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Wisest of Us (DISCONTINUED)

Chapter Text

Jonathan Byers was an observer.

It was rarely on purpose. He never intentionally sought out details of someone's personal life—he just had an eye for noticing small mannerisms and behavior. That's why it didn't take him by surprise when Will came out to him in the fall of his junior year.

They were in his car, following the familiar road back to their house after school. Will had seemed particularly fidgety that morning—he hadn't eaten anything for breakfast, his hair was much messier than usual, and his shoulders seemed unnaturally stiff. If the bags under his eyes gave any indication, he didn't sleep more than a few hours the night before.

"Hey, uh, Jonathan?"

His brother risked a glance away from the road to show that he had his attention. Will's leg was bouncing up and down and he was picking at his already rather short nails. "Yeah, bud?"

Will was silent for at least a minute, unmistakably having an internal battle with himself. He shifted in his spot, pulling at the seatbelt that rubbed uncomfortably against his neck. "Do you- do you ever feel like you're different?"

"Being different is good." Jonathan didn't bat an eye at the question, which seemed to help Will relax—even if it was just for a moment. "We've talked about this before. Bowie versus Kenny Rogers, remember?"

The younger boy took in a shaky breath, holding it in for far longer than he should. "Jon, I'm gay."

He said it so quietly that if Jonathan didn't already have his suspicions, he wouldn't have been able to hear his voice over the soft humming of the car engine. He turned to look at Will, whose eyes were now hidden behind a sheer coat of tears. It broke his heart to see his little brother in such a state.

"Okay."

Will snapped his gaze up, eyeing Jonathan as if he would joke about something of that magnitude. He opened his mouth to speak, only to close it again. "Okay?"

"Yeah, okay." If he wasn't such a responsible driver, he would have pulled him into a hug—but he was, so he settled for a light punch to the shoulder and a smile.

"I-" Will blinked several times, trying to be subtle about the fact that he was on the verge of a mental breakdown. "I didn't- are you sure?"

"Will, you're still my brother and nothing could ever change that." Jonathan said, his tone nothing short of utterly sincere. "We love you, okay? Don't forget it."

A moment of silence passed before the boy to his right sniffled, his voice breaking as he mumbled a quick, "Love you too."

It was as though the floodgates opened after that. Will told his brother about his crush on Mike, all the bullying he had gone through in middle school, the extent of Lonnie's verbal abuse toward him, and practically everything sexuality-related. Knowing how much their dad messed them up made Jonathan want to punch the nearest breakable item in sight—which happened to be a cool lamp that his mother got from a garage sale—but he resisted, knowing he would probably never hear the end of it.

Will eventually came out to Joyce, too. Jonathan made sure that his younger brother knew whom he told and when was a personal decision, and of course he was proud of him for telling her—he just didn't expect it to be so casual.

Jonathan nearly fucking choked to death when his brother asked their mom to hand him the salt and then responded with a vibrant, "Thanks! I'm gay."

He supposed that he probably had a small hand in Will's growing confidence, but he couldn't bring himself to be sorry about it at all. He was proud of his brother for letting his walls come down.

That's why it made him so fucking angry when his little brother told him what happened in that garage.

"And then he said, 'it's not my fault you don't like girls,'" Will clung to the pillow against his chest and he blinked a few tears away. "Do you think he knows?"

"Have you told him?" Jonathan sat across from him on his bed, his jaw painfully tense. He was fuming, but he had to push that aside for the time being and focus on helping Will.

He shook his head, quickly. "I could never."

"Then how do you know he wasn't just talking about Eleven and Max?" The older boy tried his best to formulate a plan to move forward without snapping Mike's neck.

It was proving to be very difficult.

"You weren't there, Jonathan, you-" Will's voice broke but he coughed to cover it up, wiping a couple of tears away with his sleeve. "You didn't hear him or see the way he was looking at me—it felt like he was staring right into my soul. What if he knows and he was just trying to let me down easy? What if-"

"Will, take a deep breath-"

"I love him, Jon." More tears fell from his eyes as he took a shaky breath. "I- I shouldn't, but I can't help it. He was such an asshole to me all summer. I shouldn't still love him."

