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you were warm when everything was cold

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Lucas can't stop staring.

“Whaddya think?” Eddie twirls, showing off every angle of his borrowed letterman jacket with Harrington embroidered across the back. “So, Harrington? Gonna take me to the prom?”

Steve laughs, taking Eddie's outstretched hand and spinning him around again. “What, are we going steady?”

Eddie gasps. “Why, Steve, what kind of girl do you take me for? Of course we're going steady, I don't just go parking in cars with any old boy!”

Steve dissolves into laughter, pulling Eddie close by his belt loops and resting his forehead on his shoulder until the laughter subsides. Eddie runs his hands through Steve's hair aimlessly, playing with the strands, and shit, Lucas needs to look away, but he just can't.

“It looks good on you,” Steve says, so low that Lucas can barely make it out. He raises his head from Eddie's shoulder, leans in close so their foreheads are pressed together.

“Would you be mad if I added a few patches?”

“You can add patches if I can fix up the rips in your jacket.”

Eddie frowns. “Hey, I earned those rips.”

“And I earned my letterman.”

Eddie hums. “You'd make a good housewife.”

“How's that?”

“Well, you like to sew.”

“It's a basic life skill!”

“That you often practice for fun. You do all the cooking, you look after the kids, you love to clean…”

Steve clicks his tongue. “Only one problem there, Munson.”

Eddie raises his eyebrows. He's doing a terrible job of hiding his smile. “Oh really? What's that?”

Steve lightly grabs Eddie by the front of his jacket. “I'm not doing all that for a bum.” He pushes Eddie back a little just to pull him back in, knocking their foreheads together.

Eddie gives up on hiding his smile. “Oh, a bum?”

“That’s right. I need a man with a good job. Steady paycheck.”

“I provide.”

“You think I'm gonna raise children with a drug dealer?”

Eddie laughs, shakes his head, leans even closer to Steve, and—Okay, yeah, Lucas has gotta look away. He turns back to the pile of clothes he and Max have been sorting through.

Max is looking right at him, single eyebrow raised. Lucas’s stomach drops. “What?”

Max shrugs innocently, looking down to the stack of clothes in her lap like nothing happened. “Nothing. You like this?” She holds up a dark blue turtleneck sweater.

“Uh, for me or for you?”

“You, I can’t stand stuff around my neck like that.”

It does look soft. “I’ll try it.”

Steve apparently has an infinite abyss for a closet. Every time Lucas thinks Steve must have brought down the last of it, there’s another box, another armful of sweaters and t-shirts and polo shirts that Steve doesn’t need anymore even though they’re functionally indistinguishable from the stuff he wears every day. He’s got a lot of jackets, too, and Max has already claimed three for herself while Lucas has yet to snag one. Probably because he’s been distracted from their treasure hunt by… Well. He’s not sure what.

There’s something about watching Steve and Eddie that makes his chest ache, just a little bit. Something that feels like it’s just out of reach, like if he could just jump an inch higher he could grasp it and know what it is, have a name for it, figure out what feels like it’s missing with Max. He never felt like something was missing with Max before. She was perfect. She is perfect! Like, sure, not actually perfect, because nobody’s actually perfect, but she’s perfect for him just like he hopes he’s perfect for her, and they’re perfect together.

Maybe Lucas is overcompensating.

Max has been more present lately. More herself. Honestly, if anything, she’s more herself than ever. Vecna gave her this… confidence, sort of. Sureness in herself. Like, she just has this aura now, like she’s been to hell and personally kicked the devil in the nuts, and even though he knows it’s because she did essentially go through hell and personally kick the devil in the nuts, Lucas still kind of loves it. It’s like he’s dating the actual Max Max, or Ripley from Alien.

And yet. Even though Max isn’t hiding anymore, even though they talk now, even though their relationship is objectively better than ever, sometimes Lucas is just a little bit sad.

Movie nights are becoming worryingly essential to Lucas's mental wellbeing.

