not if it’s you.
word count: 7k
summary: After the events at Starcourt Mall, you have a hard time convincing Steve that he’s allowed to be not okay. You want to take care of him. And if you harbour some more-than-friends feelings at the same time? Well, that’s nobody’s business but yours. [angst + hurt/comfort + friends to lovers]
You’re bone-deep tired.
The red and blue lights of the ambulance feel branded onto the inside of your eyelids, there even when your tired eyes slide shut. The cool metal on the ambulance door soothes your forehead and for a moment, head tilted against it, you could honestly just sleep even with all the noise.
It’s been a hell of a night.
You blink. You need to keep yourself awake, you’re not home yet. Gazing blankly across the crowded parking lot, reporters and townspeople milling between the yellow police tape, you can feel your brain begin to try to grapple with all the events of the night.
It’s like some warped horror flick of memories, parts of the film blacked out that you can’t quite recall. The elevator, the Russians, and some god-awful melted monster of people — even in your mind the image makes you shudder.
The longer you think about it, the more it feels like the stress is fusing with your bones, attaching itself to every cell in your body. It makes you shake, a forceful twitch of your head to put all the thoughts to rest.
Process it later. Make sure you can stay stitched together physically tonight. You must look a tad loony from the outside, twitching and shaking, but considering your night it’s more than warranted.
The gash on your arm is the worst of your injuries. A jagged stretch of torn skin that was gifted by one of the Russian soldiers who had hoped it would loosen your tongue. And when that didn’t work, the pliers nearly had — you would’ve told them anything when they took them out and lined it up with one of your fingernails.
But Steve then had done something stupid — kicked to get a guard’s attention since his yelling obviously hadn’t made a difference, let one of them lean down real close, and then headbutted him with all his might.
Relief had shocked your system, some broken cry as you slumped over when the pliers moved away. Fingers saved, if only briefly.
It had all turned to dread when they had lugged him out of his chair, preparing for round two of questioning. You had felt it then, a twisted gurgle of emotion lurched up your throat — violent enough it might have made you sick if you had managed to open your mouth. You hadn’t. There was a chance you would’ve said something worse, some jumble of feelings that wouldn’t have helped.
So, you had bit your tongue. Tasted blood and pretended that closing your eyes meant you couldn’t hear Steve pleading in the room over.
He hasn’t said much since the two of you had been sat in the back of the ambulance, gloved hands of the paramedics roaming over skin to find and treat injuries. There’s just one guy left now, still hovering around Steve with a flashlight and treating him with much less care than you’d like.
Steve looks as tired as you feel and when he can’t focus enough to look ahead, the paramedic prods his cheek unkindly. Steve winces.
“Hey,” you snip, cutting into the interaction. “Are you done? Can we go home?”
The paramedic turns the flashlight on you, blinding you for a moment. It confirms your asshole hypothesis of his character and you cringe at the brightness. It’s gone in the next moment, finally clicked off. He observes you both for another moment before an annoyed drawl comes out.
“Yeah, scram. But first you,” He jabs a finger at Steve who blinks but doesn’t react. “Lots of rest. No big brain work, no alcohol, and don’t run any marathons or anything.”
Steve nods, then grimaces at the pain the movement causes. You can’t help the wrinkle in your brow as you watch - you startle a bit when the paramedic turns his pointed finger on you.
“And you. His pupils are still dilated so keep an eye for seizure symptoms. Wake him every couple of hours and get a CT scan tomorrow.”
Some part of you is perturbed that he’s put you in charge of taking care of Steve. Another part gleans and blushes because you’d accepted the task the moment he’d asked, without question.
“Tomorrow?” You ask hotly, at the same time Steve says, “I’ll be fine on my own.”
The paramedic shakes his head, tsking as if you’re bothersome school-children not patients, and steps back with his hands raised. “Figure it out, I don’t care. I’ve got a dozen other people to check over.”
He winds around the door of the ambulance and leaves the both of you alone. A cool wind skirts through the parking lot, ruffling your hair. A sigh wrestles out your chest, a pathetic attempt to alleviate the tightness in your chest.
You don’t think you’ve ever hated the colours blue and red more than right now. The blazing colours atop police cars that flood the parking lot, the colours of Steve’s Scoops uniform, the colour of blood seeping into your pale blue shirt.
