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Complicated Love

Chapter Text

Emptiness. It was last thing that he’d seen on leaving Hawkins, and the first that he saw as he dropped his bag at the front door of his new house.

In Hawkins, it had been a bittersweet melancholy sort of empty. Seeing his whole childhood and adolescence bundled into a pile of boxes. It was strange. He couldn’t help but remember standing right there in his room, when he was trapped in the upside down. He swallowed, suppressing the anger that quickly rose in his throat. It was so fucking unfair; he was just a kid.

As they left their little house, Will had payed a final visit to Castle Byers. Of course he did, he couldn’t leave without saying goodbye. It was just a pile of wood and mushed leaves now, and he sighed, looking mournfully at the pile of debris. He was aware of a presence sidling up next to him.

“Mike” he said, without looking.
“Hi Will.”
The two stood in silence, gazing at the mess. Finally, Mike took a sharp inhale.
“I’m sorry, Will”
“I know.”
“But I really was just an absolute, um, uh”
“An absolute wankerous penis dickhead willy extravaganza?” Will suggested, smiling up at the other boy. Mike exhaled audibly; a tribute to a laugh.
“Precisely. God, Will but look at this, this is my fault. Man, can’t believe I was responsible for the downfall of the infamous Castle Byers”
“You didn’t smash it up”
“I know, but it was me, that made you do it, right?”
Will hesitated. “Yeah.”
Mike fumbled awkwardly in his pocket before pulling out a brown envelope and handing it to Will.
“What’s this?”
“Oh, uh, it’s nothing, really, it’s stupid, it’s just a present, yknow, since you’re leaving and all.”
Will tore the package open, and a stack of paper fell to the floor. He bent to pick it up. There in his hands, was his drawing of Will the Wise, extremely water damaged and held together by a healthy dose of sellotape, but safely intact. He shuffled through the pile, the photo of the gang as ghostbusters, other drawings and photos, all in a similar condition, but there, in his hands nonetheless.
“Mike”
“Yeah I know it’s not much I just-“
And then Will hugged him, and the two stayed like that for quite some time.

And then he was at his new house, and the empty rooms weren’t attached to any emotion, they were simply just blank, featureless cavities. Jonathan came through the door behind him.
“How are you feeling? Nice house, huh?”
Will nodded and turned to face his brother.
“Yeah”. He was silent for a moment. “But is it weird that I miss Hawkins? And not just a little bit, like, I mean I miss it a ton. I’m glad to have a new start, there is so much trauma attached to that place, I mean, the worst memories imaginable, but I don’t know, I really miss it, yknow?”

Jonathan smiled. “I know, and it’s not weird at all, I miss it too.” He hesitated “well, I miss Nancy. I never had such a good time at school and god knows that the Byers family isn’t so lucky when it comes to crazy inter-dimensional monsters” he stops, laughing momentarily. “But I will miss it”.

The boys stood together, staring into their new house. It was modest. They were a poor family, and especially after the mall had been opened, the family income had become less and less- but it was nice. It felt fresh, the windows allowed beams of sunlight to collect in pools on the floor. The walls were newly painted, and there was a little green garden at the back.

Joyce walked up the front steps and put her arms around her boys. She was so willing to accept El into her family, that girl was already like a daughter to her, and she knew that it’s what Hop would’ve wanted, but standing here, just her and her boys, just like how it had always been, she finally felt at peace.

“Where’s El?” Asked Will, looking up at his mother.
“She’s just waiting in the car, I think she needs some time alone, yknow?”

El gazed out of if the window of the stationary van. She could see Joyce and the boys, and she sighed. Joyce was nice, but she didn’t know her so well. She couldn’t help but feel like an outsider of such a tightly knit family. She missed Hopper, and she felt a warm tear hit her cheek. Everything was different now.

- 2 weeks later -
It was a day before Will and El started their new school. Will was lying on his back on his bed. The soft crackle of a David Bowie record washing over him. But he was only vaguely aware of the noise.

“You alright?”
Jonathan was lying on his bed at the opposite end of their room. Will didn’t say anything. Not because he didn’t want to, but because he really didn’t know how he felt. It was a slightly melancholy concept. It would be strange to show up to school without the gang. But after all he’d been through, he’d found himself to be far more immune to trivial worries such as that.

