With keys weighing heavily in his hands, Steve opened the door to his new home. He would need to buy furniture, and a bunch of candles. This house was all he could afford, after all. His father was a jerk, there was no doubt about that. Anyone could tell you that John Harrington was a jerk. What they didn’t know, was that he was verbally and physically abusing his son. His mother hadn’t cared either and would often scold Steve as if he had done something wrong. It took Steve forever to process what his parents were doing was wrong. Steve’s whole bout of popularity had been his way of controlling his life. It had taken breaking up with Nancy and a girl named Barbara dying for him to figure out his life. Now, he was freshly graduated with his graduation money all going straight towards a house. The house he currently stood in front of.
The thing was, no one in Hawkins or outside of Hawkins would buy this house. People claimed it was haunted. Will Byers, a kid, had gone missing around his house one night during a terrible thunderstorm. The house had been struck by lightning and hadn’t had great electrical work since then. A year after the kid went missing, he was declared dead, and Joyce Byers and her eldest son Jonathan had moved to Maine with her boyfriend Bob for a new start.
That was a year ago, and there had been twenty two tenants before Steve. All twenty two had run out screaming within a week each. Each claimed they saw the ghost of Will Byers. Many people came, and many people left. No one could prove there was a ghost in the house.
Steve was just that desperate to buy the house cheap.
“Home sweet home,” he sighed as he unlocked the door and stepped into the house.
The door slammed behind him the minute he was inside. A light flashed to his left. And Steve just let out a tired sigh as he leaned against a wall and sank to the ground. He wasn’t afraid of a ghost. He was afraid of his future.
He fell asleep curled up on the ground, back pressed against the wall.
“That was literally the eighteenth application we filled out,” Steve sighed as he licked the last envelope. He was honestly surprised he still had any spit on his dry tongue. “Are we done yet?”
“For now,” Nancy nodded at him.
Nancy Wheeler, his ex-girlfriend. It just hadn’t worked out between them, especially when Barbara Holland had died. They had remained friends though, despite the heartbreak they had brought each other. And she had been his rock as he finally got out of his terrible living situation. His new one wasn’t any better, but she was helping.
“I could come over,” she hummed as they went to the post office to mail the applications. “Help you clean up.”
She had gotten permission to borrow cleaning supplies for Steve to use from her own house. Neither of them could currently afford the supplies, and Steve was saving up his money to buy food. With no fridge or electricity, it was hard to store anything cold, or cook anything. He was limited to what he could store, which was a curse and a blessing. But the cleaning supplies was nice. The house needed it.
“No,” Steve shook his head. “Not here. Not till I’m settled.”
“Wait,” Nancy eyed him quizzically. “You don’t actually believe those rumors, do you?”
Steve shrugged and shoved the envelopes in the mailbox. With a casual wave goodbye, Steve headed back to his new house. He quickly set the cleaning supplies out and began to dust around the house. With no furniture, it wasn’t too hard to finish that particular job. He was back in the living room in no time. He had to stop as he stepped back into the living room.
“What the heck?” he breathed out.
There, in the living room, on the window, was a cloth floating on its own. Cleaning the window. Steve stumbled back into the wall, and the rag quickly dropped. And where it dropped, the silhouette of a boy stood there, looking shocked.
Steve bolted out of the house in seconds.
He was halfway to town when he finally tripped over a rock and tumbled harshly to the road. It was only then, as he caught his breath and his bearings, that he realized what he saw. He had only seen that face a few times when had dated Nancy, but there was no mistaking it.
The face of Will Byers.
Taking a deep, shaking breath, Steve pushed himself to his feet and began the trek back to the house. His knees were scraped, and his ankle throbbed, but he ignored it. There was something a little more pressing to deal with at home. But it wasn’t his home, was it?
“Will?” he called as he pushed open the door. “Will Byers?”
“I promise I won’t freak out again!” Steve called into the house. “I swear! I was just a little startled! But I appreciate the help!”
