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you know me better than i do

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It’s been two days. 

Will can’t lie, he had officially panicked after the high had worn off, Nancy had picked Mike up, and he was faced with the consequences of his actions. 

He couldn’t exactly not panic. This was Hawkins, it was Mike Wheeler. Mike Wheeler who had a girlfriend until a few months ago - a fully fledged girlfriend who was also, conveniently Wills’ sister. A girlfriend who was also the daughter of the chief of Police - the man who looks like he’ll be Wills’ stepfather soon enough. A man that greatly disliked Mike Wheeler. 

Did he mention it was Mike Wheeler? Who was also - conveniently - a boy. 

Things were awkward, to say the least. At least on Will’s part, he doesn’t exactly know how Mike feels about it given they haven’t talked about it. 

About what happened. Their… actions . Which is to say, the fact that they made out while both completely high out of their minds. The fact that Mike had said, “I want to kiss you all the time.” That he’d looked up at Will, eyes heavy lidded and lips puffy as he kissed Will - on the mouth - again and again and again. Smiling and breathless, giggling the whole time like some middle schooler. Cheeks pink and hands wandering. 

Will clears his throat to rid himself of the images of Mikes’ spit slick lips, tightens his hands on the straps of his backpack as he chants to himself to be brave, be brave, be brave. The Wheelers front door looms in front of him, daunting and terrifying. 

It’s absurd to be nervous, Will’s been here maybe a thousand times and he’s definitely faced worse than this door. He’s always knocked when he’s alone, but he’s also barged in with the Party and headed straight to the basement, throwing a quiet “Hi, Mrs. Wheeler!” without an ounce of hesitation in his actions. He’s always been invited and he walks right in without even thinking about it. Now though, now he can’t fathom the thought of even removing his fingers from the death grip they have on the straps of his bag to knock on the door that’s so familiar to him it could be his own. 

It’s been two days. 

They haven’t talked about what happened. Haven’t really had the chance to, haven’t been alone. It’s not that Mike hadn’t tried, in fact, Will’s the one that’s been kind of avoiding being alone with Mike. 

The next day the Party had gone to what was left of the arcade, and he’d evaded being alone with Mike every chance he got. He didn’t think he made it too obvious to Mike - Will wasn’t kidding when he said all separations between the Party had basically vanished. It wasn’t uncommon for Will to hangout with Dustin alone, or to go to Luca’s practices with Max or to spend the day playing board games with El. But, Will saw the puppy hurt look cross Mike’s face when he chose to sit next to Dustin instead of him, saw the confusion in the furrow of his brows when he paired up with Lucas to play instead of Mike. 

The day after that had hurt even more, Mike had called - the way he always does now - to ask Will if he wanted to go to the quarry, told Will he convinced Nancy to let him borrow her car, that they could eat and laze around and read comics - they’d be back before sundown of course, he assured Will quickly, knowing that even though it’s been months, the memories of the Upside Down nearly taking over Hawkins was still fresh in not only Wills' mind, but in everyone in Hawkins’ mind.

Wills' heart had shattered into a thousand little pieces as he told Mike that he couldn’t go, that he, Max and El had already planned a sleepover. Even though he knew he could easily have told the girls he was going to hang out with Mike and they wouldn’t have batted an eye, even when he knew that it wasn’t a planned sleepover at all, and that Max had just come over because she was bored.

Mike called again - today. In the same casual yet somehow eager tone he always uses he’d asked Will if he wanted to hangout, that he’d managed to buy new movies from a garage sell nearby so they didn’t have the same five movies in loop to watch, eager and undeterred by the previous rejections Will had given him. The video store hasn’t opened yet, in fact, the majority of Hawkins is still recovering from the horrors of the Upside Down, hospitals and shelters keep popping up all over town, the video store is one of those less important things. 

Will hadn’t had an actual valid excuse to keep avoiding Mike, given that El was off with Dustin, and his mom was with Hopper helping find kids and family members that went missing - or killed - during the invasion of the Upside Down.

(Hopper liked to joke that Joyce had a knack for being a detective, for following clues and finding people. But more often than not, his mother came home with tears in her eyes and a weight on her shoulders that told Will they had found another body instead of reuniting a family. Still, it’s what Joyce is determined to keep doing, and the brightness in her eyes when she does manage to reunite a family is enough for Will to never say anything about it but hug her whenever the weight is crushing her.)

Will was all out of excuses to keep avoiding Mike. He didn’t think he’d be strong enough to keep avoiding Mike either way, not with Mike calling him everyday, but this feels entirely too soon, the memories still fresh. Will feels that if he even thinks about Mike he could feel the phantom of Mike’s fingers digging into his hips, his lips pressing into Wills’ pulse, the thickness of his hair between Wills’ fingers. 

The Wheeler’s front door opens on its own, and Will jumps from where he’s standing, letting out a small yelp in surprise. 

“Jesus Christ!” Nancy yells, equally as surprised to see Will standing at her front door. “What the hell are you doing, Will?” She places a hand over her chest as she pants, startled. 

“Sorry,” Will blurts out automatically. “I was about to knock.”

Nancy rolls her eyes, in a way that is so similar to Mike it’s uncomfortable. “Well come in then. Mike’s in the basement,” she says, and makes space for Will to walk by her. “Nearly startled me to death,” she mutters as she rushes past Will, clutching a purse in one hand and folders in the other. 

“O -oh.” Will doesn’t move though, stays rooted in his spot, still clutching the straps of his backpack. 

Karen Wheeler walks past the front door in that same moment, “Oh, Will? Well what are you doing out there, come in!” She says, eyes warm and hands on her hip. 

Will swallows past the nausea in his throat. 

“Hi, Mrs. Wheeler,” he whispers, and finally moves from the space he’d been paralyzed in for at least fifteen minutes. 

She smiles warmly in a way that reminds Will of his own mother as she beckons him inside. “Mike’s downstairs,” she says, eyes bright. He doesn’t think he’s ever seen Karen so happy before and it probably has something to do with the fact that Ted Wheeler is nowhere to be found, but Will doesn’t mention it. She ruffles Wills’ hair and places a kiss on top of his head. Will knows she doesn’t do this with either Lucas or Dustin, but it’s another thing he never addresses. Parents did always tend to like him more, but he also knows that Karen Wheeler was there when everything went down in the Upside Down, when Mike jumped into that gate, when Will started floating, when they defeated Vecna. “Stay for dinner.”

Will can feel himself get warm. Just because parents always tended to like him didn’t mean he got any less embarrassed. “I’ll see what I can do Mrs. Wheeler. You know how mom gets.” 

