the kind of world where we belong @henrysinclair
emotional overload

"If you don't shut him the hell up…"

Henry let the rest of his threat go un-mumbled, mostly because he was too tired to even try to think of some consequence that would undoubtedly go unfulfilled. Instead, he just burrowed deeper into the pillows and tried to block out the static-y sounds of Mike Wheeler.

He didn't know if this was a common occurrence, Mike bothering his brother at—Henry rolled over and grimaced—9:42 in the morning.

Alright, in his defense, he'd been up most of the night.

"Lucas, Lucas, Lucas, Lucas, Lucas, Lucas, Lucas, Lucas, Lucas, Lucas—."

"Dude, just answer!" Henry said, raising his head from his pillow to use a tone he regretted immediately. Just because Mike was being annoying didn't mean that he should just snap at his grieving brother. Thankfully, it didn't seem to hurt Lucas's feelings too deeply, because he just sat up and grabbed the walkie-talkie.

"Go away, Mike," he said, his voice a forced calm that made Henry swallow a little hard, "I'm not in the mood, alright? Over and out."

"No, not 'out.' I'm not messing around, okay? This is about Will."

It was quiet as Mike's words sunk in for the two Sinclair boys. Even though he was looking at him from the back, Henry could see how Lucas had tensed. Finally, he took it upon himself to break the silence.

"Hey, I'm going to go take a shower," Henry said softly, because even though he might say otherwise, he knew that Lucas needed his friends right now more than anything, and that meant giving him privacy, "Just… shout if you need me."

"Okay," Lucas said, not making a move to reply to Mike until Henry had stumbled out of bed and walked past his doorway. Distantly, he could hear how his brother was mumbling into the walkie-talkie, but he forced himself to ignore it. He didn't have to exercise too much self-restraint when the sound of the shower running drowned it all out.

Once he was under the hot water, he felt a tension he hadn't even noticed in his shoulders and back disappear. He wasn't relaxed, not exactly, but he felt a lot better. Not light, but lighter.

But, that all came crashing down when everything that happened in the past 12 hours came flooding back. His brother coming home in tears and the terrible sick feelings that came with that; having to be the one to explain what had happened to his parents; getting Lucas to bed and comforting him through the night while his own anxieties and grief continued to press down on him; and his mother coming into Lucas's room earlier that morning, and telling him that she'd called them both out of school with a look on her face that he never wanted to see again. It had all been so much, so much to handle. So much so that he'd hardly had the chance to consider everything else.

Barb.

Somehow, in the midst of everything, his best friend's unknown whereabouts had taken a backseat. Yeah, sure, maybe that was normal. Maybe it was to be expected when a missing child's body is found to put everything else aside, but… He'd forgotten. Henry had forgotten about Barb. And maybe… maybe it wasn't just because of—because of Will. Maybe it was because of Henry. Maybe it was because he didn't want to admit it to himself.

Barbara Holland was missing.

That horrible truth now acknowledged, the guilt that Henry had been barely holding back crashed down on him in waves. Thoughts of Barb mingled with ones of Will, and for the first time since this awful turn of events had started, Henry cried.

.

The house was quiet when Henry got out of the shower, and he didn't even need to look at the note on his bed to know that Lucas had left. Henry had rolled his eyes slightly at the hastily scribbled message, but he didn't feel too bad about his brother ditching him. He knew he needed his friends right now and besides, it was probably best for Henry to be alone right now. He'd cried himself out, but he still felt a little tender. Like if you pressed him, he'd break a little easier than usual.

Now, with the house all to himself, the quiet felt more oppressive than soothing. He considered turning on some music to just disrupt the silence, but no sooner did he think that did he dismiss it. It felt wrong. Wrong to try to push away all the discomfort with music while… while all of this happened.

He could call the Hollands again, he supposed. Maybe they would pick up and tell him that Barb had stopped by to get breakfast before running off to school. Or maybe that she was skipping today because she wasn't feeling to well, but that she'd call him once she was better. Maybe at least one part of this nightmare wouldn't be so bad.

Or maybe it wouldn't be.

Maybe he would call and she wouldn't be there. Maybe he would call and Mrs. Holland would finally understand that something was wrong. Maybe he would call and Barb would still be missing.

He needed to get out of here.

