don't you hear me howling, babe? - Chapter 5 - occasional_loverboy (2024)

Chapter Text

Steve drifts across his dark driveway, gently dissecting the last few moments at the cabin around in his mind. There was the low noise Eddie made when Steve had pulled himself out of bed, insisting he had to leave. And the way he'd brought Steve his shirt, kissing the junction between his neck and shoulder like a promise before helping him into it. The feel of his mouth, seeking and warm, at the bottom of the steps.

He's halfway to his front door before he notices the orange light emanating from the living room window. It makes him stop in his tracks, all the gooey feelings in his chest dropping into his stomach, where they begin fizzing.

“sh*t,” he hisses, almost silently.

Pivoting there in the dark, Steve allows himself only the briefest of freak-outs, considers crawling into his backseat to wait it out, and ultimately decides he needs to pull it together.

This is ridiculous. It'll be fine. Eddie didn’t bite him, no matter how many times Steve offered. And. He’s an adult. He can do whatever he wants.

Plus, he'd checked his hair in the visor when he got in the car and he looks presentable enough. Just a bit tired. He can use that.

Twenty seconds later, Steve sidles through the front door with all the confidence of a small rodent. There's movement from the living room immediately, and he sends a final prayer up that it's only Robin.

But it's his mom who edges into view seconds later, slumping in relief when she realizes it's only her idiot son, wrestling his jacket off in the foyer.

Steve. Christ. You scared me.”

“Sorry,” he offers in a whisper. He hastily toes off his shoes, jabbing a clumsy finger towards the stairs. “I'll just-”

“Hang on,” she interrupts, amusem*nt clear on her face.

Steve pauses with one foot on the stairs. So close. His mom gestures broadly towards the entrance way and gives him a pointed look. He's suddenly eight years old again, standing in this exact spot, sheepish with grass stains and late for dinner.

“Care to explain yourself?”

He flicks his eyes towards the front door, then back to her.

“Not especially,” he quips.

“Steven Alexander Harrington,” she half-laughs, clearly relishing the opportunity to full-name him again. “Where were you?”

“...Driving. Driving around.”

“Driving around,” she repeats, eyebrows raised. “At four in the morning?”

“Mhm. Just - couldn't sleep.”

“I see.” His mom is still smiling faintly, doesn't seem all that sympathetic when she crosses her arms to squint at him. “Well, I hope you were being safe. When you were driving.”

He frowns at her. “Uh. Yeah?”

“Because that's a good way to get yourself stuck here. And with your lifestyle -” she trails off pointedly. Steve stares at her blankly, finally settles on a slow nod - as if she's making any sense. His mom sticks out a placating hand, eyes widening. “Not that I'd be complaining if you decided to stay. Of course. That would be - well, anyway, it should be your choice.”

Now entirely lost, Steve clears his throat. “What?”

His mom just raises her hands up in front of her, though, already turning away. “I know, I know. You're an adult. I’m staying out of it.”

“I - okay.”

She waves at him over her shoulder, shuffling back towards the living room in her oversized slippers. “Try and get some sleep, honey. You look tired.”

“Yeah,” he agrees faintly, still utterly confused. He hesitates there in the foyer, then decides not to look a gift horse in the mouth and jogs upstairs.

The floor creaks under his feet in the hallway, too loud in his quiet house. He tries to get to the bathroom without turning on any lights and ends up barking his shin on a stupid little table that never used to be there.

The guest room door swings open just as he manages to flick the switch in the bathroom light, bathing the hallway in a pale light. Robin squints at him, her hair sticking up everywhere and one leg of her pajamas bunched up under her knee.

“Robbie. Hey,” he whispers, ready to apologize for waking her. But Robin just frowns sleepily, poking him in the chest as she shuffles past, beating him to the bathroom.

“Shirt’s on inside-out, Casanova.”

Steve looks down at his stomach, snagging the hem of his shirt and lifting it. Sure enough, the stitching is all visible, tags sticking out at his hip.

“Ohhh,” he breathes, as the bathroom door clicks shut behind her. He nods to himself in the dark. “Okay. f*ck.”


🩸


“I don't know if I can do this.”

“You can, like, rip trees in half, man.” Steve ducks his head, catches Eddie's eye. “You came back from the dead. You can do anything.”

“It was a branch, Steve. You have to get over it.”

“That thing was as thick as my thigh! You snapped - you know what. It’s not important.” Steve clears his throat, dutifully filing away the image of Eddie casually reaching up and decimating the branch of a tree on a walk earlier that day, apparently just for fun.

Someone drives past them and Eddie sinks lower in his seat, burrowing into his hood until all Steve can see is the tip of his nose. They're outside of Bloomington, not far enough from Hawkins to be confident Eddie wouldn't be recognized. Steve sighs, tipping his head to get a better look at him. Eddie stops furtively glancing around long enough to glower back at him.

“You wanna get out of here? Try again tomorrow?”

Those large eyes soften, tension sapping from Eddie’s muscles. He takes a measured breath and casts a look across the road, towards a small trailer that sits squat and dull in between tufts of long grass.

“It’s a big deal,” Steve adds carefully. “It’s okay if you’re not ready.”

“No,” Eddie decides quietly. “I’ve put it off long enough.”

Steve nods, reaching for the door handle. Fingers close around his wrist almost immediately, and when he looks around Eddie is blinking at him, looking a little desperate.

“I just -” he starts, swallowing thickly. Scrubs a hand over his face, laughing humorlessly. “Jesus. I’m, like, f*cking nervous. What if he doesn't want to see me?”

Steve's already shaking his head. “No way.”

Eddie looks at him doubtfully. “I put him through so much sh*t.”

Steve's knee jerk impulse is to deny it. He wants to take Eddie's face in his hands and insist he's never done a single wrong thing. But hollow reassurances aren't what he needs. So Steve nods, squinting out the windshield to track the shadow moving behind the blinds of the trailer.

“You know. There wasn’t a single moment that Wayne thought it was true?” He looks over at Eddie, watches his eyes go all round. “Not a second. He told me. Not that he needed to. The way he talked about you - it was obvious.”

“Steve…”

“I mean, you thought we missed you a lot?” He presses, keeping his voice incredulous and quiet so that it won't wobble. Eddie stares at him. His eyes have gone all shiny. Steve shakes his head, jabbing a finger towards the trailer.

“Your grave.” He swallows around the tightness in his throat, makes himself look back at Eddie. “Your headstone? It's always spotless, Ed. Of course he’d want to see you again.”

Eddie takes a long, unsteady breath in. Offers him a watery smile.

A minute later, Steve finds himself shifting from foot to foot on Wayne Munson's front stoop.

“Comin’ - hang on,” calls a gruff voice from inside.

Steve sweeps a hand through his hair, smoothes down the front of his jacket. Doesn't know where the sudden self-consciousness is coming from. Amusem*nt sparks through the bond and he nearly turns around to glare through the windshield of his car.

But Wayne opens the door, blinking at him in mild surprise before smiling and swinging it wider. “Steve,” he announces. “This is a surprise.”

“Mr. Munson. Hi.”

“I won't tell you again, boy.”

“Wayne,” Steve corrects, huffing out a laugh. “Sorry.”

Wayne gives him a flat, approving smile and leans against the doorframe. “What can I do for you, son?”

Steve hesitates for only a moment.

“Can I come in? I’ve - got some news.”

Wayne’s cloudy eyes brighten with interest. He nods sharply, stepping back to let Steve by. The trailer is warm. Smaller than the one he’d shared with Eddie, but comfortable and brimming with familiar knick knacks. Mugs line every free inch of wall in the dining area, stacks of puzzles and dog-eared magazines are scattered across the living room. There is a gleaming photograph of Eddie on the wall by the TV. He’s laughing, in it. Eyes bright and young. Steve spots the neck of an acoustic guitar peeking out from behind the armchair in the corner, and his blood pounds in his throat. Makes the smile feel brittle when Wayne hands him a steaming cup of coffee, unprompted.

“So,” Wayne starts, easing himself into one of the kitchen chairs and gesturing at the other. He’s leaning back casually by the time Steve sits down, but his fingers are tight around his own mug. “What’s going on?”

Steve blows on his coffee, swallows around nothing. “It’s - about Eddie.”

Wayne nods slowly, heel shifting on the vinyl floor. Bracing himself. “Alright. Did they -” He stops himself, clears his throat. “Have they found something?”

“He’s alive, Wayne.”

It comes out easier than Steve had expected, the words tumbling from him in an eager rush. The truth of it still feels electric, a fresh shock of relief sliding in with Steve’s next inhale.

