Henry was late.
Okay, he wasn't late late. Just, later then he liked to be on a test day. He liked to take his time getting to class, go over his notes again at his desk, and overall not feel rushed. But, here he was, all but running towards Hawkins' High. A part of him wanted to blame Lucas for keeping him up until all hours worrying, but he knew better. There was no one to blame for this but himself.
Henry glanced down at his watch and huffed at the time as he reached out to pull the door open.
He looked up in time to watch how wrenching the door open suddenly had caused someone on the other side to drop a stack of paper. Regret instantly filled his stomach and he inwardly cursed himself for not paying attention to his surroundings. He'd inconvenienced someone else and, well, he was probably going to be even later to class now.
"Oh, man, I'm sorry," Henry said, dropping to his knees to help gather them up. What had started as an apologetic gesture stopped suddenly when he picked up one of the pieces of paper and finally saw what was on it; an unreadable expression on his face as he looked down at the picture at the center of the page.
Will Byers stared back.
Henry only paused for a moment before he pushed aside his thoughts and continued to pick up the papers—which he now knew were missing posters—before he held them out towards the teenager he hadn't realized was Jonathan Byers until just now.
The pair of teenage boys climbed up off the ground, and Jonathan reordered the pages into a neat pile as an uncomfortable silence hung over them.
"Sorry again," Henry said, his voice now a little too genuine for someone who'd just accidentally knocked some stuff out of someone's hands. Henry caught himself looking away and forced himself to make eye contact, no matter how painful it was, but he found that it didn't matter; Jonathan was looking down at the papers in his hands with an unnecessary amount of focus.
"It's fine," Jonathan muttered, not sounding terribly sincere, "I was just…"
He turned towards the exit, but Henry made no move to head towards his classroom, and instead watched him as he went. What had felt so pressing moments ago didn't seem so important anymore.
"Hey, Jonathan?" Henry called before he walked out the door to go god knows where, "I'm really sorry about your brother."
"Thanks," Jonathan replied, again not making eye contact or sounding like he meant it. Henry didn't take this one personally either. He got it. He also got why Jonathan was edging towards the door. But, he didn't let him go, not just yet.
"A few months ago, I took him and Lucas and the other boys to see Return of the Jedi," Henry said, and for the first time Jonathan didn't look like he wanted to be anywhere but this conversation, "He cried at the end, even though he'd seen the movie like three times already."
Henry laughed slightly, not even paying attention to Jonathan anymore. He was too wrapped up in the memory that seemed so distant already.
It had only been a few tears, and Will had pretended so obstinately that he wasn't, but he definitely had been crying. Henry didn't blame him; it was the end of the story, and the definition of bittersweet. Even if the good guys had won, there had been losses, and… They didn't talk about it, but Henry had understood why watching someone who had been so bad do something good because of his love for his son might have made Will emotional. They also didn't talk about how Henry had made Lucas sit in the backseat with Dustin and Mike, and let Will control the radio during the drive home. It had been such a small thing, but Will had smiled so brightly that Henry couldn't help but return it. God, had that really only been six months ago? Because right now, it couldn't feel farther away.
"He cried when I took him to see it the first time too," Jonathan said softly, pulling Henry out of his thoughts and forcing him to acknowledge that they were making eye contact for the first time. He smiled and, even thought it was nearly unbearably sad to see, Henry had to admit—emotion looked better on Jonathan Byers than the forced apathy he'd worn moments ago.
"He's a good kid," Henry said, with his own rueful smile, "And if there's anything you or-or your mom need, let me know. Even if it's mowing the lawn or something."
"Thanks," Jonathan said, finally genuine.
"Anytime," Henry replied, and when Jonathan headed out the door, he didn't stop him.
The bell rang, and Henry swore.
"I have never seen Henry Sinclair show up late to class, especially on a test day."
Henry smiled and shook his head slightly before he sent a sideways glance at the woman who sidled up to him with an exaggerated disapproving look.
"He didn't even give me a tardy," Henry replied, chuckling slightly when Barb tsked.
"I can't help but wonder if this is only the start to your downslide?" She said as the pair made their way out of the bottlenecked door and down the hall, "What's next? Not turning in homework? Falling asleep at your desk?"
"I've done that last one," Henry replied, "In that class."
The pair's banter was cut short by the sound of someone clearing their throat behind them, and they both turned to see who was trying to get their attention. Nancy wore that same uncomfortable expression she had when she'd caught them talking yesterday, but she plowed on nonetheless.
