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Authenticity (And The Road To Getting There)

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Buoyancy came and went with the appearance of a new razor thin scar along Will Byers’ hairline.

He had woken up that Thursday morning feeling unusually refreshed for someone who had stayed up until one in the morning working on a new sketch. He had an image in his mind and he knew that he would never have been able to relax enough to drift off to sleep if he didn’t first get the idea onto paper. So he had sat at his desk, working diligently with the new charcoals that Jonathan had gotten him for his birthday last year. As he worked his eyes became heavier and his fingers smeared with messy black pigment, but he had needed to get it finished. By the time he had made his final touches the clock read quarter after one and Will felt as though he could have slept for 48 hours.

It was now 6:30 am, and Will was rolling out of bed to get dressed for school.

He pulled his comforter up and tucked it under the pillows. His fingers left a soft grey smear on the fabric, and he realized that perhaps he hadn’t cleaned up as well as he normally would have the previous night. He looked down at his hands. His fingers wore a few light smudges and there was black caked under his fingernails.

WIll sighed, making his way into the bathroom to scrub off the charcoal. The hot water felt wonderful on his sleep stiff fingers, and he couldn’t help but sit at the sink for a few moments, just enjoying the way the water ran over his palms and between his fingers.

He had gotten a shower the night before, so instead he grabbed the comb out of the drawer and waved it under the water for a few seconds. He turned his attention to the bathroom mirror, starting to run the damp comb through his sleep tousled hair.

As he brushed through his hair, his eyes caught on something on his forehead, at the base of his hairline. It was thin, and at first Will had thought there was a stray piece of hair. But as he fixed his gaze more intently on the spot, he realized that what he was looking at was a new thin scar.

Will let out a small, almost inaudible gasp. He couldn't help the way his gut twisted at the sight. He hadn’t done anything to his forehead. The scar was from his soulmate.

It was illogical, he knew, to let his mind immediately drift to Mike. He didn’t mean to, it wasn’t a conscious decision. But still, he couldn’t help but run through everything that the boy had been doing last night, thinking of any way that he could have given himself a new scar.

After school he had simply been heading home to have dinner and presumably spend the evening playing video games on his NES. Could something have happened that evening? Could he have fallen down the stairs and hit his head on the banister? Or maybe Karen had finally made good on that haircut that she had been threatening for months, and there was an incident. Maybe Holly had brought home a stray cat which could sense Mike and his irrational fear of felines and attacked him with its razor sharp stray cat claws.

He wanted to squash down those thoughts. It was impossible. There was no way that Mike Wheeler was Will’s soulmate. Not in this universe at least, and Will had seen a different universe, it wasn’t exactly a preferable reality. But he couldn’t keep his mind from wandering through what ifs.

Surely Mike would have radioed the party if something had happened that would result in a scar. Maybe it had been something embarrassing, and he hadn’t wanted to tell them. Or maybe, Will thought to himself with a giddy feeling in his chest, he had already figured out that Will was his soulmate and he didn’t know how to tell him.

Okay, he really, really needed to stop. He was feeling good, hopeful, nervous, and he was going to end up crushed. Mike Wheeler was not his soulmate. Mike Wheeler was straight and normal, and definitely not the least bit interested in the likes of Will Byers. Hell, they weren’t even good friends anymore, let alone each other's perfect match. Ever since that night that Will had realized that he was maybe possibly a little bit in love with his best friend and abruptly kicked him out, things had been awkward. Willl hadn’t even really seen Mike since then, not in a one on one situation anyway. Things just didn’t click right anymore. Conversation was strained and difficult, and there was a tension in the air that only Will could fully comprehend. Mike Wheeler was absolutely definitely not his soulmate. There was no way.

But, he could be. It wasn’t impossible. No matter how outrageous and outlandish and totally improbable, there was a chance that Mike could be his soulmate.

What would he say to him if he waltzed into school and came face to face with the boy with a matching razor thin scar at the top of his forehead? How do you even react in that situation? Will liked to think that he would say something clever and flirty and Mike would break out into that big contagious grin that Will had been a little bit in love with since the first time he saw it. He liked to think that Mike would slide their fingers together, rub the pad of his thumb over the back of Will’s hand. He liked to think that Mike would look at him with those big brown eyes that made Will’s heart melt. He liked to think that he would give him this look that only he knew the meaning of. He liked to think that after school they would sneak away and Mike would finally show him if his lips were really as soft as they looked.

