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fear is fading fast

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As Eddie bleeds out on the strangely warm ground of the Upside Down, demobats falling from the sky around him, he realizes that he's about to die. Irrationally, his next thought is that he's going to die a virgin, but things get fuzzy around that point, so he doesn't think about it for long.

When he wakes up in a hospital bed, monitors beeping and Robin awkwardly sleeping in a chair nearby, he's not entirely convinced it isn't some weird hallucination. He doesn't really subscribe to any kind of religion, but who is he to say that the afterlife isn't some strange combination of sterile white and snoring strangers/friends. That idea gets knocked right out of his head when Harrington walks into the room with an armful of vending machine food which he promptly drops on the floor when he sees Eddie staring back.

Later, once everyone's clambered into his room, Dustin sobs an explanation into Eddie's chest. Something about a dramatic rescue, carefully constructed bedsheet ropes, and a thankfully nearby first aid kit. It's all a bit hard to make out between the crying and Dustin's voice muffled into Eddie's hospital gown. He doesn't complain when the kid squeezes him too tight as Dustin's voice fades into wet, panting gasps. Eddie just buries his nose into Dustin's curls, breathes him in until it aches, and if he sheds a few tears, well… It's no one's fucking business, is it?

Eddie doesn't think about his virginity for a long time after that. There are giant fuckoff rifts in the ground, and the land surrounding Hawkins is dying at an alarming rate, and there are more of those goddamn demobats flying around at night, and well… Honestly, it slips his mind while they're busy trying to save the fucking world.

As soon as the final gate is sealed, and El's no longer flickering between life and death, and the world seems to finally have its shit together, it starts to be a problem.

It's not like Eddie hasn't considered his virginal state before. He's a healthy young man with a healthy sex drive, and he's ruined his fair share of tissues and socks in his day. The thing is, though, that the only Sports Illustrated issues he hadn't snuck into his bed were the swimsuit ones, and that complicated things. Growing up in the suburban backward of Hawkins, Eddie had just assumed that sex wasn't in the cards for him. Not until he got older and moved to a major city, somewhere like Indy or Chicago, maybe New York or Los Angeles if he could save up the money.

Somewhere where it was safer to be gay.

Now, though, he's got this family built by shared trauma, and the idea of leaving them… Even with all of the bad memories that Hawkins carries for him, he's got so many more good ones now, his heart aches every time he thinks of leaving.

There are a few furtive trips to Indy. He cruises the gay scene, his black bandana like a brand in his left pocket, but he doesn't do more than share a couple frantic make out sessions before chickening out once the main course arrives. Part of him can't relax with these strangers, even though he wants them. There are black, pulsing vines tangled in the back of his mind, and there's no fucking way to explain all of the scars on his body, and there are men wasting away in hospital beds with terrified nurses and doctors watching on, helpless and sometimes hateful, and well…

Anyway, Eddie is twenty years old. He lives in a small sprawl of suburbia that holds his heart in a vice grip. He only knows one gay man—himself—and he's never getting laid, ever.

The strangest thing about Hawkins is how normal everyone seems to be after all the bullshit that's gone on. Mrs. Williams is still a bitch to him at the supermarket. Mr. Franklin still glares at Eddie like he's in the back of seventh grade English class, tapping out guitar riffs on his leg instead of paying attention to Hemingway. There're traffic jams in the center of town on Sundays when all the churches let out, the mailman mixes up his and Wayne's mail with the Mayfields, and life just… goes on.

It makes it hard for Eddie to do the same.

He can't settle back into normalcy, not that he ever fit anyone's definition of normal very well. He gets a minimum-wage job bagging groceries at the supermarket, and Corroded Coffin plays gigs at the local watering hole on Thursday nights. He and Wayne fix up the trailer a bit, nothing much, just minor repairs that do a lot to brighten the place up after… Well, just after. But he still has nightmares, and he still can't look at the living room ceiling, and silence has become terrifying, when before, it was calming for his overly loud mind. He's got all of the trappings of "normal" wrapped around him like a little kid hiding from monsters under their covers, but it's just as effective an armor and Eddie knows the monsters are real and have sharp teeth.

He has his ways of coping, though. He hangs out with the people who understand why he doesn't sleep well anymore and why he's always got the radio on when he's in the trailer by himself. Graduating—fuck you very much, Mrs. O'Donnell—makes it harder for him to hang out with the kids, but they've started their own Hellfire off-shoot that meets in Mike's basement, so he still gets quality time with them. And since they're not on school property, the games last longer. Their first all-nighter ends with an explosive fight—literally; he should not have let Mike learn Fireball— and half the party at zero HP, but they're all laughing through their yawns as he drops them off at their houses.

It may not be what most people consider normal, but it works for them. For him. It's good.

It's not a good kind of normal when a couple a few trailers down has a fight that drags on through the night and results in the cops getting called out to the trailer park long after sunset. The flashing red and blue lights leave him panicking, not only because of his own brush with the law but because of S.O.S. tapped out through dimensions, and Eddie's hands are shaking as he tears out of the trailer park at three in the morning.

The quarry's the only place he finds peaceful this late at night. He'd never seen it in the Upside Down, and he hadn't known Will when he'd supposedly died in the glass-black waters, so it makes it about the only place in town that doesn't make him think of red-black tentacles and death. Eddie clambers onto the top of his van with a lighter and his Camels, and he watches as the smoke traces constellations among the stars until his heart slows. 

He dozes off at some point. It's the first dreamless night he's had in weeks.

When he wakes up, the sun is glinting down, his clothes are damp from dew, and there's a very annoyed looking Steve Harrington, hands on his hips, standing next to Eddie's van.

"What the hell are you doing, Munson?" he asks, not even waiting for Eddie to blink sleep from his eyes. "I've had Dustin blowing up my walkie all morning, and over what? You decided to have a…" He waves his hands around, as if it'll magically give him the words to describe whatever he thinks the situation is. "You're welcome to go… midnight camping or whatever, but you have to keep your walkie on you or the kids are gonna worry."

"Keep your hair on. Fuck." Eddie grabs his pack, also damp and probably ruined, and gets off the top of the van with every muscle and bone aching. He's getting too old to pass out under the stars 'cause he's had a bad night. "I had to get out and fell asleep, it's not a national emergency."

"You don't understand," Steve says, and clearly, Eddie doesn't because Steve looks like he might be panicking. "You nearly died, and Dustin had to see that shit, and now he worries about you, man. I know we joke about being his dads, but shit—"

Eddie grabs Steve's arm before he's even aware of reaching out. Harrington's muscles are tense, but they ease as Eddie squeezes once, twice. 

"I get it." He tightens his grip one more time, then lets go. "I'll keep the walkie on me."

"And"—Steve even points his fucking finger at Eddie, like he's scolding a child or really shittily conducting an orchestra—"you call someone if you're having a hard time. We're here for each other, no matter what."

His chest aches as he takes in Steve's weary, forthright expression. There are lines around his eyes, ones that shouldn't be as deep as they are on someone so young. Eddie's struck by the sudden desire to trace them with his finger, to see if he can smooth them away.

"How long have you been looking for me?"

"It doesn't matter." Steve sighs, then rubs his hand over his face. "Call Dustin when you get home, okay?"


Steve follows Eddie back to the trailer park, then waits until Eddie's inside. Steve's tires crackle across the gravel drive, and Eddie thinks about that the entire time he's on the phone with Dustin, thinks about it as he crawls into his bed after a quick shower, thinks about it as he falls asleep again.

So, yeah. That's how he and Harrington end up being friends. It's weird, but only when Eddie lets his mind linger on it, or if he imagines what his younger self would've thought about King Steve claiming to know him, much less calling him a friend.

Being Steve Harrington's friend has its perks, though. The more they're seen around town together, the less people seem to think Eddie might've actually been a serial killer, no matter what the cops said. Mrs Williams actually lets him cut in line at the grocery store two months after Steve finds him at the quarry, and it's so shocking, Eddie drops his wallet when he goes to pay. It's even more of a shock when Mrs. Williams hands it to him, smiling.

"Have a nice day," she says cheerily as he hurries out of the sliding doors, wondering if he's found himself in a different alternate dimension, one where people are too nice and probably going to eat him or some shit.

"That's stupid," Steve says over the walkie after Eddie blurts it out to him from the parking lot. "Mrs. Williams wouldn't eat you. Now, Mrs. Douglass?"

Eddie laughs and tells Steve to shut up, but he feels better.

It's weird, but he kind of likes it.

While the diminishing animosity directed his way is definitely a bonus, the best thing about being Steve Harrington's friend is Robin. The glorious, incomparable Robin Buckley, queen of Eddie's heart and, as he finds out after they get stoned together one night, the second gay person he knows.