It doesn't have much of anything to do with the movies. It's how he feels safe surrounded by all of his friends, how the darkness forms a blanket to block out the rest of the world. Everyone that matters is right there in the glow of the TV. He knows they're all safe.

Right now, half of them are asleep. 

Erica conked out early. So did Robin, who's curled up into a little ball and snoring lightly against Steve. Steve is awake, but Eddie is asleep in his lap, Steve's arms around his waist and chin resting on his shoulder. Dustin is awake, but he keeps jerking his head suddenly, like he's trying to keep himself up, and Lucas figures it's just a matter of time before he's out, too.

Max is awake. She's lying on him, and Lucas knows from experience that his arm is going to fall asleep pretty soon if she doesn't move, but what kind of guy asks his girlfriend to get off of him? Maybe a guy who doesn't even like girls.

But he definitely likes girls. Like, that's not even remotely up for debate, and it's not some deep-seated repression thing, it's just the truth. He loves when Max lays on him, up until the point where his arm gets numb and tingly. So what gives? What's the problem?

Lucas closes his eyes. He tries to picture Max with short hair, although Eddie's hair is long, and El's is short, so maybe that doesn't mean anything. He imagines her with a sharper jaw, although Dustin's jawline is soft, and Nancy's is sharp, so that probably doesn't mean much either. He imagines a Max with broader shoulders, maybe an inch or so taller than him, a Max he has to lean up to kiss, a Max with more than just peach fuzz on her upper lip.

He's not particularly into it, but he's not repulsed, either. Franken-Max is still beautiful. Handsome. Lucas still loves him. But that's a bad example, probably, because he already has feelings for Max, and changing some superficial stuff doesn't change the feelings. Who's a hot guy celebrity? Max likes Ralph Macchio. When he thinks about Ralph Macchio, though, all Lucas really feels is jealousy, maybe a little bit of disdain. So he thinks of Han Solo. Lando Calrissian. Luke Skywalker. They aren't bad-looking, sure, but Lucas doesn't feel too strongly about any of them, appearance-wise. Maybe he just can't find guys in movies hot.

His mind drifts, as it often has lately, to Steve and Eddie. It's not the way they look that has Lucas obsessing over them. He knew Steve and Eddie both long before they were Steve-and-Eddie, and he never had this kind of fixation on either of them before. Well, sure, maybe he's spent some time looking at Steve's arms, but that was more of an athletic inspiration thing than anything else. What is it about the two of them together that's so fascinating?

So many little scenes are burned into Lucas's brain. Eddie holding the door for Steve, calling him sweetheart and babydoll and a thousand other little nicknames that make Lucas's face and ears go hot. Steve carrying Eddie piggyback through the rain because Eddie was wearing those ratty old Converse with the floppy sole and Steve was worried that if he stepped in a puddle he'd get frostbite or trench foot. The two of them sharing clothes, wearing each other's jackets. The way they move, how sometimes when the radio's on they'll dance, and first Eddie's the girl, and then Steve's the girl, and neither of them is actually a girl, and it doesn't even matter, it's all just whatever's fun in the moment, whatever makes them feel good, and holy shit. Oh, shit. Oh, God.

Lucas wants to fall asleep during movie night in Max's lap. He wants her to drape her jacket over his shoulders when he shivers. He wants her to put her arm around him, hold him like he's precious. He wants Max to want all of that, too.

His arm feels numb. If Lucas were a girl, or if Max were a boy, he'd ask if they could switch places. But he isn't, and she isn't, and what kind of guy asks his girlfriend to get off of him so he can use her as a pillow instead? Lucas isn't sure if there's a word for a guy like that. If there is, it probably isn't very nice.

So he lets his arm go numb. He tries not to look at Eddie, at the way he nuzzles into Steve's chest and Steve just holds him closer.

“Hey,” Max whispers in his ear. Lucas jerks a little in surprise and she huffs out a laugh. “You okay?”

