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Irreversible Change

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Hand resting on the wheel in a facade of calm so thin it was practically transparent, Billy clenched his jaw, ignoring the dull ache that still remained after Saturday night. Don Dokken sang out from the radio as loudly as Billy had previously learned was acceptable while idling outside the Hargrove house. Couldn’t risk aggravating Neil. Not again so soon and definitely not today. Not when he already felt stretched so thin he might break at any moment.

With an aggressive slam of the front door and a flash of red, Max threw open the Camaro door and dropped down into the seat. Time was, she’d show some damn respect and treat the car more carefully but that time was long gone. With another slam, the passenger door was sealed and Billy shifted into drive.

As Don finished his song, radio host Eddie Mayer chatted obnoxiously about some semi-related anecdote; all innuendo and smugness. Tutting to himself, Billy turned off the radio. It was too much today. Silence enveloped the car as Billy rounded the next corner. Sensing the red-head’s eyes on him, Billy stared straight ahead; he couldn’t do this today.

“Are you seriously not going to say anything?” Max finally broke, her voice more emotional than Billy had been expecting. Forcing a casual shrug, he kept his focus on the road.

“What do you want me to say?” he asked, hoping the feeling of the corners of his mouth dropping wasn’t visible. Christ. Even talking was tough today.

Something? Anything!” Max replied and Billy could see in his periphery that her arms were waving. “You were there too, Billy! How can you just go to school like nothing happened! Like we didn’t see-!”

It was melodramatic; screeching to a halt at the side of the road. Billy knew it but he did it anyway. Anything to shut her up. His satisfaction at silencing the twerp was, sadly, overshadowed by the horrible feeling of his seat belt crashing against his chest. Billy choked at the feeling, desperately hoping that the shitty bandage that he had wrapped around his ribs would be enough to stop his wounds from bleeding through. Max, for her part, gripped the seat and let out a yelp as if Billy didn’t do shit like that all the time anyway back when they first came to this God-forsaken place. Before all the shit from that last few weeks. Before that night at the Byers' place. Before.

“What the hell, Billy?!” she shouted, giving his arm a hard shove. Another thing that she wouldn’t have dared do before. Everything felt so foreign; so wrong. Knuckles whitening, he gripped the steering wheel with more focus, still not looking in his step-sister's direction.

Just, I don’t know, count to ten or something... The voice echoed in his mind and all the fight died inside him. Once again, he felt like he was coming apart at the seams. It was all too much. Body slumping in his seat, he shifted gears and turned back into the road.

Max stayed blessedly silent for the rest of their journey, sinking into her seat and out of Billy's field of vision. The rumble and roar of his Camaro seemed more hollow than before. The old feeling of freedom that it used to inspire was gone. Like everything else since Saturday night, it had turned to ash; nothing had the spark from before.

“Why are we..?” Max half-asked as they pulled up outside the address that the Billy of a few months ago would have had no business knowing. The question stalled in her mouth and Billy knew she’d clocked on.

“Just... go get him,” he breathed. It was strange; his voice didn’t sound right. It felt like someone else was speaking through him. Forcing this normalcy that felt so fucking inappropriate right now.

The door opened with less force than before and Max was walking up the path. Billy closed his eyes and slumped his head forward. He hadn’t slept; not on Saturday after everything and not last night when the silence just echoed with screams. Sniffing, he rubbed below his nose. Realistically, he wasn’t likely to sleep ever again after what he saw. Flashes of darkness, blackness and so much red danced behind his eyelids. Clenching his jaw tight enough to break teeth, he opened his eyes once again.

The passenger side door opened and two bodies piled into the back seats. Waiting for the tell-tale click of seat belts, Billy took off without a word to their new companion. Amazingly, given their new passenger's usual proclivity for filling lulls in conversation with inane observations and ‘interesting facts', the silence from before stayed with them. Billy glanced at the back in the rear view mirror and saw the change that had already taken hold of the teen. The laughter was gone from his eyes; he wore Saturday night on him in a way that Billy envied. With even the briefest of glances, you could see the agony of what had happened. Turning his attention back to the road, Billy controlled his expression. He couldn’t break now. Not yet.

By the time they arrived at Hawkins Middle School, Billy had made his peace with skipping. The very thought of those halls, those kids, everything, made his stomach turn. Doubtlessly, there’d be some kind of announcement. People who didn’t know shit about what happened would cry and have a fucking opinion and all the while he'd have to stand there and pretend that he didn’t know. Pretend that he wasn’t coming undone.

“Dustin...” Max’s voice was soft and coaxing. Billy stared straight ahead; he couldn’t look at the other boy again. He couldn’t break yet.

“I can’t do it Max,” the lispy boy said, his voice hoarse in a way that only the group would be able to understand. “I can’t just go to school.

“Hopper said-"

“Hopper said a lot of things!” Henderson snapped, his voice raw with emotion. “I can’t just go to school and pretend everything's ok! Not when... when...” his voice broke into a sob that felt like a knife in Billy's gut. Eyes on the tarmac, Billy waited while Max hushed the younger boy. He heard her shifting closer and Henderson breaking down into an agonised wail.

“Billy...” Max’s voice was a plea. He could hear that she was crying too. How he hated them both in that moment. They wore their pain so easily while he had to hide. Crying and snivelling wasn’t an option for him. Definitely not here and definitely not now.

“News won't be out yet. Gotta act normal,” he forced the Cheif's words out, hating the old man more with every syllable.

“That’s bullshit!” Max argued, slamming her hand down on the seat dramatically. “It literally happened on Saturday and we've gotta go to school?”

It was bullshit. That was why he was going to skip. Billy sighed and bit his tongue. Part of him felt for the kids. It really sucked but Neil didn’t give a shit what they saw over the weekend. Billy was the responsible big brother and he most definitely needed to prove that today, of all days. Max needed to be taken to school and that was just what he'd done. Henderson... he was just an extra responsibility for now. 

“Not my problem,” Billy finally huffed because, for all their shared trauma, it truly wasn’t. “Just get out and go to school.” He knew it was harsh. He knew it was bullshit. But he also knew that, if they stayed in his car crying and shit much longer, he’d fall apart. It was just too much.

“I hate you,” Max said, lashing out in a way that Billy could only sympathise with.

“Well hate me out there, not in here,”  he answered back, knowing that was just what she was going to do. If being the regular, old asshole Billy was what they needed to get through the day, then he could play the part. For now at the very least.

Drying her eyes with the sleeve of her shirt, Max forcefully shoved the door open and stormed out. Billy was certain he heard her call him an asshole the moment she was out but he couldn’t bring himself to even pretend to care. He was an asshole. That was the whole point.

Despite the red-head's fury, Henderson stayed where he was in the back seat even as she raged away. Billy exhaled long and deep, like he'd been holding his breath all this time. Even so, his lungs burned. It was as if this horrid air of sadness was going to suffocate both him and the curly-haired boy together.  

“You’re gunna go? You’re gunna go to school and pretend nothing happened?” Henderson’s voice was flat but Billy could hear the understanding there. He’d had his suspicions before but the way the younger boy spoke was so clear: he knew. Probably knew before Saturday but literally everything that Billy tried on Saturday would have violently confirmed it. He would have been pissed that anyone knew if he had the energy to feel anything but it just wasn't there. Unable or unwilling to lie, Billy wasn’t sure himself, he shook his head once and Henderson nodded. He shifted in his seat, moving closer to the door that Max had left hanging wide open.

“Don’t...” he started with a small sniffle. “Don’t do anything stupid.”

“What, like kill myself?” Billy snapped, his voice lacking the cruelty and harshness that he’d thought he’d wanted to show. Henderson flinched all the same, the small movement blindingly visible in the rear-view mirror that Billy had not been looking in.

“Yeah... that,” the curly-haired boy replied, his head hanging at the very thought.

“Think I’d have gotten up off the floor if I’d wanted to fucking die, man?” Billy tried to snap. Once again, his voice was so much less biting than he’d intended. Did he even believe that? Instinct had very much taken over and, in the rush and haze of screams, he’d somehow just ended up not dying. “Don’t worry about me, kid,” he added and now he almost sounded like he was comforting him. Scrunching his eyes closed as long as the red flashes would allow, Billy shook his head. He needed to get away. He needed to be alone.

Henderson nodded grimly, his mouth pulled into a thin line. His eyes were bloodshot, and there were dark circles beneath them, but he'd stopped crying for now. Billy knew it wouldn’t last long.

 “I’ll give you a lift home,” Billy forced the words out and Henderson nodded again. Responsibility. This kid was his responsibility now.

“See you around,” the younger boy spoke as if what Billy had said was a binding promise; as if they’d sealed some kind of pact. Despite everything, Billy could feel it too. Henderson nodded sadly and finally climbed out of the car.

Once the door was closed and Henderson was safely on the sidewalk, Billy shifted back into drive and pulled away from the middle school. Somewhere, Max was in a rage, hating his guts. Somewhere, the other nerds would be arriving too, all adhering to the Chief’s ruling like good kids. Somewhere, the Chief, himself, was doubtlessly meeting with whatever shady contacts he had been talking about over the phone. Billy couldn’t bring himself to care anymore. All the bullshit he’d got himself caught up in seemed meaningless now; he was so done.

Peeling away from the turning for the high school with a screech, Billy drove hard and fast. The hollow feeling from before was there but he ignored it. Driving wasn’t the escape. Not today. Probably never again. The escape was simply not being here. Driving as fast as the winding corners of Hawkins would allow, Billy fled.

Only when he’d passed the sign for the next town over -only when he was safely out of Hawkins- did he slow to find a secluded place. For once thankful that he was here and not California, he drove down narrow, winding roads hedged by trees.

He spotted a place to pull over and, leaving the Camaro behind, Billy trudged into the shady nowhere. Given what he knew could be lurking out here, he felt oddly calm, making his way over fallen logs, through dense branches and around the towering pines. Birds sang out in the relative gloom, totally unaware of everything that Billy had endured. He clenched his fists tight, ignoring the sting of his bruised knuckles. Only a few more steps and he could pretty much guarantee he'd be alone. Only a few more steps and he could break.

Coming up to a clearing, Billy could feel his heart hammer in his chest at the mere anticipation of release. His legs were suddenly sluggish and heavy and he had to stumble to the last, fallen tree that seemed to be made for him to sit on. Slumping onto the damp wood, he could feel the emotions building. His arms felt tense; every muscle within them coiled and ready to act. The tears, that he'd denied himself until now, finally brimmed in his eyes as his breaths quickened and became shallow. Once again the silence seemed to fill with screams; he knew he’d never forget the sound. Repeating in his mind, each scream was like a fresh agony, ripping through his whole being.

“Fuck...” he gasped, doubling over. Unspent tension burned his arms and he slammed his fists down on his thighs again and again. With each impact, more and more tears spilled over, painting his cheeks with small rivers of pain. His chest was hurting again but it didn’t matter; nothing mattered now.  “Fuck, fuck, fuck!!!” he cursed again and again, his thighs aching now. His hands came up to grasp at his own face and he curled inwards, a howl of pain seeming to echo through the trees as it wrenched its way out of him.

His eyes were scrunched closed now and the flashes of red were back. With each shot, he saw more. More memories from that night: the look of terror in those beautiful, dark eyes; skin tearing and blood pouring from wounds that his mind couldn’t make sense of; the boy he knew so fucking intimately being changed so violently and permanently. Billy cried out at the memory, his body practically convulsing from the tremors that now wracked him.

The denim of his jeans was sodden from the floods of salty tears that had forced their way from him. The front of his shirt was stained with blood that had seeped through his bandages. A total wreck, Billy cowered, broken and shaking at the memory of what Steve Harrington had become.

Chapter Text

The bruising on Harrington’s face faded quickly in the weeks following the night at the Byers' residence. Despite himself, Billy found the sight of him with his healthy, healed skin a little more than sickening. Especially since the fractured wrist he'd received that night took significantly longer to heal. Had it been his dominant hand, he’d have full-on taken offense over the matter. As it was, he simply found himself glaring in the brunette’s direction whenever they were anywhere near each other.

Tommy H had commented on it more than once. At first, he saw it as a source of fun, egging Billy on whenever the other boy crossed him in practise. Now, almost a month down the line, he simply stopped talking, waiting patiently for Billy's attention to refocus. Billy was aware of this but he just couldn’t bring himself to care. It didn’t seem fair that Harrington could shack up with a thirteen year old girl in some random perv's house in the middle of the night and only get away with a few cuts and bruises while he got his wrist snapped for his step-sister missing curfew. But, then again, life never was fair, was it? The Steve Harringtons of the world would always get away with murder while the Billy Hargroves could just eat shit.

Just thinking about it made Billy’s blood boil with impotent rage. It killed him a little bit that he couldn't just act but Max and her bat had been very clear that night: leave her friends alone. While he still wasn't certain if Harrington counted as one of her friends, he wasn’t too keen to push his luck. The look on Max’s face that night had meant business and Billy wasn’t too keen on the idea of getting his nuts smashed in with a nail bat.

A locker slamming next to him caused Billy to jerk back into the present. Harrington had long moved on and Tommy was spewing some shit about the party Sadie Higgins was throwing next week.

“-and Sadie and Carol still have beef or whatever so we're thinking of having our own thing?” he finished explaining, for once not seeming to notice Billy’s drifting attention.

“What kind of thing?” Billy hummed, not caring how disinterested he sounded. Tommy was a big boy; he had to know how replaceable he was. That he was simply a convenient loud mouth there only to back up anything Billy had to say. A devilish smile spread over the dark-haired boy's face as he leaned against the lockers. He waggled his eyebrows in a way that made Billy roll his eyes.

“Carol's cousin sold her some wicked weed. We were thinking of hitting the quarry with some beers and that shit,” he said, shit-eating grin spreading all over his face.

“And you want me to go and watch the two of you grinding on each other when I could be scoring at an actual party?” Billy countered, almost certain that the other teen had some kind of plan.

“Hey man, you know I’ve got you covered. Carol’s cousin’s coming too. She’s in college and is super fine,” he winked and Billy smiled widely.

“Oh yeah?” he grinned, showing the expected level of interest.

“Yeah, man. So you in?” Tommy asked, his voice showing how he thought it was a done deal.

-----

It was already dark by the time Billy hit the road. By some insane stroke of luck, this was the weekend that Neil and Susan were going away for their ‘mini-break' so the fact that Max was nowhere to be seen after school didn’t land him in the shit. Drumming on the steering wheel along with Metallica, Billy couldn’t help but clench his jaw. The promise of beer and weed at the quarry was a good pull but Carol's cousin was another story.

Billy tried to picture Carol. After nearly six months in the shit-hole known as Hawkins, he’d have thought he’d actually remember her face. Shaking his head, he knew it was pointless. Cousins didn’t often look too much alike anyway. He’d have to wait and see what this chick looked like.

Rounding a corner, Billy smirked at the road layout ahead of him. The small rise promised him a little air and the anticipation thrummed through his veins. Pressing the accelerator to the floor, he gripped the wheel and the Camaro roared joyfully. His gut twisted pleasantly as the car soared over the bump.

“Yeah!” he whooped, hyping himself up for a night of bullshit. At least he could enjoy the ride there.

The road stretched out before him. It wasn’t far now and Billy felt himself easing off the pedal just a little. Tommy and Carol were annoying at the best of times but, when they were drunk, they were the wrong side of insufferable. Dread started to pool in his stomach and he now wondered why he didn't just refuse the freckled boy. No matter how much he kidded himself, the hotness of Carol's cousin didn’t really fucking matter. Tommy and Carol were morons and Carol’s cousin was a chick. ‘Wicked weed’ aside, tonight was going to be a total bust.

He’d half-convinced himself to turn back and just enjoy the rare, but oh so beautiful, silence of the Hargrove house, when he spotted movement about 50 yards up the road. The figure looked to be human and it was running, like a bat out of hell, headlong into the middle of the road. Hitting the breaks, the Camaro screeched to a halt in front of Nancy Wheeler.

Stunned into silence, Billy stared at the frail-looking girl. Her eyes were wide and panicked like a hunted animal and she was covered from head to toe in bright red blood. Whether it was hers or someone else’s, that was unclear. What Billy could tell was that she was definitely injured. She was clutching at her left arm which hung limp at her side. Her forehead also had a nasty gash on it and Billy knew at least some of the blood on her face was from that.

“Jonathan!” she screamed, wide eyes turning back to where she’d burst out of the trees. “Jonathan!!” she cried louder this time, raw desperation clear in her voice.

As if he was on auto-pilot, Billy felt himself jumping out of the Camaro and rushing to the bleeding girl. His legs carried him closer and his arms opened to hold her. What even was that? She flinched away when he reached out for her so he halted immediately.

“Wheeler, what the fuck-?” he tried to ask but suddenly Jonathan Byers was crashing out onto the road and Wheeler was running to him. He, unlike the small girl in front of him, looked mostly intact.

“Jonathan!” she gasped, losing her footing and letting the panting boy catch her. Taking it in his stride, he bent down and lifted her fully into her arms.

“We’ve gotta move!” he gasped as he started forward again but then suddenly stopped. Only now did his eyes come up to land on Billy who stood there feeling like he’d stepped into something big.

“Do either of you wanna explain what the hell’s going on?” he growled, putting his hands on his hips accusingly. Byers looked ready to answer but then there was a strange, howling noise from the trees. The very sound of it made Billy’s whole body turn cold; like someone was walking over his grave. It was like the sound of a dying animal but at the same time filled Billy with dread.

“W-we’ve got to get out of here!” Byers shouted, heading over to the passenger side door with out so much as a please or thank you.

Billy stood a moment longer, looking into the dark woods as Byers manoeuvred himself and the now seemingly-unconscious Wheeler into the back seat of his car.

“Hargrove!!” he shouted but it wasn’t that that got Billy moving. The howl rang out again and this time it sounded so much closer. Racing back to the driver's side, Billy threw himself inside and slammed the door shut.

“So we’re going to the hospital or-?”

“Just drive!” Byers interrupted, his head jerking up and staring in open-mouth horror at the side of the road. Billy followed his gaze and let out a sound of total shock and confusion. There was some thing standing at the side of the road. It was fucked up looking; its skin was rippling and shining wet in the lights of the Camaro. From the way it stood, it could have been anything from a particularly slim bear to a mangled person.

“The fuck is that?!” Billy yelled as it half-staggered, half-crawled towards them. Whatever it was, however fucked-up and damaged it looked, it felt like it wanted to hurt them. Wheeler’s wounds fresh in Billy’s mind, he knew that he was probably right.

“Drive!!” the other boy cried out again and Billy shifted into reverse without argument. The Camaro let out another shriek as she pulled back away from the thing which was now straightening up to the height of a particularly tall adult in the middle of the road. Billy forced himself to look away, turning on instinct, to look behind the car.

There was another howl from the thing and then a strange whistling sound. A cracking of glass was the only warning Billy had before he felt like he was being slammed back against the seat.  Eyes closed, he felt his head rock back against the headrest from the impact. Had they crashed? How?

Blinking wildly, he looked over and there was something long and spear-like sticking through his right shoulder, pinning him to his chair. With a cry of pain, he looked up to see a small hole in the windscreen where the damn thing had come through.

“Ha-Hargrove?” Byers stammered as Billy wasted a few precious seconds simply wincing at the agony of his own impalement. This was short-lived though as, when the creature let out another horrific cry, Billy manned-up and spun the wheel so that the car did a screeching 180.

“Fuck-!” he hissed as he shifted into forward drive and floored it for the second time that night. His shoulder cried out as he moved it but there wasn’t much he could do. If it was between hurting his shoulder a little or letting that thing catch them, Billy knew which he’d be choosing. With a roar, which now sounded puny next to that creature, the Camaro launched in the opposite direction, leaving the creature and the Quarry in its dust.

As the road straightened out, Billy let the hand of his injured arm drop. The pain was searing and so unlike anything he’d felt before. He thought back to the time he had cracked a rib. Somehow this felt worse; like the wound was on fire but freezing at the same time. Was the stupid spear covered in poison or some shit? He dared to glance at the thing and shuddered inside himself. It looked moist and somehow alive even though it was totally still.

“Byers...” he started, not really knowing what question to ask first. What the hell was that thing? What happened to Wheeler? Was this spear thing all the way through the seat as well as his fucking shoulder? Reading his mind, Byers offered an answer:

“I- I can see the other end,” he stammered, his voice having lost the volume from before. Billy gripped the wheel tighter with his good hand. Shit. That wasn’t good.

“Right. How do I get to the hospital?” he asked because, for all the times he’d got himself beat in this fucking place, he’d never actually been there. Not even with the worst fracture. Like hell Neil would be letting a professional look at his own handiwork.

“No!” Byers cried out, the fight suddenly in his voice again. “We ca-can’t go to the hospital!” he urged and Billy shook his head.

“Fuck off, Byers! I’m currently attached to my car and Wheeler looks like friggin' Carrie or something. We’ve gotta-"

“W-We’ll go to my place! Hopper will be back soon and he’ll know what to do! He could call his contacts, get us some real help!” Byers cut across him, his voice desperate and pleading. Billy wasn't certain who this Hopper or his contacts were but it all sounded shady as shit.

“Byers-"

“Just- just take the next left!” the other boy interrupted him again and Billy could feel his heckles rising. “Please! They won't be able to help. Not there!” he added, his voice almost apologetic as if he knew he'd overstepped somehow.

Billy glanced back at him in the rear-view mirror. Normally, Byers barely dared to look in his direction at school. Whenever he was creeping around near Harrington, he’d have his shoulders hunched up and his eyes pointed down. He always looked like something that didn’t quite fit in the skin it had itself in. Right now, however, he was full of adrenaline; bolder than anyone at school, Billy included, would think possible. His usually downward-facing eyes were meeting Billy’s in the mirror; the urgency if his words resounding through the car.

Rolling his eyes, Billy mutely took the left turning. He had a good memory for directions and knew how to get to this kid's house. Byers seemed to sag into his seat, his eyes casting downwards again as if they couldn’t leave their default position for long.

The journey to the Byers' place felt agonisingly long. All the way, Billy’s shoulder throbbed and burned and occasionally he’d let out a grunt of pain when he moved too much. Part of him wondered what the hell Byers planned to do when they got to his place; how on earth he planned to get Billy out of this fucking car. As much as the Camaro was his source of pride and relief in this Podunk town, he didn’t fancy the idea of being permanently attached to the fucking thing.

As they pulled up the drive, Billy felt something drip onto his thigh. He looked down and saw what looked like spit. Eyes refocusing on the spear in his shoulder, he could see that it was practically oozing now. Hissing through his teeth as he pulled up the handbrake, he looked away. It looked horribly like his poison theory was correct. Not good.

Before either of them could make a move, the door to the house was flung open. Billy watched as Max, Sinclair and two other kids spilled out of the door. Max froze when her eyes landed on the Camaro but the others surged towards it, helping Byers to open the door.

“Where’s Mike?’

“Did you see it?”

“Oh my God, Nancy!!”  they all spoke at once. Billy closed his eyes and reached to shut off the engine. His shoulder held fast and he groaned in pain.

“Guys, give me some space,” Byers was lifting Wheeler from the car as the tweens stepped back away from him.

“Nancy?” a familiar voice called out from the house. Billy looked up to see Steve fucking Harrington racing down towards them. “Oh God, Jonathan what happened?” he blustered, arms raising as if he wanted to take the girl from Byers but then just hanging there lamely when it became clear that that wasn’t happening.

“Shit- Billy!” Max’s voice caused Billy to turn to the driver’s side window. The little red-head's eyes were wide and fixed on his shoulder, her mouth hanging open in horror.

“Fancy seeing you here again, Maxine,” Billy tried to sound casual, leaning back into the seat in a way that actually kind of soothed his shoulder. As if that was all it took, her expression hardened.

“You stuck?” she asked, nodding towards his shoulder. Tough girl. Billy smirked.

“It kinda looks that way, doesn’t it?” he grimaced, hoping that he could pass it off as a confident grin instead. His body felt a little shaky now and he was sure that he was sweating. Max rolled her eyes as if this wasn’t the big deal that her initial reaction had suggested.

“Guys! Come help me!” she shouted, pulling open the door without any further warning. Billy frowned but unclipped his seatbelt. Bravado aside, he did want to get out of this mess.

Harrington was suddenly behind Max and he ran his hands through his hair in a stressed manner.

“Shit, Hargrove,” he muttered more to himself than to Billy and Billy couldn’t help but smirk again.

Before he could make a quip in the same vein as Harrington’s ‘Don’t cream your pants’ from that night in November, he heard a lispy voice near his ear.

“Gnarly,” the voice spoke and Billy suddenly felt a horrible tugging feeling at his shoulder.

“Fuck!” he yelled, rounding on the toothless kid who leapt back away. Apparently, he’d thought it was a good idea to touch the damn spear like it was some fucking plaything. “What the fuck?!” he hissed, reaching up to soothe the wound with his good hand. Harrington leaned into to the open door, his dark eyes fixing on his shoulder.

“That’s... not good,” he hummed, tilting his head as if that would reveal anything new about the whole fucked up mess. Billy rolled his eyes.

“No shit, Harrington,” he growled, feeling supremely uncomfortable being so vulnerable in front of this guy. How the fuck did he keep getting into these shitty positions right here at the Byers’ place? First the needle of tranquilizers and now a fucking spear full of poison? “Urgh! This is fucked up!” he said, hitting his head back on the headrest. Harrington leaned around to look through the back window and made a hissing noise.

“Yeah, it is,” he agreed and Billy couldn’t hold back another eye-roll.

“We gunna do something about it or shall I just make my peace with living in this car for the rest of my life?” Billy snipped, not wanting to sound as desperate as he was starting to feel. His heart was slamming in his chest and he wasn’t sure whether it was due to the situation or something more sinister like the fucking poison.

“Dustin, get out of the car. I’m gunna have to get at it from round there,” Harrington surmised, straightening up and moving around the Camaro with a sudden look of focus.  All of a sudden, he almost looked worthy of the old title “King Steve”. Almost.

Awkwardly crawling into the passenger's side, he looked decidedly less king-like. His long body folded strangely and he hit his head on the roof once before he settled next to Billy.

“You alright there, Harrington?” Billy forced himself to grin and now it was the other boy’s turn to roll his eyes.

“I know it’s hard but try not to be an asshole right now,” Harrington huffed, moving closer to look at where the spear connected Billy to his seat. “I think I’ve just gotta pull it out,” the brunette offered, sympathy glinting in his dark eyes despite everything that had happened between them. Billy snorted.

“Not sure how that's gunna help the situation, Champ,” he sniggered and Steve blinked at him.

“What-? No! Jesus!” he stammered, his brows creasing with disgust. “Is this you not being an asshole?” he asked, visibly shaking himself off.

“Just about...” Billy replied, looking away as Harrington got back into position, gritting his teeth. As much as it had hurt on the way in, he had already come to the conclusion that it would hurt more on the way out. He reached out and gripped the steering wheel again, knuckles turning white. “Do it then, Harrington. I’m good,” he sighed, closing his eyes as if that would do a goddamn thing.

Harrington placed one hand flat onto his shoulder, the spear positioned between his finger and his thumb.

“Right...” the dark-eyed boy whispered to himself, reaching out and gripping onto the spear. Billy clenched his jaw, determined not to show how much pain even this slight shift this caused. Closing his eyes, Harrington pulled.

The pain was unspeakable. Billy cried out as the spear tugged and scraped. It twisted and it hurt and Billy couldn’t do anything to stop it. It hurt so fucking much but stubbornly stayed rooted in the thick leather of the backrest.

“Shit!” Harrington cursed as he readjusted his position. Billy looked over at the other boy, almost ready to ask him to stop, but then he was pulling again. This time he could feel it moving. Every muscle in his body tensed up and he howled as the burning feeling from the poison thrummed through his being.  

Harrington let go again, his face contorted into a frustrated scowl.

“Come on Harrington, fuck!” Billy couldn’t help but yell at the other boy. Sure, he was technically doing him a solid -releasing him from this nightmare- but did he have to have some many goes at it?

“Okay, okay!” Harrington stammered, running his hands through his hair in a way that told Billy he wasn’t thinking about the weird sticky secretion from the spear. “Dustin, get in the other side! We’ll have to pull it together,” he instructed as the curly-haired boy moved around to the driver’s side. He looked down at Billy who could do little else but glare up at him.