Not that she's gay, she's a dyke, but still. Having someone else who understands what it's like to want the same instead of different is incredible. As soon as her smoke-tinged confession passes her lips, it feels like the weight on Eddie's shoulders is halved.

It also means he's finally got someone to bitch to.

They're laying in a field on the outskirts of town, part of a sod farm that's gone fallow since it was torn in half by the Upside Down a few months ago. No one goes out there anymore, so it's a safe place for them to sit and chill and talk about wanting boys and girls, but not in the right order.

"I just don't understand," he says before taking a drag off of the joint they're passing back and forth. "I'm attractive, right? I look good under all these band shirts, Buckley, okay? It is rock solid muscle that I'm packing. Anyone would be lucky to get their hands on all of this."

"Damn straight." She coughs, then coughs again. "You're a prize."

"A prize," he crows, throwing his arms out to the sky in agreement. "So why the hell doesn't anyone want to fuck me?"

"Well…" Robin's voice is tinged with something that Eddie knows he isn't going to like. "It's not like you're asking?"

Yup, he doesn't like it. Sitting up, he glares at her. "Who, exactly, would I ask?"

She takes a hit off of the blunt instead of responding, so he snatches it from her hand and puts it out in the dirt.

"Rude." Turning onto her side, she leans on a hand and looks up at him. "In case you haven't noticed, there are men in Hawkins."

He laughs. "Are you telling me there's a gay scene in Hawkins, Indiana, population fuck-all?"

"No, but—"

"No buts, Buckley." He laughs. "Literally. There are no butts. No dicks, either."

"There are plenty of dicks," she huffs. "You're just not looking in the right places."

"Like Indy?"

"That's one of them."

"Tried it, not for me."

She sighs. "There's Chicago, if you're willing to drive a couple more hours."

"And what? Find a stranger to take me home and fuck me?"

"If that's what you're looking for, sure, why not?"

He lays back down and stares into the night sky. Thin clouds shift above them, blocking out stars like smoke. His mind wanders as he puzzles over Robin's statement, feeling it out in his mind and hands, getting a sense of what it is, exactly, that he wants.


"I don't…" He swallows, trying to push down the enormity of what he's saying. "I don't think I want that. Not the first time."

"So you want it to mean something."

He nods, though he can't look at her so he isn't sure she's watching.

"Then we should find you someone who'll make it mean something."

Eddie laughs, but it's drenched in defeat. "You make it sound so easy."

Robin falls silent, and Eddie figures that's the end of things. Instead, a few minutes later, after they've lit a second joint and are passing it between them, and Eddie is making up names for the constellations to try and make Robin laugh—that one's donkey dick, and that one's donkey Richard—she takes the joint, then goes still.

"Eddie." Her eyes are wide and bright. "Okay, okay. You're going to think I'm insane, but I need you to stay with me on this one."

He rolls onto his side, concerned, but he keeps his mouth shut and waits.

"Okay." She stares at the joint, takes a hit like a lifeline, then continues. "What about Steve?"

His brain turns off. No static, no flashing images, just blank nothingness.


"Steve." Her eyes grow somehow wider. "Harrington."

"Steve-Steve. Your best friend, who is, I have to remind you, straight. As in not interested in men."

She scoffs at him. "That won't be a problem."

"That won't…" He yanks the joint from her hand. "How much of this have you had?"

"I'm not that high!" She tries to smack his shoulder and misses. "Okay, maybe I am that high, but listen! Steve already knows that I like boobies, and he's been great about it. You guys've been getting closer the last couple of months, and there isn't anything he wouldn't do for a friend. He's also, in case you somehow missed the memo, a bit of a slut."

She holds her hands out as if presenting something. Eddie half expects a triumphant tada! to play as she grins at him.

"You're fucking nuts."


"Nope." He finishes the joint, then flicks the butt into the field. "Not having this conversation."

"It's not that bad of an idea!"

"It's a terrible idea. You're seriously suggesting that I ask Steve Harrington—Steve "the Hair" Harrington, King Steve—to take my virginity out of, what? Some kind of misguided sense of friendship and general horniness?"

"Well, when you put it that way!"

"How else am I supposed to put it?" He stands, irritation and something else—something prickling and harsh, something that makes it difficult to breathe—clawing away at the pot-induced calm he'd been lounging in all night. "Look, I don't need to give this town one more thing to call me a freak about, okay? And this friendship thing I've got going with Steve? It's nice. I like it. I'm not going to fucking… nuke it because I want to have someone touch my dick who isn't me."

"Eddie, I—"

"No." He shakes his head. "Just let it go, Robin. It's… It's not a big deal. I'll figure it out on my own.”

"I didn't mean—"

"Yeah, I know." God, he needs to get the fuck out of here. "I think I need to call it a night. I'll drop you off at home."

The ride back to Robin's house is awkward. It's even worse when he pulls into her driveway and waits for her to get out. Instead, she stares at the dashboard, her hands twisted together in her lap.

"I just want you to have something nice, is all," she says softly. "To have something you want. You deserve to have nice things that you want."

His throat tight, he leans over the center console to wrap his arms around her and bury his face in her neck. She leans into him and presses a hand to his curls, murmuring nonsense he doesn't hear.

"Thank you," he whispers into her neck. Pulling away, he rests his hands on her shoulders and gives her a small shake. "I'm not fucking Steve Harrington."

Her eyes are a bit wet, but she smiles and sighs, "Fine. You're not fucking Steve. It's his loss, anyway."

"Agreed." He leans back. "I'm a prize."

Of course, now that Robin's put the dumb idea in his head, Eddie can't stop thinking about it. Every time he sees Steve, he finds himself looking at the guy but not like he did before. No, he's not doing anything as simple as looking. He's examining. He's gazing. He's spending way too much time with a thesaurus, trying to find the right word for what his eyes keep doing whenever Steve's around.

And look, he's always known that Harrington's hot, okay? Anyone with a functional libido can figure that out. He's all lean swimmers muscles and riotous hair and eyes that you can lose yourself in. Add in his kindness and the sweetness of his smile and how great he is with the kids, and Steve Harrington is the whole fucking package.

The only thing is that Eddie hasn't ever really thought about losing himself in said eyes, or tracing the lines of said muscles or tangling his fingers in said hair as he kisses the breath out of Steve's lungs, and now he cannot stop doing it.

It's infuriating.

It would be easier if he had thought about it before, but most of the time he's known Steve, Eddie's either been running from homicidal high schoolers, homicidal monster-bats, or recovering from both. He's still processing what happened to them in the Upside Down, and an inconvenient crush on the hot, straight guy he's been hanging out with lately is very much not appreciated. If it had been bubbling under the surface, if it had been something he'd thought about before falling asleep late at night when nothing counts, maybe…

But, instead, he's got a full blown problem on his hands, born out of a stupid suggestion from his stupid friend, and damn her if she might not maybe have a little kernel of truth to her idea. It eats away at him, the same way his sudden desire for Steve eats away at Eddie's guts whenever they're together, and if he doesn't do anything about either of those things gnawing away at him, he's going to be a pile of bones by the end.

And, quite frankly, Eddie's done with getting chewed up. He's got the demobat scars to prove it.

Things come to a head a few weeks later. He and Steve are having burgers and shakes with Dustin, a new weekly ritual they've enacted since the school year ended. Eddie's sipping on his vanilla malt, straw held between his fingers, while Steve is telling some story about a customer at Family Video and his ridiculous rental history, arms waving about emphatically as Dustin laughs along, and Eddie just… fades out. It's like someone's smeared Vaseline along the edges of the camera lens of his life. Steve's all soft glow and bright smile, corners of his mouth creased with laughter, and Eddie cannot drag his eyes away from the way Steve's lips curl around his words. He wants to feel the syllables against his skin, wants to know the taste of his name as it spills from Steve's mouth. Eddie's not even drinking his shake anymore, the straw's just resting in the barely open surprise of his mouth, and all he can think about is how much he wants.

"Earth to Munson!" Dustin says, waving his hand in front of Eddie's face and finally breaking whatever insane trance Eddie'd fallen into. "You with us, bud?"

"Ah, sorry." He takes another sip of his shake, then starts coughing when he swallows it wrong. "Just kind of zoned out there for a second."

Eddie starts coughing again, and Steve shoos Dustin from the booth. "Why don't you grab him a water?"

"Fine, Dad," Dustin says, all teenage sarcasm, but he heads to the counter while Eddie tries to cough up a lung.

With Dustin gone, Steve leans in across the table, brow furrowed in concern.

Eddie can smell his fucking aftershave or cologne or something, a spicey hint that makes Eddie feel unhinged. He wants to put his mouth on every part of Steve's body. He thinks it might taste better than the shake.

It's fucking awful.