Steve thought there was going to be no response, but then the dining room light flickered, and the silhouette of Will Byers was standing there. There were tears in his eyes, and he looked so desperate.
“Hey,” Steve cooed, crouching in front of the boy. “Don’t cry. Okay? I’m right here.”
“You’re not afraid?” Will sniffed, his voice sounding a little hazy and strained.
Steve shook his head, letting a smile spread on his face. “A little freaked out,” he shrugged. “But no, I’m not afraid.”
And then the tears came a bit harder as he sank to his knees and buried his face in his hands. Steve had absolutely no idea how to comfort a ghost when they couldn’t be touched. So he leaned close and whispered encouraging words to the small boy.
“So no one found your body,” Steve hummed as he flipped through his page of notes. “You went home that night. The storm struck. You don’t remember what happened. Then you were a ghost. And there was no body.”
“Pretty much,” Will nodded. “I tried to talk to Mom and Jonathan. But Jonathan brushed me off, and Mom thought she was going crazy. They just kind of moved away.”
Steve ran a hand through his hair. “We’re missing something,” he mumbled. “And I bet it has to do with your missing memories. Any idea how long you black out for?”
“I got home around 9:30 at night,” Will mumbled. “I woke up as a ghost the next morning. Around 6, when I normally got up for school.”
Steve winced. “That’s at least eight hours of time when you blacked out. This isn’t going to be easy.”
Will frowned at him. “What do you mean?”
“You thought I’d just leave your death unsolved?” Steve grinned at Will. “I need something to do, and you clearly need closure. So we are going to get just that.”
“But I can’t leave the house,” Will protested. “And my mom, Jonathan, and Chief Hopper searched the entire house. They searched the shed too, and all my usual hiding places.”
“So you might have died some place unknown,” Steve jotted that down. “And Chief Hopper took the case. Any idea why?”
“His daughter,” Will mumbled after a moment. “Sara. She died of cancer when she was seven. I think mom might have mentioned she would have been my age too. I reminded him of her.”
Steve jotted that down on a separate sheet of paper. “Right,” he hummed. “Tell me about everyone you know. Someone is bound to know something about you.”
The list was incredibly long, but it had a place to start. Several, actually. He decided to start with the Wheeler’s.
“Steve?” Karen questioned. She never liked him much, not after he slept with her daughter, but she respected her daughter’s boundaries to a certain degree. “Would you like me to get Nancy?”
“Actually,” Steve let out a deep sigh. “I was hoping I could talk to Mike, and his friends if they are here. If that is alright?”
“Steve?” Nancy called as Karen let him in. “What’s wrong?”
“I’m not sure yet?” Steve mumbled as he followed Karen to the basement.
To his relief, all three of Will’s friends were there. Mike Wheeler, Lucas Sinclair, and Dustin Henderson had been Will Byers’ best friends when he had still been alive. In fact, Will had mentioned they tried to solve the case themselves with no luck. But also in the room was new kids Jane “El” Hopper and Max Mayfield. Will had never met them personally, but the boys had brought them both by the house, never going inside. None of the five kids were sure what to make of Steve’s appearance in the basement.
“I was hoping to ask you guys questions,” Steve began a bit awkwardly. “About Will Byers.”
“You want to mock him too?” Mike sneered instantly.
“What?” Steve bulked. “No! I’m living in his old house. I’d actually like to know more about the kid.”
“How can we trust you?” Lucas shot back. “You were a popular jerk.”
Steve pursed his lips as he watched the kids, but El put a hand on Mike’s shoulder.
“He’s just curious,” she muttered. “See?”
She vaguely motioned to Steve’s face. Steve wasn’t sure what that was supposed to do, but it was enough for Mike and the others to calm down. They all sank onto the couch, and Steve pulled a chair from the table to sit across from them. He vaguely noticed Nancy and Karen hadn’t left yet either, but Mike started talking before he could process this.
“He was our best friend,” Mike mumbled out, not meeting Steve’s gaze. “Our cleric.” Will had mentioned that, had described D&D to him too. They stayed up all night just talking about Will’s favorite things. “He was the kindest of all of us too.”
