks, choking Steve to scramble on his knees and get on his level. 

"I oughta' do you in." 

"You won't," Steve stares. 

"Shouldn't," Nancy corrects. "Aren't you on your last strike? One more, and you're not going to IUB." 

Tommy grinds his teeth. He stares back at Steve, who's indifferent to getting punched, at this point. Tommy eventually lets go, shoving Steve back. 

"I can't wait to leave this shit town." 

Steve rubs at his neck, "Thanks for not punchin' me sir. You see, my boyfriend  likes my face the way it is. Says its real pretty, don'tcha' think?" 

Steve really thinks he's going to get decked for that one, but Tommy's friends tear him away kicking and yelling, and Steve blows him a kiss before he turns back around towards Nancy. 

"You really like to test your luck, don't you?" 

"I'm drunk." 

Nancy and Lori laugh. 

Steve plays with that stray bang that never wants to slick back, "Do you think if I call Jonathan he'll come pick me up?" 

"Of course he will. Do you really wanna' leave this early?" 

"Mmm, it's probably a good idea. I don't actually want to get my ass kicked tonight." 

Nancy sighs, "Alright. Well I saw a house phone that way." 

Steve clicks his tongue and finger guns, "Alright. See you ladies Monday." 

They wave goodbye, and he sees Nancy go back to get more shots. Steve is perfectly capable of walking, but it takes him a minute to get through the crowd. He finds the baby blue house phone seconds away from being dunked in a punch bowl, so he rescues it, and stretches the cord around the corner, so he can lock himself in the bathroom. He has to sing the song he made up to remember Jonathan's number before he dials it. Steve is kinda' impressed he remembers it. 

It rings three times before it answers. 

Steve already knows it's Jonathan by his, "Hello?" 

"Jonathannn." 

"Steve?" 

"Heyy baby. I miss you and I love you." 

"Are you...still at the party?" 

Steve slides down onto the floor, "Ummmm, yep. How was the arcade?" 

"Uh- good. We just got back - are you okay?" 

"Mhm! Can't drive back though. Hitched a ride." 

"I'll come get you." 

"I love you!" 

Jonathan laughs, "Love you too. Now - stay where you are. The last time I picked you up drunk you'd wandered into Oldman's potato farm." 

Steve nods, and then remembers Jonathan can't see him. "Okay." 

Jonathan says "See you soon," and hangs up. It takes a minute for Steve to stand back up again, and find the front door. He has to step over what he hopes isn't a dead body in order to reach the lawn. He sits on the grass and waits, wishing he had another cigarette. It's cooler outside, and it helps his head clear a little. He's not sure how long he waits. 

The rusted, mix matched paint job on Jonathan's car is unmistakable. Steve immediately recognizes him, and starts to dust himself off from the grass. He waves, and Jonathan pulls right over. 

Steve yanks over the passenger door, and swings into the seat. 

"That was fast!" 

"I only live around the corner," Jonathan smiles. He watches Steve shut the door, and then reaches over to place a hand on his forehead. "How drunk are you?" 

"We only did like, four shots," Steve says. Jonathan's hands are cold and it feels soo good. "Uuuh, I should be okay, like, soon." 

Jonathan doesn't look convinced. But he leans over the empty middle seat and pecks him, "Okay. I'll take you back to your dad's." 

Steve chases after him, demanding another kiss.

"Okie dokie." 

Jonathan makes him put on his seat-belt before he pulls out of the cult-de-sac. Steve tells him a little bit about the party, but he gets distracted by watching the road, and then, eventually, Jonathan. 

He likes watching Jonathan drive. He does this thing with his bottom lip when he's focused, biting it and letting it slip. He pops his left knee higher, and leans his arm on it, driving only with his right, and he taps his fingers against the wheel to the beat of his music. Steve feels himself sober a little, just from watching him. He reaches over and rests a hand on Jonathan's thigh the rest of the drive, because he needs something to hold onto. 

They get to his house way too soon. Steve frowns, staring at his empty front yard. Jonathan pops his seatbelt for him, but Steve refuses to move. He turns to Jonathan with a pout, and reaches for his hand, "Come stay the night?" 

Jonathan sighs, "I shouldn't..." 

Steve leans over, and braces a hand along his cheek. He kisses him, and mumbles, "Please?" 

"I'm not sleeping with you if you're drunk." 

"I'm not drunk," Steve kisses him again. "Come on. It's been like, ages." 

"Like, a week."  

Steve pulls back and uses his ultimate super secret weapon. He pops the top button on his own shirt, and leans in to kiss beneath Jonathan's ear. He feels him shiver before he even says anything. 

Fingers curl up into his hair. There's an exasperated, "Steve..." 

"I missed you all night," Steve kisses his jaw. "I couldn't stop thinking about where we left off last week." 

Jonathan tenses. His hand slides down to his neck. 

"Really?" 

"Uh huh," Steve pulls back, and wets his own lips. "I really want you to fuck me." 

Jonathan stares, lips a straight line, eyes fire hot. Steve has a feeling he's about to be kicked out of the car - but instead, Jonathan jerks forwards, yanking Steve's hair in an iron grip. Their lips crash a little too hard, and Steve moans from the shock, hand crawling back down to squeeze at Jonathan's thigh. 

They pull back sticky and out of breath, and Jonathan holds up a hand. 

"Two things," he says, authoritative. "You drink a whole bottle of water and have a slice of toast, and if you're still up to it, we'll talk." 

"Deal," Steve grins. 

 


 

Steve almost wishes he was drunk again. Then, at least, he wouldn't be responsible for any weird noises he makes. 

But alcohol or not, Jonathan is holding him down, teeth skimming his back, three knuckles deep, and Steve might as well have seen god. 

