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Authenticity (And The Road To Getting There)

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The thing about having the living shit beat out of you by Russian spies in their secret lair under the mall is that you can really only go up from there. If you have your first real emotional connection with someone whilst sitting in a pool of your own blood and piss, drugged out of your mind and on the verge of death, anything that comes after that point in your relationship is a cakewalk. Be it long shifts filled with bitchy customers at Family Video, little arguments about who left a dirty sock under the couch (it was Steve), or trying to decide whether twinkies were a necessity that fit within their budget. Once you’ve almost died together you’re in it for the long haul.

This was something that Steve Harrington and Robin Buckley discovered pretty quickly.

After the whole Starcourt Mall Incident™ where foreign powers summoned an interdimensional hell beast to terrorize Hawkins, the wonder twins did their best to move on with their lives. They got jobs together at Family Video, (no thanks to doofus) and started spending every possible free second in each other’s presence. There was a kind of bond formed between the two after that night, leaving them emotionally fused together by trauma and just enough allure to create a kind of fictive kinship.

It was a relationship founded on lighthearted bickering out of nothing more than necessity that eventually blossomed into genuine affection and borderline codependency. It was a relationship of long shifts at work spent with playful competition. It was entire evenings spent with movies and dinners and bussing around prepubescents. It was hours spent on the phone when they weren’t physically together. It was Steve crawling through Robin’s window in the middle of the night after one too many night terrors, and it was actually being able to catch a few hours of sleep while wrapped up together in the same dark comforter.

It wasn’t long after this routine began that Robin decided she needed to get out of her parent’s house. Between the practicality of a one vs two person income, the desire to step out from the safety net of parental dependency, and the way that the two never spent more than a few hours apart anyway, it wasn’t difficult to convince Steve to get an apartment with her.

And so it began.

Theirs was a small, shitty, rundown place with carpeting that looked as though it had been the stopping grounds of an old woman and her 23 rag-doll cats and had a smell to attest. There were two bedrooms, a kitchen which doubled as a dining room, a bathroom, and a small central area which by the most generous of estimates could perhaps qualify as a living room. Things were constantly breaking, be it drawers, cupboards, light fixtures, the works. After exactly one month of living in their new place, Robin felt confident that she could fix anything with enough gorilla glue, duck tape, and sheer stubborn force of will. Steve felt as though he had become an expert at sitting on the counter and giving the woman moral support. But hey, it was a place to call their own and if you held your breath, wished really really hard, and spun in a circle twice, the shower might even turn on- sometimes.

It was a shithole of an apartment, but goddamn it, it was their shithole. Family Video’s minimum wage didn’t exactly prepare you for penthouse living, even with both of their incomes combined. It was a long way from Steve’s family mansion in Loch Nora but it was the first thing that was ever truly his and not The Harrington’s. So despite its cracked ceiling, broken appliances, and matted carpet that they could never quite manage to scrub the cat smell out of, Steve absolutely loved it.

There were a lot of reasons that Steve loved that apartment. There was the fact that it was his own (and Robin’s of course) and the freedom that it provided.

There was the middle aged woman, Linda, who lived in the apartment next door who always woke up the whole floor with Frank Sinatra at 6am. He of course complained loudly about her, as Steve Harrington was not a middle aged woman who enjoyed Frank Sinatra. (No matter what Robin called him when he pulled up with a car full of children.) But in the privacy of the bathroom, far from the heckling ears of the literal bane of Steve’s existence, each morning he would passionately sing along with Linda and Frank as he showered.

There was the old man across the hall who left passive-aggressive notes on the doors of anyone who walked through the hall after 10pm. Steve found this to be incredibly amusing, and always made a point to make one last cigarette run at 10:10pm on the button each night just to see what kind of colorful insults the man would dream up.

There was also a young couple a few doors down with an illegal pug (the apartments were no pets allowed) who always managed to escape and go on great adventures to say hello to all the neighbors every few days. Roofus was his name, and Steve had formed quite the bond with the little guy. Their apartment which was not home to a dog, was home to a basket of puppy toys and even a food and water dish. Robin had long since become accustomed to frequently entering her living room to find Steve asleep with a dog who was not their own laying across his chest.