“He liked art,” Dustin added, motioning to drawings on the wall. “Specifically drawing. We hung up some of his pictures.”
“People made fun of him too,” Lucas sighed. “Called him queer and a fairy. He pretended it didn’t bother him though. He was tough like that. Never striking back.”
“Troy and James were jerks,” Dustin sniffed. “Always picking on us but picking on Will the most.”
Steve quickly jotted those names down.
“You have that picture, right?” Max asked as she quickly got up and moved to a shelf. “That one with you guys and Will?”
Max quickly returned with a picture she placed in Steve’s hands. It was a picture of the four boys at a science fair. They looked so young and happy in the picture, it made Steve smile. Then he noticed the date on the banner. 1983, a few weeks before Will went missing.
“Is this you’re most recent photo?” Steve questioned, unable to peel his eyes away from the picture.
“Ah,” Karen spoke up from behind them. “No. I have that upstairs.”
“Where?” Steve demanded as he jerked up in his chair and turned to face her.
Karen was not moving fast enough as she led him upstairs and towards the picture. Steve stared at it a few minutes before he thanked the kids, Karen, and Nancy. Then he was in his car and headed back home.
The boy was quick to appear, and Steve studied Will as he had the pictures.
“Steve?” Will’s voice shook.
“I don’t know how,” Steve breathed out. “But something is wrong.”
He took a breath, watching Will carefully.
“I think you’re still aging.”
Will was, in fact, still aging. It gave both boys a sense of hope, but they weren’t sure what that hope was for. Regardless, Steve continued his duel process of applying to at least eight jobs a day and then asking people questions about what they remembered about Will.
Meanwhile, Will had taken it upon himself to make sure Steve didn’t do anything stupid. The younger Byers boy began to help Steve regulate his food, water, and money so that Steve would be able to survive. He also made Steve stop driving because gas was far too expansive for Steve to survive on his graduation money. So Steve walked now, not that he minded much.
They took care of each other.
Especially after the incident.
Steve had, tiredly and completely out of it, walked through Will’s ghost. The younger boy had vanished, and Steve had thought nothing of it at the time. Until the seventh day without Will. Steve was in complete hysterics by that time. It was after the seventh day that Will came back rather dazed and Steve had just sobbed at his feet for hours, much to Will complete panic. Steve vowed he would never let anything touch Will after that.
Steve, currently, had Troy and James sitting in front of him in the park. It had been a hassle to get the two boys to talk to him, but he knew Troy’s mom, and she had been kind enough to make the two boys meet up with Steve.
“He was a fairy,” Troy spat. “All shy and dainty like one too.”
“Okay,” Steve hummed, tapping his pen against the notepad. He’d heard that same phrase so many times he was sick of it. “Do you remember anything about that day? I realize it was a long time ago, but was there anything off about Will?”
“No,” Troy scoffed. “He was excited about that dumb game he and his loser friends always played.”
“Anything off around him?” Steve pressed further. “Like, someone hanging out around him?”
“Why do you care?” Troy snapped, clearly done with these questions. “He’s dead. Has been dead. Why does it matter?”
“Wasn’t Lonnie Byers at the school?” James suddenly spoke for the first time.
“I don’t know,” Troy quipped back.
“No, no,” James grabbed Troy’s shoulder so that they could look at each other. “Remember? He was at the school asking about some sort of paperwork or something. And Mr. Clarke came out and praised Will and showed off his work or something.”
Troy stared at James for a minute. “Why do you remember this?”
“Because Byers ran away when he saw his dad, remember?” James continued. “He and his friends came around the corner and he just panicked and ran off. We ran after him and teased him about daddy issues.”
Lonnie was a character no one in Hawkins was fond of. Joyce Byers had been a kind, but odd woman. There were rumors that she had been popular in high school back then too. When word spread that Lonnie was cheating on Joyce, well, the rumor mill went nuts. Lonnie left, and Joyce was revealed as the strong women many people once knew.