Before Jonathan could say anything else, Will laughed bitterly, tears cascaded freely down his pale face. "You wanna know the worst part of this? He's not like me. He's not a freak. He was wired correctly- he- he likes girls and I don't. I- I'll never be able to live like him or you and Nancy or anyone else for that matter. All because I'm a fucking fa-"

"Alright, that's enough!" Jonathan said, making the younger boy jump. He didn't even know his voice could get that loud—his words practically echoed off the walls. He took a deep breath in an attempt to compose himself. "You are not allowed to talk about my best friend like that, okay?"

Will stayed silent, his eyes as wide as he took in another shaky breath. Jonathan forced himself to drop his scowl as he continued, his voice becoming much softer than it was a few moments ago. "You aren't any less because you're gay, do you understand me? You are still the same smart, strong, talented, interesting, funny, wonderful Will. You are going to find yourself a nice fucking boyfriend one day. He's going to love you and you're going to love him, and you're going to be happy. Don't let Mike Wheeler or anyone else ruin this for you. If Mike is the right guy for you, things will work out. If not, there are plenty of fish in the sea. I promise you."

From that point on, Jonathan was hyper-aware of the way Mike acted around Will, constantly shooting him disapproving glances from across the room whenever he did anything stupid.

About a month after the events of Starcourt, Nancy and Mike came over to have dinner with the Byers-Hopper family. Jim and Joyce sat at one end of the table while Nancy and Jonathan took the other side. Mike, Eleven, and Will ate in the living room, each of them sprawled across different pieces of furniture.

"Are you okay?" He heard his girlfriend's soft voice ask as he rinsed off some dishes in the kitchen.

He shrugged. "Yeah, why wouldn't I be?"

"I don't know, you've just been-" Nancy looked over her shoulder, lowering her voice as she leaned in a little closer to Jonathan. "Glaring daggers at Mike all night? Did he do something wrong?"

Jonathan felt his cheek's flush. Of course she noticed. If anyone were to rival his observation skills, it was Nancy Wheeler.

"I guess it's complicated."

"Lucky for you, that's my specialty."

Jonathan glanced over at the three teenagers watching Back To The Future in the living room and back to Nancy. Maybe Will wouldn't mind if she knew—his girlfriend was the most accepting person he had ever met. He knew she wouldn't judge him for it.

"Fine, but let's-" he lowered his voice. "let's talk outside, okay?"

Nancy beamed up at him as he gently took her hand, dragging her toward the front door. He cringed when he felt his mother's eyes on him.

"Hey, where are you guys going?" Joyce asked, momentarily breaking away from her conversation with Hopper.

"Oh, uh, we're just gonna get some fresh air real quick," Jonathan hoped his excuse would be good enough to give them a few minutes alone. "We'll be right back."

Joyce eyed him suspiciously but didn't protest any further, resuming her discussion after offering a quick, "Wear a jacket."

Once they finally managed to get outside, Nancy was eager to know what Jonathan had to say. They stood on the wooden porch as a calming summer breeze blew past them. She gently nudged his shoulder. "So?"

He took a breath, a serious expression on his face. "What I'm going to tell you is top secret, okay? You can't let anyone else know. He would kill me if he found out I told you."

Nancy's brows furrowed. "Mike would?"

"No, Will."

"What does Will have to do with you being upset with Mike?" She crossed her arms, already beginning to feel annoyed with her brother, despite not knowing what he did wrong.

"Basically, Will likes Mike."

Silence.

"Oh."

Jonathan glanced over to see a small smile beginning to grow on Nancy's face. The wind blew through her wavy hair, brushing the tips behind her shoulders as the tension fades away.

"You mean, likes him romantically?"

He nodded. "Listen, I know your dad is super conservative, but-"

"Jonathan, don't worry. I'm nothing like him." Nancy leaned against the wooden banister, her eyes glowing with excitement. "Neither is Mike."

"Sorry, I didn't mean to imply anything." He shoved his hands in his pockets. "I know you're probably more open-minded than this entire town combined."

Her lips curled into a confused smile. "I still don't get what the problem is, though. What did he do?"

Jonathan sighed before filling her in on the fight that the two had as briefly as he could. He noticed her face completely drop after hearing Mike's words.