"You're not stoned right now, are you?" Steve asks quietly. He has the indecency to seem genuinely concerned, a frankly fantastic look on him. "Not that I care. It's only that we're supposed to be spending time with Dustin, and I don't think he deserves to have you spacing out on him, yeah?"

Eddie coughs again, caught up in a tide of annoyance and affection. "I'm not stoned."

"It's just that you kind of left the planet for a minute there, and you're not normally like that unless you've been…" Steve raises one eyebrow. "You know."

"Nope. Completely sober, Harrington."

"Okay, well." Steve leans back, taking his warm scent with him. Eddie doesn't, absolutely doesn't, miss it. "Just making sure. And you know I don't care about the pot, right? Like, completely cool with me if you want to smoke up. Non-judgement zone right here."

"Harrington." Eddie doesn't know what to think right now. He's fallen head-first in lust with an idiot. "I know you're cool."

"I just want to make sure."

"I'm sure."

"Okay, great." Steve takes a sip of his milkshake and leans back in the booth, acting like he's chill but still tense across his shoulders. "As long as we're good."

"If you ask me if we're okay again, I'm going to jump across this booth and beat you to death with my straw."

Dustin slams a glass of water down between them, sloshing water across the table top. "Terrible idea," he says as he slides back into the booth. Steve, meanwhile, yanks a handful of napkins out of the metal napkin holder at the end of the table and starts blotting up the mess.

Considerate asshole.

"A straw would take too long for blunt force trauma," Dustin continues. "You'd be better off using it to puncture the trachea or go for an artery in the neck or something."

He takes a bite of his burger like he didn't suggest two ways to murder someone with a plastic straw, and Eddie and Steve stare at him for a beat before meeting each other's eyes and bursting into laughter.

There's a bit of lettuce hanging from Dustin's mouth as he frowns at them. "What?" he asks, glancing between the two of them in bewilderment. "What'd I miss?"

"Nothing, Henderson." Steve wipes a tear from his eye, then throws his arm around Dustin to pull him in for a hug. "Nothing at all."

Steve drops Dustin off first, then turns toward the trailer park. Normally, Eddie'd drive to their weekly milkshake night, but his van's in the shop with a busted carburetor and Steve's kind of used to being a taxi service for the kids. It makes sense for the two of them to be in a car together, alone, late-ish at night. They're two (young) adult men who are platonic friends. There's nothing to worry about here.

Eddie is absolutely not freaking out about being in confined spaces in the dark with Steve Harrington. It doesn't have his heart racing and his blood heating.

He's so fucking good at denial.

Streetlights fly past, casting the interior of the car in washes of bright, golden light. Eddie leans back against the door, the seatbelt cutting uncomfortably into his neck and chin, but he doesn't move. From this vantage point, he can make out flashes of Steve's face in the intermittent light. Brief snapshots of the combination of hard and soft that makes Eddie unable to stop his eyes from staying away for too long. Steve puts the heat on—it's unseasonably cool tonight—and the warmth of the car blends with the warmth in Eddie's blood, and everything is soft and intimate around them. He's peaceful and on edge, and Steve is so fucking gorgeous in the flickering streetlights, Eddie can barely breathe.

"What're you doing after this?" The words tumble from his mouth before he can stop them, before he can find a way to ask without it sounding like a come on when it isn't.

Steve—bless, stupid, straight Steve—doesn't hear the want threaded through Eddie's question. He shrugs. "Nothing. Probably going home to watch a movie or read or something. Why do you ask?"

Eddie could stop here. He could read the warning signs and the flashing lights screaming DANGER!!! in bold, red letters. He could turn from the course he's about to set himself on, one that's sure to leave bruises.

Then again, Eddie's never been good at doing what he's told, and he's always liked to push on purpled skin until it ached.

"Well, you said you didn't care about the pot," he starts, and he can feel his pulse jump, "and I was going to dip into my personal stash, if you wanted to join in…"

Steve's eyes dart from the road to Eddie, then back. His expression doesn't change, but Eddie tenses anyway.

"You want to get high together, Munson?" he asks, and finally, there's a smile. Just a swift, soft lifting of the corner of his mouth, but it's enough.

Eddie thrills.

"Only if you're completely cool with smoking up," he says, his grin irrepressible as Steve huffs out an embarrassed laugh.

"Shut up, okay? Sometimes I don't know when to stop talking."

"I've noticed."

"Not helping," Steve says, but his smile stays until they reach Eddie's trailer.

Steve turns the car off, and in the sudden absence of the motor, all Eddie can hear is their breathing and the muffled whine of cicadas from the woods along the edge of the trailer park. His feet are loud on the gravel as he steps out of the car and walks inside, Steve's echoing footsteps a counterpoint in the night.

Steve only pauses for a second on the threshold, and Eddie knows he's looking to the living room, knows he's staring at the stain on the ceiling they've never managed to get out, but Eddie keeps going to his room. Its clutter is comforting, rather than suffocating, and he falls onto his unmade bed just in time to watch Steve walk in, all long-limbed confidence sent unsteady as he takes in the sprawl of Eddie across the bed and the floor littered with dirty clothes and random stuff that Eddie hasn't had the chance or desire to put away.

"Nice place you got here, Munson," Steve says as he closes the door. He steps around a Metallica shirt, then clears away the jeans laid across Eddie's desk chair before straddling it, his arms resting across the back. "Happy to see you brought out the red carpet treatment."

"Are you really giving me shit when I'm about to share my good weed with you?" Eddie places a hand over his heart, feigning injury. "You wound me, Harrington."

"Okay, sure." He shakes his head, staring off into the corner of the room instead of at Eddie. "Let's just do this, yeah?"

Eddie rolls off the bed and to his side table, fumbling his way through the drawer until he finds his stash and a lighter. The rolling paper glides across his tongue, and he twists the first cigarette closed with practiced ease before passing it to Steve. He fiddles with it, spinning it in his fingers, as Eddie makes the second one. So used to the motions, Eddie doesn't even have to watch as he rolls it. Instead, he looks at Steve through his lashes, trying to be subtle and likely failing.

Harrington doesn't seem to notice, too fascinated by the joint in his hand and the posters on the walls. He lets Eddie stare, even if he isn't aware he's doing it. 

There's something… more about Steve here. Maybe it's the strangeness of his letterman's jacket against posters of Judas Priest and Iron Maiden. His hair is a little less put together now that the day is nearly done. Eddie imagines Steve running his fingers through it during the day, a barely noticed habit that slowly defeats the hold of his hair spray, until all of his dark curls are softer and falling into his eyes. There are layers missing, and Eddie wonders that he's been granted the opportunity to see beneath them, to see more of who Steve is underneath the expectations. 

Meanwhile, Steve's eyes travel across Eddie's room like it's something to be studied, something worth understanding. He thinks Steve might be seeing beneath the surface, too, that maybe, just maybe, he's grasping something that no one else has even reached for before. Eddie's chest goes tight, suddenly full of an emotion he doesn't want to put a name to. It's easier to want vaguely. It's easier to simplify the twist in his gut to sexual desire.

Wanting more feels like being eaten alive by crawling, twisting things with too many arms and too many teeth. Wanting more feels like strangely warm ground against his back, writhing and shifting.

"Here," he says, surprised when his voice doesn't shake. He holds his lighter out, and Steve takes it, their fingers brushing. It ripples through Eddie's nervous system, echoes in his bones until he's ringing with that touch, while Steve, unaware, lights up and draws deep. He holds his breath, and Eddie holds his with Steve, until Steve exhales, slow and steady, before coughing, and then laughing and coughing again.

"Shit, Munson," he says, and he's already got that slowness to his words that comes from being stoned. "That's good."

It really is, and Eddie feels a bit desperate to join in. He doesn't want to risk touching Steve again, not even a brush—this fucking crush is so goddamned stupid—so he gets another lighter out of his drawer and lights up. As soon as he breathes in, he feels calmer. He knows it's too fast for the weed to actually be doing anything, but the ritual of it—slow inhale, hold the breath and smoke until his lungs burn, exhale—soothes him, drags him back from the edge of whatever mistake he's about to make.

Steve's got his elbows resting on Eddie's cluttered desk, joint pinched between two fingers as his head tilts back. His hair falls away from his face as he closes his eyes and sighs.

"You seem rather pensive over there, Harrington," Eddie says before taking another drag. "Thought we were here to have fun."

"I'm just thinking." He doesn't lift his head, doesn't open his eyes. The joint finds his mouth, though, and smoke curls around his lips when he breathes out.

Eddie's mouth is dry, and it isn't from the weed. "About what?"

"Life. How we ended up here"—he gestures between the two of them, the motion smooth and lazy—"and all the things that could've stopped us from it."

"The weed isn't that good."

Steve smiles. His head tips to the side, and when he opens his eyes, his pupils have blacked out the brown of his irises. "It's pretty good."

