If you told Steve Harrington that he’d be sort of into baking a few years ago- well, he probably wouldn’t deny it or call you crazy. He might laugh, but then he’d heavily consider it and ask you which girl was it that he was trying to impress. If you told 1983 Steve that it was Nancy Wheeler, well, he’d tell you that he must really, like totally be into this girl. Like love sort of levels to be baking for her.
Now? It is love, to a certain degree, Steve supposes. Maybe not the same sort of love he would’ve labeled it as back when he used to think Nancy was the one, or whatever. The girl, highschool sweetheart that grows into a life with a white picket fence and a manicured lawn.
What they have now is still love, but it’s the sort of love that you can only really form with someone you’ve almost died with. The love of looking at the girl who you used to think was your future, realizing that you’ll never really work in that way ever again, if you ever did to begin with, and knowing that she might be one of your best friends. She’ll never be your wife but holy fucking hell she’s in your life forever now and you’d never want to change that.
So what’s this have to do with baking?
When Nancy Wheeler looks at you with those eyes and gives you that little smile of hers and asks if you can maybe help her out with something, please Steve? It’s sort of impossible to say no and mean it.
It sort of feels like a wrong place, wrong time sort of situation, if he's being honest. Every situation of his life for the last however long has felt like wrong place at the wrong time.
Which is how it starts, really. Neither one of them knowing what they’re doing all that much, but Nancy’s really trying because as much as she likes to flip the image of being 'miss perfect' on its head, she still likes that stuff. She’s badass and smart and a little mean sometimes, she shoots guns and dives face first into danger.
But she also gets super excited over the prospect of making a cake for El’s birthday. Or, what they’ve begun considering her birthday. The closest day that any of them could really get to it, what with no one that they trust actually knowing when she was born.
(Joyce let El pick it herself, a day she liked and would hopefully continue to like every year. It was late autumn, before winter officially hit but it was chilly enough to warrant a jacket. Steve always sort of suspected that it was around the time of year that the boys first found her.)
They’re going to make it from scratch, apparently, which Steve could’ve clocked as a bad idea from miles away. Two amateurs trying to engineer a birthday cake from the ground up with only a fraction of knowledge between them.
So that’s how it begins, Steve’s relationship with the concept of baking.
A recipe from a cookbook from the Wheeler pantry, a trip to the grocery store, and a spectacularly failed attempt shoved to the bottom of the trash bin. Steve didn’t know chocolate cake could look so burnt. It was already dark, how could it get darker?
Eventually Steve leaves Nancy in the kitchen, mumbling over the final resting place of the thing formerly known as cake, so he can go and grab a much easier medium. Boxed cake mix.
Steve doesn’t like to fail, not when he knows he can do it. Not when he knows that if he just tries, just one more time, it could be a success. Sometimes he’ll throw in the towel, sure, but that’s for things that don’t really matter. This feels like it matters, stupidly enough.
Later, Mike says the cake seems a little dry, and when Steve indignantly points out that he helped make it so watch the insults Wheeler, Mike makes a face and doubles down on his critiques. El smiles and thanks him, in that quiet way of hers, telling him that it’s actually very good.
Well if the birthday girl liked it, then who else’s opinion even matters, right?
It becomes a thing, the baking. Steve doesn’t think about it for a good while, because why would he? He helped make one mediocre cake for a super powered girl's fake birthday.
But then he’s home alone, which ok when isn’t he? This time though he’s bored and lonely enough to actually be going through his own kitchen cabinets. Looking for quite literally anything that aren’t the four familiar snacks he cycles through.
Hidden away at the very back of a cabinet above the sink is a box of cake mix. He thinks they have eggs, probably. Eggs don’t go bad that quickly, right? Steve’s idly reading through the instructions, when he’s suddenly reminded of Mike complaining about dry birthday cake.
Steve doesn’t like to do things out of spite, really he doesn’t. It’s just that, sometimes spite is a very good motivator.
He eats the classic yellow cake by itself, straight out of the pan he found crammed into the back of another cabinet filled with things his mother bought and forgot about, mad at himself that he was too lazy to go and grab frosting from the store but apparently he wasn’t lazy enough to bake an entire fucking cake. Make it make sense.
It’s better than the chocolate cake, at least. Huh. He’s not half bad at this. Even if it is just cake mix from a box and a seven year old could probably figure it out.
Steve will take a win wherever he can, if he’s being honest.
Making things for Dustin to bring to his D&D game nights wasn’t the original plan. It sure as hell wasn’t meant to be a recurring thing. But you make one batch of subpar mini-cakes with lines of icing that could sort of look like one of those multi-sided dice if you squinted hard enough and suspended your belief, and all of a sudden Steve has to do it again.