"God, he's such an asshole," she looked prepared to march right into the house and give him a piece of her mind. "I can't believe he would say something like that."

"Yeah, it messed him up pretty badly." Jonathan looked over his shoulder, staring at the front door with his eyebrows furrowed.

A beat of silence passed. He could hear the wind chimes from his backyard singing quietly as another gust of wind brushed past them.

"Jon, I probably shouldn't tell you this, but-" He turned to Nancy. "A couple summers ago, before they found El again, I noticed Mike was a little out of it. I assumed it was trauma from all the shit we've gone through, so I went to talk to him about it one night. He completely broke down, talking about Will. He was crying so much that I could barely understand what he was saying, but there was something about the way Mike talked about him. I didn't realize it until now-"

"Realize what?"

Nancy stood up straight, a spark of determination in her voice. "I think Mike may like Will too."

"What?" Jonathan leaned against the railing again as a look of disbelief and confusion crossed his face. "Did you forget the part of the story where he left Will in the dust for El during the summer?"

He could practically hear the gears in her head shifting as she gazed off into space. "Why don't I just ask him? They broke up forever ago."

"Nancy," Jonathan gave her a disapproving stare. "this is top secret, remember?"

"Yes, I know, but what if I-"

Before she could finish her sentence, the front door swung open, immediately grabbing both of their attention. El stood in the doorway, a mug in her hands and a soft smile on her face. "Mom asked me to come and get you guys—she made hot chocolate."

"Thanks, El. We'll be there in a minute." Jonathan smiled back as she nodded, gently closing the door behind her. He turned back to see a determined look on his girlfriend's face. "Nance, no."

Silence.

"You're going to do it anyway, aren't you?"

"You know me so well."

Chapter Text

Robin Buckley knew a lot of things.

How she obtained her knowledge wasn't relevant—all you needed to know was she picked up on things. Especially when they involved a little something she knew all too well: homosexuality.

She could confidently say that the gaydar did exist, and she held the fucking key to it. Of course, in a town like Hawkins, it was rare for it to go off—that's why the sight of Will Byers baffled her.

Robin wasn't sure what triggered her mind to look at him and say, 'that right there is a baby gay,' but she did know that her gaydar was never mistaken. Each time he wandered into Scoops Ahoy beside his group of friends—the Party, as she was recently informed—she only felt more and more correct.

I mean, he wore fucking booty shorts and stripes, for god's sake. Sure, it might sound like she was stereotyping, but if you pair that with the longing gazes directed at his taller friend, you've got yourself a convincing case.

And damn it, she was convinced.

She would never say that out loud, of course. She knew better than anyone how terrifying it was to live in such an unaccepting place—she was a lesbian in the conservative town of Hawkins, Indiana, after all.

However, it didn't stop her from wanting the opportunity to talk to him. She wanted him to know that he wasn't alone—that there were more people like him, even in such a small place.

"I just- they're always busy," Robin barely heard his soft voice over the light chatter of the parlor. The boy in question sulked in a booth next to Steve, halfheartedly stirring his milkshake. "They never want anything to do with me anymore. Especially Mike."

"Listen, why don't we do something to get your mind off of everything?" Steve shifted in his seat, a small smile on his face.

Will seemed to perk up at this. "Like what?"

"What do you like to do?" The older teen asked, taking a sip of his iced beverage.

"Well, I like to play this game Dungeons and Dragons."

Dungeons and Dragons. Robin had heard that name several times before—back in high school, there was even a club for it. She never joined, knowing that it would undoubtedly cause her nonexistent popularity to plummet, but she was always interested in the idea of it. Creating characters and going on fictional adventures didn't sound half bad.

Steve nodded, already gathering his stuff. "Alright then, teach me how to play!"

Will's shoulders dropped at his excitement. "We need more than two people for it."

Steve's brow furrowed before looking over his shoulder, watching as Robin served ice cream cones to a group of teenage girls. "Lucky for you, we have more than two people."

He waited until the small crowd shuffled away before walking up to the counter. She rolled her eyes, acting as if she hadn't heard a word of their conversation. "What do you want, dingus?"

