If it weren't for the current circumstances, Henry might've cracked a smile at that.
The sharp way the monosyllable passed Nancy's pursed her lips paired with her raised eyebrows made for quite the funny picture. But, all of that wasn't exactly on Henry's radar right now, and instead of laughing, he just did the bare minimum of acknowledgement –sliding his eyes towards her without a word.
"Everything okay?" She asked hesitantly, almost like she was a little afraid of the answer. To be fair, Henry had been pretty silent since he'd stalked out of his house and into his car, and unsettling stillness wasn't exactly in character for him.
But, then again, nothing he'd done in the past few days was in character for him.
Maybe he just didn't know exactly what his character was.
"I mean, I disappeared overnight, came back just to say my best friend is missing, and then fucked back off," Henry finally offered, glancing sideways, "I don't think that really went over well."
"Sorry," Nancy murmured, and Henry sighed slightly; her gentle voice somehow killed all the tension pent up in him, and his shoulders drooped a little because of it.
"It's not your fault," he replied after a moment, sounding very genuine and very tired, "I don't even know if it's anyone's. Could be mine, but…"
"Nobody can blame you for not knowing what to say after everything that happened last night," Jonathan piped up from the back, although his voice was soft. Henry simply nodded, but he found himself focusing more on the understandingin Jonathan's tone more than anything else.
Who would've thought that he would ever feel camaraderie with Jonathan Byers?
Then again, who would've thought he would ever be driving downtown with him and Nancy Wheeler to pick up supplies to kill a monster?
Yeah, there was a pretty good reason why he couldn't tell the truth to his mom or his brother.
That reminded him.
"Hey, Jonathan?" Henry said, catching his eye in the mirror, "Just, uh, FYI, my brother totally thinks we're dating."
No sooner had that left his lips did Henry regret bringing it up.
Just because someone said they were okay with him being the way he was didn't mean they'd take even the implication that they would be involved in anything remotely similar very well. Especially someone like Jonathan, who'd had far more than his fair share of bathroom stall graffiti calling him a queer.
But, when Henry glanced back at him in the rear-view mirror, he didn't see hatred or disgust on Jonathan's features. He just looked kind of—bashful.
"What—How—?" Jonathan stumbled over his words as his cheeks flushed an impressive shade of pink, "Why?"
"Well, he said it was because I was gone all night, and then you brought me home, and we sat in your car for like ten minutes talking," Henry replied, so matter-of-fact that it almost made it sound like a normal situation, "I didn't really know what to say to that."
"Because that makes more sense than the truth," Jonathan finished for him, upgrading from a pink shade to a pure red as he refused to meet Henry's eyes in the mirror. But, it wasn't because of revulsion or anything like that. Henry could tell that this was pure shyness stemming from uncharted romantic territory, no matter how hypothetical.
Henry was smiling slightly when he finally took his attention away Jonathan—pretty pleased that he hadn't accidentally alienated one of the few people who knew— but that slipped away when he caught sight of the way Nancy was looking at him. For a split second, he wondered if he'd been worrying about the wrong person in this car. If maybe he'd pushed her too far and now good suburban girl Nancy Wheeler couldn't handle his gayness anymore. If it was palpable in theory, but hearing him talk about being with a man was too much for her.
But, just as soon as he'd thought that, he saw how her wide eyes glanced back at Jonathan, and he realized that his fears were unfounded.
"Oh, he knows."
"What?" Nancy asked, soft and confused in response to Henry's casual statement.
"Yeah, he wasn't asleep when I told you," he continued, shrugging, "He knows."
Nancy continued to look at Henry with a funny expression as she processed this development. Then, the next thing he knew, she'd twisted around in her seat and was reaching into the backseat to smack Jonathan.
"That was private, Jonathan!" Nancy exclaimed, getting a few good hits in before Jonathan got with the program and blocked them in a way only an older brother could, "Don't eavesdrop on other peoples' private conversations!"
"We were all in the same bed!" Jonathan replied, his words doing absolutely nothing to deter her.
"Nancy! Nancy!" Henry called over the noise, trying to grab her and turn her back around in her seat while still driving the car, "It's okay! It's really okay!"
It could've been his words that made Nancy stop attacking Jonathan, or his attempts to break up this poor excuse for a fight. But, it probably wasn't either.
What most likely did it was the way his laughter rang out above all the commotion.
Nancy—out of breath and with a few strands of hair framing her face after escaping her ponytail— settled back in her seat. But, her eyes never left Henry, and while her expression wasn't exactly a smile, there was a gentle warmth present. The kind that just precedes one.