Although, Will was much too awkward for that and Mike would be much too panicked, he thought to himself.

In all reality, Will would probably just stand there frozen, staring at Mike like he had grown an extra head. Mike would be confused at first, but then his eyes would find the small scar on his friend’s head. He would panic, probably run off. Will wouldn’t see him for a day or two. That was okay. Mike would need time to adjust to that kind of idea, and Will was really good at giving people space. Eventually he would come around though. He would slowly start hanging around Will again. He would act as though everything was normal, as if they hadn’t just experienced the most important moment of their lives. Will would let him. After a while, Mike would casually start to ease into it, sitting closer to Will, grabbing his hand under the table, hugging him more often for just a bit too long to be normal. Will wouldn’t make him move any faster than he was comfortable with. But then finally, one day, he would go for it, kiss him, hold him, tell him that he was all that he ever wanted, and Will Byers would probably die just a little bit in the best possible way.

He took a deep breath. His heart was fluttering, he felt as if it were going to race right out of his chest. His gut was swooping and his palms were sweaty. He needed to get a move on.

He thought about Mike Wheeler and the razor thin scar the entire time he was getting ready. Minutes felt like hours as they ticked past, and the closer it came to 7:15, when Will and Jonathan would usually leave, the more nauseous he felt. By the time he was dressed and packed up for school, it was 7am, and his stomach felt so twisted that he couldn’t bring himself to eat breakfast.

“Feeling okay Will? “ Jonathan questioned from his seat at the table, where he was finishing off a bowl of what was obviously a generic rip off version of Frosted Flakes. “Icing Flecks” the box read in the big white font that was just on the side of too blue for the company to be sued over. Will hated Frosted Flakes. It was gross and bland and felt like eating cardboard that someone dipped in watered down sugar. Plus, it got soggy in like five minutes. He didn’t imagine he would like “Icing Flecks” any better.

He hummed affirmatively as he swirled around his glass of orange juice. He hadn’t even attempted to pour himself a bowl of cereal (one of the obviously superior cereals, like Lieutenant Crackle) because he knew that he would never actually eat it, and he hated wasting. So instead he sat with the world's smallest glass of orange juice, staring at it as if it would give up and drink itself.

Jonathan gave him a quizzical look, but he didn’t push him any more. He grabbed his now empty bowl and rinsed it off in the sink before grabbing his car keys off the wall beside the front door. “Well if you’re not going to eat breakfast finish off your juice and let's head out. I’d like to get to work a little bit early today so that I can work on some prints in the dark room.”

Will felt the jolt in his stomach as he stood from the table, walking his glass over to the sink. He was leaving now. He was going to school, where he was going to see Mike. He tried to push down the nervousness in his gut, he really did. There was no reason for him to work himself up like this. Mike was not his soulmate. But no matter how hard he tried he couldn’t get the image of Mike with a small matching scar on his forehead out of his mind.

The ride to school seemed to take a millenia and no time at all. His mind was racing and his gut twisting the whole time. He couldn’t stop his thoughts but at the same time it was hard to think with Jonathan’s Mötley Crüe blaring through the car speakers. It felt like he had woken up on the morning of a trip, like he was waiting to go to the amusement park or something. Will had never gone on a big family vacation, he had never stayed in a hotel. He had never seen the ocean or even a different state. But every other year his mom saved up enough money to take him and Jonathan to the amusement park for the day. It felt like that feeling again. He was incredibly nervous but excited. He couldn’t wait to get there, but he was also a little bit terrified.

Finally the car pulled up to the school parking lot, but before Will could jump out of the car, Jonathan put a hand on his knee, turning the speakers way down.