"Yeah, hi to you too. Do you see my pal Will over there?" Steve gestured over to the teen—whom she guessed was probably a freshman in high school—sat sadly inside the small booth. She nodded. "Well, he's having a rough day, and we're gonna help him out. What time does your shift end?"

The three had spent the rest of the night playing DND.

While Steve wasn't very good at it, he did try his best as Robin utterly destroyed him. She couldn't help but feel proud to see the smile on Will's face every time she blurted out a sarcastic comment or a lighthearted jab directed toward Steve. By the end of the night, she had practically adopted him—they played for roughly five hours before the two older teens left.

Slowly but surely, the shell started to fade away. Will seemed to view her as an older sister—and hey, she wasn't complaining. After a while, she thought of him as a sibling too.

Robin nearly lost her shit when she saw him walk into FamilyVideo in the middle of a spring thunderstorm, soaked from head-to-toe and tracking in water that she would probably have to clean later. That wasn't what worried her, though—it was the puffy eyes and tears that mixed in with all the rainwater smeared across his face.

"Holy shit, kid, are you okay?" she put her magazine down and jumped to her feet at the sight of him. "What the hell are you doing here?"

She could hear the crackling thunder echo throughout the empty store as she walked toward the young boy, not bothering to hide her concern.

"I'm sorry, I just- I didn't know where to go." His voice cracked as a fresh layer of tears filled his eyes, threatening to spill over at any given time.

"Hey, it's okay, don't worry about it," Robin mumbled, glancing over at the glass doors. It seemed he was the only person willing to brave the elements to get to FamilyVideo at the moment. She gently grabbed his arm and tugged him toward the back of the store, pushing past the employee's only sign to get to the break room.

Once they were inside, he took a seat at the small table hidden in the corner as she took her coat off the coat rack, handing it to him.

He shook his head, softly. "I don't want to ruin it."

"Bullshit. Now take the jacket before you freeze to death—I don't wanna have to explain to Keith why there's a body in the break room." Robin tried her best to lighten to mood, only earning a small smile from Will.

She was never good at this kind of thing.

The older teen sat across from him, watching as he slipped his arms into her coat with a concerned expression on her face. They remained in silence for a solid minute before Robin broke it. "Do you want to tell me what's wrong or am I going to have to sit here and wonder for the rest of the night?"

Will's eyes started welling up with tears again and she shifted in her chair, beginning to feel flustered. Shit, that was probably not a good thing to say, but could you blame her? No one ever came to her with their emotional issues—you came to her when you wanted a sarcastic jab or a side eye. Feelings were more of Steve's forte.

Yet, as she looked at the broken teenage boy sitting in front of her, she couldn't help but soften her facial expression. Maybe she could try just this once.

"Hey," she reached over and took one of his shaky hands into hers. "you can talk to me, okay? What's going on?"

Will sniffled, blinking a few tears away. "Teenagers suck."

"You can say that again." Robin snorted before remembering that she was supposed to be the emotional support. "Oh, uh, I mean, what happened?"

"Well, basically there was this group of seniors outside of the high school being assholes to this kid, so I tried to step in and- and they-" he averted his gaze, swallowing dryly. "they called me... something."

She watched his movements carefully. "What did they call you?"

"You can't tell anyone." He looked at her with such seriousness that she knew immediately where the conversation was heading—she had worn the exact same expression when she came out to Steve in that disgusting bathroom.

She nodded. "Of course."

There was a heavy silence as he opened his mouth, only to close it a few seconds later. "They called me a bunch of- a bunch of stupid slurs. They said I was a faggot."

His voice lowered on the last word, cringing as it came out of his mouth. She felt a wave of burning anger toward whoever dared to mess with Will, making a mental note to strangle anyone that seemed suspicious the next time she passed the high school.

"Oh, shit." She mumbled, looking over at him with a sympathetic expression. "Listen, kids are just cruel. They'll do anything to get a reaction-"

"What if they weren't wrong?"

His sudden outburst caused her to freeze. "Are you saying-"

"I'm gay."

Will's confession was announced barely above a whisper. She could feel his hand tremble under hers as she watched more tears fall from his eyes. Despite the intense tension that hovered in the room, she couldn't help the smile that grew on her lips as she cleared her throat. "Yeah, uh, me too."