“Sorry man,” he said awkwardly as he leaned over him and grabbed onto the spear, causing it to shift some more. Billy groaned and shut his eyes tight. This fucking sucked.

“Right, together on three,” Harrington’s voice barley cut through the swirl of pain and general confusion. He felt the spear move again, presumably under added weight of the older boy's grip now, and heard Harrington exhale slowly. “One... Two... Three!” and with that, Billy felt the tug of the spear slowly being pulled from his body.

“Steve-!” the boy lisped anxiously.

“Holy shit-!” Sinclair whooped.

“Billy...” Max almost sounded worried but now everything was being drowned out by a ringing sound. Despite the burning pain, Billy felt himself relaxing into the black oblivion behind his eyelids. This was so fucked up.

Chapter Text

The muffled sounds of voices cut through the haze in Billy’s mind. He couldn’t make out the words, or even the specific voices of those speaking, but he could tell that it was more than one person. His whole body felt heavy, compressed almost. Eyes closed, he considered simply not waking. The world was dark and simple right now. All of his senses seemed lulled into a calmed bliss; all sleeping with him in the numb darkness. Though he couldn’t quite remember, he was faintly aware that something bad was happening; had happened. Better to sleep and let it all fall away. The long-lost feeling of a smile settled in the corner of his mouth as he simply was. No responsibilities. Nothing.

He relaxed in his darkened haze quite contentedly. Contented, that is, until his shoulder started to burn again. Hot this time. So hot. The smell of burning flesh shot into his suddenly all-too-awake nostrils. Eyes flashing open, Billy kicked and raged against the pain. Or at least he tried to. The weight on his body was now revealed to be Steve fucking Harrington sitting on his chest, knees pinning his arms down. There was more room for him to kick his legs, the weight there feeling unstable, and he did. Viciously.

“Shit! He’s awake!!” a cracking, pubescent voice came from above him and the weight on his legs seemed to double. Were those fucking kids holding him down? What the fuck was going on?

All the while, the fiery feeling in his shoulder was horrible. Billy didn’t even need to look to know that Harrington was burning him; burning his shoulder with something. Was this some kind of sick revenge? Hadn’t he just helped Wheeler out? He’d even done the wrong thing and not gone to the hospital just because fucking Byers told him not to! Tonight, he’d been playing the part of the Good Samaritan. He'd gotten himself practically stapled to his own car seat in the name of saving that skinny bitch! Was Harrington seriously the kind of guy to take advantage of him when he was unconscious?

He tried to struggle. Yeah, he was being held down but that didn’t mean he wouldn’t make it difficult for them. They could all suck it. He wasn’t going down without a fight.

“You about done, Steve?” one of the kids on his legs huffed. It sounded like Sinclair and it sounded like he was struggling to keep Billy down. Good. He hoped it hurt. He kicked with a little more vigour, hoping to land some kind of blow to that fucking kid's face.

“Almost!” Harrington shouted, his loud voice a little closer to Billy’s face than he felt comfortable with.

Finally looking up at the other teen's face, he could see the concentration in his dark eyes. Harrington was so focused on the shoulder that still radiated a blinding pain. In his hands was a dimly-glowing metal bar which he held directly onto the broken skin. Stomach lurching, Billy could see what looked like black smoke coming off where the skin touched the metal. What the fuck?! Did skin even do that? All at once, he could feel his strength waning -the burning combined with the weight of all those fuckers was almost too much- but Harrington was so close. Come closer, Billy willed him, just a little more.

Ushering up whatever strength he could, Billy gave one, violent buck, causing Harrington to curl downwards to keep his balance. Close enough, he smirked to himself as he surged forward and head-butted the other boy square in the nose. It made a satisfying crunching sound. Good. He hoped it broke.

“Fuck!” Harrington groaned, dropping the metal bar and clutching at his face.

“Steve!” the lisping voice from before squeaked from by Billy’s feet and Billy gave a harsh kick in that direction. There was a cry of shock and suddenly his leg was free. Feeling victorious, Billy tried to sit up a little, his shoulders lifting a few inches from the floor.

Harrington, seeming to forget about his bloody nose, grasped both shoulders and shoved him back down. Now that hurt. Billy howled at the squeeze on the freshly burned flesh. Holding him in place, Harrington leaned over him.

“Jesus, man! Calm down!!” he shouted, drops of blood falling from his nose and splattering on Billy’s cheeks. Adrenaline coursing through his veins, Billy laughed.

“Fuck you, Harrington!” he spat, enjoying the brief flicker of fear behind those dark eyes. He tried to kick out some more but whoever had been on his legs was back and holding him down again.

“Just calm down!” Harrington said again, his eyes intense as he continued to lean over him. Billy tried to buck up again but the other boy was too far away now, lesson fully learned.

“You actually fucking burn me and now you’re telling me to calm down? Fuck you!!” Billy bit back, his body weakening with every word. He could feel his muscles spasming in small shakes. He was probably going into shock. Fuck.

“We needed to, Hargrove! Just... calm down and we can talk!”

“I don’t have anything to say to you freaks, Harrington!” Billy snapped back through clattering teeth. Yep. Definitely going into shock. His stomach lurched again and all the heat seemed to leave his body at once.

All of a sudden, Harrington’s expression changed. His grip loosened on Billy’s shoulder and he sat back on his knees.

“Shit...” he breathed, wide eyes landing on Billy’s lips. From his face, it was so fucking clear: Billy didn't look good. It felt heavy as the two boys stared at each other; the moment was pregnant and weighted. Fear and frustration thrumming through him, Billy managed a cruel sneer, even though his teeth were definitely still chattering.

Like what you see, Harrington? the quip was ready and waiting behind his lips but Billy couldn’t say it. He couldn’t say much of anything. With another unpleasant lurch of his stomach, he turned his head to the side and puked.

“Oh shit!” Harrington gasped, pushing off Billy onto his feet and stepping backwards. The kids on his legs seemed to copy the action and Billy was able to roll onto his left side before he chucked up for a second time.

“Gross!” one of the kids yelped unhelpfully and Billy made a mental note to clobber him later. His whole body was shaking now and he could feel an unspeakable terror creeping up from deep in his gut. Why was he here - lying helpless on the Byers’ floor - again? He screwed his eyes up as his stomach lurched again.

“Oh God, Billy!” a soft voice came from overhead, followed by hurried footsteps. “I think he’s going into shock! Max, get a blanket!” Billy could feel gentle hands on his ankles, guiding them up so that his feet were resting on something soft. He let himself be moved, rolling – or actually flopping – onto his back once again. Why not at this point? Why fight anything these asshole want to do to him?

“Nancy, you’re-" a voice weak started to protest – Byers if Billy were to put money on it – but Wheeler interrupted him.

“Jonathan, get some water. Make sure there’s a bit of salt in it!” she instructed as the hands, which Billy assumed were hers, gently ran up and down his calves.

“Nancy...” that was Harrington, he sounded worried but Billy knew it would be for the waifish girl currently holding his legs rather than for him. As he’d just proved, Harrington didn’t give a shit about Billy getting hurt.

“Steve, get something to clean that up! You boys help him!” she continued to order them about even as Billy heard footsteps quickly approaching him again. A softer weight enveloped his body when, he assumed, Max threw a blanket over him. It helped. Just a little.

Billy wasn’t sure how long he was on the floor for. He was aware of Harrington cleaning up his puke and Wheeler continuing to caress his legs in a way that did actually make him feel a little calmer. Slowly, his body started to warm up and the shaking ebbed away. Even his shoulder seemed to be complaining less. Now that the fear-inspiring cold had stopped creeping over him, he was aware that his shirt had been pulled off his shoulders, presumably so that Harrington could assault him. He pushed down the anger at that thought. He and Harrington would have words just as soon as he didn’t feel quite so much like half a corpse.

After god knows how long, he’d opened his eyes and looked across at Wheeler. Her head was bandaged and her face bruised but she looked so much better than she had on the road. It was strange to see just how okay she was after all the drama. Her pretty eyes were cast down at him and she smiled a little when she noticed he was looking at her. That was new.

Billy couldn’t help but think of all the different expressions he’d seen in those blue eyes since the first time he’d come to the Byers’ house. At first, she’d simply glared, with all the hatred that someone like her could emulate, but that had quickly died away to looks of simple disapproval or even pity. Those expressions had wound him up more than the angry stares ever had. For all the shit he had to put up with, he wouldn't have anyone pity him; especially not the ex-girlfriend of some guy he beat the shit out of. No way.

Looking at her now, however, he could see the relief in her smile. It eased him in a way that made him feel uncomfortable at the same time. He didn’t really know this girl at all but the very fact that she was relieved probably meant that he was okay. His brows furrowed at the contrasting emotions and he tried to sit up onto his elbows.

“Billy...” Max. She was sitting to his right. He hadn’t noticed her plopping herself down through all the shaking and all the bullshit. She moved as if she was going to stop him and he frowned in her direction.  

“Get away from me, Maxine. I’m fucking fine!” he snarled, his voice a little hoarse. Wheeler shook her head softly and held out a glass of clear liquid.

“If you’re going to sit up, you’ll want to drink this,” she offered as Billy settled his weight onto his forearms. His right shoulder hurt but he was beginning to get used to it. He could handle it. Looking at the glass in front of him, Billy shook his head. As soft and sweet as she seemed, Wheeler was tight with Harrington and there was no way he was drinking some unknown liquid right now. It was just as likely to be poison as anything else at this point.

“No way,” he replied, ignoring the slight fuzz in his head, the weakness in his arms, the throb of his shoulder. “No way I’m drinking a goddamn thing in this mad house!” Without missing a beat, Wheeler brought the glass to her lips and drank what looked like a mouth full of the stuff. Her eyes scrunched closed at the taste but she swallowed easily enough.

“It's just salt water. It’ll help,” she said simply, holding the glass out again.

The wind removed from his sails, Billy wordlessly took the glass and sipped. Yep. Salt water. It wasn’t pleasant but seemed harmless enough for it to be worth risking it for the chance his body might start to feel normal again. He was pretty tired of feeling like shit tonight. It definitely felt like he should have stood Tommy and Carol up for real tonight. That's what they will have assumed he'd done anyway.

As he reached the bottom of the glass, Wheeler gently lowered his feet off her lap where they’d apparently been resting this whole time. She rose to her feet with all the grace of a ballerina and even held out her hand for the empty glass. Billy couldn’t bring himself to roll his eyes at the angel act she was putting on; it was kinda making things better. 

“Thanks Wheeler,” he sniffed, shrugging out of his shirt so that he could sit all the way up.

“Don’t thank me yet,” she smiled again, all soft and beautiful. “You’re going to drink another one of those so I can be sure you’re okay.” With that, she walked away, presumably to get more water.

“What are you doing here?” Max’s voice was accusing and had her usual undertones of hatred. Billy smirked. The slight worry from before was apparently reigned back in. He turned to face the little red head, making sure he was wearing an expression as unpleasant as her tone.

“I could ask you the same damn thing, Maxine,” he purred dangerously, living the clichéd villain role that she liked to see him in. It was easy to think of him as a monster; a monster with no excuses and no reasons. Yeah, that was so much easier than letting on just how much she truly screwed everything up back in California. How her big mouth fucked up everything. “Back in this fucked up house again, ay Max? Do I need to have another talk with Harrington?” he grinned but Max held still like she was facing down a lion.

“Do I need to go and get my bat?” she spat back and Billy didn't let her see the flinch.

“Give him a break, Max. He didn’t have to stop for me and Jonathan,” Wheeler soothed as she suddenly appeared on his other side. She knelt down and handed him another glass of water. He obediently took it and drank as she leant to look at his shoulder. “We'll have to wrap that up. I think it’s been cauterized thanks to Steve but I think we should give it a clean just in case,” she explained, leaning back to look at the other side.  

Billy was used to girls checking him out, in fact he welcomed it. He worked hard on his body and was usually quite happy for anyone to admire the fruits of his labour. Never hurt to have the chicks gossiping about him either. But this… this was different. Wheeler’s big baby-blues looked at him with pity and fear and he suddenly felt like he wasn’t going to be okay after all.

“Yeah... okay,” he grunted, once again losing his flow because of her. He thought back on how Tommy described ‘the old Steve Harrington’ and how ‘Princess Wheeler’ had changed him. It all seemed to make more sense now. She seemed to have an energy about her that bent men to her will; even men like him.

“Max, could you get the first aid kit? Jonathan left it in the bathroom,” she asked gently, fixing the tween with a soft look that Billy knew he’d be unable to refuse. Max nodded mutely and moved to obey. It was fascinating to see this chick’s power in action.

“Nance, you should rest,” Harrington’s voice came from behind them and Billy felt his whole body tense up. Bastard.

“Not right now Steve,” she hummed dismissively but Harrington wasn’t taking it.

“I mean it, Nancy. You got pretty banged up back there-”

“Steve, Mike’s still out there! You didn’t see that thing!” she snapped and her whole aura changed in an instant. Being up close, Billy could see the cracks in her calm mask: the fear and exhaustion that was only just beneath the surface. It hadn’t taken much to scrape it away. “I can’t just rest when I know my little brother is out there! Billy is hurt so I’m going to help him, okay?”

“Nancy-" that was Byers' voice. He sounded like a man trying to calm a wild animal, tentative and placating.

“I've got to do something so... Just- let me do this!” she gasped and Billy could see her crumbling, the angel was falling. A pang of guilt hit his gut and he rested a hand on her forearm.

“Wheeler, I’m good,” he said shortly and she turned, with tears in her eyes, to face him.

“But- you’re only here because of me-" she tried to argue but Billy shook his head.

“I’m good, Wheeler. You rest,” he repeated as Byers crossed over to kneel in front of her.

“C-come on Nancy,” he soothed, pausing a moment before reaching for her. As if all her strength had finally left her, she drooped forward into his arms and he lifted her up. Straightening up, the nervy boy carried her away and, almost immediately, Billy could feel her absence.

He suddenly felt exposed, like an animal in the middle of a highway, and forced himself up onto his feet. His head spun a little but that didn’t matter. Turning around, he was face to face with Harrington, the other boy once again looking like a spare part as Jonathan Byers, of all people, took charge.

“You gunna start something, then?” Harrington’s voice asked after a tense silence and Billy scoffed. Looking around at the room that had been behind him all along, Harrington had clearly been sitting right fucking there all the while; even when he and Max had had their little pow-wow.

“Later, Harrington,” he promised, making sure that the other boy felt the weight of it. “For now I just wanna know what the fuck is going on.” Harrington rolled his eyes and put his hands on his hips as if it didn’t just make him look like a passive-aggressive housewife. Billy smirked at the gesture; prissy, little asshole.

“That’s... gunna take some time...” the other boy admitted as Max came back down the corridor, first aid kit in her hands. She looked a little lost, eyes glancing between the two older boys as if unsure who she should give the box to.

Rolling his eyes and crossing the room on his, somewhat unsteady legs, Billy snatched the damn thing from her. Maintaining a perfect air of pissed off, he stomped over to the couch and threw himself down. Digging through the kit, he dropped the bottle of hydrogen peroxide, some bandages and a dressing onto his lap. Jesus, the kit was brimming with stuff. It only made everything seem more sinister that they were that prepared for injury in this house.

He fumbled around for way too long before Harrington crossed over and took the peroxide off him.

“Here- Let me do it,” the dark-eyed boy sighed, pouring some of the liquid onto a dressing and patting it onto the wound. Billy hissed at the sting but it really didn’t feel like much after the burn from before. Harrington’s brow furrowed but he continued to clean the bloody mess, reaching over to pat at the exit wound as well. That part was more tender and Billy barely contained the groan that scrambled up his throat. “Sorry,” the other boy muttered.

“Don’t be. This is nothing compared to that fucking metal bar,” Billy replied. Harrington looked a little puzzled, as if he’d apologised on instinct and hadn’t noticed, but he continued his work after a wasted second. “You wanna explain yourself? A little trip to the hospital would be better than some home cauterisation, surely?” he pressed, leaning closer to the other boy in a way he knew would rile him up. Harrington’s buttons were pretty easy to push.

Sighing, the other boy leaned back and held the bloodied dressing uselessly.

“It’ll sound like bullshit,” he admitted, opting for tossing the dressing at the side table. Unsurprisingly, given his basketball prowess, the damn thing flopped onto the surface without a hitch. “I’d have to explain everything for it to make sense.”

Not for the first time tonight, Billy felt like he’d stepped in something big. Torn between curious and generally pissed off, he simply stared Harrington out.

“This everything that you’ve gotta explain... does it cover whatever that fucking thing in the road was? Because, seriously Harrington, that thing was messed up,” he asked, a tremor of something running through him at the memory of it.

“It does,” a voice came from the corridor and Billy turned to see the tweens had all gathered there. The one with the bowl-cut glanced down at the floor in a way that reminded him instantly of Byers, like he couldn’t bear to have Billy’s eyes on him.

“Well? I’m listening...” Billy said, welcoming any answers that this mis-matched group could offer him.

Chapter Text

Billy looked incredulously at the room. Everyone, save Wheeler and the elder Byers, had moved into the lounge area as the explanation had gone on and on; becoming more and more ridiculous with every word. The only reason Billy was inclined to believe even half of it was because of what he'd seen in the middle of the road. Even with that horrible image in his mind, he was struggling to deal. Government experiments, psychic little girls and portals to hell were a bit much. He was half way towards believing his own little explanation of it just being some fucked-up homeless person throwing random shit at the car. At least that way, the whole world wasn’t changing its rules.

He stood up and started to pace. All eyes were on him and, for once, he wasn't certain he liked it.

“You've gotta swear not to tell anyone! The government goons made us sign a load of stuff so we’d keep it secret,” the curly-haired twerp lisped at him and Billy rolled his eyes.

“Why the hell would I tell people this shit? I don’t fucking believe a word of it myself!” he snapped, rolling his shoulder absentmindedly and regretting it instantly. The dressing, that Harrington had somehow cobbled together, held up but he was certain it wouldn’t stay on much longer if he kept moving it.

“Jonathan said you saw the Remorhaz! You’ve gotta believe us!” the same boy shouted back, bolder than he had any business being.

“The Remo-what?” Billy spat, the word sounding utterly made up. Harrington waved off the curly-haired one, before he could burst into a full-blown nerd rant, and moved over to stand in front of Billy.

“They tend to name these things after monsters from their little game, man,” he said in a muted voice that the others clearly heard. There was a small cry of indignation but Harrington waved at them again. “The name doesn’t matter though. You saw one of those things, right? Well, there are more and-"

“I think we’d know if there was more than one Remorhaz! They’re not exactly subtle things!”

“Dustin knock it off! You know it’s not really a Remorhaz, right? Anyway, they have their warm bodies and anything from the Upside Down hates heat!” Sinclair shouted over his friend and the two glared at each other.

Billy and Harrington practically synchronised their eye roll as they turned their attention back each other. Billy tilted his head to one side, wanting to bring back the demanding, dominance that he was usually able to maintain so easily. Harrington looked unperturbed but that only wound Billy up tighter.

“So you burned me-?”

“- to drive anything out of you that might have wanted to possess you or something. They do hate the heat,” Harrington finished his sentence for him, his voice telling how ridiculous he knew it sounded. Billy snapped his mouth closed, irked at being interrupted even if it was helpful.

“Bullshit,” he said dismissively, not wanting to give thought to that possibility. The memory of that nasty, dark smoke rising out of his shoulder while Harrington burned him flashed up in his mind and he felt a little sick again. Before Harrington could argue, the skinniest kid stood up and tentatively approached them.

“They got me. Back before El closed the gate. The Mind Flayer got in my head and used me against everyone,” he explained, his voice timid and tinged with shame.

They all stood mute for a moment, the weight of that admission apparently sitting heavily on those who knew. Max, ray of sunshine that she was, was the one to break them all out of their reverie.

“Urgh! Just get your shirt back on and go home, Billy! We don’t need-" she started, all vitriol and hatred, but then car headlights lit up the room and everyone was staring at the window.

“They’re back!” the skinny one was gasping and suddenly all of the kids, Max thankfully included, were making a beeline for the door, practically crushing each other in their efforts to get out. Billy and Harrington stayed put, both simply staring at the open door. The sound of excited chattering drifted in and Harrington ran his hands through his hair.

“Max is right, man. You should probably split before you get dragged further into this mess,” he breathed, his tone almost wishful; as if that option had long since passed him by. Still feeling exposed, Billy moved over to retrieve his shirt, shrugging it on with a small huff. Harrington’s shoulders relaxed a little, clearly misreading the other boy’s actions.

“Don't get the wrong idea, Harrington. I’m not going anywhere until I know that thing is gunna get what's coming to it. Whatever you nerds are calling it, I need to know that it’s dead,” he corrected the other boy’s misconception with a sneer. He watched, with a small twinge of sadistic enjoyment, as Harrington’s shoulders tensed up again.

Before either of them could say any more, the kids piled back into the room headed by a bearded man wearing a police officer’s uniform. He looked stressed as he made his way straight past Billy and into the kitchen. A new kid trudged in behind them, the skinny kid looping an arm around his shoulder as they walked. Finally, a thin woman, with dark eyes and darker circles under them, came into the house, closing the door behind her and securing the padlocks. She looked just as skinny and wrung out as Byers and, from how she carried herself, Billy assumed she was his mom. Her tired eyes fell on him and she looked confused.

“Hello..?” she started, the slight stammer in that single word being all Billy needed to know he was right in thinking she was Byers' mom. Billy tried to force the smile, knowing he’d be a little off his game given how this evening had gone so far.

“You must be Jonathan's mum,” he smiled, moving closer to her and tilting his head in a way that he knew would usually make him look appealing. “I'm Billy Hargrove, Max’s brother. It’s nice to meet you.”

“Max's brother?” Mrs Byers looked confused for a moment but then her eyes flashed to Harrington and went cold. “I've heard about you,” she followed up, her voice completely changed.

“Did you now?” he asked, hoping he was wrong. He forced the smile that women, especially the desperate moms of Hawkins, tended respond so well to. This lady, however, seemed totally unmoved. If anything, her nose crinkled with the smallest hint of disgust. She stepped towards him, confident in a way that her small frae couldn’t back up.

“I’ve heard that you’re a bit of a monster,” she said flatly. Billy’s eyes went wide. Damn. From that reaction, he knew there was pretty much no chance of salvaging this. Clenching his fists with a mixture of frustration and shame, he looked away.

“Billy stumbled across Jonathan and Nancy out on the road near the quarry. They went out to look for Mike not long after you and ran into that Remorhaz thing,” Harrington explained, moving to stand next to Billy in a completely random show of unity. Both Billy and Mrs Byers looked at him in confusion but he just powered through. “He and Nancy got pretty banged up. Jonathan’s looking after Nancy in the bedroom and we’ve had to patch Billy up just now,” he continued and Billy found himself nodding along like some kind of simpleton.

The older woman’s eyes glanced at the Billy’s shoulder, his signature open-button look exposing the dressing that stood starkly white against his tanned skin.

“You saw it? That thing from Will’s dream?” she asked cautiously and it was all Billy could do to nod once more. Her voice was so strange: on the surface it was timid and unimposing but Billy was certain he could hear a hidden strength just beneath the surface. He looked up to meet her eye and saw it there too. This lady had been through some shit. Thinking back to when he first arrived in Hawkins, he could vaguely remember Tommy telling him that Byers' brother was a zombie boy; that he’d been declared dead but was somehow still wandering around the middle school. At the time, he’d simply rolled his eyes at hick-town urban legends but, perhaps, there was more to it after all.

“Yes, Mrs Byers. It looked like it had been chasing Nancy and Jonathan when I found them,” he explained, their first names feeling uncomfortable on his tongue. They weren’t his friends – far from it – and he was pretty sure that a quick dance with that demon thing together didn’t change that.

“And… you got hurt?”

“It shot some kind of spear at me. Went through my shoulder,” Billy shrugged, regretting the action with the throb of pain it provoked. Mrs Byers looked at the dressing, her dark eyes sad. There was the vaguest suggestion of something behind that look; as if she was reliving some kind of trauma all over again. Perhaps Billy was overthinking things.

“Steve, is there any chance he might-?”

“I don’t think so,” Harrington chimed in quickly. “We burned the wound straight away and some black smoke came out of it.”

“Black smoke…” the older woman nodded, never once looking away. “You don’t feel… strange at all?” she asked after another pause. They were all really antsy about demon possession. Billy thought about the thinnest boy – how he’d sounded when he’d talked about being possessed. Must have been some bad shit.

“Hurts like hell but I still feel like myself, Mrs Byers,” he replied with another ill-advised shrug.

“You can call me Joyce,” Mrs Byers finally said after a final lengthy pause. She sighed as if that would relieve some of the tension in the room and took a step closer. “And thank you – for helping them,” she added in a soft, mothering voice. A tremor of something washed over him at the intonation and Billy couldn’t stop his mind from going back to his own mom. Blonde curls, blue eyes, rouged lips. How would she sound in this situation? Probably very different. From that way Neil talked about her, Billy’s mom had definitely been softer than the woman in front of him now; too soft for this world if anything. Before he'd bulked up, before they'd left Cali, Neil had loved to tell him that he was too soft. Just like your mother. At least that much had changed.

For her part, Joyce forced a smile in Harrington’s direction before continuing over to the kitchen area. Harrington breathed out a deep sigh of relief and Billy turned back to face him, watching as he ran his hands through his hair for what felt like the hundredth time. Billy would have rolled his eyes at this nervous tick but a tuft of chocolatey hair stayed upright this time, giving the other boy a rather rooster-esque appearance.

“What?” Harrington asked, clearly noting the look of amusement that Billy couldn’t be arsed enough to hide.

“What was that about, Harrington? You jumping in, trying to make me look good for Joyce?” he sneered, trying to detract from the moment, even as the hair remained prominently erect.

“Don’t be a dick,” the other teen sighed again. “You did something not horrible for once. Thought she should know before she kicked you out.” He sounded done. Billy’s eyes trailed up to meet his and he could see the weariness there.

“You want me to hang around or something, Harrington?” he smirked, moving closer and invading the other boy’s personal space. Somehow, even though it hadn’t seemed possible moments earlier, Harrington’s shoulders tensed even more. His dark eyes fluttered between staring Billy out and glancing at his shoulder. This guy was all over the place. He fidgeted in place and, seeming to give in to his frustrations, he took a step back and threw his hands up in the air.

“Just- go if you wanna. I don’t care!”  he exclaimed and Billy couldn’t help but grin at just how quickly he’d wound him up. “You’re the one who wanted to stay and hear about that thing! No one asked you to!” he snapped and, like a prissy bitch, he stomped off in the same direction that Joyce had gone in, leaving Billy in the living room area.

He was alone in the Byers' lounge again. He could feel the frown growing on his brows as he remembered the previous time he’d found himself in this position. The groggy come round with a stinging feeling in his neck. The long, humiliating stagger home in the cold Indiana morning. Neil’s look of hatred as his hand held his wrist so tight that they both felt it crack. Nostrils flaring, he knew it was building up again; the dark rage that had become a part of him so easily this last year or so. He closed his eyes and tried to stay calm; tried to curb his mind away from the avenues that it usually travelled down in these moments. He couldn't afford to think of Cali right now. Couldn’t think back to blue eyes and tanned skin. Couldn’t think back to why he was standing here in this fucked up mess to begin with. If he did, he knew he’d break. He’d break and become the monster in this house again.

Fists clenching, Billy turned to glance back at the front door. He could, and most likely should, leave. The others seemed to have some kind of handle on whatever fucked up nonsense he’d stumbled into. They didn’t need him there and they definitely didn’t want him there. His mind travelled back to the creature in the road; it had been so unnatural. It’s skin was all scales, sweat and spines, like something out of a Stephen King novel. And that spear. His shoulder ached at the very thought. That thing had tried to take him out. He’d been through too much shit to be killed by some fucked up monster in fucking Hawkins Indiana of all places.