“Seriously Will, what’s up? Is something going on at school? I feel like you're jumping out of your skin.” He looked so earnest, so concerned, and Will felt a little bit guilty. He wanted to be able to talk about this stuff with Jonathan, and if the circumstances were different he could. He wanted to go to his brother with questions and worries, he wanted to get advice, and support. He wanted to depend on his big brother. But he can’t, not about this. Maybe if Mike was a girl, maybe if Will was normal, then he could talk to Jonathan. But he wouldn’t understand. All that it would do was cause problems.

“Nothing’s wrong.” He responded, trying to give his brother his most reassuring smile. He hoped that Jonathan would let it go. He had never been too overbearing, but he was always a little overprotective.

Jonathan gave him a bit of a sad smile, and looked as though he were about to let the boy go when suddenly his eyes narrowed, his eyes focusing in on WIll’s face. “What did you do to your head?” He asked, concerned. Will felt his gut twist. It was okay, it was normal, it happens to everyone. Will wasn’t doing anything wrong by having a soulmate, and Jonathan would have no idea that that soulmate isn’t some respectable, pretty, girl next door.

“It’s not from me.” he said in a small voice, and suddenly Jonathan’s face lit up with a bright smile.

“Oh! Congratulations man.” He lifted his hand from Will’s knee, patting him once on his shoulder. “Guess it will be easy to recognize.” he grinned at the boy, and Will gave him a small smile in return. Let's hope not, he thought to himself.

Jonathan stared at the scar for another second before nodding, the smile still lingering at the corners of his mouth. “Alright, well, you better get in there. Wouldn’t want you to be late.” he said before turning back to his dashboard, turning the music back up loud enough to make the sides of the car rumble when the bass was hit.

Will nodded, thanking Jonathan for the ride before he hopped out of the car and making his way into the building. He felt like he might throw up again. God, that would probably genuinely be the worst thing that could ever happen to him. His whole body was practically vibrating. He wanted to turn around and run back out of the building.

Every time that someone looked at him he thought that they must be staring at his forehead. The scar was mostly hidden behind his hair. It was long and fell in front of his forehead naturally, his mom called it a mop. He knew that no one at school paid enough attention to his hairline to even register that there was a new scar there, but he still felt exposed.

When he finally made it to his homeroom, he stopped in front of the doorway. He had to physically take a few deep breaths before he could make himself enter. Mike was in there. There was no going back after this. It was the moment of truth.

He pushed the door open and was met with the waves of high school chatter. He was still a bit early, so everyone was out of their seats, talking amongst themselves as the rest of the class poured in. Will’s eyes scanned the room until they caught on Mike. He was in the back corner, sitting on top of Lucas’ desk as he flipped through what appeared to be a new comic book.

Will made his way over to the two of them. He felt like his backpack weighed a million pounds but his chest was even heavier. It was like there was a sea of anxiety rolling around in his lungs weighing him down with every step and hindering his ability to breath.

When he made it within a few feet from their desk, the two boys looked up to see who was approaching. When they recognized Will, they nodded, tossing him a respective good morning and what's up?

Mike was looking up at him, and Will couldn’t help the way his eyes immediately went to his forehead. His heart felt as though it was beating so rapidly the entire room must be able to hear it. His eyes traveled over the pale freckled flesh, searching the area just below his hairline where he found…

Nothing. Not a scar or a scrape of even a smudge. Just pale, milky skin, not yet blemished with pubescent acne and oils.

Will felt his heart drop through his chest, past his feet and through the floor. There was a pit in his stomach, opening wider and wider, and if he didn’t act quickly all of his insides would spill out onto the floor. He felt like he was going to throw up, he felt like he couldn’t breath, he felt like he was going to burst into tears at any second.

God he was so stupid. He knew that Mike wasn’t his soulmate. He knew that there was no possible way that he could ever have something like that in his life, something good. Fuck. Why was he such an idiot? Why had he let himself hope like that? Hadn’t he realized by now that people like him don't get happy endings? Not in Hawkins fucking Indiana.

Why hadn’t he squashed down all of those thoughts? Why had he entertained them even for a second? He had known not to hope like that. All he was doing was setting himself up for this exact situation!

He felt his book bag slip off of his shoulders and fall to his feet. It hit the ground with what he was sure was a rather large bang, but he barely registered the noise. His ears were ringing too loudly. Fuck. He needed to get out of there right now before he did something that he would regret, like crying in the middle of homeroom in front of Mike fucking Wheeler.