He kinda' feels bad, because Steve must've been a fumbling idiot before - cause Jonathan knows exactly what he's doing, what he's aiming for, what he wants Steve to do. When Steve tries to sit up Jonathan braces a hand on his shoulder and shoves down, forcing his face into the pillows, and it's the hottest thing literally in this solar system. 

There's no music, no T.V., no background noise. Just the fan, and sound of  Jonathan sucking bruises into his side. The lube sounds so obscene, Steve hides his face in the pillows, and when his fingers stretch Steve bites into the sheets and shakes. 

"You're doing good," Jonathan tells him. 

"And you're fuckin' pushing it." 

"Karma's a bitch, isn't it?" Jonathan pulls out, and wipes his fingers on Steve's thigh, and Steve makes a face. He turns around to snarks something back, but Jonathan doesn't even give him a warning before he starts to push in. 

"Oh my go-d-" Steve curses, head curling into his hands. "What happened to a head-sssup, fuck-" 

"Sorry," Jonathan strains. "It stings less when you're not expecting it."  His hips rock forwards, and the stretch is more than Steve was expecting, so he bites his lip and counts. Jonathan leans up and over, a hand securing at his waist, lips skimming his shoulder. "I've got you, okay? You can relax." 

Steve swallows. He's starting to hear again, now that all the blood isn't in his ears, and he's suddenly aware of how much he wants him to move. His dick is trapped against the sheets and he can hear Jonathan breathing heavy above him, and it's so different from what Steve thought it'd be like, but it's not bad. Not degrading. 

Jonathan pulls out and rocks in, and Steve chokes on a curse, and Jonathan pulls back his hair and noses into his neck. They stick together from the sweat and the lube and that's so gross in hindsight, but Steve is so greedy he wants it all, everything Jonathan has, he wants. 

"Go go go," he curls his hands into the sheets. "Jonathan, fuck - " 

Fingers curl possessively into his hip, like Steve is the one playing with his self control, and Steve feels high off it, totally addicted. Steve wonders if he can make him snap. 

Jonathan fucks exactly like he kisses, slow and deep and tantalizingly patient, and Steve can't handle it, can't handle the intense pressure one second, and the breathing over his shoulder. His eyelashes are sticking together, and he's almost glad that Jonathan can't see his face. 

Finally he angles right, and Steve feels himself choke on Jonathan's name - and that's when he goes, when his hips snap hard, and Steve starts to count his goddamn blessings. Fingers curl in his and Steve tips his head so he can suck on his tongue and die happy. 

All that music must do him good, 'cause Jonathan keeps a rhythm like you won't believe. Halfway through Steve reaches back and slaps at his arm, asking to roll over, because he's totally willing to sacrifice his own pride to see Jonathan's face, and it's so worth it, oh god is it worth it. 

His bangs are sticking to his face, jeans halfway shoved down his thighs, like he couldn't bother to shuck them off. His fingers are a vice around Steve's thighs, and he's looking at him like he's the world, like he's everything. 

When all's said and done, it's Jonathan who wipes them down and dims the lights. Steve waits with his arms dramatically thrown open. Jonathan crawls under the covers, and makes him share the pillow. 

"Wow, it was nice not doing all the work for a change." 

Jonathan pinches his side. 

"Ow!" 

"...All the work my ass." 

"Technically my ass-" 

 "At least I won't be the one sore tomorrow." 

Steve's face twists into a pout, but he ruins it with a yawn. Jonathan reaches up to tuck a strand of hair behind his ear, and it's become so normal, Steve almost doesn't notice. It goes quiet enough to hear the crickets outside. He doesn't need the lights on to know Jonathan is staring at him. Steve yawns again, and hauls Jonathan closer. 

Jonathan always gets weird on nights like this. When they're tired and half naked and so wrapped together, you can't tell who's leg is whose. Whatever he's been brooding on usually comes to light, so Steve waits. 

Fingers trace his ear, "Steve?" 

"Mhm?" 

"Would you ever want to leave Hawkins?" 

Steve peeps open an eye. "Maybe one day. Probably one day. I don't know. You?" 

"I don't know either." 

Steve makes a noise as he shifts to get more comfortable. "Yeah, I'd like to leave. But Hawkins is so fucked, I'm worried something would happen without me to protect it." 

He can practically hear Jonathan's eyeroll, "Oh Steve Harrington, the sole savior of Hawkins Indiana." 

"But don't you feel the same?" 

A pause. "Yeah. Not alot of people know what we know." 

Steve tries to fight off the urge to pass out, "Yeap. But whatever, wherever you go, I'll go, probably." 

"Really?" 

"Unless you moved to like, Florida. I can fight a demodog, but fuck alligators." 

Jonathan laughs, and moves to kiss him, still laughing after he pulls away. "Go to sleep, you doop." 

You don't have to tell Steve twice. 

Fingers fold in his. Hair tickles his nose, and cold feet press in his calves. They have a good love, he thinks. A good one. 

 


 

It's hard to think about the future, because, like, pretending all your problems don't exist is way easier. 

 Jonathan always goes on about leaving a mark on the world. Of doing something great, so you're not just another marked gravestone when you die. Steve still thinks he listens to too much music. 

It's not to say he'd rather be a nobody. But Steve would rather be a happy nobody, than a miserable somebody - you can go ahead and write that down. Adult jobs have adult benefits. With adult insurance and adult money. But none of that really seems like stuff that makes you happy. 

So he'll keep searching somewhere else. In long drives and lazy weekends and peach moonshine and good kisses, the kind that make your toes curl in your shoes. Steve doesn't dwell on the future anymore, because there's too much he wants to remember about now. 

Knowing Hawkins, something else will hit the fan. And they'll be ready.