Eddie lays back on his bed, unable to stare into the sun that is Steve any longer. He's buzzing and warm, body thrumming with the high and with Steve's proximity and that ever-present, unshakable desire that Robin put into Eddie's head and heart. He finishes his joint, stuffs the butt into a nearby ashtray, tries not to notice when Steve crosses the room to do the same.

Eddie's startled from his haze when the bed dips to his left. Steve hasn't gone back to the chair. He's laid his body across Eddie's bed, eyes closed again, mouth curled into a smile. Eddie's blankets are going to smell like weed and Steve Harrington later, and he shouldn't get hard from the thought but he does. Thankful that Steve's eyes are closed, Eddie adjusts himself in his jeans, trying to hide his arousal before Steve can notice.

"It's fine, dude."

Eddie freezes.

"Happens to me sometimes, too," Steve says as he presses his elbow into Eddie's. It's not the same arm that's attached to the hand that's still holding his dick, but Eddie feels the touch there all the same. "It's nothing to be embarrassed about."

"I'm not." The words seem strangled from him. He's still touching himself. He can't figure out how to let go. "Just didn't want to make you uncomfortable."

"We all have dicks. They get hard sometimes." Steve turns his head and cracks one eye open. "Don't make it into a thing, Munson."

There's no way Eddie isn't going to make this into a thing. He has all of the pieces of a fantasy laid before him like a puzzle put together wrong. Steve is in his bed, and Eddie is hard, and their faces are so close, and Steve's eyes are so dark, but none of it is right, none of it is the way Eddie wants it to be. He can see the image of what he wants, but he doesn't know how to get there, doesn't know if he even can.

Steve—beautiful, wonderful Steve, who's so close and so unaware—just sighs. "I need to get laid."

Eddie can't breathe. 

"I didn't think you had a problem with that." He sounds like he's choking. He feels like he's choking.

"Just haven't had the time," Steve says with a shrug that Eddie feels. God, he's feeling so much right now.

"I get that." He doesn't.

The bed shifts as Steve turns his head to look at Eddie again, his brow furrowed, his dark eyes indecipherable. "You striking out, too?"

Eddie's laughter sounds like a wild thing, caged and suddenly let loose. "Yeah, you could say that."

"That's surprising." Steve looks at Eddie's face like he's looking, like he's gazing, like he's got a thesaurus in his pocket. "I figured the whole bad boy vibe would be a winner."

"Haven't had much of a chance to try it out," he says, honest and uncertain how to stop this train wreck in slow motion. "What with being a wanted criminal and a freak."

"Yeah, but you're not a wanted criminal anymore," Steve says, earnest and heartbreaking all at once, "and sometimes, people are looking for a freak, if you know what I mean."

"I don't." Eddie swallows, confession nearly stumbling free.

Steve rolls onto his side, head resting on his hand, and it's so like that night in the field with Robin, Eddie nearly expects Steve to make the same suggestion, that they can find out what Steve means together. Eddie's so warm, he's on fire, he's all flame, he's—

"Some girls like it a bit rough," Steve continues, grinning like it's a shared secret, like it's something that Eddie should already know. "C'mon, man, you have to know what I'm talking about."

"I'm a virgin."

He nearly shouts it, the words strangled and panicked. Eddie's panicking.

Steve's expression goes perfectly blank. He blinks, once, twice. Then his eyebrows rise until they're hidden by his gorgeous hair, and then he barks out a sharp laugh.


Eddie rolls away. He throws an arm over his face, all the heat in him doused with that one word, with that stupid fucking confession, with shame.

"Eddie," and now Steve's voice is all soft consolation, Eddie's name said like Steve's chiding a child who thinks they've done wrong. "It's not a big deal, man. You don't have to be embarrassed."

God, but the thing is? The thing is, he is. He's twenty, and no one's ever wanted him, and it stings and aches, and fuck, having Steve right here, so close, and so stupidly missing everything with his goddamned eyes and goddamned hair and goddamned sweetness, it's killing Eddie, killing him like the bats nearly did.

There's a hand pulling Eddie's arm from his face, and brown eyes staring into his, and that dumb smile creeping along the edges of Steve's mouth.

"C'mon, man. We can get you laid. It's not a big deal."

And Eddie somehow finds a way to pretend, to laugh, to ease his way to a new topic, a new conversation. He and Steve have another joint, and their fingers don't touch this time. And when Eddie lets Steve out of the trailer an hour and a half later, the cicadas swelling as he drives away, Eddie turns right back inside, and he gets so stoned, he can't think.

He can't think anymore.

The first thing Eddie does when he wakes up is call Robin.

"Buckley," he says as soon as her voice rings over the line, "you gotta get me laid."

She squawks over the line, "What?" before Eddie hears it fall to the floor. Her voice is muffled as she curses, and then she's loud in his ear again. "What the hell, Eddie? What if my parents were listening in?"

"I'm picking you up in fifteen minutes, and we're figuring this out."

"I don't—What are you—" She groans. "Okay, fine. Fifteen minutes."

Wayne is thankfully in from the night shift, so Eddie takes his keys and his beat up Ford. He breaks the speed limit the entire drive to her place, then blares the horn once, twice before she comes stumbling out the front door, her hair a mess and her expression furious.

"I'm going to kill you, Munson," she says as she slams the door. "I had to lie to my parents, and I've been trying to do that less since everything that happened this spring, so I am not happy right now, let me tell you. And whose car is this? Where's your van? And, aaaand, let me just say it, what the fuck? Who calls someone at seven o'clock in the morning to say they need to get laid? What is that?"

She turns to him, but he just tightens his hands on the wheel. "I'll tell you when we get there."

"And where, exactly, is there?"

There is their field, the one where no one goes. He parks the car, then throws it into first because the parking brake doesn't always work, and then he gets out, slamming the door and storming off into the knee-high grass.

"Eddie!" Robin's door slams behind him. "Slow down, where are you going?"

He spins around, frantic and panting, as she hurries toward him. She's leaping over the tufts of grass and the small ridges in the ground hidden by them.

"Steve came over last night," he says, and oh God, he's going to have to relive last night. "We got high. I told him I was a virgin. He said he'd help me get laid."

Robin's eyes go wide and her mouth falls open. She stumbles, then stops in front of him. "I don't… Eddie, what happened?"

He tries to explain it. Tries to translate the helpless wanting he's been dealing with for the last month and a half, the ever-present ache like an injury healed wrong. Steve's kindness and incomprehension, the darkness of his eyes when he'd said we can get you laid. Eventually, Eddie has to crouch in the grass, arms around his legs as he finishes talking, eyes pressed into his knees as he hides.

Robin doesn't say anything.

The cicadas sing.

She kneels next to him in the grass and touches his shoulder. It's enough to drag his eyes up, and he blames the wetness clinging to his lashes from having his face pressed against bone for too long.

"Eddie," Robin says, her voice a bit shaken, a bit scared, "do you… do you have feelings for Steve?"

He groans.

"I'm not judging!" Her voice is high as she continues. "I'm really not! Steve's great, he's a great guy. Love him. But if you've got feelings, Eddie, then…"

He breathes. He looks at her, takes in the pajamas she's still wearing, the tangles still in her hair, the shadows under her eyes from waking up too early. The sun is behind her like a halo.

"Yes." He's praying. "I like him."

"That's not awful!" She says it like she doesn't believe it. "We can… we can work with that, right? We'll just have to…"

"He's straight, Robin." He's suddenly furious. With himself, with her, with the world.

"Okay, but what if…" She bites her lip, looks away.

"Spit it out, Buckley."

"What if he isn't?"

Eddie laughs like his chest is full of broken glass. "Robin, please."

"No, I'm serious."

"He's told you this? He told you that he's not straight?"

She frowns at him. "I wouldn't tell you if he had."

"So he hasn't."

"No, he hasn't." She bites her lip, then takes Eddie's hands in hers. "But sometimes… I don't know, Eddie. Sometimes I catch him looking."

His heart squeezes. Hope is such a bitch. "What's that supposed to mean?"

"He looks. The way you look, or the way I look. When he thinks no one's watching, sometimes… I'm just saying, I don't think it's hopeless, y'know?"

He wants to believe her, he really does. But even as he nods, even as her smile brightens, he can't.

Not yet.

After that, he starts paying attention. He's been paying attention to Steve for awhile, but now Eddie's looking for signs when before he didn't allow himself to. He feels like he's in those Columbo reruns he catches Wayne watching late at night, picking out clues and hints from everything Steve says and does.

Eddie catches Steve looking a bit too long at the Top Gun posters at the theater, notices the way his eyes linger on handsome men, how he sometimes stumbles on his words when Eddie smiles at him.