Mike’s face twisted into one of deep concern and anxiety as he watched his friend. Will wanted to scream. “Will?! Are you okay? What’s wrong?”

Will didn’t respond and he didn't give him a chance to ask anymore questions. He turned on his heel and he ran.


Steve Harrington was about three hits into some wack ass weed from California or some shit when he decided that he should be president of the United States.

His first order of business would be to make a law that every high tension and devisive decision must be made while stoned out for your fucking mind.

It would solve so many problems! Nothing in government actually gets done because everyone is so busy fighting. It’s like they all collectively decided to shove polls up their asses before going in to work. Everyone would be so much more laid back and willing to work together. Hell, they’d even come up with better ideas! Steve had definitely come up with some of his best ideas while floating through another dimension- not literally, because he had done that too and that was not fun- but figuratively. Of course, that is also when he had made some of his worst decisions. But there would be enough people with good and bad decisions to balance it all out in the end.

It didn’t just work for passing laws either. Steve figured that he could realistically end the Cold War after one meeting with Gore Back Chev or whatever if they got stoned. He had seen the footage, he watched the news and shit. He and Reagan were always so stiff. Even when they tried to act natural it was like, painful to watch. Steve would put money on coming to an agreement after one meeting while stoned.

Really, how hard could it be? Reagan did it, and all he had ever done was like, play a cowboy in some movies or something. Apparently all you needed to do was play a convincing enough American dream boy, and like, Steve had been doing that his whole life. Who knew that having parents that couldn’t give a shit about him unless they needed him to look pretty for a promotional picture or dress up for a company dinner could actually be preparing him for such a future?

He should thank them, he thought to himself. He never thanked his parents for anything. He should call his mom and let her know that she is the best mom in the world and that because of her he could totally be the president. Steve would make a really fucking good president too. He should tell her, she would agree with him, or maybe not, but he should still tell her.

Where were his parents anyway? They normally let the housekeeper know, for emergencies. Damn, if only Steve still lived in Loch Nora. What number would he even call? He could probably guess. How long would it take to guess what number to call to reach his parents? Probably a long time. There were like, a million billion phone numbers.

“Hey Robin?” He asked. They were driving to the lake in Robin’s old minivan. She was driving, the wind blowing her short choppy hair back and around her face, tossing and tangling it. There was a lazy grin on her face as she drove down the long country road, her eyes fixed on the asphalt. Steve was in the passenger's seat because he had called shotgun, damn it, and even though Nancy had tried to run to the car and snag the front seat like an asshole, who ignored shotgun rules, Steve had got there first. So Nancy and Jonathan were sitting in the very back on the bench seat. Nancy was lying lazily across the seat, her hair sprawled out across Jonathan’s lap. Billy was sitting in the middle, head resting against the window and eyes studying the passing trees.

Robin hadn’t answered him, eyes still fixed on the road in front of her, so Steve tried again, his voice rising in a high pitched, sing-song tone. “Ro-bin.” He reached over to flick her cheek, but his arm was heavier than he remembered and he ended up simply batting lazily at the air in front of him.

She didn’t answer immediately, and Steve thought that he was going to have to try again. But after a second she finally spoke up, “What do you want, dingus?”

Steve hesitated, what had he wanted? His eyebrows scrunched up in concentration as he tried to remember why he had wanted the girl’s attention in the first place. What was he going to ask her? He was going to call his parents. Why was he going to call his parents again? Oh right, he was going to be president. If he were president he would change phone numbers so that you just typed in someone’s name, that would be a lot less confusing. Why was it numbers anyway? Who remembers that shit? If it was just your name you would never forget it. How stupid would that be? If Steve didn’t know his parents’ names. That would be kinda funny.

Although, there were probably some people in the world who have the same name. That’s stupid, they probably got mixed up all the time. That should be illegal. Steve would do that too. Make it illegal to pick a name that someone else already has. That’s like, stealing, and stealing is bad. So why can you take someone’s name? If phone numbers were your name and someone else had your name that wouldn’t work. Maybe he could number them, like, Steve Harrington 1 and Steve Harrington 2. Then you would just have to remember one number instead of… 10! Ten numbers! That’s fucking crazy. How is anyone ever supposed to to remember so many different sets of ten numbers?

