and the world's alive - Chapter 2 - FagurFiskur (2022)

Chapter Text

The girls beat them back to the apartment. Judging by their messy hair and Robin’s shirt being inside out when they come to the door, they beat them back by quite some time.

“Good day?” Steve asks, wagging his eyebrows.

“Yep,” Robin says, unapologetically giddy. “You?”

“I don’t think we had as much fun as you.”

Robin shrugs, a ‘what can you do’ gesture, and Steve takes a moment to observe her. It’s not just that she looks like she had a good time; there’s an air of ease to her that wasn’t there before, like a weight’s been lifted off her shoulders.

Steve silently vows to himself to ask her about it - later. Right now, he’s got a concert to get to in less than an hour and some last minute preparations Eddie insists they need.

As if on cue, Eddie bumps his shoulder against Steve’s. “Come on.”

He leads Steve to the bathroom, ordering him to sit down on the rim of the bathtub. Then he reaches into his pocket, pulling out a small, black pen.

No, not a pen. Eyeliner.

“No way,” Steve says, moving to stand up.

Eddie places a hand on his shoulder, holding him still. “Trust me, I know what I’m doing.”

Steve is a sucker for the people he loves. It’s a problem, and not just when it leads to him fighting monsters with a baseball bat or taking a plate to the head or getting kidnapped by evil Russian spies.

“I’m gonna look like a jackass,” he says. And after all that worrying about standing out for all the wrong reasons.

“Oh ye of little faith,” Eddie mutters, tilting Steve’s chin. “Look up.”

Steve obeys - what else is he gonna do at this point? Eddie’s crowded close, standing between his legs, one hand resting on Steve’s cheek and the other wielding the eyeliner. Steve flinches when it touches his skin but Eddie keeps going, drawing with one hand and then smudging it with his thumb.

After a couple of minutes, Eddie lowers the pencil and tilts his head, admiring his handiwork.

“Out with it,” Steve says. “I look ridiculous, don’t I?”

Eddie’s dark eyes sweep across his face. “Far from it.”

He leans down, cupping Steve’s face between his palms and pausing with his lips hovering over Steve’s, teasing. Steve stays still, heart hammering - he could close the gap between them, he knows that, but he wants Eddie to do it. After a moment, he feels more than hears Eddie chuckle and then he’s kissing Steve, the heat of it making Steve’s breath catch.

They part much too quickly. Eddie grins, patting Steve’s cheek and then stepping away, letting him get a look at himself in the mirror.

Steve blinks. The eyeliner isn’t even that obvious but it does something to his face, makes his eyes seem darker and more intense. He looks not like a different person but a different kind of person.

“It’s not bad,” he grudgingly admits.

Eddie slaps his back. “You’re welcome.”

They make it to the venue with a few minutes to spare, though Eddie assures Steve the set won’t start on time anyway. From the outside, it looks like a tiny, hole-in-the-wall bar, its brick exterior grimey with layers of smoke. Once they get inside it turns out to be a much bigger space than it looks from the outside, the bar out front and a dancefloor and a small, elevated area that could generously be called a stage in the back.

“I’m gonna get drinks,” Steve shouts over the noise.

Eddie nods, barely paying attention, eyes alight and roaming around the place.

The line at the bar is long but moves quickly and soon Steve’s shouldering through the crowd towards the dancefloor, bottle of beer in each hand. He finds Eddie close to the stage.

“Take it in, Harrington,” Eddie says, leaning in close. “The sights, the sounds, the smell of B.O. and beer lingering in the air. This is what life’s all about.”

Steve looks around, thinking that this many people crammed in this small a place must be a fire hazard. He likes a good house party but this really isn’t his scene.

“If you say so.”

Eddie laughs, slinging an arm around Steve’s shoulder. “Just wait until the set starts.”

As predicted by Eddie, the band is late. They finish their beers while they wait, Eddie keeping up a steady stream of trivia about the band, most of which he’s already told Steve. Steve doesn’t mind; he likes seeing Eddie like this, in his element, excited to share this experience with Steve.

Finally, the band shows up. Eddie grabs onto Steve’s arm and squeezes tight, bouncing on his toes with barely contained excitement. The music starts, the chords familiar after the past week of cramming. It’s almost painfully loud and Steve feels the visceral thrum of the bass deep down in his chest like a second heartbeat.