The problem was, no one had seen Lonnie since the divorce. Until now.
“Thank you,” Steve breathed as he raced back to his house.
Will had not mentioned Lonnie, and Steve was curious if Will even remembered the instance at the school. He was dead set on asking. But he had to stop. Because there was a police cruiser in Steve’s driveway, and his door was opened.
He quickly bolted into the house, fearing for Will. But Will was nowhere in sight. Instead, three officers were inside. One was in his kitchen, glancing through his food, and it looked like he had eaten some of it judging from the crumbs on his face. The other two were in the living room, glancing around the completely empty space.
“What are you doing?” Steve demanded, startling all three men.
“Geez, kid,” Chief Jim Hopper staggered after jumping. “Why are you scaring people like that?”
“I don’t know,” Steve’s voice turned bitter. “What are you doing in my house?”
“You live like this?” the officer next to Hopper motioned to the empty living room.
“Yes,” Steve bit. “And I’d appreciate it if you didn’t touch my food.”
The third officer quickly put down a box of crackers after a harsh growl from Hopper. Steve was still tense, using the time that Hopper berated one of his officers to search for Will. He needed to make sure that they hadn’t walked through Will. Much to Steve’s relief, Will made himself visible long enough for Steve to see him while the officers were looking away. With a sigh, Steve leaned against the wall and sank to the ground.
“What are you doing here?” he asked again, feeling defeated for some reason.
“Well,” Hopper hummed as he sank down next to Steve. “We heard you were looking into the Will Byers’ case.”
Steve shrugged at that, carefully clutching at his pen and notebook. He didn’t look at Hopper though, just stared at the ground.
“Have you gotten far?” Hopper tried.
Steve shrugged again. Still not meeting Hopper’s gaze.
“Kid,” Hopper sighed and lifted Steve with a gentle hand to Steve’s chin. “Come on. Work with me here. What have you got so far?”
Steve gently pulled his notebook from his pocket and handed it to Hopper. As Hopper flipped through his notes, Steve felt the presence of Will by his side. It was a comfort.
“Did my dad send you?” Steve asked softly.
Hopper was silent for a long time before he shook his head. “No. Your father didn’t send me.” There was a pause where neither man said anything, but Hopper soon placed the notebook in Steve’s lap. “These are good kid. You’ve become a real investigator.”
Steve shrugged again. He just wanted to know why Hopper was here.
“Guess I’ll just get to the point,” Hopper sighed. “Kid, I’m thinking about hiring you.”
Steve’s head shot up at that.
Steve got the job, much to his surprise. He was going to be the assistant secretary at the police station. Hopper had plans for him though. Like, once Steve was settled into his own house, he was going to try and send Steve to the police academy. Steve wasn’t quite sure what he thought of two weeks outside Hawkins, but he wasn’t going to argue either. He had a job, and he could finally buy food, and maybe furniture.
Flo was easy to listen too, and she was really good at explaining everything too. Steve was answering phone calls and filling out reports before noon. Which left a problem.
“Hey kid,” Officer Powell, the officer that had not raided Steve’s food, placed a hand on his shoulder. “We were going to get lunch. Care to join?”
Steve had to shake his head. He barely had the money at the moment to buy groceries, and he wasn’t going to get his first paycheck for another two weeks. There was no way he could afford lunch at any place they went, even if it was just a fast food place.
“Of course he would,” Hopper’s hand grasped the back of Steve’s jacket and hoisted him up. “Come on kid. I’m paying for the both of us.”
Steve shook his head. “You don’t have too.”
“Course not,” Hopper muttered. “I also didn’t have to adopt Jane, but she’s the best thing that ever came into my life. Now let’s go.”
Hopper practically dragged him into Benny’s and wouldn’t let Steve do his own ordering. Steve just kept paling at the price of the food Hopper ordered for him, but he said nothing. There was no way he could afford this. Hopper, Powell, and Callahan all talked about funny stories, and Steve picked at his food. Hopper had it boxed up and payed for it.