"How do you two think you did?"
"Well, I don't think I failed," Henry offered, Nancy and Barb smiling, "But, I certainly didn't ace it."
"No one aces Kaminsky," Barb replied, Henry sending her a look.
"I've seen your 100% exams."
Barb rolled her eyes, but Henry could tell from her smile that his words were more appreciated than she was letting on. Nancy smiled too, but Henry tried to ignore that one. Not that she was annoying or had an ugly smile or anything, it was just… He knew what that smile meant—he'd seen it on his mother's face when he'd had Barb over for dinner—and he didn't like it. Didn't like to even think about it.
"I have to run to my next class, but, um, Barb?" Nancy said, catching her friend's attention so she could speak a little bit lower, a little more intimately, "Don't forget about the, uh, thing."
"Right, yeah," Barb said, sounding distinctly uncomfortable. Nancy just smiled though, probably because she read Barb's discomfort as being something different than what it was, and she started walking away.
"I'll see you later. Nice talking to you, Henry."
"You too," Henry replied, waiting until Nancy was out of earshot before he looked over at Barb, "'The thing?'"
"A party," Barb said hesitantly, Henry raising an eyebrow.
"Since when do Barbara Holland and Nancy Wheeler go to parties?" He asked, only a little bit joking.
"Since Nancy's started dating Steve Harrington," Barb replied, getting only silence at that. There was too much history there for Henry to get snappy, "His parents are out of town, and he invited us and Tommy H and Carol over. Nancy was talking to me earlier about asking you to come."
"Oh," Henry offered.
"I guess she thinks you and I are…" Barb trailed off, but Henry understood all the same.
"Not surprising," he said, shrugging slightly in an attempt to make this not awkward.
"Yeah, not surprising," Barb murmured to herself, before she looked up at Henry, "So, what do you think? Do you want to come?"
It's not that Henry didn't want to. He liked parties, he was usually invited to the bigger ones, and when he went he always had a good time. He liked dancing, talking, and drinking until he felt loose enough to forget his problems, but not enough to let things slip. And he liked doing things with Barb. She understood him, maybe more than anyone else, and it was nice to be around someone like that after spending so long feeling alone. But, there was one glaring problem with all of this.
There wasn't a single doubt in Henry's mind that he was the biggest douchebag to ever walk the halls of Hawkins High.
He couldn't imagine what it was like for Barb to have her best friend—the person she cared about so deeply—start messing around with him. Steve, Tommy H, and Carol were all so obnoxious that Henry did everything he could to avoid having to interact with them. Sure, when fate pushed him into a situation where he had to, he was nothing but amicable—he didn't even think they realized he disliked them—but the entire time he'd be holding back the eye rolls and sharp words that rested right on the tip of his tongue. Thankfully, that never lasted long (King Steve had more important things to do than mingle with Henry Sinclair), and he could go right back to trying to pretend he didn't exist.
And yeah, sure, maybe the reason he disliked Steve more than anyone else was because, unlike Tommy H or really any of the other assholes (who were probably worse than him), he was actually kind of cute. But, great hair and a nice face meant absolutely nothing when you were a rich kid doing the most he can to be the biggest prick on the planet. Seriously, what a complete waste.
He wouldn't admit this to just anyone—he didn't need people running their mouths all over school—but Barb knew. Barb had brought him up enough times with a sneer that he'd felt comfortable enough to let her know his true feelings. It had been a bonding point early on, when they were still new to being friends and being understood, and although he'd never know it, Steve Harrington had made Henry and Barb better friends just by being the worst.
And so, when she asked, there was no hiding how he really felt about going to a party at his house.
"Forget it," Barb said, Henry's expression immediately dropping.
"Hey, wait, I'll go," he protested, "I mean, he's not my favorite person, but I don't want you to feel alone or anything. If you want me there, I will be."
"I don't," Barb said bluntly, Henry's brow furrowing, "I don't want you there. You know why?"
"Because I'm an asshole?" Henry hazard a guess, Barb laughing slightly and shaking her head. When she looked up at him again, and he saw her soft gaze, Henry knew that his guess had been way off.
"They don't deserve you."
"What?" Henry asked, his brow still furrowed but now his lips pulling up slightly at the edges.
"They don't deserve you," Barb repeated, "You are just too good for them. They don't deserve to be your friend, or to have you at their party, or even to know you."
Henry stopped and Barb followed suit; neither one giving a single thought to how they blocked the hallway. Instead, they just looked at each other. Barb, with nothing but sincerity on her expression, and Henry, with something soft on his that most people would never get to see.
