Do You Have Anything Stronger? - theauthoress_herself (2023)

Eddie regarded Chrissy with something a little like fear in his eyes, as soon as the question came out of her mouth.

"Do you have anything, maybe...stronger?"

He lifted his head, his eyes widening a bit, and stared at her across the picnic table. This table had served him well over the years. It was a great spot to sell weed, to smoke weed, to sit and stare and get his thoughts in order. Sometimes, on really weird days, Eddie played guitar there, or screamed into the void, or drafted really complex campaigns for Hellfire. Of course, Eddie made it a point to tell people not to come there without reason. He loved his little spot in the woods, even if the interactions he had there were frowned upon by the general population of Hawkins. He really didn't want to have to find somewhere else, if only because Hawkins was stiflingly small.

So at first, when Chrissy asked if he had anything stronger, Eddie felt a flash of fear, had a brief idea that he could make her one of his regulars, then realized perhaps she wasn't okay.

"Do you want something stronger?" The question sounded stupid coming out of his mouth. That was what she had asked for, and clearly she was committed. Most of the populars who asked for drugs never followed through on coming to the meeting spot, but here she was.

"I-" Chrissy hesitated.

"I'm not gonna lie Chrissy; I don't think you can handle the stronger stuff." Eddie himself stayed away from most of it, self-aware enough to realize he would never be a great guitarist, or game developer, or writer if he was high out of his mind all the time, or dead at 27, both of which were possible outcomes when dabbling with anything more than the occasional (like, once a year) indulgence in shrooms.

"I'm not really sure I could even handle this." She made a small, self-deprecating laugh, then moved to get up from the bench.

"Leaving? Already?" Eddie's voice was light, but his eyes scrutinized her as she got up from the table, worried that she was backing out after having sat through their whole period of reminiscing about an easier time.

"I don't want to take up your time if I'm not gonna buy anything. I'm sure you're busy. Plus, I have to go get ready for the game."

Ah yes. The game. The one that Sinclair was choosing over the finale of the campaign tonight. The campaign they had been sweating and crying and shouting for joy at for most of the year. Eddie was proud of how far his small group of nerds had come, how well they had bonded as they took down Vecna. Catch him on an off day and he might even admit that he considered the little shits his friends. That didn't mean he'd give up the club to make sure one of them kicked ass in the championship basketball game. He wasn't that open to breaking stereotypes quite yet, even though he was army crawling his way toward a D in the only class he had left to pass to leave Hawkins behind forever.

The sound of crunching leaves startled him out of his reverie and he shot up from the table to catch up with Chrissy, who was already halfway back to the field.

"Chrissy! Chrissy, wait up!" he hollered as he sprinted, stopping when he reached her. She was staring again, just ahead on the path, that glassy look back in her eyes. He snapped his fingers in front of her face, and her eyes darted to look into his, a shiver running up her spine. "What if I gave you the half-ounce for free?"

"Why?" she scrunched her eyebrows together, looking up at him as he awkwardly stuck a hand on the back of his head, scratching at one part of the tangle of hair there.

"I think you want to talk about something, but I don't think you'll do it sober. And I'm not gonna sell you the hard stuff."

Chrissy looked down at her feet, moving the toe of her shoe to crush a small spider, exhaling softly when she saw that there were smeared bug guts on her shoe. "What about the game?"

"Do I look like the kind of guy who gives a shit about the championship game?"


The landline in the Munson trailer had been ringing non-stop for ten minutes when Eddie finally picked up. "Munson."

"Dude, where are you? Hellfire started like, an hour ago." Dustin's voice was a little shrill, but mainly accusatory. He had, after all, skipped the basketball game to go to Hellfire.

Eddie licked the paper of the joint he was currently rolling and stared at Chrissy, who was spacing out in front of the TV. "I got a little busy."

"But today is the finale! Plus we found a sub for Lucas, which was not easy at the last-"

"I'm gonna have to cut you off there, Henderson. I'm not coming, so you might as well go to the game. Unless Wheeler thinks he knows how the campaign ends." This pained him to say; he'd worked really hard on the ending, but he knew Mike was competent enough to handle the rest of the story. Eddie could hear muffled voices as Dustin explained this to the rest of the club. He pulled out his lighter and lit the end of the joint, taking a small drag to make sure it would hold.

"Fine." Dustin's voice was back on the line. "We'll go to the game, but we have to finish the campaign sometime this week. Gareth looks like he's gonna throw a fit if he doesn't find out how it ends."

"I'll figure a time out later. I gotta go." Eddie shoved the phone back onto its wall cradle before he could hear any more of the protests from his group of nerds, and moved across the room to drape himself on the other end of the couch. Chrissy turned to look at him, and he offered her the joint to her, hoping she would take it, if only to calm her down a tiny bit. Even though she was shaken about whatever had initially caused her to ask him for drugs, she was still the Queen of Hawkins High, and a straight-A student who had never skipped a cheerleading event on purpose before. If nothing else, that was making her feel like she was going to hyperventilate, and it had shown on the walk to Eddie's van, and the drive to his house. Of course, his driving skills didn't really help either. Chrissy wasn't sure how he had managed to get a license in the first place, to be completely honest.