"Really?" She asked, and Henry felt his heart swell a little at the sincerity in her question. As if the answer truly mattered to her.
"Really," he replied, letting the silence that followed last, letting Nancy understand that he meant it.
Sure enough, she smiled after a few moments, and Henry couldn't help but return it.
"We'll just—deal with all of this, and then I'll tell Lucas that I dumped him," Henry said once the moment passed, coaxing a giggle out of Nancy.
"Why can't it be mutual?" Jonathan protested.
"Lucas would never believe it," Henry said, shaking his head with his best imitation of a serious expression, "He told me I could do better."
As Jonathan sputtered, Nancy's giggles evolved into full blown laughter, and Henry found himself grinning. The tension from before was gone, and despite what had happened earlier—despite everything—he was having fun.
Maybe this was just what it was like to have friends your age. Driving around on a nice fall day and laughing with them. Henry wouldn't really know. Barb had been his only real friend and their relationship was based around the shared experience of being homosexuals in a town where that was just a fancy word for dead man. It was amazing and exactly what Henry needed, but not a whole lot of room for cruising and giggling.
Maybe there would be, though. Maybe he and Barb would be the type of friends that got to be weightless, without having this burden dragging them down. Maybe when their situations changed and they weren't always looking over their shoulders. Maybe one day.
"Okay," Nancy said, cutting through Henry's reverie with an uncertain voice, "You totally don't have to answer this. I don't mean anything by it, really. I'm just curious and—."
"Nancy," Henry interrupted, smiling slightly, "Just ask."
"Have you ever had a boyfriend?" Nancy's question wasn't unexpected, but it did make Henry want to laugh a little bit. It was just so absurd. He wasn't convinced there was someone in the entire world for him, let alone Hawkins.
"Nope," Henry replied without a second of hesitation. Nancy nodded like that didn't surprise her (it really shouldn't), but something in her expression made him wonder if maybe it had disappointed her a little.
"But, I mean, you've had crushes on the boys at school, right?" She asked, Henry shrugging slightly.
"Not really," he replied, "They're all kind of stupid. Also none of them are very good-looking."
"Henry!" Nancy said, her chastising tone ruined by the laughter in her voice and the smile on her face.
"What?" Henry replied, grinning too now, "It's not my fault we live in a town of unattractive boys."
"Well, you've had to have had a crush on some boy," Nancy replied, Henry sending her an unimpressed look,"How would you know that you liked boys if you didn't find one attractive?"
"That wasn't a boy at school," Henry replied, maybe mumbling it a little bit more than he should have. But, it didn't matter, because they heard it all the same.
"So there was a boy?" Jonathan asked, leaning his arms against the back of the front seat while Nancy nodded along.
"It wasn't—" Henry sighed slightly as his smile turned a little nervous, "It was a celebrity, okay? Just a stupid celebrity crush."
"Oh my god," Nancy said, sounding like this was the greatest news she'd heard in a while (which it honestly might've been given the past week), "Who?"
Henry opened his mouth, but no words came out.
He hadn't noticed how probing their stares had become until now.
It wasn't necessarily in a bad way; they weren't looking at him like he was some weirdo they were trying to figure out. But, it was pretty obvious that they were interested in what he had to say for less than honorable reasons. Almost like when Lucas would come ask him a question and Henry would just know he was up to something, but have no proof.
"It seems like you don't want us to know." Jonathan said, "Is it someone bad?"
"It's—I'm not—" Henry stumbled over his words as he felt his cheeks heat up, "It's not bad, at least I don't think it is."
"Ooooh," Nancy said, sitting up straighter in her seat and making Henry feel like he'd fucked up, even though he didn't know how, "This isn't because of who it is, it's because you still have a crush on him!"
"He—I—Shut up!" Henry yelled, Nancy and Jonathan dissolving into laughter, "God, you are the worst."
"Well, who is it?" Nancy pressed, gently pushing on Henry's shoulder, "Come on, you've got to tell us."
Henry groaned dramatically. He didn't have to, he knew that. He didn't have to tell them. One hint of this being too far and they'd back off without a word.
But, it wasn't. It wasn't too far. They weren't saying things that hurt. They were just—they were embarrassing him. Plain, old-fashioned embarrassment.
Henry was beginning to wonder if all he'd missed out on by not having friends was the teasing.
"Prince, okay?" Henry's cheeks burning as he forced it out, "It's Prince."