If you squint, you can see your own car parked alongside Steve’s in the distance — it feels like a lifetime ago when you had driven in and parked up. Your keys are lost down, down below you, taken in the interrogation. You stand to shake off that train of thought.
You turn back and offer your hand out to Steve. After all the blows he’s taken tonight, you desperately want to offer him kindness. Offer him a touch that doesn’t hurt, doesn’t make him flinch or wince. Steve stares at your hand for a long moment, eyes contemplating — and then puts his in yours.
He lets you pull him to his feet.
One of the police cruisers takes you to Loch Nora, Steve and you tucked away in the backseat. His hand is still in yours, barely holding it in his tiredness; when the car rounds a corner though, you can feel his fingers clench tighter so your hand doesn’t slip away.
They detach eventually when the wheels roll up on the curb outside Steve’s house, late in the night. Like the rest of the sleeping houses, the lights are all off. There are no cars in the driveway. The loneliness of it yawns out down the drive, like visible smoke plumes that escape every window.
Steve somehow looks tenser at seeing it; he still forces himself out of the car, bloody sneakers scraping against the gravel. You follow. It aches to move too much, even just shuffling out of the car feels like moving a mountain. The door clips closed quietly behind you. You hear the engine fade back down the road.
Steve is still stuck in place — you have a feeling he’s not looking at the house at all but stuck in thought, looking through the timber and paint and seeing all the horrors of the night. You step up beside him and gingerly reattach your hands.
It seems to surprise him, jumping ever so slightly at the touch and turning to look at you. “I didn’t...”
I didn’t think you’d stay. The sentence dies in his throat, a little embarrassed by how relieved he is that you’ve stayed with him - so much it shows in the quiver in his voice. Steve doesn’t finish it because then you’ll hear the other part of the sentence, even without him saying it. No one stays.
“C’mon,” you urge him to walk with you, beginning to drift up the driveway.
There’s no rush, you’ll wait as long as he needs to before moving, but it’s colder out tonight. Maybe it just feels that way with all your tiredness, the frostiness nipping at your skin. All your energy is focused on staying on your feet, on helping Steve. There’s none left to keep you warm.
He ambles after you like walking is an afterthought and following you is the priority. His sneakers drag, soft scraping noises with every step. You can feel his gaze burning into the back of your head, his fingers squeezing as if he’s checking you’re really still here with him.
The front door is unlocked and it’s only when it snicks shut behind you, do you wonder if you’ve overstepped. It’s awkward, but only a bit. You’ve been in Steve’s house before — though, who hadn’t with all his parties in sophomore year?
But not quite like this. Not just the two of you, and never holding his hand.
The events that had transpired last fall in Hawkins had thrown Steve into your life, along with a dizzying revelation of new dimensions and an unsettling truth about monsters that came right out of your nightmares.
Though, maybe it made more sense to say you were thrown into Steve’s life. You had always known of him - he couldn’t say the same about you.
Like the hoards, freshmen you had not been immune to the boyishly good looks and charismatic nature of Steve Harrington. Once upon a time, before someone called him King Steve and it stuck, there had been a crush.
But like red wine on white linen, with time — and plenty of distance — it had faded.
Not even the adventure that bound you two together, the tunnels that snaked beneath Hawkins and your shaky hands lugging him into the car, had been enough to reignite old affections. Not his insistence on you leaving the tunnels first, not even the way he clutched you when you all made it out. Not unscathed, but alive.
Pitifully, it had been his shoddy attempts at flirting in his ridiculous sailor uniform to kick-start your heart back up.
You had sighed, chin in hand, and leaned into the foolish feelings — because going crazy over a boy felt the most normal thing you could do. And after demodogs and slithering vines kept creeping from the past into your slumbers, normal was all you wanted.
But Steve needed you as a friend, more so considering his fallout with Tommy H and Carol had become permanent. He flirted with customers, every girl you’d recognised from your year, but never you.
It felt a good enough reason to bite your tongue. Keep him close, but never as close as you’d like.
But now you’ve done it again — been pulled along on another adventure that’s brimming with terrors that will take years to forget.
Everything feels worse this time round, a decay that ebbs away your hope. It’s somehow harder to heal from wounds that come from evil, but not the supernatural. It’s all the heavier when the boy who holds your heart made himself a punching bag so you didn’t get hurt.