Oh right, that's what he had wanted.

“How many phone numbers do you think there are?”

Robin glanced at him out of the corner of her eye. Her face twisted up in thought. Steve couldn’t help the giggle that came out of him. She looked kind of stupid. It was like she had smelled something really bad. Holy shit, had she smelled something bad? Steve had gotten a shower like, right before they left. But what if he had forgotten something important? Like… like when his grandma had always told him not to forget to wash the inside of his belly button but he always forgot anyway. Maybe he had forgotten about washing his bellybutton for so many years that it could stink up the whole car but Steve didn’t even notice because he was so used to the smell.

Oh fuck. If his belly button stunk that bad Billy would never like him. Billy was so pretty. Steve didn’t want Billy to think he was smelly and gross. He glanced back at the other boy who was still watching the passing trees out the window. His sandy blond hair fell in rings around his face and shoulders. His blue irises stood in stark contrast with his bloodshot eyes. His eyelids drooped lazily and his soft, pretty lips were turned upwards into the faintest of smiles. He looked like an angel or something. Steve just wanted to sit and stare at him forever. That was a lie. He wanted to do a lot more than stare. He wanted to run his fingers through his blond curls, they were probably so soft. He wanted to press soft kisses all over his neck and shoulders and face. He wanted to loop his fingers through his belt loops and pull him closer, feel their hips and their chests press together. He wanted to press their lips together, kiss him softly and slowly, then harder and faster, taste him on his tongue. But none of that could ever actually happen. So instead, he would just stare, and hope to god that his face didn’t give away everything that he didn’t want anyone to know.

“I don’t know, that’s a stupid question.” Robin spoke up from beside him.

Steve didn’t think that was stupid question, although most of his questions were stupid questions, so maybe he was just stupid. He rolled his neck, feeling the weight of his head. His head was so heavy. Robin was right when she said that he had a big head. How did his neck carry that around all day? His neck was so strong, his neck must be, like, the strongest neck ever. Were heads supposed to weigh that much? That couldn’t be good for his neck. What if his head was actually abnormally heavy? What if his head was so heavy that one day it just fell off of his neck and then he died?

“It’s not stupid,” he countered after he finally remembered that he was in the middle of a conversation and if his neck had supported his head for 19 years it was probably not going to give out any time soon. “There’s probably like a million billion phone numbers.”

Nancy bust out laughing from the back seat, as if that were the funniest thing she had ever heard. “There’s not a million billion phone numbers, Steve. There aren’t even a million billion people!” She had a pretty laugh, Steve noted. It was so light, so genuine. Although, she was wrong, of course. There were so many people in the world, like, so many he couldn’t even count. He had definitely been told how many people there were in the world before, and there was definitely a billion in there somewhere. Did Nancy even understand how many people there were all over the world? Like, so many. The world is so big, there were definitely at least a million billion people in the world.

“There’s definitely a million billion people all over the world Nancy.” he countered, turning in his seat to look back at the girl.

Billy turned away from the window, eyes moving to meet Steves. He had such pretty eyes, like the ocean. Or, probably like the ocean. Steve had never actually seen the ocean. That’s a lie, he had been to the ocean once when he was really little. He had probably been five or six years old, and he had gone to the beach with his parents. He only knew that from the handful of pictures that he had from his childhood. By the time he was old enough to really remember things, his parents had stopped bringing him along to places. Anyways, Billy’s eyes looked like what Steve imagined the ocean looked like. Deep and mysterious, hiding so many secrets.

“There are five billion people in the world.” He spoke confidently as if it were just a fact that everyone knew. Steve thought that there should definitely be more people than that in the world. The world is so big, you can't even walk around it! But Billy was so confident, maybe he was right. How did he know that? He was so smart. He was like, the smartest person that Steve knew.