But perhaps the reason that Steve loved the apartment the most was that it was there that the single most important chain of events in his entire life began. It was a chain of events that would eventually lead to him finding the love of his life and embarking on a journey of self discovery that would change the very nature of Steve Harrington as an individual.

Years later, when Steve looked back on the situation, he would cheekily remark that it all began with a gram of mediocre weed from the back pocket of Jonathan Byers. However, the truth of the matter is that the marijuana was actually the second or third event in the long series of situations that would change Steve’s life forever. The real beginning was a frustrated phone call one Saturday morning in September from Dustin Henderson. Not exactly the same amusing yet interest-peeking hook, but we’ll get to the drugs, promise.

The morning of that fateful Saturday Steve was sitting on his and Robin’s patchwork, thrift store couch. (Unfortunately, sans- dog.) He was kinda sorta trying to half pay attention to the 9 o'clock news while also half heartedly batting away the sock clad foot that Robin was waving at his curls. This was the lazy remainder of a long-standing joke between the two that began with an offhand comment about some actress’ weird feet and led to months of Robin harassing him about a foot fetish.

So a typical Saturday morning.

Suddenly, the slow, lazy atmosphere was broken as the ringing of the telephone cut through the air.

The two made eye contact from across the couch for half a second before springing into action. Steve jumped forward and Robin shot up from her reclined position, fists rising into the air in the beginning of a paramount exchange. There was a fire in their eyes as they chose their fighting positions, three beats, and then Steve’s acerbic rock faced Robin’s calculated paper.

But it was best out of three of course. They weren’t savages.

After a second crushing defeat when Steve took a calculated risk with scissors and Robin tactfully chose rock, Steve sighed disgruntledly.

“Yeah, eat it dingus!” Robin quipped as Steve pushed himself off of the couch. He paused for a moment to stretch out his limbs and crack his stiff joints. Rolling his eyes, he padded his way across the small room, flipping her off like the mature adult that he was.

“Hello, Buckley/Harington residence. Steve speaking.” He answered the phone like a little trust fund baby. He cringed as the words left his mouth, just waiting for Robin to realize what he had said. It wasn’t his fault that he had spent 18 years of his life answering every call to his house as if it was the Queen of fucking England. Apparently there were a lot of very important people who needed to speak with his Father. His Father who was consistently terrible at relaying the message to said very important people that 11/12 months of the year he was off god knows where, doing god knows what, and it was only his teenage son at the house. Old habits die hard.

“Buckley/Harrington residence?!” The girl mouthed at him, eyes lit up with amusement from her spot across the room. Steve made a deliberate point to not look at her as he once again flipped her the bird.

“You know you can just say hello , you pompous asshole.” She giggled, bouncing in place. Steve almost reprimanded her for it, but reminded himself that the second hand couch already had literal springs sticking out the bottom of it, and Buckley bouncing a little would hardly make a difference. Regardless, the words were drowned out as the voice of Dustin Henderson filled Steve’s ear.

“Steve we need your car.”

This caught Steve’s attention. His face scrunched up and he sent an incredulous look to the receiver as if Dustin could just sense the look that he was sending. To be fair, he probably could. “Excuse me? No way am I giving you little psychopaths my car! First of all, none of you are old enough to drive. Second of all, I’ve seen how Max ‘drives’-” he made little air quotes with his free hand, “-and there’s no way in hell i'm letting her put her hands on my car.”

“No dumbass, we need you to drive your car over and pick up Me, Lucus, and Mike and drop us off at Will’s.” Dustin patronized.

Relieved, Steve leaned his weight against the chipped wallpaper, fingers playing with the phone cord. “Ah, so this is just you ringing your metaphorical bell for your slave to come make his rounds,” he quipped. Robin, who could only hear one side of the conversation, let out a snort.

“Uh uh.” Dustin remarked dryly, “So anyways we need to be there by 5 so should I tell the guys you’ll be there at 4:45ish?”