The crowd comes alive, moving with the music. It’s overwhelming, this sea of people battering them on all sides but Eddie’s grip stays firm on Steve’s arm, anchoring him.

One song melts into the next and Steve feels himself get swept up in it along with the crowd, singing along to half-remembered lyrics, jumping in time with the beat until his muscles start to ache, until the sweat starts dripping down his temples. It’s brutally uncomfortable: the heat, the crushing mass of people, the taste of stale air and cigarette smoke on his tongue.

Steve can’t remember the last time he felt this alive.

The band finishes their set, then the encore, then the second encore. Steve’s throat is sore by the end of it from shouting and cheering but there’s a sense of relief when the stage empties and Eddie tugs on his arm, leading him outside.

That first inhale of fresh outside air feels like heaven and it’s only then that Steve notices how light-headed he was starting to feel.

Eddie puts a hand under his elbow, steadying him. “You okay, man?”

“I’m fine,” Steve says, as if he’s not swaying on his feet right at this moment. He leans against the brick wall, not that he needs the support or anything. He just wants to. “That was… intense.”

“It was,” Eddie agrees.

And if Steve feels maybe a little drained after all of that, Eddie looks the complete opposite. His eyes are alight, a bright flush high on his cheeks, body practically vibrating with barely contained energy.

“I liked it,” Steve adds belatedly.

Eddie grins. “Yeah?”

He looks like he’s about to say something else but before he can, they’re interrupted.

“Munson?”

Eddie turns around and Steve straightens self-consciously as they’re approached by two guys he’s never seen before. One of them, the one who said Eddie’s name, is tall and skinny with a long mop of blonde hair. The other is broad-shouldered, with a scraggly mullet and two piercings in his left eyebrow.

“Dave!” Eddie says, laughing when the guy pulls him in for a quick hug, patting his back. “It’s been forever, man.”

“That’s on you,” Dave says. “I haven’t gone anywhere, where the fuck have you been?”

Eddie shrugs with a hint of discomfort. “Been a busy few months, what can I say.”

“Hawkins got you down?” Dave says sympathetically. To his companion, he adds, “Eddie’s from Hawkins, you know that place?”

The other guy nods. “Isn’t that town, like, cursed?”

Eddie snorts. “You have no idea.”

“I keep telling you, you gotta get out of there,” Dave says.

Eddie looks back at Steve. “Maybe someday.”

The way he says it, almost wistfully, makes Steve’s chest clench. He hasn’t ever thought of it in such clear terms before, but of course Eddie wants to leave Hawkins. Probably sooner rather than later.

“Oh,” Dave says, glancing between them, and Steve feels his cheeks grow warm at the dawning understanding in his expression. How well does this guy know Eddie? “And who’s this?”

Eddie shifts on his feet, shoulder bumping against Steve’s. If Steve didn’t know better, he’d say he almost looks bashful. “Sorry, man. Steve, Dave, Dave, Steve.”

“Hey,” Steve says, raising his hand.

Dave grins, wolflike, and says to Eddie, “Not your usual type, is he?”

Steve scoffs. What the hell is that supposed to mean?

“Dave,” Eddie says, a clear warning in his voice.

“Nice to meet you, Steve,” Dave says, still grinning. He points his thumb over his shoulder at the other guy. “This is Carlos.”

Carlos tilts his head. “‘Sup.”

“We were gonna head to Bill’s,” Dave says. “Maybe we’ll see you there?”

Steve bites back the instinctive ‘how about no’. He glances at Eddie, who grimaces apologetically.

“Maybe some other time,” he says.

Dave nods, not looking surprised. “It was good seeing you, man. You can’t go disappearing like this, I’m gonna start thinking Hawkins swallowed you up.”

He and Eddie share another hug with manly pats on the back and then they’re gone, leaving Steve and Eddie alone.

“Friend of yours?” Steve asks dryly. He’s not even sure why he’s so annoyed; something about the way Dave looked at him and how he spoke to Eddie has left a bad taste in his mouth.

Eddie scratches his chin. “Dave? It’s complicated.”

What does that mean ?

“You wanna get another drink?” Eddie asks. “I feel like shots.”

It’s a blatant attempt to change the topic but Steve decides to go with it. This conversation was starting to get uncomfortable. “Sure.”

They go back into the bar, which has become a lot less crowded and more tolerable since the show ended. Steve still feels off-kilter, and as they head towards the bar he decides he needs a little longer to clear his head.