Henry grabbed his coat off the hanger and grabbed his keys out of the bowl; feeling like he needed to get out of this house. Like, if he didn't, he'd explode or suffocate or something. With that unending weight crushing down on him, Henry jerked the door open, only to come face-to-face with possibly the last person he would expect on his front porch.

Nancy Wheeler.

She looked just as surprised as he felt, with her hand posed to knock, and suddenly Henry felt a little sheepish about his hurried actions.

"Hi," he finally managed, unsure of what to say.

"Hi," Nancy replied, equally as awkward.

It was quiet for a moment.

"Um…" Henry finally started, looking around as if someone was going to jump out and reveal this was all a prank or something, "Is there a reason you're standing on my front porch?"

"Oh, right, yeah, yeah," Nancy said, shaking her head slightly and almost smiling, probably at herself for how silly she'd been acting, "I know this is weird, but… can we talk?"

.

"So, I went back to Steve's and her car was still there. And… I went to go look for her in the woods and I swear I saw a man there, but… I know how this sounds, but he didn't have a face. And I can't help but feel that he—he did something to Barb."

Henry's frown deepened as Nancy slowly told her story. He hadn't said a word since they'd sat down at the kitchen table, and instead just let her go without interruption. But, that changed now, because it was clear from her expression that she wouldn't be saying anything else unless he prompted her.

"Did you tell anyone about this?" He asked, Nancy laughing in a wet way that let Henry know that his question was way more loaded than he had expected.

"My mom, and she called the police, but… They don't care. They think she ran away, but I know she didn't. Barb wouldn't do that."

"Even if she did she wouldn't leave her car," Henry offered, Nancy looking up at him with wide eyes, almost as if she hadn't expected for him to agree with her.

"Yes! Exactly!" Nancy said, almost sounding excited as she reached down into the bag she'd brought, "And-and I know how what I saw in the woods sounds crazy. But, just look at this."

She laid a reassembled picture out on the table that Henry immediately recognized even though he'd never seen it before. It was of a house Henry had only ever been to once—a party he'd left after thirty-five minutes—but that wasn't what caught his attention. All he saw was the lone person sitting on the diving board, wearing that morose expression that Henry recognized as Barb's heartbreak.

"This was one of Jonathan Byers's pictures, right?" Henry chose to say, his voice a little quieter than before.

"Yeah," Nancy confirmed, "But, look right here."

Nancy's finger pulled Henry's eyes away from the image of his friend (last known picture his mind supplied unhelpfully) and to the blurry mass in the corner. He squinted, trying to make sense of what he was seeing, before what Nancy had said came back to him.

A man without a face.

"Nancy…" Henry said slowly, his frown deepening as he took in the eerie moment that Jonathan had unknowingly captured.

"It's not great, I know," she said, defending herself against imaginary criticism, "But, if we go to Jonathan, maybe he can make it clearer? Or at least make one that isn't torn? I don't know, but… But, this is the only proof I have."

"You want to go find Jonathan Byers and have him develop another picture that he took of you and your friends from the woods, so that you can prove that a man without a face did something to Barb," Henry said simply, Nancy's cheeks pinking at that description. She dropped her eyes to the ground and cleared her throat before she replied.

"Yeah."

Henry nodded slightly before standing, Nancy sighing in frustration when he did. Although, he had no idea if it was at him or at herself. But, he didn't comment on that, just smiled ruefully.

"Let me get my keys."

.

"Do you mind?"

Nancy frowned, wondering if having the window rolled down was bothering Henry, before she looked over to see what he was shaking out of the familiar cardboard carton.

"Go ahead," she replied, Henry forcing a smile in response before he stuck the cigarette in between his teeth. He patted his pockets before frowning.

"Hey, is there a lighter in the glove box?" He asked, Nancy opening it and digging underneath the official papers to find a red plastic one, which she handed over to him, "Thanks."

It was quiet for a moment as Henry lit his cigarette and took a puff, Nancy doing her best not to stare as he blew the smoke out the window.

"I didn't realize you smoked," she said finally, Henry shrugging.

"Only when I'm stressed."

"Well, with the way this week has been, maybe I should start too," Nancy replied, only partially joking.