Steve gave a dramatic sigh into the phone, but it was really all for show. In truth he loved the kids, and it wasn’t as if he and Robin couldn’t postpone their big plans to sit on the couch and stare at each other all night. “Fine, fine. But one of these days when you call with your panties all up in a bunch needing me to be at your beck and call as always, I’m going to tell you no. I’m gonna tell you I have important plans and it’s rude of you to call last minute and assume I can just drop everything for your fairytale games.”

“Yes his life is just oh so riveting! Adventure at every turn, this one!” Robin called from her place on the couch. Dustin of course could not hear her, but Steve, for the third time in as many minutes, indignantly flipped her off.

“Yes of course Steve. We know. So I’ll see you at 4:45?”

“Yes, fine. See you at 4:45 you little dick face.” Steve dismissed, thoroughly offended with the way he was being attacked , from both sides , in his own home . He really didn’t know why he hated himself so much as to choose these assholes as the people that he surrounded himself with. A question for someone with at least six years of psychology under their belt, Steve supposed.

“Love you Steve.” Dustin sang sweetly, and Steve rolled his eyes so hard he thought he might have seen his brain.

“Uh huh, you just love the fact that I can drive you guys around. I get it, I’m accustomed to being used. I’m just an object for all of you to benefit from until I have nothing of value left for you to take. When you guys start driving you’ll just abandon me like chewed up gum.”

“Ooh, accustomed. Big words from Stevie.” That was the asshole behind him again. Steve huffed and spun around to face the girl. She had a shit eating grin on her face as she stared at the scowling boy.

“Fuck you Buckley. I don’t need to take shit from a muppet fucker.” He stuck his tongue out jeeringly. Robin’s eyes went wide and she froze for a split second before she was overcome with a laugh so sudden and intense that it sent her into a coughing fit.

“What?!” Dustin, who had no idea what was happening on Steve’s end of the line squawked. Until that moment he hadn’t even been aware that Buckley was in the room with the man, and regardless ‘muppet fucker’ was not anywhere on the list of insults that he expected to hear Steve use for the woman. “Steve what the hell?!”

“Nothing!” He quickly responded, having momentarily forgotten about the boy on the line. “Just- never mind. I’ll see you later.” Steve rushed as he eyed up Robin who was quickly recovering and looked as though she was rearing up to fire back.

“Steve, wait-“

“See ya Henderson.” Steve interrupted, finally hanging up the line and turning to face the girl at the other end of the room.

There was still a glimmer of humor in her eyes as she said, “I’ll give it to you Harrington, that was creative.”

Steve let out a soft sign, relieved that the little battle was seemingly over. “Thank you.” He started, “Honestly I don’t know where that came from. I was just as shocked as you.” After a moment of hesitation, he started to make his way across the room, back to the couch where he had previously resided.

Robin, who had laid back down across the furniture, lifted her legs to allow Steve to sit on the cushions. She set them into his lap after he finished adjusting, wiggling until he found a position where the spring in his ass wasn’t quite so invasive. It was a twenty five dollar couch, beggars can't be choosers. He let his hands rest on her shins as he leaned back, eyes meeting the cracked roof of their apartment.

“So, we babysitting tonight?” Robin questioned after a moment of silence.

“Nah, just dropping Dustin, Lucus, and Mike off at the Byers. But if it’s cool with you I figured we could stop in for a bit, maybe for dinner. I’m getting sick of Ramen and Pop-Tarts.” Steve sent a glare towards the kitchen, stomach already protesting the idea of another instant meal.

“Oh hell yes. Joyce’s mashed potatoes are orgasmsic.” Robin hummed from her place beside the boy, arms moving to fold behind her neck.

Steve cringed. A shiver creeped up his spine, as if the very universe were protesting the idea of associating Joyce with anything but motherly wholesomeness, “Please do not use the word orgasmic in the same sentance as Joyce Byers.”

Robin made sure to make direct eye contact with the man when she said, “I don’t know man, Joyce is a MILF.”

Steve paused, so overcome by the deepest offense and exasperation that only Robin Buckey (and sometimes Dustin) could make him feel. It was the world's greatest mystery why Steve continued to put up with her shit. He considered his options for all of two seconds before opting to abruptly push the girl from the couch.

He did not feel bad about it.

- - - -

Here’s the thing.