"You want to hang out later this week?" Henry finally asked, his voice quieter now, "Celebrate making it through that test?"
"I would like that a lot," Barb replied, with a moment of comfortable silence following, "I've got to get to my next class."
"Yeah, me too," Henry said, the pair smiling at each other for one more moment before they broke apart. Henry heading down one way of the Hawkins' High halls, and Barb going down the other.
But, before either could get far, Henry found himself stopping and looking over to see his friend starting to disappear into the crowd.
"Hey, Barb?" He called, catching her attention just in time. She turned to him with an expectant expression, but not impatient or annoyed. Just, openness and acceptance, like it always was between them.
"They don't deserve you either."
Neither one said anything more, and after a moment they'd break apart and head towards their classes, but it didn't matter. Their smiles said everything.
That evening was a quiet one. Lucas was having dinner with the Wheelers and Henry's parents were still a bit muted from the night before. Henry wasn't sure whether it was because they'd been up later than usual, or because there was still no sign of Will Byers, but he didn't ask. Instead, he just ate his food in relative silence; only speaking when spoken to, which wasn't very much at all.
"Henry, Honey?" Judith said, pulling her son's attention away from his plate, "Have you noticed Lucas acting strange lately?"
Henry had never been more thankful for the "no talking with your mouth full" rule than in that moment. He had a hard time lying to his mother, even if he'd spent a lot of his life doing just that. It was the direct questions that tripped him up; he usually waited too long between hearing them and answering. It gave him right away. But, since he'd just taken a large bite of chicken, he was in luck, and his pause was covered by his chewing.
"Yeah, I guess," Henry said, not making eye contact, "But, I mean, his friend's missing."
"No, more recent than that," Judith replied, Henry holding back a wince, "This morning, he was—he was just weird, right?"
"Maybe it's just setting in?" He offered, trying to cover up his actual thoughts, which all pointed to the truth being a big fat yes.
Yes, Lucas was acting weird. He'd been acting weird ever since Henry had decided it was A-Okay for three twelve year olds to go out in the woods, at night, by themselves, looking for a fourth twelve year old who had gone missing due to unknown causes. But frankly, Henry didn't feel like opening those floodgates onto himself and Lucas, so he kept his mouth shut about it. He doubted that the (deserved) wrath that would be rained on the two of them would help much anyway.
"I don't understand how anyone can tell if Lucas is acting weird," Erica piped up, drawing her family's attention to her, "Lucas is always weird."
Charles cleared his throat, and Erica's expression immediately morphed into the picture of innocence, as if they hadn't all just heard her trash talk her brother. Henry and his mother exchanged a glance with their lips pulling up, and although his father rolled his eyes, there was no denying that he was also almost smiling.
Dinner continued in companionable silence, and it felt as if there was nothing in the world that could disrupt their family's serenity.
"Have you seen Barb?"
Henry looked up from where he was shoving his notebook in his backpack without having fully processed the question. It was already the end of second period, but he still wasn't fully present. He'd been up late last night; his mind a jumble of all the anxieties pressing down on him. Everything from Will Byers being missing to Lucas acting weird to Barb going to a party had plagued his thoughts, and made it nearly impossible to fall asleep. He'd finally managed it in the hours that could be classified as both late night and early morning.
He'd been taking it easy, mostly out of necessity, but now Nancy Wheeler was standing in front of his desk with a concerning frown, and he didn't feel so laid-back anymore.
"No," He replied, just now realizing that was a little strange, "Is something wrong?"
"She wasn't in class earlier," Nancy said, her frown not letting up for a second.
"Maybe she's skipping," Henry offered, reassuring himself more than anything else.
"That's not like Barb, though," Nancy replied, Henry nodding as he zipped his backpack closed.
"Yeah, but it's also not like Barb to go to a party," he said, standing and shrugging slightly, "Who knows. She could just be taking a day."
"You know about Steve's?" Nancy said, her concern briefly disappearing behind confusion.
"Barb told me." Henry's reply was simple, but it was enough to evoke a surprised response.
"Oh, I thought…" Nancy trailed off, and it was easy to tell that she'd realized that what she was thinking wasn't appropriate to say to Henry's face. But, rather than let her flounder, Henry spoke again as he already began to edge past her towards the door.
"Not my scene."
Henry managed to slip past Nancy before she could say anything else, but now that she'd brought it to his attention that Barb wasn't at school, it was all he could think about.