“What?”

“You've been spacey lately,” she murmurs, “Usually you'd be trying to figure out the logistics of all the Muppet action.”

She's not wrong. Lucas is fascinated by how they make the Muppets ride bikes and stuff. There must be a lot of wires and people involved.

“Everyone's asleep,” Lucas whispers back, “Didn't want to talk. You know Erica hasn't been getting much sleep lately, didn't wanna mess it up.”

Max shifts, pulling Lucas' arm around her shoulders so she can snuggle into his side. It's a bit better, but now he's gotta endure the pins and needles phase.

“You're sweet.”

He can almost hear it, sweetheart like how Eddie says to Steve, but that isn't Max's style and it's silly of him to even think about it. It's not like he wants her to change. It's just nice to imagine a world where none of the gender shit really matters and they can be like Steve and Eddie, and Lucas can be held and feel safe because the real-life Ripley's got his back.

God, he's pathetic. Lucas sighs, flexing his arm to encourage that terrible tingling to run its course. He has an amazing girlfriend and he's whining about nothing. Well, whining to himself. In his head. It still counts. It's still total pussy behavior.

Lucas pulls Max closer, kisses the top of her head. He can feel her head turn to look up at him, but he keeps his gaze leveled at the TV, and she doesn't say anything. They're fine. He and Max are fine.

“You know you can talk to me, right?”

“Huh?”

Max turns her head sideways to take a bite out of her hot dog. It's cute. She always gets ketchup and mustard smeared on her nose if she just bites straight into it.

“It goes both ways,” she says, chewing, and it should be gross, but it's not, really, because it's Max. She finishes chewing and swallows before she opens her mouth again. “I'm your friend before I'm your girlfriend.”

“You got some…” Lucas picks up a napkin from the picnic table, leaning forward to wipe a smudge of ketchup off the corner of her mouth. He kisses her, quick, because he's there anyway, and she smiles into it before shoving him away.

“Nice try. You gonna answer me?”

“Answer what?”

Her smile fades. It's replaced by a look of concern that makes Lucas feel nauseous.

“You can talk to me. You know that. Right?”

"Right." Lucas takes a sip of his Coke, just for something to do with his hands.

“I'm not…” Max looks down, sighing before she meets his eyes again. “I'm doing better. I can… you don't have to be okay all the time, you know? You can tell me things. You can tell me anything.”

God, his chest aches. Lucas reaches out and takes her hand.

“I know,” he assures her. “I know.”

He hasn't seen Max look this deeply sad in a while. She looks down and lifts their entwined hands, pressing a kiss to the back of his knuckles, and his heart flutters.

“Okay,” she says. She lowers their hands, drops his, and picks up what's left of her hot dog.

As she tilts her head to the side and gets mustard on her cheek, Lucas gets the distinct impression that she doesn't believe him.

When did he start spending so much time around Steve and Eddie?

It sort of makes sense. He used to spend a small amount of time with Eddie, a moderate amount of time with Steve, and then they all went through some shit and bonded and Lucas's Eddie time got bumped up to moderate, and then Steve and Eddie became an annoyingly adorable package deal, and now Lucas can't escape them. He's a little pissed, honestly. Fuck them for being gay and in love and equal and shit. Ruining his life. Lucas has never really been the type to envy other people's happiness, and he feels like maybe Steve and Eddie are making him a worse person. Before, he always figured that if his friends are happy, then he's happy, and that's it.

Upon further reflection, though, it occurs to Lucas that perhaps he just never had friends with much of anything to envy.

“You look adorable, sweetheart,” Eddie states out of nowhere, and some small part of Lucas still expects Steve, with his jungle of chest hair and unreasonably large biceps and many years of womanizing, to shove Eddie away, to reject the sweet kiss Eddie presses to his cheek, but he doesn't. Of course he doesn't.

Lucas suddenly recalls the wild look in Steve's eye, the ferocity in his voice, the strength with which he batted the demodogs away back in the junkyard. It feels like so long ago.