But Eddie also sees the way that Steve looks at Nancy, watches him take girls out on dates and come to their milkshake nights with an ease to his movements that sets jealousy and want thrumming through Eddie in equal parts.

"I don't get it." He's leaning across the front counter at Family Video, Robin behind it while she fills out late fee tickets. Steve's got the night off, and it's nearly closing, so Eddie's willing to risk it. "I mean, one day, I think you're right, and then the next day, he's got a different girl in his car, and I just…" He pulls at his hair. 

This is what he's been reduced to, pulling his beautiful hair out because of Steve goddamned Harrington.

Robin finishes filling out her last ticket, then tucks it in with the others behind the counter. She walks from behind the counter over to the front door, flips the OPEN sign to CLOSED, and then locks the door.

"I have a plan," she says, sounding like she's getting ready for battle. As she shakes her vest, shoulders squared, Eddie thinks she might actually be.

"You're giving me 'about to break into another dimension to save someone' vibes, Buckley. What're we talking about here?"

She grins. "Solving both of your problems at the same time, Munson. Now, I need you to trust me."

"I don't think I can go that far."

"Shut up, you're doing it whether you like it or not."

He laughs, then holds his hands out at his sides. "Okay, Buckley. Lay it on me."

In terms of stupid ideas, it's not the worst. In terms of good ones? Not even close to top ten.

"This is dumb," Eddie says as he gets ready at Robin's place a few days later. She's done something with his hair, and the curls are more defined than usual, the frizz almost entirely gone. He isn't used to it, and he can't stop himself from touching. Robin smacks his hand, and he pulls it away from his hair with a wince. "This is so dumb. I don't know why you think this is going to work."

"Because I know Steve," she says as she finishes straightening Eddie's jacket, brushing imaginary lint from the leather, "and I know you, and there's no way this doesn't happen."

He rolls his shoulders, nodding. The first step is, as Robin put it, making him look hot as fuck. She's got him wearing a Hellfire shirt that'd been printed a size too small. It clings to his arms and chest, every bit of muscle definition he has—and he does have it, thank you; there are ways to get fit without participating in group sports—on display. He's also crammed into his smallest pair of jeans, the ones with the rips at his thigh and knee that do really good things for his ass. It's probably the best he's going to look without sacrificing his personal style, and it's more trouble than he's ever put into getting dressed for their regular milkshake nights.

The second step is getting Dustin to stay home.

"Hey kid," he says when Dustin answers the phone. "I've got a favor to ask."

"Yeah, Eddie, whatever you need. What's up?"

Eddie swallows, suddenly nervous. "I know it's short notice, but I need you to skip milkshakes tonight."

The line crackles with silence, and Eddie curls the cord around his finger, nervous as he waits.


There's so much suspicion in Dustin's voice, it's almost funny.

"It's nothing, bud, I promise. I just need to talk to Steve alone."

"And everything's fine?" There's a familiar fear—one that Eddie recognizes in himself—in Dustin's voice, and he hurries to ease it.

"Yes, absolutely. Nothing to be worried about, I promise. I promise, Dustin."

"Okay." A shaky breath. "Okay, yeah. Sorry, I just… Yeah, man, if you need to talk to Steve, that's fine."

"I'll take you out tomorrow instead, yeah? We can have a guys night, just the two of us."

"That sounds good. Have a good time with Steve, yeah? Don't get into any trouble, you two ladykillers running around town together."

Eddie laughs, and it's a bit hysterical, a bit terrified. "Yeah, man. No promises, though."

It makes Dustin laugh, which is what Eddie wanted, and they get off of the phone. Eddie throws Robin a thumbs up, and she rubs her hands together like some kind of Bond villain.

"Step three!" she shouts before grabbing her keys. "Let's get you laid."

She drops him off at the diner fifteen minutes before he and Steve normally meet up. Leaning out the driver's side window, she grins at him, eyes bright with hope and determination.

"Go get 'em, big boy," she says with a wink, and Eddie can't decide if he wants to hug her or strangle her. The strangling is at least fifty percent to do with nerves. So's the hug. Eddie's sweating in his leather jacket, and the wash of AC as he steps into the diner is an immediate, though temporary, relief. The waitress smiles at him from behind the counter.

"Looking a little light tonight," she says. "Where're your friends?"

He smiles, feeling immediately off-center. There are people here who know him, who know them. What was Robin thinking? What was he thinking?

"On their way," he says after a beat too long. He sits in their usual booth—they have a usual, this is too open, it's too obvious, what was he thinking?—and lets his hands sweat against the table top.

"Water?" the waitress asks from next to him, and Eddie jumps. "Oh, didn't mean to startle you there! Can I get you a water while you wait?"

"Yes," he croaks, "please."

"Of course, sweetheart. I'll be right back with that."

No one calls him sweetheart. He must look like shit to get that kind of sympathy in this town. He takes his jacket off and leaves it crumpled on the bench seat next to him, in easy reach for whenever he needs to make a getaway.

Not that he's got a driver or a car. Fuck, what were they thinking?

The waitress brings his water a few minutes before Steve arrives, so the glass is sweating as badly as Eddie is when Steve settles into the booth.

"Hey man," he says, looking around the diner. "Dustin in the bathroom?"

"No, no." Eddie fiddles with his glass. "He's at home. I wanted to… Uh, I guess I wanted to talk to you. Alone, that is."

Steve's eyebrow raises. "Anything I need to be worried about?"

"No." This is mortifying. Eddie is going to sink through the bench seat, through the floor,  and back into the Upside Down, where he's going to happily be eaten by bats. "I didn't think it would be appropriate to talk about… this if Dustin were around."

"And what, exactly, is this?"

The waitress interrupts before Eddie can respond. "What can I get you two tonight?"

Eddie orders—only a side of fries, his stomach too unsteady for his usual burger and shake—and waits for Steve to do the same. He's tracing the condensation on his water glass, letting the droplets of water cling to his fingertips as he stares at the circle of water it's creating on the table.

"Okay, spit it out," Steve says when the waitress leaves. "You're starting to freak me out, Munson."

Eddie leans forward. "It's about what we talked about last time. My… problem?"

Steve frowns, an adorable little divot forming in the middle of his dumb face, before Eddie can almost literally see the light bulb go off in his brain. "Oh, shit! Okay, okay. Fuck, yeah. Definitely not something to talk about with impressionable youngsters around." He laughs, then leans back in the booth in obvious relief. "Shit, I thought you were gonna tell me something serious."

As far as Eddie's concerned, this is serious, but Steve doesn't know the stakes Eddie's playing for tonight, so he can't exactly get mad at the guy.

"I think there's a party happening on the east side of town," Steve continues. "Some college kids are renting a house out that way, and they don't really pay attention to who comes and goes. I bet we could find a girl who'd be into you."

And then there's one of those moments, the ones that Eddie is convinced mean something until he catches Steve chasing skirts again. Steve's eyes linger on Eddie's lips, on the dip of his throat, the too-tight shirt as it clings around his chest and shoulders. Steve is clearly inspecting every fucking inch of Eddie's body that's visible above the table, and it should be enough.

Eddie swallows.

Goddamn it, it is enough.

But he can't talk about that here, not with the waitress recognizing them and possibly overhearing things. He can risk a lot of things tonight, but not that.

"Yeah, that… that could work. I'm gonna need to stop by my trailer before we go, though. I need to get something to calm me down." He laughs and rubs his sweating palms on his jeans. "I'm fucking nervous, man."

It's the truest thing he's ever said in his life, and the sincerity must ring out loud and clear, because Steve's grin softens.

"I keep telling you, it'll be okay. Even if we don't find someone to take you home, there's gotta be a couple of girls who'll make out with you. You don't have to seal the deal tonight, we've got all summer."

Their food arrives a minute later, and as Eddie picks at his fries, Steve lifts his burger to his mouth and takes a bite. As he swallows, he wipes a bit of ketchup from the corner of his mouth and grins.

"So, Eddie, what's your type?"

"My type?" His voice squeaks. He's so fucked.

"Yeah," Steve says, stealing a fry from Eddie's plate and popping it into his mouth. "Your type. What kind of girl do you go for?"

No girls, Eddie thinks somewhat madly. No girls at all.

"Dark hair," he says, figuring if he can keep things gender neutral, he'll somehow make it through. "Dark eyes. Athletic."

When Eddie pauses, Steve gestures for him to continue. "C'mon, man, that's just what she looks like. What about personality? If things work out, you could end up dating her. I'm gonna need details if I'm going to find someone you won't hate after a night."

The only person he's going to hate is himself. This is torture. This is worse than the bats.

"Uh," he says eloquently. "I guess… smart, but not bookish. I'd like to be able to have a conversation with… her"—he stumbles over the pronoun and pinches his leg in retaliation—"after, you know. And someone who likes music, even if it's not metal. Someone I can trust, who listens."