Wayne hasn’t moved an inch. His expression is unreadable, eyes glued to Steve’s face.

“We - we found him,” Steve continues clumsily, leaning across the table. “He was - he had no idea who he was, at first. But he’s better now.” Wayne’s head pulls back, eyebrows knitting together like he doesn’t understand. Steve backpedals. “It’s a little hard to explain, but -”

“Stop,” Wayne croaks. He sounds as if he’s been punched, knuckles white where his hand is curled into a fist on the table. Steve closes his mouth, feeling suddenly cold. But Wayne just considers him sharply, throat bobbing with suppressed emotion.

“My boy is alive?” he finally asks. And Steve understands. He flattens his hands over the table, gives Wayne the only answer that really matters.

“Yes. He’s outside.”

The air leaves Wayne’s chest in a huff, and he turns his head to stare at the car, still parked across the road. He nods, jaw held tight. Sunlight catches on the tears gathering in the corner of his eye, giving him away.

“Well. Suppose you better bring him in, then.”

Steve exhales slowly and offers Wayne an encouraging smile. On shaking legs, he makes his way to the door. Waves.

The silence that settles into the trailer as Eddie walks across the road makes the air feel like it's constricting, even with the door open. Wayne is standing somewhere to Steve's right, gripping the back of a kitchen chair with both hands.

Eddie's eyes are wide beneath all that hair, and Steve nods once, drifting deeper into the trailer to make room. The tension deepens, until it’s nearly suffocating. But the moment Eddie crosses the threshold and lowers his hood, it just - dissolves.

“Hey, old man,” he breathes. “Sorry I'm late.”

Wayne lets out an aborted sob and flattens the back of his wrist to his mouth. When he starts towards them, Steve can feel Eddie tensing up. Over a week being Eddie again, and he hasn’t let anyone but Steve touch him. But this time he stands his ground, allows his uncle to reach out with shaking hands and grip the front of his jacket.

“Hi, Wayne,” he whispers thickly. Fingers twitch by Wayne’s elbow, eyes flicking across his wrinkled face nervously. “Listen, I’m -”

Wayne ignores him, hand closing over the back of Eddie’s neck as he inspects the scars. Steve braces for the panic, the confusion. But Wayne only makes a gruff, heartbroken noise and hovers a palm over his nephew’s marred skin, as if he could wipe the marks away like ash. Eddie’s gaze drops, ashamed.

“It’s - it’s a long story.”

“You're alive,” Wayne interrupts. His voice wavers, but a smile steals across his face as he looks at his nephew. “So, we got time.”

Eddie smiles, and the fear ebbs. Steve waits until it's been mostly replaced by warmth and relief, and then he slips out the front door.

It takes him less than ten minutes to fall asleep in the driver's seat of his car. He dreams of vinyl booths and black coffee, and when he opens his eyes again the light has changed.

Steve lets himself lie there, tipped back and blinking at the shadows on the ceiling. He becomes aware of an odd heaviness sitting behind his sternum. It’s - hard to tell what he's feeling right now. The bond is a tangled mess of emotion. He concentrates, reaching out until he snags a growing thread of shame.

Steve frowns and sits up. The trailer sits there, unchanged but for the soft glow of the windows in the twilight.

There's strong affection, too, tangled up with it. A general contentedness that he'd expected to feel - but Eddie's anxiety is getting heavier, growing teeth. Steve feels it creeping up the back of his neck, spiking randomly before subsiding again.

He's about to get out of the car when the door opens and Eddie steps out, carrying his acoustic. He turns, says something that makes Wayne laugh, and lets himself be pulled in for a hug. Steve sinks back into his seat, watching them carefully. Eddie’s back is stiff when he turns away from his uncle, face already hidden by the hood. Tension sharpens the set of his shoulders as he makes his way across the road, but when he catches sight of Steve through the windshield he raises his hand. Gives him a little wave.

Fondness grips Steve around the ribs and squeezes. He wishes they were closer to the cabin. It all seems easier when Eddie's warm skin is pressed against his own, their voices lowering until everything feels like a secret.

His greeting comes out all scratchy when Eddie opens the back door to stow away his guitar, earning him a smile.

“Hey,” Eddie breathes when he slides into the passenger seat, scraping his hair back. Distress blooms suddenly along the thread connecting them, but it’s muffled, as if Eddie is stubbornly squashing it down. “Sorry for keeping you so long. You okay?”

“I’m fine,” Steve murmurs, reaching across the space to brush a rogue strand of hair off his face. “Are you okay? You feel off.”

“I’m -” He falters over the words, offers up a brittle smile. “Yeah.”

Steve frowns at him. “Are you sure?”

“Can we just -” The words are sharp, accompanied by the brief and awful sensation of suffocation. Eddie whispers his name when it subsides. Looks him in the eye. “Please.”

Steve starts the car without another word. He lets Eddie play the radio loud, switching compulsively between stations and bouncing his knee along to whatever tune is coming through. About twenty minutes in, he circles Eddie’s wrist and pulls, encouraging his balled-up fist to relax against his own thigh. Eddie sighs gratefully, rubs a thumb over his leg. Neither of them speak, not even while Steve is pulling up to the dark cabin or after he’s shut off the engine. Eddie just slips out of the car and disappears inside, trusting Steve to follow.

Steve watches him from the doorway as he darts around, switching on lamps and re-starting the fire. There's a shake to his hands. He nearly drops the box of matches. Frustration rises like bile in Steve’s throat.

“Okay. You gotta -” Steve squeezes his eyes shut, starts again. “Ed. Please tell me what’s going on. Did Wayne…say something?”

Eddie stands, head tipping back until he’s nodding at the ceiling. “Yeah. Yeah, he had a lot to say.”

Steve is rooted to the spot, confusion clouding his brain. He can only picture Wayne's grinning face, eyes crinkled up in a laugh.

“He told me that he never believed any of it, just like you said,” Eddie continues conversationally, and dejection crawls through the bond like tar. “Said that he knew I couldn't have done something like that. That I'd never hurt anyone.”

Steve holds his breath. Exhales slowly.

“He's right,” Steve declares, ignoring how Eddie flinches away from his understanding. His empathy. “It's the truth, Ed.”

“It's a f*cking lie,” Eddie snaps, finally turning to look at him. His eyes are wild, wet with unshed tears. “I lied. To all of you.”

Steve stares at him, uncomprehending. He shakes his head, follows the wet track of a tear down Eddie's cheek. “No. What?”

“I remember,” Eddie bites out. His head drops forward, hair swinging across his face like a curtain. “I told you I didn't, but -”

A brick wall of horror and disgust slams into Steve. And the guilt - f*ck, it's enough to take his breath away, twisting across the room and worming beneath his ribcage.

Eddie takes an unsteady step backwards and sinks onto the armrest of the chair, hands curling into claws on his knees.

“I killed them,” he rasps. “I remember doing it.”

Steve stands there, trying to breathe through Eddie's pain. He shakes his head again, blinking hard in the dim light.

“Killed who?”

“I don't know,” Eddie admits, the words choked and quiet. He pulls in a shuddering breath, curls further into himself. “Two men…a woman.”

Steve has a sudden memory of the missing posters, countless faces plastered across every bulletin board and telephone pole in town. For months, people searched for those lost in the split earth. Most of them were never found.

“I’m sorry,” Steve breathes, his own nausea mixing with Eddie’s revulsion. He presses a hand to his sternum, feeling out of breath. “Jesus. I’m so sorry.”

Eddie's head lifts, his eyes flashing. He shakes his head. “Hopper should have f*cking shot me.”

“f*ck off,” Steve snaps, suddenly gripped by terrible fear. “Don't do that. You weren't in control,” he reminds him.

“I should have been able to stop it,” Eddie mumbles, a glazed-over look settling into his eyes.

Steve lets out a huff of disbelief. “Stop -? You can't just opt out of a hive-mind, Eddie. It took a dozen of us to bring that f*cker down.”

Eddie stares at him, tear tracks lit up in the firelight. Steve's heart lurches and he starts towards him. He bullies his way into Eddie's space, tips his face up.

“Please listen to me,” Steve begs, getting a hand in the roots of his hair so he won't turn away. “It wasn’t you, Ed.”

“But it was my hands,” Eddie croaks, tears falling in earnest now. Long fingers wrap around his own throat as he stares up at Steve. “My mouth.”

“I know, baby,” he starts - but the nausea rises again, shared between them. Steve has to stop and take a deep, slow breath. He wipes the wetness from his own face.

“Listen. That is…a terrible thing to have to live with,” he agrees quietly, nodding until Eddie mirrors him - those big, unsure eyes glued to his face. “But none of that is you.”