Steve hadn’t thought he was serious.
“Kid,” Hopper sighed as he caught Steve eyeing the box of food in wonder. “Let’s face it, you need help. You’re living in a run-down house with no working electricity, barely enough money, and no furniture. When Jane said I should hire you, I thought she was nuts.”
Well that explained a few things. Steve had been positive he hadn’t put in an application to the police station. At least he knew he wasn’t crazy. Though that was debatable. He had a ghost in his house who was better at finances than he was.
“But then she told me about you looking into Will Byers,” Hopper continued. “At first I thought you were crazy. Looking into the case of a dead boy. But then I let Jane talk me into visiting you and I realized that something was wrong. You needed help, and I want to help.”
Hopper patted Steve’s shoulder and offered a kind smile as they pulled back into the station.
“Go ahead and eat,” Hopper motioned to the box. “You need it.”
Steve ate at his desk, slowly, still unsure of what to make of the situation.
Will remembered nothing of seeing Lonnie at school that day, much to Steve’s frustration. He wondered if the kids had lied to him. Even worse, Steve was struggling to even find word of Lonnie. With work, he hadn’t had the time to talk to Mr. Clarke about the incident until today.
“Actually,” Mr. Clarke hummed. “I did see Lonnie. Showed off some of Will’s science projects and art work. Can’t say Lonnie was too pleased about them though. He just kind of glared at them, I guess.”
Steve jotted all this down eagerly. It was the second confirmation that Steve had received about Lonnie since Troy and James. Lonnie had been there the day Will had vanished. It could have been nothing, but there was hope too. Hope for an answer, and maybe a way to at least find Will’s body.
He wasn’t sure what else there was to hope for.
A few hours later found Steve bored at his desk on a slow day in the office. Flo, much to Steve’s surprise, plopped a giant box down on Steve’s desk.
“I know how much you’ve been looking into the Will Byers case,” she began. “I figured it couldn’t hurt to let you look through the files.”
Steve was already digging through them the moment the name Will Byers left her lips. He studied them for hours, completely unaware of the time passing. By the time he finished, several people were clocking out and switching shifts. And he had one burning question.
“Why did no one interrogate Lonnie Byers?”
“Sweetie,” Flo sighed softly. “There is no point making a person a suspect when they weren’t near the scene of the crime.”
“No one has seen Lonnie Byers in Hawkins since he divorced Joyce,” Powell added as he put his hat on his head.
“That’s not true,” Steve protested. “To kids, Troy and James, said they saw Lonnie at Hawkins middle the day Will went missing. The science teacher Mr. Clarke confirmed it.” It was as Steve was presenting his facts that Hopper walked out and caught the exchange. Steve didn’t notice because he was flipping through his notes. “Mr. Clarke even said he shared a conversation with Lonnie about Will.”
Hopper was suddenly gripping Steve’s shoulders. “Are you sure?”
In response to the sudden action, Steve dumbly handed his notebook to Hopper.
“You think Lonnie did something?” Will asked as Steve explained his findings.
“Don’t know,” Steve shrugged. “But hey, I got you something.”
And Steve pulled a pack of paper and a bunch of crayons from his backpack. Hopper had gotten the back pack for Steve recently, and Steve watched Will’s face light up as he handed the ghost kid the objects.
Will could not touch living beings, but he could touch inanimate objects. And the one thing Steve had learned from everyone was that Will liked art. It would give the kid a way to pass the time. With a soft smile, Steve went to take his laundry to a nearby lake. It was the only way he had to do laundry without power. There were a lot of things Steve had learned to deal with.
A knock on Steve’s door had him startled. He never got visitors because most people had been too afraid to go near the house. Regardless if they believed the rumors or not. He had been chilling in Will’s room, placing up pictures in the bedroom whenever Will drew them. Will had an active imagination, and there were all sorts of weird things on his wall. Like a rainbow spaceship, a thing called a Demogorgon, and even an alternate dimension.