She laughs, but it trails off in a sad little sigh. “Yeah I do hun,” she says and looks faraway in thought, no doubt thinking about how she felt when what looked like literal demons from hell started taking over the place she grew up in and she had no idea where two of her three children were, or whether they were okay. 

(The military had evacuated Hawkins, sent entire families into bunkers. Will knows Karen Wheeler lasted less than four hours before she fought, kicked and screamed to be with her other two children. She’d left Ted with Holly and fought and demanded to know where her other kids were. Will knows that Karen Wheeler faced every single nightmare Wills’ faced but she never knew of, for her children. Will knows that Karen Wheeler was there when the first of the demodogs started piling out of the gates, standing right next to Nancy Wheeler with a shotgun in her hands and steel in her eyes. Will wasn’t there, but he knows that Karen Wheeler shot dog after dog next to her daughter, refusing to leave her side.)

She lets Will go, and he goes down the familiar path to the basement without further interruptions. He doesn’t know if he’s glad or disappointed about that. All too soon he’s going down the stairs, feeling a lot like he’s walking to his doom as Mike exclaims a soft little, “Will! You’re here!” and immediately gets up to greet Will. 

He meets Will halfway down the staircase and gives him a hug. It’s a thing he does now, hugs Will every chance he gets. At first it confused and irritated Will, made him feel babied and awkward and after such a long time of having a rupture between their friendship it felt uncomfortable. Now, now he knows Mike does it for his own peace of mind, that he has his own trauma and demons and fears that only ever settle when Will and El and the rest of the Party are nearby. It’s a constant paranoia that can only ever be soothed with seeing or talking to the other person. Specifically with Will, El and now - surprisingly - with Max, after knowing everything she went through with Vecna. 

Even with his dislike of her and recent jealousy seeing as she has apparently stolen El and Will from him - his own words - he still pulls on her braids, bumps his shoulder with hers, pulls her into his side as he exchanges snark with her. His own way of showing his affection toward her. 

It’s not to say he doesn’t worry for the rest of the Party, because at his core Mike is a worrier, but Will thinks that he’s particularly latched onto them three, and it’s going to stay that way for a while. 

Will finally releases the straps of his backpack to give Mike a squeeze. Over Mike’s shoulder, Will can see the D&D book on the table, opened with the board beneath. And just like that, Will’s melting into Mike the same way Mike’s shoulders loosened at the sight of Will. 

This is Mike, Will’s best friend. They’ll be okay. 

“Hey,” Will mumbles into Mike’s shoulder. “Were you planning a campaign?” 

Mike pulls back with a sheepish grin, and abruptly turns around to go down the last few steps into the basement. Will follows him. “Yeah, just juggling around ideas so it’s no good yet. Eddie would be completely embarrassed of me right now,” he says, and goes to shut the book. “You should’ve called saying you were on your way!” He says, putting the board and book away. “I would’ve set up the movies and everything.” 

Will had meant to do it, but thinking about calling had made his stomach knot up and panic claw up his throat so he’d left before he changed his mind. “Oh, I’m sorry -“

“Nah it’s fine,” Mike is already saying as Will takes a seat on the tiny couch all four of them used to fit into. He joins Will on the couch. “We can just hang in here for a while and watch them after dinner. You’re staying over, right?” 

He motions to the bag Will still has over his shoulders, and Will warms with embarrassment. “Oh - I mean, I wasn’t planning to? I didn’t really bring any clothes or anything I just -“ 

Will pulls the bag from his shoulders. “I’ve just been meaning to bring you this.” He unzips the bag and pulls his sketchbook out, grabs a loose page from within. “Here,” he says, and hands the drawing to Mike. He’d meant to give it to Mike the day they got high but it never came up so might as well give it now. 

Will never met Eddie - obviously, but he learned a lot about him from Dustin’s letters. Learned that he was in a band and loved D&D and was cool - but more importantly Will knew firsthand that he had sacrificed his life to save Wills’ friends in the Upside Down, something Will will forever be grateful for. And while Mike only ever mentions him in passing, Will knows that he’s still grieving, can see the guilt Mike wears around him like a cloak, the faraway look in his eyes when they bike past his uncle’s trailer. Will’s accompanied Mike and Dustin to the graveyard, and stood with them in silence as they stared at the tombstone of a boy too young, too good and too misunderstood to deserve what had happened to him. 

The drawing is of Eddie. Or well Eddie’s in it at least. It’s a bit different from Will’s other pieces, it doesn’t feature them as their characters in D&D. Will’s not a Cleric, he’s just Will, small and shy. And Mike’s not a Paladin, he’s just Mike, wide-eyed and eager.

Will’s drawn the Party sitting at a table, surrounding a D&D board. Eddie’s right in the middle of it and the rest of the Party form a semi circle around him. He tried to capture Dustin’s eager smile, tried to give Eddie that mischievous look Dustin always mentioned, tried to give Lucas that same focused look he always gets as he’s planning their next move. He’s drawn himself between Mike and Dustin, smiling. And he tried to capture the brightness in Mike’s eyes, as he leans over in the drawing toward Eddie, hanging onto every word that came from Eddie’s mouth.

It’s not the usual drawing Will does, because he likes to draw their fictional characters, likes to always draw the best version of himself, but it feels more real somehow, to draw them as they are. In the end, they’re all just boys playing a game they enjoy together, and it’s beautiful as it is. He’d tried to give Mike a piece of Eddie, a glimpse into his past, into happy memories, while also including things from now. He’d drawn Eleven and Max sitting in the corner of the page, absorbed in their own world as they giggle into each other, not caring about the game taking place behind them. But still in the picture because they’re equally important to Mike and are associated with happy memories. 

Will’s wondering if he’s overstepped the longer Mike stares at the drawing without saying anything. 

He shouldn’t have drawn Eddie’s hair like that, what does he know of Eddie? Will had never even met him. Maybe he doesn’t look like Eddie at all and Mike is wondering why the fuck Will would give him a drawing of a guy he’s never met. And why he’s included himself, Max and El in the picture when neither of them really knew him. Maybe this is offensive and Will should’ve never thought about drawing or giving it to Mike in the first place. 

“Will,” Mike breathes, and Will’s eyes snap to his. They’re pooling with tears, lower lip trembling. “Will this is … this is beautiful.” 

Will feels every single doubt escape from his body in a sudden rush. He warms, feels his heart kickstart in his chest, a heady breath flooding his lungs. “Really? Are you sure?”