The sound of Nancy's and Jonathan's shouts drowned out the muttered "I hate you both," from Henry.
"You know, they're making a movie about him," Nancy offered, Henry sending her a sideways look before he replied.
"Yes, Nancy. I'm well aware."
"I mean, it's not that bad to have a crush on Prince," Jonathan allowed with a thoughtful hum, "To listen to his music…"
"Jonathan, if you insult Prince's music I will pull over right here and make you walk," Henry replied, maybe a tad too serious for what he was saying. But, Nancy laughed all the same.
"I agree," she said, Henry sending her a dirty look, "That it's not bad. Prince is attractive."
"I'm not embarrassed about that, I just…" Henry shrugged, feeling a little at a loss, "I don't really… I never talk about this stuff, is all."
It was quiet for a moment, and Henry was deeply aware of the fact that he might have just killed the vibe with his honesty.
"How much did you miss out on?"
Jonathan sounded different now. That lighthearted quality that so rarely appeared in his voice was gone, and now there was a note of solemnity. Henry didn't blame him. He would want to know too, if he were him. He'd want to know all the little things that can hurt.
"Jonathan," Nancy hissed, but Henry put his hand out.
"It's fine, he…" He didn't finish that thought, and it was quiet for a moment before he glanced back at Jonathan, "This kind of stuff mostly. Just, talking to people without having to… worry."
"Henry…" Nancy's gentle voice commanding attention, "What you didn't get to do before… You can do it now. With us. If you want."
Henry smiled softly at that. He knew that wasn't a fix. Far from it, in fact. You'd need a time machine to make everything all better. But, the intention behind Nancy's words meant way more to him than anything she could ever actually do. He only hoped that the way he smiled at her got that across. Going off the way she smiled back, he thought it probably did.
"Well, you two can't help me catch up with everything," Henry pointed out, his smile slowly morphing into something playful.
"What do you mean?" Nancy asked, putting on a good show of being confused, "Jonathan's already your boyfriend."
"You and Lucas pushing the two of us together won't solve all of my problems," Henry replied. The pair laughed and Henry glanced in the mirror to see how Jonathan had turned pink again, but he managed to push past that embarrassment to join in.
"Well, what else is there?" Henry could tell that this was a real question hidden under the guise of light conversation, "Other than talking about crushes and dating, what else did you miss out on?"
"It'll bring down the mood of the car, fair warning," Henry said, forcing his casual smile to stay in place even though what he said was completely true.
"Hey," Nancy said with a small smile, catching his attention with the genuine note to her voice, "I meant it. The stuff you didn't get to do, you can do it with us. And that includes being a downer."
Henry laughed at that and he almost felt bad about how he was about to wipe the smiles off of the two other teens' faces.
"It's—It's not even something I've missed out on," He started, worrying the leather of the wheel under his fingertips as he spoke, "It's just… It's something I know I'm not going to get."
Nancy and Jonathan both looked at confused, and Henry knew it was for good reason. But, he also knew that they'd understand once he said it. So, with a rueful smile, he spoke simply and quickly. He didn't need to drag this one out. They'd get it.
"I always wanted kids."
It was quiet. Henry kept his eyes on the road rather than looking over and seeing the way his friends reacted to that one. They'd asked, he reminded himself, they'd wanted to know.
After a moment, Nancy placed a hand on his shoulder, and Henry looked over to see her sad little smile. He looked back out towards the road, not even glancing in the mirror to see the face that Jonathan was making—he already knew what it would look like—and he couldn't stop himself from snorting softly.
"Yeah, see, told you. Mood killer."
It was weird to walk around Hawkins now.
People passed the three of them on the street without a second glance, as if it were any old day. As if the world hadn't been shattered the night before and had continued to well into the morning. As if Henry Sinclair, Jonathan Byers, and Nancy Wheeler were an average trio of teens making their way down the pavement.
As if Jonathan wasn't carrying a box full of gasoline and bear traps.
But, then again, it wasn't like they were giving many clues that there was any cause for concern.
"Monster hunting?" Jonathan asked, Henry unable to keep himself from smiling at the barely contained laughter obvious in his voice. Nancy smiled, a little sheepish but without a hint of regret, and she sent the two boys a thoughtful look as they loaded their array of purchases into the back of Henry's car.
"You know, last week… I was shopping for a new top I thought Steve might like. It took me and Barb all weekend," She said, a soft huff of a laugh slipping past her lips, "It seemed like life or death, you know? And… And now…"
"You're shopping for bear traps with Jonathan Byers and Henry Sinclair?" Jonathan finished for her, Henry unable to keep himself from snorting at that concise summarization.