God, he's just talking about Steve at this point, isn't he?

"Okay," Steve says slowly. "I can work with that, I guess. Gonna be hard to figure out while we're hanging out at a dark party, but don't let anyone say I'm afraid of a challenge."

Steve is smiling, though it doesn't seem to reach his eyes.

Another sign, or just Eddie reading into too many things now?

The conversation shifts, and the rest of the meal goes smoothly. It's a normal night at the local burger joint, minus the chaos that is Dustin, and Eddie falls into the familiarity of it like a freshly made bed. He's cracking jokes, and Steve's laughing. It's easy, it's so easy. He never thought he'd have a friendship like this, that someone would get him the way Steve seems to, and to do it without judgment. Even if this doesn't go the way he wants it to, Eddie knows—deep in his marrow, in his bones, he knows—that Steve will still be there at the end, one way or another.

His plate of fries is cleared when the waitress brings out their bill.

"My treat," Eddie says, grabbing it before Steve can take his ticket off of the little plastic tray. "Since you're gonna be driving."

"Why? Where's your car?"

"Still in the shop," Eddie lies. "Wayne dropped me off earlier."

Steve's smile is a little confused, but he doesn't argue. "Thanks, then, I guess. I wish you'd told me. You know the trailer park's on my way here, I could've picked you up."

"I didn't want to be too much of a freeloader," Eddie says. While the trailer park is on the way from Steve's house, it's very much not on the way from Robin's, and there's no way he was going to try to explain that.

Eddie throws a couple of bills on the table, and they step out into the night. It's cooler, but still warm enough that Eddie's jacket is too heavy to wear for long. He throws it over his shoulder, a finger hooked into the collar holding it in place, and he heads toward Steve's car. Steve's a few steps behind him, and Eddie puts a bit of a lean into his steps, letting his hips sway more than normal.

"You okay, man?" Steve asks from behind him. "You're walking weird. It looks like you've got a rock in your shoe or something."

Eddie squeezes his eyes shut tight and curses internally. "You know what, you're right? I think there's a bit of gravel. I'll get it out in the car."

As soon as Steve unlocks the doors, Eddie gets into the passenger seat and goes through the motions of shaking gravel from his boot. He slides it back on, then buckles in, trying not to think too hard about how ridiculous this whole night has been.

"Better?" Steve asks before backing out of the parking lot.


God, if only.

He turns on the local radio station and lets top-twenty pop spill over him. It's not his kind of music, not even a little, but Steve sings along with it every fucking time, and Eddie's gotten addicted to the mellow sound of his voice melding with Madonna or Falco or the Bangles.

They reach the trailer park, and Steve idles the car in front of the trailer.

"You should come in," Eddie says as he opens his door. "If you want, I mean."

"Should I assume this is an offer to share whatever you're going to be using to take the edge off?"

"Yeah." Eddie's throat is so dry. "I'm sharing."

So Steve turns off the engine, and he follows Eddie into the trailer and into Eddie's room, and that's—finally—step three complete.

Now, all he has to do is make it through step four to step five.

Eddie is shitting himself in fear over step four.

Just like last time, Steve shuts the door and settles into Eddie's desk chair. This time, though, Steve sits in it normally and lets his long legs splay out in front of him. Eddie's room isn't that big, so Steve's shoes brush up against Eddie's boots. Eddie should pull away, but he doesn't. Instead, he presses the toe of his boot into the curve of Steve's shoe and waits.

Steve doesn't move, either.

If Buckley's right, Eddie thinks over the pounding of his heart in his ears, I will never hear the fucking end of it.

He fumbles a bit for his pot, but he's prepared this time so his unsteady fingers don't stop him from passing Steve an already rolled joint. He holds out his lighter, then sparks it before Steve can take it. Those dark eyes glance up at Eddie's quickly, but then Steve watches the flame as he lights up. Eddie's watching Steve and the way the fire dances in his eyes. There's smoke between them when Steve pulls back, and Eddie feels high already, just from that split second.

He needs to smoke up if he's going to make it through this—through step four, the worst and most terrifying step of all—so he holds his hand out as Steve finishes taking a drag.

"Don't keep it all for yourself, Harrington." He leaves his hand between them. "Share with the class."

Steve laughs, smoke curling from the raised corners of his mouth, and hands Eddie the blunt. Their fingers brush—they have to brush, Eddie rolled this one short and thin—and Eddie lets the touch linger. Steve frowns, but he doesn't pull away. He looks… puzzled.


The pot isn't that strong, but Eddie's been a nervous wreck for well over an hour now, so it hits him hard. He's flying, mind a little faded, anxiety finally manageable.

He can do this.

He can fucking do this.

Step four.

"I gotta be honest with you," he finally says. He takes another drag from the joint, then passes it back to Steve. "I just… I couldn't say it at the diner."

"Everything okay?" Steve's lips wrap around the slightly wet end of the joint, landing where Eddie's lips had been a moment later. Like a kiss out of sync.

"So, this whole virginity thing…"

"It's been an elaborate trick to get me to pick up girls for you."

Eddie laughs. It'd be frantic if he weren't a little stoned. "No, not exactly."

"Then what, man? I keep telling you, it's not that big of a deal."

Okay. Here he goes.

"I'm not into girls, man."

His heart is pounding. Steve's looking at him in confusion. God, he's fucked this all up, hasn't he? It's all over now.


"I don't like women, Steve." Eddie is watching his worst case scenario unfold before his eyes. His certainty from earlier evaporates like summer rain on blacktop. Steve's never going to talk to him after this. Fuck. Fuck. "I like men."

Steve stares at Eddie until he curses. He immediately shoves the blunt into the ashtray, cursing and shaking his hand.

"Fucking burnt my fingers," he says, grimacing. "That wasn't… It's okay, you know? If you aren't into women. I don't… I know someone, someone else who's… they're not into… I mean, you're not the only… It's fine."

Somehow, this is worse. Steve stumbling over his words and sucking on the burnt ends of his fingers is worse than him not knowing. 

Eddie's gonna be sick.

"Guess you don't have to worry about finding me some chick at a party," Eddie says, trying for lighthearted and missing it entirely. Christ, this could not have gone worse.

He's staring at the patch of carpet between his boots, his hands tangled in his lap, arms resting on the top of his legs. His hair—his beautifully curled hair with the soft shine and the extra bounce, the hair he and Robin spent thirty minutes getting just right—hangs in front of his eyes.

The bed shifts.

Steve puts his hand on Eddie's knee.

"Hey, man." Steve squeezes, and Eddie feels it through his entire body. "I'm serious. It's okay. I'm not gonna… like hit you or anything."

"I didn't think you were going to hit me, Harrington."

"Well, I don't know what you were thinking, man. You're kind of all over the place right now."

Eddie lifts his head. "Can you blame me?"

"... No, I guess not." Steve's hand is still on Eddie's knee. "We don't have to go anywhere, you know. We can just hang out and smoke and listen to whatever you call music these days. Or"—and he has the indecency to look hurt, to look like a wounded goddamned puppy when he says—"I can leave. If you want."

What Eddie wants is to put his hand over top of Steve's, to force that consoling touch further and further up Eddie's thigh until it's resting in the crease between his leg and his hip, until it's resting over his fly. He wants to lift that hand to his mouth and suck first one, then two fingers in, to feel them against his tongue and lick away the mingled taste of salt and pot from Steve's skin. He wants so very many things, and none of them involve Steve going anywhere.

"Stay," he says, because it's enough of what he wants to ease the ache a little.

Steve squeezes Eddie's knee.

He stays.

Not just in the trailer, but on Eddie's bed. They smoke another joint, both of them laying back as they pass it back and forth. They're halfway through it, both of them soft and fuzzy from the high, when Steve shifts, then coughs.

"I don't…" He shifts again, his arm pressed against Eddie's. "I don't want you to think I'm fucking with you or anything, but… How'd you know?"

His brain is slow. "Know what?"

Steve shifts again, but this time it's his leg pressing against Eddie's, their thighs touching to their knees, down along their calves. A long line of heat against the seam of Eddie's too-tight jeans that goes from hip to floor.

"That you liked guys."

Oh shit.

Oh shit.

Buckley was fucking right.

"How'd you know you liked girls?" Eddie says. It comes out smooth and easy, not strangled like he's feeling, not like every syllable is going to be replaced with I like you and I want you and touch me.

Steve laughs, and the tension in his muscles eases. Eddie feels it all along his body and in the way the mattress shifts.

"Touché, Munson." Steve reaches across Eddie's body for the joint, nearly gone again. He takes a deep drag, holds it, releases. "But like… when did you figure it out?"