He rolled into his side to face his brother.
“I’m not sure” he said, truthfully.
“I feel a little strange I suppose”
“And how do you think Eleven is? This is her first time attending school” Jonathan asked.
“Mhm”

Eleven, for reference, was not as calm as Will, and she was now sitting at the kitchen table with Joyce. Had she had her powers right now, she probably would have accidentally smashed all of Joyce’s vases by now, in a subconscious fit of worry.
“I don’t know anyone” she said, softly, her eyes tracing the patterns in the wood.
“Hey, you know Will, right?”
“I don’t know how to...school”. Despite El’s English having improved drastically, some grammatical rules still stumped her a little.
Joyce sighed, gazing lovingly at the girl.
“Trust me, honey, you’ve got nothing to worry about. You’ll be fine, ok?”

El just had to take Joyce’s word for it, because now here they were, Will and El, confronted with a vast grey building.
“School” El whispered, glancing at Will, who could do nothing more than offer a reassuring nod.

Swallowing, the two began to make their way across the sea of concrete beneath their feet
Joyce wished them luck from her car, and watched them enter.

Will felt a little strange, as he walked in silence next to El. He was never properly friends with Eleven, not really. The others, Dustin, Lucas, and Mike of course, had all formed that strong bond way back in ‘83, when Will was in the upside down. Due to that, he’d always felt a little uncomfortable when it came to El, he wasn’t as close with her. And well, truth be told, he sometimes found her to be nuisance.

He hated himself for thinking like that. El was an incredible girl. If it hadn’t been for her, Will never would've been rescued from the upside down. If it wasn’t for El, saving them time and time again, they would’ve been dead. So yes, Will was grateful for El, he really was, and he was happy to accept her as his sister. But there was something else. Something he hadn’t admitted to anyone, something he’d hardly admitted to himself. The main reason Will was skeptical of El, was because he was jealous. She had one thing he didn’t. Mike.

Chapter Text

They were approaching the doors of the school, and Will realised that he hadn’t said anything in a long time. As they climbed the steps, Will glanced at El. “How are you feeling?”
“Scared”
Will nodded.
“Me too, a bit. But remember, we’ve both been through so much; labs, scientists, the upside-down, demogorgons, mindflayers. School is nerve-wracking, but at the end of the day, it’s just people, right? This is a fresh start”

School, on the whole was a bit of an anticlimax. Will tried to keep his head down and keep himself to himself. And on the whole, that worked just fine. In fact, it was working splendidly, right up until the end of the day. Will was waiting for El by the school gates.

“Oh my god, dude look”
It was just a voice in the background. Will didn’t even give it a second thought; he just assumed it was another conversation carrying on the breeze.
“I’m telling you, it’s him”
“I don’t know”
“No I swear, my cousin lives in Hawkins it’s definitely that freak”

On hearing this, Will swallowed staring at the school doors, willing El to come out.

He was so absorbed in his own thoughts that he wasn’t prepared for the sudden blow to his shoulder. In reality, it was just a hard pat, but with Wills fragile frame he nearly fell over with the force

“New kid, right?”
Will turned to face the culprit. He wasn’t particularly strong either, with lanky legs and arms that didn’t quite fit his body correctly, but he was miles taller than Will, and towered over him.

Will stepped back, irises twitching and flicking left and right, trying to process the scene. All he could manage to do in response was a small nod.

One of his friends sidled up next to him, a shorter, stockier kid, with a turned up nose and a scrutinising glare. His eyes were squinted.

“You’re that zombie freak from Hawkins” he observed.

“Zombie. Zombie boy. Zombie freak” the words ricocheted in and out of Wills mind. He thought he’d never have to hear those words again. He heard it so many times that he’d become numb to it at this point.

But something about their scathing tones and the new, uncomfortable surroundings and the fact that he was emotionally vulnerable made those familiar words hurt so much more.

Usually when this would happen, back in Hawkins, Lucas or Dustin would tell them to shut up and go away.

And then Mike.