Pulse still hammering more than it should, Billy carried himself into the kitchen area. Everyone froze for a moment to stare at him; all holding position as if they knew how close he’d come to losing it. Harrington, who had been leaning up against the sink, straightened up, his expression a strange mix of concerned and intrigued. He was tempted to give him shit. The boiling anger under his skin wanted to spill out and engulf the dark-eyed boy but Billy resisted the urge. The two adults, who were standing behind the table facing him, both wore different shades of the same ‘don't even think it’ look. If he was going to stick around to hear what they were going to do about that thing, he would have to play nice. Gritting his teeth, he gave them a stiff nod, a silent promise to keep it together.

Once the initial silence had faded away, the group continued their conversation. It was as if they were all speaking in tongues. Billy could follow some of what they were talking about, particularly the stuff to do with him, Byers and Wheeler, but for the most part they were half referencing shit from last year and shit that had apparently been going on up to this point. Billy let it all wash over him. As much as he was motivated to find a way to hunt down and deal with that creature from the road, the ins and outs of whatever mystery Hawkins Lab was hiding this time didn’t really matter to him.

One of the kids, the one who had come in late with the Chief and Joyce, was getting pretty antsy, ranting and raving about someone called Elle, but Billy just moved to lean against the fridge. His eyes followed the speakers in the conversation for a while but soon he felt them drifting back to Harrington. The other boy was silent, his eyes fixed on the middle distance between himself and Billy. He looked like he was somewhere else and, for once, Billy could relate. He watched as a small crease formed over his forehead and his lower lip drew inside his mouth. Something was playing on Harrington’s mind. Interesting.

By the time the rest had reached a tense conclusion – by which both sets of Wheelers were staying to ‘wait for Elle’ and the others were going to be ferried back home by Harrington – Billy had fully checked out. No one had been stupid enough to suggest he take anyone but Max home so he was past caring. They all filed out into the starry night, Max skulking towards the Camaro with her arms crossed over her chest in the night's chill. Sinclair headed straight over to Harrington’s bimmer, sensibly opting not to look in her direction in front of Billy, and was followed by the lispy one.

“Harrington,” Billy spoke up as the other boy passed him.  His hands were tucked into the pockets of his Members Only jacket and his shoulders tensed up again at the sound of his voice. Billy smirked, relaxing into a slouched, confident stance as Harrington turned to face him.

“What now, Hargrove?” he sighed, sounding utterly done with it. Tonight he’s acted like Billy was more of an annoyance than anything. The respect was severely lacking. Billy swiped his tongue over his lower lip and grinned wolfishly.

“We’ve got shit to discuss,” he said, wanting all the menace and threat to be felt in his voice. Harrington looked a little confused, taking a half step to fully face Billy. He wasn’t planting his feet again; he wasn’t viewing him as a threat. Billy stepped closer to the other boy, his shoulders squaring up as if readying himself for a fight. Unconsciously for sure, Harrington’s posture changed: straightening up to his full height.

“We do?” he asked, his brows creasing just the slightest bit.

“Yeah. Those kids were talking a million miles a minute and didn’t make a lick of sense,” Billy replied, getting up in the taller boy's face. “You’re gunna clear some of this shit up for me.”

They stared each other out for a moment. Possibly too long. Billy had leaned in so close that he could hear Harrington breathing; short, controlled puffs that almost spoke of calm. He smiled broader, wanting to assert some kind of dominance against the wall of neutrality that Harrington had seemed to build himself up into. Tilting his head slightly, Billy licked his bottom lip again. Respect. Harrington needed to show him some respect. Especially seeing as how he beat him so soundly last time they were here together. Harrington stood firm, his dark eyes boring into Billy. Nothing there; no reaction. Billy’s brows furrowed; this wasn't right. If he wasn't going to respect him, Billy would at least make him react. His fists tightened up and his heartbeat soared as Harrington just stared and stared.

The horn from the BMW jerked Billy out of the anger haze he’d found himself slipping into. He turned his head to see Sinclair leaning from the back seat to press on the horn while the curly-haired one leaned out of the passenger side window.

“Get away from him, Jerk-Off! We'll get Hopper and he'll kill you if you try anything!!” he yelled, his voice sounding defiant but scared. This seemed, however, to be enough to break Harrington out of his haze too. Scoffing ever so slightly, he took a step backwards, hands raising in a mockery of a surrender.

“Whatever man,” he said, eyes rolling like Billy was the least important thing in the world. Billy full on frowned at that. His blood boiled. “You want me to explain shit to you again like some kind of retard? I can do that, I suppose.”

He took another step back but stumbled a little when Billy shoved his shoulders. It wasn’t a hard shove, by any means, but Harrington never learned to plant his feet. He did, however, move closer again once his footing was regained. His dark eyes danced with anger and his jaw was tight. Yes.

“Don’t you-" Billy started his warning but this time the horns from both the Bimmer and the Camaro sounded off, long and loud and decidedly unimpressed.

“Billy!” Max was shouting now. There was a warning in her tone that reminded him horribly of that spiked nail bat. The hairs rose on the back of his neck at the thought. He knew he could take her, that much was obvious, but, ever since she’d made the first threat against his junk, there had been an unspoken tension between the two of them. If he kicked Harrington’s perfect face in right now, he wouldn’t put it past her to get him while he slept.

Glancing back at the house, he could see the Chief standing illuminated in the doorway. His arms were folded over his chest and the frown he wore was all Billy needed. The lispy one wasn’t kidding; this guy could kill him.

“Sunday, Harrington. Meet outside the sports hall at 10,” Billy instructed, turning his back and heading over to the car. He didn’t look back.

Chapter Text

Billy slept most of Saturday. The plan had been to complete the household tasks Neil had set him for the weekend and then meet Harrington the next day. That didn’t happen. Apparently getting speared through the shoulder, going into shock and almost duking it out with the chief of police, a tough, old broad, several shrimp tweenagers and the former ‘king’ of his high school had kind of taken it out of him. In the end, Billy had just about found the energy to take a piss and make himself and Max a grilled cheese which she may or not have eaten before she pissed off in the afternoon.

Frowning at his alarm radio, he could see that he only had an hour until he was supposed to meet up with Harrington. If he was being honest with himself, he wasn’t sure why he’d wanted the meeting in the first place. Now that there was some distance, he supposed he’d just been riled up and wanted the satisfaction that Harrington might, in some small way, be worrying about what was going to happen. The thought that Harrington might have lost sleep over it was enough to make him smirk, even as his body complained at him for getting out of the warmth and comfort of his bed.

His shoulder felt like shit. He’d had a brief look the previous day, while he’d been cooking, and it basically looked like a nasty-ass burn. Stripping off the t-shirt he’d worn to bed, he checked it out in the mirror again. Yep. Looked like shit. The hole that the spear had pushed through him was less obvious than the vaguely rectangular burn that was plastered over it. All in all, it looked like it might heal to the size of his thumb but it still sucked. His biceps had small bruises and, after frowning for half a second, he realised it was from Harrington’s knobbly-ass knees pinning him to the floor. He rolled his eyes and headed over to the drawers, pulling out a simple black tee and his denim jacket.

Getting dressed wasn’t easy but, in the end, was no more difficult than when he’d had a particularly bad fight. He briefly thought back to pre-Hawkins; to that fight with Neil. The last and only time he’d fought back. Shutting his eyes, he shook the memory from his head. He needed to focus on the now; on how he was gunna go meet up with Steve fucking Harrington on a weekend and talk about monsters in the woods. Even in his head, he knew it sounded ridiculous. 

Getting into the Camaro, he felt the anger bubbling in his gut once again. On the way to the Byers' place, he’d been a little distracted and, on the way home, he'd simply been done. In the light of day, however, the sight of the dime-sized hole, and subsequent three large cracks running their jagged paths to the edges, in the windscreen looked pretty bad. It didn’t look like a simple patch-up; he was gunna have to replace the whole damn thing. Turning the ignition, Billy scowled at the knowledge that the little he’d managed to save up for his own place had pretty much spent itself now.

He blasted the radio all the way to the high school. Shouting along with the songs did ease the anger a little but only so much as he was able to decide that he wouldn’t hit Harrington the moment he arrived. With regards to the rest of this pow-wow, he couldn’t say.

He’d half-expected the parking lot to be empty but there it was: Harrington’s Bimmer. Clearly not up for standing in the Indiana ‘spring’, Harrington was chilling in the driver’s seat, Billy’s instruction to meet by the sports hall clearly meaning jack-all to him. Pulling up alongside the other boy’s car, Billy looked through the window.

Harrington had the engine running and, eyes closed and hands drumming against his legs, he looked like he was singing along with the radio. He looked like a guy without a care in the world; a far cry from the angst-ridden boy Billy had last seen. Billy was torn between feeling annoyed that he seemed so chill about their meeting and just plain amused that he was still singing along with the music. Billy turned off the Camaro's engine and could just about hear the sound coming from the dark-eyed boy's car. It sounded poppy – not the kind of thing Billy tended to pay much attention to. Probably something from the Billboard 100.

Rolling his eyes, Billy opened the door and wandered over to Harrington’s driver-side window. The other boy’s eyes were still closed right up until the moment Billy rapped his knuckle against the glass, suddenly flashing open as he flinched. Cheeks pinking, he quickly turned the car off and rolled down his window.

“Hargrove,” he said in a resigned voice that didn’t quite hide his embarrassment.

“Harrington,” Billy replied, grinning down at the flushed boy. “Looked like you were having yourself a lovely little sing-song there. Care to give me an encore?” Harrington’s cheeks darkened but he rolled his eyes as if Billy was just the biggest annoyance in the world.

“Can we get this over with, Hargrove? I’ve gotta get back to Jonathan's place and wait for news,” he asked, looking expectantly at the door to signal how in the way Billy was. Taking a step back so the other boy could get out, Billy frowned. So the little gang were all meeting up still? What had gone down yesterday? Had Elle, whoever she was, come back or something? A little pang of irritation twinged in his stomach.

Harrington climbed out of the car and the leaned back against it, his arms crossing over his front in a pose that showed nothing but bored resignation.

“You guys get up to much monster hunting yesterday, huh? I’ve gotta admit, you burning me a nifty new scar really took it out of me,” Billy sneered, watching as Harrington’s dark eyes were instantly drawn to his right shoulder. A little glimmer of guilt flickered there and he felt a small victory in that. That’s right, asshole, he thought. Not such a ‘good guy’ now, are you?

“Look, man, we went through this on Friday,” Harrington said, how voice stumbling over the words as if he barely believed it himself. “I had to do it: Will got possessed last time shit like this was going down. The last thing we need is you going more psycho than usual!” Ouch; now it was Billy’s turn to look at the other boy’s old wounds. Sure, except for the fresh shiner on his nose from last night, his face was back to its usual, smug perfection but it didn’t mean that Billy wasn’t able to see how it had looked.

Harrington had been so fucking wounded the first day he came back to school after their fight. His body looked frail and his stance was totally altered. He looked like an old alpha lion who'd had his pride taken over by a younger male. It was almost sad. Despite Tommy’s gleeful urging, Billy had tried not to look at him if he could help it. It wasn’t that he felt bad or anything, it was just that seeing such blatant weakness made him feel uncomfortable. Just the sight of Harrington in that pathetic state brought back memories of the small picture in the local newspaper; brought back memories of how he’d felt about the person who’d caused that. It was only when he’d healed – when he looked less like a victim – that Billy could start to be pissed at him again.

“Well…” he breathed, forcing himself back into the moment. Harrington had his dark eyes on him and he knew that his brief mental absence had been noticed. The prick. “Your bedside manner leaves a lot to be fucking desired,” he ended, knowing it lacked the bite that he needed. Harrington rolled his eyes but gave a small nod.

“I’ll give you that. Next time, I’ll wait for you to wake up and ask nicely. If you answer me with a demon voice then at least I’ll know that at least I didn’t scare you,” he replied, the feigned sincerity in his voice actually making Billy laugh.

“You didn’t scare me, Harrington. Not even close.”

“Oh yeah, you weren’t scared at all!” he scoffed, a genuine smile forming on his lips.

“Fuck off, Harrington. It was a crazy night. You just startled me is all,” Billy chuckled, folding his arms over his chest and relaxing a little. Harrington’s body seemed to follow suit, leaning more onto the Bimmer as he tilted his head to one side.

“Well, startled or not, you were there for the whole shebang. Not sure what else we need to go through,” Harrington sniffed, the smile still playing on his lips  as if Billy hadn’t attacked him only a few months ago. As if he hadn’t just used that as a weapon against him.

“When are you gunna go kill that thing?” Billy asked bluntly. It wasn’t exactly what he’d come here to do but, as he’d already admitted to himself, he hadn’t really been sure why he’d wanted to see Harrington. Harrington blinked at him dumbly. “You are gunna kill it, right? You guys had that nail bat last time; I’m guessing it wasn’t just for threatening me?” he pressed, watching the small crease forming between Harrington’s brows.

“We’ve gotta wait for El to get back. She’s kinda the key to all this shit,” Harrington shrugged. “And it probably won’t be me or you who go out to do it. Hopper will probably take the lead once El comes back. If she comes back...” the frown deepened and Harrington pulled his lower lip between his teeth. He placed his hands on his hips and looked down as if thinking through what was going to happen.

“So this El – the psychic chick – she’s the one who deals with the nasties in Hawkins?” he asked, remembering bits of the nonsense that Harrington and the beast had been spouting at him on Friday. Harrington nodded half-heartedly, his eyes still on the ground. Billy was starkly reminded of how he’d looked in the kitchen. The boy was getting lost in his own mind. “Any particular reason we can’t take your bat out into the woods and smash that fucking thing to bits?” Billy asked, taking a half step closer to the other boy and leaning into his personal space. He would not be ignored; not even due to some kind of unspoken trauma.

Harrington looked up and their eyes connected for a moment. Billy halted, all of a sudden feeling out of his depth. At this distance, he could see just how dark and pretty the other boy’s eyes were. Now that would be a problem, monsters be damned. He stepped back away as Harrington awkwardly cleared his throat.

“I haven’t seen one of these Remorhaz things but they sound pretty intense. Not sure we could take it out just using a baseball bat,” he coughed, looking away pointedly.

“Well... is there a plan beyond sitting on our asses?” Billy asked, also looking anywhere but at the other boy. His heart had started beating a little faster and it was all he could do to ignore it. Not now. Not him. No fucking way.

“Not really. Hopper has been going out and checking the woods but so far has found nothing,” Harrington shrugged non-committally, unfolding his arms so that he could run a hand through his hair.

“Well... if there’s a hunting party I wanna be in on it. That fucking thing trashed my windscreen and my shoulder. Wanna be right there when it dies,” Billy sniffed, adjusting his jacket if only just to occupy himself.

“Well, better you than me. After last time, I’m quite happy staying back and watching the kids,” Harrington shrugged again. Watching the kids – was that what he was doing back in November? Despite all the shit that had gone down this weekend, Billy hadn’t really re-evaluated what had been going on that time at the Byers’. Tutting to himself, he crossed ‘into 13 year old girls’ off his internal description of Steve Harrington. Well, that was something. Not that he’d let it matter to him in the slightest; regardless of how fucking pretty his eyes apparently were.

“Sounds like a plan: you stay and babysit, I’ll go and kill that fucking asshole,” he sneered.

“Well, with you out there, I think next time I stand a pretty decent chance of not getting the hell beaten out of me staying back and ‘babysitting’,” Harrington smirked and Billy turned back to meet his eye. The fucker.

“Look man, it was a misunderstanding. You’ve gotta admit, in the absence of monsters, it did look creepy: you and my thirteen year old sister hanging out in the middle of the night,” he shrugged, trying to act casual even as he could feel the irritation building. “Can’t blame me for thinking you were some kind of pervy creep.” On a dime, the tension had changed again. Feathers clearly ruffled, Harrington rolled his eyes – a gesture that was becoming more and more of a trigger – and pushed off the BMW.

“Whatever, man. Are we done here?” he asked, stepping into Billy’s persona space. Not cool.

Instinctively, Billy pushed his shoulder back, forcing him to step away.

“We're done when I say we're done, Harrington,” he snarled, his knuckles already aching with the need to form fists. Exhaling quickly, Harrington raised his hands on a surrendering gesture.

“Whatever, man,” he said, turning his back just enough so that he could open the Bimmer's door. “If you’re gunna involve yourself in all this bullshit, you’re gunna have to not be such a colossal a-hole all the time.” And with that he was getting in his car.

“Nice SAT word there, Harrington! Shame I'll have smash you’re pretty teeth in if you try insulting me with any more of them,” Billy sneered, slamming the door closed for the other boy as soon as he was safely out of the way. He was pissed but he didn’t fancy trying to explain how Harrington getting stuck in a door doesn't count as not bothering her ‘friends’ to Max.

Turning on his car, Harrington raised his middle finger and pulled away, his shitty music blaring once again. Latent anger still sitting in his gut, Billy spat on the ground and stomped back over to the Camaro. That had been pointless. While he hadn’t expected much from the encounter, he felt all the more pissed off about the shitty situation he’d stumbled into. Why’d he have to get tangled up in this stuff with Harrington of all people? As uncomfortably heated as it had suddenly become when they were awkwardly gazing into each other’s fucking eyes, there was just something about Harrington that never failed to piss Billy off.

Huffing to himself, Billy wrenched the door open and threw himself down into the driver's seat. As he clipped the belt on, he couldn’t help but eyeball the large hole that the spear had made in the leather. It was pretty intense to think about.

“Fuck...” he growled, eyes rising to glare at the hole in the windscreen. He’d have to get that fixed before Neil got back. Getting your car busted up, monsters or no, wasn’t exactly the picture of responsibility that Neil was so keen on.

Being a fucking Sunday, all the auto shops were closed. In a bigger, better, city, he may well have found somewhere open but this was backwater Hawkins; Sunday meant everything was closed. All the good little locals will have enjoyed a calm, godly day of rest and Billy would have to just wait. Finally pulling up at the house, Billy decided the only option was to risk a late April shower and take out the busted glass. Missing glass was hopefully a little less noticeable than broken glass. All in all it took him a good two and a half hours to remove the damned thing and, by the time he’d driven it over to the junk yard and back, he only had an hour left before Neil and Susan were due home. The laundry list of chores he’d had to do over the weekend were wholly untouched and he was in for some real shit.

Rushing back into the house, Billy started on the laundry, scooping up anything from Max’s floor and from Neil and Susan's hamper. He’d only put a single wash through before they arrived early. His whole body tensed up when he heard the rumble of wheels on the drive. He hadn’t even thought to find where Max had taken herself to. This was going to get ugly. With no time to change how everything looked, Billy simply moved into the kitchen and obediently clicked on the kettle. Having a hot coffee ready for their homecoming seemed the very least he could do now. 

The front door opened as Billy poured the boiling water into the two mugs. Susan’s voice rang out through the house, calling out a welcome to Max and, as an obvious afterthought, Billy himself. Rolling his eyes, Billy moved the mugs to Susan and Neil’s usual places at the kitchen table, hastily removing the spoon from Neil’s remembering all too well his father’s feelings on that kind of sloppy presentation. How am I supposed to drink with this here?

After only a few heartbeats, the man himself came boldly into the room, his whole presence already exuding dominance and anger. Billy instinctively looked down, hating how he reminded himself of Byers.

“Welcome back, sir,” he said politely because why the hell not? Maybe Neil wouldn’t notice that the carpets hadn’t been vacuumed. Maybe he did miss the fact that the Camaro was currently without a front windscreen. Maybe today would be different. Looking up into his father’s cold eyes, all half-hopes that Billy had forced himself to hold died.

“Where is your sister?” Neil’s voice was as cold as his steely eyes.

---

Pulling his aching body onto his bed, Billy scrunched his eyes closed. For saying how badly he’d screwed up, Neil had almost been forgiving. The nasty bruise that was threatening the entire left side of his body was basically his own fault. Back when he’d been into skateboarding, he’d learned how to fall properly. He knew exactly how to land so that nothing was damaged. A small shove from Neil shouldn’t have resulted in him crashing into the dresser the way that he did. It had been too long. The boy who used to skate by the ocean seemed like a different person altogether. That boy was happy. That boy was free. That boy knew how to fall...

 ...and how to get back up again. Angry, hateful boy that he was now, every time he was knocked made it harder to force himself back up. After all the bullshit before they left Cali, he could barely bring himself to enjoy the feeling of his heart beating faster at the sight of someone genuinely beautiful.

Steve fucking Harrington. He and his perfect face were going to be a real problem if he didn’t stamp those thoughts out asap. The Billy that now lived in Hawkins, Indiana couldn’t afford to be queer. That life had been left behind with the sun and waves of California. It had been indirectly beaten from him and, no matter how pretty Harrington’s bloody eyes were, he couldn't bring it back.

In the end, he had to force his tense body relax onto the relative softness of his creaky mattress. In the wake of everything, it was all he could do not to cry. Despite all the weight lifting and posturing, Neil had always been right about him. He was too soft; even now. Resting his arm over his already closed eyes, he hummed out a pathetic sound. Images of Neil’s angry face, the broken glass of his windscreen and that fucking thing danced behind his eyelids and he could feel a frown on his aching brows. Pain and anger at just about everything overflowing from inside him, he slammed his fist against the mattress. Fuck. Fuck all of that shit.

Chapter Text

The next day, Max didn’t look at him once for the entire journey to the Middle School. As he’d waited outside the house, Billy had seen her briefly pause at the sight of the Camaro without its ruined windscreen but, beyond that, she’d simply sat and stared out the window the whole way. Good. With the way he was feeling, he’d rather drive in silence.

He’d woken up with a dull ache down the left side of his body. Thankfully, he’d only managed to get actual ugly, purple bruises on his hip and elbow but that didn’t stop him from feeling like shit. It was his damned right shoulder had kept him up for the most part. The throbbing and aching had been so bad that he could barely put any pressure on it. Even putting a pillow underneath hadn’t really helped. In a cold sweat, he'd actually gotten up a couple of times just to make sure nothing nasty was going to pop out of the wound like something from Alien. He knew it was stupid but Harrington’s intensity about the subject had apparently given him the heebie-jeebies at some point. In the end, he’d plastered a new dressing over it and forced himself to lie sleeping on the side that he’d spectacularly fallen on earlier that night.

So this morning, he was in no mood for sulky preteens. If Max had learned something new about that awful creature, while she was staying out late and getting him in the shit, then she could just shove it. Before the Camaro had even come to a full stop in the Middle School parking lot, she had already got her mitts on the door handle.

“No Arcade today. Neil wants us back on time,” Billy warned, keeping his voice low and dominating. Huffing grumpily, the red-head shoved the door open and leapt from the car, offering no indication that she’d heard him at all. Clenching his teeth, he gripped onto the steering wheel tight enough to make his shoulder twinge. That fucking girl. After he’d gone and saved Wheeler, one of her precious fucking friends, anyone would have thought that the little bitch would show him at least the basic level of respect. That shit back in November clearly made her too bold.

He made the rest of the journey to the High School in a lower gear than needed; the obnoxious roar of his Camaro not exactly soothing the anger, that thrummed through his every muscle, but still somehow making it feel better. Pulling into one of the usual spots he parked in, Billy made sure that he had the front end of the Camaro facing away from the building. He did not need some asshole commenting on the lack of windscreen right now. He stomped through the parking lot, noticing that Harrington’s BMW was absent. This wasn’t totally unusual. Harrington wasn’t a consistent person at the best of times and could be anywhere between the first kid there and being plain, old, detention-worthy late. Still, it pissed Billy off more to think that Harrington would just be going about his business as usual. It pissed him off to know that, despite their little chit-chat, Harrington would have spent his Sunday talking with his fucking friends about that sick fucking thing from the road and maybe coming up with a plan to kill it. It pissed him off that Harrington was there, being a part of something actually interesting in Hawkins, while Billy was getting his ass kicked by his son of a bitch father.

Fists clenching, ready for the first asshole to push it, Billy strutted into school. Tommy H was leaning his locker pretending to read his small copy of Lord of the Flies but basically looking like a lost puppy. Billy rolled his eyes at the sight; they were supposed to have finished that book weeks ago. Tommy was either posturing or totally oblivious. Regardless, he was an idiot. Taking a deep breath, Billy cleared the distance between himself and his locker knowing that there would be some kind of fucking comment about Friday night.

“Alright Hargrove!” Tommy grinned, snapping his book shut without any attempt to hold his place. Posturing buffoon.

“Tommy,” Billy replied, his voice a small grunt. He hated that, in all honesty, he’d never thought to ask what that H of Tommy's stood for. He felt comfortable with the distance using surnames provided him; no one got the wrong idea about their relationship that way. Due to his own initial indifference, no doubt, Tommy thought he was important and special because Billy didn't call him by his. If only he’d just taken to time to ask him. Even teachers simply called him ‘Tommy H’. It was as if the world had joined Billy in his one moment of laziness and now no one knew what the hell the freckled boy signed his cheques with.

The boy in question leaned into Billy’s neighbouring locker and tilted his head to one side.

“Where were you on Friday, man? Carol’s cousin was sorely disappointed,” he grinned, his whole being edging a little too close for Billy’s comfort.

“Must have slipped my mind, man,” Billy shrugged with a small sniff. The rage from before was still bubbling under the surface. He had to push it down. While he didn’t give two shits about Tommy H, having him as a lackey had its perks. None that spring immediately to mind but Billy was certain they were there.

“Slipped your mind? Man, you missed out! Cindy is freaking hot,” Tommy laughed, clapping Billy on the shoulder. Shit. It took all Billy’s resolve not to flinch at the contact. The place where Harrington had burned him throbbed as Billy clamped his jaw shut. Fuck fuck fuck. “You okay man?” Tommy asked, clearly noticing some kind of change in Billy’s expression.

“I’m good man. Just hate to think of a hot chick going to waste,” he grinned, licking his lower lip lasciviously.

Seeming satisfied with this answer, Tommy started to chatter away about Friday night and how Carol had been a bitch about him flirting with Cindy and how he hadn’t actually been flirting but Carol was a bitch. Billy felt his mind tuning out with every syllable that came out of the other boy’s mouth. How could one person talk so much shit? If he wasn’t quite so pissed at Harrington for –fuck it- just about everything, he would have to respect the guy for putting up with this idiot. From the sounds of it, Harrington had endured Tommy for years before Billy had shown up.

“Look, man, I’ve gotta get going,” Billy huffed, slinging the shitty backpack, that he stashed his books in, over his shoulder. “Miss F is a raging bitch about tardiness. Don’t want her going to the coach about me again.” This was only half true. Yes, Billy’s English teacher was a bitch who’d gotten him the shit with both the coach and Neil a couple of weeks back but, in all honesty, if Billy had to listen to Tommy’s shit any longer, he’d most likely hit him.

The other boy smiled easily and clapped Billy on the shoulder a second time. This time, Billy returned the favour. The clanking sound he made when he bashed into the locker made it sound painful but Tommy laughed it off as Billy walked away.

As he settled into his usual place for English, Billy’s eyes drifted over to Wheeler’s usual spot. He wasn’t exactly checking up on her but he couldn’t stop himself. Her chair remained empty. Strange. While Harrington was an inconsistent asshole, Wheeler was the epitome of punctuality and routine. Was she still out of it? He thought back to how she’d looked back in the Byers’ place. She’d been so determined to do something; to help him, of all people. A deep scowl settled on his brow and his hands balled up into fists on his desk. He would not feel guilty about this. After all, he’d been the one to take her back to the Byers’ place. If he hadn’t have stopped for her, that fucking thing would have killed her and Byers both.

Wheeler never did show. Walking through the halls between lessons, Billy saw no hide nor hair of Wheeler, Byers or Steve fucking Harrington. By lunch, he was pretty convinced that they were all skipping. Something had happened. Those bastards. Billy skipped lunch, opting for smoking under the bleachers instead. He was so fucking past eating and he just knew that Tommy would be beyond insufferable at this point.

“Fucking bastards...” he muttered to himself, kicking at the backs of the benches. If Neil hadn’t been so very pissed last night, Billy might have skipped the rest of the day to go and give the ‘gang’ a piece of his mind. As it was, his side and his shoulder hurt too fucking much for him to take any more of Neil’s anger. He was stuck here, at school, while the others were having a merry old time slaying monsters. He kicked the bench again, harder this time. The left hand side of his body ached but he didn’t care. He was too full of anger and energy; he knew it was going to boil over.