Apparently they were actually kind of cool (Lucas’ words) and stupidly good (Eddie’s words), and well. Steve isn’t doing it because Eddie complimented his baking, ok? He’s not. Steve is pretty sure Dustin didn’t even say who made them, because of course Henderson wouldn’t.
But maybe, just a little bit, he’s ridiculously proud of himself that Eddie Munson was complimenting his severely lopsided cakes that are meant to look like the stupid dice he uses all of the time. Eddie even has a fucking patch on his vest of one of the die.
(Steve knows this because he’s spent a normal amount of time staring at the patches on Eddie’s vest, wondering what each one meant to him. Back before Steve gave the vest back, he’d run his fingers over the patches, making note of the references he understood and trying to memorize the ones he didn’t. The ones that maybe he could ask about some time.
So maybe Steve knows the silhouette of a twenty sided die by sight alone. It doesn’t mean anything. Maybe it means something. Steve doesn’t know.)
He sort of sticks to that for a few weeks, because he hates to admit it, but it’s actually pretty fun to cut out the shapes of each die from the pan, cut it in half horizontally, and then sandwich it back together with frosting all in the middle. Incredibly simple but it gets the job done.
One week, he dyes a bunch of white frosting red, hoping for the effect of it looking a little like blood when bitten into. Steve remembers a conversation about Black Sabbath. About Ozzy Osbourne and a bat.
He tries not to seem too pleased with himself when Dustin raves about it the next day, saying that Eddie thought it was so freakin’ cool! He said it was 'super metal', whatever that means. He even wiped some frosting all over his mouth and pretended to act like a vampire!
Another week, another day for D&D. The Hellfire Club has been using the Wheeler’s basement for their sessions lately, which makes total sense when you think about it. What with the Munson’s trailer being a rift to another dimension and Mike's basement being a known variable, sort of what everyone silently considers a safe place.
Which that’s a thing now, Eddie thinks, that being with this group of teens who have experienced way too much means that there are safe places. Group designated hang outs that have been vetted by everyone.
(but mostly by Steve.)
Eddie is grateful that he gets to take over the basement every so often, setting up a story of magic and mayhem for the kiddos. Something that leans way heavy into high fantasy and far, far away from anything even resembling the Sci-fi Horror genre. They get enough of that shit in their real lives.
But right now, Eddie is extremely grateful, because if it wasn’t for D&D in the Wheeler’s basement, he would have never stumbled upon a sight he never could have even imagined existed.
“Steve Harrington, a baker? Ok, now I’ve seen everything.”
Steve frowns, a full faced sort of thing that makes his eyebrows knit and his mouth contort. He quickly goes back to the little project he’s working on, which is… well Eddie isn’t completely sure. There’s about a dozen cupcakes all set up on the island in the Wheeler’s kitchen, all chocolate frosted, and so many pretzel sticks littering the counter and speared into the cupcakes themselves.
“Really? After everything you’ve seen, this is where you draw the line?”
“Hey, all I’m saying is that evil little bat creatures are nothing compared to you apparently having the patience to ice a bunch of little cupcakes.”
“Aren’t you meant to be down in the Cave of Chaos or whatever they’re calling it for the night? Supervising the kiddies?”
“I decided to take five while they try and plan what they want to do next. I was running out of snacks anyways.” Eddie replies, yet he makes no move towards the cabinets where he knows all of the snacks for the kids are kept. He stays here, rooted to the spot, watching as Steve continues to assemble another cupcake.
There’s a lot of concentration, a lot of care that goes into it. A naked cupcake is plucked from its place on a cooling rack- an actual cooling rack, and then Steve is grabbing a butter knife from the tub of frosting to add a messy layer on top.
Steve whistles, long and impressed. “Leaving them alone to strategize? How very adult of them, they’re moving up into the big leagues.”
Eddie hums, nodding his affirmative. Next come the pretzel sticks, and Eddie would love to say there’s no rhyme or reason to the way Steve pokes the pretzels around the perimeter of the cupcake, but Steve actually seems to consider each move before sticking them in.
“What the fuck are they even supposed to be?”
“Seriously? You can’t tell?” Steve waves around the cupcake he’s currently holding, before he glances down and rolls his eyes. “Ok, maybe not this one- it’s not done.” Could’ve fooled Eddie. “They’re meant to be like- a dungeons and dragons monster. Henderson said it’s one of the coolest ones or whatever. Some sort of freak with a bunch of eyes.”
No way. He’s got to be fucking with Eddie right now. Eddie plants his elbows on the counter and leans in, really leans in to get an even better look at these cupcakes. The finished ones that he didn’t pay too much attention to initially, because he was a little too busy staring at Steve. Which like, is completely understandable.