The warmth of his hand, squeezing for only a moment, brings you back to the present. To now, still standing in the entryway to Steve’s house. You blink, coming back to yourself, and turn back to him. There’s a crinkle between his brow, and worry washed across his features.
“Are you okay?” He asks it tentatively like he’s afraid to spook you. It sends a rush to your system, a pleasant throb in your chest. You can’t deny you like knowing he worries. That he cares.
“Yeah,” you croak out, nodding as you speak. “Do you— I mean, you don’t mind me staying, do you?”
Suddenly, the potential embarrassment of inviting yourself in, even with the good intentions of taking care of Steve, is overwhelming. The next words tumble out without thought.
“I just, I don’t want to be alone right now.” It’s a bit hurried, tinged with nervousness. You stammer. “And I don’t want you to be alone right now.”
Something like pure affection blooms in Steve’s chest at your words, the heat of it stealing his breath and pain for just a moment. It’s a different sort of ache in between his ribs, something white-hot and pure.
He hadn’t been able to voice his relief when you’d gotten out of the car and stayed with him — and it fails him now at your admittance.
You don’t want to be alone. You don’t want him to be alone.
Steve doesn’t think he’s deserving of your good will, nor the kindness in every touch. He can’t help how he consumes it greedily, drinks in the touches like he knows it’ll be taken from him soon enough. His eyes stay fixed on you.
There’s something so alluring about your silhouette, the golden street light let in through slits in the door. It halos you, soft amber that softens every curve. You’re enchanting, even when bloodied.
Steve’s not sure his heart has felt like this before — so molten hot, valves working overtime, ribbons of affection tied tight across his chest. He’s sure they’ll leave scorch marks, testimonies to his bleeding heart that pulses with each beat for you, for you, for you.
Because you’re still here and something in his trodden on heart perks up before he remembers to crush it. It’s not that Steve has never thought of you as more — god, the mere thought of you as more to him.
More than a friend, more than this, it’s enough to make his head spin. To make his hands shake and return a nervousness to his system he hasn’t felt since sophomore year when he first laid eyes on Nancy Wheeler.
But you’re not Nancy. In the best way, that makes all the difference,
You were some breath of fresh air, bursting into his life in all the middle of his estranged drawn out break-up with Nancy — brash in all the right ways, kind when he needed, and far too soft to be tangled up in any of this mess.
You’re still too soft for it now, and it shows in the jagged cut torn into the fabric of your skin — it doesn’t matter how it happened, Steve still feels like it’s his fault. It’ll scar, red puckered skin that twists down the expanse of your shoulder. A living reminder of the night burned into you to carry forever.
It hurts Steve maybe more than he’s warranted to. You’re both just friends.
But when Steve thinks of how he’s accidentally pulled you too close, put you first in the heart, it aches evermore.
He’s not sure when you went from barely a friend to this — you’re a crush, an Achilles heel, the unattainable from the moment he met you, the moment he knew you. Steve feels like he’s been building himself towards you, pushing his growth to aim for anywhere near enough for you. You’ve been too good for him from the start.
It doesn’t stop him from loving you.
Steve realises after a moment that he hasn’t said anything when your fingers start to slip from his. His grip tightens to keep your hand in his.
“No, I— Stay. I...” It’s a struggle to say it, too many years of suppressing any urge to ask for comfort. “I don’t want to be alone, either. Or for you to be. Stay.”
Your lips, chapped and still with a hint of blood, twitch into somewhat a smile. “Okay.”
This time it’s Steve who drags you along, both slowly moving up the stairs. Each step threatens to reopen the scabs that have only just begun to form. It’s like some micro-dose of torture, Steve thinks, hearing your winces behind him.
The fluorescence of the bathroom lights is bright enough to make your eyes fly shut. Steve’s braver, taking only a moment to pause. He ignores how the lights dance, a sickening comparison to his experience with the drugs that had barely left his system. Though it’s the last thing he wants, Steve drops your hand to begin his search.
When your eyes blink open, prepared to face the lights, you’re a bit perplexed to see Steve hunting through the linen cupboard. He produces a towel, white and fluffy.