Steve “The Hair” Harrington, was a real tool in high school. He ran around with the kids who drove fast, fancy cars, that their daddies bought them to buy back their affections after they made their mothers cry. He did it because that’s what the kids at school expected of him. He played basketball and worked out and made a name for himself as someone who had it all. He did it because that’s what his father expected of him. He made eyes at the girls on the cheer team and took them out to nice dinners on his daddy’s dime. He did it because that’s what the girls at school expected of him. He hosted house parties every weekend when his parents were off doing god knows what. He drank and he drank until he couldn’t stand any longer and certainly couldn't remember a single good reason that he we so fucking depressed all the time. He did that because it was the only goddamn way he could live with himself.

Here’s the thing. Steve “The Hair” Harrington was a real tool in high school, because that’s what everyone expected of him. But then when it’s all set and done, the kids from school moved on with their lives. His parent’s finally realized that Steve isn’t their golden boy and consequently stoped pretending to give a fuck. Steve found that the safety blanket of driving too fast, and kissing too hard, and drinking too much, and never giving himself a chance to just stop and exist was suddenly ripped out from under him. Suddenly he’s not the boy who made Nancy Wheeler go all Sandy Olsson; but the high school burn out who works at Family Video and can sometimes be seen trucking around a car full of prepubescents.

Here’s the thing. Steve “The Hair” Harrington was a mask, a cover, a personification of everything that everyone else wanted him to be. But the truth was on the inside Steve was just a scared little boy who didn’t know how to deal with the fact that his mother never had any interest in her son. He didn’t know how to deal with the fact his father wouldn’t give a shit if he was shooting heroin as long as he kept a basketball under one arm and a skinny girl with an admirable rack under the other. Steve didn’t know how to deal with the fact that his parents didn’t give a shit about him. He didn’t know how to deal with the fact that he had no fucking clue what he was doing with his life. He didn’t know how to deal with the fact that he was dating Nancy Wheeler but sometimes when they were fucking he knew that she was thinking about Jonathon Byers. He certainly didn’t know how to deal with the fact that sometimes he was thinking about him too. He didn’t know how to deal with the fact that sometimes, when he was alone in his room he thought about what would happen if he just opened his window and let himself fall through the screen.

So instead of dealing with all of that shit, he drove around with Tommy, and kept playing basketball, and kept fucking Nancy Wheeler, and he kept drinking until he couldn’t remember why he started in the first place. On a particularly bad day he broke Jonathon’s camera, and to be fair he kind of deserved it. But it didn’t even matter, because Steve didn’t break it because he was being a creep and Steve had to protect anyone’s honor. He did it because that morning he had woken up from a dream about having Byers wrapped up in his arms and for a second that morning he had even believed it was real.

Here’s the thing. Steve “The Hair” Harrington didn’t know how to deal with the fact that he was a real fucking person, and not just a culmination of everything that everyone else wanted him to be.

Steve thought that maybe he was starting to figure out how to be real. After all, it’s hard to remember who you are and aren’t supposed to be while the vast majority of your mental capacity is being dedicated to ‘holy fuck is that a demon?? What the fucking shit!? Quick hit it with the bat! Fuck! Get the kids out of the way! Holy shit it’s getting bigger! It’s hard to remember how to be the suave, aloof, rich kid who’s too good to have his time wasted by all these other lowlifes while fighting for your life alongside said lowlifes. It’s harder still to put the mask back on once everyone has seen you with it off.

To be fair Steve was trying. He was trying to let people in, he was trying to take off the mask, he was trying to look at himself in the mirror and have some semblance of an idea of who he actually was as a person. He was trying to be true and authentic and to not feel as though the only way someone could ever care about him was if he put the mask back on because people don’t succeed in life by being vulnerable. To be fair Steve was trying, but it’s hard to unpack 18 years of that on his own when he was at least 90% sure that even a trained therapist would require a sum of money that would make even his father’s head spin.

So it was an uphill battle but Steve was making it work. He picked up a job at Scoops and he filled up as much of his spare time as he could trucking the kids around. He met the absolute bain of his existence and somewhere along the way maybe possibly started to use her affection to fill the void left by his absent parents. (But that’s a whole other round of therapist bills.) His mom and dad were never home and when they were they just kind of ignored him. But he always had food and water and at least he wasn't living out on the streets so Steve tried to remind himself not to be such a pussy about it.