“How long do you think it would take for me to call five billion phone numbers?” he asked earnestly. Billy was like a genius. If anyone would know the answer it would be him. Why couldn’t Steve be as smart as Billy? He could be like a rocket scientist or something. If Steve became president then he would make Billy his head rocket scientist. Do presidents have head rocket scientists? Probably. Reagan’s trying to make a space force like fucking star wars to fight the russians or some shit. Reagan probably has a head rocket scientist.

“Why do you need to call all five billion phone numbers?” Robin questioned.

Steve’s eyes shot back to the girl who was staring at him quizzically. He had the sudden urge to reach out and grab the steering wheel from her to keep the car on course. He squashed that down though. He had made that mistake the very first time that they had ever gotten stoned in Robin’s minivan. She was talking to him, and she kept glancing over as she talked, which made Steve really anxious. He started thinking, she’s not paying attention, she's going to drive off the road, or hit someone, or hit an animal who ran out in front of her. His brain started spiraling into all of the different things that could happen in Robin didn’t keep her eyes on the road at all times until finally he had convinced himself that the only logical thing to do was to take the wheel and keep them driving in the right direction. Robin’s steering was perfectly fine, however when Steve had abruptly tried to hijack her car in the middle of driving, they really did almost crash. He reminded himself of this. Robin was fine. Robin knew how to drive.

“I need to call my parents.” he responded, still eyeing the girl who had turned back to the road. She looked concerned when he said that, shooting him a questioning look out of the corner of her eye. She knew that he hadn’t spoken to his parents since the big fight he had with them when he finally left to move in with her.

She opened her mouth to respond but before she could Nancy spoke up from her place in the back, “Why don’t you just call their number then? Why do you have to call every<:em> number?” she was still laying across the seat, staring up at the ceiling.

“Uh, cause I don’t know their number, duh.” he said. Really, Nancy was supposed to be the smart one. Guess she better watch out for Billy, who was now taking her spot as Steve’s smartest friend. Maybe they could battle to the death for the position. Ha! That would be hilarious. Except… maybe not. Steve knew first hand how good of a fighter Billy is. Nancy wouldn’t stand a chance. Guess Billy wins by default. Unless Nancy could come up with some super sneaky fighting tactics, like in the movies when the little guy has to fight the big tough guy but he always wins because he outsmarted him. Or maybe that doesn’t work either, because Billy is, as previously mentioned, like, a genius. “They usually leave a number with the housekeeper for emergencies, but I don’t live there anymore. So I don’t know it.” He added with a shrug.

Billy leaned forward in his seat to hand the half smoked blunt up to Steve and Robin. It was the third one, but there were… one, two, three, four, five! Five of them. So Steve didn’t feel too bad about it. He grabbed the joint, pulling it to his lips and inhaling deeply. He held in the pungent smoke until his lungs burned and he slowly exhaled, managing to hold back all but a few coughs. He gave himself a mental pat on the back as he passed it over to Robin.

“Why don’t you just call your old house and ask the housekeeper for the emergency number?” Billy asked, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world, and Steve felt as if he had just been slapped in the face in the best possible way. Of course! Billy definitely wins the spot for Steve’s smartest friend. How did he come up with such genius shit? He must have, like, an IQ of 5,000.

Robin put the van into park as Steve realized that they had arrived at the lake. It was the end of October, too cold to swim, but they would be able to take a lot of pretty pictures there. He pulled off his seat belt, hopping out of the van and into the grass, watching as the others piled out as well.

When Billy stumbled out of the car Steve marched over to him, grabbing him by the shoulders and staring intensely into his big startled eyes.

Billy was standing frozen, he looked as if he were holding his breath. “Steve,” he spoke low and darkly, his voice had a kind of growl to it that Steve hadn’t heard since before Starcourt. “Let go of me.”

Steve immediately released the boy, taking a few steps back. “Sorry, sorry. No touching, got it.” he rushed. He had obviously upset the boy, and that had not been his intention. All he wanted to do was tell him how fucking incredible he was. Maybe that would make him feel better. He should still tell him. “I just wanted to tell you,” he looked into Billy’s big blue eyes pointedly. “That you are like, literally the smartest person on the planet. Like, you could be like, Albert Einstein, if Albert Einstein was a lot cooler and a lot hotter.”