Eddie's eyebrows draw together. His fingers are bunched up in Steve's shirt now, and he pulls him closer.

“But -”

“Hey,” Steve interrupts. “If anyone would know, it'd be me. Right? You can't hide sh*t from me. I can feel you,” he insists, pushing the heel of his hand into his own chest. “That's you.”

Eddie stares up at him, eyes huge and heartbroken. When he speaks, it comes out hoarse but full of conviction.

“You wouldn't have let it happen.”

“Bullsh*t,” Steve declares immediately, relishing the flash of surprise on Eddie's face. “That's not how it works and you know it. I'm not better than you.”

Eddie huffs, gives him the faintest hint of a smile. “Debatable.”

“Nah,” Steve argues gently, tugging on a strand of his hair. “Can't fool me, Munson. You're good. Through and through.”

Eddie blinks up at him, all grateful and watery-eyed, then groans and tips forward. Steve winds an arm around his shoulders, cradles the back of his head. Murmurs things like baby and you’re okay and I’m sorry.

Something less jagged starts to settle around them, heavy as a boulder but more aimless now. Eddie’s face is pressed into his stomach, getting his shirt wet.

Mourning, Steve thinks vaguely.

They stay like that for a long time.


🩸


“Steve. I’m going to miss my plane.”

“sh*t, sorry,” he says, finally releasing Robin. He wipes quickly at his eyes, glancing towards the line for security. Clears his throat.

“You f*cker,” she complains thickly, laughing. When he turns back she's glaring at him with one watery eye, the other covered by the sleeve of her sweater. She drops her arm. Her bottom lip wobbles. “I'm gonna miss you.”

“No, shut up,” Steve croaks, blinking at the ceiling. He laughs and it burns his throat. “You know I hate crying in public.”

“Say it back, Steven.”

He looks at her. Robin stands there, still and expectant amongst the bustling crowds. She’s wearing one of his old sweaters and smirking at him. She’s beautiful.

Steve feels a flash of that same panic he felt when he left New York, like he’s got no clue what he’s supposed to do without her.

“I’ll miss you, Robbie.”

She pretends to wrinkle her nose at him, shoving his shoulder gently. “I know.”

He nods, looks at the floor until he’s sure he isn’t going to cry. This is so stupid. He’ll see her again in a few weeks, around the holidays. But it isn’t the same, and they both know it. She’ll walk through that gate, and it'll all just - go back to not being the same.

“I’ll call you when I get in,” she’s telling him, double checking all of her luggage, studying her boarding pass. “Um. Have a good trip back. Tomorrow?” He nods. “Okay. Good luck. And don’t get on that f*cking motorcycle, Steve. I don’t care how hot he is.”

“I have the rental,” he reminds her - conveniently side-stepping the fact that he’d been clinging to Eddie’s back as the bike sped along backroads just the day before. It had left him shaky with exhilaration and giggling like a lunatic, begging to do it again. “And two suitcases.”

Robin tips her head to the side, conceding the point, then finally exhales and straightens up. She nods decisively.

“Okay,” she tells him. “See you later, dummy.”

Steve grins at her, and it only hurts a little. “Bye, Rob."


🩸


There is a pebble in Steve's shoe. He shifts his weight, wiggles his ankle enough to send it tumbling further in, where it jabs him in the ball of his foot. He sighs and taps the toe of his shoe against the hard earth until it dislodges.

“I don't know why we came here,” his mother mutters.

Steve stiffens, thinking she'd noticed his distracted shuffling. But she's just gazing down at his father's headstone, gleaming in the weak morning sunlight. The flowers lying across the top of it look far too cheery in the dull landscape. Brown leaves scattered over brown grass.

“It's just…a stone,” she continues quietly, tilting her head. “I don't feel him here.” She looks out over the field, over the tombstones sticking up out of the earth like rows of teeth. When she turns to him, her expression is unreadable. “Do you?”

“No,” Steve says honestly. He squints around, shrugs. “Not exactly his scene.”

His mom cracks a smile. “No. It's not, is it?”

“Maybe if they had a bar.”

She snorts and half-heartedly smacks him in the shoulder, only to tuck her arm beneath his and lean into his side. Steve can smell her hairspray. He tries to remember the last time he felt shorter than her.

“You know, he took me to the quarry on our first date?”

“Scandalous.”

“Well. It was a popular spot.”

Mother.”

“Oh, relax. We had a picnic in the back of his truck. He was a perfect gentleman.”

He twists to look at her. “Dad had a truck?”

“Mhm. For years. It was red, with bench seats.”

“Huh.”

She smiles, turning to see him better. “He was driving that truck when I told him I was pregnant with you.” She laughs, shaking her head. “God, I forgot about that. He nearly drove us off the road.”

“Well, that's always nice to hear,” Steve grumbles.

“He was so excited,” his mom continues, undeterred. Her eyes soften, go distant. “He used to talk to you. Before you were born.”

Steve stares down at her. “Really?”

“Yeah.” She sniffs and looks out over the graveyard, fixes her gloves.

Steve tries to picture his dad, at ease and speaking softly to his mother's pregnant belly. Telling Steve about his day. But all he can see is his father's name printed in gray stone, the sharp angles of each letter.

Steve looks away, thinking.

“Where did he propose?”

“The park. By the water.”

Steve nods. He used to play in that stream as a kid all the time. Once, he’d badly cut his foot on a piece of broken glass, staining the stones red when he climbed out. Tommy had run off to get someone before Steve even understood what had happened. He'd sat there in the grass, dazed by the sight of blood and teary-eyed over being left alone. When his father walked up, Steve remembers him being big enough to block out the sun. He thought his dad would yell, but he’d just patched up his foot and carried him home, stubble scratching against Steve's temple.

“That's where we should go,” Steve announces, bending to unlace his shoe.

His mom hangs onto his arm as he sways on one foot, shaking out the pebble. When he straightens up, she’s beaming at him.

“You won't be late for your flight?”

Steve shrugs, avoiding her eyes. He couldn’t come up with a good excuse for why he was suddenly driving back to West Virginia, so he just - didn’t tell her.

“It's early,” he tells her. “I’ve got time.”


🩸


Steve draws two fingers over the bumps of Eddie's spine, smiling when it makes him go lax and sink further into the vee of his thighs. His breath has gone slow and deep, fanning out over Steve’s sternum and giving him goosebumps. The two of them are tangled up on the couch in Hopper’s cabin. A song he doesn’t know is playing softly, and everything feels slow. He’s got no clue what time it is, only that the sun is still streaming through the cabin windows. They’re in no rush.

He carefully extracts his hand from Eddie’s hair to prod at his own shoulder. The little punctures are sore, easy to find next to the base of his neck. Steve shivers and presses down, still feeling a little high.

They’d sat on the couch to do it - shifting around awkwardly until he’d just gone ahead and climbed into Eddie’s lap, peeling off his shirt and rambling out reassurances as he went. Eddie had stared up at him, all trusting and hungry, and let Steve guide his mouth closer. When he bit down, satisfaction had flooded the bond like melted butter.

It had gone off the rails almost immediately.

Eddie had barely swallowed his first mouthful when his hands found their way to Steve’s ass, encouraging his incessant squirming into something intentional and dirty. He'd grown eager and clumsy, moaning into the bite so much that trickles of blood started escaping, sliding down Steve’s chest as they moved against each other.

What really tipped it over, though, was Eddie opting to rip Steve’s boxers open when he became frustrated with trying to get them over his spread thighs. Steve had about a second to stare at him in total shock, and then he was on his back and Eddie was thrusting down against him, lapping at his chest.

He’d come almost immediately, but when Eddie followed it sent light sparking across the backs of Steve's eyelids all over again, turning everything sweet.

He smiles and places his hand back onto Eddie's head.

“You're happy,” a low voice accuses softly.

Eddie sounds half-asleep, but he's smiling against Steve's stomach. When he lifts his head, Steve laughs at his wrecked hair.

“Mmh,” he acknowledges smugly. “That was…”

“Yeah,” Eddie sighs.

“I told you.”

He gives Steve a dopey smile, tips his head to the side. “You did.”

Steve grins back at him, absently tracing the winding edge of a scar down and over his jaw.

“You did so well,” he praises quietly, partially to see the pleased flush that rises to Eddie's cheeks. Steve presses one finger against the pink skin. He can feel Eddie's eyes traveling down towards his neck.

“Doesn’t hurt too bad?”

“Nah. Can barely feel it,” Steve tells him. Relief blooms through the bond. “You get enough?”

Eddie nods absently, eyes lingering on the bite. “You taste like gold.”