Mike would be there every time, to put his around him. To hug him and tell him that they were just “stupid mouth breathers who don’t know what they were talking about, because you’re amazing, Will, you’re incredible”

God Will missed Mike. And he realised that he was surrounded by these hostile faces, and he was so exposed and anxious and before he’d even noticed, he felt tears on his cheeks.

“Dude you made him cry oh my god”
Will’s heart was racing. He was frantically trying to make the tears stop. God he was so stupid and where the hell was El?

“Later Zombie freak”
The tall kid gave him a final push on the shoulder, which really did send him hurtling on to the tarmac this time.

It was only then that El came out, pulling a boy in tow.

She stopped short when she reached Will, still sprawled on the concrete.

“Will? What happened?”
He hesitated, debating whether or not tell tell. If he told El, she might tell Joyce, and he didn’t want his mum to worry. Besides, she had a friend with her and he didn’t really want to get into the details with this stranger around.
“It’s nothing, I just tripped”
She frowned. “You’re bleeding”

Will hadn’t noticed in the moment, but El was right. It was nothing major, but he had sore grazes on his elbows and knees, and a thick river of blood was making it’s slow path down his leg. He tried to wipe it away, but instead smeared the crimson all across his shin, decorating both hand and leg with red.

Realising abruptly that he was still sitting hunched on the concrete, he scrambled to his feet, wincing as he moved his sore shoulders and back, his legs feeling too weak even to hold his delicate frame. He glanced at the boy, and back to El, who offered Will an eager smile.

Will did think it was strange. El, such a reserved girl, so hesitant to trust others, had instantly formed a friendship; and clearly one she was excited about, at that.

“Will, this is Eli”
He was about a foot taller than El, olive skinned with tousled dark curls framing intoxicating hazel eyes. Will found himself a little flustered, and not just because he was socially anxious.

“We met in English class” Eli spoke, concluding El’s previous statement. Will nodded, slowly.
“Eli’s going to give me a tour of the town, are you coming?”
Will subtly contorted his expression, adopting a questioning gaze, trying to communicate with El. The gesture went unnoticed
“If only she was telepathic as well as telekinetic”
Realising that he’d been staring blankly at the two for some time, he answered with a prompt “no thanks”.

After all, there had to be someone to come home to Joyce.

During his meander home, Will’s mind was rife with conflicting thoughts. Why was El suddenly so confident, especially since this was her first time attending school? What were Eli’s intentions? How would he cope with those idiots that pushed him? And the most prominent; should he tell Mike about Eli? The brawling thoughts were giving him a headache, and he was relieved when he finally arrived home, so he could fall onto his bed.

He’d hardly had a moments silence when Joyce peered around his bedroom door. He loves his mother unimaginable amounts but she could be incredibly protective at hesitant to leave him be. He understood that she was completely right to be worried after everything that’d happened, but Will often longed for a little more freedom.

“How was your first day hon?”
She sat down on the bed next to him, her body making a slight dent in the mattress, causing Will to have to lean against her, lest he fall over.

“What happened to your leg?”

Shit. He’d completely forgotten about that in the moment, and of course when he looked down, his leg was still encrusted with darkened rusty smears of blood that he’d not wiped off.

“Oh nothing, I just tripped”
“Are you sure, honey, you know you can tell me anything”.
She gave him that knowing glance that he hated so much. He knew she knew he didn’t just trip.
“Really, mom, I honestly just fell that’s all”
“Will, I need to know you’re safe.”
“I SAID I TRIPPED OK, JUST LEAVE IT FOR GODS SAKE MOM LEAVE IT”

He hadn’t meant to snap like that, he really hadn’t, but after everything that’d happened lately, everything seemed to get on his nerves.

Joyce blinked slowly, socked. It was definitely out of character for Will to shout at her.

Before awkward silence could ensue, the phone rang, and Will leaped up at the house, like a reflex.

“I’ll get it”
He pressed the receiver to his ear.
“Hello?”
“Will, hello?”

Mike. Just like that, everything was forgotten. In just two words Will was relaxed and terrified at the same time. His heart was pounding, with a rush of adrenaline. But at the same time, his smooth voice felt like a warm hug. He felt like he could just sink into that voice and at it wash over him like the ocean warmed by a summer of hot sun

“Is El there?”

