steve knows he’s lonely.
it’s not hard to know.
despite how long he wasn’t lonely lonely for, steve thinks there’s a part of him that has always been lonely.
even before he dropped tommy and carol as friends, even before his parties stopped, even before nance. deep down, steve knows he’s always been a bit of a loner.
and it sucks because, well, even with the friends he has, he still feels awful for feeling alone when he’s with them. sure, he’s their “mom” and he likes it, but at the end of the day, none of these kids are who steve goes to when it gets too much. he’s older than them and while they all went through the same things that happened in Hawkins, he knows that the way his mind processed those events will be a lot different than how the kids will. for once, his vocabulary surrounding the event seems so much more… vivid? dark? older? either way, it makes him think that he can’t tell the kids how he feels, no matter how similar their experiences were.
the party is made up of middle schoolers, almost high schoolers now (the kids grow up so damn fast nowadays) but steve still feels that there’s a gap in the way they see things.
sometimes he’s convinced that the party has completely forgotten the events, with the way they’ve gone on with their lives. it’s given them tons of new material for dungeons and dragons, they go to prom, have sleepovers, fight and make up, and resume life like it was. sometimes it feels like it was all made up, and steve has to look at the scars on his hand to remind him it wasn’t.
he brings it up to dustin one day.
“do you ever think about the mind flayer? the demogorgons-”
“they were demo-dogs, steve”
steve can’t help but roll his eyes. “listen, dustin.”
they’re young kids, but they’re good kids. dustin doesn’t say anything for the rest of the time Steve rambles.
“like, sometimes I think about it all so much that I feel like I didn’t exist before those events. high school, girls, homework, all of that feels so… small when I think of everything that happened. you know? and I’m trying to move on, I really am, but I can’t. I scoop ice cream every day of my life. sometimes I hear the orders but most of the time my hands do it for me. butterscotch, mint, chocolate chip. I know where they all are but I can’t hear them being said.”
he realizes how much he’s saying somewhere in the middle of his sentences, and it causes him to panic. no one wanted to be reminded of it, or to hear what steve is thinking about when he’s scooping out ice cream. people just want their ice cream, damnit.
dustin, bless him, sits there quietly. “I never thought you went through that stuff, too, man. I always thought it was just me. you were so cool when you were smashing demo-dogs left and right, I never thought it would weigh on you like that. “
and steve doesn’t know what to say in front of the kid. he regrets saying anything at all. he won’t be seen the same anymore in dustin’s eyes.
“well. yeah. it, uhh…..” he trails off. “it really does.”
dustin turns to him and hugs him. ideally it’s not the perfect position, they’re sitting awkwardly, but the thought behind the gesture warms up steve anyways.
in the midst of their hug, dustin talks, because he’s very good at that. “my mom keeps telling me it’ll get better-”
(the word mom strikes him in the heart, sharp and bloody, but he doesn’t let it show.)
“-and some days I believe her because things have been so good. but some days it just sucks, cause we miss will and el or cause we fight or cause it feels like everything was so much better back then. and it’s hard - it really is, but you have to remember that even at the end of the bad days - it’ll always get better. no matter how much you can’t believe it. it’s true. it’s a fact. I might even say it’s a scientific law, but I don’t know which scientist, so.”
steve laughs. they pull away from their hug and dustin looks up at him because he’s still shorter. he looks him in the eyes. “i promise, man. it gets so much better. and you didn’t have to keep that in for so long, dude. we all feel like that. I know it doesn’t seem like it because we still do the things we used to, but I’m telling you from the bottom of my heart - we all feel that emptiness. I swear.”
and that talk does a lot for steve. he opens up more, and scooping ice cream every day is easier, and nights - well. they’re still kind of hard but steve’s getting there because he doesn’t feel as lonely.
the woods are lovely, dark, and deep. but I have promises to keep. and miles to go before I sleep. and miles to go before I sleep.
it’s been a year since high school ended, and he’s forgotten pretty much everything, but those last few lines of robert frost’s poem have etched themselves into steve’s brain, and he repeats them like a mantra and imagines the poem at night.
but I have promises to keep. miles to go before I sleep.
is he promising to himself? his parents? the party? hopper, or joyce? hawkins?
imagining himself in the snowy woods, just like ms. roberts told them to imagine the poem when they were reading it. steve thinks of snow falling soft and fluffy onto the hawkins soil, and the sentence helps. he thinks hawkins is beautiful in the snow.
but I have promises to keep. and miles to go before I sleep. and miles. miles. so many miles before I sleep. promises to keep. the woods are so lovely, so dark, and so deep.