Steve feels his eyebrows lift a second before the laugh bubbles out of him. Eddie’s eyes flick up and his smile returns, slow and indulgent.

“I’m serious.”

“Shut up,” Steve complains.

Eddie shakes his head, fully grinning now. He lifts himself up enough to pull Steve further underneath him. “Swear to god, baby.” He tugs Steve’s knee up around his hip, smacks his ass. “High quality stuff.”

“Wow,” Steve laughs, already a little breathless. “Such a romantic.”

“Oh, you f*ckin’ bet,” Eddie agrees, bending to nudge their mouths together.

Steve kisses him back eagerly, happy to wrap himself around Eddie like an octopus and tumble straight into round two. But it's barely been a few seconds when Eddie pulls back abruptly to frown at him.

“What?” Steve breathes.

“Uh -”

The slam of a car door interrupts him, and Steve’s breath catches. “Oh -” he looks down between their naked bodies. “- my god. f*ck.”

They scramble up, Steve swaying slightly on his knees. He blinks hard, flapping his hands at Eddie when he tries to steady him.

“I’m good, just - be less naked.”

“Right, yeah,” he agrees, snatching his sweats off the arm of the couch.

He's hopping around, halfway into them, when Steve lifts his underwear up between two hands and feels his stomach drop through the floor. Oh, right. He clears his throat. Eddie looks up and nearly topples over.

“Are you for real?” Steve hisses, brandishing the ruined boxers at him.

Eddie gives him a wide-eyed look, pulls the sweats up and plants his hands on his hips thoughtfully.

“Huh.”

Steve whips them at his head. They hit him in the chest and fall sadly to the floor.

“Dude, you shredded them.”

Eddie fits a hand over his mouth, muffling a guilty snort of laughter. Steve whirls around, seething.

“And where the f*ck are my pants -”

There's a creak from outside. Someone is on the stairs. Steve swears under his breath and scrambles for the throw blanket draped over the back of the couch.

“I’m not here,” he insists over his shoulder, hastily wrapping the blanket around his hips.

“Your car says otherwise -” Eddie hisses back.

A boot crunches over the dead leaves on the porch, and they both freeze, eyes locked on the door.

Surely they'll knock, Steve reasons as he pulls the fabric tight and aggressively secures it in place. Who in their right mind would just barge into -

The cabin door bangs open.

“Oh good, you guys haven't left -”

Steve just has time to see Dustin's eyes go wide with surprise before he slams his own shut and twists his head to the side - a real I can't see you, you can't see me kind of move.

There's total silence in the cabin for a full three seconds.

“Okay,” Dustin announces.

“Oh hey, Henderson,” Eddie says, his voice pitched high with fake enthusiasm. “Yeah, just come on in, man.”

Sorry,” Dustin shoots back. He has the nerve to sound affronted and that's enough for Steve's eyes to fly open.

“Seriously?” He grits out, trying to manifest the authority of a man wearing more than a bunch of granny squares. His torn underwear are still lying on the goddamn floor. Steve kicks them under the couch as subtly as he can. “Learn to knock!”

“Learn to lock a door!” Dustin argues shrilly. His glare is fixed on a point somewhere above Steve's hair.

Steve spares a glance over at Eddie, who looks to be caught in some sort of suspended wince.

“Okay, just - get out,” Steve demands, waving his hands in a shooing motion. “Give us a second, here.”

“Yeah, gladly,” Dustin agrees, gaze still focused skyward. He huffs and jabs a thumb over his shoulder. “I’ll just - I'll be outside.”

The door clicks shut behind him and Steve lets out a long breath, chin dropping to his chest.

“f*cking…yikes.”

“You said it,” Eddie mutters, pushing his hair back with both hands.

They catch each other’s eye. Eddie drifts over to him, lifts his jaw with two fingers and studies his face. “You okay?”

“Depends. Can a person die from embarrassment?” Steve whispers, rubbing his chest. Eddie cracks a smile. Steve groans and tips forward until his forehead bumps into his collarbone. Fingers immediately steal into his hair, combing through the strands. Soothing.

“Think he’s gonna freak out?”

“Don’t know,” Steve sighs. He doesn’t think so, not really. But it seems reckless to voice that. “Guess we should go find out.”

Dustin is leaning against the far railing of the porch when the two of them shuffle outside several moments later, fully dressed this time and appropriately contrite. He watches them walk up, discerning eyes moving between their faces with sharp interest. Steve keeps shifting his weight restlessly, suddenly can't remember how to f*cking stand normally. He folds his arms, but that seems closed off, combative, so he drops them again.

Eddie clears his throat, glancing towards Steve and away again.

“Oh, Christ. I’ll start,” Dustin says, rolling his eyes. He flicks a pointed finger between the two of them. “What the hell?”

Steve’s heart drops into his stomach at the same time that surprise crackles through the bond like an electric shock. He puts his hands on his hips so they won’t shake. “Okay, listen…”

“Steve -” Eddie warns. His voice is low and calming, contrary to the tension rolling off of him in waves.

“I'm not judging you,” Dustin clarifies, hands held up in front of him. He frowns, as if they’re being absurd. “It's cool. Chill out. We're all adults here.”

Steve closes his mouth and turns, catches Eddie's eye. Oh.

Dustin scoffs. “Seriously? What do you take me for?”

Beside him, Eddie cracks a smile. Cautious relief blooms along their connection, smoothing over all that jagged surprise. Steve exhales in a huff, narrows his eyes at the kid.

“Then what was with all the -” he emulates Dustin's finger shaking from before. “- dramatics?”

“Because this is a big deal! And you were gonna leave without saying anything!” Dustin accuses, gesturing wildly. “I had to find out by walking in on you guys doing it?”

“Okay, not what happened,” Steve protests.

“Basically,” Dustin mutters, staring off into the trees.

Steve and Eddie exchange a look.

“We're - sorry, man. Alright?” Eddie scratches the back of his head, shifting awkwardly. “This thing, between us - it's very new.”

“Obviously, we were gonna tell you guys,” Steve adds. “Just, not yet.”

Dustin studies them for a moment before nodding slowly. “I guess I can understand that.” His face brightens considerably. “Am I the first one to find out?”

“Uh -”

“Robin knows,” Eddie admits.

“Aw man,” Dustin complains. “She always knows stuff first.”

“Sorry,” Steve offers, wincing. “Second place isn't bad, though.”

“Third,” Eddie corrects. “Wayne.”

“Right,” Steve says, pointing at him. “Wayne.”

Dustin gives them an unimpressed look. “Okay, whatever. I don't even care.” He draws in a deep breath, face settling into a smirk. “So. What is this? Are you guys in love?”

“Dustin -”

“Jesus Christ, dude. It's been, like, a week.”

“Yeah, exactly,” Eddie chokes out, gesturing at Steve without actually looking at him.

Dustin just looks between them serenely and then bursts out laughing. Steve's face feels like it's f*cking glowing. Embarrassment and nerves and f*cking curiosity are firing off wildly across the bond. He can't even tell who's responsible for what.

“Not that it isn't great to see you,” Steve says, aiming to move on quickly. “But why are you even out here? We were supposed to be gone hours ago.”

Dustin shrugs, still grinning. “Came out to see El. I saw the gate was unlocked and figured there was a good chance you'd still be around.” He gives Steve a pointed look. “Knowing you.”

“I was late to pick you from school, like, one time, you little sh*t.” He scoffs, turning to Eddie and pointing childishly at Dustin’s face. “Coming from him, too. Do you have any idea how much gas I burned just waiting for this kid to get out the door?”

“Hey, at least I'm not banging vampires in the middle of a Monday afternoon,” Dustin quips. “You know, some people have to work, Steve.”

Steve sputters, looking over at Eddie for help. But as soon as their eyes meet Eddie's mouth twitches and he has to fully turn away to stare up into the rafters of the porch. Dustin wheezes out another laugh, looking altogether too pleased with himself.

Steve huffs, rolls his eyes, and is struck with a sudden thought.

“Hang on,” he says, turning back to Dustin. He draws himself up to his full height. Gets the hands back on the hips and everything. “Why aren’t you in class?”

The sh*t-eating grin slides right off Dustin's face. He actually goes a little shifty. “I don't have class today.”

“You do. You have that computer one. Hacking.”

Coding, Steve. God.”

“Whatever. I'm serious.” He narrows his eyes at the kid, thinking about it. “Did you go to school at all last week?”

Dustin looks between them, uncharacteristically hesitant. “I - took a break. From school.”

“A break?” Eddie asks, frowning.

“Like, you quit?” Steve demands.

No,” Dustin insists, then winces. He shifts on his feet. “Maybe. I don't know.”