Mike nods wordlessly, fingers stroking through the drawing and onto Eddie’s figure. “Yeah. This is -“ he breaks off in a wet laugh, his fingers coming to circle Will’s figure, and then Max and El’s in the corners. “You’ve included yourself and all of us. This is the best gift I’ve ever -“ 

He breaks off, seems at a loss for words, and Will can feel himself get warmer and warmer. He hadn’t quite grasped how important Eddie was to Mike. He’d known on some level they were friends from Dustins' letters and the way Mike spoke of him in passing now, but in the time he was in California, the two letters he’d gotten from Mike never mentioned Eddie, not even in passing. 

Will had first gotten the idea of drawing Eddie for Dustin, and he’d drawn Dustin a similar picture, only he’d excluded himself, El and Max. Gave Dustin an actual glimpse into his memories of Eddie. Into the little happiness Dustin got from joining a Party that reminded him of his own, into what it felt like to be accepted and lifted by someone older than him and with the same interests. 

Dustin had cried, quietly and wetly as he stared at the drawing, and it had been unnerving for Dustin to cry so quietly, without a sound as he stared into the face of a person that died in his arms. But Will had sat with him, smile soft and expression tentative, and told Dustin with all the love he could muster, “It’s for you. I didn’t know him, but I know he’s ecstatic to know that you made it through Hell and remember him for being a hero.” 

That day, Will learned a lot more of Eddie through Dustin, heard fantastic and amazing stories about different adventures Eddie had let them in on. 

Maybe Mike had felt that same love and acceptance from Eddie, that same admiration, but being so far away from Eddie when all the shit went down in Hawkins made him not speak of his own pain, not having Eddie literally die in his arms made grieving a quiet sort of affair. Dustin needed the care and attention, not Mike. But they’d both lost a friend, who knows that if Mike had never gone to California maybe Eddie would’ve died in his arms too. Or maybe not died at all. And Will should’ve realized sooner, how much his friend was suffering in silence. 

“This is the best gift I’ve ever gotten,” Mike repeats, and finally looks up at Will. His eyes are blurry and his mouth wobbles in a smile, and he’s looking back and forth between Will’s eyes like he can’t believe he’s sitting beside him. 

Will smiles, and a tear slides down Mike’s cheek. “I’m glad. I thought I might’ve gotten his hair wrong, I’ve only seen the picture his uncle put up -“

“No, no,” Mike interrupts, shaking his head and laughing a bit to himself. He looks back down at the drawing. “It’s perfect. His hair’s perfect, and Will, this is…”

He looks back up to Will, and he’s wearing a smile like he’s resigned and happy and miserable all at the same time. “I love you,” he says, and Will’s world drops on its axis. Mike squeezes his eyes shut, more tears slide down his cheeks as he opens them and stares straight into Wills’ soul. “I love you so much, I - thank you. Thank you for this. It’s - it’s beautiful, Will.”

Will’s tongue is fat in his mouth. Doesn’t know how to respond. “It’s fine, it’s not - I mean. You’re welcome,” he manages, and Mike laughs, sniffles as he cries. He wipes the tears from his face and stands. He offers Will his hand. 

“C’mon,” he says. “Let’s put this up in my room.” 

Will takes his offered hand, and follows because of course he does. He’ll always follow Mike. Just like he knows Mike will always follow him, has followed him into Hell, into the Upside Down. He still remembers the way Mike dove headfirst into that gate, not caring that Vecna was on the other side but that Will was on the other side. 

Will looks around the basement, sees all the drawings he’s given Mike over the years still pinned up and feels so grateful to be alive. It’s a strange feeling, something he hadn’t felt in a long time. He thinks he can live with being Mikes’ best friend the rest of his life, this sliver of happiness is everything he’s ever wanted and he can’t imagine not ever being grateful for it. 

They’re still holding hands when they go up to Mike’s room, and it strikes Will suddenly that he hasn’t been in there for more than a year. They always hangout in the basement, they huddle their sleeping bags close, play D&D down there until Mikes’ mom calls them up. Even after they defeated Vecna and Will was over all the time, they never went up to his room. They had everything they needed in the basement, there was never any reason to come up. 

As Mike leads him into his space, he’s first struck with how different it seems. It’s a bit cluttered, not like Wills’ is - Will tends to be a bit messier now - but he’s still a teenage boy. There are clothes strewn across the dresser, his hamper, his bed is unmade. But what takes Will by surprise is the recent photos he has across his nightstand, pinned to the walls, and more importantly - Wills’ painting. He has it right above his dresser, the one Will gave him back in the van, where he told Mike that he was the heart, that he’s always been the heart that glued the Party together. The painting Mike had taken, eyes sparkling and smile wide and said that no, he wasn’t the heart, but Will was. The gesture that had been from Will to Mike had turned the other way around. 

Mike had still accepted the drawing, emotional and proud, and proclaimed he was going to hang it up as soon as they’d gotten back to Hawkins. Will assumed he’d meant in the basement, where Will’s still embarrassed to see his old drawings hung up proudly even though they’re bad. Not up in his room. 

“Oh-“ Will breathes, but Mike is already pulling him deeper into the room. He releases Will and immediately goes to rummage through his drawers, leaving Will feeling lost in the middle of Mike’s space, unsure of what to do or where to stand even if he was invited in.

He walks around Mike’s room, eyes pulled to the photographs. Mike doesn’t have many pictures, forever grumpy about having his photo taken, but there are a few of the Party his mom must’ve snuck in. There’s one from when they were all tiny, huddled in Mike’s basement; and a few of them older, more recent, still in the same basement playing D&D. There’s another one of them at the pool that Mrs. Wheeler snuck in. This was recent, Will remembers; Max and Eleven are in the photo, Eleven sitting on Dustins’ shoulders and Max on Lucas’, their hands clasped together and sporting matching grins as they try to shove the other into the water. Will was supposed to referee the entire thing, and he’s sitting at the edge of the pool with only his legs dipped in.

Will doesn’t quite remember this moment like this, but Mike’s in the pool standing between Wills’ legs, hands on either side of Wills’ body as he’s shoving himself up the water to whisper something in Wills’ ear. The photo caught Will mid cackle, and though from the angle it’s hard to see Mike, his cheeks are pulled in a bright grin, face close to Wills’. 

It looks awfully intimate from the outside looking in. Wills’ cheeks warm. 

“There,” he hears Mike exclaim, and he jumps back from looking at the picture like he’d been caught doing something wrong. 

Mike’s not paying attention to him though, grinning proudly at the drawing he’s hung up right next to his closet, next to his bed. Will can’t help but smile with him, going up to his side to look at it himself. 