"I think it was in the third grade?" Eddie thinks hard, pushes through the fog of memory and weed. "Maybe fourth. There was this guy, and he just… fascinated me. I don't think I really understood how he fascinated me, not for another year or two, but that whole school year, I was obsessed with becoming his friend."

"And did you guys become friends?"

Eddie swallows. "I moved, right before summer break started. Things with my dad and mom… That's when I moved in with Wayne."


"Yeah." Eddie takes the joint, takes a hit. Puts the butt in the ashtray. "Shit happens."

The mattress shifts as Steve rolls onto his side. Eddie turns his head, aiming for nonchalance as his heart rate ratchets up. Steve's so close, and his eyes are so dark. There's that spicy hint of his aftershave. Eddie knows it'll be all over his bed for the next few days, knows that he'll get hard just smelling it, that he'll come with his dick in his hand and his face in the comforter, hunting for any trace that remains of that scent.

"Have you ever…" Steve licks his lips, looks at Eddie's. He's going to burst into flames. "Have you ever kissed a guy?"

Oh fuck, is this step five?

His hair rasps against the comforter as he nods. "Once or twice, when I was in Indy."

"What was it like?" Steve's whispering now, even though they're so close Eddie can feel Steve's breath against his skin.

He whispers back, not certain if he'll break whatever spell they're under if he's too loud. He can see that picture again, the pieces sliding into place. He's so close.

"Good. It was good."

He wants to touch his thumb to Steve's mouth. His arm twitches before he stops himself.

"Would you…" Steve isn't even trying to not look at Eddie's mouth anymore. His pupils are blown wide and dark, his lips shining as he runs his tongue over the bottom one again. Cheeks flushed, breath shaking.

Steve turns away.

"Would I…" Eddie can feel opportunity sliding through his fingers. He's scrambling to hold on.

"Never mind." Steve's throat bobs as he swallows. "Forget I said anything."

"Harrington." Eddie rolls onto his side, rolls until he's looking down at Steve, until he's got Steve's body bracketed between his arms, their chests separated by a scant few inches of air. "Steve. Tell me."

"Would you kiss me?" His words are broken and soft, a mix of plea and shame, and they light Eddie up like a forest fire.

He doesn't reply, just leans in and does as he's been asked.

Steve tastes like marijuana, like ketchup and grease, like salt. Underneath it, there's a hint of something indefinable, something that Eddie knows he will always think of as Steve, the pure essence of the man distilled on his lips and tongue. Eddie wants to sip it down like liquor, to get drunk on it, and with Steve groaning beneath him, and Steve's hands tangling into Eddie's too-perfect hair, he does.

He presses in closer, their chests touching, their legs tangling as Eddie tries to fill the space that's no longer between them. He shifts his hands into Steve's hair, tilts Steve's head just so, and their lips slot together. 

It's so good. It's so good. Eddie groans, then traces the seam of Steve's lips with his tongue. Mouth parting, Steve tentatively touches his tongue to Eddie's, and it's flames and fire and cicadas singing in his mind. He pushes forward, and they trade off tasting each other's mouths, their lips wet and sliding against each other in perfect counterpoint to the frantic scramble of hands in hair and bodies close together on the bed.

He loses track of time.

Everything condenses down to Steve. Steve's mouth, and Steve's hands, and Steve's hair and skin and scent. His hard body, his hard dick, the furtive thrusts of his hips against Eddie's thigh. There's no outside world anymore, just the two of them in the center of a universe.

Eddie isn't sure which of them pulls away for breath. They're both panting, and he feels strung out, desperate and hungry, the longer his mouth isn't on Steve's.

But there's a twist of fear in his gut, one that's mirrored in Steve's eyes. Eddie runs his thumb along the curve of Steve's cheek, brushes it over the wrinkles hidden in the corner of Steve's eye. They smooth and soften.

"You okay?" Eddie asks. His voice is a wrecked rasp. He doesn't care.

Steve nods, then bites his lip. "You weren't kidding about it being good. I just… I like girls."

It hurts, but Eddie isn't sure why. "I think it's okay if you like both."

"I didn't know you could."

How can Eddie not kiss him then? How could anyone refuse that soft touch of comfort, requested but without asking? It's so soft. He feels like down, like feathers in a pillow broken and spilled across a floor. He's floating, tender and scattered, and he's kissing Steve, he's kissing Steve, and Steve is kissing him back.

"Is this okay?" Eddie's lips brush Steve's as he asks. "Do you want me to stop?"

Steve shakes his head, skates his hands over Eddie's hair. They're shaking, too, but they steady as he tenderly gathers Eddie's curls together before draping them over one of Eddie's shoulders, baring his neck. Steve's thumb traces the line of Eddie's throat, the jumping pulse beneath his skin.

"I don't want you to stop," he says, his dark eyes following his soft touch that's making Eddie want to sink his hands and teeth into Steve and never let go. "C'mere."

He pulls Eddie back down for another kiss, then rolls them so Steve is laying on top of Eddie. Steve's lips lift, then land on the spot his thumb had traced, and oh, there's a tongue against Eddie's skin, and then teeth, and he hisses in a breath as his hips jerk off the bed.

"Shush," Steve whispers into the sting. "There's no rush, Munson. Just let me…"

And Eddie does. Oh God, he does. He tilts his head back, and drags Steve's mouth back to his skin, fingers tangled in hair. Body on fire, crackling, snapping, he lets Steve burn him to the ground with teeth and tongue and lips. Steve's hands spread across Eddie's chest and then his side, then his hip. His thumb slips into Eddie's belt loop before it pulls fabric taut against the hardness of Eddie's cock, and he cannot breathe, it's so good.

"You can," he pants, his own hands too stupid to do much more than tangle in Steve's hair and his shirt, to push the fabric up so he can feel skin and muscle, "you can touch me, if you want."

Steve stills, but his thumb stays, the front of Eddie's jeans still pulled firmly against his dick.

"Where do you want me to touch you?"

"You need me to spell it out for you?"

Steve laughs, and Eddie chases after its taste. He kisses Steve, loses track of what was happening, distracted by that clever, stupid mouth.

Steve's the first to pull away, and his eyes are dark and burning. "I want you to tell me what you want me to do to you. I want to hear you say it." 

Steve licks his kiss-swollen lips, chasing their mingled taste or just a nervous habit, but Eddie doesn't care. Eddie just wants.

He's not used to asking for what he wants, though.

"Touch me." He's flushed, but he can feel himself flushing more, this time from embarrassment rather than desire. "Anywhere, everywhere, just get your hands on me."

Steve smiles.

"Sit up."

Eddie does, feeling uncertain. Steve's hands are gentle as they slide under the hem of Eddie's shirt, as they ease it up and over Eddie's head and arms, leaving him bare chested and panting.

Steve pushes Eddie back onto the bed, palm in the center of Eddie's chest, and stares. His eyes coast across Eddie's skin, pausing on his tattoos, on his nipples, on the line of hair disappearing into his waistband. Steve's fingers follow his gaze, and Eddie arches into the touch.

"You're really sensitive," Steve says, like he's pleased and surprised and pleased. He presses his thumb against Eddie's nipple, drags it across the raised skin until Eddie groans, then does it again with his nail. "I think I'm into it."

Eddie's losing his mind. "You fucking better be. Jesus Christ, you're killing me right now."

"Can't have that." Steve leans down, and Eddie thinks he's going to be kissed again, but Steve keeps bending. Bending until his mouth hovers over Eddie's nipple, until his tongue flattens against it, and Eddie swears he sees stars.

"I wanna make you feel good," Steve says before he sucks Eddie's nipple into his mouth, worrying it with his lips and tongue, with his fucking teeth, Christ, that's good.

"Gonna need to return the favor," Eddie manages. He's running out of blood in his brain. "Take your fucking shirt off. I want to see."

"You've seen it before." Steve still grabs the hem and tears his shirt off. He's hairier than Eddie, muscles more defined. There are scars along his sides from the demobats, but they're easily hidden beneath Eddie's palms as he grabs Steve's sides, easily forgotten as Eddie's finally allowed to touch what he's been wanting for months now.

"You're so fucking gorgeous," he says, then immeditely regrets the words. They're too honest, too wanting. It's more than what he should be revealing right now, while they're making out and fooling around, while it still doesn't matter quite as much as it could.

He can't stop, though.

"Look at you." He grabs Steve's hips, grinds up into him. "Fuck, if you knew what you did to me, Harrington. If you knew…"

Steve leans forward and grinds against Eddie. There's a brush of hardness against hardness, and God, Eddie isn't going to survive this.

"Are you hard for me?" Eddie drags his hands down, presses his thumbs into Steve's pelvis, into the straining fabric of his jeans. "Did I make you hard?"