"How do I, uh, do this?" she rolled the joint in between two of her fingers, staring at it like it was an alien object.

Eddie had half a mind to be sarcastic, but instead scooted a little closer. "Put the tip of the end that isn't lit in your mouth, suck a little to draw some smoke into your mouth,and since you're a first-timer, hold it there for a second. Then, inhale that into your lungs. Then you exhale. If you cough, that's okay."

"Just like, take one huge breath?" Chrissy looked up at him, absently tapping one of her other fingers against the joint, causing a bit of ash to fall on the carpet. Eddie stared for a beat, mesmerized by the way her fingers moved, before looking up at her with a small grin.

"Kind of, but not straight into your lungs. You’ve gotta hold the smoke in your mouth, and let it cool. It prevents coughing when you actually get to the inhaling part. But, don’t be afraid to breathe it in."

He watched as Chrissy tentatively put the joint to her lips, parting them delicately, then just, settling them around the paper tube. He watched her cheeks hollow out for a brief second, then let his eyes dip lower as she pulled the joint from her mouth. Her chest moved upward as she inhaled, pausing for a moment, then lowering again as she breathed out. He looked up in time to see a small plume of smoke leave her mouth, and applauded softly when she didn't cough.

"How was it?" he asked, taking the joint from her when she offered it back to him, tapping it gently with his fingers over the ashtray on the coffee table.

"Not awful? A bit more earthiness than I was expecting."

"Well, it is a plant. Do you want another drag?" he blew a smoke ring at the end of the question, just to show off a little of the skill he'd developed over the years.

"Maybe just one more." She snagged the joint from his fingers, inhaling a little deeper, a little longer this time, still not coughing at all. Eddie was impressed. Not many people could avoid coughing entirely their first time, if only because they got cocky at some point and decided they knew what they were doing. Not with Chrissy though. If he hadn't known it was her first time, the only way he could have guessed was how she held the joint. The little paper roll didn't sit naturally in her fingers the way it would if she had been smoking for months or years. Eddie was surprised when she took a third drag, this one the most perfect yet. He sat, mesmerized by her lips around the joint, the joint that he rolled, that his lips had been on too, moments ago.

Snagging it from her, not wanting the high to be overwhelming this first time, Eddie put it back in his mouth, letting it dangle on his lip, trying to see if he could taste the sparkly pink lip gloss Chrissy was sporting. Her eyes closed and she leaned back into the couch, taking breaths so deep Eddie thought she might have fallen asleep. He was about to reach out and poke her, when she spoke up.

"I saw something today. In the bathroom at school. Heard a voice."

Eddie froze, wondering how bad this was going to get.

"The thing is, the voice only said stuff that I had thought, or that I had memories of my mom saying. None of it was something anyone would know. And when I saw it, the thing that had the voice, it's feet weren't human. They were this writhing mass of burned-looking flesh, almost wormy?" she paused, scrunching her nose as the memory played out in her mind. Eddie watched it happen, felt like he could hear the gears moving in her head as she told him about it.

"They were more like rotting tree roots I guess, not worms. But it had grotesque toenails." She giggled softly. "I actually had a brief moment where I wondered if I had nail clippers in my bag, just so I could offer them up to whatever was tormenting me. Messed up huh?" She cracked one eye open and it landed on Eddie, who was listening raptly, trying to understand. Her eye closed again, and she opened her mouth to finish speaking.

"The thing is, as soon as it stopped talking, it disappeared, and when I got up to look, it was gone. And again, in the woods, I hallucinated a clock trapped in a tree, with spiders coming out of it. You'd have thought I was already high."

Eddie paused, thinking back to when he had found her, when he had startled her by the table. She'd been staring into space, but now that he really thought about it, she had been pretty focused on that one big tree. All at once the pieces clicked into place.

"That's why you asked for the strong stuff. To see if those hallucinations were the same, or worse, or if they'd be gone if you weren't all here. Right?" Eddie leaned in closer, just to make sure she knew that he was invested in the conversation, that he really did care about what had happened to her. That he hadn't just invited her here to get her to smoke weed and become one of his regulars.

"I guess I just wanted to get out of my own head? I figured I was creating all those images, especially if the one in the bathroom was just saying my thoughts out loud to me." She tilted her head toward him, searching his eyes for the understanding, the reassurance that those were valid feelings.

"Sounds pretty fucking scary. To not trust your own head."

"It is."

"You know, if it's any help, you can always come talk to me. I may be the school freak, but I have some experience. With not trusting my own mind, that is."

Chrissy smiled at him, then scooted over and put her head on his shoulder.

"I'd like that. It's nice to have someone who knows how you feel."

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