“Cool,” he says, and tries to ignore the way his heart thumps painfully in his chest. It’s dumb and stupid, Mike’s always hung up his drawings, so what if he’s putting his recent ones up in his room? It’s okay, Wills’ heart doesn’t need to explode every time Mike does something nice. 

“Cool,” Mike repeats, and they stare at each other. Mike with a wide grin on his face and Will smiling shyly up at him. 

“I love you,” Mike repeats softly. 

Will chokes on his own saliva. 

“I -“ 

“Listen,” Mike interrupts before Will can even start talking - which thank god because Will doesn’t know what to respond. “Let’s - let’s sit.” 

They sit down on Mike’s bed, facing each other. Mike’s chewing through his lip, no longer smiling and fond but a nervous wreck, running the palms of his hands on his jeans and bouncing his leg. Will kind of wants to die. 

“Um. Will, you’re my best friend and you’ll - you’ll always be my best friend. I’ve been - I know we - last Thursday - I  know that was like -“ 

“Mike,” Will interrupts, and can’t help but smile at the babbling. Something claws violently up his throat though, and he doesn’t know if it’s hope or terror at whatever is going to come out of Mike’s’ mouth. “You’re babbling.”

Mike laughs, an embarrassed and abrupt sound. He runs a hand down his face and musses up his hair. He looks frustrated but shy, his face turning pinker by the second.  He groans and covers his eyes because Mike Wheeler is dramatic first and logical second. “What I’m trying to say is that - I like you. I like like you.”

Will can’t stop the mortifying snort he releases, even as his heart is racing in his chest and his blood is roaring in his ears. 

Mike groans again and covers his face. 

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” Will apologizes, entire body too warm. He feels like a livewire. Surely if anyone touches him right now they’d feel static. “I’m just - I’m really nervous -“

You’re nervous? I’m nervous. I’m trying to confess to my best friend and he’s laughing at me -“

“I’m not laughing at you -“ 

“You just did!” 

“Do you mean it?” Will interrupts, fingers fidgeting with the bottom of his shorts. “That…”

Mike’s mouth snaps shut, and he stares straight into Wills’ eyes, eyebrows furrowed. “That I’m in love with you?” He asks. There are two cherry pink spots on his cheekbones, but he doesn’t look ashamed, just embarrassed and sweet. Will can’t help the way his shoulders tighten at the word love and he swallows painfully . “Yeah. I mean it.” 

“How - how long?” Will asks because it’s impossible to not ask. Mike had ignored Will the entire time Will was in California, and he’s never acted any different around Will before that. 

Mike’s face somehow gets redder. “Um. Long time. Probably all my life if I start to think about it. But I - I didn’t realize exactly what I felt until that day when you were leaving for California I-“ And then he stands in a flurry of energy. Will startles, but Mike is already opening the drawers by his desk. Somewhere in the back of Wills’ mind he realizes that Mikes’ hands are shaking. 

Mike grabs a stack of papers and goes back to his spot next to Will, gaze lowered. Will wrenches his eyes from Mike’s expression to stare at the stack of papers. They’re letters, he realizes quickly. Some of them are even folded and nestled inside envelopes, with Will Byers and his address in California written neatly on them. 

He hands Will the letters, and Will sort of feels like he’s been given a bomb. 

“I wrote a lot,” Mike admits, but Will is staring at the open page in front of him. A letter Mike hadn’t finished. A letter that Mike apparently wrote to him and never sent. The few words Will’s able to snag is I hate this town and I hate these people and Hawkins isn’t home anymore.

“A lot of these are in envelopes ready to be sent.” Will can hear himself talk, but he feels oddly disconnected from everything. Mike casually mentioning that he’d written dozens of letters to Will he never sent and actually physically having the letters in his hands are two very different things. Anger welcomes him like an old friend, hand in hand with panic. 

Will’s hiding, he knows, from having to face what Mike’s saying. From believing him. Because he can’t just accept this. Mike couldn’t possibly love Will the way Will loves him. 

“Yeah,” Mike murmurs. “I - I was going to send them but I… I got scared. Terrified that the second you read them you would know and -  I wasn’t ready. I guess I’ve been avoiding a lot of things in my life and this was one of them.” He shrugs helplessly, and suddenly Mikes’ eyes are filled with tears. He brings long fingers to his face and scratches at his eyes nearly violently. Anger melts from Wills’ body as easily as it had first arrived. “I don’t - I don’t even know why I’m crying. I’m sorry. I knew something like this would happen - I had this -“ His hands land limply back on his lap. “This whole speech planned out and everything and - God - I messed everything up last Friday, this is a mess. I’m sorry. I wasn’t - I didn’t lie I want to kiss you all the time I don’t regret that at all but I had a speech and a moment -“

“Read them to me? Please?” 

It takes a second for Will to realize that he was the one that spoke up. Voice the softest he’s ever used. 

Mike’s babbling stops as violently as the cracking sound of a whip.

“Um.” His voice cracks and he swallows thickly. “Which one?”

“Whichever one.” Will hands him the stack of letters, and watches as Mike goes through them with trembling fingers until he finds the one he’s looking for. 

Mike looks like he would rather die than read the letter to Will, he’s biting through his lip and he’s wound up so tight it’s a wonder he can move at all. But he still clears his throat, brushes the tears from his eyes in a childish movement and gets to reading. It’s a violent realization for Will of the way Mike so readily gives in to whatever he wants. Prickly, grumpy Mike that snaps at everything that moves has rarely ever said no to Will, and the times he’s had, he’s always come back, apologies tumbling from his mouth and eyebrows furrowed in regret. 

His voice shakes on the first line. “Hey Will, it’s raining today. Like the pouring kind of rain where - where you can’t even see where you’re going. It sucks because I can’t go anywhere, but it also sucks because it’s a reminder I don’t… really have anywhere to go. Or at least, where I want to go. Lucas is busy with basketball practice all the time and well - Dustin’s Dustin. I love him and he’s great but… he’s not you. Lucas isn’t you. Eddie isn’t you. My first thought is that I want to hang out with you, but you’re not here so I have to do the second best thing. It’s pathetic, and it’s worse because it’s a reminder that nobody is you and it’s like being suddenly struck with the fact that throughout it all I didn’t think of El once.” He heaves in a big breath, shaky and uncertain.

“How is California? Sometimes I like to think that we’re experiencing the same sunny days and the same rainy ones, which doesn’t make sense I know because Hawkins is a frozen hell and California is all heat, but I guess it makes me feel less lonely to know that at least we’re having similar weather, that maybe we could feel the same things at the same time. That sounds stupid I’ve just…I’ve been lonely. On a rainy day like this if El were here I should’ve been cuddled up with her on the couch, or maybe on the phone if the power didn’t go out. On a rainy day like this I should be writing to my girlfriend telling her I miss her and I wish she were here cuddled up with me watching movies. I should be thinking about her because I miss her.  