Last night, when his mind had turned to Barb, he'd thought about how she'd never been to a party. At least, not one with drinking and flirting and other things parents frown upon. He couldn't help but worry about how she was handling it. Don't get him wrong, he knew she was a big girl who could drink a beer if she wanted to, it was just… with Steve, Tommy, and Carol? They thrived off of tearing into people who didn't meet their expectations of cool. Hesitant around alcohol? Prepare to be taunted for the rest of the night (and maybe even at school if they really didn't like you). Henry didn't want that to happen to Barb.
He'd had half a mind to go to the stupid party, but whenever he felt a particularly strong urge to hop in his car and drive over, he'd remember Barb's words, and he'd find himself falling back into his pillows.
Now he was starting to wonder if that had been the wrong thing to do.
Nancy hadn't said anything about how it had gone last night, but he hadn't exactly given her much of a chance. He would admit that he'd rushed out of that conversation a little bit, but he knew it was better than snapping at Nancy. She hadn't done anything wrong, not really, but between the way she made Barb feel and the assumptions she made about them, he felt something a little bitter in his throat when he looked at her.
As Henry pushed the door to his next class open, he also pushed away thoughts of Nancy Wheeler. He needed to talk to Barb, see if she was doing okay. He was new to this whole "best friend" thing, but he knew well enough that this fell under things he should do to be a good one. If she didn't show herself by the end of the day, he'd call her after school. Maybe even go over to her house if whatever was keeping her from school was that bad.
And maybe it was because he'd gone two nights in a row without getting enough sleep, but just like that, it was the end of the day. Henry hoped that in his trance he'd managed to take some halfway decent notes, because god knows his brain hadn't retained any of it.
As he walked out of a classroom he only halfway recalled walking into, he struggled to remember if they'd been assigned any homework or not. Although a part of him wanted to leave it up to chance and hope they hadn't, he knew he would only find out otherwise and lose his shit the next time he went to class. So, when he caught sight of some familiar blonde curls, he picked up the pace slightly.
Henry waved slightly when she turned, and she waited for him to get closer before speaking.
"Hey," she said with a small smile the screamed we're just acquaintances. They'd nearly been friends last year, when they'd been lab partners—bonded over a mutual appreciation for Madonna and a mutual hatred for frog dissections—but it had ended after that class. Henry knew he could've kept up that friendship, that people would think he probably should've, but he hadn't. Mary was nice and cool and funny, but he knew better than that. He knew better than getting close.
"Do we have homework?" He asked, reaching out to hold the door open for her.
"Yeah," Mary said, walking past him but waiting for him to catch up before she continued walking, "We're supposed to do the reading and then write a page on what we think the author was trying to convey with the story."
"The reading?" Henry said hesitantly, Mary snorting and sending him a look.
"You really weren't paying attention, huh?" She said, her smile letting him know that she thought it was more cute than anything else, "Chapter 12, The Lottery by Shirley Jackson."
"The Lottery. Shirley Jackson," Henry repeated, hoping that would be enough for him to remember, "Okay. Thanks, Mary."
"No problem," she replied, but before Henry could head off to his car, she spoke again, "It's because of Barbara Holland, right?"
Henry paused, and looked over at her as his stomach sank. He didn't say anything, but he didn't have to; his expression was enough for Mary to smile and nod slightly.
"Ally said she wasn't in class. And she told me a couple of days ago she saw you two giggling together in the halls," she said before chuckling slightly, "Jesus, you don't have to look so guilty. It's sweet. She's sweet."
Henry forced a small smile at that, but he didn't say anything. He couldn't. He'd known this was coming, but it still stung and he had no idea how to deal with it. Let people think that and keep it as a safety net for the two of them? Or try to squash it right now so he wouldn't have to face those knowing smiles anymore?
Thankfully, he didn't need to respond at all, because something else caught Mary's attention.
"Um… you can go on ahead, I'm going to wait here until this finishes."
Henry frowned, not knowing what she was talking about for a moment, before he turned to look the same direction as Mary and his eyes fell on the group of people converged beside an older Ford LTD (parked next to Mary's Toyota Carina). Instantly, a bitter taste developed in his throat as he took in the scene.
They were too far to really hear anything, but close enough to easily grasp what was unfolding in the middle of the Hawkins' High parking lot. Steve Harrington, in all of his douchbaggery and fluffy haired glory, was glaring down at Jonathan Byers with a glint in his eye that made Henry's insides squirm. Instead of dwelling on what exactly that reaction was, Henry focused on the heat that began to flare in his chest. It was a dangerous feeling, he knew it. The kind of feeling that made people do stupid things, like stalk across a parking lot to defend the school freak from the people who could make his life at school hell on earth.