"Why don't you find out?" Steve asks, all bold, brash daringness. He doesn't even wait for Eddie to move, just thumbs the button of his jeans open, lowers the zip, lets his straining boxers push through the gaping fabric. "Put your hands on me, Munson, or I swear to God, I'll—"

His voice breaks off as Eddie cups Steve's erection. Eyes squeezed shut, that full bottom lip caught between his teeth, his body is taut like a guitar string, and oh, does Eddie plan to make him sing. He rubs the palm of his hand over Steve's dick, feels the shape and weight of it through his cotton boxers.

He's fucking hung.

"Guess I wasn't too off with that big boy comment, huh?" Eddie teases before trying to wrap his fingers around Steve's bulge. "Shit, Harrington. No wonder the girls like you."

"And the boys," Steve says with a wild, laughing groan. "Please, Eddie."

He likes Steve begging, but he'd like Steve doing anything, he thinks. Still, he takes pity on the guy and finally takes Steve's cock out.

His mouth waters.

It's thick and long. Steve's cut, and his head is red and leaking. Eddie swipes his thumb across the slit, stares as the precome that trails between his finger and Steve's cockhead. He's got his finger in his mouth before he realizes what he's doing, shivers at the salty-bitter taste. Steve's panting above him, eyes wide and mouth open.

"Fuck." He can't seem to tear his eyes from Eddie's thumb still resting in his mouth. "Fuck, that's hot. How are you so fucking hot?"

And then Eddie's thumb is out of his mouth, and Steve is kissing him, chasing the taste of himself on Eddie's tongue. Eddie can feel Steve's dick against his stomach, can feel the way it's leaking and leaving streaks against his skin.

God, he's going to come like this, isn't he? Without even getting his jeans open, without getting them off. He's going to shoot his load because Steve Harrington is on top of him and hard and his dick is wet, and his mouth is, too, and Eddie groans and shoves Steve away, panting hard.


Steve's hair is a riotous mess, all tangled locks standing up in a million directions. Confusion is written large across his face, tinged with delayed want. But he's still Steve, and even with all of his fucking beauty, he's kind, he's so kind, so he doesn't push. He cups Eddie's cheek, and he frowns, and he asks, "You okay?"

Eddie is so okay, and so not okay. His want feels bottomless, feels like starvation. He could eat Steve whole and still want more. He could crawl under Steve's skin and not feel close enough.

But he also feels like his chest is cracking open, like his heart is dragging its beaten and battered way from his body to settle in the hollow of Steve's ribs, to find a home there.

But he doesn't say those things. It's too much to say those things now.

Maybe later, though.

Instead, Eddie raises his hips, reaches for his jeans.

"I'm not coming with these on, man," he says as he shakily undoes his button, then his zip. "I haven't done that since I was a teenager."

"You're not that much older than a teenager, you know." Steve rises from Eddie's body, and Eddie immediately misses the weight. "You're, what, barely twenty?"

"Fuck you, Harrington," Eddie says as he shimmies his jeans off of his legs. "I turn twenty-one in three months."

Steve's eyes light up. "For real? You were born in October?"

"End of September." There's a wet stain on the front of Eddie's boxers, and they're talking about birthdays.

"October fifth," Steve says. He rolls off of Eddie, slips his jeans and boxers off. Oh, fuck, he's naked. He's naked and talking about goddamned birthdays. "You're gonna have to tell me the actual date, or I won't know when to give you a present."

"Harrington." Eddie doesn't know where to look. There are too many things to look at, too many things he wants. "Can we have this conversation later?"

Steve laughs, and it tears through Eddie as thoroughly as a thunderstorm. He's lit up by it and blown down and all he wants is to stand in the middle of it all and let it wash over him.

"Yeah, Eddie, we can talk later."

Steve kisses him, skin against skin, and eases Eddie's boxers down his legs. Their cocks are touching, both of them wet and leaking against Eddie's stomach, and oh fuck, it feels so good. Steve feels so good against Eddie. His lips, his hands, his skin, and fuck, his dick. Then Steve's hand is wrapped around Eddie's cock, and he can't breathe. There are calluses against him that aren't his own, that are Steve's, and he's shaking and can't stop.

"That's it," Steve says against Eddie's mouth, says it between broken off gasps and groans. "Let me hear you, sweetheart. Tell me how you feel."

"I feel…" Eddie gasps as Steve tightens his grip. "Fuck, Steve, I feel like I'm gonna die. You're gonna fucking kill me."

"I got you." Another kiss, another twist of his wrist. "I've got you."

And then Eddie's body locks. Every muscle goes stiff and tight, and then he's gone. He's fucking gone and done and there's no Eddie Munson, no Hawkins, no trailer. He is stardust and cicada song and broken guitar strings. He is shattered and whole and lost and refound, and all he can do is groan Steve's name as Eddie comes as hard as he ever has in his life.

When the world starts to make sense again, and he can fucking breathe, he hears the frantic, wet sound of someone jerking off, and when he looks down, he sees Steve with his fist wrapped around his own cock, Eddie's come coating Steve's hand and dick. If he hadn't just had the top of his head blown off by orgasm, he'd do it again. Watching Steve get himself off over top of Eddie's body, using Eddie's come as lube…

Hottest thing he's ever fucking seen.

"You gonna come on me?" he asks, his voice sated and lazy. "Get it all over me, Harrington. C'mon, you know you wanna make a mess out of me. Let me see it, let me…"

He wraps his hand around Steve's, helps him jerk off, both of them groaning as Steve comes in heavy spurts across Eddie's stomach and chest. Thick stripes of white that mingle with his own. Steve stares down at the mess, groans, then falls onto his side, dick still in hand.

"Jesus fuck," he says, panting.

They're lying side by side. They're breathing. Neither of them is speaking.

Eddie feels panic creeping in.

What now?

He's never done this before. He doesn't know what Steve is thinking or what he wants. If this was brought on by curiosity or weed or both. What if it was a pity fuck? What if Steve was just being a good friend or some shit?

Oh, fuck, Eddie's spiraling and he doesn't know how to stop.

Steve reaches over and tangles his fingers with Eddie's. He runs his thumb over the back of Eddie's hand in slow, soothing strokes.

That's not something people do with pity fucks, do they? They don't hold hands or touch them tenderly.


"I can hear you thinking from over here," Steve says, sounding happy and tired. "And unless you're figuring out how to start round two, you should stop and come over here."

"I'm a mess." He means it in more ways than one.

"Who isn't? Now, get over here and cuddle with me."

Eddie rolls, and Steve makes space for him in the curve of his shoulder. He wraps his arm around Eddie's body, plays with the end of Eddie's hair as Eddie tries to figure out if he should press himself close to Steve and get jizz all over the both of them, or keep himself curled away so the mess doesn't spread.

"Munson. We can shower later. Now, get the fuck over here."

All over the both of them it is, then.

And it feels so good. Not good in the way the sex had felt, but better. Warm and close, wanted. Steve is combing his fingers through Eddie's hair, and his skin is soft and Eddie's got his nose pressed into the curve where Steve's shoulder meets his neck, full of that spice that Eddie loves.

"So," Steve says after a few quiet minutes. "Was that a date?"

Eddie goes still.


"Did you trick me into going on a date with you?" Steve doesn't sound angry, and as his shoulder starts shaking with quiet laughter, he rolls onto his side, over top of Eddie, and kisses him. "You're fucking devious."

"Big word for you." Eddie is grinning. He can't stop grinning.

Steve ruts his already hardening cock into the crease where Eddie's leg meets his hip. "I've got a big word for you, you smart ass."

"Are you going to count it as a date?" Eddie thrusts back, still grinning when Steve's head falls to rest on Eddie's collarbone. "We don't have to count it as a date if you don't want to."

"No, don't think you're getting out of it now." Steve kisses the ridge of bone. Eddie can feel that he's smiling when he does it. "You started this. You don't get to dump me after one date."

"Is that what we're doing, then?" Eddie's throat is tight again. "Dating?"

Steve looks up at Eddie through his lashes, his smile suddenly vulnerable. "I mean… if you wanted. I don't really know what we're doing here, man. This is kind of a first for me."

"Me, too."

Eddie cradles Steve's face and pulls him in for a soft kiss. The heat between them flares, but it's banked now, not as unrelenting, not as unforgiving as it had been before.

"I guess I could date you," he finally says, trying to make his words soft and teasing, rather than besotted and stunned. "I mean, you're going to have to get better taste in music—"

Steve tackles him to the bed, and now they're wrestling. He's getting a fucking noogie from the guy he just jerked off, but he's also laughing, shoving at Steve's hands as they grapple with each other.

"Better music," Steve grunts as he pins Eddie to the bed, Eddie's wrists in his hands, Eddie's heart in them, too. "I'll show you better music, you little shit."

And Eddie's laughing when Steve kisses him again, a wild thing set free, bounding into the night.

Robin's never going to let him hear the end of it.