Steve had never given much thought to the idea of heaven. Not really.
If you’d have asked him six months ago, he might have said, “It’s this place up in the clouds where you smile all the time and don’t have to worry about anything.” Might have shrugged while he said it, lost your eyes to betray the easy lilt of his words and give away that fact that he didn’t totally believe it.
Didn’t totally believe in it.
But in the days after January 13th, Steve learned quickly that heaven wasn’t really a place at all.
Realized it around the same time they realized Billy couldn’t stay, not in Hawkins, not when so many people still thought he was dead.
That’s when Steve started to understand what heaven was, little by little, more and more each day.
Heaven was falling asleep with tangled limbs and matching heartbeats.
Heaven was the smile that looked back at him in the morning and the whisper of five short words across a set of cool sheets.
“Come to California with me.”
Heaven was an afternoon of heartfelt goodbyes, with Robin under one arm, Dustin under the other, and Billy’s voice off somewhere promising Max that they’d figure out a way to get her out there for a visit once they got settled.
Heaven was sitting in the passenger seat of his BMW, with a road map in one hand and Billy’s hand in the other.
Heaven was a series of arguments over the radio, with slapped hands and raised voices.
Heaven was a diner in Missouri, with a shared plate of fries between them and Billy’s ankle hooked around his under the table.
Heaven was a cheap motel room in Oklahoma, with perfect little moans that bounced off thin walls and nothing but time.
Heaven was a drive thru in New Mexico, with two sets of hands reaching into a greasy burger bag and ketchup on the corner of Billy’s mouth.
Heaven was a sunset in Arizona, with Billy’s arm wrapped around his waist and Billy’s cheek on his shoulder.
Heaven was the bright, California sunlight that bounced off Billy’s hair and the warm, heavy smell of a beach in the late afternoon.
Heaven was the cool shiver that crawled up Steve’s spine when he stuck his feet in the Pacific Ocean for the first time.
Heaven was lying next to Billy on the sand while the sun set and shaded the sky orange and pink.
Heaven was kissing Billy while waves crashed against the shoreline.
Heaven was trading soft I love you’s under a blanket of stars.
Heaven was peace and safety and freedom.
And heaven, most of all, was where he finally, finally-
Let it heal.