"Wouldn't recommend it," Henry said, shrugging, "It's a bad habit. I used to smoke all the time, but I've been trying to quit. Now it's only sometimes. When things get… a little overwhelming."

"I think we're past a 'little overwhelming,'" Nancy replied, smiling when Henry did, despite the circumstances. It was hard not to smile.

"You said your mom called the police, but that they didn't care," he said after a moment, the small smile on Nancy's lips slipping away, "What did you mean? Did Hopper just tell her to stop worrying and hang up?"

"It wasn't Hopper, it was two other officers," Nancy said, sighing as she remembered the questioning at her school, "And, they didn't even care about Barb. They just asked me what I was doing at Steve's that late and they kept giving each other these looks and laughing like it was some funny joke."

It was quiet for a moment as Nancy stewed in that memory; her cheeks burning as she remembered the looks on those two officers' faces as they made her admit in front of her mother that she'd been upstairs with Steve that night. It had been humiliating.

"Fucking pigs."

Nancy's head snapped over in surprise. Of all the things she'd expected to fall from Henry's lips, she'd never in a million years guessed that. He seemed a little surprise by his words too, or maybe he was just uncertain because he didn't know how she was going to react to that. He sent her a sideways glance and took another puff from his cigarette; Nancy realizing that maybe she was getting a clearer look at Henry than most people did.

"Yeah," Nancy finally said, smiling slightly, "Fucking pigs."

The trepidation on Henry's face melted away and was replaced by a wide smile. The kind that said "I can't believe what just happened but I'm happy about it." all while being just as sunny as ever. Nancy's own grew in response and she couldn't help but understand just what Barb had seen in this guy.

.

"This feels weird."

Nancy turned to see that at some point, Henry had stopped and wasn't walking with her anymore. She stopped too, but before she said anything, she followed his eyes to the sign that hung over the somber building they were entering.

Cunningham Funeral Home.

Nancy sighed before she looked over at her companion again. Henry's expression was miles away from the smile he'd worn in the car, and instead there was only unease and discomfort. She'd never seen that type of look on his face before, not even before a final, and in turn, her own mood sank. It was never that high to begin with, though.

"I just feel like we shouldn't be bothering him. Not right now," Henry said, finally pulling his eyes away to meet Nancy's, "His brother…"

Nancy nodded in understanding, mulling over her words before she spoke.

"If it was the other way around, if Will was the one missing and Barb was—." Her voice gave out, but she pushed through, "And you might have something that would help Jonathan find Will, what would you want?"

Henry shut his eyes and breathed hard through his nose, and the seconds ticked by with an immeasurable silence. For a brief moment Nancy wondered if she'd finally lost him. If men without faces or grainy pictures hadn't been Henry's breaking point, but instead just the thought of the pain Jonathan was feeling right now had pushed him over the edge.

"If there was even a chance of someone being found, I would want him to come ask me," Henry said, catching Nancy by surprise. But, before she could respond, he opened his eyes to send her a wry look, "You do realize we're banking on the guy who took pictures of strangers from the woods to be as good people as we are, right?"

"It's worth a shot. He might surprise us," Nancy replied before her lips pulled into something just as wry as Henry's expression, "Might."

Henry snorted slightly and nodded; Nancy feeling something inside of her release as he finally moved. He walked right past her and held the door open. He didn't have to say a word to let her know where he had landed.

Nancy found herself second guessing that the moment they stepped inside.

As they stepped into the stuffy and eerily quiet funeral home, the two teens exchanged a look. Both silently asked the other if they were going to run right back out and wait to ambush Jonathan when he was done in here. But, both came to the same conclusion, and both continued to walk deeper into the building; following the faint sound of voices.

Nancy headed towards and open door before coming to a sudden stop, Henry a few steps behind and entering the doorway a second later. Just in time to see the way shock flitted across Jonathan's face, enough that it displaced the grief on his features, if only for a moment.

Jonathan closed the distance between himself and the two teens and when he finally stopped, he looked at both of them with an apprehensive expression. Almost as if he expected them to do something to hurt him. Which, on one hand, was sad to think about. But, on the other, Henry did realize how weird it must seem to have Nancy Wheeler show up at the funeral home with Henry Sinclair of all people. Who would know what to expect.