Then the monsters came back because the monsters always come back. Steve got harassed by Lucas’ little sister, and snuck into a russian lair, and was drugged and tortured, and fought for his life at the Starcourt Mall. Before he knew it the mall was gone, he was living with Robin in a shitty five room apartment that was falling apart at the seams, and was driving down the road with said girl in the passenger's seat while contemplating the meaning of life.

Hi, I’m Steve, and my life? Is kinda crazy.

He was kind of sad to see the mall go, something he had never thought he would say. There were some really important memories at that place, like half heartedly trying to pick up girls to fill the void in his heart, solving secret russian code in the breakroom, making stupid bets with Robin to decide who had to clean the milk fridge, almost being killed by a giant monster in the food court, a super intense heart to heart with Robin while half drugged and covered in vomit on the bathroom floor, etc.

But it was better this way.

Steve struggled a lot with the idea of letting go of the caricature that he had always tried to be. He was in uncharted waters now, living in his own place with his own money with someone who was actually important to him and trying to be vulnerable enough to maintain a genuine relationship. It was terrifying. Maybe he had fucking hated himself and maybe he wanted to die most days, but it was still easier to be daddy’s perfect little douche bag than to be a real person. Some days he even wished that he could turn back the clock. Preferably back to Senior year shot-gunning rum and coke until he vomited all over his mother’s white rug and couldn’t peel himself off the floor if the house was on fire.

But he had to pull himself out of those thoughts. He couldn’t run from himself anymore. He had made his choice. Sure it was scary to let yourself be the person that you spent your whole life trying not to be. But otherwise Steve was on a fast track to riding a basketball scholarship and his daddy’s name recognition to college. He would knock up some skinny blonde chick who cared more about the sports car than the boy driving it, and would propose to avoid the scandal. He would work for his dad’s company and live trapped behind the white picket fence that felt more like a cage. Trapped in a house he hated, with a wife he didn’t like, with a kid who was probably doing fucking cocaine, and a life full of what ifs. Like father like son, and really, wasn’t that even more terrifying than anything else?

Suddenly there was a hand on his knee and Steve almost wrecked the car.

“Hey,” came Robin’s soft voice, just breaking through the soft hum of Madonna- because, yes, Steve listened to Madonna, fuck you. “Where’s your head at?”

“Hmm?” Steve kept his eyes on the road ahead, not making eye contact with the girl beside him. Instead he let his eyes creep across the countless lawns of the surrounding suburbs.

Robin shifted in her seat to reach across the center console and lightheartedly punch the boy in the arm. “Stop being so mean to my friend Steve. He may be a dumbass but he doesn’t deserve half the shit you give him.” She settled back into her spot, eyes shining fondly as she studied Steve’s face.

The boy glanced over to meet her eyes, a small smile teasing the corners of his lips. A quiet, “Sorry.” was the only response he gave. It was one of those moments where Steve really recognized how lucky he was to have Robin in his life.

“Yeah well, shape up buddy.” The girl retorted, “If Dustin gets in this car and sees you all somber and shit he’s gonna think I was bullying you.” She crossed her arms and scrunched up her nose, but the tone was light and teasing. Steve couldn’t help but find himself slowly being pulled from his sour mood, filled with a fondness for the girl currently setting her dirty converse on his dashboard.

“Yeah well, you’re always bullying me so.” He reached across the car to push her feet down, flicking the turn signal with his other hand as he slowly approached the driveway of the boy in question.

“That is so not fair! I am sweet as pie. You just make it too easy with your big dumb hair and your fucking Madonna .” She gestured to the radio and the accompanying tape. The heavy atmosphere that has settled over the car had almost completely dissipated by the point.

As they started to pull into the Henderson driveway Steve tossed the tape case to Robin. “Speaking of which, can you change that shit to like, Prince or something? I can see Dustin through the window.”

Robin laughed, “Scared of the scrutiny of a 14 year old I see?”

“Yes. Absolutely.”