He snapped his eyes up, looking at her with blurred vision. No way he heard that correctly. "I'm sorry, did you just say that you're-"

"A lesbian, yeah." She finished. Her tone was so casual that Will could only blink in response, his hand practically vibrating at this point.

It took him a minute or so before he was able to put together a sentence. "You're- you're like me?"

That simple question took Robin's heart and utterly crushed it. Because she was once like him. She knew what it was like to feel this type of loneliness—the isolation from everyone around you. She remembered the fear that overtook her whenever she heard someone spit out a homophobic comment. The searing pain she felt when she realized the person that said it was someone she cherished.

So yeah, Robin Buckley knew a thing or two about this whole gay-thing.

"Yeah, Will. I'm just like you."

Chapter Text

Steve Harrington was, in all honesty, a dumbass.

While it wasn't necessarily a bad thing, it just meant that he wasn't as observant as he tried to be. He wished he could analyze people like Robin did, but he just couldn't. It wasn't in his blood—so, he settled on being The Party's emotional support buddy instead.

It was a Friday night when Dustin called him, asking if he could be their chauffeur to the movies. He invited Robin too, but she had begrudgingly picked up an extra shift at FamilyVideo that evening. Steve knew she would have preferred watching the new Arnold Schwarzenegger movie over helping a bunch of cranky old people find a romantic comedy to kick back to, but you gotta do what you gotta do.

He agreed to drive them, seeing as the chilly February weather wasn't ideal for bike-riding, and he didn't want them to catch any colds.

Jesus, what happened to him? It seemed like just yesterday he was Hawkin's local douchebag and now he had the seasons that the flu was most common memorized.

Steve hopped into his vehicle, pulling a crumpled piece of paper from his pocket. He squinted at the messily written addresses before deciding to head to the Sinclair house first—it was the closest.

By the time he made his rounds, the entire Party was squished together in the back two rows of his new van. Lucas sat in the front with him, arguing with Dustin about who should get the seat on the way back.

"Dustin, you always ride with Steve," he rolled his eyes, leaning back in the chair to get comfortable.

The other boy scoffed. "That's not true!"

"Where were you yesterday?"

"Riding to the arcade with Steve..." Dustin crossed his arms over his chest as Max snorted.

"Exactly my point!"

As much as he hated to admit it, Steve loved those little shitheads. Each of them was so unique—it made every second with them interesting. He was much happier babysitting them than he ever was with Tommy H. and Carol.

Steve had also been around long enough to notice that Mike seemed more distant that night. He couldn't place it, though, so he made a mental note to find some time after the movie to talk to him.

The sound of seat belts clicking bounced off the walls of the van as the gang pulled up to the newly-renovated Starcourt mall. Once he put the vehicle in park, turning the key and listening as the engine died down, the young teenagers practically leaped out.

"Fresh... air...." Dustin gasped dramatically, which earned him a slap on the head from Max.

"That's a lot coming from you."

"Guys, hurry up," Will mumbled, crossing his arms and kicking some dirt with his shoe. "The previews are probably half-over by now."

Mike nodded but didn't offer anything else to the conversation, his eyes low and his shoulders tense. Okay, something was definitely up.

Once they got their tickets, they all settled into their assigned rows. Max, El, and Lucas sat next to each other, Dustin and Steve sat a few chairs down from them, and Mike and Will sat behind him.

"Hey, are you okay?" he heard Will mumble to Mike after the first trailer ended.

There was a moment of silence. "Yeah, I'm fine. Why do you ask?"

"You just- look a little tired, that's all," Steve could hear someone shift in their chair. "Have you been sleeping all right?"

"I'm fine."

"But-"

"I'm fine, Will," Mike whisper-yelled, his voice straining with emotion. There was a soft gasp from who he assumed to be Will and then a sigh. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to be rude, I just- I don't want you to worry about me, okay? You have enough on your plate as is."

Silence.

"Mike, you're not a burden," Will said, softly. Steve could practically see his affectionate expression despite the two being behind him. Another shift. "but you can talk to me whenever you're ready."