"Can we talk to you for a second?" Henry asked, as smooth as he could be given the circumstances, and Jonathan nodded.

"The cops think she ran away. But they don't know Barb…"

Henry swallowed around the lump in his throat. Hearing the story for the second time hurt more for some reason. His brain could hardly comprehend it the first time around, but now… Now all he could think about was all the things that could've happened to his best friend.

"I went back to Steve's, and I thought I saw something," Nancy continued, her words coming slower now, "Some weird man or… I don't know what it was."

It was quiet for a second, before Nancy looked up and made eye contact with Jonathan and the realization that had hit Henry outside came crashing down on her.

"I'm sorry," she said, reaching for her bag and pushing herself off of the bench, "I shouldn't have come here today. I'm..."

Nancy began to shuffle away, but Henry made no move to follow. Instead, he turned his eyes away from her and to Jonathan, who hadn't moved from his spot on the bench either. He met his eyes without hesitation, a stark contrast from the last time they'd spoken, and Henry realized that the look in his eyes wasn't disbelief, or anger, or even grief. It was something odd, something that had Henry speaking even though Nancy was trying to make an exit.

"Nancy saw a man—."

"—Without a face."

Jonathan's words caused Henry to stiffen and Nancy to whirl around to face him. It was quiet, a different kind than before. It was the kind of quiet that happens when people come to the sudden realization that they're all thinking the same thing.

And that thing was that something was very, very wrong.

.

"I can show you how to tie a tie."

Jonathan shot a look over at Henry, who kept his eyes on the ground and his expression neutral, but neither one slowed their movements. They just kept walking, getting further and further away from the group of people huddled around the grave.

"What makes you think I can't?" Jonathan finally asked, sounding defensive even though he clearly was trying to keep his tone even.

Henry didn't reply, he just made sure he had Jonathan's attention before looking over his shoulder at the man shaking the hands of every funeral attendee, and then looked at Jonathan significantly. Jonathan dropped his gaze down at his shoes with a bitter expression, and it was quiet for a moment.

"Has anyone ever told you that your dad is a jackass?"

That caught Jonathan's attention, and he looked up sharply to find Henry with a casual nonchalance on his face.

"Well… I used to be able to hear my mom scream that at him through the walls," Jonathan replied, matching Henry's bluntness with his own, "But, no. No one's said it to my face."

"Your dad's a jackass."

Jonathan snorted, and although he didn't turn his head, Henry glanced out of the corner of his eyes in time to catch the small smile pulling at his lips. They reached a small spot far enough away from the funeral that they wouldn't be noticed, and they both sat down on the grass with their backs to some fenced off graves to wait for the third member of their little group.

After a moment, Henry reached into his pocket and pulled out a box of Camels; not mentioning them until he caught the way Jonathan watched him place a cigarette between his teeth.

"Want one?" He offered, Jonathan dropping his eyes and shaking his head.

"Just…" he muttered before smiling slightly, "That's the same brand my mom smokes."

"You're not trying to insult me are you?" Henry asked, his lips quirking up slightly at the ends, "Because I'm proud to be addicted to the same cancer sticks as your mom."

That coaxed a genuine laugh out of Jonathan, but it stopped suddenly. As if he was a record and someone had lifted the needle. Henry looked over to see a funny look on Jonathan's face, and it took a moment for him to realize what had stopped him.

Guilt.

Henry glanced back at the mass of people, which was mostly dispersing now. But, some still shook hands with Lonnie and ignored Joyce, and he felt a brief flash of guilt in his own chest. But, he pushed it away, and instead said what needed to be said.

"We're going to find him. Both of them."

"You really think that?" Jonathan said softly, Henry looking him dead in the eye.

"Yeah," he replied, not stumbling for even a second, "I really do."

Jonathan met his gaze for a moment longer, clearly looking for any sign that he was lying. When he didn't find it, he dropped his eyes back to the grass. It was quiet, this time long enough for Henry to finish his cigarette, before a new voice broke the silence.

"Hey."

Nancy sat down on the other side of Jonathan, and the three teenagers sent each other their best imitations of smiles before they got into it. Henry stubbed out his cigarette on the concrete base of the fence as Jonathan reached into his pocket and retrieved a small map.

"This is where we know for sure it's been, right?" He said, Henry and Nancy leaning over his shoulders to look.