You cringe internally at the thought of sullying the pale colour with blood but it’s but a blip in tonight’s problems. Besides, the Harrington’s could certainly afford to replace it.
“Here.” Steve murmurs. You both seem to have agreed to keep softly spoken for the night.
He presses the cotton into your hands as he walks, ready to shoulder out and take care of himself. There was an en-suite in his own room — and sure, it would hurt like hell rinsing his wounds but he’d done it last year. Blasted the heat so he was wincing at the burn atop his skin and not the ache underneath it.
“Steve?” You question, turning and halting his feet. He pauses, confused by the questioning expression on your face. He gestures to the shower, hiding how the movement makes his ribs sting painfully.
“You can shower here and- and the guest room’s all made up.” The words trip a bit on the way out, weakness beginning to weigh on his voice.
Somehow being back home crumbles his walls sooner than he’d like. Tonight has been heavy, a burden that lies thick on his shoulders and creeps down, taking root in his muscles.
But Steve will do what he had done last year; take the punches, burn them off in the heat of the shower — hot enough that he can’t feel any tears — and then deal with it.
“No, s’not that.” You shake your head, a strand of hair coming loose. “I... What about you?”
What about all the blood? The bruises and cuts? You’d seen the scars littered on the skin of his face from Billy, cuts that had healed wrong and left marred skin. Wounds left uncared for, only healed with time.
The question only begs more confusion from Steve. He gestures to somewhere behind him as he says, “There’s another shower, don’t worry.”
He pulls a smile to ease you. It wobbles at the ends of his mouth. Something claws into your heart, a profound heartache at the thought it doesn’t even occur to Steve to take care of himself.
“Steve,” you begin, beginning to get a sense of the wall you’re encountering.
Steve Harrington has some very thick defenses and not without good reason; they’ve got him through some treacherous times. Even now, he uses it like a crutch, a seal to hide away horrid memories. Ignored in favour of temporary strength.
You don’t need his display of strength — you’re not one of the kids that needs to be shielded from the reality that even Steve has a breaking point — certainly not when his state is far worse than your own.
But you have a feeling he doesn’t know how to switch it off. Steve doesn’t seem to understand what you mean when you say you don’t want him to be alone.
“Steve, you’re not okay.”
“I’m- I’ve done this before, alright?” He insists, eyes darting between yours, features turning stonier. You can see his defensiveness begin to curl his shoulders in. “I’m alright, I promise.”
“Are you?” You say, not unkind. “Tonight was— Steve, you were tortured.”
The effect of your words is instantaneous. Steve’s face falters, his icy expression dissolving with a shudder he can’t stop. You watch it warp him painfully, jaw clenching and eyes misty; he blinks furiously to clear them. You continue.
“You can’t just- just bounce back from that. Nobody can.” You shake your head as if it proves your point. “It doesn’t matter if you’ve done this before, this— this is a lot for anyone, even—”
“Well then, why are you still here, huh!” His words interrupt your own, tone angrier than you’re expecting. “If this is so much!”
His chest rises and falls quickly, brows draw together like it hurts to breathe so harshly. The words don’t sting, but his tone does. You reel in your hurt and focus past his anger, focus on what it really is.
A final line of defense. A ploy to make you upset or angry, to make you emotional enough to storm out and leave him to lick his wounds alone. Another way to ignore it, compartmentalize what happened instead of facing it head on.
Maybe it’s cruel of you to make him deal with it so soon. But you care, too much to pretend to ignore his pain.
“Don’t.” It wobbles, voice weak. His anger has already drained away in a moment.
“You’re not alright,” you insist, voice barely above a whisper. “C’mere.”
You don’t give him a choice, your free hand reaching out to snag his own, which hangs loose at his side.
Steve stumbles forward as you tug him back into the bathroom. Without his anger, he’s pliant and goes without protest. Your gentle fingers on his chest nudge him in the direction of the sink, the cool porcelain pressing through the back of his soiled Scoops top.
“Can you do something for me? Can you...” You bite your already bloody lip, nervousness sketched across your features.
How can you say this without giving too much away? It feels too intimate, like flying too close to the sun, well within the realm of potentially hurting your own feelings. You’ll do it for him gladly.
“Can you just...let me take care of you?”
It hurts like a sucker punch to the gut. Like a breath has been forced out of his chest, because when was the last time someone has asked him that?