There's a gumdrop stuck into the middle of each cupcake, all of them the white kind that always seems like it hides at the bottom of the box and there’s never enough of. It must be the main eye, and now that he’s looking closer Eddie can see how each pretzel stick is topped with- is that colored chocolate? For all of the extra little eyes.
“No fucking way. You baked a bunch of Beholder cupcakes for D&D?”
Something about it is so incredibly endearing, it makes something bubble and pop in Eddie's chest. Steve Harrington, former king of Hawkins himself, standing in the middle of the Wheeler’s kitchen with the counters filled with baking supplies and melted chocolate, wearing a sweater that absolutely has some sort of demon blood still staining the collar and an apron that must belong to Mrs. Wheeler. Baking monster themed cupcakes for his kids D&D night.
(calling Dustin & co Steve's kids would feel weird, if Eddie hadn’t witnessed first hand the lengths this guy will go to just to make sure those kids are safe. That includes ferrying them around to various mundane activities with a baseball bat tucked under the driver's seat.)
What the fuck. This man shouldn’t exist. Like. They can’t make people like this, right? Right? He’s some sort of ninth wonder of the world or something. Former jock douchebag that somehow aggressively stumbles his way into domesticity. What the actual living fuck is Eddie’s life right now.
Steve grumbles, crunches on a pretzel stick. “Don’t know why I even did, I mean- it’s taken me hours to make these things right? I got all of the ingredients and I even had to go back to the store twice to try and figure out how to make the fucking- what are they? Eye things?”
“Eye stalks.” Eddie corrects, a little bit in a daze if he’s being honest. He’s still processing, give him a break.
“Yeah! Those! I spent all day making these things and they’re going to be gone-” Steve snaps his fingers. “Like that!”
Something about the snapping fingers causes Eddie’s brain to rattle back into place. The fog of oh holy shit he’s like the sort of hot that only competent dad’s can manage dissipating enough to form normal thoughts again. Which, ok, apparently that’s a kink Eddie didn’t know he had. Not the dad thing, but the domestic competency thing. Wow.
“C’mon, stop being so dramatic man. That’s my shtick.” Eddie grins, all teeth, leaning further over the counter, wiggling his fingers for emphasis. Steve rolls his eyes, but there’s a smile tucked underneath it all. “They are a little… wonky, though.” Eddie pokes at one of the cupcakes, where the pretzels are beginning to droop, and Steve promptly smacks at his hand.
“You could work on your compliments, Munson.”
“Oh, I’m sorry. Let me rephrase that.” Eddie straightens, clearing his throat. “The jewel of the party!” He exclaims, plucking up a cupcake and cradling it in both palms. “Truly, a work of art! Nary a soul has ever seen anything so splendid. So filled with joy and love. It shall be delicious as well, I am certain.”
Steve's outright smiling now, expression some mix of amused and befuddled. Oh what an expression. Eddie would love to bottle it and keep it forever. Confused wonder never looked so good. “What the fuck was that?”
Eddie shrugs, returning the smile, placing the cupcake back with its friends. “What can I say? I am a bit of a wordsmith.” Then he’s bowing, flourishing his arms for good measure.
He does this a lot, acts loud and ridiculous because it’s fun, because people like to make assumptions about Eddie, and if he’s loud enough, raucous enough, then he’s in control of their opinions.
But then Steve is clapping, acting along with his odd little performance instead of brushing it off as Eddie being weird again, and there’s that bubbling popping sensation again. Fuck this guy, seriously.
Steve is in the middle of asking for an encore, encore! which Eddie will happily provide, when Henderson comes thundering up the stairs.
“Lucas has the stupidest plan I’ve ever heard to try and defeat the Frost Giant! Eddie you have to tell him that it won’t work, he’s not listening to reason! But maybe the voice of god will do him some good!”
Dustin yells the last part back the way he came, and there’s a distant reply that sounds incredibly annoyed.
“Didn’t I tell you that there’s no stupid plans in D&D?” Eddie tries, because as much as he likes to embody chaos, sometimes he has to remind the kids that this is a collaborative sort of game. Not only that, but it can be incredibly luck based. Any idea can be fucking idiotic, no matter how well planned, if the dice deem it so.
Dustin huffs, rolling his eyes so hard his entire head practically moves with it. “Whatever. Just wait until you hear it. Oh! Are the cupcakes ready?”
“Yeah, yeah.” Steve somehow finished up the rest of the cupcakes when Eddie wasn’t looking, and now he’s shoving an uncovered Tupperware container at Dustin, filled with a bunch of tiny confectionery Beholders. “Don’t you dare drop it, you hear me? If you drop it and they all go falling down the stairs, that’s it. You don’t get any more cool little D&D snacks.”
“You’re so freakin’ paranoid.” Dustin clutches the container, turning to head back down stairs. For a second, it looks like he almost trips, and before he knows it Eddie lunges forward to steady him. But Dustin just laughs, obviously faking the little misstep.