"So, that's…?" Nancy pointed at one of Jonathan's Xs.

"Steve's house. And that's the woods where they found Will's bike and that's my house."

"It's all so close," Nancy observed.

"Exactly. I mean, it's all within a mile or something," Jonathan replied, Henry humming softly.

"Then it's like most animals," he said, not looking up from the map, "It doesn't stray far from its nest… Which would make it easy to find."

Jonathan locked eyes with Henry and wordlessly communicated what he was thinking. What they both were. Nancy sighed softly before she put words to what was in all of their minds.

"You two want to go out there."

"A mile radius is still pretty big," Henry offered, hoping to smooth over whatever anxieties Nancy had with a lie.

"I still found it," she countered, looking between the both of them, "If we do, then what?"

Jonathan and Henry made eye contact once again, and they both knew exactly what the other one was thinking. The answer to Nancy's question.

"We kill it."

.

The only sound that filled the Sinclair living room was the Match Game-Hollywood Squares Hour. Erica was really the only one paying attention to the show, and was watching it with an amount of rapture that only came after a long day of being bored. Mr. Sinclair sat in the armchair with the paper, and Mrs. Sinclair sat on the couch, folding laundry. It was a mindless task though, and that was why she was able to send looks up towards the stairs, where she could just see the shut door of her youngest son's room.

"Do you think he's okay?" She asked the room at large, but when she didn't get a response, she honed in on her son on the other end of the couch, "I mean, he was always close with him."

"I don't know," Henry answered honestly. Yeah, Lucas was close with Will, and after the other night, he would've thought he'd be pretty torn up. But, at the same time, he hadn't seen all that upset this morning. In fact, it had almost felt like he'd been faking any grief he displayed, and Henry just didn't know what to make of that one.

"I'd just feel better if he wasn't locked up in his room," Judith continued, and Henry hummed in agreement as he turned his eyes back to the TV. But, the program was ending, and he knew what that meant.

It was four o'clock.

It was time to go.

He'd put it off long enough.

"I'm going to head out in a minute. I probably won't be back for a while," he said, hopping off the couch and rounding up the stairs. He didn't make it fast enough though, and his mother's concerned voice stopped him.

"Where are you going?" She asked. Henry leaned against the railing and considered lying for a brief moment. But, he quickly realized he didn't even have a lie to tell, so he just went with the truth.

"I'm going to hang out with Nancy."

"Nancy Wheeler?" Mr. Sinclair interjected, revealing he actually was listening to what was being said around him. Henry sighed inaudibly as his father put down his paper and the three people sitting in the living room levelled Henry with their curious gazes.

"Yep," he said.

"Well, she's a nice girl," Judith offered, and this time Henry's sigh was much more pronounced as he simply turned and started hopping up the remaining stairs. He knew that once he was out of sight, his parents would exchange looks, and Erica would probably make some comment, but honestly he didn't even care. That used to bother him like nothing else, but after everything that had happened… He just didn't care.

Instead, he cared very deeply about the room at the end of the hallway.

He shouldn't be doing this.

Henry slipped past the partially closed door, and shut it ever so slightly behind him. Not entirely, that would tip off anyone that came upstairs, but just enough so that no one in the hallway would be able to see the large safe in the corner of the room. The safe that Henry walked up to, trying to tread lightly across the squeaky floorboards, and hesitantly turned the dial.

The first time he chalked it up to nerves.

The second he assumed he'd just messed it up.

The third time was when he began to wonder if maybe he wasn't going to be able to get this stupid thing open.

When the fourth time failed, Henry cursed under his breath, and might've missed the small sound that came from behind him if it weren't for the unsettling silence in his parents' bedroom.

"Um."

Henry whipped around to see the door wide open, and Lucas watching him with an expression that screamed "I know I shouldn't be seeing this right now." It was quiet for a moment, the two brothers just looking at each other, before Lucas finally cleared his throat and spoke.

"Erica figured it out so Dad changed it. It's 40-14-18-32 now."

Without a word, Henry turned back to the safe and pulled the door open after one try.

Uncomfortably aware of the way Lucas's eyes followed him, Henry reached into the top compartment of the safe and retrieved what he knew for a fact was there. His father had told him as much when Henry had tried to crack the code when he was eight.