After smoking three cigarettes in quick succession, Billy made his way to Econ, smiling warmly at Trudy who blushed in a most unprofessional manner. Trudy was the youngest of the staff at Hawkins High and was easy to bend to Billy’s will. A flattering word here, a small smile there, and she would forgive anywhere up to half an hour late. Today was no exception. She didn’t see through the paper-thin facade that Billy wore. Once she’d finished speaking to the class, she sidled up to his desk and rested her hand on his forearm. 

“Is everything okay, Billy?” she asked, leaning in too close for a teacher. “You were ten minutes late today.” Billy looked up at her through his eyelashes and offered her the smarmiest smile he could muster.

“Sorry Trudy, I’ve had the craziest feeling all day. I keep thinking it’s Wednesday – Do you ever get that?” he whispered, leaning closer to match her. A fresh blush tinged her cheeks and she covered her mouth as she giggled.

“Oh all the time!”

“So, you can imagine how embarrassed I was when I stood outside Mrs Archer’s class thinking I had chemistry,” he continued emphasising the right word to cause her to stifle a small giggle. It was working. Trudy was nodding along with his bullshit, eating it right up.

“I can imagine,” she smiled, fluttering her eyelashes. “The chem labs are on the other side of the building. No wonder you were so late!”

“Yeah, Trudy. So, I’m real sorry for being tardy,” Billy smarmed, letting his tongue run along his bottom lip and watching as Trudy unconsciously mimicked the action. There was a brief silence in which the older woman simply stared at him, her rouged lips parted and her cheeks flushed. Gross. It was useful -having a teacher so blatantly into him- but, every time he used it to his advantage, Billy couldn’t shake the dirty feeling that clawed at his insides. Fuck you Trudy. Fuck you and your sick, little crush.

“Don’t go wishing the days away, Billy. Especially not ones where you have Econ,” Trudy finally breathed, her eyes blinking rapidly as if she was snapping herself out of the moment. Billy grinned and opened his text book to the correct page and she made a point to trail her fingers down his arm as she walked away. So fucking gross.

Somehow, he made it through the rest of the day without killing anyone. Between the last two classes, some kid tried to barge past Billy and ended up being shoved to the ground but that was neither here nor there. To be fair, though, Billy had been pretty fucking restrained, all things considered. He saved up the kicking, that he oh-so-desperately wanted to give this kid, for Harrington later. He could feel the unspent energy pulsing through his muscles as he left the building. Thankfully, Tommy hadn’t managed to track him down so he made a clear break.

He practically threw himself into the Camaro, hating the change in how the sight of it made him feel. The Camaro was his one source of joy here in Hawkins; it was a means to escape. It was his concert venue. It was his own personal rollercoaster ride. Now the very sight of it was ruined. The missing windscreen told of the fucking mess of Friday night; reminded him of Neil’s anger on Sunday night. He’d meant to fix it this evening after he’d dropped Max back at home. Now that was out of the question. That was going to have to wait until tomorrow. After a day from hell, he was going to raise some of his own. Harrington and those other assholes were going to pay for leaving him in the dark. Harrington was going to feel how badly he’d fucked up in ignoring him. He pulled out of the parking lot with a roar from burning the lower gears.

The drive back to Hawkins Middle School was cold. The Indiana spring air had lost its warmth and Billy lamented their move even more. Fuck Hawkins. Fuck Harrington. Fuck Byers and Wheeler and all of those fucking kids. A pent-up feeling rested on his chest as he pulled into the Middle School parking lot. Not caring what fucking pre-teens thought of his damned car, he pulled up as close to the front as he could and stared out at the gross kids who were already milling aimlessly about. Some worthless eyes landed on the Camaro and Billy made sure to scowl at the little bastards as much as he could.

Five minutes passed and Billy reached for a small, home-recorded cassette, shoving it roughly into the stereo. Metallica started right up in the place he’d left them and he felt as if some of the pressure in his skull was being alleviated. He let the music blast through the gaping hole of his windscreen, flipping off any tween who dared to react. Seriously: fuck Hawkins and all of its people.

Another five minutes passed and the crowds of pre-teens had mostly dispersed. Ten minutes waiting was a lot for Billy; especially today. His mind ticked over with all of the insults and threats that he’d offer the fucking red-head the moment she deigned to turn up. Tom Araya shouted out from the speakers but even that was failing to ease the rage that was bubbling under his skin now.

The longer he waited, the more painfully obvious it was becoming: Max and the other twerps were skipping too. Doubtlessly, they’d all be bundled up together at the Byers’ place, plotting their monster hunt. That or they would already be out slaying the creature that had attacked Billy out of the blue. Sure, Wheeler had gotten herself banged up too but it was Billy who was going to have to waste his savings to replace his fucking windscreen. It was Billy who had gotten a fucking hole in his shoulder. It was Billy who’d been held down by Steve fucking Harrington and mutilated in the name of ‘not being possessed’.

Slamming the Camaro into reverse, Billy tore out of the parking lot. Max wasn’t fucking here; none of the kids were. The cassette came to a stop but Billy didn’t care, the growls and roars of the Camaro all the soundtrack that he needed as he sped off in the increasingly familiar direction to the Byers’ place. He guessed, from how things had been on Friday, that the Chief would be there. He’d have to get in and make his point fucking quickly.

The Camaro jumped and skidded on the shitty dirt road that acted as the final stretch between Billy and his destination. His hands hurt from the grip he had on the wheel; his jaw ached from being so tightly clenched for so long. The lights were on as he pulled up outside the house. Those assholes were all there. Byers’ wreck of a LTD, the Chief’s Chevy and Harrington’s Bimmer all blocked his path. The red mist fully descended at this. He hated being right. He hated them all.

Billy tore the keys from the ignition and threw open his door. Brace yourselves, assholes, he mentally warned them as he marched up the front door. His body was ready; his hands curled into fists, clenched at his side. He breathed in short, anger-filled breaths as he faced the door.

Calm.

The single word resounded in his mind. The voice who spoke it wasn’t his own. Billy froze in place, his whole body tense with something akin to fear. The fuck was this?

Be calm.

It was a girl’s voice. Totally unfamiliar and decidedly not his. Was he actually being possessed after all? Had Harrington failed? As the rage and hatred started to burn away at themselves, Billy could feel his stomach dipping. Was this what Harrington had been so concerned about? Was this what Byers’ harrowed little brother went through? How long before he lost all control? His whole body shuddering, he felt a tear roll down his cheek although he wasn’t sure how that could be.

No. Not Mind Flayer.

There it was again. The voice was stilted, almost like a child learning a new language. Mind Flayer? What on Earth did that mean? Little Byers had said it on Friday night. Was that the creature? Not Mind Flayer. Tch. Why should he believe this disembodied voice? His body was so tense, all of the aches and pains from last night were crying out threefold. He wiped at his eyes. At least he could do that. He still had some control. Maybe he could fight whatever this was.

Come. Come but be calm.

Almost unconsciously, Billy reached for the door handle. His heart clenched and he clamped his jaw shut again. No. He wasn’t ready now. His body was failing him. Was he even in control anymore? He couldn’t tell.  He knew that his anger had been controlling him up until now. It had basically taken the wheel from the start of the day; driving him ever onwards to his goal. By now, he knew how to submit to anger. He’d lived with it ever since the night Jason had called him and told him about Alex. It had been deeply rooted inside his being for all this time. He was so familiar with the feeling of letting the anger take the wheel.

This was something different. It was a voice; a suggestion. Billy stood there, holding the door handle, unsure if this was what he wanted now. He hurt; his body, his mind. He hurt and all he wanted to do was to pass it on. Those assholes inside the house. They would feel his hurt. His body started to feel tense again; adrenaline ready to kick back in 

No. Be calm, Billy.

His shoulders sagged. Be calm. How could he do that? He’d told Harrington that he wanted to kill the monster. Harrington knew how he felt and he’d still gone ahead without him. For all his shit of defending him to Joyce the other night, Harrington didn’t really give a shit. Well Billy would make him care. He’d make him feel Billy’s hurt.

He will. Be calm. He will care.

Billy’s mouth dropped open at that. The breath that he was breathing in caught in the back of his throat. What the hell was this?

Come in. Be calm.

Numb, Billy relented. The anger had burned out for now. His body ached. If he was submitting to this voice then that was that. He hurt too much to fight. He turned the handle and gave the door a push. It swung all the way open as if it, too, was compelled to do so. Feet like lead weights carried Billy forward, his eyes fixed on the scene before him.

Of course they were all there: the three Byers’, both Wheelers, the Chief, the kids and Harrington. All of them in various positions around the sitting area in a fucked up tableaux.  They were gathered around a girl who couldn’t have been too distant in age from Max. Her clothes, her hair and her arms were caked with mud and blood but her face looked relatively clear like someone had started to clean her off but only done half a job. All eyes were on Billy as he approached them, Harrington taking a few steps to stand between him and the others.

“Hargrove...” he said, his voice tense and questioning. The feeling in the room was as if they knew his reason for being here. It was as if they were ready for the hell that he’d originally wanted to rain down on them. Harrington came closer, Billy’s lack of response clearly bolstering his confidence somewhat. “What are you-?”

“You shouldn’t be here,” Max interrupted, her voice hateful but tinged with fear. Billy turned his gaze on her. She was sitting with Sinclair whose hand was resting on her leg. A flicker of the anger from before sparked to life and Billy took a firmer step towards them. Harrington intercepted, his hands suddenly on Billy’s shoulders. There was a gentleness to the hold on his right but the strength on his left showed that Harrington meant business. The tension in Billy's muscles was back. They were stoking the embers that still hadn’t quite died out. Billy could feel his fists as they balled back up again, tight and ready. Be calm? Fuck that. Harrington had his hands on him and nothing else mattered. It was on. “Go home Billy!” Max shouted now, fear winning out.

Harington’s face was serious, a frown creasing his brown and his eyes resolute. He was ready for the fight Billy was bringing. The Chief was on his feet now, moving closer almost in sync with Byers. They looked like a pair of lions, circling their prey but every last person in this room, even Wheeler with her beautiful doe eyes and her angelic aura, could get bent for all Billy cared. This was between him and Harrington and it was happening.

In a quick, single movement, Billy slapped Harrington’s hands away and gave his shoulders a harsh shove. You’re fucking learning, Harrington, he internally sneered as the other boy stayed decidedly where he was: he’d planted his feet. He felt his heart soar at the look on the other boy’s face: the furrowed brow, the dark eyes fixed on nothing but him. He had his attention now. What did the voice promise? He will care. Billy smirked at the other boy, overflowing with the rage that was back in full. Harrington’s eyes narrowed and he curled up his fists, ready to fight. Yes.

“No,” the single word dully stilled the chaos. Be calm. The voice was the same. Billy’s heart froze once again. This was it. Everyone turned to look at the muddy, bloodied girl. Her brown eyes fixed on Billy and a she shook her head ever so slightly. “We’re all here now.”

Chapter Text

“Jane! Jane, are you alright? What happened out there?” the Chief gasped in desperation; his voice soft despite its rough timbre. Billy was forgotten the instant she’d spoken; the shockwaves of her voice hitting everyone in the room. All eyes were on her and Billy simply felt rooted to the spot. His heart was beating heavily in his chest and he couldn’t pinpoint whether it was from the unspent tension from his day from hell or from something more unnatural.

Jane’s coal-like eyes were fixed on him and Billy could practically feel her voice still in his head, even though she was communicating nothing. Feeling the strange pressure of her attention, he looked back to Harrington who had also turned to face her. From the tension in the other boy’s stance, it was clear that the near fight wasn’t forgotten even if he was staring in disbelief at the pre-teen. Good. Don't you forget that I’m right here, Harrington. Billy silently instructed.

“El!” the younger Wheeler exclaimed as he grasped her hands in his own. His voice was filled with the obvious desperation of a young boy in love and Billy couldn’t help but, at least internally, roll his eyes. “El, you’re back!” Now that didn’t match up. What was it: Elle or Jane? Things were confusing enough without people having two completely different goddamn names.

“We’re all here now,” Whatsherface said again and, although he was forcing his eyes to be anywhere but on her, Billy knew she was still looking in his direction.

“’All here’? Jane, honey, what do you mean?” Joyce asked, leaning inwards as if magnetically drawn to the girl.

“Billy,” she spoke and he couldn’t stop himself from looking at her now. She had raised a single hand and was pointing, rather eerily, in his direction. Spell-bound, everyone followed her direction and, once again, all faced him. The fuck was going on? He wanted to tap back into the rage that had only just been such a driving force inside him. All day it had been his sole companion. But now it seemed that the very few words that Whatsherface had said had spelled it all away. His body felt tingly – empty and cold and not entirely his own.

“Hi,” Billy finally shrugged, unsure of what else he could say to relieve the uncomfortable feeling inside. The girl smiled weakly back at him.

“Hi,” she said, mimicking the tone he’d used to near perfection. Odd. Little Wheeler’s nose crinkled with a look of undisguised disgust. Possessive little shit. Silence filled the room as everyone seemed to wait for her to say more. Like she was an oracle or some shit like that. Billy glanced over towards Harrington, noting that, like on Friday night, his gaze had drifted to the floor. There was a far off look in his dark eyes and the readiness had left him.

“Jane - where were you?” the Chief finally asked, snapping his own attention back onto what sounded like his main concern.

Dropping her hand back down to rest on her knees, the dirty girl finally looked away from Billy. She looked at the Chief with all the intensity that she’d used with Billy and he wondered if that was just her natural state of being. Creepy.

“Gate,” she said shortly. Did this girl actually speak in sentences? No one else seemed at all phased by it.

“The gate?” Sinclair gasped, his voice higher than it usually was. As he leaned forwards, his fucking hand finally moved off Max’s leg. At least that was something. That kid was fucking bold to have kept it there that long.

“Didn’t we close that?” the curly-haired kid piped up, his stupid, lispy voice equally high.

“So the Remorhaz has broken through?” Sinclair added.

“Do we need to close it again?” Lispy squawked.

We didn’t do anything last time, Dustin!” Sinclair argued, shoving the curly kid.

“We totally did, Lucas! Steve and I almost died down in the-”

“Knock it off guys,” Max hushed them, her eyes flicking in Billy’s direction only very briefly. As well she might. Usually, the constant sound of ridiculous pre-teens squabbling would have driven Billy mad. Right now, however, he found he just couldn’t look away from the grubby girl. She looked so... odd. From the look of her, she’d been through some shit this weekend, or however long she’d actually been missing for. Everything was so unclear: he had no idea when she’d even turned back up again.

“Yeah, zip it, boys, or you’re out!” the Chief snapped, clearly as irritated as Billy felt he should have been. The older man turned back to Whatsherface. “What happened, Jane?” again there was that ill-fitting softness to his voice.

“Why wouldn't you talk, El?” Little Wheeler chimed in and Billy noted the flinch of irritation in the Chief’s shoulders. Who was this girl to him – his daughter? Billy didn’t exactly know much about the chief of Hawkins’ finest but he thought Tommy had mentioned something about his kid being dead.

“Waiting,” the girl said in her stilted way, once again letting her eyes come up to meet Billy’s. He could feel the connection that she’d apparently made before he’d even come into the house. “Waiting for Billy,” she finished. Now that was fucked up. He’d never met this girl before. Why the hell would she be waiting for him? Had she not spoken a word before he’d arrived? Little Wheeler had made it sound that way.

“We don’t need him,” Max huffed, this time not sparing her step-brother a glance as she folded her arms over her chest. “Billy, go home.”

That did it. Max would not tell him what to do. In an instant, his fists were balled back up again and he took a single, meaningful step in her direction. Harrington stepped in his path again. Fuck him. Billy shoved at the other boy’s shoulders and, this time, Harrington moved.

“Steve!” Lispy yelled, his voice squeaking in its pubescent way.

Emboldened by the apparent support of fucking tweens, the former king of Hawkins High reached out and grabbed Billy’s shoulders, his grip tightening right where the wound from Friday night lay. Billy groaned from the sudden shooting pain, his right side buckling a little.

“Yeah get him!” Lispy continued and Billy made a mental note to teach that one some fucking respect when all of this was done.

“Boys-!” Joyce sounded worried and Wheeler just put her hands over her mouth in a picture of concern. The Chief was back on his feet, ready to break this up. No chance. Not now.

As the kids in the room started to kick up a fuss, Billy quickly moved to grasp at other boy. He would get in as much hurt as he could before the Chief stopped him; the Chief –that is– or Max with some other syringe full of god-knows-what. He fisted a handful of chocolatey brown hair, yanking Harrington closer with all the will and intention to head-butt the motherfucker. Harrington let out a yelp, his hands instinctively leaving Billy’s shoulders to try and pry him away from his precious hair. Billy snarled and leaned back, ready to put his all into the blow.

“Stop!” the girl at the back of the room practically screamed, the whole room feeling oddly like it was shaking. Billy tried to ignore her. He was ready for this. Harrington had been the source of his ire all fucking day. He needed this. He was going to head-butt the perfect asshole and hopefully knock him out before the Chief could get to him.

But he couldn’t move. All control of his body was gone as he was held, frozen, in place. Desperately trying to will his muscles into action, he felt totally out of control. This lack of control, however, was completely foreign. This was so different from how he’d felt outside the door. Reflecting now, him coming into the house had felt like a push; a mere suggestion. This was a command. Whatsherface had told him to stop and he had no choice in the matter.

Heart pounding, he looked at Harrington’s dark eyes and saw the mixture of shock and confusion that he knew must have been mirrored in his own. Was he frozen too?

Calm.

He couldn’t tell if she’d said it aloud or not. He closed his eyes, hating how exposed he felt right now. The Chief was going to get him before he’d managed to do any damage. He was a sitting duck.

Stay calm, Billy.

That was pretty much a full sentence. Billy tried to move again but still there was nothing. His shoulder still hurt – he was still in his body, right? Harrington’s hair between his fingers... it was soft. His hand felt tingly and he wanted to pull it away. Fuck.

Calm?

It felt like a question this time. He glanced across the room and found himself captivated by the intensity from the girl. She wasn’t going to release him until he calmed down; that much was abundantly clear. Was she having some kind of mental chat with Harrington too? Looking at the other boy again, all he could see in those dark eyes was the frantic confusion from before. Maybe not.

He was vaguely aware of the sound of the kids squawking away amongst themselves. Wheeler was mithering aloud as well. None of it seemed to be going in though. Whatsherface was staring and staring.

I’m calm, he tried to think in her direction. Just let me go.

In an instant, he got his wish. Control restored, he wrenched his hand back and took several steps away from the other boy. The Chief had, by now, crossed the room to stand next to Harrington, placing a strong hand onto the other boy’s shoulder.

“That’s enough, Hargrove! You're out!” he boomed, straightening up to his full height. The Chief wasn’t the tallest man – not by a long shot – but there was an air to him that simply exuded strength.

“No!” the girl shouted, the minute flinch from the Chief being all the proof Billy needed that she’d spoken aloud. “Billy stays. Billy is here.” He didn’t know why this was so important to her but, once again, she’d completely taken the wind from his sails. His body felt hot, cold and numb all at once.

“He’s not staying in here,” the Chief said sternly, his eyes boring into him with the grim promise of intervention if he tried anything again. Billy looked up towards Harrington. The scowl that lay on the other boy’s face showed nothing if not contempt. Good. That’s so much better than whatever awkwardness had passed between them on Sunday.

“Billy stays!” the girl asserted again, the bratty tinge to her voice acting as a reminder that she was, in fact, still a kid. The Chief turned back, his shoulders tensed and ready for a fight. Would she use her freaky powers on him too?

“Jane, he’s a loose cannon! I’m not having him in here!” he reasoned.

“He stays!”

“El- why does he have to stay? Billy doesn’t know anything about all of this,” Little Wheeler chimed in. There was still a look of disgust on his repugnant little face and Billy considered whether or not that just was how he looked.

“That fucking thing in the woods punctured a hole in my shoulder and in my goddamn windscreen! I’m not going anywhere until I know something is gunna be done about it!” Billy snapped. He was so sick of people talking about him like he wasn’t there.

“Listen, kid. The other night, you stumbled on something bigger than you know; bigger than you need to know,” the Chief turned back to Billy, his voice a little tired but his expression still stony.

“I don’t care about all that shit! I just gotta know it’s gunna get dealt with! If I can be the one to do it, all the better!” Billy spat back.

“Like hell I’m letting you –a kid– go out and-!”

“Dead,” the droning voice from the girl cut through them both. Billy’s heart jumped. Dead? The monster? Did she kill it? This girl – this little girl- had killed that monster? Harrington wasn’t kidding when he said she was the one who dealt with this shit. Billy felt a sweeping wave of cold over his body. Dead. The relief that anyone would have expected him to feel never came. Not even close.

“You killed it?” Sinclair gasped, surprisingly sounded as shocked as Billy felt.

“Where was it?” Max chimed in.

“Holy shit! It really is happening again,” Lispy stressed, running his hands through his hair in a strange echo of how Harrington did when he was stressed.

Whatsherface looked at each of the kids in turn, finally resting on Little Wheeler. He edged closer to her, a look of pathetic devotion so evident in his eyes.

“Dead. It...” she paused, almost like she was searching for the words. “...it took a lot,” she continued, probably unaware of the pit that had formed in Billy’s stomach from the moment she’d first said that single word. That last part sounded small; like she was running low on just about everything.

“There you have it, kid,” the Chief surmised, the flick of his eyes back at the girl showing his concern even if his voice didn’t. “The Remorhaz is dead. You can leave.”

“No,” the girl quickly said again and the Chief rubbed at his temples. This was going in circles.

“Look- I’ll go-!” Billy started, wanting nothing more than to break out of the cycle of stupidity that they all had slipped into. The girl slammed her hands down on her lap with a force that she shouldn’t have been capable of, given how weak she’d sounded just moments ago. The room felt heavy again, like the air was being sucked out by the second.

“No! Billy, you stay,” she barked and the room was gradually getting that shaking feeling again. Billy held his hands up, partially to try and calm her and partially just to see if he could.

“I’ll go outside. Anything that gets me out of this mad house,” he tried again, his tone not quite as firm as he’d wanted. He met her dark gaze and nodded. “I won’t leave,” he added, knowing that she wasn’t convinced.

The girl looked like she wanted to argue but the Chief stepped forwards again, successfully causing Billy to take a step back towards the door as well as block his view of the girl. Billy tilted his head, waving his hands in a mockery of a surrender.

“I’m going, I’m going,” he sighed, turning and leaving the way he’d come in only a few crazy minutes ago.

Once outside, he sat heavily down on the wooden porch and pulled his cigarettes out from his jacket pocket. Lighting up, he started to tap his foot against one of the steps. He could go home. No matter what that psychic girl said; he could go home. The monster was dead. That was all that should matter. He didn’t doubt for a second that that little girl had been able to kill it. The shit in the lounge between him and Harrington was all the proof he needed of her crazy powers.

What time was it? The sky had dimmed and someone inside turned the lights on. He probably should go home. Neil was pretty fucking pissed last night and it would be a bad idea to bring Max home too late. He should go home.

Stay. The girl had told him to stay. As much as Neil got off on ‘teaching’ him respect, how would a psychic girl react to him disobeying? Taking a long drag on the cigarette, he shuddered at the memory. That feeling of being controlled... No fucking way. If that little girl wanted him to stay, stay he would. There was no way he was going to risk her wrath again. Besides, he comforted himself, Max was still inside. The last thing he needed was to go home without her. Talk about out of the frying pan and into the fire.

After what felt like forever, the Byers’ door creaked open. Billy took a deep drag of his second cigarette and blew the smoke upwards. The person seemed to hesitate for a moment and Billy tried to will them to go back inside. The last thing he needed was Harrington sidling over and starting something up again.

“Things got pretty heated in there, didn’t they?” Wheeler said softly as she crossed over the porch and lowered herself to sit by his side. She shuffled closer, her left arm resting against his right. When did this start to be a thing? Didn’t she remember what went down in November? Billy felt like he should be uncomfortable; he honestly didn’t know this chick outside the rumours that Tommy H had fed him since he came to Hawkins. Once again, however, she seemed to be exuding that strange aura of calm. Her very existence was so much more effective than the mental whispering of the grubby girl.

“Yeah,” he huffed, not sure what else he could say. What did she want from him?

“How’s your shoulder doing?” she asked gently, her chin tilting towards it.

“It looks like shit,” he shrugged. They weren’t friends. Wheeler didn’t care. As soft and calming as she was, she didn’t even think to involve him today. None of them did. “It hurts like hell too.” He wanted her to know what Harrington had done. Even if Tommy H hadn’t made it his life’s mission to remind people on the daily about how Wheeler had broken Harrington’s fragile heart, Harrington wore his not-so-recent heartbreak on his sleeve. Taking him down a peg in Wheeler’s opinion would be worth the fallout. The soft-haired, pretty-eyed asshole had that and more coming.

“I was there when they drove the Mind Flayer out of Will,” Wheeler explained, her voice unaffected and still as a soft as ever. “It was... horrible. Jonathan was so close to just letting him go. Will was in so much pain... Once it takes hold of you, it’s really hard to get it out again.”

Billy turned to look at the waifish girl beside him. Her jaw was tight and her eyes were fixed ahead. All the shit from November and before that had clearly fucked with her. A twinge in his guts made him feel gross. He didn’t like the thought of Wheeler being that broken. He didn’t like that he didn’t like it. Who the hell was she anyways?

“Whatever. S'not like any of you assholes would give a shit if I did get possessed anyhow,” he shrugged, knowing it sounded childish. It was the truth after all. Refocusing on the moment, Wheeler caught him with a big, blue, puppy-dog stare, her eyes full of sadness.

“I would,” she said bluntly. “You saved me, Billy. I feel bad enough as it is right now without you getting possessed. I would never forgive myself if that thing had got you like it did Will.” She felt bad already? That was interesting. Billy could feel his eyebrows rising as he took another puff of his smoke.

“What have you got to feel bad for, Wheeler? It wasn’t you who burned me,” it was goddamn Harrington. Did she still feel responsible for the shit he did? Hadn’t she dumped him? Perhaps all of Tommy's bullshit was just that: bullshit. The way Byers had taken charge on Friday had made the dynamic pretty fucking clear. Maybe the lines were more blurred than he’d thought.

Wheeler looked down at her lap, the sadness still clear on her face.

“Your shoulder... your car... your whole view of reality. If I could unsee all of this – go back to being a normal girl who only worried about studying and boys-" she stopped herself, her voice sounding defeated. Billy considered it.

For the longest time, he’d known that monsters were real. Neil had literally beaten that fact into him almost from the moment his mom had passed. Seeing that thing in the road, yeah it was wild. It made him ask questions; ones that made his blood run a little colder than usual. But, in its own fucked-up way, knowing it was out there had been liberating. Out there, there had been a real-life, honest to goodness, monster. One that he could fight. One that he could beat. One that people would be happy if he killed it. Yeah, he was freaked that such a thing existed. But, if he was really honest with himself, he was excited too.

Sucking down one final drag of the dying smoke in his hand, Billy shook his head. This epiphany was so obvious to him now; that was why he’d been so mad at Harrington - why he’d been so mad at them all. They were leaving him out of the one thing that seemed tailor-made for his own relief. His own personal punch bag. And now it was gone.

He looked back at Wheeler. She looked so fucking guilty. Her brows were creased and her eyes were closed, almost like an angel at prayer. He closed his eyes and shook his head. This holy bullshit imagery was overkill. He’d have to keep an eye on that. Stupid fucking brain.

“I’m fine, Wheeler,” he sighed, knowing that he wasn’t. Not really. Not in the wider picture. With her specific concern, however, he was. Just about. “Yeah – it sucks that I’ve gotta get the car fixed and I would rather not have this gnarly, new scar – but I’m fine.” She didn’t look back at him; still lost in her own guilt. Her own trauma. “Besides,” he continued, stubbing out his mostly-dead cigarette and leaning back on his hands. “I never did have much time for worrying about studying and boys, anyways.” He said it like a joke and it was. Given all the shit back in Cali, it really was.

Wheeler finally jolted back into reality, covering her mouth as she spluttered out an unexpected laugh. She had no idea but it was good to see her smiling. Billy joined her, the tension from the day finally pouring out of him. Closing his eyes, he let himself just laugh and feel – for this moment at least – a little free. Despite the Indiana chill, it was almost as if he could feel the California sun on his skin again; smell the sea air and hear Alex, Ingrid and Jason laughing along with them. Almost.

