"Hey! How was the dance? Pretty fun, eh?"
It was nearly midnight and Jonathan Byers knew his mom would still be up, glancing nervously at the kitchen clock, smoking one cigarette after another while waiting for the flash of headlights to announce the safe arrival of her two boys. Atleast he had managed to convince her to wait at home instead of freezing to death in the school parking lot.
Will gave him a tired half-smile and a shrug.
"Can't wait to get home?" Jonathan smiled. "Yeah, me neither."
Jonathan drove slowly, the road to home was familiar but narrow and icy in places, the night dark. The brothers sat in silence but Jonathan could tell something was troubling Will. These days, something was nearly always weighing on him but Jonathan would be damned if he did not continue to try and lift the weight from his little brother's heart, even if only a bit. As the doctors said, the road to full recovery was a long and bumpy one.
"Was it terribly boring? I'm sorry I couldn't get you sooner, they kept finding me chores to do. The last time I'm volunteering, for sure."
"Yeah, it was pretty boring. But Dustin kept me company for most of the time, so it wasn't that bad."
"Did you get to dance with anyone?" Jonathan had seen Will on the dance floor with at least three different girls but he didn't want Will to think he had come to Snow Ball only to keep an eye on him.
Will kept looking at the road ahead. "With some girls from my class, yeah, but I hadn't really spoken to them before. I don't know, it was weird."
Jonathan understood. Being an outsider was never easy, even for a kid with such great friends as Dustin, Lucas, and Mike. But there were some things Will wouldn't share with them, things even his closest family could only guess.
"Was it a good kind of weird?"
Will smiled a little at that and said honestly, "Not really."
"There's nothing wrong with that, you know that, don't you? I mean," Jonathan paused to think over what he was going to say. It was a sensitive topic, one that he hadn't had too much experience with. "I mean that although Mike is now with El and Lucas with Max, it doesn't mean that you too have to find a girlfriend. It's usually something that just happens and it can be great if it does, but there's nothing wrong when it doesn't either. You're so young anyways, who knows what interesting people you may still meet."
"I know," Will simply said, "I just don't like dancing."
Actually, Will kind of liked dancing when it was with a person he knew and trusted, like his mom. Once he got the rhythm and memorised the steps, dancing was fun. Practising earlier in their living room, it had made his mother smile which in return had made him smile.
Lying awake in his bed, Will's mind kept returning to Snow Ball and he felt like crying. It wasn't because he had spent most of the night on the chairs beside the dance floor. It wasn't because of the curious and the less-than-friendly looks that seemed to follow him everywhere. It was the ugliest feeling in the world but Will was sad because his friend was so happy. Will was jealous and couldn't keep it from himself.
He'd had a crush on Mike Wheeler for the longest time but never before had it bothered him so much - now that Mike's fondness for El was there for anyone to see. Will knew that what he was feeling was wrong and the fact that he actually really liked El as well made it even worse. A double betrayal.
There was a soft knock on the door and his brother's gentle voice behind it: "Hey, it's just me. Can I come in?"
Will quickly wiped his face and mumbled a permission.
Jonathan came to sit on the edge of his bed, Will could barely make out his figure in the darkness. "Were you asleep?"
"Thought so. Wanna talk about it?"
No, Will thought. But it was Jonathan and Jonathan never judged him or made him feel bad. Jonathan always knew what to say to make him feel better, make him feel understood, not alone.
"How did Nancy become your girlfriend?" Will spurted out the question he suddenly had. Hadn't she been happy with Steve?
"Wha-? What do you mean?" Jonathan sounded a bit surprised.
"I mean like... you liked her already when she was with Steve but you didn't tell her that, right? So, how did she know you liked her? What did you do?"
Jonathan stayed quiet for a bit, then asked carefully, "Is this about Mike, Will?"
Will felt himself blush fiercly and was thankful that Jonathan hadn't switched on any of the lights.
"Why do you think that?", he asked, his voice a mere whisper. The house was so silent.
"Because... you act a bit differently when you're around him. I only see it because I know you so well but you always seem to gravitate towards him, without thinking. Have you noticed it yourself?"
He hadn't really thought about it but it was true. Will always chose the seat next to Mike, the spot next to his sleeping bag, just to be more near him. That's all he really wanted, to be with his best friend.
"Me and Nancy," Jonathan said when Will didn't reply, "we were sort of the same. Neither of us planned to get together, but we like being around each other so it sort of just happened. The thing is, we both wanted it to happen, at the same time, the same moment." He got quieter at the end and Will knew what his brother meant.
It took two...
Mike was happy with El. And El was happy with Mike.
Maybe in time, Will could be happy for them, truly.
Jonathan put his hand on Will's shoulder and his presence was a comfort.
"He loves you too, you know," his brother said when a small sob broke the silence, "just a bit differently."