God, what had he even been doing last week?
Nothing, probably. Just like he always did. Fixing his car, doing his homework, and lounging around the house.
Actually, now that he thought about it, he was probably talking to Barb. Yeah, he remembered now, after she finished helping Nancy find that top, she'd called Henry and bitched for an hour and a half about how she'd been dragged from store to store to help her stupid best friend impress a douchebag who probably wouldn't even notice what she was wearing. Henry hadn't really contributed much to that conversation beyond "right," "that sucks," and "she's ridiculous."
Now he was loading enough equipment to kill a Grizzly into his car with that ridiculous girl in question.
Funny how things turn out.
"What's the weirdest part?" Jonathan's voice pulled Henry from his musings, although it was almost as if he'd heard his exact thoughts, "The bear traps or us?"
"You," Nancy replied with a smile, "It's definitely you. Henry's not that weird."
Henry couldn't help but giggle at that, and Jonathan and Nancy followed suit with their own soft chuckles. It was nice, having people to laugh with.
"Hey, Nance!" Someone honked, and Henry looked over to see a guy he recognized from around school leaning out the side of his car with a smirk, "Can't wait to see your movie."
Any thoughtful considerations of how their lives had been changed so quickly were abruptly ended by that. Jonathan caught Henry's eye over Nancy's head and sent him a lost look, which he returned.
"What was that about?" Henry asked, Nancy's frown deepening.
"I don't know."
Without another word, Nancy spun on her heel and headed in the direction the car had come from. Again, Henry and Jonathan exchanged a look before they followed after her; neither one entirely certain what was going on or what she was thinking. As they ran down the sidewalk, the two boys lagging behind her, Jonathan called out trying to get her attention. It didn't work though, because she was too caught up in the vandalized marquee over the movie theater.
ALL THE RIGHT MOVES
STARRING NANCY THE SLUT WHEELER
For the third time in half a minute, Henry and Jonathan exchanged glances. Only this time, they weren't quite so lost.
Distantly, they heard the sound of a spray can and someone laughing obnoxiously, and before Henry could even think "dumbasses are sitting right next to the scene of the crime" Nancy had stalked towards the alley, and Jonathan and Henry were powerless to do anything but follow.
Henry hesitated at the entrance for a moment, when a slap echoed across the brick walls of the surrounding buildings, but he pushed on when he heard Nancy's voice. Her distress was blatantly apparent to Henry, even though all he could see was her back from a distance.
"What is wrong with you?"
"What's wrong with me?" Steve Harrington replied, his anger running far colder than Nancy's, "What's wrong with you? I was worried about you… I can't believe that I was actually worried about you."
"What are you talking about?" Nancy spat back at Steve, but Henry could hear the legitimate confusion running through her voice, as if she had no idea why this was happening right now.
He got it, he really did. How someone could do this to a person they claim to care about was hard to comprehend, especially when you're so badly hurt. But, he'd already pieced together what was going on here. At least, he'd managed to come up with a probable reason behind Steve's anger.
If nothing else, the graffiti on the wall that read Byers Is A Perv had shed some light on the situation.
"I wouldn't lie if I were you," Carol cut in, and now that they were getting closer, Henry could see her sickly pleased grin, "You don't want to be known as the lying slut now, do you?"
"Speak of the devil," Tommy added, his smiled widening as he caught sight of Jonathan and Henry, "Or devils. Jesus, Nancy, how many guys do you have?"
So, yeah, Henry was right.
He didn't feel very happy about that fact, though.
Tommy's words were enough to confirm that they thought something was going on between Nancy and the two of them, but Steve's expression was the nail in the coffin. He was looking at them with such a cold, bitter expression that Henry could hardly reconcile the man standing in the alley with the guy who'd spilled croquet mallets all over Nancy's garage and struggled to put them back. That guy that had made Henry think that maybe Steve wasn't so bad—that maybe he'd passed judgment a little too harshly—was gone now.
Jesus, was that only yesterday?
"You came by last night," Nancy said, and Henry could tell it had clicked in her head as well.
"Ding! Ding! Ding! Does she get a prize?" Carol chimed in obnoxiously, and Henry couldn't keep himself from throwing a glare in her direction.
"Look, I don't know what you think you saw, but it wasn't like that," Nancy continued, disregarding everyone else and focusing on Steve, which was probably a good strategy. Carol and Tommy H weren't the type to be reasoned with.