- - - -  

When they arrived at the Byers it was already full, and Steve almost felt bad for planning to stick around.

There was the sound of pots and pans clanking around from the kitchen. The smell of homemade mashed potatoes, much to Robin’s delight, wafted through the air. Joyce was hovering over the stove, working diligently and fighting off Hopper, who was repeatedly attempting to get his fingers in whatever bowl was sat in front of the woman.

Johnathon and Nancy sat together on the couch in the living room. They were curled up in front of the tv, which seemed to be quietly playing some kind of old movie.

You could hear voices raised in excitement from back towards the bedrooms. Steve assumed it was coming from what was now Will and Jonathon’s room.

“Hey guys, come on in.” Joyce smiled at the crew who was just making their way through the threshold. She dried her hands with a dishtowel, using it to give Hopper- who was making his final stand apparently- a smack on the shoulder. Turning to face the kids, she said, “Will, Jane, and Max are in Will’s room.” and just like that, the three boys who had already toed off their shoes took off down the hall. “Dinner will be ready in about a half an hour!” The woman called after them.

After the trio disappeared to the back of the house, Joyce turned her attention to Steve and Robin. “Are you two staying for dinner?” She inquired brightly as Hopper, fingers leaving his lips, turned to stand next to the woman.

Robin was already sliding her shoes off as Steve replied, “If it’s not too much trouble, we’d love to, Ms. Byers.” he sent a sharp look at the girl, who, to her credit, at least had the decency to send a guilty look back at the boy.

“It’s Joyce, Steven, and you are always welcome. You know that.” She chided as she turned back to her cooking. The warm atmosphere of the Byers’ residence never failed to amaze Steve, who was now slipping out of his own shoes.

 

“Jonathan and Nancy are in there.” Hopper gestured towards the living room, and Steve sent a nod in his direction as he and Robin began to make their way over to the couple.

Steve watched Robin send a radiant smile to the two young adults curled up on the couch, trailing a few paces behind. She had a spring in her step as she slid into the space beside the two and immediately sank down into Nancy’s side, joining the cuddle pile. Watching this unfold it really dawned on Steve how strange their little friend group was.
Steve and Nancy had dated, and to say it ended poorly would be an understatement. Robin had, just a few months ago, called Nancy a ‘priss’ and wanted nothing to do with the girl. There was also the whole incident where Steve beat up Jonathan and broke his camera, before the boy turned around and stole his girlfriend. If you would have told Steve, even at the beginning of the summer that they would be able to move past all that and form a tight knit friendship he wouldn’t have believed you.

“Steve, care to join?” Nancy smiled at him, outstretching an arm in his direction as he approached.

He raised an eyebrow at her, eyes trailing up and down the small couch already hosting three fully grown people. “Not that the idea of piling on top of all of you isn't incredibly appealing, but I think I’ll be okay on the beanbag.” He quipped as he flopped down onto the bag on the right side of the couch. He couldn't imagine how the Byers, who’s household just seemed to keep growing, all managed to make do in the house.

He remembered thinking of that back in July when, admirable as it had been, Joyce had taken in Max. After the incident that summer, after Billy Hargrove had passed away, a whole can of worms had been opened up about the Hargrove/Mayfeild household. In particular, Neil Hargrove, and how he had been drinking until he passed out and beating the shit out of his son. Billy would have died- or, no, that's a bad figure of speech- if anyone had found out. But after he was gone, Max let it slip while talking to Hopper the one day. He of course wouldn’t let the girl return to that house, and thus launched a long, expensive, drawn out court battle. Hopper was hoping to put the son of a bitch away for good, but it was a hard fight when the key figure in the story is dead. But regardless of whether the Chief could manage to make an arrest, he did manage to raise enough hell to officially get Joyce custody of Max at least while the investigation into Neil happened.

Max, well, this was good for her. Not only was it dangerous for her to be in that house, but she needed the Byers at a time like this. For as much as they fought and got under each other's skin, she had lost her brother that summer, and she had taken it really hard. Will and Jane were a big help, and Joyce was especially good for the girl. So practicality of fitting a six person household in a six room, three bedroom house aside, it was a decision that had to be made, and Steve admirred Joyce and Hopper for that so much. Will moved his stuff in with Jonathan, and Jane and Max shared a room, and it was a tight fit but they made it work.