"Jesus," Henry muttered under his breath, just barely controlling that feeling now, "Are they really picking on the guy whose little brother is missing?"
"You didn't hear?" Mary said, Henry not looking away from what was happening but shaking his head nonetheless, "You're really out of it without Barb."
"What happened?" Henry said, deciding to ignore that last part.
"Jonathan Byers took creepy pictures of Nancy Wheeler from the woods."
"What?" Henry replied, snapping his head to look over at her. All at once, what had burned inside of him disappeared, and only a shocked hollowness remained. Of all the reasons for them to be bullying Jonathan, he wouldn't have guessed one that was so… so… justifiable.
"Yeah, apparently Harrington and her and their friends were all hanging out at his house and Jonathan took pictures of them. Nicole caught him developing them in the darkroom," Mary said, leaning in closer and speaking in a lower tone, "Apparently the ones of Nancy are particularly scandalous."
"That's…" Henry didn't even finish his sentence, he couldn't think of a word that fully encompassed what he was feeling right now.
The righteous anger that had been so hard to control not moments ago was nowhere to be found now. He doubted he would've done anything even if Jonathan Byers was completely innocent in this situation, but he would've felt that burning of injustice in his core and the guilt of not doing anything in his stomach. In a way, he was almost happy that Jonathan was a total creep, because that absolved him from doing anything. It meant he didn't have to deal with the fact that he was a coward today.
Mostly just sick.
Because that was awful. Nancy being violated like that was awful. Steve Harrington, Tommy H, and Carol being violated like that was awful.
Barb being violated like that was awful.
He needed to get home and call her. He needed to find out exactly why she hadn't been at school today.
Rather than continue to watch this all go down, Henry turned in the direction of his car. He didn't care anymore. He didn't care about the way Steve and his buddies loomed over Jonathan, he didn't care about the conversation he'd had with Jonathan yesterday, he didn't care that it had been one of the most genuine exchanges he'd had outside of Lucas and Barb in a while. All he could think about was getting home and making sure that his best friend was okay.
The sound of Jonathan's camera smashing against the pavement echoed throughout the parking lot, but Henry didn't even care enough to look.
"You doing okay over there, Henry?"
It had been another mostly silent dinner at the Sinclair's, and uncommon occurrence that had now happened two nights in a row. But, it was explainable: Lucas was off with his friends again, and without him or Henry pushing along the conversation, the table took on a certain muted tone.
When his mother's words had cut through the silence, Henry had looked up from where he was pushing his food around on his plate and over to her, only to find that she'd been looking at him with barely concealed concern.
"Yep," he offered, stabbing a piece of broccoli and shoving it in his mouth, hoping that would be the end of it. It never was.
"How was school?" Judith attempted casually, not really pulling it off.
"How's Barb?" Judith asked, hitting on the heart of the issue without fully realizing it. It took a moment, but Henry finally just shrugged, unsure of what to say, "Heard you asking for her on the phone earlier."
"Yeah," Henry replied slowly, "Her parents said she was at Nancy Wheeler's."
That wasn't a lie. It wasn't. Her parents had said that. He just happened to know that was completely false. But, it wasn't a lie, just like how he hadn't lied to Mrs. Holland. He just neglected to mention that he knew Barb wasn't at Nancy's, and that Nancy was starting to get worried.
He knew he should've told her, but he just couldn't. Maybe because telling her would mean that it was real, or maybe he was just scared of what would happen if Barb was actually fine and he totally blew her cover. Either way, he'd chosen the coward's way out and had just accepted what Mrs. Holland said without questioning it; hanging up while a terrible feeling blossomed in his chest. A feeling that hadn't left him, and only grew more and more oppressive as time went on.
"Well, I'm sure she'll be happy to talk to you tomorrow," Judith said, trying to reassure her son even though she didn't really know what she was talking about. Henry tried to appreciate the effort, but he just couldn't get himself to care about anything other than the sick feeling in his stomach.
"Can I be excused?" He said instead, both of his parents frowning at that, "My car was making a funny sound on the way home and I want to take a look at it."
Not a lie.
"You barely touched your dinner," Judith pointed out, Henry shrugging.
"Not hungry, I guess."
Not a lie.
"What about your homework?" His father piped up.
"Finished it right after school."
Not a lie.