Steve does sigh a little. When Eddie tries to move away, Steve tugs him to his side and kisses the mass of curls on his head. The vibe is kinda weird today. Steve seems… off. So does Eddie, but Eddie is so perpetually strange and erratic that Lucas could just be making shit up.

“Okay, okay,” Robin says, more to herself than anyone around her, “I think this is it? Yeah, this is…” She squints at the binder in her hand. “Okay, yeah!”

She hands over the impressively large binder to Steve and Eddie, who each hold one side so that it'll stay open and Robin can read her sheet music. Robin raises her trumpet to her lips. She pauses.

“Just remember, this is, like, totally unofficial, and I'm only playing one part, so it—”

Mike groans. “Oh my god, just play it.”

Nancy flicks his ear. He bats her hand away.

Robin waves Nancy off just before she delivers what looks like a devastating smack to the back of Mike's head. “No, he's—yeah, I'm gonna play it.”

She raises her trumpet, takes a deep breath, and then Lucas is hearing an incredibly loud rendition of the Star Wars theme reverberating through Mike's basement. It's honestly, like, really impressive. When Robin finishes, Lucas claps and whistles, and Mike says, "Holy shit, that was awesome," and Dustin and Nancy cheer too, and Robin's bashful smile warms Lucas's chest.

“Just imagine it with, like, a bunch of other trumpets and trombones and a tuba and some other horns and I think there's, like, piano and synthesizer and maybe a timpani too, but I think it sounds okay just with the trumpet. I mean, nowhere near as good, but you can, like, recognize it, you know?”

Robin's concert continues. This was supposed to be a big group study session, but Lucas doesn't mind the delay. Steve doesn't even need to study, he's just here because he's Robin's ride, so he'd probably say something if it was a problem. She plays Fly Me To The Moon and a few others that Lucas vaguely recognizes. Eventually, Robin tires, packing the trumpet away and condemning them all to hell.

“This shit sucks,” Dustin mutters, flipping a flashcard back and forth without looking at it.

Mike sighs his agreement.

Lucas shrugs. “At least we're not Eddie.”

All three of them glance over to where Nancy and Robin have been drilling Eddie for the past hour, only to find that he's nowhere to be seen.

“Huh. Guess he had enough.” Mike sounds jealous.

“I'm gonna go to the bathroom,” Lucas says, “Do me a favor and kill me when I get back.”

“Kill yourself,” Mike says.

“Don't worry, I'll kill you,” Dustin says supportively, “I'm a real friend.”

“Thanks.”

Lucas leaps over the coffee table to avoid disturbing the pile of backpacks and textbooks on the floor. He takes the steps two at a time, enjoying the chance to stretch his legs after an afternoon of sitting on Mike's couch. When he gets to the bathroom, the door is closed, and he reaches for the handle but freezes when he hears a voice.

“...didn't mean it like that,” Eddie says.

Lucas puts his hand down, but he inches closer to the door, just shy of pressing his ear up against the wood.

“I know, I already said it's fine.” Steve sounds tired. 

“But it's clearly not because you're upset.”

“I'll get over it. You had a point.”

“Well, yeah, but I was being a total dick about it.”

“You know I don't mind a dick with… wait. Wait, I meant… uh, I'm used to your… shit.”

“You're used to getting dick from me? Or… uh, you don't mind a dick when it's mine?”

Steve snaps his fingers. “Yes! Yeah, those. Ugh, you're a genius.”

“No,” Eddie whines, “Don't be nice to me right now, I feel evil.”

“Ed, it's literally fine. You're right, it doesn't matter if I look perfect every time I walk outside.”

“But you do, that was my point, you don't need to worry about—”

“Eddie. Let it go. It's fine. I'm fine.”

“Can I just… Okay, I know this morning it seemed like I was just being an asshole because you were making us late with your hair stuff, but can I just explain what I meant to say?”

