Summary: The Mind Flayer's possession of Will had lasting effects that no one could have foreseen. For better or for worse, he was irreversibly involved in all this, and sooner or later, he'd have to face that uncompromising truth. And if he had to leave the old, scared, fragile Will behind? Well, stranger things have happened. A Will-centric story about loyalty, perseverance, and wisdom. I am. With a new story. Yes, I know. What the hell am I thinking? But I've been binge watching Stranger Things, and once this idea popped into my head, I just couldn't resist. So here we are.

Disclaimer: I don't own Stranger Things.

Chapter 1: The Spy

"I'm sorry," Will stammered. "He made me do it."

His mom looked at him with horrified eyes, asking what he meant. Mike was the first to understand, and he ran off to try and warn Hopper.

It was too late though.

He had killed them. Those soldiers were dead because of him. Because he was too scared, too fragile. Too weak to resist as the Shadow Monster gripped his mind and body with its dark, icy tendrils and spoke through his mouth. Telling the others that Will knew its weakness, leading them to a plan that was doomed to fail by forcing words from his mouth as if it was the most natural thing in the world.

He'd been powerless to stop it. But that wasn't even the most terrifying thing. Even now, when its grip on him had slackened, Will knew the reprieve was only temporary. At any time it could take him back into its cold fingers and manipulate him as it saw fit. He was its pawn. A liability.

And Mike, always the reliable one, had caught onto it first. His best friend. He didn't know whether to be relieved or ashamed. He settled for both.

"We need to make Will sleep," Mike said, the urgency evident in his tone.

"What?" his mom asked, disbelieving.

"He's a spy. If he knows where we are, so does the Shadow Monster."

"He's lying!" The Shadow Monster shouted, instantly seizing control of Will again.

"He killed those soldiers. He'll kill us too!"

"He's lying!" The Shadow Monster continued to force the protests out from his throat, and even if Will could resist the words, he didn't know if he could bring himself to. He wanted it to be a lie. They were his friends! His family! He wouldn't do that to them! Ever!

But he knew it was the truth. He'd been helpless before a single Demogorgon, forced to run and hide and wait for rescue. And now he was being possessed by its master, and he was supposed to stay strong? To be Will the Wise?

He couldn't even spy correctly! Mike had entrusted him with one mission: to gain intel on the otherworldly being that was terrorizing him and everyone he cared about. He'd accepted, thinking that he could finally be good for something after worrying everyone the previous year. But reality was unforgiving. He couldn't even do that right. He'd let Mike down.

As the Shadow Monster continued shouting denials from his mouth, his mom finally saw through its act, and sedated him. Will felt immense relief as his eyes fluttered closed and his word went dark.

He awoke to a horrible smell. His head snapped up, eyes wide, and he looked around. He saw Mike, his mom, Jonathan, and Hopper. A bright light was shining in his eyes. It didn't take him long to realize he was tied to a chair.

"What? What is this? Why am I tied up?" he asked. As his mom assured him that they just wanted to talk, his mouth opened without his input.

"Where am I!?" It was the Shadow Monster speaking now. Will prayed they wouldn't answer. It was a good thing that he himself didn't know either. Then he realized that was probably their plan. Smart.

Hopper pulled out the sketch he'd drawn of it, asking if he recognized it, and he felt as it shook his head.

Will felt confused. Why was the Shadow Monster being so...unconvincing now? Everyone in the room knew that Will drew that picture. Who did it think it was fooling? If it wanted to keep the act up, why didn't it just admit to recognizing the sketch? It was almost as if...

Will would have gasped at the sudden realization, had the Shadow Monster let him.

It doesn't have access to my memories.

It explained so much. Why it had only answered some of the questions they had asked it. At the time, his mom and the doctors had thought it was just a case of amnesia. But Will knew better. That had been the Shadow Monster speaking, not Will, and the Shadow Monster couldn't answer all their questions because it didn't know everything about him.

A well of hope surged within him as his mind connected the dots. Even if it couldn't access his memories, it would still be able to pull of a better act than this if it could access his surface thoughts. Which meant it couldn't do that either.

The possession wasn't as complete as he'd thought. All it had, at least right now, were his senses. And if his senses weren't enough to tell it what it needed to know...then it would be in the dark.

A plan started to form in Will's mind. He could get a message across. He knew he could. But not right this second. Right now, he couldn't even move unless the Shadow Monster willed it.

His mom sat down across from him. "Do you know what March 22nd is?" she asked, and he listened, trying to think of a way to swing things to their advantage. "It's your birthday," she continued, and as she began to tell the story of the rainbow ship he drew when he was eight, he felt the Shadow Monster's grip recede from him. Will's heart pounded in his chest. Perhaps it thought that letting Will interact with his mom would lower her suspicions. Perhaps it was confident that it could seize control again should he begin to say anything it didn't want him to.

But it had just made a huge mistake.

It thought he was weak? Helpless? Scared? He'd prove it wrong.

As Jonathan and Mike both shared their stories, following his mom's lead, he racked his brain for a way to convey his message. He couldn't just say it outright. The Shadow Monster would stop him. But what if there was another way? A method of communication that for all its ancient, otherworldly knowledge, the Shadow Monster wasn't familiar with?

"I saw you on the swings, and you were alone too," Mike said, relaying his story of how they met. "You were just swinging by yourself. And I just walked up to you and...I asked. I asked if you wanted to be my friend, said yes. It was the best thing I've ever done."

Tears rolled down his cheeks. It's not just you, Mike. I don't know what I'd have done if we didn't meet that day.

And he didn't know what he'd do if he continued to be unworthy of his best friend's faith. Mike would get his spy. He'd make sure of it.

As his mom begged him to talk to them, he gained control of his trembling. He had to be strong. He would be strong.

"Let me go," he said again, this time of his own accord. He saw the disappointment and resignation on their faces, but it was necessary. It would throw the Shadow Monster off, divert its attention, make it wonder why Will was doing its job for it now. Let it wonder.

He began rapidly tapping the side of the chair with his fingers. The action, to the untrained eye, was meaningless, easily confusable with the nervous fidgeting of a child with trauma.

He felt triumph flood through him as Hopper's eyes snapped toward his fingers, a sharp, knowing gleam in them.

To a human who knew morse code, it was so much more.

And so it began. Everyone started sharing their stories, and Will listened, tapping his fingers against the chair, slowly but surely sending his message. As far as he knew, it was none the wiser.

Finally, he spelled out the words fully. C-L-O-S-E G-A-T-E.

He could only hope they'd understand.

Then a phone rang, and Will's head snapped towards the source, because he recognized that ringing—

And that was his mistake. It must have realized from his reaction that the sound meant something to him, and suddenly he felt a searing headache accompanied by a familiar, bone-deep chill. It was trying to dig deeper, to penetrate his thoughts.

He wouldn't let it! He emptied his mind, thinking of anything other than what that ring meant. Maybe if he didn't think about it, the Shadow Monster wouldn't find out.

But in telling himself not to think about it, he had thought about it. And now he was sure, beyond all doubt, that it knew.

He was helpless even to warn them, because it had seized control of him again. Luckily, they caught on, and his mom sedated him.

His last thought as he drifted into the darkness was that he had failed.