Just like that, the scene came cascading around his ears like a broken glass. He could’ve sobbed, but instead he swallowed, enduring his voice wouldn’t waver.

“She’s out with a new friend”
“Oh...Is she nice?”
Will thought to correct him, but he decided to just leave it.
“Uh, yeah she seemed great”
“Well I’m glad she’s making friends”
The boys were silent for a moment. Will listened to Mike’s breath, in and out, on the other end of the line.
“Well, listen, Will, tell her I called, I gotta go, bye”
The line went dead.

That was it. He didn’t even want to talk to him. He was supposed to be Mikes best friend, and now he was no more than a messenger.

Chapter Text

He suddenly felt awful for yelling at his mom.

He crept back into his room. Joyce was still sitting there, staring at his wall.
“I’m sorry, mom”
Joyce simply looked at him and offered a thin-lipped smile.
“Who was that on the phone”
“Uh, Mike”
“You two hardly talked”
“Yeah, well, he was, I was...”

Will trailed off, staring into the familiar brown eyes of his mother. Before he knew it, he was crying for the second time that day. God what was wrong with him?

“Oh honey, come here”
Joyce enveloped Will into her arms.
“Why didn’t he wanna talk to me, mom, was it something I did?” Will heaved through tears. He was humiliated, crying to his mom, over a trivial matter. But it wasn’t trivial, not to him.
“Oh, Will, I’m sure he was just busy, it is the first day of school after all”
“But he phoned to talk to El, he has time for her”

Joyce sighed and gazed sadly at her son. She hated to see him like this. All she wanted was for him to be happy, and she’d hoped that this move would help, but so far it hadn’t been fantastic for anyone.

“Well, that’s just young love, they only have eyes for each other. It sucks, I know honey, but you know he loves you, right?”

Love. Sure, Mike might ‘love’ Will in a brotherly way. In an I’ve-known-you-forever way. In a best friends with added emotional baggage kind of way.

But Will loved Mike in a “You’re my soulmate” kind of way. In an “I lie awake at night thinking of you” kind of way. In an “every time you look at her instead of me I die a little inside but I have to keep smiling because you think I just love you in a friendly way” kind of way.

Young love is overrated, anyway.

And so the weeks wore onward, and Will just had to struggle though life. He went to school, dealt with some occasional name-calling, and went home again, and this the cycle continued.

And all the time, El seemed to get closer with Eli every day. It worried Will a little. El was naive. She didn’t know so much about social cues and reading body language. Will was worried that Eli wanted to be more than friends.

Even though he wished Mike would look at him the way he looked at El, he felt inclined to tell him about all this. He felt that Mike would want to know. But he put off telling him, for reasons he couldn’t quite explain.

But anyway, that was the rhythm of Wills life. It wasn’t great, but it worked well enough for him. That was, until one fateful night.

Eli was staying at the Byers house for the evening. Joyce and Jonathan were working late, so El and Will we’re cooking their own dinner. The three were sitting on El’s bed, chatting, flicking through comic books and magazines. The alarm for the oven went off in the kitchen, and El slopes off to check on the food.

Will was suddenly very much aware that he was lounging on the bed in close proximity to a boy that was, well, easy on the eye to say the very least.

“So, what’s your deal?”
Will asked him, all of a sudden. He felt that the silence had to be broken, and he figured that this would be a good time for interrogation.
“Hm?”
“With El, I mean, do you like her”
Eli offered Will a lazy smirk.
“I like a lot of people”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Well, I am bisexual, after all”

Will stopped short. He’d heard the term before, but he was unclear in what it really meant. Growing up in a small town like Hawkins, all he’d learned was “gay”. And gay was apparently bad.

“So what does bisexual even mean?”
Eli thought for a moment.
“Well, it means that I can have a crush on a beautiful girl like El”
he said, gesturing towards the door from which she had just left through.
“And it means I can also have a crush on a beautiful boy, like, well, like...”

And then Eli kissed him.

Before Will had even realised it had happened, it was over. His very first kiss. With a boy. God.

He felt sick. He was excited, but also repulsed by himself. This whole gay thing wasn’t something he was supposed to pursue. Sure, he was besotted with his best friend, but that was supposed to go away. He’d find the right girl eventually, and all if this would go away.