And all Henry could think about while he felt the heavy weight in his hand was how his father had told him to never, ever touch his gun.

He glanced sideways at Lucas, whose eyes were as big as plates, and he it shoved into the back of his waistband. He'd like to think out of sight, out of mind, but the presence of their dad's gun had created a thick, nearly unbreakable tension. Henry reached back into the safe to retrieve the box of ammunition as well, but it wasn't until that was in his jacket pocket that either of them said anything.

"Mom said you were going to the Wheelers," Lucas murmured, his voice much smaller than before.

"Yeah," Henry replied, steeling himself for the questions.

"Can I come?" He asked, Henry unable to conceal the surprise, "Mike and Dustin are there."

"Yeah," Henry said, before shaking his head slightly, trying to get rid of the expression that he knew was making Lucas nervous. Then he smiled and spoke again, "Yeah, of course, Bud."

"Thanks," Lucas said, managing a small smile for Henry.

It was quiet for a moment, the two brothers just looking at each other, and they both came to the same conclusion. Henry led the way with Lucas close on his heels, and they were out of their parents' room and down the stairs in no time. They yelled their goodbyes in voices so normal it was almost remarkable, and they were out the door in less than two minutes. All very impressive when you consider the fact that both of their minds were focused on one, solitary thought:

I will never tell anyone about this.

.

"Hi, Mrs. Wheeler!"

Mrs. Wheeler glanced up from her Cosmo and sent a small smile towards the two boys. She was sitting on the couch with a glass of wine in one hand while Mr. Wheeler lounged in the La-Z-Boy, watching TV. Henry didn't say anything, just waved. The Wheelers had always made him a little uncomfortable.

"Hi, Lucas. The boys are in the basement," Mrs. Wheeler offered.

"Thanks," Lucas said, sending a glance back at Henry before heading off towards the stairs. Henry didn't mind. If anything had been needed to be said, they would've said it in the car.

"Um, Mrs. Wheeler?" Henry said, having to pull her attention away from her magazine again, "Is Nancy here?"

Her eyes widened almost imperceptibly, but Henry didn't say anything about it, just kept on smiling.

"Um, yeah. I think she's out in the garage. The door should be open," she said, sounding a little bewildered. Henry smiled and thanked her before turning on his heel and heading back towards the front door. As he stepped back outside, he could hear Karen Wheeler hiss "Now Henry Sinclair is picking Nancy up?" and Ted Wheeler reply with a succinct "Who?"

Henry walked around the house and to the driveway, where he found that Mrs. Wheeler had been right; the door was open and Nancy was standing in there. The only thing that she'd neglected to mention was that Nancy wasn't alone.

Because, right next to her was that familiar hair.

Steve Harrington.

For a brief moment, Henry considered just turning back around and booking it to his car. But, they'd already seen him, and he knew that would look a million times more suspicious. So instead, he forced an easygoing smile and continued on his original path into the garage.

Nancy's nervous look did absolutely nothing to calm Henry, but he did everything he could to keep that from taking over his expression. The very last thing they needed was for Steve Harrington to know that his girlfriend was going into the woods with Henry Sinclair and Jonathan Byers.

"Hey," Henry started.

"Hey," Nancy replied.

"Hey," Steve finished.

It was silent for five agonizing seconds.

"Um, do you know Henry Sinclair?" Nancy asked, sounding almost desperate as she turned to Steve, who was practically frowning.

"Yeah," he said, not even trying to hide how he sized him up, "How do you two know each other?"

"He's friends with, um…" Nancy cleared her throat and exchanged a look with Henry, "Barb."

Steve's expression dropped immediately.

"Oh," he said simply.

"I was dropping off Lucas," Henry cut in, hoping to get rid of at least some of the smothering awkwardness, "And your mom said you were out here."

"Uh, yeah," Nancy said, really not giving Henry anything to work with here.

"And I was wondering if I could get that review paper?" Henry said, his voice leading on slightly as Nancy looked at him with blank eyes, "The one we talked about at the… you know…"

"The what?" Steve interjected, his voice teetering on the edge of obnoxious. Henry looked away from Nancy to find Steve wearing an expression that was probably meant to be intimidating but just looked kind of funny.