Silence stains the air.
“It won’t be pretty.” He croaks finally, still giving you an easy out. Still prepared to spare you the ugliness of his emotions.
“Doesn’t matter to me,” You respond, lips twitching. You bare your heart and half hope he sees it — sees it and knows he’s loved when you say, “Not if it’s you.”
Another beat of quiet.
“Okay.” Steve breathes, so faintly you barely hear it. Then as if you’ll rescind the offer any moment, he nods fervently.
Your smile is genuine, maybe the first in hours and something in you relaxes. He won’t fight you on this. He may have taken the beating earlier for you but, at the very least, you can do your best to patch him back up — let your hidden feelings translate into a gentleness he so very deserves.
It takes only a quick rummage beneath the sink to find a first-aid kit. It feels wildly underprepared; an afterthought purchase once upon a time that was only ever intended for scraped knees. It hasn’t ever been opened. The tear of the zipper is the only noise in the bathroom, bouncing off the tiles.
As expected, there’s not much in it. It contains a box of plasters in multiple sizes, one roll of gauze, a bottle of antiseptic, and a mixture of other pills and eye drops.
Some loose safety pins rattle around in the bottom as you take inventory. It’s not stellar and you’re no doctor, but it’ll do. It has to do.
When you finally look up, wondering where to begin on his injuries, Steve is regarding you with a look you can’t quite name.
If you were sure of yourself, you might call it awe.
You tell yourself it’s because you’re here, helping him, and it can be awfully easy to mix up feelings when you’re getting stitched up. You don’t let your hopes rise, not even for a moment.
Steve’s blood sings, ears rushing with the sound of it when you step closer. You’re so damn close. Steve can’t ignore the scent that carries with you, his brain involuntarily committing each detail of you that he can get to memory - lest he never gets you this close again.
You want to take care of him; Steve thinks this might be a dream.
Nimble fingers work to gather some cotton with antiseptic and then you’re holding it up, posed, and ready to mend.
“Can you sit up on the counter?” You ask, all sweetness. Steve obliges easily, despite the protests from his sore body that cries out as he shifts up. You smile, then warn, “This might sting.”
It’s overwhelming as you step closer, between his legs, and take the cotton to his face with a gentleness Steve hasn’t felt in years. His eyes close instinctively.
It does sting. The wince leaks out through his clenched teeth, soothed instantly by your soft apologies that pour out like honey.
For a moment, it’s easier this way; with his eyes closed, Steve can pretend this is usual. That when he gets roughed around, there’s someone to tend and clean his wounds — instead of just himself and the harsh rinse of the hot shower.
He tries and fails not to think of last year, his poor attempts to patch himself up. Hands too shaky, touch too rough.
The memory bites. The injuries of tonight somehow feel worse. A tinge of bile taints his mouth and Steve swallows it back down, concentrating on you.
You’re not quite humming but soothing noises, low and soft, come from your throat. Steve’s not even sure you know you’re doing it. His hands clench emptily as his side — the split knuckles make them hurt and when you’re this close, the itch to hold you is near unbearable.
It doesn’t take long for the first cotton pad to turn a violent shade of pink. Steve’s face looks a tad clearer than before but uncovering old blood means finding new wounds.
Your stomach burns pitifully as you take them all in. There are too many to count, a thousand different hues — broken blood vessels that run in all directions, little labyrinths under his skin.
Why does it hurt so much? Even with your bound shoulder that still sends out pain with every motion, it all dulls away when you look at Steve. Lashes fluttering, eyes still closed, marred with wounds you’re begging to ease. You know it hurts so much because you care.
Love is pain, you suppose, with only a twinge of bitterness. It’s swallowed instantly, consumed and disintegrated by the fact you get this. The boy you love, between both palms, trusting you to take care of him.
A year ago, you’d met only the steely exterior he’d put up — and thought it had simply been remnants of King Steve. Maybe Steve Harrington was as much of an asshole as half the town said.
He was all bite, glowers, and clipped answers. With time though, he’d softened like snow melting in the sun; all the parts of him trickling into your life until he was cemented by your side.
He hadn’t even let you patch him up after the scrap with Billy that had taken him out. You hadn’t felt you could ask.