“Dustin, why would you -”

“Look, I got a job already. Right? And school was - intense.”

“You fix computers part-time,” Steve reminds him. “What, you're gonna do that for the rest of your life? The sh*t you want to do - you need a degree, man.”

“Well, maybe I don’t know what I want to do,” he says huffily. “And it's not like I'll die if I don't graduate, Steve. You don't have a degree.”

“Yeah,” Steve heartily agrees. “No, you’re right. No degree. Just three concussions under my belt, and the same job I had when I was twenty-one, and I drink all the f*cking time.”

Steve’s mouth snaps shut and he straightens up, fumbling a hand onto his hip to squash the tremor that’s been running through it for two days. He hadn’t meant to include that last bit, and now alarm is fizzling through the bond.

He ignores it. Dustin is watching him with wide eyes, and Steve meets them steadily.

“This is as good as it gets for me. Do you understand that? It’s not the same.”

Dustin swallows, looks away. “I just - needed a break.”

Before he can argue, Eddie’s voice cuts through the quiet. Just Steve's name, low and clipped. There's something of a warning in it. A flashing light in his chest that makes him shut up and listen.

Steve closes his mouth, rocks back on his heels, and takes a second to really look at the kid.

Gone are the goofy t-shirts and all the baby-faced roundness. He’s still got the wild hair, but that too is tamer. Almost neat. Dustin’s eyes, so often scrunched up in a smile, have a heaviness to them, dark circles staining the skin beneath. He doesn't look fourteen anymore. He doesn't really look twenty, either.

For a brief and unnerving moment, Steve feels as though he barely recognizes him. It’s stupid, of course. This change has been taking place for years.

Out of all of them, it had been hardest for Dustin. After.

He’d isolated himself, at first. Then he’d started getting into fights, skipping school - Steve had even caught him a few times. He’d tried talking to him, tried to make it better. But Dustin was full of anger, and guilt, and a deep sort of disillusionment that Steve recognized instantly but didn't know what to do with. He’d never known what to do with it, not in himself or anyone else.

And then he and Robin had moved, with nothing left to offer but regular phone calls that went unanswered half the time. Steve had worried about the kid. A lot.

The only thing that worked, in the end, was time. Eventually, Dustin started answering the damn phone when Steve called. He scraped it together enough to pass his sophom*ore year. He got his license and spent Labor Day weekend bullying Steve into letting him drive the bimmer. Things just - slowly settled into a new shape. Not the same, exactly, but familiar.

By senior year, everyone had been expecting Dustin to get a full ride to some fancy college out of state. So, Indiana Tech had come as something of a surprise.

Steve suddenly feels like he should have seen this coming. He thinks of their phone calls this past year, of all the times Dustin had answered busy when he'd asked how are you. The way he’d change the subject, needle into Steve’s life until he got a rise out of him.

A memory of his father rises, unbidden, to the front of Steve's mind. It was the first time he'd caught sight of the Scoops A'hoy uniform. My son, the walking cautionary tale, he'd joked flatly, disapproval twisting his mouth.

“Sorry,” Steve blurts out, too loud in his rush to say it. Dustin looks up at him in surprise. He shakes his head. “I'm sorry. I don't know what I'm talking about, obviously. Take a break if you need one, man.”

Dustin blinks at him, nods haltingly. “Thanks.”

Steve takes a step forward. “Just - don't forget that you're a bona-fide genius. I'm serious. You could do anything you wanted. That's all I meant.”

This time Dustin cracks a smile, crossing his arms. “Wow. Thanks, mom.”

“Oh, shut up.”

“God, you two are better than TV,” Eddie adds, now leaning against the railing with his arms crossed. He pretends to wipe away a tear.

“You can also shut up, actually,” Steve tells him, rubbing at his neck thoughtlessly. His shirt scrapes uncomfortably across the bite and he winces. He suddenly feels exhausted, already dreading the long trip.

Eddie frowns, turns to Dustin. “Hey. We should probably -”

“Right, yeah. I’ll let you guys…get back to it,” Dustin agrees, with a toothy grin and an exaggerated wink that Steve refuses to acknowledge.

He just steps forward, pulls him into a hug. “Call us, okay? Whenever you want.”

“Of course,” Dustin huffs into his shoulder. He steps back, lifts his chin at Eddie. “Gotta make sure this guy doesn’t forget me again.”

Eddie sighs, dropping his head back. He’s smiling, though.

“I didn't really forget you, you know,” He taps his temple. “You were in here, man. It was just - like looking through frosted glass. I couldn’t get to any of it.”

His gaze flicks over to Steve and their eyes catch together. Hold.

“And then I saw him, and the glass just…shattered.”

Steve feels himself melt, wants to curl up in the warm honey feeling dripping through the bond.

“Oh, womp f*cking womp,” Dustin pipes up. They look around at him, the same flavor of surprise stretching between the two of them.

“Excuse me?” Eddie snorts.

“You and your connection,” Dustin continues, wiggling his fingers in the air beside his head. The corner of his mouth is twitching up. “You knew him for like a week!”

Steve smiles at him placidly, crossing his own arms. “Guess that's all I needed.”

“Ugh, you guys are sick,” he complains, heading past them to the stairs. He whirls around, frowning. “Not ‘cause you’re gay, or anything. It’s just your personalities.”

Steve hears Eddie laughing and forces himself to smile. Gay. The word loops in his head. He’s just - never heard it applied to himself before. It’s f*cking with his brain.

They watch Dustin get into his sh*tty little car and roll the window down. Just before the bend in the road, he leans over and waves. They stand there after he's gone, listening to the wind blowing the last of the leaves from their branches. Steve wonders if it will snow soon.

“He’ll be okay,” Eddie says quietly, knocking their shoulders together.

“You think so?” Steve mutters back. He lets out a long breath. “I worry.”

“I know."

“He’s so different, right? I always forget how much he’s changed, and then it’s like that’s all I can see.”

“Nah,” Eddie sighs, surprising him. He tips his head to the side, catching Steve’s eye. “He’s the same in the ways that matter.”

Steve makes a thoughtful noise, gazing out at the trees for a long moment. The sun has started to dip lower, bathing the cabin in dappled light. Eddie raps his knuckles against the railing.

“We should head out.”

“Yeah,” he agrees quietly, turning to Eddie. “Nervous?”

“Terrified,” he admits with a lopsided smile. “Aren’t you?”

Steve shrugs, drifting closer. “I don't know. Kinda feel like we’re gonna figure it out.”

“On account of the whole hive-mind, telepathic-link thing, you think?”

“No,” Steve laughs. “Not entirely.”

Eddie makes an intrigued noise and catches Steve’s hand. Pulls him closer and gently sandwiches his fingers between his palms, smothering the subtle shake.

“We’re gonna have to figure this out, too. Yeah?”

“I know,” Steve sighs, squeezing his other hand into a fist and shaking it out again.

Eddie hums, eyes searching his face. He lifts Steve’s hand, presses a kiss to his knuckles. “Ready to go?”

“Mhm,” he murmurs, even as he slips his hand around the back of Eddie’s neck to draw him in. “Almost.


🩸


It’s strange, the way the rest of it just falls into place.

Easy isn’t exactly the right word. Inevitable is closer, and miles more terrifying. It does add a certain irrelevancy to all of Steve’s fears, though.

Still feels vaguely like being flayed open all the time. He’s trying to get used to it.

It's hard to be avoidant when someone can tell exactly what you're feeling.

“I know,” Eddie murmurs, unprompted, on their first night in Steve's bed. Charleston is quiet around them, the street dark and still outside. “I feel it too.”

Steve huffs, embarrassed and appreciative in turns. Somewhere into the third hour of the trip he’d come to the abrupt realization that he and Eddie were, for all intents and purposes, moving in together. One week in. His stomach has been twisting itself into knots ever since.

It makes him feel like a fool. It makes him feel guilty. He wants Eddie here, of course. Wants him as close as he can get. The thought of him leaving makes Steve feel genuinely ill.

It’s just that it all seems so precarious. Fragile. But Eddie nudges his arm, meeting his eyes in the dark. And he smiles.

And then, for the first time, they fall asleep together and wake up in the same bed.

The rest seems to fall away in the face of that first morning. Steve feels his worries shrinking into insignificance at the mere sight of Eddie Munson, fast asleep in his bed. He’s never seen him sleeping before. Steve catches himself trying to memorize the shallow rise and fall of his back before he remembers that he gets to have this now - every morning, if he plays his cards right.

He has work that night, and Eddie follows him around the house as he gets ready, distracting him with all this big-eyed interest in his stuff. Steve is generally tidy, but he hadn’t exactly had a chance to do a sweep before bringing Eddie in here. Now, it feels as though every shelf and drawer are lined with damning information, telling hints about what exactly Eddie’s gotten himself into.

