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Steve didn’t like to think much about how empty his home always was. In the grand scheme of things he never thought of it as very important. He was too busy with school and sports and parties. More recently, he was too busy fighting demodogs, protecting a bunch of kids that lacked self preservation, and even more decently discovering secret based filled with Russians who drugged him. But now that everything was over, at least for the moment, he had no choice but to think of it. With the mall destroyed by the Mind Flayer he was out of a job, and it wasn’t as if anywhere else in Hawkins wanted to hire the failed King Steve. He had been lucky with Scoops Ahoy.

Three months had passed by in the blink of an eye and the Byers family, alongside Eleven, had left only a week prior.

Robin has gained a job at the video store. She had dragged him along with her but he couldn’t bring himself to be surprised when he wasn’t hired, despite Robin’s best efforts.

He spent more time at his house than ever before.

Steve’s parents were never home, but every two months his home received an envelope of cash. It never had a name on it, nor a return address, but it was always a black envelope with the name ‘Steve’ written on it. He had been getting the money since he was ten. He hasn’t seen his parents in at least six years, considering they had appeared every so often when he was eleven and twelve, but never after he officially became a teenager. He was so used to their absence by now that he never really thought of how strange and negligent that was.

Robin was at her new job more often than not, and Dustin was finally, properly reconciling with Mike and Lucas who, despite everything, never really went to Steve of their own choice. Nancy was the only one his age that had been there since the beginning, but she was too busy with telling her story about the Russians to every news outlet she could, and Steve still wasn’t sure if he could face her without it being awkward.

He was more alone than he had been in years. It was no ones fault but his own— his loneliness didn’t matter, he understood that, and it wasn’t like he ever told them in the first place.

It had been just over a week since he had last seen any of them. He only ever went out to get groceries, but he had run out of money a few days prior.

Usually, he got the envelope of cash in the second of every two months exactly. It was the 11th now. He was running out of food quickly, even as he did what he could to cut down on the food enough to spread it over more days.

He had just finished eating his lunch – well, if you wanted to call porridge in the middle of the day lunch – when the sound of the mail slot opening and closing was heard. He got up, walked over to the door, and let out a relieved breath when he saw the familiar, nearly blank, black envelope.

He picked it up and immediately pulled it open. And instantly froze. Inside was no money, just a single piece of paper and what looked like a photo from what he could see without pulling it out.

With bated breath he pulled the paper out first. There were only four words written there.

Time to come home.

The paper dropped through his suddenly lax fingers. His entire body was shaking as he pulled the photo from the envelope.

A little boy, metal helmet on his head and wires connected to him all over. Steve couldn’t see his exact features from the angle in the photo, but suddenly he didn’t know how to breath. Slowly, terrified, he flipped the photo over.

002. Age 6.

The photo followed the paper to the floor. He had seen the little boy’s face hundreds of times before, every time he walked in his house and every time he walked out. He knew that face more than he knew anything else.

He knew that boy.

He knew that boy, because that boy was him.

Steve couldn’t move. He was frozen in place as he fit pieces together in his mind that he never thought to connect. His parents, forever absent since he became a teenager. The money, every month with no address written on it. Eleven.

He was too stuck within his own thoughts to hear the door behind him open. He wasn’t paying any attention, but when he heard footsteps behind him he went to spin around in shock. He didn’t have a chance. Something hit the back of his head and his vision blurred and he swayed on his feet, and then he was out like a light.