But this time...your throat grows a bit thicker at the trust that binds the pair of you. Affection rushes your system and forces a sharp inhale from your lungs. You step back.
The space makes it easier to breathe. Dials down the chances of pressing your lips against his skin — if only to give him a mark born of love. Hands searching through the first-aid kit again, you produce some painkillers and locate an arnica pill.
You give yourself one more moment; inhale and withhold the tidal wave of devotion that begs to spill from within you.
“Take these, please.” You say quietly, uncurling one of his fists to press the pills into. He swallows them dry.
You prep more cotton and begin again with the gentle touches, coaxing off dried blood. This time, Steve’s eyes stay open. He watches you, an unreadable emotion in his eyes.
You work away the blood from a cut above his eyebrow and when it’s clean, your thumb follows. You caress along the broken skin as if you could meld it back together with pure will.
Steve’s chest grows tight. Something about you being here, taking care of him makes the night’s memories all too present. Nausea sways in his gut. It’s impossible to shove them to the back, to press them down, when it feels like each cut is being reopened. Cleansed with a douse of love.
You’re altering the history of each wound but to do so, he has to recall how each of them was carved into his skin. It hurts. Why are you still here?
Steve’s head pulls back unexpectedly, eyes shuttering closed in a scrunched expression. You startle a bit.
“Shit, I’m sorry — too harsh?”
He makes a strained noise, effectively gutting you with it. If you weren’t so close — an inch further and you could press your forehead to his — you wouldn’t hear it. Hear the tiny whisper that scratches out the word, “Why?”
“What?” You whisper. You don’t understand.
“Why...Why are you...?” He’s clearly struggling to find the words he wants. His hand reaches up, fingers brushing the bridge of his nose before he drops it again. His chin quivers. It stops your heart for a moment to realise he’s crying.
“I don’t— I don’t understand.” Steve grinds the words out, voice thick. A tear splatters, seeping into the blue of his uniform. He won’t look at you, eyes trained on the loose thread on his shorts.
“Steve?” you murmur, wary and heavy with concern. This is— you don’t know what this is.
“I don’t understand.” He repeats, shaking his head slightly. He seems to choke on the next words. “You’re still here. Why are you...? Everybody...”
He trails off, some whimper of sorts forcing its way out his throat. You’re stuck, absorbing each of his words and putting together the pattern that Steve can’t seem to voice. I don’t understand. You’re still here. Why are you...? Everybody... Everybody leaves.
Rich King Steve who’s got it all. The house, the car, and any girl he fancies, all of them fawning for a look from him at one of his legendary parties.
His lack of parental supervision had been lusted over in high school, furious whispers of envy over the fact he could get away with parties every weekend. That booze went missing and he never seemed to catch any shit for it. It occurs to you now that nobody was around to notice.
The absence in his life is vast and suddenly blindingly obvious — a chasm in his chest that is bleeding all his secrets to you.
Steve Harrington is lonely.
When you surge forward, injuries be damned, and your arms loop around his neck, there’s a moment of stillness. You can feel the tension in his muscles, hear his ragged inhale, and then— he sags into you, finally, finally letting himself lean on someone else.
His arms wind around your middle in a desperate motion, tugging you closer and the fabric of your shirt clenches between his fingers. His face buries in your neck and hot wet tears soak the collar of your shirt. You can hear his raspy noises, soft cries as he clings to you like a lifeline.
“Why did this happen to me?”
It fucking hurts to hear. You don’t know how to tell him there’s no why — that there is no reason that can justify why he’s gone through this much suffering. Just the bitter fact that, sometimes, bad things happen to good people.
“Steve,” you feel like you’re saying his name an awful lot tonight. You say it because you can’t begin to think of how to answer his heartbreaking question. “I—“
“I-I used to think,” The words are muffled into your neck. His grip on you is nearly tight enough to hurt but you don’t dare relent any space. His voice is barely above a whisper, just loud enough to hear. “That- that it was like karma, yanno?”
“Steve, no,” you whisper, horrified. If he hears you, he doesn’t show.
“B-Because that first time,” He’s stuck on some belittling ramble about himself, continuing between his sniffs. “I definitely deserved it. But then I grew and I changed.”
Something twists painfully in your stomach.