Steve sighs. “Yeah. Yeah, sure, go for it.”

“I just… I see you freaking out all the time about how you look, and what people think of you, and it's not that I think it's dumb, because I can understand wanting to feel confident and wanting people to accept you, but the thing is that you don't have to do that. You don't have to. You are the kindest, sexiest, most badass person I know, and that's not something you have to put on for other people, it's just who you are. So it drives me crazy to see you driving yourself crazy over who thinks you're a loser and who thinks you're a douchebag and all of that, because not only does it not matter at all what some random assholes think of you, but, like, when you're just yourself? When you're just being yourself, Steve, everyone falls in love with you, that's how I fell in love with you, and it breaks my fucking heart when you feel like you need to put on some kind of act or have perfect hair or whatever for people to like you, because you don't.”

Silence. Lucas waits, afraid that somehow they realized he was listening, but then Steve speaks, his voice thick with emotion.

“You love me?”

“Yeah,” Eddie breathes immediately. “Yeah, I hadn't mentioned?”

“Mm, no, no, I think I'd remember if you—”

“You sure? You forget things a lot, you know—”

“Oh, shut up, I love you.”

“Ardently?”

“If that means a whole lot.”

“More or less. Means passionately. It's, uh…” Lucas can hear the embarrassment in Eddie's voice. He doesn't think he's ever seen Eddie embarrassed before. “It's from Pride and Prejudice.”

Steve laughs. “God, I love you. Then yes, Eddie Munson, I love you ardently.”

“And I you, Steve Harrington,” Eddie says, with a tinge of that regality he uses for upper-crust NPCs, but it sounds sincere at the same time, nothing about it even remotely artificial. “I love and admire you ardently.”

Lucas backs away from the door. His head feels kinda… buzzy, as he walks to the upstairs bathroom. He shouldn't have been listening in. That was a private moment, seemingly an important one, but Lucas has terrible impulse control lately and he has that feeling again, that one like he's reaching up for something that's barely out of reach, his fingers brushing it when he jumps, but he just can't quite jump high enough to get his hand around it and bring it down to his level.

When he gets back downstairs after his overly long bathroom break, he says he's feeling sick and heads home early. Steve seems concerned, but even as he asks if Lucas needs anything, he has this air about him, like he'd float right off the ground if his shoes weren't weighing him down. It's been a long time since Lucas felt like that.

He goes home. He switches out his jeans for sweatpants. He lays in bed, he stares at the ceiling, and he wonders.

Steve has kind of been, like, the pinnacle of being a man to Lucas these past few years. He's cool. He's strong. He's brave. He always goes in first, always comes out last, always puts himself between the people he loves and the source of danger, and Lucas wants to be like that. He's always tried to be a good friend, to listen and empathize and help when he could, but once the world shifted and suddenly bullies weren't the biggest threat in everyone's lives, he was left reeling.

He can still remember fumbling with his wrist rocket, shooting rocks at the Demogorgon because there was nothing else he could do, and he remembers the dawning realization that he was going to fail, and that his friends were going to die, and that it was going to be because he wasn't strong enough.

Steve fought off the Demogorgon.

He had a bat, yeah, and a lot more height and muscle than Lucas, but still. He did it. And if he could do it, then maybe so could Lucas one day, if he just kept working out, kept practicing with his wrist rocket and watching The Karate Kid. In retrospect, Lucas's logic wasn't great, but he was in middle school, so whatever. He's gotten a lot smarter since then. The wrist rocket is more useful for distraction than outright combat, and karate moves aren't really that helpful in a fistfight.

Steve was just… always solid. He always bounced back. He could take the worst beating Lucas had ever seen and then get up and save the world, and he was always okay at the end of the day, always Steve underneath no matter how bloody and bruised he was on the outside.