“Instead, it’s pouring rain outside and I can’t see through my window and all I can think about is how much I miss you.” His voice breaks, and he breathes in for a few seconds before continuing to read.  “Wondering if maybe you also have a stack of letters written to me you’re terrified to send, if you’ve made new friends, how you’ve settled into school. I like to i - imagine you walking the hallways of some random high school, and I make up scenarios in my head about which classes you’ll be taking and how your art has progressed. I miss your smile. I miss your laugh. I miss your kindness. I miss your drawings, staring at your hands as you made a masterpiece you’d hide away and call “doodle”, I have a binder full of them you know? It’s taken permanent residence on my nightstand drawer and when I miss you too horribly I take it out and cry pathetically over them. Which is embarrassing but… you were the safest place to be, and maybe it’s selfish but without you here it’s like I’ve forgotten how to be Mike. There’s - there’s an ache I feel in my bones, in my soul, and nothing can ever satisfy it. I should be thinking about my girlfriend, but I only think about my girlfriend when I feel guilty that I’m thinking about you instead of her.”

Will can feel himself shrinking tighter and tighter into himself, and watches as Mike heaves in a big breath, dark eyes cloudy with tears. 

“It’s not fair,” Mike’s voice trembles violently. “It sucks. It feels like I’m pretending to be someone I’m not and trying to fit into what I’m supposed to be. I’m trying to fill in the hole you left when you moved to California and I just - I can’t. I took you for granted while you were here, too comfortable in the knowledge that you were always going to be by my side. So used to you being a part of me I never considered a world where you weren’t.

“I didn’t realize, never considered how me being an oblivious asshole and pushing you aside affected you and I hate myself so much for that, that it suffocates me. Mike’s voice cracks, and he’s clutching the sides of the paper so tightly it wrinkles under his grip. “Nothing’s ever enough, nobody’s ever enough, everything just reminds me that it’s not you and it sucks. Why aren’t you here with me? Why did it take you leaving me for me to realize that you’re in everything I’ve ever owned and seen and experienced? This is the scariest feeling I’ve ever faced, the scariest realization, and that may be stupid given that we’ve faced literal demons from hellish dimensions but - I think I’d take a demogorgon any day over this. You’re the most important thing to me Will, the bravest person I’ve ever met, the safest place I’ve ever had and I can’t bare the thought of you hating me for this. I’m sorry. I’m sorry I’m such an awful friend. I'm sorry I was so selfish. I’m sorry for being the thing your shit father called you everyday. I’m sorry for proving him and Troy and all those bullies right. I’m sorry I can’t be who I’m supposed to be. I’m so sorry. All I can hope is that I can hide it well enough for you not to hate me for it. I can’t lose you again. I just can’t. And I won’t. Love, Mike.

There’s a deafening silence after his “Love, Mike”, and Will doesn’t realize he’s crying until Mike finally looks up from the letter at him. His face is all blotchy, freckles standing out against pale skin.

“It was a bad day,” Mike whispers in a hesitant tone, and Will realizes with a punch to the gut that Mike is expecting an answer from him, some sort of reassurance. It’s heartbreaking, it’s overwhelming, that Mike truly believes Will could hate him for this even though Will’s been in love with Mike for half of his life. 

“I don’t -“ Wills’ voice cracks, but he powers through. “I don’t hate you,” Will says, and is shocked by the way Mikes’ shoulders loosen, at the way he heaves in a breath like he was drowning and those words were a breath of fresh air. He’s trembling violently, and Will grabs one of his hands in his own, much like Mike had done to him that Halloween years ago. “I could never hate you, Mike. You’re not supposed to be anyone. You’re just you. I love you, I always have. A - and I probably always will. Ever since I knew what being “in love” meant I knew it was you, but I can’t - I can’t do this Mike.”

Mike nods like this makes perfect sense, putting on a strong façade Will can see right through. Mike had expected to be rejected, and he’s putting on a brave face - even when they made out an entire afternoon, even when Will just confessed to loving him back, even when he’s been in love with Mike his entire life . Will just needs him to see reason . “I can’t do this to Eleven, she -“ 

“Eleven knows,” Mike rushes out and surges forward, all in Will’s space in a flurry of eagerness, puffy eyes and puffier lips. Will can’t think. He can’t process. Mike tightens his grip on Wills’ fingers, reeling him in. 

“What?” Will manages. 

“Eleven - She knows,” he repeats. Like Will can understand what he means. “That I’m in love with you. She knows.” 

Will feels dizzy with the declaration, Mike is throwing around those words too casually for Will to properly digest them. It’s like being handed everything he’s ever wanted on a silver platter but having a person pointing a loaded gun to his head telling him not to eat. He thought the person holding the loaded gun was Eleven, now he thinks it’s just himself. 

“How…” 

“It’s why we broke up,” Mike says, stroking a thumb across Wills’ knuckles in a jerky attempt at being comforting. “Well, we broke up first because I couldn’t say I loved her. And I do, I love and care for her so much sometimes it’s overwhelming but I’m not…I’m not in love with her. I think…I’ve been selfish, trying to fit into everyone’s expectations without thinking about how it affected her, how it affected you. She needs to be on her own, needs to grow and know who she is without me holding her back because of my own problems. I never fell in love with her, I knew I loved her, and I knew I had to be a good boyfriend, but I never felt like any romantic actions were my own, they were all what I thought they were supposed to be, or what Lucas could so effortlessly do with Max, you know? I had thought we had broken up for good before you left for Cali, but that last day she kissed me and it was suddenly like I had fallen back into what I was supposed to do and who I’m supposed to be.”

Will nods, and feels so emotionally drained from the entire conversation he can’t help but lean into Mike. Presses his forehead into Mike’s neck and his nose into his collarbone. Breathes in the scent of the boy he loves. “How do I play into that?” He asks into the sliver of Mikes’ skin between his shirt, watching his Adam’s apple bob as he swallows. 

Mikes’ arm immediately rises and he runs a hand up and down Wills’ back, drawing Will into himself. He’s still trembling, but his palm is big and his fingers are wide and he’s Mike Wheeler, comforting Will is something that always comes first. The contact seeps warmth into Will. 

The tension melts from Mikes’ shoulders, and his burst of energy dims down into a soothing wave. “Well,” he continues, voice low, and it feels like they’re in their own world, away from everything else. “I told her that I did love her but not…like that. And she sort of finished the sentence saying that I loved her like I loved Dustin and Lucas, but not like I loved you.” 