“Looks like you’ve calmed down,” Harrington’s voice cut through their laughter and Billy shot up off the ground. How long had he been there? He’d been laughing so hard he hadn’t heard the front door go. He stepped back and pushed his hands into his back pockets, letting his elbows stick out in a confident pose. Fuck. Harrington had an odd look on his face; his brows furrowed just the slightest bit as if he was solving a tricky problem in calculus.

“Is Mike still arguing with Hopper?” Wheeler asked, the smile still on her face as she twisted to face the other boy. She had stayed sitting. She didn’t even notice that Harrington was above her; that he had the upper hand. Billy wished he could miss things like that. He wished his skin didn’t crawl at the very thought of surrendering control.

“I think he’s finally been convinced,” Harrington said, his eyes still fixed on Billy. He looked a little like he thought Billy would go for Wheeler at any moment. Ridiculous. “Jon’s gunna drive you two back and I’ll take the others.”

“Max ready or what?” Billy asked, his voice back to its usual Steve Harrington gruffness. Harrington nodded stiffly, his expression still abnormal. Billy considered making something of it but, glancing down at Wheeler, he just couldn’t summon up the energy.

Harrington looked about to answer but suddenly the door was going open and the kids were piling out of the house. Max headed them, marching smartly past Billy and straight for the Camaro. It wasn’t locked – Billy’s priority upon arrival being elsewhere- so she simply let herself in. Billy bared his teeth in irritation as the others slunk past him, their wary looks only adding to his annoyance.

“Whatever. See you around, Wheeler,” he said when he realised that Harrington was still fucking looking at him.

He turned to leave but once again felt frozen to the spot. His body wouldn’t move. Fuck. One again his stomach twisted, his skin an expanse of pinpricks.

Don’t.

The voice was quiet, like it was further away.

Don’t go.

Billy rolled his eyes.

Everyone’s going. He thought back to her, hoping it would do the trick. Already, he could feel her hold slipping from him. His body was relaxing into his stance in a way that it simply couldn’t when he’d been inside the house. So there were limits to her power.

Your Papa. Billy flinched at that. The way she ‘said’ it sounded so knowing.

Yeah, he won’t be happy. Billy had already given up on wondering how she knew shit. Clearly she had no qualms with delving into his mind. Probably already had him figured as a faggot, for all he knew.

Bad.

The worst. It was true. He could hear Harrington approaching from behind him and he flinched. Let me go.

Can’t let him win?

Something like that. Let me go. This was more than messed up.

“You leaving or what, Hargrove?” Harrington asked in his ‘King Steve’ voice; all bravado and confidence. Billy’s eyes flicked over to the cars and noted the kids all eyeballing them again. How puffed up and manly Harrington became under their adoring gazes. It was so pathetic he almost pitied him.

Let me go, whatever your name is.

El. Right. He was sticking with that then.

Then let me go, El. You want me to stay calm, right? As if that was all it took, his body was released. He took one step and then turned to face Harrington. He wanted to be mad. He wanted to fight him. But it was all gone. The evening had eaten away at all that rage. Nothing was left but the fake smile that he plastered over his face.

“Just chatting with your friend, is all. Later Harrington,” he grinned, swiping his tongue over his bottom lip in that way that always seemed to rile Harrington up. Sure enough, the other boy faltered and Billy chuckled, waving at him before heading to the Camaro.

Need time. Come back. Later.  The little voice was fainter than ever as he slammed the door closed behind him. She wasn’t making much sense but Billy was done for today.

Sure thing, kid. I’ll come back. He promised but he didn’t know why. 

Chapter Text

Somehow he’d gotten away with the slightly late return Monday night. Neil had been on the couch, beer in hand, when Billy and Max had come in. His already stony face had hardened but Max’s simple arcade excuse was heard and accepted with little resistance. That girl had no idea how fucking privileged she was. The piercing look of warning Billy had received was the long and short of it. Clearly the old man had had his fill the previous night.

Relieved more than he could put words to, Billy had spent the rest of the night lying on his bed staring at the ceiling. He felt utterly exhausted. He hadn’t stopped feeling exhausted since Friday, to be honest. But this was a strange exhaustion; totally mixed and blended with the amped up feeling that made his muscles sing. All the adrenaline from the day, the strange fear of someone else taking the wheel in his own body, the near fight with Harrington – it had been a lot.

Rubbing at his shoulder with his left hand, he’d slipped his right down into his pants, palming himself through his boxers. He'd sighed and closed his eyes as his dick had started to respond, filling out as the memory of his fingers in Harrington’s soft hair flickered dimly in his mind. Shit. This was definitely starting to be a problem but one that he’d have to deal with another time.

By the time he’d wrapped his hand around himself, he was fully hard and the thoughts of Harrington’s eyes, his hair, his fucking voice, had totally taken over. He’d made short work of it, running his palm over the leaking tip and imagining it was someone else’s hand on him. Steve fucking Harrington’s hand. The thought of those dark eyes sparkling with desire -how that would look- damn near caused Billy to groan. Biting down on his bottom lip to keep himself silent, he’d not lasted long after that, cumming in hot streaks over his hand, his stomach and, annoyingly, the bottom of his shirt.

He’d lain panting in the aftermath, a highlight reel of times Harrington had caught his eye still playing in his mind. As he’d wiped the rest of the sticky mess on his shirt, the frown had taken up residence on his face. This was messed up: somehow, he totally had it bad for Steve fucking Harrington. He wasn’t sure when or how it had even happened -he'd wanted to kick his ass mere hours ago- but it was a definite thing. Fuck, fuck, fuck.

---

Billy woke early the next day, feeling a little cold after having stripped off and simply fallen asleep in his boxers. He'd have been able to get away with crap like that in Cali but here, in Hawkins, he was left feeling shittier than if he hadn’t slept at all. He checked the clock-radio by his bed and hated that he was only ten minutes ahead of the alarm.  Sighing in resignation, he clicked it off and took himself off into the bathroom. Might as well make the most of the head-start he’d made for himself.

The hot water of the shower soothed the aches that still remained from Sunday night. Glancing down, the bruises looked no better. Figures. It generally took longer than 24 hours for the purple to fade away. For a fresh, blank canvas to form. He didn’t need to look to know that his shoulder was much the same as well; the sting of the hot water reminding him of just how bad it felt. Damn you Harrington. Billy closed his eyes and planted his hands on the tiled wall in front of him.

Last night was really not good. This fixation on Harrington and his various features was not good. Under the spray of water, Billy cursed his own mental weakness. Already, he could feel a pulse throbbing between his legs and he was going to do his utmost to ignore it. He hated Harrington. Hated him. His perfect life, his perfect hair his perfect eyes... The way he perfectly tried to push him out of a situation that he was most definitely a part of. Even that crazy El girl knew that Billy should have been there.

Drawing his lower lip between his teeth, Billy hummed. The swell of his cock wasn’t shifting and his mind would not stop circling the other boy. It was rather disturbing. Yeah, he’d noticed Harrington before all this mess -he wasn’t blind- but he’d never thought too much about it. Steve Harrington was a pretty, preppy, former king of a small town high school and decidedly not a queer. Besides that, Billy had already made his peace with leaving his faggot side dead and buried for now (or at least until he was safely out of Neil Hargrove's house). This sudden attraction, or whatever it was, he was feeling towards Harrington was wholly unwelcome and downright dangerous.

In the end, he reached for the cold tap and blasted himself into an uncomfortable, shivering -but thankfully completely turned off- state. It wasn’t ideal and made him feel like shit but two Harrington-inspired jerk-off sessions was a much bigger problem than just one. One could be forgotten. One could be ignored.

By the time he'd dressed and started to feel a little more normal, Max and Susan were already in the kitchen, Billy’s slight head start on the day completely gone.

“Good morning Billy,” Susan smiled her nervous smile as she busied herself at the sink.

Uncertain of just where Neil was at this point, Billy replied with a short, “Morning.” The last thing he needed was for Neil to take offense. As it was, he still could. Billy never did get good at avoiding the various eggshells that existed between him and his father. Sometimes, in fact, he damn well stomped on them out of some, misguided, notion that he was standing up for himself. Rubbish.

Sitting down at the table, he caught Max’s furious glare. She’d been a silent bitch on the journey home from The Byers' place and, while he didn’t have much he wanted to say to her at the best of times, Billy was getting pretty sick of her attitude. She was acting as if he’d wanted to stumble on that monster and get himself dragging into this shit show. Like he was edging in on her thing and should back off. As far as he was concerned, she could get bent. Little cow.

The tense breakfast was made worse when Neil stormed into the room, his eyes hard and instantly on Billy. The knowledge hit Billy right in the gut: he was sore about their lateness last night. Billy braced himself for whatever was to come. The older Hargrove crossed the room and slowly lowered himself into the seat at the head of their modestly-sized kitchen table. The whole room seemed to freeze, everyone and everything waiting for whatever he was about to do.

“After Sunday night, I would have preferred the two of you to be home on time yesterday,” he spoke coolly without so much as a ‘good morning’. Susan hurriedly placed his coffee and paper in front of him but his eyes bore right into Billy. Never being able to stop himself, Billy stared right back. “Tonight, you will bring Max directly home. Understood?” he snarled, the glint of irritation there in his rocky gaze. Billy gritted his teeth. With any luck, El was going to be out of commission for a while. He shouldn’t miss out on anything yet.

The only major problem now was replacing the windscreen. Thinking logically, it was a miracle that Neil hadn’t noticed it was missing yet. Of all the things that had enraged the older man on Sunday night, the Camaro was safely not one of them. It wouldn’t last. Neil always seemed to take great pleasure in spoiling Billy’s pride and joy for him. He would notice soon.

Billy balled up his fists and mentally went through his timetable for the day. He had Econ with Trudy. He could skip that. She was the only teacher he could guarantee wouldn’t call home before asking him. The excuse could wait until after. She wouldn’t call.   

“Billy?” Neil leaned forwards and Billy knew he’d made a mistake: he’d left it too long before replying. Respect. He knew what his father wanted. “I asked if you understood me.” Susan whimpered slightly from the sink and Billy hated her all the more for it. She knew. She knew and did nothing. Weak, pathetic woman.

“I understand, sir,” he said, finally forcing himself to look down. In the battle of wills between him and Neil, Billy never came out on top – would never come out on top. Probably something to do with Neil being the source of all Billy’s childhood nightmares but he just couldn't hold his own against the guy. Jaw tight, he heard Neil unfolding the paper.

“Good,” the older man huffed and Billy hated him.

---

Getting to school was the usual at this point. Max slammed her way into the Camaro, this time not seeming to give a shit about the windscreen situation, and sulked all the way to the middle school. Billy did his best to ignore the anger brewing in his stomach but, just as they pulled in, he turned to her.

“Be out prompto tonight, Maxine,” he warned, silently wishing that the old dynamic was still there; that she was still afraid of him. She used to snarl and resist him but it was pretty much guaranteed that she would end up doing as she was told. Now, since the syringe of drugs and the bat full of nails, it was anyone’s guess.

“Whatever,” she rolled her eyes and reached for the door handle. Not happy with her response, Billy reached out and grabbed her elbow, holding her in place.

“I’m serious, Max,” he said, lowering his voice in the way that used to tell her he meant it. She blinked at him but, only seconds later, snatched her arm away.

“Screw you, Billy,” she spat, wrenching the door open and storming off without closing it. Fuck her. Leaning over to pull the door closed, Billy longed for the time before the Mayfields came into his life. Yeah, Neil had always been an asshole but at least it was only him and his moods that Billy had to contend with. Max was a whole other story and a shitty one at that.  

By some strange coincidence, Billy pulled up at the high school at the same time as Byers, Wheeler clocking him and waving sweetly from the passenger's side as both cars came to a halt side by side.

“Good morning Billy,” she smiled the moment they were both out and it was so much more genuine than when Susan had said it. It almost made it feel like it had been a good morning. 

“Morning Wheeler,” Billy replied because he just couldn’t bring himself to ignore her. This chick was really having some kind of fucked up effect on him. She smiled and shook her head, moving onto the sidewalk in step with Billy. Byers was forgotten on the other side of his car.

“Nancy,” she corrected, clasping her books to her chest in the perfect picture of preppiness. “If you’re going to be involved in our little... project... you should call me by my name.” She was probably right. Especially seeing as there were two Wheelers involved in this mess. All the same...

“Come on, Nancy. You said you wanted to get that chem book from the library, remember?” Byers stammered, appearing by her side with his head bowed as per usual.

“You’re in my chem class, right Billy? How’s your abstract for tomorrow's lab going?” she chatted away, her voice easy and relaxed like they’d been friends forever. Eyes glancing across at the uncomfortable look on Byers' face, Billy felt himself responding, telling her about a similar investigation that they’d done back in Cali and how he’d pretty much reused the old research from that.

They’d chatted like that all the way to the library and back to Wheeler's locker before Billy realised what was happening. Byers had long made his excuse and left and Billy had no idea how he’d gotten himself suckered into a half hour conversation with Princess Nancy Wheeler.

Before he could ponder the situation any further, the bell sounded overhead and Wheeler closed her locker neatly.

“Well, I have Spanish now so I’ll see you later,” she smiled, pushing her hair behind her ear.

“Yeah,” Billy agreed dumbly, desperately trying to recall what his first period was.

As Wheeler carried herself off in the direction of the languages rooms, Billy heard someone huffing pointedly at him. Turning around towards the sound, his eyes fell on the subject of all his early-morning angst: Steve Harrington. The other boy was wearing a frown on his face -an increasingly familiar expression at this point- and was leaning against the nearby lockers.

“Harrington,” Billy smiled with all the feigned ease and grace that he usually reserved for mothers and particularly unprofessional teachers. “Man, I get the pleasure of your face first thing in the morning! I'm a lucky guy!” Internally he flinched at his own phrasing. Harrington blinked dumbly, the dominant air that he’d puffed himself up with having apparently escaped him for the moment.

“Don’t be weird, Hargrove,” he spluttered dismissively. There it was: proof that he needed to put a lot on all his nonsense. Harrington wasn’t interested. He never would be; never could be. “What were you doing with Nancy?” he sniffed, looking away as if he was feeling awkward.

“What’s it to you? You jealous, Harrington?” he sneered, leaning closer to the other boy; steering into the skid. Making Harrington uncomfortable, no matter how, was a win at this point. Besides, the more grossed out Harrington seemed, the easier it would be to forget just how pretty he was. Harrington took a step back, moving off the lockers in the process.

“Just... don’t mess with her, man,” he scowled, his voice clearly battling for the strength that he'd been emanating before they’d actually spoken. Their eyes were locked and Billy forced himself to smirk at the other boy. A tense moment passed until finally, finally, Harrington looked away.

“Whatever, man,” Billy grinned, the thrum of his small win racing through his veins.

Mildly defeated, Harrington shrugged a little, as if subconsciously trying to console himself, and took a step away.

“Yeah, whatever,” he sulked and, with that, he turned to storm off down the corridor.

“Oh, Harrington! I do love to watch you walk away!” Billy called ironically after the other boy, watching as his shoulders flinched at the flirtatious comment. He grinned, loving the extra feeling of victory, even as his eyes started to drift downwards. Damn. Chinos were never Billy’s favourite but somehow Harrington was pulling them off.

Brow creasing, Billy shook his head.  This was literally the kind of shit he was supposedly trying to avoid. Before he could mentally berate himself any further, a wolf-whistle broke him out of his brief reverie.

“Yeah, Harrington. Shake it!!” Tommy H whooped mockingly from behind Billy and, once again, it was all he could do not to thump him. “What’s that queer bothering you for anyway, Hargrove?” the freckled boy grinned, leaning up against the lockers in that subservient way; waiting for Billy’s approval. God how he hated him.

“Thinks I’m making a move on Wheeler. Maybe I should just to piss him off,” Billy mused aloud.

“Nah, man. That bitch isn’t worth the hassle. Any girl who chooses to get freaky with the freak is nasty,” Tommy shook his head, a look of genuine concern flashing in his eyes. “Besides, she’s the reason Harrington turned queer in the first place.”

That was enough. Billy rolled his eyes and turned away from his ‘friend’.

“You know that makes no sense, right? Girls don’t turn you queer,” Billy observed as he started to make his escape. Tommy didn’t take the hint, pushing off the locker and falling into step with him.

“If the pussy is that bad, it might,” he grinned, leaning closer and lowering his voice like they were sharing a secret. “I’d stay away, if I were you.”

Just like yesterday when she’d been talking about how guilty she felt, Billy felt uncomfortable. Wheeler was nothing to him – really, she wasn’t – but it didn’t sit right with him now; talking about her like that. The urge to punch Tommy was becoming a little too much. It would only take a few more jackass comments like that. Just a few more.

“Whatever, man. I’m out,” he sniffed, picking up his pace and leaving the idiot in his dust. He heard him calling out some kind of farewell but couldn’t be bothered enough to wave him off as he usually did. Fuck him.

The rest of the day went without a hitch. Larry at the auto shop seemed to be in a good mood so didn’t charge extra for helping to fit the new windscreen. This didn’t make it cheap, by any means, but it did soften the blow to his savings. After that, he'd still made it back for the period after Econ. Trudy would understand, especially with a measured amount of shameless flirting. He truly hoped she’d never push for more; that, deep down, she’d be professional. Once again, he’d somehow made it the rest of the day without seeing any more of Tommy. It truly was a blessing because that guy seemed intent on pushing Billy past the point of no return. Fucking asshole.

Max was waiting on the sidewalk when he pulled up in the middle school parking lot. Once again, she said fuck all to him but Billy was beyond caring. She was there and had obeyed; that was all that mattered. He got her home and carried out the regular jobs that Neil expected of him. He really had been neglecting them and there was only so long he could get away with it.

He went to bed early, feeling tired and tense. Usually, he wouldn’t think twice about jerking off before going to sleep – he was a healthy boy after all. Today, however, it seemed stupidly likely that thoughts of chinos, brown hair and brown eyes would probably come to mind and he just couldn’t deal right now. Closing his eyes, he pointedly ignored the growing hardness in his pants. No fucking way.

Chapter Text

The week passed with varying levels of shit. Wheeler seemed to have adopted Billy as her pet project or something. It seemed like every time he turned around she was there. At first, he thought he was annoyed – or rather he ought to be annoyed – but, literally by Wednesday lunch, he discovered that her presence seemed to repel Tommy H. The idiot had been keeping his distance pretty much since their chat about Harrington being queer. Billy couldn’t help but thank Wheeler for that; he’d been so close to lashing out.

Not only that but she seemed to actually have a cool edge to her. On Wednesday, she'd moved from her usual seat in chem to sit beside Billy, causing more than one confused look from the other kids in the class. They’d worked together for the dreaded lab tests and Billy was not surprised that the ‘studious girl’ routine she was going for was actually for real. He had to grin at the knowledge that this would easily be his best scoring labs to date.

While their concoction bubbled away over a Bunsen burner, Wheeler seemed totally cool with chatting away to Billy, adding more detail than Harrington and the tweens had bothered to tell him about the shit that had gone down up to this point. While there was generally no news beyond the fact that El was still resting, she had filled him in on their general terminology -Mind Flayer, Upside Down and Demogorgon to name a few- and also given a little backstory to their various traumas. Turns out Harrington had almost gotten himself killed only hours after their fight back in November and he was a little fucked up about it. Billy had sat and listened, a new wave of guilt sweeping over him. Harrington had had to go and fight a horde of demodogs with what was probably a mild concussion. He’d clenched his fist at that realisation. Shit.

For his part, Byers seemed to quietly accept this new state of affairs. Billy guessed that Wheeler had  had a conversation with him at some point from his painfully obvious attempts at making an effort. In his own stammering way, he’d actually tried to start up a few conversations over the course of the week. Or at least two. Two conversations. Both of them about music. After an imploring look from Wheeler, Billy had caved and joined in. He really was under her thumb. To be fair, Byers didn’t have the worst taste in music but there were some fundamental differences that they both knew would forever be a wall in that regard.

The strangest reaction was that of the man himself: Steve fucking Harrington. After all his blustering on Tuesday, he seemed to have done a total 180 by Wednesday. While Wheeler giggled at something Billy had said after their chem lab, Harrington had come over to them with a big fucking smile on his face. He’d greeted them in a voice too syrupy to be genuine but, from that point onwards, he’d actually been alright. Over the past few days, Billy had found himself marvelling at the fact that Steve fucking Harrington was actually quite hilarious; a little dense but hilarious. For all the his supposed ‘trauma’, he seemed pretty okay. Some of the shit he came out was outrageous; he really thought he was a lady-killer. Perhaps he had been, back in the days before monsters and crazy, demon dimensions.

All in all, school had been peachy. The Scooby Gang had seemed to have adopted him and, at least for the time being, he hadn’t wanted to punch any of them in the throats like he so often did with Tommy H and Carol. Had he cared about popularity in this shit-hole town, he would have considered it a social decline but, in all honesty, it could only be a positive thing. Not wanting to break the trachea of the people you’re hanging with is always a plus.

Home had been a different story. Turns out auto shop Larry had meant to charge for the labour on Tuesday after all. Problem was he’d called the house on Wednesday while Neil was in. Billy only found out when he returned from school and had been met with the receipt for Neil’s payment lying accusingly on his bed. That night he’d gone to bed with a pain throbbing in his skull and tears in his eyes. It hurt. It hurt a lot but he knew it wasn’t so serious he couldn’t risk sleeping; he knew how that felt. Neil had held back, at least a little. That, in its small way, was something. And at least there was definitely no shit with Harrington-inspired boners or the ridiculous urge to jerk it to the thought of that boys pretty brown eyes. Silver linings and all that.

---

Friday came both incredibly quickly but also so slowly. It felt like he’d been chilling with Wheeler, Byers and Harrington for way longer than two days. Apparently monsters, psychics, fist fights and conversations were the key to forging fast bonds. They’d all just strangely fit together; like the gears of a clock. Wheeler was at the centre of it all, subtly twisting them all to her whim with her gentle smiles and her genuine concern. Billy had even caved and started calling her Nancy, at least to her face. It would take longer for him to think of her as such. Much longer. He remembered, all too well, the look on Ingrid's face after all the shit went down in Cali; the look of disgust and disowning. Women, as a whole, were too fickle with their affections. One day you’re a core part of their world, the next you’re garbage. While calming and easy to compare to an angel, Wheeler could flip her switch back to hating him any moment.

It was lunch and the four of them were under the bleachers. Byers seemed more at ease here and Billy was always thankful of a chance to get away from the crowds of sheep that lined the halls of Hawkins High. It also meant that he could have a smoke, although he hadn’t lit up just yet. Wheeler and Byers were sitting side by side leaning against the concrete support and Harrington was chilling on his back, legs kicking up at the underside of the benches. Billy was standing, back against the wall, staring in envy at the other boy. He was so relaxed. Not a care in the world for how exposed he was.

“So Maria Hayden’s looking pretty hot today,” Harrington spoke into the comfortable quiet that they’d been enjoying. Billy looked away from those long fucking legs. Time to put on the show.

“Can’t believe her daddy let her out of the house in that top this morning,” he supplied with a lick of the lips for show. Wheeler looked up at him and rolled her eyes.

“Maria Hayden has been stuffing her bra since 8th grade,” she said churlishly and Billy chuckled because, yeah, it was pretty obvious. Anyone with a brain knew that the cup size she came to school with was different from the one she had when out shopping with her family. Harrington, however, rolled onto his stomach dramatically to look up at Wheeler.

“No! They look so real!” he whined and now Wheeler and Byers were laughing too.

“Hey man, if it looks good it looks good,” Billy grinned, determinedly not letting his eyes drift in the direction of Harrington’s ass. This week had been a trial concerning Steve Harrington. The more not annoying he made himself appear to be, the harder Billy was finding it not to look at him and want. Even now, as he talked about how hot one of their female classmates was, the struggle was real.

“Nope. They’re ruined now. Thanks Nance,” he pouted. He looked like a kid who’d had his favourite toy snatched away. Billy laughed again.

“Sorry Steve,” Wheeler shrugged. “If you’re going to objectify girls, I will be there to spoil it for you!” She turned her attentions to Billy and pointed right at him. “You too, Billy!” He held his hands up and shook his head.

“Wouldn’t dream of it, Nancy. You know your mom’s the only girl for me!” he grinned and Wheeler’s face twisted into a look of disgust that rivalled her brother’s.

“Don’t, Billy. She’s way too interested in you as it is. She’s never asked me about how my days been so much as she has since Tuesday,” she explained, her face a picture of horror. Byers was still laughing away and Wheeler gave him a playful nudge with her elbow. Harrington was smiling but not quite laughing, his eyes turned up to meet Billy’s. Billy winked, meaning for it to come off as continuing the joke about Mrs Wheeler, but Harrington’s eyes widened a little with misunderstanding. Billy’s stomach dropped. Shit. Both boys looked away from each other and, in his periphery, Billy saw Harrington running a hand through his hair. Shit, shit, shit.

Before any more could be said, the sound of voices approaching caused all of them to instinctively freeze. It was two girls, ones Billy recognised, as he peered through the gaps in the benches, but didn’t know the names of.

“My dad doesn’t believe me though. He says I was dreaming and that Jubilee is just lost,” one girl was saying as they sat down, oblivious, right in front of the four of them. She was clearly on the verge of tears but there was something in her voice that made Billy, Wheeler and the other two hold their breaths; she sounded terrified.

“Could it have been a bobcat or just a really big raccoon? Jubes is getting old, she might not have been able to fight off a raccoon,” the other girl said in a placating voice. Billy’s heart started to pound. There was a tension in the air. Harrington slowly shifted so that he was sitting up now, his eyes wide with an unspoken worry.

“No, Sarah! I’m telling you it was really freaky!!” the other girl snapped. “It was big and slimy and it looked like roadkill or something!” Billy frowned and looked down. Shit. That sounded about right to be the Remorhaz. Didn’t El say she’d killed it? Was she lying or were there more of them? Looking back to Harrington, he could see the other boy pointedly staring at him, a question in his eyes. Billy nodded grimly and Harrington visibly slumped, his hand running through his hair again as his eyes went distant. Shit.

“It came into the back garden and just- just leapt on Jubilee. I could hear her screaming- like, properly screaming! I didn’t know cats could make that kind of noise!” she was hysterical and the other girl was holding her arms.

“Teeny, it was probably just-!”

“Don’t tell me it was just a nightmare, Sarah! That thing ate my cat and ran off into the woods!” ‘Teeny' wailed, clinging to her friend now. “It’s out there somewhere and no one will believe me!”

The bell for next period rang and Teeny whimpered.

“Let’s... let’s skip next period, yeah? Go and do something fun to take your mind off it?” Sarah suggested, standing up and pulling the other girl by the forearms. Teeny sniffed and nodded, following the guiding tug of her friend.

“Okay,” she sniffed again, letting Sarah pull her away from the bleachers and back across the field towards the parking lot.

The moment they were out of earshot, Byers, Wheeler and Harrington all shot up at once.

“Holy shit,” Harrington stressed, his arm above his head to shield himself from the near collision he’d had with the underside of the bleachers. His brow was furrowed and Billy knew it was only a matter of time before he started running his hands through his hair.

“Guys-" Wheeler started but Billy cut across her.

“There’s more out there,” he decided aloud. There was no way El would have lied; there’d be no point. The only result of that lie would be more danger. No. There had to be more.

“We don’t know that,” Wheeler said calmly. “It could be-"

“What Nance? What normal animal sounds like that?” Harrington snapped, advancing on her. Unthinking, Billy stepped forward, blocking the other boy’s path. Harrington stopped short and snorted. “What are you doing, Hargrove?” he scoffed.

“What are you doing, Harrington?” Billy countered, folding his arms over his chest. Harrington rolled his eyes and stepped away.

“Don’t act like I was going to do anything!” he spat, his eyes a little wild. “Nancy was my girlfriend; I’d never hurt her! Don’t use me as a way to make yourself look like some big, strong protector!”

“Steve-” Wheeler tried, her voice soothing already. Harrington didn’t even look in her direction, his fear clearly driving him onwards.