“And then last year, it made sense, yeah? Billy, he was— a real piece of work.” He sniffs again, his voice a little harder at the mention of the deceased.
The tension falls away at the next sentence, voice wobbling through the thickness in his throat. “And I used to be like that, so—“
You pull back instantly, hands shifting back from around his neck. It effectively halts him, and whatever he was saying dies in his throat. Your hands move to cradle his jaw and, as lightly as you can with his injuries, you tug him from his hiding place and stare him in the face.
Steve’s eyes look bigger and browner full of tears. His nose is red, just the tip, and runs messily at the onslaught of tears. Pink splotches bloom underneath his cheeks, patchy and warm, his face etched in complete misery.
It wrecks you to see. More so to think he’s been shouldering all this alone since ‘83.
“People don’t deserve suffering, Steve.” You state it strongly enough that he can’t refute the truth, punctuating with your thumbs on either cheek, pressing light touches.
“You don’t deserve suffering. You never did.” Your voice quivers a bit, some shred of your heart shriveling pathetically at the fact you even need to tell him this. Your hands shake ever-so-slightly. A hot tear streaks down your cheek.
Steve crumbles. You don’t resist when he drops his head down, only move back in— offering a place to hide away again. You let him stay hidden away, a sanctuary in your arms, safe when he’s buried in the curve of your neck.
“And- and just ‘cause,” you say, sniffling a bit now. He holds his breath, a sharp inhale that quietens his whimpering crying. “Just ‘cause no one has stayed before doesn’t mean you don’t deserve this, Steve.”
His fingers press harsher into your back and your feet stumble a bit, pulled off balance. Adjusting your arms, you pull him tighter yet, hoping that the closeness will make all your sentiments seep in. Your shoulder aches terribly; you don’t dare move away.
“You know that, right?” You whisper, unable to stop your fingers from grazing the nape of his neck softly. “You deserve to be taken care of.”
A soft kiss to the side of his head, barely noticeable between his shakes, but it eases the strain on your heart. Time wanes and melts beneath the glow of the bathroom lights, an unending amount of tears that you suspect reach back further than just the memories of tonight.
You stay like this, holding him close. You give him all the time he needs, sweet nothings mumbled until he feels strong enough to face you— to face the world.
Eventually, Steve’s breathing slows, crying turning to trembling gasps. When he finally does retreat, you curse internally because of course, only Steve Harrington can still look devastatingly beautiful after crying.
Tears cling to his lashes, sparkling reflections. He wipes his nose on the back of his hand.
Silence ebbs. Steve gathers himself, another sniff, and wipes his nose before he lifts his head. You can see in his face the moment he’s about to apologise; the word sorry is about to come tripping out his mouth. You beat him to it.
“I’m sorry to inspire more tears,” Your voice, still quiet, aims for a comforting jest. “But I’m not quite done cleaning you up.”
You twist the cotton between your fingers to show him. Steve blinks, eyes focusing on your hand, perhaps surprised you’re still taking care of him. He forgets about his needless apologies.
“Though, your tears did a lot of the work.” You say cheekily, a smile teasing at the edges of your lips. It makes him huff a laugh. Steve could nearly cry again; you’re so nice. He thinks about the last time cried, thinks about Tommy’s sneer, his scoffed words that told him toughen up, King Steve.
He lets you wipe them away, clear his face and patch it up as best you can. Any tension from before, the mental barb-wire defenses he had still held up to keep you out, has ebbed away. It’s softer now, easier between you two.
Trust flows from Steve in the form of his allowance, letting you fuss. It flows from you in the form of your touch, which still dances too close for just friends. You let your fingers dot the kisses across his face since you can’t.
“You’re good at this,” Steve murmurs, breaking the silence. He allows himself the privilege of your touch, his fingers burning where they graze your sides.
Patching people up? Injuries from last year made sure you got decent practice on yourself. You’re decent, you’ll admit.
Maybe he means taking care of him. You’re proving to be very good at that.
You want to. Somewhere rooted in feelings that sway closer to love, genuine love, is the urge to be the one who does it. The shoulder to cry on, the one who carries his woes when it gets too much — and you want him to do the same for you. Achingly, you want to take care of him; and him, you.
The thought burns so viciously through your chest, you sink your teeth into your bottom lip a bit meanly. It stings.