He shrugs but Will can tell that it hurts him. Will wonders how Mike must have felt, desperately trying to love El but being unable to. Being part of a relationship to hide from his true feelings. 

It’s sad and it sucks, but at the same time Will feels a sick sort of satisfaction. In knowing that all those months apart Mike had suffered, just like he had. A sick, twisted, vile part of him wants Mike to grovel, to beg for forgiveness, to feel an ounce of the same pain Wills’ felt his entire life, loving someone right beside him but so far away, loving someone who the entire world deemed wrong, loving someone that brushed him aside like he was nothing. Will likes to think it’s a part of him that still connects him to Henry Creel, or maybe the part that makes him Lonnies’ son, but he knows that it’s not. He knows that it’s all his own.

He’s tired of the bitterness, it’s been festering for years and it doesn’t feel like himself.

“You hurt me,” Will says, and feels warm tears slide down his cheeks. 

“I know,” Mike whispers back, and his hand goes up to Wills’ hair, cupping the nape of his neck. It’s a sensitive part of his body, the part that connected him to the Upside Down. Mike lightly scratches into his scalp and makes a fist. He pulls Wills’ head back, and suddenly he’s face to face with Mike Wheeler in all his pink, crying glory. 

“I’m sorry,” Mike chokes out, brushing his thumb under Wills’ eyes to wipe his tears. It’s a weird thing to do, but it’s so oddly Mike that it feels natural even though Mikes’ never done it to him before. It just feels right. “I can’t promise I won’t ever hurt you again, but I promise to always be honest with you. To never, ever push you away. You’re it for me, Will. Seeing you on that swing set was the best thing that’s ever happened to me and I stand by that. I love you so much it used to scare me, but I’m done being scared. There’s - there’s nothing wrong or ugly about loving you, it’s the easiest, most natural thing in the world. And I’ll prove to you that I love you every single day you’ll have me. I’ll literally like - write embarrassing poems and make our D&D characters kiss - ” 

Will can’t help but smile and laugh, pressing his forehead back into Mikes’ neck until he’s pushing the other boy backwards. Mike lands with an “Oof” back on the bed, but Will stays pressed to his side, hands curled over into his own chest. “God, you’re so embarrassing. Was that your speech?” 

Mike laughs, shaky but bright, hugs Will into his chest like he used to do when they were kids, waking up from nightmares.  “A little bit, yeah.”

“I love you,” Will declares softly into the fabric of Mikes’ shirt. He pulls himself up, leaning up on his hand so he’s watching Mike stretched out on his sheets, hair a dark halo around his head. “I love you,” he repeats, staring straight into his eyes so Mike knows

Mike grins, wide and pink cheeked, not even bothering to hide his giddiness. He covers his face with his hands, smiling the entire time. He’s a flushed, embarrassed mess and it’s such a pretty picture Will wants to shower him in love and affection. Looking at Mike feels a lot like looking at the sunset, and Will is helpless but to bask in his presence and natural beauty.  “This is so sappy.” 

Will laughs, feeling a flood of endorphins rush his system. Mike peeks through his fingers to look at him, and he doesn’t know what he sees behind Wills’ eyes but he lowers his hands to pull himself up to sit next to Will again, shoulders and knees knocking together like a middle schooler begging for attention. He’s got that look in his eyes, like Will’s the most precious thing he’s ever had in front of him, has ever laid his eyes on. 

It’s weird to realize that it’s the way Mike’s always looked at him. Will just never dared to look back for more than a second to realize it was anything but friendship before, too scared that Mike might be able to read his love on his own face. 

Mikes’ eyes drop to his lips, then back up. He flushes like he’d been caught doing something he shouldn’t have, but licks his lips all the same. “Kiss me?” He repeats the question Will had asked two days ago, hesitant but eager. Will wonders if that’s how it sounded from his own mouth, and suddenly understands why Mike had surged forward with zero hesitance. 

Wills’ mouth is on Mikes’ before he can even process it, like he’s been waiting his entire life for it. It’s not a chaste kiss, no gentle press of lips. No, Will is hungry, has been hungry for it his entire life. Ever since Mike started shooting up in height Will has wondered how his lips would feel against his. He’d tried to avoid it, tried to shove it down, down, down. And all that suppressing has been all for nothing because now it’s all bubbling over and he’s got a hand shoved into Mikes’ hair and the other with a deathgrip on his shoulder. Kissing him like he’s always wanted to but never dared. Kissing like he’s dreamed about, like Mike’s his because he is. 

Mike gasps, and Will takes the opportunity to press his tongue into his mouth, properly tasting the boy he loves as he is, no taste of weed or unsaid feelings between them. Kisses him with the knowledge that he loves him and Mike loves him back. He presses in hard, kissing Mike deep and thorough like he’s been wanting to ever since he knew what kissing was and never dared to think too deeply about it out of fear and guilt. He lets himself take, take, take and Mike willingly gives.

Sadly, they have to pull back for air. Will pulls back enough to see Mikes’ flushed face, the dazed look in his eyes, his parted pink mouth as he pants. His hand is still in Mikes’ hair, and he makes a gentle fist. It makes Mike’s fingers dig into the fabric of Wills’ shorts. 

They stare at each other, breathing hard, for what feels like a lifetime but is only really a few seconds before Mike is pressing his forehead to Will, “Kiss me again,” Mike says, but it sounds absolutely sinful and small and pathetic. “Um. Please?”

Will nods stupidly, and before he’s even realized he’s doing it he’s somehow on Mikes’ lap. Hands bruise his hips, and it’s such a startlingly familiar feeling now he can’t really help the small noise he releases into Mikes’ mouth. He can’t believe he gets to get used to this side of Mike. He gets to experience this, to have Mikes’ hands on his hips and have it be shocking because it’s somehow familiar. He gets to have this.

He wonders suddenly what would’ve happened if he had kissed him when Mike had suggested it after wrestling on Wills’ bed. He wonders what would’ve happened if they had never ordered the pizza and Will had given in like he so desperately and quietly wanted to. If they had made out, high and on a bed with no interruptions. 

He doesn’t dwell on the thought for more than two seconds though, because Mike is alternating between digging his fingers into Wills’ hips and squeezing his thighs and it’s entirely too distracting. He feels warm, hot, the hottest he’s ever felt. He’s entirely too aware of the stroke of Mikes’ nose against his, the brush of his hair against Wills’ forehead, his eyelashes against Wills’ cheeks. All these touches feather-like and sweet contrasting with the boldness of Mikes’ tongue, the digging of his fingers on Wills’ skin, the heavy breaths they share. 