Shakily, Will stood up and backed away.
“I think you need to leave”
This clearly surprised Eli.
“What? I don’t understand?”

“Don’t make me tell you twice. You shouldn’t have done that”

“You don’t mean that, Will. This is ok. Being gay is not disgusting. You’re allowed to feel what you’re feeling”

“I said leave, ok? I’ll tell El you weren’t feeling well, just please get the hell out of my house.”

Eli began to throw his stuff into his backpack. He was just on his way out the door, when Will turned to him.

“Oh, and stay away from El, she has a boyfriend, she’s not interested. Especially not in someone who’ll go for anything that moves”

The bedroom door clicked shut as Eli left. And then it was just Will. Alone. Confused.

For a long time after that, Will didn’t talk to Eli. He could hardly look at him. El remained friends with him, and she often asked why Will didn’t hang out with them anymore. Will never gave her an answer.

Chapter Text

In any case, by the time Christmas rolled around, all that Eli stuff was half forgotten. Because they were heading back to Hawkins. Will could see his friends again.

He missed Dustin, with his familiar friendly smile, and the way that the two of them could just geek out about stuff for hours.

He missed Lucas, the way that he would never fail to make Will laugh. Lucas would catch Will up on the cool stuff he’d seen lately; be it gadget, game, movie.

And of course, he missed Mike. Beautiful, caring Mike. He missed his freckles, he missed his warm gaze. But he missed more than that. He missed their closeness. He missed Mike’s embrace, he missed the way that he could tell Mike anything, the way the two could stay up all night talking.

He felt that, even when he saw Mike again, he would still miss that stuff. There was a distance between them these days. Ever since the whole DnD incident, there’d been something that didn’t quite fit right.

During the period where Will was possessed, they had been closer than ever. Mike would sleep by Will’s bedside for days, not leaving, not changing clothes, not even showering because he didn’t want to leave Will’s side for a second. As weird as it sounds, because that was the most horrible time of Will’s life, he almost missed it. If you took the mindflayer out of the equation, Will thought that it might even be one of the best times of his life.

He and Mike had talked a little over the phone, small talk, little over 10 minutes. But El would talk to him over the phone for hours. Will would hear her giggling through the walls. He could practically see her heart eyes. He just had to turn his record player up louder, and hope no one could hear him kicking his bedposts in frustration.

In any case, all of that frustration came down to this moment, because Joyce was driving up the driveway to the Wheeler’s house.

The first to come out was Nancy, who ran straight into Jonathan’s arms. The two of them weren’t seen until the next day.

But then, there he was. Will felt almost like crying. He’d built that face up in his head. He’d wanted to see him for so long, and then, there he was. Mike also started to run, and Will braced himself for for the hug.

But it never came.

Will turned around and Mike’s face was buried in El’s shoulder, the two of them intertwined as one. God Will was stupid. Of course he was going to hug El first. Of course.

Will began to trudge up the driveway into the house.

“Hey, Will, wait!”

He turned around. Mike was standing there, smiling at him. His hand still held El’s, but his eyes were on Will.

“How have you been?”

Something about those words said something to Will, something other than their intention. But he couldn’t quite pinpoint what.

“Uh, ok I guess. Missing you guys. Yourself?”

“Same”

The two boys stared at each other for a few seconds. There was something in the silence that felt like screaming. Will couldn’t quite pinpoint the feeling.

But just like that, it was broken.
“Well, it’s nice to see you man”
And then mike and El walked away, hand in hand, already deep in conversation, leaving Will alone with Joyce.

That was it. That was all Mike had to say. After months apart, that was it. Will swallowed and followed the couple inside, where he was greeted with huge hugs from Dustin and Lucas, as well as a less huge, but still nice hug from Max.

And so the gang caught each other up. Dustin gushed about how he’d spent thanksgiving with Suzie’s family, and how weird Mormons are. Lucas and Max shared the story of their eighth breakup, with a laugh. At this point these breakups meant less and less, and were more of a running gag in their relationship. Mike an El offered a few words in between their spit-swapping session, but other than that, nothing.