Mike cleared his throat. "Thank you."

-

After the movie, Steve stopped at each Party member's house, waving and telling them to 'be like him and don't do drugs' to see them off. El and Max decided to have a sleepover at the Byers-Hopper residence, which meant less gas usage. Bonus.

"Later, dickheads. Don't stay up too late and-"

"Don't do drugs." El, Max, and Will said in unison as they got out of the car. Steve smiled, watching to make sure they all got inside before shifting gears and heading toward the Wheeler's house.

Mike was the only kid left to 'deliver,' as he liked to say. The teenager had been in a mood the entire night and Steve wanted to get the bottom of it.

Mike had climbed into the front seat after Lucas got out, claiming it before anyone else had the chance to. The two sat in the dimly-lit van as they drove through the neighborhood, comfortable silence between them.

"Hey, Steve?"

Mike broke the silence before Steve was able to. He glanced to his right, noticing how uncharacteristically flustered the boy looked. "Yeah?"

"So, you're cool, right?" The younger teen shifted in his seat, angling his body so that he could face him.

He smiled, already hearing Robin's response to such a question. "I personally like to think so, yes."

"And," Mike started, carefully. "you're not judgmental?"

"Of course not." Steve took another look at him, confusion written clearly on his face. Mike blinked a few times and put a hand to his cheek, trying his best to push down the blush on his face.

The teen took a deep, shaky breath in. "Can someone like both girls and guys?"

Oh, shit. Here we go again.

Regardless of the flashback to the moment he and Robin shared in that bathroom, Steve felt his expression soften at the question. Before he was able to open his mouth to answer, Mike quickly added in, "Hypothetically, of course. I- I know that you can be straight or... queer, but is- is it possible to be both?"

"Dude, take a breath," Steve let out a small laugh at how panicked the teen sounded. Mike followed his instructions, forcing himself to deeply inhale and exhale. "To answer your question, though—yeah, definitely. There were actually a few kids in my class that dated both genders and they seemed to be happy with it."

The boy blinked as they pulled into his driveway. "Really?"

"Yeah, really," He put the van into park and turned to Mike again, now able to give him his undivided attention. The corners of his mouth turned into a smile. "Listen, dude, there's nothing wrong with exploring a little to see what you like—just be careful, okay? I don't want this shitty town to put you through the wringer."

Mike was quiet for a moment, deep in thought. "So, you think it's okay for a guy to like a guy?"

"Yeah," Steve shrugged, leaning back in the driver's seat. "I mean, why the hell not, you know? As long as they're not hurting anyone, it's not a problem in my book."

"It's not a problem..." The teen repeated as his brows furrowed. They sat in silence until his eye caught on the clock in the center of them and he gasped. "Ah, shit, I gotta get inside, but, uh-" he turned to Steve. "thank you. For everything. I'm sorry for asking so many weird questions."

"It's not a problem, really," he shrugged as Mike grabbed his backpack and opened the van door. "And hey, if you have any other questions, just let me know."

The teen grinned. "Thanks, Steve."

He nodded, returning the smile. "Be like me and don't do drugs."

"Goodbye, Steve."

Chapter Text

Nancy Wheeler was a determined soul.

Her mother claimed she came out of the womb with a skip in her step and fire in her eyes. If Nancy wanted something, she made it happen—and right now, she wanted answers.

Ever since she and Jonathan talked that night, she started noticing things.

The way Mike's eyes lit up whenever the other boy walked into the room, the whispers shared only between the two of them, the way his face turned red whenever that sat next to each other, the giggles that came from the basement after they thought everyone was asleep—all of it.

Nancy sat on the family couch, taking a sip of her coffee as a random commercial played on the television. Their mom decided to drag Ted and Holly on a weekend retreat—which gave her the perfect opportunity to interrogate her brother.

As if on cue, she heard light footsteps paddle up the basement staircase. The door creaked open, and Mike walked across the living room with his backpack hanging over his shoulder.

Showtime.

"Where are you going on a Friday night?"

Mike didn't blink twice at her question, only stopping to give an annoyed sigh. "Over to Will's. We're going to watch Ghostbusters."