The knock came again as Steve pushed himself off the floor, leaving Will to draw.
“Hey?” Steve muttered as he was greeted by Nancy, five kids, and someone else Steve kind of recognized. “What’s up?”
“Steve, this is Jonathan,” Nancy began. “Jonathan Byers. He was hoping, maybe, that he could see the house. We all were.”
Steve gaped at Jonathan for a moment, already noticing the similarities between Jonathan and Will. The eye color, the nose, the slight similarity in facial structure. He remembered Jonathan from school, but not all that well.
“Sure,” Steve nodded after a moment of awkward staring. “Yeah. Just, give me a minute.”
Will was peeking from the bedroom wide eyed as Steve left the door cracked.
“Do you want to tell them?” Steve asked, keeping his voice low.
“I-” Will tried to voice, but his words died, and he nodded.
With a nod back, and Will vanishing for a moment, Steve opened the door.
“I don’t really have furniture,” Steve rambled as Jonathan walked in first. “Can’t really afford it right now. Though I’m trying. I hope you don’t mind sitting on the floor. But you can look around if you like.”
Mike was already leading the other four back to where Will’s room had been. Steve bit his lip, waiting for one of the boys to recognize the drawings on the walls and floor. But Jonathan was suddenly behind Steve, looking extremely sincere.
“Thank you,” he breathed gently. “For letting me come home.”
Steve softened. “It was you’re home first. You and your mom are welcome anytime.”
“What the heck!”
Mike was suddenly storming out of the room, picture clenched in his hands.
“Where did you get these?” Mike demanded angrily as he waved the pictures around.
“Will,” Steve shrugged. “He drew them.”
Jonathan instantly grabbed the papers at those words and looked through them. He frowned at them, clearly not recognizing the pictures, but recognizing the style of his brother. Jonathan quickly tore through the house, going to his brother’s room and looking at the display of paper, crayons, and drawings that were scattered about.
“What are you playing at?” Jonathan demanded.
“Nothing,” Steve stated firmly. “Will drew these. Right kid?”
There was a varying degree of reactions from the group as they all took in the ghost version of Will. All were pretty interesting, but Steve hated Jonathan’s reaction.
“Is this some sort of joke?” the older Byers demanded with tears in his eyes. “Something to make you laugh? Because this isn’t funny.”
“Jonathan-” Will tried, but his own words failed him.
“Look at him,” Steve motioned to Will. “Really look at him. Can’t you see it?”
“See what?” Mike snapped, looking more than ready to punch Steve in the face.
Now everyone was looking at Jane. She stepped forward, circled Will, then turned to the others.
“He’s older,” she repeated. “Older than in Mike’s picture.”
“She’s right,” Dustin stated. “Dude, puberty hit you good.”
“Is it puberty if I’m a ghost,” Will asked skeptically.
No one had time to answer that question because Jonathan had staggered forward, arm reaching for his brother. Steve quickly intervened, grabbing Jonathan and pulling him back.
“You can’t touch him,” Steve shook his head quickly at Jonathan’s cry of protest. “He’ll disappear for a week or more, and I really don’t want to test that more than I already have.”
“But you’re really dead?” Max asked from beside Lucas.
Will and Steve exchanged a look and shrugged.
“We don’t know,” Will admitted. “It could be I am dead. But we aren’t sure.”
Steve nodded suddenly frowning. He watched as he slowly let go of Jonathan and let the brothers meet on the floor. Jonathan sobbed as he looked into the ghost version of Will’s eyes. Even Steve could tell how desperate Jonathan was to touch his brother again. To hold him.
“That’s why the picture threw you off,” Dustin suddenly slapped his forehead. “Because you had been seeing Will since he moved in, and you were trying to help him.”
“Yep,” Steve popped the word in his mouth.
“Have you found anything?” Dustin pressed.
And Steve had to purse his lips as nodded. He couldn’t show them. Hopper had asked to borrow his notebook, but he could tell them what he had learned.