Billy, who had been staring at Steve with what was obviously a very guarded expression, suddenly flushed red. His lips fell apart just the smallest amount and in that moment Steve had really, really wanted to kiss him. He set his jaw, firing back sarcastically, “Careful there Pretty Boy. You going all Elton John on me? Gonna write me a love song?”

And the thing is, Steve knew that he was just being an ass, but he couldn’t help but think, yeah, he could definitely write Billy a kick ass love song. It would be like, wicked sweet and all mushy and shit, but with a lot of guitar and bass because Billy loves that shit. It would be like, the best fucking love song on the planet. Of course, that was a really queer thing to say, and Steve knew that if he told Billy as much he would get his teeth knocked in. But Steve had already known from a long series of incidents, and therefore should not have been at all surprised, that his brain and his mouth tended to do their own thing when he’s stoned.

“I could,” Steve fired back, in what he hoped was a tone just humorous enough to pass as sarcastic. “I could write you a kickass love song. Super sappy and shit. I would fucking knock you off your feet Hargrove.”

Billy, surprisingly, didn’t punch him. Instead he threw his head back and laughed good naturedly, so Steve figured he was doing something right. “Yeah?” he questioned through his smirk, “You gonna lay one on me at the end? Show me that Harrington charm I used to hear so much about?”

Let it be known that Steve Harrington did in fact recognize that it perhaps wasn’t the best idea to allow himself to get high around Billy Hargrove. He was playing a very risky game here, just toeing the line of giving too much away. But he hadn’t gotten shot, yet. “Why?” he questioned, “Hoping for some action?”

Yeah, Steve definitely should have declined to partake when the blunt started to get passed around. But Jonathan had legitimately said the words, “good shit from California,” and what was Steve supposed to do? Say no? Yeah right.

By this point the rest of the gang had climbed out the van, and they were now making their way over to the lake, where Jonathan was hoping to snap a few pictures with the water. The two boys were walking side by side, their bickering starting to feel more and more natural by the second.

“With you?” Billy raised his eyebrows, no longer fighting the smile spreading across his face. He took another hit of the joint before passing it over to Nancy. “Course not. If I wanted a high maintenance bitch I’d fuck Carol.”

Steve hummed, they were on the edge of the lake now, staring out over the water, “That’s fortunate, because I can’t get down with someone who thinks looking like Jon Bon Jovi is a legitimate fashion statement.” this of course, was a complete lie. Steve lives for Billy’s whole glam rock thing. It made him absolutely crazy.

Billy turned to him, arms crossed over his chest, “S’cuse me?”

Steve shrugged with all the nonchalance that he didn’t feel. “Yeah, sorry man. It’s just like, can you be any less original? The tortured bad boy musician thing is so tired, and no offense, the music kinda sucks.”

One moment he was picking at his nails, pointedly not looking at Billy and feeling pretty proud of himself. The next moment, there were two strong hands on him, pushing him forcefully forward, towards the freezing lake water below. Luckily, Steve managed to get a grip on the wrist of his attacker as he went down, pulling the other party into the water with him.

The water was practically icey, the cold seeping into his bones. His heart was racing with adrenaline and it took him a few seconds to overcome the disorientation and break through the surface of the water. Billy was beside him, wading in the chilled lake water. His hair was plastered down across his face and he looked like a drowned rat, but he was laughing. Robin, Jonathan, and Nancy were standing at the edge of the water, staring at them disapprovingly. But all that Steve could focus on was the sound of Billy’s laugh. It was so full, so genuinely happy, more so than Steve thought he had ever heard from the boy.

His face was lit up and his eyes were sparkling. Steve couldn’t help but think that he looked more alive than he had ever seen him, before or after Starcourt.

Steve wasn’t sure when he had started smiling, but it was plastered across his face now. He probably looked like a maniac, but he couldn’t bring himself to care. His chest felt lighter than it had in ages.

He looked back over to the boy trending water beside him and his chest filled with a kind of overwhelming affection that he couldn’t describe if he tried. He never wanted to lose that feeling. It felt like safety. It felt like joy. It felt like something real and good and authentic.

It felt like coming home.