Lucas has never been hurt like that, but he's still had nightmares for about four years now. They never really go away. They aren't constant, but every time he thinks maybe he's kicked it, they come right back and leave him panting, sweaty, trembling with the lamp on at three in the morning because he needs to have a light or else he won't know that something's coming. He worries about not being strong enough. He worries about not being enough in general.

According to Eddie, all this time, Steve's been worrying too. Worrying what people think of him. Trying to earn his keep and be what everyone else wants him to be. Showing up late sometimes not because he was too cool to care about being on time, but because he was trying to make sure he looked perfect before going out in public. Eddie wasn't just complimenting him out of the blue earlier for no reason, he was trying to reassure him, comfort him, because Steve Harrington has insecurities. It should have been common sense, but the knowledge hits him like a firework to the face, lighting everything up and leaving Lucas disoriented in its wake. What else has he been missing?

When Steve and Eddie started dating, they didn't, like, announce it or anything. They just didn't hide it, and eventually everyone got the memo, and Lucas is still deeply ashamed of the fact that he was one of the last to realize. It was less about the fact that Steve was dating a man and more about the fact that Steve was letting a man stroke his hair and put a leather jacket on his shoulders and call him dollface , like, seriously. Lucas thought it was a joke. In his defense, he thinks a lot of Eddie's little nicknames are jokes, but there's also something painfully earnest about them that he recognizes now, like each one is a little I love you , and it had been hard for Lucas to see Steve as somebody who wanted that, as someone who needed reassurance and affection and wanted to be treated with care.

Maybe Steve has nightmares too. Maybe even muscles and a nail bat aren't enough to keep the demons at bay. Maybe if Lucas stopped hiding the fact that he needs reassurance and affection and sometimes he wants to be treated with care, maybe if he talked to Max… But Max has had to deal with so much worse. It wouldn't be fair to just dump all of his issues on her, too.

God, she'd be mad if he said that out loud. Lucas can almost hear her voice, saying something like, don't decide for me what I can and can't handle , and he smiles, alone in his room staring up at the ceiling, because he's been a little bit of an idiot.

If even Ripley can need some support now and then, why can't he?

“You seem lighter.”

“Hm?”

Max nudges his leg with her own. “That thing you've been weird about all month. You figure it out?”

Nobody is paying attention to them, sitting on the floor in front of Mike's couch side by side. The others are all debating something to do with DnD, he thinks, but he hasn't really been paying attention. Max rented The Karate Kid, and the two of them have been focused on the movie while everyone else got distracted.

“I think so,” Lucas says, and takes a chance. He leans over, resting his head on Max's shoulder, and immediately her arm comes up to wrap around him.

“And you're not gonna dump me?”

Lucas sits up to look at Max incredulously. “What? Why would I dump you?”

She looks embarrassed. She leans in and lowers her voice. “Okay, don't be, like, offended, and this might make me sound stupid, but I noticed you've been looking at Steve and Eddie a lot lately.”

“Oh my god,” he mumbles, and Max laughs.

“So, you’re not…”

“No.”

“That’s good.” Her eyes widen a little bit as soon as the words leave her mouth. “Uh, I mean, that’s good for me as your girlfriend, not, like, in general. And I mean, obviously you could like guys and still like me, but, you know, you seemed really deep in thought, so…”

Lucas laughs. “Wait, so you thought I was, like, having a sexuality crisis, and you didn’t…”

“I didn’t want to push you on it,” she shrugs, “I figured you’d tell me when you were ready. But then you just seemed like you were getting more upset about it, and you were doing that thing where you pretend like you don’t have feelings—”

“What? I don’t—”

Max raises an eyebrow. “Yeah, you do.”

“...Maybe.” Lucas sighs. “I kind of was. But that wasn’t… it wasn’t about, like, guys. Trust me, I tried, and the closest I got to being into a dude was you.”

Max’s face scrunches up. “Me?”

“It’s… listen, I was going through a lot of hypotheticals!”

She giggles. “And one of them was me as a guy? Was I hot?”

Lucas shrugs. “Yeah, I wasn’t not into you.”