“We think Lonnie has something to do with it,” Steve stated. “With Will’s disappearance. And this too.”
He motioned to ghost Will. And that began a long conversation on what Steve had learned about the day Will had vanished.
“Perhaps it had something to do with the lightning,” Mike muttered.
Explaining had taken a long time, and the group had all pitched in to buy food as it was nearly dinner. Will sat beside Jonathan and Mike, smiling at them both as they tried to come up to an answer as to why Will was a ghost. There had been some outlandish theories, but this was one that actually had something to do with that day.
“What do you mean?” Nancy pressed.
“Well, everyone knows Will went missing on the night of a terrible storm,” Mike continued. “So what if he was running away from Lonnie and got caught in the storm.”
“And the lightning hit him!” Lucas added quickly. “While he was running. Will, you might have been hit by lighting!”
“Like Barry Allen!” Dustin exclaimed jumping up front where he had been sitting. “But it didn’t give you supper speed.”
The last part was said a bit sadly.
“Maybe not super speed,” Max added, frowning in thought. “But definitely a super power. Like some sort of out of body experience.”
“But if he’s outside his body,” Nancy muttered in thought. “Wouldn’t the body be gone by now? Like, don’t bodies decay? It’s been two years.”
“Unless the body is being preserved,” Mike pointed out. “If Will didn’t still have a body, then how would he still be here?”
“So, like a cooler or something,” Dustin muttered. “Some place for Will’s body to be stored where it wouldn’t decay, and it wouldn’t be found.”
“But someone would have found the body, right?” Jonathan asked, clearly becoming desperate with this news.
“Unless it was buried,” Steve frowned. “Somewhere where people wouldn’t have noticed, but some place that lightning struck.”
They all jumped as a knock came to the door. And Will quickly vanished as Steve raced to the door.
“You need to come to the station,” Powell stated frantically. “The chief brought Lonnie in for questioning.”
There was a random scuffle as everyone quickly stood up and raced out the door with Steve. Steve had just enough gas to get half the group to the station as Jonathan took the other half. He locked eyes with Will, giving a gentle nod, before he was driving down the streets.
Steve had never personally met Joyce Byers before. He had seen her at Melvald when she worked there, but he had never actually talked to her. Now here he was, waiting for Hopper to give to begin the interrogation as they watched from the other side of the glass. And Steve knew her son. Knew him like the back of his hand in a sense. Will was, without a doubt in Steve’s mind, his best friend.
“You started looking for him?” Joyce asked as Steve greeted her. “You reopened the case?”
“I did,” Steve nodded at her. “I also bought your house. You are welcome to visit any time you wish. Jonathan has already stopped by.”
“And have you-”
Joyce stopped herself, but Steve already knew what she was going to ask. He could see it in her tears. He could see it in her eyes. For the last two years, everyone had called her crazy.
“I have,” Steve nodded, making Joyce’s head snap up. “I’ve seen his ghost. And Jonathan and the kids just saw him today.”
And Steve let Joyce sob into his chest, holding her as he often wished he could with Will whenever the youngest Byers cried. Steve couldn’t imagine what it must feel like to lose a child, or to be called mad for believing the outrageous.
“He misses you so much,” Steve whispered to her. “And he’s sorry you had to go through this. He wants to see you.”
“Can I?” she asked.
And Steve only got to give a small nod because then they were watching Hopper suddenly quiz Lonnie. It takes a while. Far longer than Steve would have liked. But Lonnie caves.
“Fine!” Lonnie shot. “You want to know what happened? I went to the house and then my stupid kid got home three hours later as I had been on the porch in the storm. He saw me and ran, so I chased him.”
“Any reason why Will would have run?” Hopper asked, interrupting the story.
“Take your guess, Hop!” Lonnie snapped. It took a bit more arguing to get Lonnie back on track. “So we were running, and we were in some part of the woods, I don’t know. But then lightning starts coming really close and before I know it, the kid is being struck by lightning. He wasn’t moving, and I had an old cooler from a friend in my car that I was trying to get rid of. So rather than take the blame for the kid’s death, I shoved him in the cooler and buried him.”