"Well, clear your dishes," Judith finally said, clearly reluctant to let him go, but unable to find a reason to make him stay at the table. Henry gathered up his plate and glass before kicking his chair in as he headed towards the kitchen counter. Only once he'd emptied his plate into the garbage (only feeling minor guilt at throwing out some perfectly good food) and dropped his dishes into the sink did anyone in the Sinclair family speak. Only this time it wasn't one of the adults prying at their son, or Henry trying to gently deflect their questions.
"You're acting weird," Erica said, judgmental and suspicious as ever, "You're acting like Lucas. Do you two have some weird nerd secret or something?"
Henry felt both of his parents' eyes on him. They didn't even try to correct Erica's attitude like they usually did, probably because what she'd said had hit a chord with them. They were too interested in the answer to care about how the question had been asked.
He didn't reply for a moment, but just as quick as the silence had settled on them, it was broken. Henry's winning smile appeared (although the ends didn't curl up quite right) and he spoke.
"Lucas and I aren't hiding anything. Don't worry about it."
Henry had found the cause of the funny sound his car was making in six minutes, he'd fixed it in thirteen.
He was in the garage for over two hours
Some of that time had been devoted to other parts of the car; little tune ups here and there, and checking to make sure that his old fixes were still holding up and he wouldn't have to repair them soon. Hell, he'd even cleaned out the backseat, which had started to accumulate a little too much garbage for comfort. But, most of it had been spent pretending to work on his car, while actually just using it as an excuse for quiet contemplation. He'd always found spending time alone in the garage to be calming, kind of like meditation. And it still was. He felt more relaxed than he had been at the dinner table. But, there was still a deep-seated anxiety tugging at his nerves that not even being under the hood of the Oldsmobile could get rid of.
He knew one thing that would help. But, his parents were still up, and with the way he'd been acting earlier he wouldn't be surprised if one of them ducked into the garage to check on him. He wasn't in the mood to be caught doing something he shouldn't be, so he managed to keep himself from dipping into the stash he kept hidden in his toolbox.
He considered going for a drive, a surefire way he wouldn't get caught, but he quickly realized that there was no way he could bring himself to leave the house right now. Not if there was a chance of a phone call coming his way.
Henry sighed and leaned against the hood of his car; feeling more trapped than ever. His friend was nowhere to be found and here he was, stuck in his garage, pretending to fix a car so he didn't have to deal with his parents. He didn't know what to do in this situation, but he knew that this wasn't it.
Henry rubbed his face as his mind continued to assault him with all sorts of insults and stupid ideas, but he dropped his hands and looked up when the familiar sound of wheels on pavement reached his ears.
"Hey, man," he called into the darkness beyond the garage door, pushing aside his anxieties for now, "What's going—?"
Lucas fully came into view and Henry stopped short, silence falling between the two Sinclair boys for a moment. Even the sound of pedaling was gone, because Lucas had stopped once he'd made it to the entrance of the garage and had made no move to do anything but stare at his big brother with a strange expression. The kind of expression that tipped Henry off immediately and set off a sinking feeling in his stomach. After far too many unbearably quiet seconds ticked by with both of them frozen in their spots, Henry spoke with a hushed voice he so rarely used.
Lucas's bike fell to the pavement with a crash. Whatever had held him in place just moments ago was gone now, and he rushed across the space between them; nearly knocking Henry over with the force that he hit him with. But, he didn't care, and he hugged his brother back with just as much intensity.
Henry didn't ask. He didn't ask when Lucas grabbed onto him like he was the only thing anchoring him to the Earth. He didn't ask when Lucas shook in his arms harder than he ever had before. He didn't ask when Lucas's hot tears soaked through his shirt sleeve. Instead, he just tightened his embrace, as if that would make this all better. As if Henry could take away all of his little brother's pain just by holding him close.
In the end, it wouldn't matter if Henry asked, because Lucas would answer any questions unprompted, all with a single word muttered between sobs.
Henry pulled him impossibly closer, only this time it was for his own benefit. This time it was so he could be absolutely certain that his own little brother was right here, safe. This time it was so he could find his own comfort in his brother as images of a sensitive young boy who cried at Star Wars paired with the knowledge that something terrible had happened forced their way into his mind.
But, he didn't let that show. Instead, he focused on Lucas, who buried his face in his neck as he cried. He rubbed circles on his back and never let up his grip on him; whispering soft reassurances even though he knew how hollow they were right now.
"It's okay. It's going to be okay. I promise."