"What, you just let Byers in your room to… study?" Steve asked, his tone heavy with accusation; his eyes flickering back towards Henry for a brief moment before he spoke again, "And, uh, Sinclair just needed to pick up a review paper?"
"We were just—" Nancy started, and even from the back Henry could see how the cogs in her mind were turning.
"You were just what?" Steve interrupted with a sharp voice, "Finish that sentence."
It was quiet for a long moment, and Henry's chest ached in sympathy for what he knew Nancy was going through. It was the same thing that he'd experienced when Lucas had confronted him about dating Jonathan. Only in this case, instead of being unable to privately defend against something that really didn't matter, Nancy's whole reputation was being slandered by someone who she thought cared about her.
"Go to hell, Nancy," Steve said once the silence had lasted for long enough to be damning, and Henry knew that this conversation needed to be over.
"Nancy, come on," He said, his voice gentle as he put his hands on her forearms and pulled her back. Maybe it was a gesture that could be misread as intimate, but at this point what did it matter? Nancy needed comfort, and things couldn't get much worse than this.
"I've got to admit, you've got some balls, Sinclair," Steve cut in, and Henry tried to convince himself to just ignore it and get Nancy out of here, "Acting all friendly with a guy, joking around with him, laughing in his face, all while you sneak around with his girlfriend? I mean, wow."
And maybe it was the pressures of the past week, or maybe this new surge of protectiveness that he'd never felt before, or maybe even this strange feeling of betrayal as he remembered the Steve he'd spoken to yesterday, but when Henry pulled Nancy back, he put himself in front of her. He put himself in between her and Steve.
Jonathan's voice was low, a warning. Not a discouragement, just a reminder. When Henry glanced back at him, clearly whatever was in his eyes was enough for Jonathan, because he simply nodded and took over comforting Nancy, who looked between Henry and Steve with a nervous expression. It seemed that she wasn't quite sure what was going to happen and the possibilities were concerning her.
Of course, Henry wasn't sure either.
But, at the same time, he wasn't too worried about it.
Steve continued to glare at him coldly, but what Henry found to be far more interesting was that there was way more going on behind the forced apathetic mask than he probably would've like him to think. Because when he looked, he could see the whirlwind of emotion in Steve's eyes. And if he really looked, he could see that anger wasn't predominate.
"Did it make you feel better?"
"What?" Carol asked, laughing slightly in disbelief. Henry didn't even spare her a glance. He kept his eyes firmly on Steve, who didn't reply.
"Spray painting that on the Hawk," Henry expanded, shrugging slightly, "Did it make you feel any better?"
It was quiet, but even though Steve continued to say nothing, he'd given Henry all the answer he needed. He'd given it the moment Henry had seen how sadness was the emotion that reigned inside of him.
"Yeah, that's what I thought," he said, nodding his head a little, "Hurting people you care about usually doesn't help."
"Strong words from the guy who screwed his girlfriend," Tommy H interjected with that smug grin still permanently affixed to his expression.
"Tommy, shut the fuck up, nobody likes you," Henry said so simply that it hardly even registered as an insult, just as a statement of fact.
"She doesn't like you, she's just a—" Carol started with a nasty smile, before she was interrupted.
"I didn't have sex with Nancy, Steve," Henry said, so painfully genuine, but not defensive, "And we could stand here while I walk you through exactly what happened last night, but it wouldn't matter. You think Nancy cheated on you, you don't, it's not going to make a difference to you. You're going to keep being unhappy."
For the first time, Steve outwardly reacted, and his eyebrows rose as if he couldn't quite believe what he was hearing. He took a step forward that was most likely meant to be threatening, but Henry didn't move an inch. He wasn't scared of him.
Maybe that had to do with the way he'd felt Nancy and Jonathan close in behind him.
"Are you seriously pretending that you have nothing to do with why I'm angry right now?" Steve said with his lips tugging upwards as if this was so ridiculous that he couldn't help but laugh.
"That's not what I'm saying," Henry replied, far more evenly, "I'm saying that it doesn't matter whether or not I slept with your girlfriend because either way you're still going to have friends who laugh when you're upset."
Steve backed off.
Not a whole lot, just a little, but Henry saw it. He saw how confusion overtook his expression. He saw how thoroughly off-guard he'd caught him. He saw the way the truth slapped him in the face far harder than Nancy ever could.
It was about time Steve Harrington woke up and faced the music.