“I gotta go take a leak,” he tells Eddie, who nods. “Be right back.”

There’s a couple of people in the bathroom but no one by the sinks, so Steve feels only a little bit self-conscious as he leans against the counter and looks in the mirror.

He barely recognizes himself. The eyeliner has become accidentally instead of deliberately smudged now, his cheeks are flushed and his hair looks like he just went ten rounds with a demodog. He doesn’t belong here, he thinks sourly. He could barely handle staying inside the whole set. Eddie didn’t just handle it, he thrived. Dave probably does this every weekend.

For fuck’s sake, get it together Harrington .

He washes his hands, even though he doesn’t really need to, and combs his fingers through his hair until he achieves somewhat-acceptable results. This is stupid, he tells himself. Eddie didn’t come here with Dave, so why the fuck is he letting himself get all worked up over this? He’s not a jealous person.

Or, well. He didn’t used to be.

Steve exits the bathroom, not sure if he feels any better or not. Eddie’s waiting right outside for him, and the way his expression brightens when he sees Steve does settle something in his chest.

He is being stupid. Eddie isn’t Nancy; he carries his every emotion on his sleeve. If he was unhappy, Steve would know.

“You okay?” Eddie asks, handing him a shot glass.

“I’m fine,” Steve says, and he even kind of means it. He downs the shot, soothed by the sharp taste on his tongue, and Eddie follows suit. “Come on, I’ll get the next one.”

After some time and a few more shots - Steve loses count - they start to stumble their way back home. Steve has no idea where they’re going but Eddie promises he knows the way and Steve trusts him.

It’s a warm night and the streets are busy despite the late hour. Steve keeps his hands tucked in his pockets as he walks, eyes cast down at the sidewalk in contemplation.

“Hey, Eddie?” he says after a short silence.

“Yeah?”

“You want to leave Hawkins?”

Eddie looks surprised. Steve figures he probably expected him to ask about Dave and yeah, maybe he is curious but this feels a lot more pressing.

“Sure,” Eddie says. “Don’t you?”

And it’s not that Steve’s never thought about it. It’s just that in the past couple of years, it’s stopped seeming like a possibility for him.

“I don’t know. What if something happens?” At Eddie’s confused look, Steve elaborates, “Something Upside Down related. The kids will get involved again and they need someone there to protect them.”

“And that’s always gotta be you?” Eddie asks.

“Who else?”

Eddie snorts. “Has anyone ever told you you’ve got a hero complex?”

“Fuck off, man.”

“Besides,” Eddie adds. “The gates all closed when Vecna bit it.”

“They’ve closed before,” Steve says. “You’ve only been through this once but trust me. Every time we think we’re done, this shit starts up again.”

Eddie doesn’t have an answer to that. They walk in a somber silence for a while, soon turning down a familiar street. The apartment building is within view when Eddie speaks again.

“I’m leaving Hawkins,” he says, and Steve’s stomach drops. “As soon as I’m able. I can’t stay in that miserable place, I need to live somewhere people don’t think I’m a serial killer or a hero or whatever else they’re calling me these days.”

Steve swallows past the sudden lump in his throat. “I get it.”

Because he does, even if he doesn’t like it. No one’s got more of a reason to want to move on than Eddie.

“You should come with me.”

Steve stops. Eddie turns to him, expression dead serious.

“Don’t answer yet,” he adds. “I don’t have the funds to leave for another couple of months, at least, but when I do… I want you with me.”

Steve stares at him, uncomprehending.

He’s used to people leaving.

He’s not used to them wanting to take him along.

“Think about it.”

“Okay,” he agrees, voice hoarse. “I’ll - I’ll think about it.”

They leave Indianapolis in the late afternoon. Eddie doesn’t bring up their conversation from the night before and Steve doesn’t either but it hangs between them, Eddie’s unanswered question echoing in every silence.

It’s weird, because it’s not like they argued or anything but there’s still this tension. Part of Steve wants to get angry about it; they’ve only been together for six weeks, why the hell is Eddie giving him this kind of ultimatum? But then, the thought of Eddie leaving without him sinks in and he knows why he brought it up. (Then there’s the part of Steve that’s a hopeless romantic and thinks Eddie making this kind of big gesture is amazing. He doesn’t listen to that part.)

The girls notice something’s up. Steve knows, because Robin corners him while he’s in the bathroom brushing his teeth and says, “Okay, what’s up with you guys?”