She hummed, taking another swig from her mug. "You've been hanging out with him a lot lately."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"Nothing," she shrugged, noticing the way his shoulders tensed at her comment. "nothing at all."

Mike narrowed his eyes at her for a moment before letting his backpack slip off his shoulder, causing it to hit the ground with a soft thump. "Okay, fine, I'll bite. Are you trying to imply something, Nancy?"

"Nope, nothing."

"Well that's bullshit," he crossed his arms, trying his best to seem intimidating, despite feeling increasingly more vulnerable. What the hell did she know? "Hurry up and spit it out. I've got places to be."

With that, she decided that subtly was overrated. She put her mug on the side table and leaned back on the couch to get comfortable. "Do you have feelings for Will?"

There was a moment of heavy silence as she watched as all of the color drain from his face.

"What?" His eyes widened as he took in a shaky breath, his hands already beginning to tremble. "No, I- of course not. Why- why would you ask that? I-"

"Mike," she said, softly. "it's okay."

He cleared his throat, shifting his weight from one foot to the other. "I don't know what you're talking about."

Nancy stood from the sofa and walked toward him, finally noticing the tears forming in his eyes. He looked fucking terrified. She reached out to touch his arm, a concerned expression growing on her face. "We're alone—you can talk to me."

"Nancy, I don't- I don't like-" Mike tried his best to come up with a lie, but he just couldn't. It would've been so fucking easy to say that he saw Will as only a friend like always did. He could have brushed it off and said that he wasn't a queer—that he liked girls and girls only—but judging by her expression, she probably already knew everything, so he lowered his head. "Fuck."

Nancy didn't waste another moment before pulling him into a hug. She felt him tense, but she refused to let go. He eventually wrapped his lanky arms around her, his chin resting on her shoulder.

"I- I don't want to feel this way about him," His voice broke as his face dove into her sweater. "I just- god, I don't know. I'm so sorry."

"Hey, it's okay, it's okay," she mumbled into his hair, hugging him a little tighter. Nancy felt her turtleneck grow damp with his tears. "Don't worry, it's okay, I promise."

He shook his head. "No, it isn't. I shouldn't feel this way—I can't feel this way, I-"

"Mike, listen to me," she pulled away to look in his eyes—quickly noticing that they were puffy and red from crying. "there's nothing wrong with you, okay? You're still my annoying, asshole little brother and I love you. I don't fucking care if you like boys or girls, I just need you to know that I'm here for you no matter what. Nothing, nothing could change that."

More tears fell from his eyes, a sob escaping his lips as she hugged him again. "It hurts so much."

"I know," Nancy felt her own eyes begin to well up. "but it'll get better. I promise you."

They stood in their empty living room, his face buried in her shoulder, and her arms wrapped tightly around him. He sobbed for at least five minutes straight—but she could care less. She had a feeling Mike had been dealing with this for far longer than he let on.

After a while, his breaths evened out and he wiped his face off, pulling away from her embrace. He cringed when his eyes caught on her tear stained shoulder. "Sorry about your sweater."

"Oh, don't worry about-"

They both jumped when his radio crackled from his discarded backpack. "Mike? Do you copy?"

It was Will.

Mike's eyes widened, looking over at the creepy grandfather clock stationed in the corner of their living room. "Shit, I was supposed to be there like, ten minutes ago."

"I'm sure it's fine," Nancy smiled when he looked over at her, a guilty expression on his still puffy face. "You better get going—he's waiting on you."

His lips curved into a small smile. "Thanks, Nance. I- I didn't ever think I would ever be able to talk about this to anyone but Steve."

Steve Harrington knew before she did?

Regardless, she smiled and gave him one last hug. "No more secrets, remember? You can tell me anything."

He nodded before picking up his backpack, slinging it over his shoulder. "No more secrets."

"Mike?" His walkie-talkie chirped again.

He dug through his backpack, finally picking it up and clearing his throat before answering, "Sorry, yeah, I copy. I got-" he glanced over at Nancy. "-caught up with something, but I'm heading over now. Over."

"Oh, it's okay. I was just getting a little worried," Mike felt his face heat up as his eyes dropped to the floor. "I'll see you when you get here. Be safe! Over and out."