You don’t notice it, trying to rein in your drifting heart that sings to be closer to him, but Steve does. His fingers twitch; he wants to rescue it, pull it from your harsh grip with his thumb.
You stop moving.
His thumb is calloused, a bit rough against the supple plumpness of your bottom lip. The blood beneath it tingles, gloriously hot at the attention. Either all the air in the room has been sucked out or you’ve stopped breathing.
You’d hazard a guess it’s the second, given the stillness your body has taken on. Muscles locked, eyes frozen on his face — the only part of you that moves is your heart, thundering pumps going far too fast.
Steve’s gaze stays on his thumb on your lip. You’re desperate to find out what to call the emotion swimming in his eyes.
“Steve?” you say his name yet again, lips moving against his thumb. He blinks like a frog, one eye after the other, and drags his gaze up to your eyes.
His hand shifts, brushing across your mouth to hold the side of your jaw, cupping it sweetly. The cotton falls from your grip as Steve urges you closer with a gentle tug.
Then his eyes are back on your lips and even though it feels like slicing your own heart open to do it, you speak before he can kiss you.
“Please don’t,” you whisper, eyes crushing closed.
You want to terribly. The want for his kiss warbles from deep within you, a yawning ache. But it might just finish you off if it’s all heat of the moment — a kiss that is just some twisted thank-you because Steve isn’t used to being taken care of.
You clear your throat, swallowing heavily. “Not— not if it’s just for tonight. Not just because I stayed, please.”
There’s a pause. His shaky exhale breezes across your face. It’s possible your ears might be ringing as if straining to hear the sound of Steve’s heart— dying for a clue to what he’s feeling. You’re not brave enough to open your eyes and read it in his face.
His thumb scrapes across your bottom lip again and then— then, he kisses you, impossibly tender.
The tiny gasp that escapes you is consumed instantly, swallowed up by Steve’s kiss. He kisses gentle, touch so soft that it has you searching for more the moment you’ve got a taste of it.
You barely get a moment to lean into it, to kiss him back before Steve breaks it. He hovers close, close enough that you could steal another taste of his lips if you wanted. You want to— the ferocity of your eagerness sends a shiver along your spine. He speaks before you seize the opportunity.
“I want to.” He says, voice a bit raspy and the words inspire enough bravery to look at him, eyes creasing open. “I- I’ve wanted to for a while.”
You nearly sink in your relief, knees trembling for a moment as your hand comes up to enclose the wrist of the hand that holds your face. Thumb sweeping short strokes, you clutch the tan skin and lean into his caress.
“You mean it?” You whisper, far too excited. Your heart may as well be on your sleeve, cards once played close to your chest now splayed on the table. Your tone reveals all, spilling with hope, even as you ask whether it means the same to him as it does to you.
Yes. The word seems stuck in his throat, suddenly too thick to speak. Because it’s only three letters and that can’t possibly cover what Steve means when he says I’ve wanted to for a while.
That you’d somehow snuck into his life and intertwined among all of his heartstrings, like spun gold mixing until the whole organ felt terribly tangled in a way he’d never want to change.
Nancy had given him the thump of his head.
But you? You were the thump on his heart. Not a push for change, nor for growth — but permission to grant himself a second chance in love.
“I mean it.” He says, emotion coating each word. “Yes, god, I really mean it.”
And you let him tell you over and over again with his mouth pressed to yours, searing kisses that make your head dizzy and pulse speed.
Steve knows he’s not alright — not physically or mentally after what he’s faced tonight, not with the vice grip on his chest that had clung tightly and all the ugly parts of him had all slithered out for you to see.
He also knows that he will be alright, sometime in the far future.
When wounds have healed, when scars are beginning to fade, and the nightmares start being every couple of nights, instead of every night, then he’ll be nearly okay. It’ll take time, lots of it.
But when your gentle hands coax him to bed and you slip beneath the covers beside him, leaving a warm quick kiss upon his shoulder — Steve thinks that, maybe, that future isn’t nearly as far away as it seems.
Your hand finds his under the sheets, twisting your fingers together to act like an anchor in the inkiness of the night.
There are no nightmares that night.
@hawkinsindiana @harringtonbf @spideystevie look technically there’s no tags this is just all da bitches i’m always talking to <3