Steve does a thorough job of brushing his back molars while Robin stares at him silently, waiting. Finally, realizing she’s not leaving without an answer, he spits.

“What are you talking about?”

Robin levels him with a flat look.

“We’re fine,” Steve says. Deciding that deflection is the best strategy, “What’s with you? You guys have been practically walking on clouds since yesterday.”

He expects Robin to look unimpressed at his poor attempt or even start gushing about Nancy, if his tactic somehow works, but instead she looks oddly nervous.

“That’s not - we’ll talk about it later,” she says. “I asked you first.”

“We’ll talk about it later,” Steve echoes.

Robin smacks his shoulder. “You are such a child. And I’m holding you to that.”

Unfortunately, Steve has no doubt she will.

The car ride back to Hawkins is quiet and awkward. Steve really wishes he’d taken his own advice and waited to bring this shit up with Eddie until any long car rides were behind them but there’s nothing to be done about it now.

About an hour in, Robin asks Steve to stop at a roadside diner, a suggestion Nancy immediately echoes. Steve’s bullshit alarm is clearly not working as it should, because he doesn’t think to question it until he’s already parked and Nancy insists she and Eddie can pick up the food while Robin and Steve wait in the car.

“Not your most subtle plan, Buckley,” Steve tells Robin once it’s just the two of them.

Robin grins. “And yet it worked. C’mon, dingus.”

She climbs out of the car, ushering Steve towards a picnic table at the edge of the parking lot. She sits down on top of the table and Steve sighs deeply but sits next to her.

“I said we’d talk about it later.”

“Well, it’s eighty painfully awkward miles later,” Robin says. “I’m not putting up with this the whole way back, so fess up. What happened?”

Steve looks down at his hands. “Eddie’s leaving Hawkins.”

Silence. He looks up, and Robin is staring at him with wide eyes, looking like she just wandered into a minefield.

“He asked me to come with him,” Steve clarifies.

Robin blinks. “Oh,” she says, eyes still just as wide. She looks away. “Wow, okay. Soon?”

“As soon as he’s able,” Steve says. “A few months, maybe. Why?”

“Well…” Robin bites her lip and Steve realizes with some trepidation that she’s about to say something she thinks he’s gonna hate. “Nancy kind of asked me the same thing?”

Steve stares at her. She laughs nervously.

“I know, right? What are the odds?”

“Did you say yes?” Steve demands.

Robin looks away, which is not a good sign. “Next year. I’m - I’m gonna apply for Emerson. And if I don’t get in, I’m still gonna move there.”

Steve’s too used to getting the shit beat out of him to say this feels like a knock to the head, but it’s close. He swallows past the sudden bitter taste in his mouth. “Were you gonna tell me?”

“Of course,” Robin says, voice pleading. She grabs Steve’s hand. “First chance. It just… didn’t feel right, doing it in Indianapolis.”

Steve doesn’t respond. He’s not sure he trusts himself right now not to say something overly dramatic or mean.

“To be honest,” Robin continues hesitantly, “I was kind of hoping I could convince you to come with me.”

Steve’s heart stutters. He must have misheard but when he looks up at Robin, she’s looking back with such naked hopefulness.

“Wait, really?”

Robin snorts. “Yes, really. You think I can afford to rent an apartment in Boston by myself? Or that I can find another roommate who wouldn’t get sick of me after a week?”

“You’d be a great roommate,” Steve argues instinctively.

“So would you.” Robin pats his hand. “What do you say? Me and Nancy, you and Eddie, in a little two bedroom by the bay?”

It sounds awesome, honestly. Steve doesn’t think he could dream of a better future for himself, and he didn’t even realize until Robin said it out loud how badly he wants this. But…

“What about the kids? The Upside Down?”

Robin rolls her eyes, not unkindly. “You’re a hopeless martyr, you know that?”

“Eddie said it was hero complex,” Steve says before he can think it through.

“The kids will be fine. And if they’re not, Hawkins is only a two day drive away. They’ll know to call us for help.”

Steve grasps for another excuse and comes up short. There’s no other reason against it, nothing but the gnawing uncertainty in his stomach, telling him this all sounds too good to be true.

“What did you tell Eddie?” Robin asks.

Steve swallows. “Nothing. He asked me to think about it and not answer right away.”

“Smart man.”