Sure, it was a little annoying when Steve and Robin wanted to come over to uh, do some recreational activities with Jonathan and Nancy, but they could suck it up. Steve was sure it sucked exponentially more for Nancy, and it wasn't as if Steve and Robin didn’t have a place now.

“Loser.” Robin called from her place on the couch. She was leaning heavily against Nancy’s side, who was sitting with her legs tossed up over Jonathan’s lap.
Nancy chuckled good naturedly, sending a glance to the girl beside her. “Already miss your man that much?”

Robin groaned as Steve chucked a pillow towards the girl , “For the last time, Robin and I are not dating.” He insisted for what seemed like the millionth time. It was one thing for Robin’s parents or Joyce to think that they were together, but Nancy was supposed to be on their side.

“Yeah asshole, you think I would go for dingus? I have much better taste than that.” Robin grumbled, pulling away from the girl who was now sending her a playful glare.

“Watch it Buckley. You trying to say I have bad taste?” Nancy started. But it was in good humor, her eyes still sparkling with amusement at the situation .

“Ugh, don’t remind me. Sometimes I allow myself to think about what badass friends I have, and then I’m reminded that at one point you picked him.” Robin exclaimed, hand thrown to gesture towards Steve, who was feeling very targeted during this conversation.

Jonathon made a small noise from beside the two women, and Nancy suddenly spun around to face the boy, laying a hand on his chest. “Don’t worry babe, I came to my senses soon enough.” She smirked cheekily.

“Hey!” Steve finally shouted, “What is this? Let’s all get together and talk about how gross and unloveable Steve is?” He tried to keep the humor out of his voice and did his very best to look serious and offended. “I already have to deal with that all day in my own home thanks to this asshole.” he smacked at Robin’s hand, which was still hanging over the edge of the couch. She swung back at him lightheartedly.

“Sorry Stevie,” Nancy started to giggle.

Steve studied the couple. As much as he liked to joke, he was really happy that they found each other. They just worked. While he was dating Nancy he never would have admitted it, but now that he was far enough removed from the situation he could admit that they just made sense. Of course it was Jonathan and Nancy.

Plus, they were soulmates, so that helped.

He let his eyes trail over their interlocking fingers, and the matching scars that ran up their right wrists. He remembered how devastated he had been when Nancy had gotten that scar after slipping in the ice just a few months after their breakup. Back in the early days he had been holding onto hope that maybe they had gotten it wrong, maybe they were meant to be, and in a few months time they would come running back to each other. But then Nancy almost broke her arm and gave herself a nice long scar on her wrist that Steve very obviously did not have, and Jonathan Byers, well, did.
But that was all in the past. Now Steve was so incredibly happy for the two. They deserved it.

Suddenly Jonathan spoke up from beside his girlfriend.

“Can’t get into it here because, well, full house. But if you have some spare cash on you, I have something that might make you feel a little better.” He suddenly shifted, pulling a small bag out of his back pocket. There were two pre-rolled joints in the bag, and suddenly Steve was taking a mental inventory of every ounce of cash he had on himself and in his car.

“Dude, Hopper is right there.” Robin muttered, and Jonathan waved his hand, dismissing her.

“He’s in the kitchen. Plus, he doesn’t want to bust his almost step-son. I’d have to practically blow a smoke ring in his face for him to feel like he actually had to do something.” This didn’t seem to ease Robin’s nerves as much as Byers had been hoping. “Anyways, you interested?”

Steve nodded eagerly, “I think I have like $7 in my car..”

“Sold!” Jonathon grinned and tossed the bag across the room, Steve caught it and quickly pocketed the herbs. Just as he was about to ask if the boy wanted to walk out to his car with him, Joyce’s voice rang out through the house.

“Dinner’s ready!”

Steve and Jonathan made eye contact.

“After dinner?”

“Good with me.”

Little did Steve know, that would come to be the best $7 he would ever spend. Eventually looking back on it he would realize that it was those two little joint’s from Jonathan Byers pocket that would eventually lead to the rest of his life.