"So, go ahead, be angry at me. I really don't care. But, don't pretend like the reason that you're miserable has anything to do with me, or Nancy, or Jonathan," Henry said, heat rising in his voice, "And the next time you feel like shit and need to do something about it, consider finding some new people to talk to rather than taking it out on Nancy or Jonathan. I don't like it when you do that. You know, because they're my friends, and I care when someone's hurt them."
Henry mentally prepared himself for getting punched.
The words he hadn't realized that had been festering in the back of his mind since freshman year had bubbled to the front, and the courage he'd found inside of him earlier mixed with the confidence brought by having people in his corner and pushed them right out of his mouth.
And it'd felt good.
He didn't even care if he got punched for it.
Steve didn't hit him.
He didn't say anything, either. Instead, Steve just looked at him with a stricken expression, like he never in a million years would've expected him to say that (which was completely fair; if everything had been normal, Henry doubted he would have). But, it wasn't just the shock that Henry "easy-going" Sinclair had spoken with such passion that had taken over Steve's expression. There was something else there too. Something that made Henry think he might've gotten far too close for comfort.
Steve didn't say anything, likely because he didn't have anything to say, and… And it occurred to Henry that he really didn't care if he did. Barb was still missing, they still had a monster to kill; Steve Harrington had already wasted enough of his time.
Henry sent quick glances to the people on either side of him and, although he wasn't entirely certain what he was looking for in their faces, he found it. With one last look at Steve, Henry turned on his heel and started to walk away—Nancy and Jonathan falling in line beside him.
Distantly, Henry heard how Tommy H and Carol muttered, but he couldn't bring himself to care. They were nasty people. They always had been and he'd always known that. Why would he start listening to what they had to say now?
It wasn't until Steve's louder voice called after them did he start to actually listen. Even then though, all he could muster was an eye roll.
It was pretty obvious that Steve hadn't really taken his words into consideration. Not just because he was still raving about them sleeping with Nancy, but because he hadn't said anything until his friends had egged him on.
And maybe there was a small part of Henry that tugged at that, something different than annoyance. But, he didn't dwell on it; there were a lot more deserving recipients of his sympathy.
Besides, any remaining amount of understanding inside of him for Steve was dashed away when he heard what he had to say.
"You know what? I'm actually kind of impressed with you, Byers. Didn't think you had it in you. I always took you for a queer."
They didn't snap to look at him, at least.
That was one good thing that Henry could take from this moment. Jonathan and Nancy didn't obviously turn their heads when Steve used that word, and instead their eyes slid over towards him. Less noticeable, and he really doubted that Steve was on the lookout for any sort of tell. But honestly, that was like slapping a Band-Aid on an open wound.
Henry liked to think he didn't outwardly react to that, but at best he didn't respond enough that the group they were walking away from could pick up on it. He knew his expression twisted into something bitter, that hurt flashed across his eyes, and that it was enough to be noticeable to the people who were looking for it.
"Yeah, yeah, yeah. I mean everyone's always said that. But, now you're taking pictures of girls in their underwear and sleeping with guy's girlfriends so I guess you're just a run-of-the-mill perv."
Steve's voice was still close; he was following them down the alleyway. Something—maybe Henry's words or maybe just this whole situation—had pushed him to make one last ditch effort to hurt them before they left.
It was working, just probably not in the way he thought.
"I mean, I guess that all doesn't mean you're not a queer. Maybe having a threesome with my girlfriend was just a way to get closer to—"
Henry and Nancy both jumped back and let out some sort of expletive as Steve stumbled away from them—the force of Jonathan's punch enough that he needed to grab a hold of the wall to stay upright. It was quiet for a moment (Henry wasn't sure who was the most shocked) before Steve charged at Jonathan.
Henry watched with wide eyes as they both threw themselves wholeheartedly into the fight. He expected this from Steve—he'd gotten in his fair share of schoolyard tumbles in the past—but Jonathan. Jonathan who'd cried for a week after shooting a bunny was wailing on the guy.
Although, Henry supposed that a rabbit was an innocent creature, and Steve had been calling him a queer, so maybe that made this a little different.
"Henry," Nancy said, sending him an imploring look. Henry just shrugged. He didn't want to get in the middle of this fight. He didn't get involved in fights ever, but this one especially. He had a feeling that if he tried to pull Jonathan and Steve apart all he would get was hit in the face.
Besides, Jonathan was holding his own.
And to be perfectly honest this felt pretty deserved.
The only moment Henry actually almost got pulled in was when Tommy H decided to try to join the fray. But, before Henry was forced to keep Jonathan from having to go one against two, Steve shooed him away and the fight was even again.