They fall silent. When Steve looks at the diner, he can just make out Eddie and Nancy inside, standing by the counter and talking animatedly. When the waitress isn’t looking, Eddie grabs a handful of sugar packets off the counter and stuffs them in his pocket.

“This is crazy,” Steve says. “We’ve been dating them for six weeks .”

“It’s insane,” Robin agrees. “This could absolutely blow up in our faces. But when you find something worth the risk, you gotta take it. Right?”

Steve nods. Eddie and Nancy are walking out the door, Nancy holding two paper bags and Eddie pouring sugar from a packet directly into his mouth.

“Right.”

The rest of the drive is more relaxed. Steve and Eddie haven’t had a chance to talk yet but Steve feels easier after talking to Robin and Eddie must catch onto that because he’s back to his usual carefree self.

The sun is setting by the time they reach Hawkins, the sky painted brilliant hues of pink and orange. They’re just about to pass Lover’s Lake when Eddie straightens.

“You wanna try something new?” he asks ominously.

Which is how they find themselves parked by the edge of Lover’s Lake as the sky quickly darkens, peeling off their clothes while awkwardly trying not to look at each other.

Well, the rest of them are awkward. Eddie doesn’t seem to know the meaning of the word self-conscious, leaving his clothes in a heap on the sand - underwear included - and running into the lake with a triumphant shout.

“No judging,” Steve says as he tugs off his boxers. “It’s cold out here, okay?”

“Gross,” Robin says, very judgmentally.

Steve wades in, yelping at the first touch of the freezing cold water. He’s not gonna let Eddie outdo him, though, so he keeps going, diving in once the water’s deep enough. He surfaces next to Eddie, who grins at him through clattering teeth.

“This was a fucking awful idea,” Steve says, but he can’t stop smiling even as he shivers.

Eddie crowds in close, legs bumping against Steve’s, his skin gloriously warm in contrast to the water.

“I think you mean fucking awesome,” Eddie says. “You can’t finish a road trip like this without trying something new.”

“I hate to break it to you, but I’ve been skinny dipping before.”

Eddie wags his eyebrows. “I knew those rumors about you and Stacy Hopkins were true.”

“It was Heather Mooney,” Steve corrects. “Stacy Hopkins was the one Callahan caught me parking with.”

“Slut,” Eddie tuts.

“What, and I’m supposed to think you saved yourself for me?”

Steve’s voice is playful but Eddie still stiffens, looking guilty.

“Look, Dave and I-”

“It’s none of my business,” Steve says. “Unless he was an asshole to you, then it’s my business to go back to Indianapolis and break his nose.”

Eddie tilts his head, looking way too pleased at the prospect of Steve threatening violence on his behalf. “He wasn’t. We just fooled around a few times, nothing serious. You’re…” he pauses, looking embarrassed, “well, I guess you’re my first boyfriend.”

Steve’s heartbeat picks up at that word. They’ve never said it before but it sounds nice, coming from Eddie’s lips. Steve wouldn’t mind hearing him say it again.

“You’re my first boyfriend, too,” he says.

Something smooths over in Eddie’s expression but the tension is back just as quickly as it left. “Listen, about what I asked you last night-”

“How do you feel about Boston?”

Eddie’s eyes widen.

“Unless you’re about to say you changed your mind,” Steve adds, trying to sound casual and not like he’s freaking out about exactly that right at this moment. He really needs to think before he speaks. “In which case, forget I said anything.”

“Why Boston?” Eddie asks, voice carefully neutral.

“‘Cause that’s where Robin’s going.”

Eddie’s expression softens. “You know, I’ve always had the feeling Buckley would be an excellent roommate.”

“The best,” Steve agrees. He can feel his heartbeat down to his fingertips, wild and rapid. Is this really happening? Does he really get to have this?

Eddie smiles. He looks otherworldly like this, dark eyes glittering in the moonlight, skin pale and glowing. Steve looks at him, thinks with every beat of his heart I love you, I love you, I love you .

He leans in, nose bumping against Eddie’s, feeling warm breath against his lips as he closes the gap between them. Eddie gasps into it, hand cupping the side of Steve’s neck, slotting against the curve of it like it belongs there. It’s a clumsy kiss, their legs continually knocking together as they try to stay afloat, naked bodies pressed together under the water.

They part and Steve searches Eddie’s eyes for some sign of hesitation but finds none.

“We’re doing this?” he asks, because he needs to hear Eddie say it.

Eddie laughs.

“Boston’s not gonna know what hit it.”

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