“You gonna be okay?” Steve asks from the kitchen, eyeing Eddie where he’s flipping through the magazines on the coffee table. He offers Steve a flashbulb of a smile and keeps snooping. “Um. I have cable, and there’s a bunch of tapes in the cabinet-thing under the TV.”

Eddie nods, turning slowly to study the room. “Books?” he asks.

Embarrassment zips down Steve’s spine. He clears his throat and tips his chin over at the far wall, suppressing a wince when Eddie turns to see the pathetic little collection of paperbacks on his shelf.

“I’ll, uh, work on that,” he offers, forcing a laugh as he punches two minutes into the microwave. “Just let me know what you want and I’ll get it.”

When he looks up, Eddie is frowning. His heart sinks.

The frown deepens. “Steve,” he complains, starting towards him.

“What? Sorry. What?”

“Cut it out,” Eddie tells him, crowding him against the counter. He touches his jaw, tips his head to the side. “Why did you go all -” he bunches his shoulders up around his ears, sticks his hands out at odd angles.

“What the hell is this?” Steve snorts, mimicking him.

“You tell me,” Eddie counters.

“It's fine,” he sighs.

Eddie waits, thumb stroking over his knuckles.

“I'm just worried -” Steve blurts out, before he can overthink it. “That you won't like it here.”

Eddie looks genuinely surprised. “What? Why wouldn't I?”

Steve grits his teeth and forces himself to continue. “The life I was living, before…it wasn't all that impressive.” He glances at his sad bookshelf, listens to his microwave meal slowly rotating. “I don't want you to be bored.”

Eddie stares at him. “Steve. I've been living in, like, tents and stolen cars for five years. This place is a f*cking palace.”

He nods quickly, already feeling stupid. “No, yeah. I know it’s -”

“I don’t think you're boring, Steve,” Eddie interrupts. Just cuts right through to the center of it. “Pretty much exactly the opposite.”

“Oh,” Steve breathes stupidly. He tries not to wonder too loud how that could be. “Okay. Good.”

Eddie beams at him, nods. “Good.”

Steve starts to turn away, only to look back sharply. “And you’re not gonna go stir crazy? Cooped up in here every day?”

“Well, that I can’t promise,” Eddie allows with a shrug, swinging away to inspect his pantry. He leans around the cupboard door and bounces his eyebrows. “But, hey - creature of the night, right? Same as you, I think.”

A surprised smile steals across Steve’s face. “Yeah,” he agrees, head tilting as he considers it. “Same as me.”


🩸


Eddie's hands go tight on his hips, holding him to the bed, and Steve lets another moan slip out of his open mouth. His eyes follow the path of Eddie's tongue, up the length of his dick and around the head. There's a flash of white, sharp and pointed, and apprehension gets all mixed up in the tidal swell of arousal. He feels f*cking dizzy.

Eddie stops licking him, eyes settling heavy on his face. “Steve. You still want it?”

Yes,” he insists. They've been working themselves up to try this for a couple weeks now. He's not about to back down. “Yeah, just -”

“Gonna be so careful, baby. You trust me?”

“Always,” he sighs.

Eddie beams at him, presses a kiss to his hip. Another in the crease of his thigh. Keeps going until he’s mouthing at the base of his dick, gazing up with those f*cking eyes.

“Relax,” he commands softly, and Steve tries.

He really needn’t have worried. By the time Eddie's got two fingers buried inside him, toying with his prostate while he swallows around his co*ck, Steve has entirely forgotten about the teeth. And everything else, really. The world could end and he'd hardly notice, wouldn't care as long as Eddie kept doing that -

Holy f*ck, Ed. Your f*cking mouth -” he babbles, arching when Eddie moans around him.

He still can't move his hips and it's only making the heat gather fast and close at the base of his spine. His hands scrabble for the edge of the mattress, claw at the sheets. Eddie keeps rubbing these slow, merciless circles with his fingers, driving him endlessly higher. He moves up, starts tonguing at his slit, and Steve suddenly can't stop moaning, can't control his mouth at all.

There, there, there,” he chants, then drags in a startled breath as Eddie's thumb presses into his taint and the org*sm coils down his spine, hot and urgent. “I can't - I'm gonna -”

Eddie groans and sucks him in deeper and Steve sobs and shakes and comes down his throat.

“f*ck,” Steve croaks, when he can form words again. The room is spinning, a little.

“f*ck,” he repeats, with feeling. Eddie hums agreeably from somewhere around his hip, shifting against the bed. Steve lifts his head to look at him.

“Oh f*ck,” he wheezes, scrambling up to his elbows. “Did you swallow?”

“Hm?” Eddie questions, blinking up at him all slow and confused. He's got one hand in his boxers, moving lazily.

“Ed,” Steve tries again, a little sharper. “You swallowed -”

He watches Eddie's eyes widen slowly.

sh*t,” he hisses, scrambling to his knees. They stare at each other, breathing hard. Eddie scrunches up his face. “Oops.”

“Are you okay?” Steve whispers, hands hovering uselessly.

“Uh,” Eddie breathes, almost laughing. “I don't know.”

“You don’t -? Jesus, how bad is this?”

“Oh, just -” Eddie twists to sit on the edge of the bed, limbs rigid. Steve follows clumsily, still feeling a little boneless. “Like the flu, but more - violent.”

Steve’s hair flops into his face from the force of his nodding. He scrapes it back, tries to sound calm. “Right. Okay. We can deal with that.”

Eddie nods, but his body stays tense for the next long, silent minute - like he's bracing.

When Steve can’t stand it any longer, he leans forward to catch his eye. “Um. When do you think it'll -?”

“It was right away last time,” Eddie answers. He turns to him incredulously. “I feel fine.”

Steve's shoulders drop. “Maybe you're okay.”

“Yeah?”

“Well, it's not like you ate a sandwich.”

Eddie presses his lips together, eyes flashing with amusem*nt.

“I mean, it came from me,” Steve continues, rambling now. “Right? Bodily fluids, and all that.” He wrinkles his nose, feeling vaguely gross.

“Right,” Eddie says, grinning now. He raises an eyebrow, leans back on his hands. “So. Cum and blood.”

“Hm. A balanced diet,” Steve agrees sagely.

They both burst into giggles.

“God, I'm sorry,” Steve groans, leaning against him. He presses his lips to Eddie's neck, relief making him feel all clingy.

“Are you kidding?” Eddie asks, hauling them both back into the bed. He rolls on top of Steve, smiles down at him. “You just expanded the f*cking menu, babe.”

Steve lets out an ugly snort of laughter. Eddie's smile widens, but he doesn't laugh it off, and he doesn't take it back.

Steve tips his head to the side, still grinning. “What the f*ck. You’re serious.”

“Hey, all I had for years was animal blood. Scared animal blood, actually. Bitter, acidic sh*t. I didn't want it. I just needed it.”

Steve swallows thickly, then breathes out in a rush and rolls them, suddenly needing to be on top of him. Needing to feel him. Eddie's arms wrap around him, and Steve kisses his jaw, his throat. Eddie sighs.

“It's different, with you.”

“Tell me,” Steve encourages, trying not to sound overly eager.

Eddie tries to lift his head for a kiss and Steve pushes him down against the bed, feels him yield. So f*cking easy.

“Go on,” Steve murmurs.

He wants to hear it. Eddie’s usually so strict about feeding, never wanting to take too much, always waiting until he’s practically weak with hunger. Steve watches him let out a final, frustrated noise, and go still.

“It’s the way you taste -” he starts, breath hitching when Steve lowers his mouth to his chest, kissing the edge of a scar. “But it’s more than that. I can tell how much you like it. How much you trust me.”

Steve hums in agreement, sliding one hand pointedly down over his stomach. He lifts his head, kisses Eddie's bottom lip. Feels the pleased rumble of his chest.

Eddie gets a hand around his ass, hauls him closer, shaking his head. “It's like a f*cking meal, baby. A real one.”

“Yeah?” Steve groans, palming Eddie through his boxers. He can feel him getting hard again, feel him shaking. Eddie pushes his hips up impatiently and Steve takes his hand away.

“Keep going,” he breathes.

“I want it,” Eddie admits right away, head falling back. So determined to listen. “f*ck - want it all the time. Tastes so f*cking good.” He lifts his head to kiss Steve, hard and eager. Cradles the back of his head with one hand and gazes up at him, brows drawn together. “I'll take anything you give me.”

“Holy f*ck. Yeah, you will,” Steve agrees breathlessly, shifting until he can get his arm down beside Eddie's face.