Mike pulls back, enough to speak into Wills’ mouth. “Your shorts are too short,” he says, and he sounds dizzy and stupid. God, Mike Wheeler is so stupid. 

“Are they?” Will asks absentmindedly and trails kisses down Mikes’ neck, remembering how good and addicting it felt when Mike did it to him. Mike whimpers, a pathetic, little sound that strokes something dark and possessive inside of Will. Kind of makes him want to wreck Mike. 

Mike somehow tightens his fingers even more on Wills’ hips, an automatic clench. “Yeah,” Mike gasps, but it sounds more like a question. A confused response like he’d forgotten what Will had even asked in the first place. 

Will is kissing back up to his mouth when Mike starts to wiggle back, his entire body shimmying up the bed, hands insistently pulling Will with him. Will pulls back from his mouth with a confused furrow of his eyebrows, dizzy with kisses, and Mike shimmies a bit more until he’s near the pillow and promptly collapses back into it, laying flat on the bed. 

“C’mere,” Mike croaks, and Will follows after him because of course he does, he always will. He leans down toward Mike and cages him in, arms curled beneath Mikes’ shoulders, and Mike looks absolutely sinful, looking up at Will with heavy lidded eyes and puffy lips. 

Their mouths connect again, lips making loud smacking noises, and Will gets goosebumps all over his body when Mikes’ big hands roam up his back. He digs his fingers just under Wills’ shoulder blades and makes a soft little sound, “You’re so fucking - hot,” he says between kisses, and Will has to pull back and press his head into the pillow beside Mikes’ head to control his breathing because this is getting out of control way too fucking quick and Mike is way too receptive and blunt and stupid.

“Shut up,” Will huffs with a laugh, and Mike ignores him in favor of pressing kisses to any sliver of skin he can reach, the side of Wills’ neck, his jaw, his clothed shoulder. He’s still straddling Mikes’ lap, knees on either side of his hips. Mike hugs their hips close together so there’s no separation, and then swiftly, in a move Will was not at all prepared for, he twists Will around so his back is to the bed. 

Will gasps in surprise, eyes wide, vision suddenly turned around. Mike is on top of him now, and Will would be embarrassed by the fact that Mike is kneeling between his spread legs if Mikes’ mouth hadn’t immediately landed on his and spared him from having to properly process. 

“Holy shit,” Will laughs into Mikes’ mouth, and feels the way Mike grins against him. 

“That went a lot smoother than I thought it would go,” Mike murmurs, and Will makes a small sound in agreement. It feels much more important to keep up with Mikes’ kisses. 

Wills’ hands are restless, holding Mikes’ jaw, climbing up his hair, his shoulders, and then repeating the process all over again. The minutes fade into wandering hands and deep kisses and soft sounds and Will is absolutely helpless to stop it. It’s so addicting, learning this side of Mike, seeing his flushed cheeks and dazed look. Knowing where to touch that’ll have his muscles tremble, where to kiss to have a breathy sound escape from his throat. 

Mike pulls back after what feels like seconds but could actually be an eternity, separating himself in a way that makes Will feel like there’s a thousand feet between them. Wills’ hands - which he now realizes were digging into the small of Mikes’ back, pressing their hips together - climb up to Mikes’ neck, urging Mike back into kissing him. He leans up at the same time, blindly following into Mikes’ orbit. When he opens his eyes he realizes Mike is leaning up on his hands, keeping himself at arms length from Will. 

Mike is already staring at him, chest heaving as he pants. He’s got a weird look on his face, eyes wide and pupils dilated in an expression that’s a mixture of want, awe and something that could be possessiveness. He's so attractive, Will feels reckless, wants to preen and stretch himself out to have Mike looking at him like that for the rest of his life. But Mike is leaning away. 

Will makes a dumb questioning noise, confused and hazy and so dizzy by Mikes’ mouth and scent and touch, he just wants him back. 

“Holy shit,” Mike pants, and blinks and blinks like he can’t believe what he’s seeing. “You -” His voice breaks off, and Will stops trying to urge him back down and instead lets his hands wander back down to Mikes’ hips, dragging along his shirt. Obsessed with just touching Mike, letting himself touch the boy he’s been in love with his entire life and have Mike reciprocate, even like it. 

He feels stupid and slow so he can’t really be blamed for blinking, chin tilted up at Mike and offering him a confused,  “What?”

Mikes’ body twitches toward him and he presses his mouth hard against Wills’ like he’s physically holding himself back from melting back into him properly, but giving into this one urge. Which is stupid. He pulls back again to stare at Will instead of kissing him. Why are they not kissing? Mike’s stupid. Mike’s so stupid. 

“I’m not,” Mike argues and Will realizes that oh, he said that aloud. He grins all teeth. Mike kisses him again, pulls back again. “You’re just - you’re too much. You look really good.”

Will still doesn’t understand, doesn’t particularly care. He’s laser focused on Mikes’ spit slick lips, watching his mouth form words that go in one ear and out the other. His lips are red, red and puffy and begging to be kissed. He digs his fingers in the small of Mikes’ back. 

“Stop,” Mike chokes out. “You gotta stop that.” He sounds a bit panicked, but at the same time he doesn’t particularly sound like he wants Will to stop whatever he’s doing which - what is Will doing?

“‘M not doing anything,” Will says, but removes his hands from Mikes’ back all the same and leans up on his elbows to look at Mike. Properly back in the present moment and a little worried about why Mike might want to pull away. Did Will do something? Did he make Mike uncomfortable? Is someone coming?

Mikes’ redder than a tomato, and with Will leaning up on his elbows, effectively cutting the space between them, Mike pulls away entirely. Will’s fully confused now and even a little worried. Did he do something wrong? 

Mike sits beside Will, hand smacking onto a pillow and putting it on his lap.

Oh. 

Will feels his own face warm as he understands what’s going on, but he can’t help but throw his head back and laugh, a mixture of relief, giddiness and disbelief at the whole situation.

“Yeah, we needed to slow down,” Mike says, awkward but smiling the entire time, not particularly caring that he’s being made fun of.

Wills’ face feels like it’s on fire but he can’t shake the pure and undeniable joy he feels that he gets to just have this with Mike. Can’t help but feel pleased. To have Mike love him back in the same way Will’s loved him his entire life. To have these awkward yet wonderful moments with him. God, Will loves him so much his entire body trembles with it. He gets to have this with Mike. To have this awkward, fumbling Mike placing a pillow on his lap to hide the evidence of their kisses. 