“No- no- no, Nancy! He’s not one of us! Just because he stumbled across one of those Remorhaz things on Friday night, doesn’t mean he knows jack shit!”

“Harrington -" Billy tried to warn him off.  Things had been good. It didn’t always need to spiral into this. He fought the urge to ball up his fists. He didn’t want to fight.

“Jonathan and I are not buying the shit that you’re selling. This- fucking joke of a week- We’ve only been tolerating you because of her. Just because she’s taken pity on you-" Billy cut him off with a slug to the jaw. His body thrummed with the anger that was always laying in waiting just beneath the skin. Fuck Harrington. Fuck him and his fucking lies.

Harrington grunted and dropped to his knees and Wheeler was pushing past Billy to get to him.

“Steve!” she gasped as Billy took a step back to pressing himself against the wall again. Shit. The anger had won. Harrington was clutching at his face and Wheeler was kneeling beside him. “We all need to calm down!” she said firmly, looking around at the three boys surrounding her.

“Nancy, he's-!”

“I’m not hearing it, Steve. You’re as bad as each other,” she snapped, her hands checking both sides of his jaw as if Billy could have dislocated it. Internally, Billy rolled his eyes. It would take more than a bop like that to do any real damage. Harrington was just a baby. A stupid, asshole of a baby.

“What we need to do,” Byers spoke up, his voice trembling a little but still resolute, “is get to Hopper’s. El must be feeling better by now. We’ll go and tell them what we heard.”

“Right now?” Billy asked, the very idea making his heart jolt. He couldn’t skip. Not after Sunday. Not after Wednesday. Respect and responsibility. He’d not been doing too good on those fronts this past week.

“No. We can’t skip again. My mom was bad enough after Monday,” Wheeler shook her head.

“Jon and I could go? Joyce is cool and-" Harrington cut himself off and looked up at Billy as if he’d almost let out a secret. Looking back at Wheeler, he nodded in time with his next few words. “-you know.” Wheeler nodded gently and they both stood up, some secret meaning understood. Billy rolled his eyes. Whatever. They weren’t friends, right?

“What about you, Billy?” Wheeler asked and Billy tensed his jaw.

“My dad’s a real hardass. Will have to get Max home and clear it with him,” he explained shortly. That was the basic premise. No one needed to know how bad Neil really was. None of their business. Especially not after what Harrington had said. Asshole.

“I’ll go with Steve,” Byers said, stepping into Wheeler’s space and fiddling in his pocket. “You take my car. Get Mike and Will back to yours and then meet us at Hopper’s,” he explained, handing her his keys. Wheeler nodded solemnly.

“What do I tell them?” she asked and Byers smiled.

“You’ll think of something,” Byers practically whispered and leaned in to press their lips together. Billy looked away. He wouldn’t let himself long for that. Not after Cali.

The tension from under the bleachers didn’t leave Billy’s body all that afternoon. He and Wheeler didn’t have any classes together but she made sure to find him after final period.

“Billy, just-" she said as they made their way to the parking lot. “-stay calm. Okay? Steve was…. Well he was just all wound up. I told you how messed up he was by the tunnels last year.” She looked uncomfortable thinking about it. Clearly the shit Harrington had been spewing has weighed on her mind too. “What I mean to say is… We don’t need any more drama than we already have.” They reached the cars and she stopped. In line with her apparent adoption of Billy, she had started making Byers park beside Billy in the mornings even, it seemed, today when Billy had arrived way earlier than usual due to Max having a test. They generally had the same timings. Again: it was like they’d all fit together.

“Harrington’s a prick. He was pushing me,” he shrugged as if it was nothing; as if the fucking words hadn’t repeated in his mind over and over. Wheeler shook her head but said nothing. She knew. “Besides. Calm isn’t really my strong suit. I’m more of the angry, bad boy type,” he tried to joke, offering her an attempt at a wink.

“You’re so much more than that, Billy. You’ve already changed so much in the last few days. No matter what Steve says, we could really use your help. You could be one of us. We just need to know that you’re with us,” she spoke softly, her words feeling like a blanket wrapping around him. He didn’t agree but it was so fucking nice to hear. Maybe he could fool himself into believing her.

“Whatever,” he sighed, turning to his car. He couldn’t deal with that right now. Not when there was another one of those things out there. Maybe El hadn’t even killed the one that got him. If so, that big bastard was going to pay.

As he climbed into the car, Wheeler tore a page from her notebook and rushed around to his still-open door to hand it to him.

“Directions,” she said as a simple explanation. “To Hopper’s place. The last bit in red-" she pointed the obvious red pen. “- you’ll have to do on foot. Be careful of tripwires and, no, I’m not kidding.”  

And with that, she was racing back to Byers’ car and hopping in. She sped off with a screech of the wheels, confirming that edge that Billy was starting to really love about her.

Max was waiting again when he pulled up at the Middle School. Her face was twisted up in confusion and she settled in the Camaro with a lot more calm than usual. As Billy took off, she actually turned to him.

“Nancy just drove off with Will and Mike and Steve’s not getting Dustin,” she said flatly, her voice almost accusing. “I know you’ve been hanging around with them. What’s going on?” She sounded so bitter. They still hadn’t talked all that much about the situation and Billy still didn’t feel inclined to change that. He shrugged his silent lie, keeping his eyes on the road.

“Don’t ask me,” he said noncommittally, knowing that would be nowhere near enough.

“Is something happening?” Max asked flatly. “Something to do with the Upside Down?” Thanks to Wheeler, he actually knew what that shit meant now. Still, there was no point in involving the kids at this stage. To be honest, unless they were directly involved, Billy didn’t see the point in involving them at all. They were fucking kids. What could they do? It was a miracle that none of them had bought it already.

“Max, give it a rest! Not everything comes down to that monster shit!” he snapped and she crossed her arms with a huff.

They drove back in a tense silence, Billy idling outside the house for a moment while Max simply sulked.

“Get out, I’ve got shit to do,” Billy instructed gruffly. Max whirled to face him, her red hair spreading out dramatically.

“You’re not even part of this!” she spat and Billy slammed his hand down on the wheel.

“Max! Jesus! Just get out!” he repeated but she didn’t budge.

“Where did Nancy go? Why did she look so freaked?” she shouted, slamming her hands on the car seat. “El said she was at the gate, Billy! You don’t even know what that means! Don’t fucking leave me out!”

Temper rising beyond the limit, Billy got out of the car and marched round to the passenger’s side. Flinging open the door, he leaned down to Max’s level, noting the fear in her eyes that he hadn’t seen since November time.

“Are you going to get out? Or do I have to drag you out?” he growled, tapping into the anger for the second time today. Max stared up at him, eyes frightened but defiant. Billy held firm. Neil’s car was on the drive; there was no way he could actually make good on his threat. The tension rose before she finally looked down and unbuckled her seatbelt.

“Screw you, Billy,” she said in a small, broken voice. She got up and shoved past him, running down the path and into the house.

Billy followed Wheeler’s instructions to the sound of Metallica. He turned the music as loud as it would go and pushed the Camaro to her limits. Terrorising Max just now didn’t have the same catharsis that it once did. As he approached the place Wheeler had instructed, he could see Byers' LTD parked up next to the Chief’s car and a shitty little Pinto. He wasn’t sure who that one belonged to but it didn’t really matter.

As he set off into the woods, he tried not to let himself think about how fucking defenceless he was. If there was another one of those Remorhaz things out there, he didn’t know how well he’d fair. Steeling himself, he continued onwards, walking faster than was probably advisable given the threat of tripwires.

Chapter Text

The Chief’s place was small and really gross-looking. It looked about a thousand years old and Billy was pretty certain that the moss growing on the wooden outside had spread inside too. As he marched through the woods, Billy almost missed it, which, in any other situation, would have been a blessing. Before Friday, Billy would have sincerely questioned why the chief of police needed a place that was quite so fucking remote and secret but, with all the monsters, psychics and government labs, he guessed it made a lot of sense.

Maintaining the pace that he’d kept up during his lovely trip through the woods, Billy came up to the door of the little shack. Half expecting El to hold him in place again, he reached out for the handle. Nothing. No voice in the depths of his mind. No sickening feeling of his body being held still. Nothing. He swung open the door without knocking; the others knew he was coming after all.

Harrington was leaping into action almost the instant the door crashed against the inner wall, nail-bat in hand ready to swing. Billy took a half step back, raising his hands in surrender. Not that thing. He remembered how he’d felt it crunching through the floor between his legs that night in November. It was almost enough to make his balls shrivel up and retreat back into his body. Almost. Harrington’s face was so determined and ready, an echo of when he was grimly focused in basketball. Billy glanced down and saw how very fucking planted his feet were. In defending the house, Harrington was immovable.

“It's just me, Harrington,” Billy smiled, stepping closer again when Harrington didn’t look quite so likely to take a swing at him. The other boy’s eyes widened as if just realising what he was about to do and he lowered the bat.

“Man, couldn’t you have knocked or something?” he huffed, the end of the bat hitting the wooden floor with a small ‘thunk’. “You could have been a monster. One of the other ones, I mean,” Harrington continued, running a hand through his hair but halting dramatically like he hadn’t meant to say it. Billy rolled his eyes. One smack to the nose and all the progress they’d made was gone. Fucking fine.

“Do these other monsters tend to use front doors, Harrington?” Billy sneered, pushing past the other boy and into the house. Wheeler and Byers were in the kitchen area but there was no one else around. “Where’s El?” Billy asked as he approached the others.

“They already left to go check out the area near Teeny's house,” Wheeler replied stiffly, her arms were crossed and her lips formed a thin line. Apparently the location of this Teeny's house was common enough knowledge that this had already been figured out. How had Wheeler made so much better time than Billy? She must have really been gunning it. Probably threw her brother and Little Byers out of the car. Billy had to smirk at that thought. Nancy Wheeler really was becoming a badass in his eyes. “We were told to stay here and wait for you then go home,” she continued, the bitterness in her voice making Byers flinch.

“Nancy, they’re right. Last time we went out there-" he tried to reason but she shook her head emphatically.

“Not the point, Jonathan! You saw that thing on Friday; they’re going to need all the help they can get!” she snapped, her eyes landing on Billy. “We have to go and help them!” Byers followed her gaze and looked worriedly at Billy.

“Nancy-!” he protested, turning back to his girlfriend but she looked resolute.

“Billy, they need us,” she stressed. Billy nodded and Byers let out a choking, spluttering sound. Wheeler smiled and moved out of the kitchen area towards Billy. The confident strides made her look like, just maybe, she actually could take on one of those bastards. Billy grinned; she truly was growing on him more and more today.

“Guys, you can’t just-" Harrington started, suddenly at Billy’s side but Wheeler simply snatched the nail-bat away from him and rested it confidently over her shoulder like she was Steve Sax or something.

“Come on, Billy. Teeny’s place is close,” she said and, with that, she was off.

Billy turned to watch her leave, held in place simply with the feeling awe. If only Tommy H could see Wheeler now; she was a far cry from the prissy little virgin (or slut depending on when you spoke to him) that he’d described. This girl had some brass ones on her. Harrington had turned as well, practically flinching when Billy took his first step forward.

“You’re not seriously going to let her do this, are you?” he spluttered and Billy chuckled at the implication.

“I’m not letting her do anything, Harrington. I’m just along for the ride,” he grinned, winking at the other boy before he could stop himself. Harrington sighed and ran his hands through his hair for what was probably the millionth time since they’d heard those two girls chatting on the bleachers.

Before either of them could say anything more, Byers was pushing past the two of them and out of the door, following Wheeler like a hunter after its prey. He slammed the door shut behind him and the sound of angry shouts instantly filtered through the wooden walls.

“Shit...” Billy breathed, genuinely surprised that Byers had that kind of volume on him. Wheeler was holding her own but Byers was really telling her how fucking dumb he thought it was.

“Yeah,” Harrington hummed, shifting between his feet. They stood together for a moment, both staring at the door that the happy couple had just stormed through. The shouting continued. Billy definitely heard the word ‘coward’ being thrown around, first by Wheeler and then repeatedly by Byers. He smirked and tousled his hair a little, halting the instant he realised what a Harrington gesture that actually was.

“They probably wanna keep it down,” Billy observed, leaning towards the slightly taller boy. Harrington turned to him but Billy kept his eyes in front just a little longer. “The Remorhaz? It’ll probably hear them if they keep this up too much longer,” Billy clarified and turned just in time to watch the realisation and mild panic in the other boy’s eyes.

“Oh shit...” he gasped, making a move towards the door. Instinctively, Billy reached out, catching him by the crook of his arm and holding him still.

“Give them a sec,” he instructed calmly, not wanting to start something. He could feel the tension rising in Harrington’s arm already; he could see the clenching of his jaw. The simple act of holding him back was almost enough to light the fuse again. Letting go, he held his hands up in a sign of peace. Not again. Not twice in the same day. They were supposed to be past this. “Wheeler’s got this,” he said, pointedly not acknowledging the almost-moment. Harrington hesitated for a second, his body still looking on the verge of springing into action. Billy couldn’t tell if he was about to charge out to the others or simply turn on him and return the favour from earlier.

After a tense few seconds, Harrington seemed to relax into himself, his eyes drifting back towards the door. They stood together in their awkward way, the shouts spreading out further as if the fight was coming to a close.

“I’m...” Harrington sounded tired, his voice almost a sigh. Billy looked around at him and could see his gaze still fixed on the door. “Earlier today- I was out of line,” he continued, still not looking at Billy.

“You were,” Billy agreed sternly, holding his gaze on the other boy. If Harrington wasn’t gunna face him, he would just stare. He would win by not flinching away from whatever this was. Harrington huffed and, once again, his hand went through his hair.

“I’m trying to say-" he caught himself, drawing his lips into a thin line. The silence between them felt awkward. They could both feel an apology but it was never said. “You’ll need a weapon,” Harrington said after a while, sounding like he was giving up. His eyes were still on the door and he’d folded his arms over his chest. Fine. Whatever. Billy could be the bigger man.

“You got any more of those bats?” he replied with a smirk.

“Ask nice enough and I’m sure Jonathan can fix one up for you,” was the quick reply. Billy’s brows rose. Byers made the infamous nail-bat? Just like it was with Wheeler, Billy’s perspective of the seemingly-shy elder Byers was starting to shift. Billy chuckled and shook his head all the same. Twisting mental images aside, if Billy was going to be carrying a weapon into battle, it was going to be one of his own choosing.

“I’m good, Harrington,” he grinned as the loud voices finally stopped.

When Wheeler and Byers stomped back into the shack, there was a tense feeling between them. Wheeler briefly explained that they were all going out as backup and that they would split into two teams once they reached Teeny’s place. Billy couldn’t help but raise his eyebrows for the second time that night when Wheeler sternly announced that he would be the one accompanying her. Harrington had spluttered at the idea and it wasn’t clear if he was more put out that he wasn’t with Wheeler or that Billy was. Regardless, one thing was monumentally clear: Steve fucking Harrington –current thorn in Billy’s side and star player in his sexual fantasies- was still into Nancy Wheeler. Billy absorbed the fact; added it to the file-o-fax of information that he had somehow built up about the boy that he wasn’t supposed to give a shit about. Fucking noted.

They had all trudged through the woods in an uncomfortable silence, Wheeler playing it off as ‘listening out’ for the creature. It was definitely bullshit. Wheeler had handed the bat back over to Harrington and now, and possibly more terrifyingly, she was clutching a small pistol to her chest. Billy wondered whether or not she’d ever shot one before but didn’t bother to voice that concern. The mood was still shitty. Her calming, balm-like, aura was absent tonight. Another thing that fucking Remorhaz thing had to answer for.

As for Billy and Byers, they had both managed to find something to swing at any gross monsters that came their way. The pipe wrench that Billy found under the sink could probably do a fair bit of damage but Byers’ chair leg seemed pretty damn feeble. Looking at it, Byers didn’t stand much of chance against one of those creatures if that was his only defence. Hopefully Harrington was feeling up to the challenge of keeping both himself and the other boy alive tonight.

When they reached the 6ft fence that Wheeler declared to be for Teeny’s house, they all paused awkwardly. Barely eight hours ago, they’d all been chilling under the bleachers, laughing about chicks who stuffed their bras. Now it was like they had been thrown into a horror movie. Like they were the teens from Evil Dead or Friday the 13th. Billy shuddered at the thought.

“Nancy-” Byers spoke, his voice cutting off short as if he was resisting the urge to speak. Wheeler turned to face him but he bottled it, looking down at the ground in resignation. Wheeler waited a moment before sighing and turning her back on him again.

“Come on, Billy. We’ll take the East. They can have the West,” she huffed and started in her chosen direction without a word to either boy from the second party. Byers flinched but still didn’t raise his head. Harrington looked at him awkwardly but didn’t speak. Fucking pathetic, the both of them. Billy rolled his eyes but took pity on Byers, stepping closer and clapping him on the shoulder.

“I’ll watch her man,” he sighed, patting him a couple of times in an attempt to shake him back into the moment. “Don’t you worry.”

Byers looked up and, for once, held Billy’s gaze. His eyes, while as squinty and vaguely-creepy as ever, burned with an intensity that Billy found he couldn’t question.

“Keep her safe,” he said with a short nod.

In the end, Wheeler had marched off with such force that it took Billy a good couple of minutes to track her down. When he finally caught up, she paused, her hands on her hips and the gun pointed down.

“I don’t get how he could just sit by knowing that they’re out there risking their lives!” she stressed as they were continuing a conversation that they’d already started. “It’s his mom! She’s out there and he’s happy to sit around and wait? What’s wrong with him?” Her arms flew up wildly, the gun still her hands. Trying to pretend this didn’t freak the shit out of him, Billy shrugged. It was a no-brainer how he'd be in Byers' position; there was literally nothing he wouldn't have done to keep his mom safe. No matter what Neil said, she has been his whole world. Then again, it wasn't his place to say. He was not going to get himself caught up in this developing drama between Wheeler and Byers. That was the kind of shit he simply was not about. 

“Do you know how to use that thing?” he asked pointedly, nodding in the direction of the weapon that she was still swinging around. Wheeler stopped for a moment and then looked towards the gun.

“Oh,” she breathed as if she was only just remembering what she was holding. She lowered her hand, a sheepish blush tinging her cheeks. “Sorry Billy.”

“Yeah, just... don’t shoot me, yeah?” he smiled, feeling a sickening feeling of relief when the tension seemed to release her. She giggled, covering her mouth with her hand.

“Don’t worry about that. I’m a good shot,” she answered confidently.

“Oh, I’m sure you are,” Bill grinned back, unable to stop the small wink he shot at her.

“Come on. Let’s go and check for clues,” she smiled, turning back in the direction she’d originally been going. Looks like she, unlike her mother, was immune to his charms, not that he’d been putting them on too strong. Probably for the best, he smirked to himself.

Billy obediently followed her, looking down at the ground for lord knows what. Wheeler seemed convinced that there would be some kind of evidence of one of those things but everything seemed pretty fucking normal, to be honest. Not being an Indiana native, a tree just looked like a tree to Billy. Perhaps there were subtle differences that Wheeler was looking for? Some creepy ‘hunter shit’ that was just bred into her and the other people of Hawkins. He shuddered at the thought, half-heartedly kicking at a small log to show willing.  

As he walked carefully through the trees, Billy swung the wrench from hand to hand, almost itching for one of those bastards to come out at them. He thought, given the chance, he’d actually love to take a good whack at them. Neil had been shitty enough this week and Billy had way too much unspent rage. Smacking Harrington hadn't even begun to scratch that itch.

After a quiet start, Wheeler started to chat to Billy. First, she talked tentatively about their classes – she had been pestering him to share his final grade from their shared lab all day – but then she moved onto other things. She asked him about the girls at school; about who he liked and who he’d been seeing. That was trickier to talk about. She had heard some stuff but it was all grossly over-exaggerated and totally out of date. Wanting to show some kind of willing, he gave her some bullshit about Carol’s cousin – seemed only logical to use that one – and she chatted back, seeming to believe it.

“The only problem with an older girlfriend is that-” Wheeler cut herself off from whatever misguided wisdom she was about to dish out. Billy looked up from the small pile of leaves he’d been pretending to look at intensely. There was a noise nearby that made his skin tingle. It sounded like a mixture of the crunching of leaves but also like the wind was simply scattering them. Billy opened his mouth, ready to excuse it away as the other two having caught up with them, but then there it was: the horrendous roar of that creature. It was just as Billy remembered; broken, bestial and dangerous.

“Shit…” Billy breathed, holding the wrench ready. This was it. His heart started to race and his muscles tensed in anticipation. This was it.

Wheeler clicked the safety off the gun, pointing it ahead of her as she slowly continued in the direction where the roar had come from.

“This way…” she whispered and Billy watched her approaching a particularly dense cluster of trees. He was about to follow –to let her lead the way– but then a glint caught his eye.

He looked at the trees just behind where Wheeler stood. There, between the thick trunks in the darkness, he saw the glistening sheen of tortured skin; the cracks and flakes of decay. The small growling sound was all the warning he needed; this was it.

“Wheeler!” Billy yelled as both he and the creature charged forwards at their respective quarries. He didn’t have time to think about it; his body was acting on instinct. He’d spent the past week waiting for this chance; he wasn’t going to let it pass him by.

Yelling in exertion, he swung the pipe wrench right at what he assumed was, the creature’s head, the force of the strike sending painful vibrations through his right arm. Wheeler screamed and spun around, falling to the ground as she did. Billy caught himself and planted his feet in front of her. There was no fucking way he’d let it get her like it did last week. He hadn't been there that time but, right now, he was.

“Get the fuck back!” he cried out, taking another swing at the creature who seemed to absorb the blow like it was nothing. When the wrench came back this time, it was bent almost to the point of snapping. Billy took one look at it and his heart sank. Shit. Cheap piece of shit; who the fuck doesn't invest in quality tools? Maybe Byers’ chair leg would have been a better shout after all; at least you expect that to fall apart.

Before he could think of something else to use to fight this gross bastard, a bony, mangled tail whipped out from what felt like nowhere. Billy felt all the air being punched from his lungs as it crashed into his chest and sent him sprawling onto the ground. Fucking useless. He hadn’t even clocked the tail last week. How could he have been so fucking stupid?

“Billy!” Wheeler shouted, taking aim and firing off all six rounds from her pistol. The creature mewled and recoiled in pain for a moment but then Wheeler was out of bullets and its whole focus was on her.  “Oh God…!” she panted, crawling backwards as quickly as she could.

Wholly unwilling to watch that creature tear the girl, who’d only just started to make Hawkins seem less shitty to Billy, to pieces, Billy forced himself up onto his feet. As the Remorhaz started to charge at Wheeler, he rushed at it, body-slamming it with all his might like this was a football game or something. Somehow, the creature held its own; resisting the force that Billy had driven into it and barely moving an inch. It held position, neither advancing on Wheeler nor backing down from Billy’s attack. It was so goddamn solid; immovable. Suddenly face to face with the monster, Billy felt cold dread flood his body. The bony spines seemed to flutter, like a bird’s feathers, and now, at this proximity, he could see how very sharp they were.

“Fuck-!” he cursed, trying to jump back away but losing his footing a little. As he stumbled, the tail swung upwards and then crashed downward to hit him again, this time crushing him down onto the ground in front of the creature. Billy yelled in pain, landing badly on both wrists. Fuck. Six more shots rang out in quick succession: Wheeler had reloaded the gun.

Once again, the Remorhaz roared in pain; its dual voices sounding like the battle between a lion and a serpent. It was frigging horrifying. Billy tried to push himself back up, wrists screaming their objections, but the hefty tail was still pushing him down into the dirt. His chest felt crushed, his breaths came short. Shit. 

“Billy!” Wheeler hollered and she was back on her feet. The gun was forgotten and she was clutching a huge branch. With a resounding shout, she swung the branch and it smashed into the creature’s tail, forcing it off Billy for a moment. Not wanting her efforts to go to waste, Billy rolled towards her, jumping up onto his feet with a speed that should have been denied him given the state of his arms.

The two of them backed up, watching the Remorhaz convulsing and dripping blood. Had those last six shots actually been enough? Billy wasn’t sure. Panting heavily, he looked over at Nancy and could see the fear in her wide eyes.

“We need to get out of here!” she gasped, the fight losing out to her need to fly, as the creature turned as if readying for another charge. The shots hadn’t been enough at all; that thing was coming for them and there was nothing he could do to stop it. He looked back at her and felt the realisation dawning on him: the most he could do was hold it back while Nancy got to safety.

“Go find the others, I’ll hold it off,” he instructed, widening his stance and planting his feet. He would not move. Not until she was out of the way; not until she was safe. If he was going to die tonight then he’d go down fighting. He’d go down protecting someone who was so much better than he was. Someone worthy of being saved.

“No! Billy, we can both-!” she started but, with another dual roar, the monster charged again. It was coming for her – not him. Billy’s heart thudded in his ears. This couldn’t be happening. How could everything go so wrong so fast? They’d been talking such shit only moments ago.

Compromising the solid base he’d just set up, Billy rushed in front of Nancy and stepped into the onslaught of monster. Using all the strength in his throbbing arms, he caught the creature at its chest. His elbows locked and he pushed, arms trembling but holding strong. The Remorhaz was strong; fucking strong. Heels digging into the earth beneath him, he groaned from the sheer amount of force it was taking just to remain where he was. He couldn’t be sure if Wheeler was still behind him or not; all that mattered was holding it back.

For the briefest, most inappropriate moment, Harrington flashed into his mind. He was somewhere out here too; all pretty eyes and half apologies. The Remorhaz would come for him too; would break him under all of its strength. That thought was just too fucking much right now. With any luck, Nancy would find him and they’d both get out safely. Yeah. Billy would hold off this fucker long enough that they could get away. That was all he had to do. His whole body burned with the effort, his legs felt close to buckling, but he held fast. He would not move. He would not give in.

The Remorhaz roared and Billy roared back, wanting to match the monster for what it was. The darkness and anger that had taken hold of him since all the shit went down in Cali... finally it had a purpose. Finally, he could put it to some positive use. Harrington and Nancy would be safe. Finally, he could save someone; he could do something

His throat raw, Billy matched the Remorhaz for another roar, fighting harder and harder against its overwhelming power. Snarling, clicking and forever pushing, the beast shuddered, its tail swinging up towards the sky and Billy’s heart sank. Shit. The tail. As he watched, he saw more spines bursting from the weeping skin of that extra limb. Splatters of black blood and mucus rained down on him but he couldn’t look away from the spines; they looked almost like needles. He thought back to Harrington and Nancy’s varying explanations of possession. Jesus no. He couldn’t go like that; he couldn’t be weaponized against them. Not now.

The Remorhaz roared again and the intensity of its forward momentum increased. Billy felt his body being pushed past its limits; it was a wonder he was still standing as it was. The tail swished up above his head and Billy knew that it was time. This was it: he’d be flattened and then, doubtlessly, killed. He could have only been holding it back for a minute. It wouldn’t be enough. As he screamed and screamed, he could feel hot tears in his eyes. This was it. he'd fucking failed. 

The unmistakable boom of a shotgun cut across Billy’s screams and the cries of the creature. All of a sudden, the Remorhaz was missing a large chunk of its face and Billy was completely coated in a black, tar-like substance. The strength that he was battling fell away and the creature’s cries changed to higher pitched whistles. It was hurt. Badly. Another shotgun blast and the creature was fleeing into the woods once again, whistling and crying out in pain.

His strength depleted, Billy crashed to the ground, his eyes closed against the horrors of the night and the blood that he’d been sprayed with. Warm, trembling arms were about his shoulders in an instant, pulling at him until he moved with them. It was Nancy. She guided him upwards into her lap and doubled over to hold onto him, sobbing the words ‘thank you’ over and over again. Too weak to fight it, Billy clutched at her as well, the tears from his battle spilling out as he gasped out little choking sobs into her lap.

“What the hell are you two doing out here?” the gruff bark from the Chief came from above them, the older man not at all hesitant about addressing them in this state.