"The funeral…" Henry replied, and that wiped that expression off of Steve's face in a split second.

"Oh," he said simply, again.

Henry cleared his throat awkwardly before he focused back in on Nancy, who now understood the lie that he'd backed them into.

"Yeah, I'll go get it," she said, looking between the two teen boys before she set the baseball bat down against the car and ran inside. Henry wished he could've followed her.

It was quiet for a moment, before it was Steve's turn to clear his throat. He finally picked up the bat and started swinging it around while he walked aimlessly. It was all a little too forced to be the casual "cool guy" routine that Henry knew he was going for.

"So, um, how was that?" He asked, Henry's brow furrowing as he watched the bat flip in circles in Steve's hand.

"How was what?"

"The funeral," Steve said, "How'd—How'd it go? Was it good?"

"Was the funeral good?" Henry repeated slowly, and Steve looked over at him with wide eyes, although the bat still swung around.

"Oh, I meant like—I just—"

"Uh, man—?" Henry started, but it was too late.

The crash of the croquet set falling against the concrete echoed throughout the garage. Steve dropped the bat in shock after it had sent the mallets loudly tumbling to the ground, and he looked at the mess for a moment before his eyes snapped over to Henry with a very caught out look on his face.

"Uh," he managed.

He crouched down to start picking up the rack and the mallets; his movements so jerky and rushed that he could never get more than two away until they somehow managed to fall back down. What should've been a quick cleanup job slowly developed into a bigger mess. For a brief moment, Henry considered helping him, god knows he seemed to need it. But, he didn't make any move to, and instead watched as Steve set that one mallet back into the rack only for it to fall onto the ground for what must've been the third time.

Thoughts of the emotional past few days and the dangerous plan the three teens had concocted mingled together, and for the first time since this strange turn of events had started, Henry laughed.

Steve looked up from where he was still struggling with the croquet set with an affronted expression that he probably thought covered up his own amusement.

"Laugh it up, Sinclair," he said, only succeeding in making Henry laugh harder.

"I am!" He replied in between giggles, and Steve dropped his front; a small smile on his face as he return to the set. He finally managed to get it all back to where it belonged (albeit, significantly more crooked than it was before) and hopped up while a few errant chuckles slipped past Henry's lips.

Before either of them could say anything, Nancy reappeared with a piece of paper and a serious expression that quickly morphed into confusion.

"What happened?" She asked, Henry's cheeks starting to hurt from his smile.

"We're lucky Steve's on the basketball team," he replied, Nancy looking to Steve for an answer but only getting an eye roll in response.

"Well, uh, I have the review paper," Nancy said haltingly, still shooting looks between the two boys as she held out the paper for Henry to take.

"Oh, thanks," he said, having completely forgotten about the lie he'd concocted, "Alright. I, uh, guess I'll see you later."

"Yeah," Nancy agreed with a significant look, and Henry started to walk away from the house, although he felt a little reluctant about it. He reminded himself that he was going to come back around to pick Nancy up once Steve was gone, but that didn't make the feeling go away.

"See you around, Harrington," he offered, choosing not to dwell on it.

"Later, Sinclair," Steve replied, and almost set Henry off again. Not because what he said was particularly funny, but because of the "too cool for school" voice he'd adopted. As if that was going to make Henry forget the image of him scrambling to pick up a croquet set any time soon.

Henry pulled the door to his car open and sat down. He figured he'd drive around for a little bit and hope Nancy had gotten rid of Steve in ten minutes. But, instead of turning his key in the ignition and heading off like he knew he should, Henry leaned his head against the wheel and laughed.

He wouldn't realize until later, but that moment was the lightest he'd felt in days.

1. should have known it wouldn't last 2648 0 0 2. biggest loser alive 6008 0 0 3. omission and boldfaced 5736 0 0 4. emotional overload 5969 0 0 5. no going back 6770 0 0 6. should i stay or should i go 7230 0 0 7. good friends, and bad ones 7390 0 0 8. the state of teenage blues 7113 0 0 9. last in the box 8324 0 0 10. maybe together we can get somewhere 7983 0 0 11. strong, fast, and fresh from the fight 10450 0 0 12. i got a taste of love in a simple way 11111 0 0 13. give it to someone special 9425 0 0