“High praise.”

“No, it was…” Lucas trails off, unsure of how to say it. He turns back to the TV and lowers his head to Max’s shoulder again. She lets him, wrapping her arm around him, and actually, how did Lucas ever think this would be wrong? It’s Max. It’s only Max.

“I wanted this,” he mumbles.

“This?”

He grabs her hand where it rests on his arm. “Yeah. You know, they always… like, I just wanted you to hold me.”

“Lucas,” Max says, her voice uncharacteristically tender.

“I’m not saying I wanna be all gross like them, but… I don’t know.”

“...Could I give you my jacket sometimes?”

“Oh my god, yes,” Lucas says, and Max laughs.

“You don’t even know how many times I’ve wanted to give you my coat because you never learn—”

“I learn!”

“No, you dress for fashion instead of function and then you freeze your ass off!”

Lucas laughs too, turning to bury his face in Max’s dark blue jacket, one of the ones she snagged from Steve, and she tugs him closer until he’s practically sitting in her lap. He feels light, like he might float away if she wasn’t holding on to him. But she is. She’s holding him, and she’s laughing, and none of their friends seem to have noticed anything different. It’s just Max, and Lucas, and they’re better than ever.

Lucas holds the door for Max, letting her enter Family Video ahead of him. Steve and Robin are at the counter, Robin gesturing wildly as usual. Steve raises a hand, waving as Lucas and Max approach. “Hey, nice jacket, Sinclair. Is that one mine?”

“It’s mine now,” Max says, wrapping an arm about Lucas’s waist and pulling him into her side. “He only wore a t-shirt even though it’s freezing out because he needed everyone to see his arms.”

He rests his arm over her shoulders. “I don’t need to bring a jacket, I have you.”

She rolls her eyes. “You know, one of these days I’m not gonna take pity on you and I’m gonna let you freeze to death.”

Lucas hadn’t even been cold when Max took off her jacket and wrapped it around his shoulders. She had just done it out of the blue, stepped back, grinned, and said he looked good.

Robin sighs. “Ugh, you two are adorable. See, Steve, this is what I’m talking about!”

“And I’m telling you, all you have to do is have a conversation like a grown-up!”

“But it’s scary,” Robin whines, leaning her forehead against Steve’s chest and groaning. He pats her head comfortingly.

“I know. Max, I got your stuff on hold right over there.” Steve nods at a small stack of tapes on the counter. “Already checked them out for you.”

“You had stuff on hold?”

Max had spontaneously decided she wanted to have a home movie night instead of going to the theater, and Lucas had assumed it was just because she didn’t feel like going out.

She pulls him over the counter, and Lucas sees all three Star Wars movies in a neat pile.

“Surprise!”

Max isn’t that into Star Wars. She likes watching horror movies on date night, and she hates sitting through more than one movie at a time, but here she is with three space operas and a tentative smile on her face, and Lucas can’t help it.

“I love you.”

Max raises her eyebrows before dissolving into laughter. “That’s it? This is the moment?”

“Yes, shut up!”

She does not shut up. Max continues laughing. “Really? Because I rented Star Wars?”

“Because you know me.” Lucas grins. “You love me.”

“Well, yeah,” Max says, like it’s the most obvious thing in the world. Like he’d said that the sky is blue or that El’s a superhero.

Lucas hears a high-pitched squeal, and he turns to find Steve with a hand clamped over Robin’s mouth. Her eyes are wide and excited.

“Go have your little date before she explodes,” he says, waving them off.

“Thanks, Steve.” Max takes the tapes and turns to the door. Lucas jogs ahead to open it for her.

As Lucas follows her outside, part of him feels like he might just float off the asphalt right into the clouds, but he doesn’t worry about it. There’s no need. Max is right there, and he’s wrapped in her jacket, and she’s taking his hand for the short walk from the store to their bikes. No, Lucas won’t float away.

Max will keep him tethered.