Chapter Text

The Chief  had marched them smartly back to the cabin once they’d just about got a hold of themselves. Nancy clung to Billy  the whole way as if he was her new security blanket; like he could keep her safe. Billy felt hollow. He couldn’t keep her safe. It hadn’t been enough. The rage that he’d channelled into fighting that monster wasn’t enough. Sure, it had been enough to smash Harrington’s face in last November, it had been enough to get him through the worst parts of moving to Hawkins, but it hadn’t actually been enough to stand against the Remorhaz. At the end of the day, this monster from the Upside Down was just as undefeatable as Neil.

Billy clenched his fists, savouring the dull ache that spread up his wrists and into his forearms. The Remorhaz wasn’t his stress relief. It was so much worse than that. He’d always wondered if Neil would make good on his threat; that eventually he would kill Billy. Before the funeral, when he was towering over Billy like some goddamn monolithic gargoyle, he’d said as much but there’d always been doubt. Doubt that he would actually do it: kill his son.

The Remorhaz wasn’t like that. If Hopper hadn’t turned up when he did, the creature would have torn both Billy and Nancy to pieces. With those sharp spines -with the teeth that seemed to explode from its mouth- it would have made short work of them, given the chance. Or worse. That possession shit that Harrington had talked about. Billy gritted his teeth at the thought. He didn’t like the idea of being that thing’s puppet; being twisted to its will. Little Byers had talked a little about how it had felt last Friday. He knew how it felt; he’d been aware. He’d been trapped behind the glass, watching himself betray all the people he loved. It sounded like a nightmare. Like when El had been holding him and Harrington in place but a thousand times worse.

Harrington, Byers, Joyce and El were already at the cabin when they got back. Byers took one look at Nancy, all wrapped up in Billy’s arms, and raced over to them. The night was written on his face; the worry and fear all so clear from the frantic glint in his eye to the downward turn at the corner of his mouth. Nancy sniffed and just about broke again at the very sight of him. Still holding onto Billy with her right hand, she reached out towards her boyfriend with her left, pulling him in close. Billy tensed up, suddenly way too close to this intimate embrace, but Nancy seemed mentally and physically torn apart.

“Nancy...” Byers stammered, so focused on the trembling girl in front of him he didn’t seem to clock how completely in the way Billy was.

“It was there Jonathan- Just like last week- It was there...” Nancy gasped, pulling him impossibly close so that their foreheads touched. Billy tried to pull his arm free but she was still like a limpet

“I know, Nance, I know. I heard the shots....” Byers hushed, running his hands through her wavy hair.

“It was coming for me... Billy-” she stopped herself and pulled back, wide eyes fixing on Billy. There was a glimmer of awe and adoration that Billy had to look away from. It wasn’t something he was used to seeing. It didn’t feel right; didn’t feel earned. He hadn’t been enough. “Billy saved me...”

He could feel their eyes on him. All of them. Nancy, Byers, Joyce, the Chief and Harrington; they were all looking at him and he could feel the weight of it. Harrington’s face was soft and tired and pretty. IT was too much. With one gentle tug, Billy finally dislodged himself.

“I-” he didn’t know what to say. To be honest, he couldn’t explain why he’d done it. The thought of Nancy being torn to pieces before his eyes had juts- not been alright. Standing in front of her –saving her the way that he did- it was all he could think to do. His eyes flashed back to Harrington and he could see that strange look on his face again: like he was solving a problem in trig.

“Billy,” El said and Billy almost jumped. He’d almost forgotten she was there, standing almost behind Joyce at the foot of the steps into the cabin. “Hurt,” she said simply, pointing straight at him. His gut dropped and he quickly checked himself out. Seeing no obvious wounds, he looked quizzically at the monosyllabic girl and she waved her hand in front of her face as a signal. The blood. Wiping at his cheek, his fingers came away bloody. Gross.

“Not mine,” he replied, holding his fingers out so she could see. A little glimmer of relief shone in her eyes and she gave him a small nod.

“Good,” she said and Billy could feel it. For some unearthly reason, this girl seemed to care about him. She actually cared. It had been too long since he’d felt that. Too long since he’d even dared to hope for it. That thought alone almost broke him back into pieces. Almost.

“Let’s get inside,” Joyce suggested after an uneasy silence had settled. “We’ll check you to out. Make sure you’re okay...”

In various states of disturbed, they all headed back inside the cabin. Nancy let Byers lead her to the large armchair, pulling her down into his lap. His arms circled around her like he could be her defender; like anything could keep her safe from the Remorhaz.

Joyce fussed her way into the kitchen and brought back a damp towel, mutely scrubbing at Billy’s face and arms while the others situated themselves. The towel came away black but Joyce didn’t seem to think he was in any immediate danger, giving him a soft smile before moving to stand beside the Chief. Through all of it, Billy had still felt too pumped up and freaked out to sit down or do much of anything besides stand and wait. He was too close to shattering again.

El had moved over to sit on the couch while the rest of them all focused in on her. She was the key.  

“So... we’ve taken out two of those things tonight. I guess what we’ve gotta do is-” the Chief began, moving to the centre of the room. The plans he was about to make were cut short when El interrupted him.

“Not dead,” she said simply and Billy wanted to puke. The thing had damn near had its whole head shot off. How much more did it take to kill one of those things? Unless she was talking about the one that she and the adults had taken out. Looking straight at Billy, El shook her head. “Yours,” she said, flatly responding to his inner thoughts like that was something people just did. Billy turned away and covered his mouth for a moment. He really might puke. “I should go.”

The Chief slammed his shotgun down on the coffee table, making everyone in the room jump. He looked El in the eye and they both almost looked like they’d frozen in place. Billy found himself wondering if they were having some kind of mental conversation, like the one he’d had with her last time they’d met.

“You’re not going out there again tonight,” the Chief growled, the expression on his face deadly serious. “You barely beat the one we found at the pool. You’re still in no shape to fight another one of those things.” El looked furious but said nothing, her dark eyes flicking down towards the floor.

“Well what are we gunna do about it, then?” Billy asked, hating the thought of that monstrosity staying out in the wild. Just how long would it be satisfied with eating cats? From the looks of it tonight, it seemed ready to move onto bigger prey.

You will do nothing, Hargrove,” the Chief replied. “Those things seem to get ten times more aggressive when attacked. You’ve riled that one up into a frenzy. Who knows what it’ll do –who it’ll hurt– because of you and your ego trip!”

Billy felt his fists clenching, his jaw tightening. His ego trip? Yeah, he’d been on board with the ‘let’s kill the Remorhaz’ idea –that was hardly a fucking state secret– but, at its core, it had been Nancy’s plan. He stared daggers at the Chief, hating the impotent burn of anger that was flaring up within him.

“It wasn’t Billy’s idea, Hopper,” Nancy snapped, her voice stronger than Billy had expected. Although she was still clinging to Byers for dear life, she was now sitting up and facing the Chief down. Billy couldn’t see her face but, from her tone, he imagined it was as furiously resolute as it had been when she’d told Byers off only an hour or so ago. “I was the one who wanted to go after it. We were trying to help you guys out-”

“Well, all you managed to do is make one more job for Jane!” the Chief shouted back, causing the fragile-looking girl to flinch. Billy fought the impulse to fly at him. He had no fucking idea what had gone down before he’d jumped into it with his shotgun. No fucking idea.

“Look-” he started but the Chief rounded on him again.

“I’ve still heard enough from you, Hargrove! Regardless of what you did for Nancy tonight, you’re still a liability and-”

“Stop!” El shouted and the room shook once again.

“No, Jane, I won’t stop! This kid is bad news. I don’t know why you’re so keen on him sticking around but he’s not one of us!” the Chief ranted. El’s whole body seemed tense even as she got to her feet.

“Billy is one of us. Billy is here!” she stomped her foot down and Billy had had enough. Once again, those two were going in circles. He couldn’t sit by while the Chief made him sound like an asshole and El teetered on the edge of tearing the room to pieces.

“No, Billy is leaving,” he finished, heading for the door. He heard Nancy protesting but there was nothing for it. He wanted out.

Marching back out into the night air, Billy looked up at the sky. The stars were out, glinting in their ignorance at what was going on beneath them. He tried to calm down; tried to remember the cooling balm that Nancy’s presence could provide. It wasn’t working. His jaw hurt from how tightly he was gritting it. His palms were sore from how deep his nails were digging in.

Billy... the small voice in his head started in a pleading tone. He slapped his head a couple of times as if that could force El out of there.

Just... leave me alone, El! He tried to think to her. He reached into his pocket and pulled out his smokes, hating how much his hands were shaking. Was he still freaked about the Remorhaz? Was the anger at the Chief still bubbling under the surface? He felt so messed up, he couldn’t tell. Trying to keep his fucking hands steady, he lit the cigarette and inhaled deeply. Calm the fuck down, Hargrove.

The cabin door swung open and closed and Billy sighed loudly. Nope. Whoever had followed him out could get bent. He needed some fucking space.

“Please-!” he shouted, spinning round to tell the other person to fuck off. He froze at the sight of chocolatey hair and eyes. Steve fucking Harrington. “Goddamn it, Harrington.... What do you want? Here to tell me to piss off for good this time?”

Harrington visibly hesitated like Billy might lash out at him or something. Sighing in frustration, Billy turned away from the other boy. Once again, Harrington was being a precious princess. One smack to the jaw and he’s acting like Billy’s some feral animal.

The crunching of leaves told Billy that Harrington was, not only still outside but, was approaching him. Rolling his eyes, Billy took another deep drag of his cigarette. He looked back up at the stars.

“Can I bum one of those?”

“Do you even smoke?” Billy countered, not looking towards the other boy even as he drew up level with him.

“Yeah. Sometimes...” Harrington shrugged, looking upwards to match Billy. Puffing on his smoke one more time, Billy reached for the pack and passed it over. Harrington took it and the lighter when Billy offered it seconds later. “Thanks,” the brunette said, failing to ignite the lighter four times before it sounded like he’d managed it. Billy chuckled absently as he took another drag on his cigarette.

“No problemo,” he sighed, taking the packet and lighter back and stuffing them into his jeans.

The two of them stood, side by side, for a long while, silence fitting between them in a hollow echo of the comfort that had been between them under the bleachers at lunch. Damn monsters. Damn Upside Down. Things were starting to feel normal.

“Hopper’s being a prick,” Harrington finally sighed. Billy nodded before he even really processed what the other boy was saying. Yeah, the old man was being a prick, but he hadn’t really expected one of ‘the party’ to acknowledge it. “He’s just... trying to keep everyone safe, I guess.” There it was. The excuses. The little clique were tight-knit after all.

“Whatever, man,” Billy huffed. He didn’t really fancy chatting about it, hence him leaving the cabin in the first place.

“Nancy says you saved her. That you held the Remorhaz back with your bare hands...” Harrington continued, putting his cigarette to his lips but barely inhaling. He wasn’t a smoker. Billy nodded grimly, still trying to focus on the night’s sky. The last thing he needed was some fucking heart to heart with Harrington right now. He felt too open and fucked up.

“Whatever...” he said again with a small shrug. It wasn’t nothing –he'd been ready to die after all– but he just couldn’t right now. Not now and not with Harrington of all people.

“Are you into her? You two seem awful close all of a sudden...” Harrington asked, turning to look at Billy. Billy nearly choked on the smoke he’d just inhaled. Coughing and spluttering, he finally looked at the other boy. Harrington had that confused face once again. His cigarette was now being held by his hip, forgotten, and his free hand was balled up into a determined fist. “You risked your life to save her... The Billy Hargrove I knew, or at least I thought I knew, last year only cared about himself and his car. You didn’t seem like the kind of guy to risk your life for someone else.”

“Sounds like you’ve been thinking about me a lot, Harrington,” Billy sneered, desperate now to push the other boy away. Harrington seemed dead-set on some kind of bonding pow-wow and Billy just couldn’t. Why the hell hadn’t he just gone home? El hadn’t seemed like she was going to stop him. She might not have even been able to; the Chief made it sound like she’d been weakened again by whatever she’d gotten herself into tonight. “Thinking about who I’m into and what kind of guy I am?” he took a step closer to the other boy, seeing the unease in him already. Yes, Harrington. Back off.

“I-” Harrington faltered, looking away and scratching at the back of his head. Stomping out his dead smoke, Billy crowded in on him, wanting to make him uneasy; wanting him to just go away.

“What kind of guy would you like me to be?” he hissed, leaning upwards so that he could whisper into the taller boy’s ear. Billy looked into his eyes. Those dark pools were made all the darker with how big his pupils had gone in the moonlight. Keeping the sneer on his lips, Billy forced himself not to glance down at the older boy’s lips. He was toeing the line; making Harrington so uncomfortable that he would leave Billy the fuck alone. He wasn’t actually flirting.

“The kind we can rely on,” Harrington breathed, his whole body tense but not moving away. Billy paused at that. An honest response. A fucked-up response but an honest one. Harrington was simply being pragmatic; they needed allies. The Remorhazes (or whatever the plural was) were gunna take a lot of killing. Just relying on El wasn’t going to be enough.

“You worried I’ll let you down, Stevie?” Billy hissed, the nickname making him feel uneasy in himself. It was too close to the mark and fucked with his head just that little bit; he wouldn’t use it again. Harrington’s eyes seemed to widen even more at that and they flashed in the direction of the cabin.

“If you’re serious about taking down one of those things, we need to be able to trust you...” he stammered, staying the course and keeping it strictly business. Billy chuckled at how shaken the former king seemed just from a little bit of flirting. He’d probably never met an actual fag before; never had a guy chat him up, serious or otherwise. Billy thought back to Tommy H saying that just about anyone who pissed him off was a queer. Harrington probably thought the same way. Hawkins truly was a back-water place after all.

“Oh, you can trust me, Harrington,” Billy smirked, plucking the cigarette from the older boy’s hand and taking a deep drag on it. Harrington’s breath caught in his throat and finally he took several steps away. Victorious, Billy laughed out loud, letting the smoke escape his lips as he did. “You don’t need to worry, Harrington. Next time I see one of those bad boys, I’ll kill it,” he proclaimed, dropping the smoke to the ground and stomping it out. It sounded confident; like he believed it. Harrington would believe him; Billy was a good sell.

“Billy...” Nancy’s voice forced Billy to look in the direction of the cabin. He hadn’t heard her coming out. Had she seen his and Harrington’s conversation? She’d kind of asked him to lay off the other boy earlier in the day. Yeah, it was all in the subtext, but he knew she wouldn’t be impressed. Looking at her now, though, she looked so small, standing there in the dim light from one of the windows. She didn’t seem annoyed at all; just frightened. Forgetting Harrington for a moment, Billy crossed over to stand in front of her. He’d feel so much better if she was inside right now. “You can’t go after it again...” she continued, her baby-blues looking around at the darkness between the trees behind him. Billy shook his head, taking her hands in his. What in the hell was he doing?

“Next time I go out there, Nancy, I’ll be ready,” he promised. “You saw it, right? I’m strong enough to hold it back. I just need a better weapon and I can do it,” he explained, convincing himself even if it wasn’t working on her. Nancy shook her head, her hands gripping Billy’s tightly.

“It was so big.... so strong...” she breathed, still clinging to him. Billy held her gaze.

“So am I,” he grinned softly, trying to get her to laugh; bring her back to herself. He watched the humour roll off her like water off a duck’s back. She was still too freaked.

“But-! It could have- It nearly-”

“It didn’t,” Harrington supplied, suddenly at Billy’s side again. “Billy’s right: with the right weapons we can win.” Hearing Harrington say his first name fucked with his stomach in a special way. Billy could feel the frown forming on his brow as he tried not to react.

“Like Harrington said,” Billy forced himself to agree, not looking at the other boy. Just how many fucked-up feelings could he go through in one night? “We’re gunna kill it.”

---

Nancy had taken some convincing to go back into the cabin. Harrington had paused for a moment, once she’d gone back inside, looking at Billy like he was considering something important. He’d finally shaken his head, though, and headed in after his ex-girlfriend. Billy had taken that as his chance to escape, thankful when he’d received no mental pleas from El. She either was really worn out or she’d simply given up on him as well.

As he’d driven home, Billy had tried to convince himself that it didn’t matter. He knew about the Remorhaz. That was the important thing. If it was on a rampage now because of his actions, then he’d take it out. He didn’t need ‘the party’ to help him out; he’d keep telling himself that until he believed it. He needed to have faith that he could kill that monster. He couldn’t go back to that headspace where he’d been ready to die; he’d never sleep again, thinking like that.

By the time he pulled up at the house, it was almost half ten. Not an unusual time for any other eighteen year old boy to get home but he knew that he wasn’t any other eighteen years old boy. After the week he’d been having, this was gunna be quite the shit show. His heart started to race in his chest and he tried to breathe normally. He’d just faced down a literal monster and lived, for fucks sake; he should be fine going and taking his licks.

Giving the steering wheel one last squeeze, he turned off the Camaro's engine and climbed out of the car. This could be the last time he got to drive her for a while; Neil always did enjoy taking the keys when he felt Billy hadn’t been responsible or respectful enough. Trudging up towards the house, he could see that the lights were on in the lounge. Neil was up. He was waiting. Clenching and clenching his fists, Billy powered on. No time to be a pussy now. He had survived tonight this far....

The door wasn’t locked. Billy pushed it open and stepped into the ominously bright lounge. As if he’d positioned it just for confrontations like these, Neil was sitting on the couch facing the door, his cold, hateful eyes boring into his son. Billy met his father’s gaze, blindly pushing the door closed behind him. Every muscle in his body screamed for him to run. This wasn’t like the Remorhaz; standing here wasn’t defending Nancy or Harrington. This was all for nothing.

“It’s late,” Neil spoke evenly, rising from his position and crossing the room to turn off the TV. The silence made it worse. It was almost like he could hear his body crying out at him now. “We’ve talked about this, Billy.”

“It’s not even ten, Dad,” Billy heard himself respond, like his father was a reasonable man. Like he could just answer back so casually.

“We’ve talked about this this very week, have we not?” Neil continued, the flicker of rage at Billy’s response undisguised and out there in the open.

Before Billy could reply again, the older man was suddenly on him. How he moved so quickly, Billy had no idea. A hand was on his neck and the other was gripping his bad shoulder, forcing him back against the front door. Billy moved with the force; fighting never did him any favours in the long run. Raising his chin so that his throat was open, he looked into the monstrous face of his father.

“You haven’t forgotten my warning from back when that little faggot died, have you?” Neil spat and Billy’s guts twisted up. No.

“Don’t-!” he stammered but, before the ill-advised interruption could leave his mouth, Neil punched the air from his lungs.

‘Don’t’? You trying to tell me what to do, boy? If I want to talk about your little faggot boyfriend, I will,” the elder Hargrove snarled, leaning right into his sons face as Billy choked on his own air. “Well, seeing as how you seem awfully forgetful this week, let me remind you,” he continued, slammed his fist into Billy’s gut once again, tightening his grip on his throat; never allowing him to regain his breath. “If I find out that you’re sneaking around again, bending over like the faggot you are, I’ll kill you.”

And there it was. The threat that only ever felt real when he was in the moment. Enough time and space made Neil’s words seem empty – like he’d never actually make good on them. Right now, however, as he looked into the eyes of the man who had nothing but contempt for him, Billy knew it was true. He felt the weight of those words as heavily as he’d felt the intent of the Remorhaz.

“Do you understand me?” Neil snarled, still super close.

“Yes sir,” Billy replied without hesitation; the fight in him had died.

A cruel sneer spread over the older man’s face as he slammed Billy back against the door one more time for good measure before finally letting him go.

“Hand them over,” he said simply, holding out a hand for Billy to obediently drop the Camaro’s keys into. Defeated, Billy obliged; there was literally no point. His lungs were burning, his guts bruised and his shoulder felt like the scab may have come away. “Now get out of my sight,” he finished, heading back over to the TV and flicking it back on.

Head bowed, Billy practically ran into his room, locking the door behind him. It was a risky move, Neil had been known to take that as a challenge in the past, but he just needed it. Heart pounding, he paused by the door, waiting for the potential thud of footsteps persuing him. Five seconds passed. Ten. Fifteen.

After a minute, he closed his eyes and let out the breath he hadn’t realised he’d been holding. Closing his eyes, he crossed over to the mirror, stripping off his shirt as he moved. When his eyes opened again, he couldn’t tell what was from the Remorhaz and what was from Neil. The dark blotches covered his stomach, ribs and sides. The wound on his shoulder was bleeding again. He looked like a mess; like a victim.

Sitting back on the edge of his bed, he put his face in his hands, a shuddering breath escaping him. Fuck.

Chapter Text

Billy was pretty astounded the next morning when the keys to the Camaro were simply sitting in his usual place at the breakfast table. For a second, it looked like the actions of a father who felt bad for going too far the night  before but that wasn’t Neil.

Most Saturdays, Neil liked to have a ‘family breakfast'. He’d have them sit down and eat, insisting that they all stay until everyone had finished. Just his own little way of imposing his will on them while also making sure that the  weekend started off on a low. At least, that was how Billy perceived it. It never was clear if Neil was staging events specifically to make life miserable for Billy or if that was simply his way of being. Just how Billy had been stupid enough to think that he fit with the Scooby Gang, perhaps he and his father just didn’t fit. Their mannerisms too alike, their morals and attitudes too different. Billy had thought long and hard on it in the past, usually while nursing some fresh injury either to his pride or body, but it all seemed pointless. It didn’t really matter why things were so shit with Neil, they just were. Wondering it wouldn’t change a damn thing.

Billy regarded the keys as he entered the room. Everything hurt today; arms from the Remorhaz, body from Neil. It was all he could do to cross the room with a normal gait. Neil would not appreciate any dramatic show of pain. As Billy lowered himself into his seat, Neil flicked his newspaper down to glare at him. Billy wondered for half a second if he’d failed in his attempt at feigning normalcy. Shit.

“Susan and I are visiting her mother today. You will take your sister to the her friend Nancy's house and then bring her home for five o’clock sharp,” he instructed. Billy glanced in Max’s direction, keeping his face neutral to hide her lie. Neil always had been a prick about her spending too much time with boys. Max’s face was sour but she wouldn’t look at him. She looked braced for him to sell her out.

Rolling his eyes, Billy simply nodded to his father’s instruction. It didn’t benefit him to squeal and, with any luck, this cover up would mean that she wouldn’t fight him today. Maybe, for the first time in what felt like too fucking long, he’d be able to do the right thing and keep Neil relatively happy.

“I will call to make sure,” Neil finished, flicking his paper back up as if the threat in his voice wasn’t as plain as day. There it was. The leash that he’d known would somehow be out around his neck. Most likely, he’d want to speak to Max as well; double check that Billy had made good on his task. Glancing over at the red-head across the table, Billy hoped she would cooperate. He knew how long these nerd meets could be.

The rest of breakfast went without a hitch. Billy had earned himself a ball-shrivelling glare from the elder Hargrove when his stiff arms had caused him to accidentally spill some coffee during clean up but he somehow got away with it. Hastily cleaning up the mess with a dish rag, he reflected that, while Neil definitely didn’t feel any remorse for how last night went down, his father might have simply been a little wary of doing any lasting damage to him at this point. They had had a few too many run-ins recently.

“Oh, and another thing...” Neil spoke as Billy was about to head back to his room for a bit of respite until they left. Billy slowly turned to face the older man, not wanting to be seen as disrespectful. “The shelves have come away from the wall,” he pointed in the direction of the shelves that he’d knocked Billy into the night before last. Billy unconsciously rubbed at the spot on the back of his head where he’d made contact. There was no wound; he’d been lucky. “You’ll put a bracket up and make it secure. Do it today so that it’s not a risk for your sister.”

Billy felt his heart sink. That meant a trip to the hardware store and there was no chance of Neil leaving him the money. Goodbye savings, he thought bitterly, knowing that this was yet another cost that was stemming indirectly from the Remorhaz. Goddamn. It wasn’t fair but what was he gunna do?

“Yes sir,” he replied stoically, not wanting a fight.

“After your behaviour this week, you’re very lucky to have those keys back, Billy,” Neil continued, no recognition at all for the adherence to his sir rule. “I don’t expect to see much more than, say, 6 miles on the meter when we get back,” his voice sounded like he enjoyed saying it; like this old classic was fun. Thinking about where the Wheelers lived and where the store was, six miles was gunna be a push. He’d be better to drop Max off and hoof it to the store; the bracket and shit shouldn’t be too heavy.

“Yes sir,” Billy said again, knowing it was required.

“Once you’ve finished, I suggest you reflect on this past week,” Neil sneered, his eyes glinting in warning. Billy knew that look; knew how thin the line was today.

“Yes sir,” Billy said a third time and his father stared him out. Eyes flicking to the floor, Billy submitted. Literally no point in fighting right now. He ached more than ever had before – more than when he’d actually broken bones. He couldn’t risk any more.

There was nothing after that. Neil went back to his paper and Billy stole himself away in his room. Usually, he’d turn on some Metallica or Dokken –someone who could pound out his frustration for him– but all of his normal behaviours seemed too risky today. Neil could flip at anything. It was a blessing that Susan’s mother lived quite so far away; Billy knew he wouldn’t have made it through the day without crossing him if they’d been forced to stay in the same building. He settled for reading, picking up his Neuromancer and flipping back to where he’d left off.

When he finally heard the tell-tale sounds of the front door closing and Neil’s car pulling away, Billy finally emerged. Max, who was halfway down the corridor, stopped in her tracks and stared at him. Not bothering to maintain the facade any longer, he moved towards her, his body tense from the various pains.

“Are you going to tell me what happened last night?” Max asked as he passed her. “The guys will tell me when we get to Mike’s anyway, you might as well.”

That didn’t follow. If the nerds were gunna fill her in anyway, why did Billy have to regale her with the night’s bullshit? He told her as much and her face soured.

“Fine,” she huffed, pushing passed him as she marched towards the door. “Let’s go then.”

Grabbing the keys, Billy followed her out of the house. He knew, in her own fucking bratty way, she’d been reaching out; trying to include him in something that she definitely didn’t think he needed -or deserved- to be part of. Thing was, Neil had brought up Alex last night. Between fitful flashes of the Remorhaz and Neil’s hateful gaze, Billy had spent the night dreaming of California: of Alex, Jason and Ingrid; of the sun and the boardwalk; of soft kisses and laughing promises. All of that was gone and never coming back because of Max and her big mouth.

About half way into the journey, Max reached out again. Her face was just as sour but clearly, in her own nasty little way, she was trying.

“You’re hurt,” she observed, watching as Billy struggled to switch gears at a stop sign. “I know something happened.”

“Let’s just get you to your friend Nancy’s house,” Billy sighed, finally feeling the gear engage.

“Billy!” Max snapped.

“Maxine!” Billy mimicked her tone. It was petty but he didn’t care. She was pushing him today.

“God! If you’re going to have to be a part of this then we should, at least, be able to talk about it!” she exclaimed, her voice raising to an almost shout. Billy could feel his body tensing up. Just as he knew how to wind Harrington right up, Max seemed to have the same effect on him. Tightening his grip on the wheel, he snarled at her.

“What do you wanna know, huh Max? That there are more of those fucking things or that Nancy and I almost got killed by one?” he ranted, pushing the Camaro over the speed limit. The car roared as Billy continued. “Fucking El took one out but not me! Had to rely on the old man and his shotgun, didn’t I? An old man and a fucking kid can take these big bastards out but I just end up on my ass about to get fucking eaten!”

He knew he was shouting. Max’s face had blanched in that special way it always did when he’d terrified her, her body pressed back in her seat. Once again, despite the immovable bitter taste just the sight of her still left in his mouth, there was no thrill or catharsis in scaring her.  

“You nearly died?” she finally asked, closing her eyes briefly as Billy took a corner far too quickly to be safe.

“Yeah, Max, I nearly died!” he continued in an almost sing-song voice. “Went toe to toe with a fucking monster and came up short, didn’t I?”

“Where was it? Who else was there? Lucas said that Mike said that Nancy-"

“Max, we’re not doing this!” Billy cut her short. “We’re not talking about it, we’re not fucking bonding over it, were just not!” he continued, still at a shout. Max closed her mouth with a small click. Finally, it seemed like she’d realised she’d crossed the fucking line; pushed too hard.