He reaches up and grabs Eddie's jaw, angling it towards his bicep. Eddie gasps, mouth opening against Steve's skin. His eyes flash up, searching.

He fed the day before, the marks have barely faded.

Steve just nods, then licks his palm and gets his hand inside his underwear. Strokes him nice and tight right away, so that he convulses and his lips pull back, teeth flashing.

“That's it,” Steve murmurs, grinning when Eddie moans and his eyes go unfocused. “Go ahead, baby.”

He hisses when Eddie's teeth sink into his arm, lets himself get caught up in the riptide of pleasure coursing through their little closed loop system. He pushes Eddie's boxers down to his thighs, gets a hand back on his co*ck and feels him shiver.

“Good boy,” Steve sighs, watching him dreamily.

The reaction is instant. Eddie arches up against him, whining at the back of his throat, and the accompanying surge of arousal is enough to pull a gasping laugh from Steve's throat.

“Oh - woah. Okay.”

Eddie makes a tiny, complaining noise and lets go of his arm, breathing hard. Blood weeps from the punctures, rolling towards his elbow.

“Baby. The bed -” Steve warns lazily.

“Sorry,” he slurs, immediately craning his neck to gather the blood on his tongue. Steve rewards him by speeding up the hand on his co*ck, and Eddie cries out and opens his mouth wider, keeps licking him clumsily.

“God, I love it when you get like this,” Steve tells him. Eddie shudders beneath him, his earlier embarrassment getting swept away in the wake of this building heat. “Being so good, taking what you need.”

He gasps Steve’s name into the curve of his bicep, f*cks up into his fist. When Steve moves his arm away, Eddie blinks up at him with such a lost expression that he has to bend and kiss him.

“Relax,” Steve murmurs against his mouth, shifting until he can bury his hand in Eddie’s hair. He pulls his head back against the mattress, watches his mouth drop open. “Just feel it.”

Eddie gasps raggedly, writhing when Steve's strokes turn tight and quick near the head of his co*ck. His arms come up, gripping Steve’s shoulder, his wrist. Moaning like he can’t stand it.

“Yeah?” Steve breathes, lets his voice drop into something teasing. “You gonna come for me?”

The words are barely out of his mouth when Eddie's breathing cuts and he shudders hard, obediently spilling all over his own stomach. Steve shivers through it with him, eyelids growing heavy - keeps going until he feels the first thread of too much.

“Jesus f*cking Christ,” Eddie wheezes, several moments later.

Steve grins against his shoulder. His spine feels all tingly. He never wants to move again.

“f*ck, I love doing that,” he groans, rolling onto his back. He lifts his arm to inspect the bite, poking at it fondly. “You gotta feed more often, baby. You always wait too long.”

“I bit you yesterday, Steve,” Eddie mumbles half-heartedly. His eyes are still heavy on Steve's skin. Greedy. “Don't want it to be too much.”

“You barely took any,” he insists, turning to catch his eye. “I'm fine. And you know how much I like it, right?”

“I said that under duress,” Eddie deadpans. Steve ignores him.

“It's all I think about sometimes,” he continues bluntly. Eddie’s eyes go a little round. Steve rolls onto his side, traces the winding thread of a scar. “I’m not asking for every day. Just - for you to loosen up. A little bit.”

“Uh-oh. You're asking me to loosen up?” Eddie repeats, grinning.

Two weeks of cohabitation has proved more than enough time to pick up each other’s…particular habits. Eddie affectionately christened him Mr. Clean’s hot nephew on day three.

“Yeah, smart-ass,” Steve answers, pinching him on the hip. “I am. I feel good when you feel good. Remember?”

Eddie looks at him for a long moment, then nods and shuffles a little closer. “Yeah. Alright.”

Steve hums, smiling against his cheek. “Good boy.”

That earns him a pillow to the side of the head. Steve cackles and rolls away, nearly falling out of bed in his attempt to escape. Eddie gets him around the knee at the last second and drags him back, effortlessly pinning him to the mattress.

“No,” Steve wheezes, trying to roll up like a pill bug. “Wait -”

“Yeah, that's it,” Eddie tells him mildly, digging a thumb into the ticklish spot under his hip bone. “Tire yourself out.”

Steve's laugh goes all high and gaspy and Eddie lets up, smirking when he immediately flops back to the mattress.

“You just never learn,” Eddie sighs, tsk-ing as he rolls away and stands, towing Steve across the bed by the ankle.

“Stop it or I'm gonna get hard again,” he warns uselessly, allowing his legs to be pulled up around Eddie's waist when he turns to lean over him.

“Oh, anything but that,” Eddie pretends to plead, ducking down to kiss his neck.

Steve shivers and laughs and lets his head fall to one side, eyes traveling over the room aimlessly.

“Hey -” he gasps, tugging at Eddie's hair. “Look.”

Eddie lifts his head, follows his gaze to the dark window. Fat snowflakes are drifting past the glass, caught in the glow of the street lights.

“It's still dark,” Steve offers, pushing his hands through Eddie's hair. “You wanna go out?”

They've made a habit of exploring the city at night, or driving up into the mountains if Eddie's feeling claustrophobic.

Steve watches him smile and suddenly wonders if Eddie can feel the adoration growing in his chest, whether he knows that the roots are spreading faster than he can control. He's never been good at pacing himself, hopes Eddie hasn't caught on.

The guy can be hard to read for someone emotionally linked to Steve's brain. Eddie seems able to juggle any number of conflicting, morphing feelings at a given moment. Steve sometimes feels like he’s been dropped into the middle of a hedge maze.

But then there are times like this - when Eddie’s gazing down at him as if he's the most interesting thing in the world, and sweetness is stretching between them like honey - that it all feels incredibly simple.


🩸


At Christmas, Steve bakes cookies with his mom and they both pretend they aren’t crying at the end of
It's a Wonderful Life. He goes skating with Lucas and Max, has lunch with Dustin and Claudia.

He bumps into Tommy H. in the parking lot of Big Buy and they catch each other up on the last five years in less than five minutes. Tommy’s smile is as sharp as ever when he claps Steve on the shoulder and tells him that he looks good. On the drive home, Steve finds himself re-examining a thousand conversations.

Later that night, the trailer door opens to a tangle of colorful lights and corny tree ornaments. Wayne shakes Steve's hand and offers him hot apple cider. Eddie’s cleary spent the day curled up on the couch. His smile is easy and open. When Steve sits down, he tugs on his ironed collar and laughs at him, calls him a try hard. He looks so relaxed here. Steve abruptly wishes they could stay longer.

When it gets late, Wayne sends them off with pocketfuls of clementines. They were always his favorite, he mentions offhandedly to Steve. There’s something wistful in his voice and Steve nods, tucks another into his jacket. Later, at Hop's cabin, Eddie presses Steve into the bed and licks the sweetness from his mouth.

The Moment, as they refer to it later, comes at some point during the next day. The driveway is lined with their friends’ cars, and the cabin is filled with music and laughter and plates of leftover food. There’s no big epiphany, no speeches. Eddie just catches his eye from across the room, and they both know.


🩸


Steve finds the house in March.

“It's perfect, Ed,” he whispers that night, the two of them curled up on the pull-out in Wayne’s living room. “All nice wood and sh*t. Bigger than the townhouse.”

Eddie grins at him in the dark. “And not in the middle of a city.”

“Exactly. Cheaper rent, too,” Steve agrees, pushing up to one elbow to look down at him.

They’d wanted something private, and the place is about as secluded as it gets out here. Deep in the woods - only half an hour from Wayne's. It’s even got a bit of property. They can walk to a f*cking lake.

Steve swoops down to kiss him, feeling exceptionally proud of himself.

“Can't wait to see it, baby,” Eddie mumbles against his mouth.

“You're gonna love it,” Steve promises. He’s squirming around so much he's practically on top of Eddie now. “We can sneak onto the property tomorrow, maybe? It's been empty for a month.”

But Eddie just shrugs one shoulder and tucks Steve's hair behind his ear.

“I trust you,” he says simply, offering him a lopsided grin. “I can feel how much you love it.”

“I love you,” Steve corrects thoughtlessly, then goes entirely still.

Eddie just blinks up at him, all sleepy and pleased, and it suddenly feels as though Steve’s been completely submerged in that familiar, warm-honey feeling.

“Yeah. I can feel that, too,” Eddie murmurs, voice lowered like a secret. He takes Steve’s hand and flattens it to his chest. “Have for a while now. Like this, right?”

“Oh,” Steve breathes.

“Mmh,” Eddie agrees, still looking up at him with those big eyes. His thumb strokes over the back of Steve’s hand.