But, it was still an unfair match, because Jonathan was beating the shit out of Steve. To the point that Henry finally heeded Nancy's words and shuffled a little closer—still not entirely into the idea of trying to break them up.
Sirens sounded and Henry hopped back from the two teens on the ground; putting his back to the alley wall and pulling his hands out of his pockets as he watched the cop car roll up.
Two officers that looked vaguely familiar hurried out, but Jonathan still wasn't stopping. It was like he hadn't even noticed. He was singularly focused on destroying Steve's face.
Henry winced when they tried to separate them, because what had been "fighting in an alley like a teenage dumbass" was quickly taken to "assaulting a police officer" in one moment. He stayed put though, and just watched it all unravel.
They were able pull Jonathan away after a moment, but Steve managed to get free in that scuffle—him and the rest of his group running away far faster than the cop that chased them. Henry almost wanted to join them, but he knew better, so instead he just exchanged a nervous look with Nancy as an officer slammed Jonathan down against the car and cuffed him.
This was bad.
Bad for their friend, bad for them, and bad for their plan.
And yet, it somehow managed to get worse.
Seriously?!" Henry exclaimed before he could think better of it.
Before he could remind himself of what not to do when getting arrested.
The next thing Henry knew, the three of them were stuffed into the back of the patrol car, and Nancy was the only one without her hands in cuffs.
Although the Hawkins Police usually didn't deal with much more than disputes between neighbors and the occasional prank on an unsuspecting farmer by some teenagers, the station was never exactly quiet.
For one, the residents of the town had a tendency to just roll right up whenever they wanted the police's attention (probably because they knew that calling would just mean having their minor problem ignored), and even if they weren't preoccupied, the cops had a way of making themselves appear busy. Probably so as to not alert anyone to the fact that the town of Hawkins needed exactly one of them.
But, even though the station was at its normal bustle, there was a stifling silence between the three teenagers sat in the corner.
Nancy was picking at the hem of her shirt with one hand and playing with her hair with the other; a combination of nervous ticks that only she was capable of doing right now. On either side of her, the two boys were doing what they could with hands cuffed together—Jonathan had taken to resting them on the desk and picking at the wood while Henry kept his mostly still in his lap.
Henry readjusted his hands slightly and winced as the metal dug into his skin. He couldn't stop himself from throwing glances towards the door every few seconds, which was probably making the people in the station think that he was considering making a break for it. But, the reality wasn't that he was thinking of running out, rather than he was terrified of who was going to come in.
The thought of his parents seeing him like this was giving him heart palpitations.
Nancy's voice was soft, as if she wasn't sure if it was okay for her to talk, but it still cut through the silence and Henry's thoughts. He didn't blame her for being hesitant to speak; Jonathan had been uncomfortably silent since they'd been thrown into the cop car, only muttering thanks when Nancy pressed some ice against the bruise on his forehead, and Henry hadn't exactly been forthcoming once he'd gotten cuffed.
But, she still spoke, and both boys looked at her without the slightest hint of resentment.
"For Steve," Nancy continued despite the overwhelming shame in her voice, "I should've… I didn't realize he was—like that. I thought…"
Nancy frowned and it occurred to Henry that this was the expression that came right before someone burst out in tears. He felt his own throat start to tighten in response, but he pushed past that. Now was not the time to start crying.
"Hey," Henry said softly, catching her attention, "Don't apologize. It's not your fault."
"Isn't it?" Nancy replied, her voice wavering, "How could I not know that he was the type of person who would do something like that? Say those things?"
"Because he wasn't like that with you," Henry countered, Nancy's frown deepening like that wasn't good enough. Like what he'd said wasn't enough to convince her of the truth.
So he'd just have to say more.
"I… I wasn't lying earlier, I think that a lot of all that is Tommy H and Carol. Not that he isn't at fault for it, he willingly goes along with them, it's just… When you were dating Steve, you got the guy who spills croquet sets and giggles about it, not the guy who gets in fights and calls people—" Henry voice got caught in his throat, and he had to shake his head slightly—like he was pushing away those thoughts—before he could speak again, "What I'm trying to say is that you got the best version of Steve. You didn't really see the type of person that Tommy and Carol bring out in him. That—and this… God, Nancy, it isn't your fault."
Henry's words lingered in the silence long after they'd been said.
It was a lot, all of this was, and Henry felt for Nancy. Having her best friend go missing only for the person she cared about to hurt her like that? There was a reason he'd nearly started sympathy crying in the middle of the police station, and there was a reason his words were genuinely forgiving of any misstep that Nancy might've taken that led them here. And maybe that reason had more to do with this new friendship than anything else, but he didn't care.