“Where was this?” Hopper demanded.
“I don’t know,” Lonnie exploded. “It was near the house! But that is all I know!”
Steve had to tune out the rest because his mind was racing. He’d gone on walks in the woods near Will’s house. He’d studied it.
“Hopper!” Steve burst into the interrogation room. “I need you! Now!”
“What, kid?” Hopper growled. “We are this close to finding Will. This close to bringing him home. What do you want?”
“I need you to go to the house,” Steve stated firmly. “Take Joyce, Jonathan, Nancy, and the kids, and go to the house.”
“There is nothing at the house,” Hopper protested. “Seriously, let me just keep pressing.”
“Please,” Steve stated, yanking on Hopper’s arm. “I know what I am doing, but if any of this is going to make any sense. I need. You. To go. To. The. House. Please.”
With a sigh, Hopper gathered up the named people and set off for the house. Steve quickly gabbed a shovel, counted his money, and bought gas. Then he was on the road again.
There was a slight path type thing that led from the Byers house to the quarry. Will had told him about it one time and Steve had gone searching for it. But just off that path was a spot that wasn’t like the rest of the woods. It was black, charred from what Steve thought might have been a fire.
He now knew it had been lightening. It covered a good portion of land too. Just black for a large part of the walk into the woods, spilling slightly over the path. It made the perfect spot for someone to run away with.
There was, however, one spot that was brown mixed with black. An oddly mutilated rectangle of ground that might have been dug up. And that was the same patch of ground Steve found himself furiously working at. He wasn’t sure how long he had been digging, but it had been late at night when he started, and it was nearly dawn now.
The clang he heard made Steve’s heart start racing.
“Will,” he breathed as he shoveled harder than he had been, uncovering the box.
It was, in fact, a rather large cooler. Just wide enough to fit a skinny sized boy, but there was no way it was long enough with Will’s current height as a ghost. The other thing that had Steve worried was if the cooler had actually been kept cold, but the ground itself was freezing to the touch, so Steve was a little less worried. It was like the lightning strike had wanted to keep Will alive.
“Will,” he sobbed out as he opened the cooler to find the boy’s limp body. “Will?”
Will looked like he had been squished into the cooler, his body incredibly cold to the touch. If Steve didn’t know any better, he’d think Will was dead. But the body has aged, just like the ghost. Steve has his own jacket off and wrapped around the body instantly. He has no idea how to fix this. But the least he can do is bring Will back his body. So he carefully tucks Will’s body in the back of his car and makes for home.
Jane is the one to open the door, staring at the body in Steve’s arms as he stepped inside. Will’s ghost was surrounded by the sleeping forms of his friends and family. Even Hopper was curled up near Joyce and Jonathan. It had been a long night, for all of them.
“That’s me,” Will breathed quietly as Steve set the body on the ground. “That’s really me.”
“Yeah,” Steve sniffed. He wasn’t sure when he had started crying again, or if he ever stopped. “I found you. Just like I said I would.”
And slowly, hesitantly, Will reached out a hand to touch his body. The ghost version of Will released a bright light, making Jane and Steve look away for a moment. As it died down, they both turned to stare at the body that was hacking up it’s lungs.
“Steve?” Will managed to get out through coughs.
And Steve let out a laugh as he threw his arms around Will, rocking the boy as he held him patted his back.
“Steve?” Will asked again, without the cough.
“Yeah, buddy?” Steve pulled away to look into Will’s very much alive face.
“I want a hamburger,” Will stated.
And Steve laughed, waking up everyone else as he hugged Will again.
Will was home.
Steve couldn’t stop smiling as Will practically flew into his mother’s arms. Most of the others were crowding Will, but Hopper was suddenly behind Steve, placing a comforting hand on his shoulder. Steve just beamed up at his boss before looking back to catch Will’s eyes.
Will Byers was very much alive.