Will tried not to let it get to him, but eventually he couldn’t handle it anymore.

“Excuse me guys, I’m just going to get done air”
He clambered up Mike’s basement steps, and let himself into the garden.

He stood in the cool open air. By now it was nightfall, and there were handfuls of stars strewn carelessly amongst the endless sky.

He’d hardly been standing there 5 minutes, when he felt someone sidle up behind him. He knew who it was without looking. He’d always been able to tell.

“What do you want Mike?”
“Hey, what’s that tone for, I just wanted to ask if you were ok?”

Will span around to face Mike.

“Do you really think I’m ok Mike? Really? You’d think someone as clever as you would’ve worked out that I’m obviously not fucking ok”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“You’re my best friend Mike, but you never call, you never want to talk, we see each other for the first time in months and you can hardly speak 5 words to me, what the fuck, Mike, do you know how that feels?”

The words were escaping his lips before he could possibly stop them. But he didn’t give a shit. This felt good.

“You really wanna know, Will? Fine! It’s because I’m confused, it’s because I’m scared, ok, I love you Will, but sometimes hearing your voice breaks my heart and I don’t have a fucking clue why and I’m a fucking coward, ok?”

“That’s your big apology? You love me? We’re best friends Mike, you’re supposed to love me. I think you should start acting like it!”

“I think we both know that I love you as more than just a best friend”

Chapter Text

Mike’s lips were softer than Eli’s. He held Will in a different way as well, gently, with his arms around Will’s waist. He leaned into the kiss. It felt surreal, in fact, Will was convinced that he was hallucinating.

The boys pulled away from each other.

“I shouldn’t have done that” Mike whispered.

Will didn’t say anything for a long time. He just stared at Mike, absorbing his every feature, tracing the outline of his face with his eyes.

“What does this mean for us, Mike?”
Mike sighed, chewing on this bottom lip.
“I don’t know, Will, I’m sorry. I’m a mess. I have some shit to sort out.”
Will nodded.
“Can we just, put this whole thing on pause for a bit?”
Will nodded again.

Mike wrapped his arms around Will, holding him close. Will leant his head on Mike’s chest, feeling the rise and fall of his breath.

“Hey, Will, can I give you your Christmas present now?”

Will nodded, and Mike ran inside to fetch it.

When he returned, he was holding a thin rectangle, wrapped in red paper.

“It’s not much”

Will opened it carefully. It was a stack of papers, binded carefully together, and emblazoned on the front was:

“THE ADVENTURES OF WILL THE WISE”

“What’s this?”

Mike shrugged, blushing and looking down at his feet.
“It’s kind of stupid. I’ve been learning to draw, and I started making this in September”

Will looked closer. It was a comic book. A whole comic book that Mike had written, drawn and coloured. Just for Will.

“Oh, Mike” he breathed.

“Merry Christmas, Will”

Life got a little better for Will from there on in. Mike and El didn’t break up, and were still as happy as ever. But somehow it didn’t bother Will as much anymore. The most important thing was that he and Mike were talking again. They’d call and catch up with each other every Sunday evening; no girl talk, no passing him over to El, just him and Mike.

But his favourite part was the stuff Mike would send him in the mail. Newspaper clippings of recent headlines from the Hawkins Post, a little comic strip that he’d drawn, starring the gang, sometimes as their dnd characters, sometimes not. Or maybe a Polaroid of Lucas pulling a stupid face, or Dustin attempting a new hairstyle that had gone wrong. He was really trying to make Will feel connected with everyone, and make up for lost time, and just that made Will much happier than before.

Of course his feelings were still there. His heart would surge when he saw Mike’s familiar spidery scrawl on an envelope, and there wasn’t a day that went by that Will didn’t replay that kiss in his head. But Will could finally say that life was ok, and after everything he’d been through, ok was enough.

Early one Friday evening, Will was sitting at the kitchen table, the winter sun already low in the sky, filling the room with a warm orange glow. Will was half heartedly attempting his biology homework, but of course, at the same time, he was daydreaming.

He was dragged harshly from his thoughts by a sudden knock on the front door. Will was home alone, so he dragged himself from his seat, rather grateful for an excuse to stop working.