Henry had been telling the truth in the alley: Nancy and Jonathan were his friends, and he didn't like it when someone hurt them.
It wasn't until she smiled slightly did the tension break (although it was a pained and wobbly one), and he returned it with an equally bittersweet smile of his own.
Then Nancy laid her head on his shoulder.
She'd done it without saying a word, just plopped her cheek right down and wrapped her arms around one of his. It was simple, but it brought a shocking amount of comfort with it. The feeling of her pressed against his side and the sound of her gentle breathing in his ear reminded him of the night before, when Nancy had done the exact same thing in her bed. When everything had tumbled out of him.
But, it wasn't just that. It felt familiar, it felt like something he'd been experiencing for years, it felt like…
It felt like something Lucas or Erica would do when they were alone together.
Henry buried his face in Nancy's hair, and it was quiet.
"I don't understand why they arrested you," Nancy mumbled into his jacket, and the moment snapped.
Henry sighed softly and raised his head, but Nancy either didn't notice or chose not to acknowledge it, because she continued talking as if he hadn't.
"The secretary said that they'd let me go soon but not you and Jonathan." The crease that appeared in Nancy's brow when she was trying to figure something out now becoming familiar, "You were standing next to me, you didn't do anything. Why would they keep you?"
"Nancy," Henry said softly, looking down at her, and once the pair made eye contact, they didn't break it. Not even when she lifted her head off of his shoulder. A part of him hoped she would just look into his eyes and understand. That he wouldn't have to explain. But, when the seconds ticked by with no such luck, he knew he would have to.
"Nancy, what's the difference between me and you?"
Nancy frowned in confusion, and Henry could all but hear the first thought that popped into her head. He didn't blame her for it exactly—they had been talking about it a lot recently—but come on. That wasn't all he was.
"Other than that."
Now that that thought had been brushed aside, Henry could see how the wheels started to turn in Nancy's mind.
He could see the exact moment when she realized why he was in cuffs and she was not.
Nancy tore her eyes away from his and sat back in her seat with stricken expression. Henry dropped his gaze back down to the desk, and it was quiet for a moment. Henry wasn't sure of what he could possibly say, especially because he had no idea what was going through Nancy's head right now, so he simply kept quiet. The safest option.
Both Henry and Nancy snapped their heads to look over, even though Jonathan refused to make eye contact with either of them. Instead, he kept his gaze down as he spoke unprompted for the first time since they'd been brought in.
"I shouldn't have started that fight," he continued, picking at the desk, "I should've just walked away. I messed everything up and I got you arrested and… I'm so sorry."
It almost didn't matter if his words were true or not, because there was no denying how sincere they were. Jonathan meant it. Whatever tiny seed of resentment towards Jonathan that was burrowed in Henry's chest disappeared, and when he caught Nancy's eye, he knew that they were on the same page. Nancy reached out and placed her hand on his shoulder—a comforting motion that Henry would've liked to mirror, but was unable to.
"It's okay," she murmured, squeezing gently.
"Steve's had that coming for years." Henry's voice was just as tender as Nancy's, despite what he said. Although, he was aware of the nature of his words if the small smile that pulled at his lips when Nancy softly scoffed was any indication, "Next time, just stop when the cops show up and we'll make a break for it."
"Next time?" Jonathan repeated, finally looking up and allowing Henry to see the faintest beginnings of a smile pulling at his lips.
"I saw you kick his ass, man," Henry replied, feeling lightest he had since he'd seen the defaced movie theater, "I just get the feeling whatever came out then is going to come out again."
"Well…" Jonathan said thoughtfully, "I care when someone hurts my friends."
Those words and the way Jonathan met his eye and smiled (a little hesitant and a bit shy, but very real), coaxed one out of Henry. A true blue Henry Sinclair smile that shined despite the circumstances—and for a moment, everything felt like it was going to be okay.
Distantly, Henry heard how the door of the station opened, but he didn't really acknowledge it until he saw how Jonathan's smile slipped away and was replaced with a stony mask that couldn't quite cover the shame and anxiety underneath it.
Henry turned and felt something very similar happen to his own expression, although he knew that the whirlwind inside of him was a little different from Jonathan's. That made sense though, because Jonathan's good mood had disappeared because he'd caught sight of his mother, while Henry's…
Henry's smile had vanished because of the stare that Hopper had leveled on him.