“Goddamn it,” Steve groans quietly, tearing his eyes away to look around the room.

“What?” Eddie whispers, obviously amused.

Steve looks down at him again, resolved. “We have to go out to the car.”

Eddie's smile widens into a grin. “Why?”

“Cause we’re not having sex in your uncle’s living room, Eddie.”

“But we are having sex in the bimmer?”

“You just told me you loved me,” Steve starts to argue, shifting to straddle him. He pulls his head back, narrowing his eyes. “Actually, you didn’t even say -”

“I love you, Steve,” Eddie interrupts, rolling his eyes. “Obviously.” The exasperation is all for show, of course. Their bond is nothing but a tangled mess of happy, dumb, fireworks.

Steve grins down at him, sinks his hips a little lower. He already feels prickly with want. “Right. So, you wanna?”

Eddie huffs out a helpless little laugh. “Are you really asking if I want to go live out my highschool fantasies in the backseat of your car?”

Steve tips forward, caging him in. “Aw, baby. You fantasized about the backseat of my car?”

“Maybe. Once or twice.”

Steve sits back on his thighs, sucks his teeth. “I knew I should have brought my letterman jacket.”

“I hate you.”

“Liar. You love me.”

Steve feels almost breathless with the truth of it. Eddie sits up, bringing them eye-level.

“I do,” he says levelly. “Where are your keys?”


🩸


He gets a job in Bloomington. The bar is nice, a little fancier than what he’s used to. The first time someone tips him with a shot, Steve runs his fingers over the fading teeth marks on his hip and shoots water.

His hands stopped shaking a month ago.

When he gets home, so late that it’s technically early, Eddie is waiting for him on the porch. He’s half-hidden in the quilt from their bed and plucking at his guitar, and Steve feels his heart settle in his chest.


🩸


Steve sees his mom every week. They'll talk sh*t about the new hairdresser while they cook dinner together, or go for a walk and judge people’s gardens. It turns out that she's just as bad a gossip as Steve is. He doesn’t know how he missed that.

She's definitely figured out that he's seeing someone, clearly suspects that he doesn’t live alone. Steve doesn't let on much, keeps telling her the house isn't ready for visitors. Eventually, her leading questions start to drop off. By late spring, Steve’s pretty sure she knows that he's not with a woman.

It sort of shocks him when nothing seems to change.

He thinks about telling her. Tries to imagine her and Eddie in the same room. Sometimes, Eddie will make a joke and Steve can picture his mom laughing, and he thinks maybe -

He makes up a lie about seeing Wayne at the grocery store, just to see her reaction.

“That poor man,” she sighs, setting the oven timer. “Can’t imagine what he went through.”

“Yeah. You know…he’s always said that Eddie didn’t do it,” Steve offers casually, keeps his eyes on the dishes.

“Well. I’m sure something like that would be hard to accept.”

“I knew Eddie,” Steve blurts out. Reckless. Stupid.

“Did you?” She asks, turning to him. She looks mildly alarmed, as though he might be in some sort of danger through memory alone.

“Yeah,” he nods, swallowing thickly. “Yes. And - Wayne’s right.”

His mom considers him for a long moment. He feels her eyes on the side of his face. “You don’t think it was Eddie.”

“No,” Steve says. “I don't. No way.”

And then he shuts off the water and dries his hands, and they eat chicken piccata in front of Cheers.

When he gets home that night Eddie smiles and stretches like a cat, then allows himself to be led to their bedroom. Steve wraps his arms around him, pushes his forehead between Eddie’s shoulder blades and listens to him breathing.


🩸


On his days off, Steve gets in line at the grocery store to buy things like spinach and chicken and good bread. He spends entire afternoons leaning over stained cook books, calling his mom when he f*cks something up beyond recognition, or can't figure out what the f*ck
deglazing means.

He gains a little weight. Notices sometime in June, when he tugs on a pair of shorts he’s had for a couple years and can barely button them. Steve leaves them in a sad tangle on the floor and turns to inspect himself in the full-length mirror. He prods at his hips and stomach, flexes his legs and arms until he feels like an idiot.

He's mostly forgotten about it by that night, when Eddie is gripping the meat of his thigh and groaning loudly into his neck. They’ve only gotten better at this over time, and Steve’s breathing is already starting to go all tight and short. Eddie notices immediately, like always, and licks a stripe up his throat, driving into him harder. Steve sobs out a curse, arching his neck back and shivering when Eddie sticks his nose into the spot under his ear and inhales deeply.

There’s suddenly a hand around his co*ck and Steve jolts and gasps, eyes rolling back in his head. Eddie makes this noise against his ear, all eager and wanting.

“God, you smell so f*cking good when you're about to come.”

Steve lets out a shocked moan and yanks him closer. He barely holds off long enough to feel the first scrape of teeth, and then he's gone. Swept away in the current of that perfect, endless rush.

After, when he's brushing his teeth, Eddie passes behind him and drops a kiss to the fresh bite at the base of his neck.

“Swear to god, baby. You taste better every day.”

It’s nothing he hasn’t said before, but tonight Steve pauses, looking at him in the mirror.

“Really?” he asks around his toothbrush.

Eddie glances over his shoulder at him. “Of course. Have you seen yourself lately?”

Steve drags his eyes back to his own reflection, bracing for that weird feeling to creep up on him again. But all he really notices this time is the healthy flush on his skin, the solid set of his shoulders and thighs. His hair has grown out a bit, eyes bright and alert in his face.

Steve watches himself touch the edge of a scar that no longer aches and thinks -

Oh. There you are.


🩸


Robin comes to stay with them for a week, and Steve’s plans consist entirely of getting stoned and sunburned lounging on the flat rocks by the side of the lake. The summer has been hot and gorgeous so far, and Steve desperately wants her to like it here.

“f*ck, it’s nice out here,” she declares that first day, standing beside the lake like mountaineer in her chunky sandals.

“Right?” Steve sighs, already peeling off his shirt.

“It’s seriously perfect for -” she trails off, and he looks up. “Steve. What is that?”

“What?”

She rips her sunglasses off and points with her whole arm.

Steve looks down at himself. The little bat tattoo Eddie gave him last month really stands out on his pale skin.

“Ugh, I know,” he sighs, planting a hand on the offending hip. “I need a tan.”


🩸


November, 1992

Steve shoves the window open and leans halfway out, wondering for the thousandth time why he insisted on hosting. The house is already too warm and he’s pretty sure something is burning.

“Is something burning?” Robin asks, popping out of the bathroom as he walks by and scaring the sh*t out of him.

“No,” he insists. “Eddie and Dustin are watching the stove.”

“Are you hearing yourself?” she asks, leaning into his shoulder as they make their way down the hall.

There’s a veritable wall of music rising in volume as they approach the kitchen, all screeching guitars and wild drums. Steve braces himself. but there are no flames or clouds of smoke when they reach the doorway.

Robin leans against the doorframe, lets out a huff of laughter. “Do you wanna kill them, or should I?”

Steve just shakes his head, taking it all in.

Dustin is standing there, dutifully holding a pot and gently headbanging to some screaming dude as he watches a drop of sauce smoldering on the burner. Eddie suddenly slides into view on socked feet, air-guitaring with a dish towel clutched in one hand and his hair loose and wild around his face. Dustin sees him and bursts out laughing. It makes him look like a kid.

“Crisis averted,” Eddie announces proudly, then points at the pot. “Is that done? ‘Cause people are gonna be here soon.”

“It’ll be fine. Does waving that around actually work?” Dustin asks incredulously, gesturing at the towel.

“I don’t know, I just disconnected it,” Eddie admits, twirling the fabric around and dropping it on the counter. “Steve would hit the ceiling if the alarm went off right now.”

“Steve would also hit the ceiling if his house burned down,” he supplies from the doorway.

Dustin jumps out of his skin, but Eddie just tips his head to the side and offers him a beatific smile. He shuts the music off and bounds over, worming his way into Steve’s waiting arms.

“Oh, it’s his house now. I see,” Eddie grumbles, smoothing down the collar of Steve’s shirt. Robin snorts and wanders into the kitchen, leaving them alone in the hall. “Whatever happened to ours?”

“Sorry. Ours,” Steve corrects, pulling him closer. “Ours. Of course.”

In a little while, the doorbell will ring, or Dustin will spill something, and Steve will happily wade back into his life. Their house will fill with noise and there won't be enough chairs and all the windows will fog up and have to be opened. But for now, Eddie Munson is looking at him, and the world is quiet.

don't you hear me howling, babe? - Chapter 5 - occasional_loverboy (2024)
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