Eddie feels his heart in his throat, at the prospect of Dustin taking a header down a flight of stairs. If Steve’s tense jaw and his own full step forward to try and catch Dustin is anything to go by, his blood pressure spiked well through the roof at Dustin’s little joke as well.
“Henderson, you better get back down those stairs right now before I kill you.”
“Oh c’mon, that was funny!” Even as he tries to convince them of the hilarity, he wisely decides to scamper back the way he can, calling out to the rest of the party about cupcakes.
Eddie leans back against the counter, sagging his full body weight into it. He’s only known these brats for a short amount of time, and already he can feel himself growing this weird little ball of something that seems like parental worry if he looks at it in the right light.
When he looks over, he watches as Steve sets about cleaning up the mess from his project. The pretzel sticks quickly get swept away, and every dirty utensil is collected and placed in the sink. Eddie wonders, not for the first time, how Steve handles it all.
Again, he’s not yet convinced that Steve wasn’t grown in a lab somewhere. Recently, Eddie has learned that government created lab babies aren’t even remotely off the table of possibilities.
A belated thank you! floats back up the stairs, followed by quieter sounds of excitement and compliments.
“Never again.” Steve says, seemingly to himself as he wipes down the counter and moves once melted but now a solid bowl of chocolate out of the way. “I’m never making those stupid things again. They’re too complicated. I’m going back to mini dice cakes. Now those- those are simple.”
“Whoa, whoa hold on a minute.” Eddie starts, lifting his arms so Steve can lean forward and continue swiping away any bits of cake mix or pretzel. “Are you telling me that you made those things?”
“Hm? Oh, yeah.” Steve discards the towel, moves around the island enough that he can lean against the side diagonal to Eddie. “I’ve gotten pretty good at them. The uh, little pyramids and diamond ones are probably my favorites.”
“D4’s and d8’s?” Eddie corrects once again.
“Yeah, sure, those.” Steve nods, and he smiles like he absolutely knew that already but he chose to call them something different.
He wants to be sharp and sarcastic about it, it’s on the top of his tongue. But it feels a little impossible when they’re standing so close and Steve is admitting to baking the things that Eddie has sort of started looking forward to every session.
“Well aren’t you just full of surprise.”
“Is that a good thing?” Steve asks, narrowing his eyes, tucking his smile into his teeth. He’s still wearing that stupid fucking apron, in the worst possible floral pattern imaginable. Eddie wants to chew on his own god damn fingers, because Steve is cute.
Eddie is meant to be all about fire and brimstone, y’know? He’s all heavy metal music and too many tattoos and hail satan iconography, the sort of things people want to hide their children from. The fact that Steve can just tilt his head and cross his arms and Eddie wants to take his face between his hands and call him cute? It should make him want to puke all over the Wheeler’s kitchen counters.
But here he is, defying the fine print of the Munson Doctrine.
“From where I’m standing? Fuck yeah.”
Steve’s smile grows, so big it shows off his teeth. Then, he’s leaning in closer, planting an elbow on the counter. Getting into Eddie’s space, angling his shoulder and curling forward to be at the same eye level where Eddie is also bowed over the counter.
The bubbling popping continues to rage inside of his chest at the proximity.
“So, Eddie, when’s your birthday? I know a guy who really likes baking.”
It startles a laugh out of Eddie, which causes Steve to laugh in turn. Fire and brimstone have nothing on how fucking warm he feels in this moment. He could move even closer, he knows he could, and bridge the distance between them. Steve might even let him, Steve might welcome it, what with the way his eyes are still bright with laughter and the way he keeps glancing at Eddie's mouth- which, isn’t that a realization.
But he doesn’t, not now. Because Eddie is afraid that if he starts he won’t be able to stop, and he currently has a gaggle of children just a floor below him, waiting for him to get back to their story.
“I should probably get back to the kids, before they mutiny and throw me out of a window.”
Steve nods, the smile not leaving his face for a second, and Eddie is filled with a stark relief that Steve isn’t disappointed. That somehow they’re on the same page. “I wouldn’t put it past them. Mike would happily take your place.”
“That kid is surprisingly fucking brutal.”
He needs to leave, like right now, or else they could spend all night like this. Smiling like they’re stupid fucking teenagers and talking about absolutely nothing. Just to hear the other talk. Ugh, terrible.
So he leaves, rapping his knuckles against the counter as a way to signal the end of the conversation. Steve gives him a stupid salute before turning back to finish cleaning up, and Eddie really needs to leave.
He’ll make sure to tell Steve his birthday later, because Eddie is absolutely looking forward to seeing Steve in an incredibly ugly apron once again, surrounded by baking supplies. He already knows what he’d wish for.