Opening the door, he was greeted by a familiar face, although not really one that he wanted to see. Eli.

El would be back soon so Will invited the boy in. As Will gazed at Eli, he realised the harshness of the words he’d shouted at him. The truth was, Will was scared, scared and confused. He was terrified of the fact that he might be gay. But after his moment with Mike, it all fell into place for Will. Being gay wasn’t something to be afraid of or disgusted by. It was perfectly alright. Maybe some people thought it was wrong, but Will felt that perhaps he could come to terms with this whole thing.

“I’m sorry, Eli”

The other boy looked up to face Will, blinking slowly under a carpet of eyelashes.

“I shouldn’t’ve shouted at you, it was completely unfair. I was just scared, but that’s not your fault. I’m sorry”

Eli sighed.
“No, I’m sorry, Will. I shouldn’t have kissed you. You can’t just go around kissing people. Especially when they’re straight”

Will flinched slightly. He’d never told anyone that he was gay before. Mainly because he still wasn’t quite sure himself, whether he was gay or not. But something in the moment just felt right.

“I’m not straight, Eli”

“Oh”

Will reached across, and touched Eli’s hand, brushing his fingers against Eli’s.

“Friends?”

Eli nodded.

Will smiled.

Chapter Text

Art class had always been Will’s favourite lesson. Even when he was just a toddler in preschool, he’d be the first there when the teacher took the paints out, and he’d be the last to leave. That never changed.

At his new school, he’d stay late to do extra art projects. One one particular evening, it was just him and one other girl. She was quite quiet, and Will watched her, as she squinted, focusing hard on each delicate stroke of her brush. He loved to watch other artists at work, he found it inspiring. And this particular girl was excellent.

She looked up suddenly, and made eye contact with Will, who smiled.

“Your art is amazing”

She blushed and tapped the water off her brush.

“Thanks. I love yours as well, your style is so unique”

“How long have you been painting?”

“I only really got into it last year”

Will was surprised to hear this. Her work was so accomplished for a beginner.

“My mother used to paint, I’d watch her all the time as a kid. When she died last year, painting really created a way for me to feel more connected to her”

Will nodded, not knowing what to say. She’d just shared something really personal with him.

“Well, I’d better be going. Will you be here tomorrow?”

Will smiled.

“Yeah”.

“Well, see you tomorrow then”

Will became friends with her quickly. Her name was Florence and she had moved here with her father last year.

Will was relieved to have finally made a friend of his own. Sure, he had Eli, but he was El’s friend first. And the two had so much in common.

“Will?”
Will looked up from his canvas
“Mhm?”
“I was wondering if you wanted to come round to my house after school today. My dad just finished renovating our attic into a studio, it’s super cool”

Will smiled.

“I’d love to”.

Florence’s family clearly didn’t have much more money than the Byers. It was a little house, just like Will’s, painted baby blue. Florence guided Will through her house up into the studio.

Will stood for a moment, taking it all in. It really was quite spectacular. Huge skylights that flooded the room with natural light. Paintings lined the wall. Cabinets held every art supply the heart could desire, and a beautifully ornate easel stood proudly in the centre of the room. Will had to wonder how on earth the managed to afford it.

“This is amazing”

The two of them talked for hours, sipping hot tea, discussing their favourite artists. The sun dipped behind the horizon, bathing the room in beautiful pink light. It was eclectic. Will hadn’t felt this at ease for a long time.

“Will?”

Will raised his head at the sound of his name.

“I wanted to ask you something”

Will turned his body around to face her, sitting cross-legged in the wooden floor.

“Listen, I know this is out of the blue, but I just had to tell you. Will, I really, really like you, and I might’ve got the complete wrong end of the stick here, but I think that maybe you like me too.”

Will swallowed, his eyes widening.

“So I was wondering, if, well, if maybe you’d consider, um, being my boyfriend?”

The pink sunlight accentuated Florence’s furiously flushed complexion.

Will wasn’t sure what compelled him to do the stupid thing he did next. Maybe it was the electric atmosphere, or the serenity and comfort he felt, or the fact that he related to Florence on another level, or the fact that, somewhere in his subconscious, he still kind of hoped that he might be straight, or maybe a combination of everything.

“Yes.”