“You’re terrible,” Mike whines, and lands hard against the bed in defeat, hand still holding the pillow over his lap. 

Will laughs, lays down beside Mike on his elbow to properly look at his blushing face, his dilated eyes and puffy lips. “I didn’t even do anything,” he says, and is sort of embarrassed by how fond it sounds, charming and flirty and all sorts of things he’s never dared to be with Mike. 

Mike looks into his eyes for all but two seconds before he’s looking away, throat bobbing as he swallows. He looks needy and shy and embarrassed and God if that doesn’t make Will feel powerful. There’s definitely some sort of dynamic here that Will’s abusing but he can’t help it. Mike looks so sweet and embarrassed and it’s all because of Will. Will’s sure that once Mike gets over the initial rush of his confession things are going to turn the other way around, and he’s going to be the one embarrassed and shy at having Mikes’ undivided attention - but for the time being he wants to bask in how easy and soft Mike is like this, easily embarrassed and sweet. 

“Shut up,” Mike huffs, “Where did you even learn how to kiss?” His mouth puckers up like he tasted something sour, eyebrows furrowed together. Will can’t stop smiling. 

He leans into the palm of his hand, closing in on Mike even though Mike stares stubbornly ahead. “You. Around two days ago,” he says truthfully. And watches in fascination as Mike processes this information, as his face clears and he looks at Will, eyes the darkest they’ve ever been. 

There’s barely any space between them so Will can’t be blamed for eliminating the little separation and pressing his mouth to Mikes’. Mike makes a soft sound into his mouth, something between a hum and a moan and his hand immediately comes up to cup Wills’ jaw. Will nips at his bottom lip, sucking it into his mouth before pulling away with a soft kiss. “Fuck,” Mike murmurs and something lurches inside Will at the word. Mike tightens his hand around Wills’ jaw, fingers in the nape of his neck, pulling Will back into him. “You’re a really fast learner that’s, like, not fair.” He murmurs into Wills’ mouth, kissing him briefly. Will grins. Mike whimpers. “I’ve created a monster,” he says, and Will pulls away to properly laugh. 

“Stop being so sappy,” he tells Mike, blushing at the way Mike just watches him like he’s the most entertaining thing in the world. 

“Never,” Mike replies, grabs Wills’ free hand and interlocks their fingers because Mike needs to constantly fidget with something. There’s a silence where they just watch each other, and Will can tell that Mike’s thinking something and is working up the courage to say it, so he basks in the silence, waiting patiently. 

“So you’ve never…?” 

Will tilts his head to the side, embarrassed but also curious as to why Mike might be asking. He thinks it’s pretty obvious he hasn’t kissed anyone, it’s not like anyone really wanted to kiss him. “Kissed anyone? No. I mean, not really, not properly,” he says, thinking about the girl in Biology that kissed him once. 

Mikes’ expression sours, Will resists the urge to smile. He’s so pouty, Mike Wheeler is so pouty. “What do you mean properly? Was it with… the friend you made?”

Will lurches back in shock, can’t help the burst of sudden laughter. “Who - Richie? No Mike, we were both so repressed nobody ever dared.”

“But if you hadn’t been repressed would you have kissed him?” 

Is Mike jealous? Is he really asking if Will has ever kissed anyone when he was making out with his sister?

“Oh my God, Mike. Please just shut up.” And then because he can’t help it, he starts laughing, thinking of all the ways he can tease Mike with this. Mikes’ face reddens. “I mean I probably would’ve, and now that I think about it…” He tilts his head to the side. “He kind of looks like you so, probably yeah.”

Mike scowls, Will can’t stop laughing. He feels like a fucking middle schooler he can’t stop giggling. “I mean properly because this girl in my class tried to kiss me once, it was very awkward and uncomfortable. I sort of just stood there in shock until she bolted.”

Mike somehow scowls even deeper. “What! Girls can’t just go around just fucking kissing people that’s so disrespectful what the hell. People in Cali are fucking weird I should’ve known that already from Max.”

Will hums, can’t deny that it feels good to have Mike be jealous of the people - lack of people really - he’s kissed. That he cares. 

Mike continues his ramble because of course he does. “And I bet this Richie probably would’ve kissed you too. If he’s “that repressed”, please, nobody is that repressed. It took me fifteen minutes of getting high with you to beg to makeout. God, we are never returning to Lenora.”

Will snorts, but can’t help but roll his eyes, pinching the skin between Mikes’ thumb and pointer finger. “Hey, don’t be mean to Richie. He was my only friend and he’s actually really nice, when he’s not purposely being an asshole anyway. And the first time I got high was actually with him and he never asked to makeout so.” 

Mike rolls his eyes, pouts, then scowls, all in that order. Will plays with his fingers, thinking about the only friend he made in California. He’d dared to say that Richie was weirder than him. Too loud, too crass, too many ‘your mom’ jokes, jumpy and secretive. He’s the total opposite of Will, and Will still doesn’t understand how they ended up being such fast and good friends. “Besides, he’s not even from California, he was from a shithole in Maine. At least that’s what he tells me. I’ll have to call him soon,” Will says, lost in the memories of Richie’s manic grin and wiggly eyebrows. “He has shit memory.”

Mike grunts. Will tightens his hand in Mikes’, returning to the present moment and looking back at Mikes’ pouty mouth, forgetting all about Richies’ grin. “Stop being jealous of the only friend I made in California, Mike. Need I remind you that you were dating my sister and ignoring me? What did you think, that I would be next to the phone all day waiting for your phone call?”

Mike splutters, turns all shades of red. “Hey! I was having a mid-life crisis.”

Will rolls his eyes. “Mike, you’re barely seventeen -”

“It was still a crisis!”

Will rearranges the hand he’d been leaning on, his wrist is already aching from the position, still supported by his elbow. “Fine, I’ll give you that. Still, don’t be mean to my friends.”

Mike huffs. “Fine.”

Will laughs, leaves it at that because he knows that’s all he’s going to get from Mike. “Is this what I’m going to have to deal with now?” He leans a little bit into Mike, raising an eyebrow at his childish behavior. Mikes’ lips twitch into a smile but he looks petulantly away. “You getting jealous over everyone I come in contact with?”

Their eyes lock and the smile Mike was trying so hard to reign in blesses Will with its presence. “You’re never getting rid of me, Byers.”

Will stares back at him, lost in the sparkle of Mikes’ eyes, the playfulness of his grin, the pressure of his hand in Wills’. He pulls on their interlocked fingers and speaks into Mikes' mouth, “Wouldn’t dream of it, Wheeler.”