Thankfully, the remainder of the journey only lasted a couple of minutes and Max didn’t resist when Billy filled the silence with the radio. Frustratingly, Eddie Mayer was simply chatting away about some shit he’d gotten himself into the previous night but Billy supposed it was just about better than silence. At least with the radio DJ's inane babble about breaking Mrs Driscoll's new birdfeeder, Max didn’t feel the need to fill the silence.

They pulled up to the Wheeler residence and Billy inhaled deeply, hands still resting on the wheel. He’d need to make a show of dropping Max off, just in case Neil or Susan asked around. He didn’t want any risk of Neil accusing him of skipping out of his task. Stepping out of the car, he braced himself for the inevitable flirtatious banter with Mrs Wheeler. Usually, he wouldn’t have a problem with it. It was always nice to see the effect he had on people and, in turn, he knew she got a kick out of the idea that something could happen. No harm, no foul. He just wasn’t feeling it today. Something about almost dying, having his father beat him up and then dreaming about his dead boyfriend didn’t really put him in a ‘Casanova’ mind-set.

Sure as shit, Mrs Wheeler opened the door, her face lighting up the moment she realised it was him.

“Hello Billy,” she smiled as she tilted her chin towards her chest. She batted her eyelashes and leaned girlishly on the door.

“Hello Karen,” he grinned back, making sure to run his tongue over his bottom lip just for her. “I’m just here to drop Maxine off. Hear the kids have got a little play date organised.”

Mrs Wheeler giggled and Max huffed at the display.

“Its not a play date and we’re not kids,” she grumbled, shoving rudely past both Billy and Mrs Wheeler. Nancy’s mom laughed it off as she turned her attentions back to Billy.

“Sorry about her,” he smiled, leaning closer so that he could lean against the door frame. They were close now. Close enough that Mrs Wheeler could get her kicks. “I should really have a word with her.”

“Oh don’t worry about it, Billy,” she sighed dramatically, reaching out to run a hand down his forearm. Somehow, when she did it, it wasn’t quite as letchy as when Trudy had done. Billy didn’t feel quite so gross about it.

“Billy?” Nancy’s voice caused him to straighten up immediately. It was soft and confused. “Are you-?”

“Just dropping Max off, Nancy,” he replied quickly, not wanting her to worry. Mrs Wheeler stood up straight as well, dusting herself off like they’d been up to no good. Bless her; she probably thought this was like beginning of the kind of sordid affair that she read about in the erotic novels she doubtlessly read. Billy took a step back away from the door. “I’d better head off, anyways. Things to do and all,” Billy made his excuses, holding his hands up in surrender as he continued to retreat. “A pleasure as always, Karen,” he ended with a small wink in her direction before turning to leave.

It was Nancy’s turn to push past her mother, now, rushing round to stand in front of him.

“Billy, Hopper said El is out of commission. He’s going to patrol the edge of town to make sure that the-" she hesitated, glancing back at her mother, who was pretending to not be looking over at Billy. Seeming to decide that Mrs Wheeler couldn’t hear them. “-that the Remorhaz doesn’t go into the town.”

A shudder of something ran through Billy at that thought. When the Chief had been yelling at him last night, he’d said that those things were more aggressive when attacked. Billy had definitely attacked it last night. He’d wound it right up.

Nancy looked up at him, her eyes wide.

“We’ve got to do something, Billy. Hopper can’t take that thing in his own,” she explained sounding so much calmer than she had done last night. Last night, it seemed that she would never want to fight again. A good night’s sleep seemed to have renewed her courage. Good girl.

“I’ve got this,” he grinned with a confidence that he needed to feel even if he didn’t actually feel it yet. He winked again, this time both for Nancy and her mother who was still watching from the doorway. “Don’t you worry, Wheeler,” he finished, reverting to using her surname as he turned to leave. Somehow, it made him feel all the more confident. Maybe he did have this.

“Be careful, Billy,” Nancy’s words followed him down the path as he retreated back to the Camaro.

The meter was sitting pretty at 2 miles by the time he’d got back home. Lighting up, Billy cursed his own caution; he probably could have made it to the hardware store as well. He reached into the trunk to pull out the small lock box that he kept stashed under an emergency blanket. There goes another chunk. Practically back to square one now, he thought bitterly as he opted for pulling out several notes more than he’d actually need. Better safe than having to make the journey into town twice. Taking a deep drag and shoving his keys in his pocket, Billy started the frustratingly long walk to the store.

The weather today in Hawkins was the usual overcast bullshit. It wasn’t warm and it wasn’t cool either. Hawkins was never all that extreme. At least, it hadn’t been until recently. As he continued his walk, Billy listened out for any sounds of the Remorhaz. Nancy had explained earlier in the week that things from the Upside Down didn’t like heat -that this was why they tended to be more active at night- but today was barely anything at all. If the Remorhaz was all wound up like the Chief had said, what would stop it from rampaging through the streets right now?

By the time he’d reached the store, Billy had concluded that Nancy’s information was legit. If the Remorhaz had been mucking about during the daytime, there would be at least some kind of tell-tale carnage in the streets. Instead, the boring people of Hawkins were going about their business as per usual; the town full of people doing their weekend chores. For once, he didn’t feel too out of place, at least in terms of purpose.

He quickly found all the shit he needed for the bracket. Thankfully it didn’t come to much but Billy had to stop as he walked past the tools. Last night, the borrowed wrench had let him down badly. If he really was gunna take one of those things down, he needed a better weapon; even Harrington had said as much.

He started looking at the power tools, visions of himself wielding a chainsaw like Leather Face or something. The price tag, however, killed that dream before it ever really began. So, too, did the tag for nail gun. He’d have to go for good old brute force rather than electronic convenience. Oh well.

As he headed into the second isle of tools, his eyes fixed on it. Lined up with the larger equipment, rakes, hoes and one mildly intriguing pick-axe, there was a long-handled sledge hammer. Billy approached it with a little spark of inspiration twirling in his mind. It looked good; hefty. It could bash in a few monster skulls, that was for sure.

Lifting it from the rack it’d been resting in, Billy felt the weight of it. The signage claimed it was 10lb and Billy could feel it. His hands felt warm like the damn thing was glowing or something; like this was definitely the weapon for him. With only the briefest glance to make sure no one was around to see him, Billy swung the hammer as if he were swinging at that fucking best again. His arching arms were still strong enough to control the wilful thing, curving it round in a pretty, sweeping arch. Yes. Harrington’s bat could suck it. 

He grabbed some razor wire and looped nails on the way to the cashier, ignoring the annoyed look on the clerk’s as she rang him up in two separate sales. Couldn’t have Neil requesting the receipt and spotting that.

He made good time on the return journey and even better time on securing the shelf. He’d always been pretty handy, both in school and around the house, and working on the Camaro over the past few years had only honed his precision with the various tools in his toolbox. The toolbox was a thing of pride for him: it was the first ‘grown up’ thing, besides the Camaro itself, that he’d bought for himself. It had cost him a pretty penny too but, back in California, he’d had a part time job with Noah at the local garage and he’d saved up for it. Now, he kept it in the Camaro’s trunk, safely out of reach of Neil.

The problem with fixing the shelf wasn’t the task itself, no. The problem was putting things back just so. Billy had no doubt that Neil gave zero shits about where the various knickknacks that Susan had ‘decorated’ the place with were put. It was just about respect. Billy would be held accountable if they were obviously out of place. After a few adjustments, he had to shrug and call it good enough. Even with the current air between him and his father, Neil wouldn’t hit him over the positioning of a china lamb.

Chores finished with, Billy took himself and his other purchases into the garage. He had a vision in his mind of what he was going to create. Putting on the thick gloves that Noah had let him keep when he’d told him they were moving, Billy started winding a length of the wire around the head of the sledge. It was tough work, made tougher by his arms that were still probably only at about 60% his usual strength. He was careful to twist the wire around itself, knotting it as best he could as he'd only be able to properly secure it to the wooden handle.

All in all, it took him a good hour and a half until he was satisfied with it. Stepping back to admire it, he felt a flutter of pride at his work. The razor wire was near-immovable, twisted and nailed into place so that covered a good few inches of the shaft as well. As he’d expected, Harrington’s little bat looked like nothing compared to this. He wrapped the head of it up in an old, oil-stained sheet that he’d once used for protecting the drive in Cali when he’d been working on the Camaro’s engine. There was no need for it now, the gravelly, dirt road they called a drive not really needing protection.

Leaving the newly crafted weapon in the back of the Camaro for now, Billy cleared away everything he’d used. By the time he’d showered off the dust and sweat from his various tasks that day and redone his hair, he was pushing it for collecting Max and being back on time for Neil’s call. He always had to build in extra time for Max being a bitch but he felt like today would be particularly bad for it. He took off quickly, smiling to himself as he heard the gentle thud of the sledge shifting in the back seat.

Harrington’s Bimmer was outside the Wheeler’s place when Billy pulled up. For half a second, his gut clenched with irritation at the thought that, perhaps, they were having another clandestine meeting without him but then the car door was opening and Harrington was stepping onto the sidewalk. Seeing that the other boy was approaching him and not the Wheeler residence, Billy climbed out of the Camaro but stayed where he was, letting Harrington come all the way over to him.

“Hey,” Harrington said awkwardly, scratching at the back of his head like he just couldn’t stop himself with fussing with his hair.

“Hey,” Billy replied evenly. Things felt uncomfortable and Billy couldn’t tell if it was residual tension from their disagreement under the bleachers or if Harrington was still affronted by Billy’s ‘flirting’ last night. Harrington’s dark eyes were on the ground between them as he kicked at a pebble.

“How are you doing? After- After last night?” for the briefest of moments, Billy was certain he was talking about his run in with Neil. His whole body was ice and his heart stopped. “I still can’t believe you actually tried to wrestle something from the Upside Down...” his eyes flicked back up at Billy and, damn, he looked pretty. Billy forced a casual smile to his lips, leaning against his car as if it had been nothing.

“I’m good,” he smirked confidently and Harrington nodded.

“Yeah...” he said, eyes averting once again. He looked about to say more but then he did a double-take, suddenly pushing Billy out of the way so that he could press his face up to the passenger’s window of the Camaro.

“What the hell, Harrin-?” Billy started but the taller boy leaned back and jabbed a finger against the glass.

“What is that?” he asked, his voice instantly going from dorky and awkward to shrill and stressed. Billy glanced in the window and grinned. The sheet had shifted in a way that exposed the head of the sledge almost in its entirety.

“Oh this?” Billy grinned, pulling the door open and reaching into the back for his masterpiece. He pulled it out and held it in front of the other boy, being careful to keep it mostly shielded by the Camaro to any nosey neighbours. “Just a little thing I cooked up this morning. You like?” he continued, running his hand up and down the shaft in a suggestive manner despite himself. Harrington’s eyes widened for a brief second before he seemed to click back into himself. Tilting his chin downward, he looked up and met Billy’s gaze with a new air of confidence. There he was: King Steve.

“Overcompensating for something are we, Hargrove?” he smirked, an eyebrow raising as his eyes flicked up and down in the quickest of glances.

“Underselling if anything, Harrington,” Billy countered, licking at his lower lip. If it was Chicken that Harrington was playing, Billy certainly wouldn’t be the one to lose. “Unlike you with your pretty, little bat. How long is a baseball bat, again?” Harrington laughed and it sounded like music.

“It’s not just the size that matters, Hargrove; it’s how you use it. And, believe me, mine packs a punch,” Harrington continued, his voice devilish and fucking sexy. Shit. Billy’s grip tightened on the sledge as he felt the familiar, and wholly unwelcome, stirring in his jeans. Not now.

Unbidden, his mind was taken back to the locker room showers; to the few short glimpses he’d gotten of the other boy’s equipment. Harrington was the last person who’d ever need to justify size to anyone. It was pretty well established that Steve Harrington was hung. Thinking about that right now was fucking stupid though.

“You wait ‘til you see mine in action, Harrington. It’ll blow your head off,” he heard the comeback leaving his mouth as he winked and instantly wished he hadn’t. This was getting dangerous. To close by far. Harrington’s eyes widened once again and he took a step back. Yup. It had gone too far. In the game of gay chicken, Billy would always be the fucking victor.

“You... er-” Harrington stammered, running a hand through his hair and looking down again. His face was flushed pink and he wouldn’t look at Billy or his sledge. If he wasn’t currently having his own internal crisis, Billy would be loving the sheer levels of flustered that he’d driven the other boy to. “Wait-!” the other boy caught himself. “You’re gunna use it? When?” he was back in crisis mode, all games and confusion forgotten in an instant. Goddamn, talking to him was a rollercoaster today.

“After what the Chief said yesterday, it sounds like it’d be better sooner than later, don’t you think?” Billy replied, trying to sounds as if he wasn’t already half-hard in his pants right now. Harrington nodded, his lips drawing into a thin line like he was weighing up his options.

“Tonight?” he asked, like they were scheduling something totally normal.

“Sure,” Billy replied without thinking. God, deep down, he was such a bitch for Harrington.

Harrington’s jaw tightened for a moment, his eyes fixing on the sledge that was still weighing heavily in Billy’s hands. That distant look glazed his eyes once again and Billy wondered where he was going in these moments.

Before he could even begin to consider snapping the other boy out of it, Max was walking down the path towards them.

“You could have knocked on the door, you know?” she huffed as Billy quickly shoved the sledge hammer back under the sheet. He internally winced as he felt the razor wire scraping against the seat but it couldn’t be helped.

Harrington took a step back so that Max could push past them both and into the car. Once she’d slammed the door closed, the dark eyes met Billy’s once more.

“Can’t get away before eleven,” Billy said stiffly, not even sure if he could manage that. Neil liked nothing if he didn’t like to keep Billy on his toes.

“Meet where we split last night?” Harrington suggested and Billy nodded.

“Yep,” he finished, moving round his car before anything else could fuck him up.

Chapter Text

They made it back with plenty of time before Neil’s scheduled call. Max took herself off to her room to continue chatting to ‘the party’ on her walkie while Billy simply stood aimlessly in the lounge. Looking at the clock, it was quarter to. Thing was, Neil could call any moment. It was so like him to call early just to keep Billy guessing.

True to form, the phone rang after only two minutes of awkward hovering. Billy thanked his lucky stars that he hadn’t opted for going to his room to quickly deal with the problem that was still vaguely stirring in his pants after that last bout with Harrington. A lovely chat with his father would put that nicely to bed; nothing was a bigger turn off than being threatened by a psychopath.

“Hargrove residence, Billy speaking,” Billy answered the phone, knowing that this was the agreed upon respectful way to answer a call. Max crept into the lounge and Billy gave her a small look of thanks. For once, it seemed, they were on the same page.

“Billy,” Neil spoke coolly, the slightly crackling line doing nothing to change the effect his voice had on Billy. As always, he felt small and helpless. “Put your sister on the phone,” was the simple command.

“Yes sir,” Billy spoke automatically, handing Max the phone without any pause. He took a step back but stayed close enough that he could go back on if needed.

Apparently, Susan had taken the phone because she and Max had an overly-long conversation about her mother while Billy stood by, impotent and frustrated. The chill from hearing Neil’s voice hadn’t gone deep enough and he couldn’t help but stand there and replay the conversation with Harrington in his head. The confidence of the other boy’s smile; the way his eyes had glinted as he pretended to check Billy out. It was a lot. Billy clenched his fists tight and tried to focus on that sensation rather than the warmth that was pooling in his gut. Goddamn he was pent up. A week of denying himself in case he jerked it to the thought Harrington’s stupid face seemed to have wrecked him.

“Billy?” Max was holding her hand over the mouthpiece. He looked at her, suddenly back in the moment. “Your dad wants to talk to you.” She held out the phone and Billy took it. Come on Neil, say something awful. Make my blood run cold again, he mentally begged his father. He was feeling all too hot in himself.

“Susan’s mother has kindly offered for us to spend the night,” Neil said with no acknowledgement that Billy was back on the line. Neil seemed to pause to that Billy could absorb his meaning; unless it was for instruction, the old man rarely deigned to elaborate. Billy’s heart beat faster. They weren’t coming back? Eleven o’clock felt too late now; Billy was free to come and go as he saw fit. All he had to do was hoof it with Neil, doubtlessly, still sticking to his 6 mile limitation. “I expect you to stay and watch your sister tonight. She has a science project due on Monday so she’s going to stay in and finish it. She says that she ate at the Wheeler’s house so don’t give her any unhealthy snacks.”

“Yes sir,” Billy agreed when Neil seemed finished, not wanting to ruin his good luck now. There was a deep sigh on the other end, like Neil was already mad about something. Had he given himself away with his tone?

“I’m trusting you to behave, Billy. You don’t deserve it but needs must,” Neil finished and, with that, the line went dead. No goodbyes. No pleasantries. That was Neil Hargrove to a tee.

“They’re staying at your Grandma’s place,” Billy breathed, hardly believing it himself. Neil barely ever went away for the weekend but this was the second weekend of relief in a row. A small smile crept over his lips and Billy couldn’t care less if Max saw.

He and Max stared at each other for a moment, something unspoken being communicated between them. I’ll let you do your thing if you let me do mine.

“I’ll be in my room,” Max said quietly.

“I’ll be out,” Billy replied. He saw her eyes narrow for the briefest of moments but she didn’t ask this time. No more detail was necessary. After a short moment, she nodded and headed back down the corridor, leaving Billy alone in the lounge.

His body was still tingling all over, relief spreading all the way to his toes. First thing’s first. The throbbing between his legs wasn’t going anywhere fast and he just couldn’t get through the rest of the day without dealing with it. Quickly heading to his room, he locked the door and turned on his music.

Billy quickly closed the curtains and stripped off his jeans. He rarely wore underwear so, once he’d shucked off his shirt, he was ready. Lying down on his bed, he ran his hand down his chest, enjoying the sparks of sensation from every nerve ending. His cock was already at half-mast, still locked on the memory of Harrington’s face. Goddamn.

Humming to himself, Billy reached down to tease at his balls, rolling the tender orbs in his palm. God it felt so good; he’d left it far too long. He brought his free hand up to tease at a nipple, gasping at the shot of arousal that it sent straight to his dick. Already, his back felt warm against the sheets, a thin layer of sweat forming all over. Just one bit of banter and he was a wreck. This Harrington thing was getting out of hand.

By now, his cock had mostly filled out, swelling away from his body as if seeking someone out. Billy drew his lower lip between his teeth and closed his eyes as he trailed his hand down his abs once again, this time wrapping his fingers around himself.

“Fuck...” he panted, glad that he’d had the foresight to have the music on pretty loud. He couldn’t think of many things more mortifying than then thought of Max walking in on this.

Stroking himself slowly, he exhaled long and ragged. Apparently, this wasn’t going to take too long. Every move of his hand felt fucking electric. In his mind’s eye, however, it wasn’t his own hand moving on him. Clear as day, he could see it; the look in Harrington’s eyes as he’d flirted back. The impish sparkle that Billy just knew would be shining now if Harrington was involved in this; if it was Harrington’s hands on him.

Groaning as quietly as he could force it, Billy’s hand sped up. His body was so fucking ready after only a few minutes. His toes were curling, his leg muscles tensed and ready. Slick with precum now, his hand moved so fluidly; it felt amazing. Mouth hanging open, Billy panted out his breaths.

Mine packs a punch... not the sexiest line he’d ever heard but apparently the memory of Harrington’s voice, his eyes, his mouth -his fucking everything- when he’d said it was all it took to push Billy over the edge. Moaning deeply, he came in hot spurts, filling his palm and then some as his hips thrust through the last few spasms.

Goddamn he had it so bad.

---

He set off for Teeny's place at just gone ten, ‘razor-sledge’ (as he now called it) rammed into a gym bag with only the wooden handle poking out. If anyone passed him on the streets, he only looked kind of suspicious rather than full-blown psychotic.

It was a good walk to where they’d agreed to meet. Even at a brisk march, Billy took a good forty minutes to get there. The moment he reached the tree line, he took the razor-sledge out of the bag so that it was ready. It would be just his luck that one of those asshole creatures snuck up on him while his damn weapon was wrapped up nice and safe in his bag.

Unsurprisingly, or maybe not, Harrington already waiting by Teeny’s fence for him, the, now totally wimpy-looking, nail-bat slung over his shoulder. As Billy drew nearer, however, his attention was drawn to something else; something a lot more ridiculous than Harrington’s pose.

Covering his face were two, rather silly-looking, articles: a bandana covering his mouth and some fucking goggles over his eyes. He looked like a total idiot and Billy could barely hold back the laughter that shook his whole body. This was the guy that he was creaming his pants over? Billy wasn’t sure who the bigger fool was: the fool himself or the idiot who can’t stop jerking off to him.

“The fuck is with that getup, Harrington?” he sniggered, watching Harrington pull the bandana down off his face.

“We’re gunna kill that thing, right? By hitting it?” he began, his voice making it sound like the logic was obvious. Billy, still chuckling, tilted his head in question to which Harrington sighed exasperatedly. “I don’t wanna get blood in my mouth. Not worth risking getting possessed tonight. Especially seeing as no one else knows we're here.”

“What, were you planning on making out with the thing or something?” Billy snarked despite the fact that the other boy did have a point. He’d have to be careful when dealing with their blood; it was a miracle that he hadn’t swallowed any last night.

Harrington’s mouth twisted into his King Steve smirk and he tilted his head back confidently.

“We’ll see how the night pans out,” he grinned, offering Billy a wink that, honestly, Billy wasn’t expecting. “I always did have a way with things from the Upside Down. Although, you’ve gotta remember: I haven’t seen one yet. I can be pretty picky,” Harrington continued, letting go of the bandana and starting to walk in the same direction Nancy had taken the previous night.

Billy sped up a little to reach the other boy’s side, then slowed to match his pace. There was no studying of the area this time; either Harrington wasn’t clued in to the wilderness shit that Nancy was, or it was just too fucking dark to see anything.

“Oh man, those Remorhazes, though: they’re real lookers. You should be so lucky,” Billy joked, like they were simply talking about girls at school and not horrific monsters from another dimension. Like they were just (relatively) normal teenagers.

“I hear the one from last night was really into you. You got any tips?” Harrington’s muffled voice sounded amused even through the bandana.

“Just one,” Billy said, feigning seriousness as he halted in his tracks. Harrington stopped as well, turning so that he could face Billy fully.

“Yeah?” he asked. Still smiling like the idiot he felt like tonight, Billy reached out and pulled the bandana off Harrington’s face in one quick motion, a small flush of relief hitting him when it offered little resistance.

“Lose the fucking bandana, man. You look like a fucking cowboy,” he smiled, hoping that they were in a light enough place that this wouldn’t be pushing things too far again. Harrington blinked at him from behind his goggles but then nodded, shedding them as well for good measure.

“Just don’t blame me if I swallow some blood, get possessed and you have to lock me in a sauna or some shit until it lets me go,” he laughed easily, letting his excess gear drop where they stood. They both chuckled lightly, standing there in the woods with their weapons like it was the most normal thing in the world. Billy could see how relaxed Harrington’s face was now. Yes, there was a tinge of tension in his stance but he seemed to be confident what they were doing. Again, this chilled out Harrington was just so… sexy.

Billy was about to move on, he really was, but Harrington suddenly moved his head, catching his attention. The moonlight hit his cheek, highlighting something that Billy hadn’t wanted to see. His gut twisted horribly as he found he couldn’t look away. How had he not seen it before? Harrington froze, looking at him expectantly as if he’d seen something important. Dumbly reaching out without thinking, Billy gently ran his thumb over the small scar below the other boy’s left eye. It was small -so small that he’d missed it every time they’d spoken up to now- but it was there.

“Wh- What are you doing?” Harrington said, taking a step back away from him. All the ease and confidence was gone with that one gesture. Billy snapped his hand back as if it had burned. Shit. He couldn’t get away with that shit here. Harrington wasn’t queer. Hawkins wasn’t California. Normal boys didn’t go around touching each other’s faces. Shit.

“Your eye...” he offered, gesturing at the same place on his own face as if that made things normal. Harington, still looking freaked, watched him. Goddamn, why the hell did he do that? “I-" Billy hesitated. If he was going to do this, he should have done it sooner but… He guessed he’d never had the guts. Staring at the other boy’s face now - being confronted by the proof of what he’d done back in November- he could still barely bring himself to admit that it was true. However, seeing the small line of ruin that he’d left on him, Billy couldn’t not say it. The words that were so fucking hard to say and even harder to mean.

“I’m sorry man,” he breathed. It felt heavy in his mouth. Harrington looked genuinely surprised but didn’t say anything. Sighing, Billy continued, “About the eye... about all of it. I'm guessing that’s when you were up to the last load of monster shit? Back in November....” God, it really wasn’t all that long ago at all. How often does this kind of shit go down in Hawkins?

Harrington looked hesitant but took a step closer again with a small nod. His jaw was tight, his eyes looking vaguely distant. It seemed Billy’s assessment of the other boy’s mental state was way off base. He was barely hanging on even now.

“Yeah. Everyone was off risking their lives, fighting the demodogs and closing the gate, and I… stayed behind to watch the kids,” he explained, letting the nail-bag rest on the ground by his feet.

“Guess it didn’t help… me storming in and beating the shit out of you...” Billy felt a twinge if something that he hadn’t let himself feel before now: shame. Neil had riled him right up that night but he shouldn’t have laid into the older boy; not at all and definitely not that hard. There was no fucking excuse.

“Not really,” Harrington agreed, looking down at the ground and kicking at a small stick. This was fucking uncomfortable but it needed doing.

“Like I said: I'm sorry man. It shouldn't have happened. I was… so fucking angry,” Billy explained, uncertain of how deep he was gunna let this go. Harrington was hearing him out for now but that didn’t mean he needed to hear all of Billy’s shit. “Not just that night. All the time. Not at you specifically but… I guess… I always thought I was gunna fight you eventually,” he finished with a small shrug. God this was fucking deep. Harrington had always been a target. Billy felt pathetic; like the boy on the playground pulling the hair of the girl he liked.

“Seriously?” Harrington sounded tired; disbelieving. His eyes were still somewhere else, even as they fell on him. Billy shrugged again. He hated this. He felt too exposed and open. It was too much.

“Yeah, I guess... Who knows? I might try and fight you again. I’m still pretty mad,” he half-chuckled, to alleviate some of the crushing weight of this conversation. Using the word mad made it sound so much less than it actually was. Like he hadn’t travelled all the way to the Byers’ place that very Monday fuelled only by his burning rage at them all. Like it hadn’t been the only thing helping him to hold the Remorhaz back from eating Nancy alive. Mad didn't quite cut it but it was all he could do to turn this conversation around.  

Harrington shifted awkwardly, the silence between them broken only by the vague ambience of the woods. He gave a small nod and looked up, eyes finally here and now.

“Well...Just, I don't know, count to ten or something. We've gotta at least try to be on the same side now,” the dark-eyed boy breathed, running a hand through his hair and his eyes never leaving Billy. “Especially if we’re gunna go out on these side missions together.”

“Yeah...” Billy agreed because he was right. They both started walking again, the silence between them now only just on the wrong side of uncomfortable.

“At least you got what you deserved,” Harrington observed after a few paces. Billy stopped again and looked at him.

“How d'you mean?”

“You wore that denim jacket of yours a lot afterwards but I did see it, you know: you had a wrist support,” he said, sounding like a detective that had solved the case. “You hit me so hard you broke your wrist. I’d say that’s some good, old-fashioned karma, right there.”

And there it was: another fundamental misunderstanding between them. Harrington had seen Billy’s broken wrist back then. He’d seen it and assumed, quite understandably, that it was from Billy bashing his face in.

Harrington lived in a comfortable world where fathers don’t hit their kids. Where moms are alive and they all live together in Loch Nora in their gigantic house. Most likely, as a child he’d lived in a world of bed time stories, of goodnight kisses and homemade dinners. He hadn’t had to watch Neil screaming and hitting at his mother. He hadn’t had to learn how to take his punishments quietly so that she wouldn’t hear; so that she wouldn’t try to intervene and get hurt in the process. Harrington hadn’t had to watch them lower her into the ground and later be told it was his fault.

He looked into those dark eyes just for a moment. Just until the taller boy looked away. He could tell him; change his view of the world the same way that the Remorhaz had changed Billy’s. He could make Harrington’s reality just that bit darker; make him understand all that Billy is. He could do it. And yet he couldn’t. The distance in the other boy’s stare chilled him; made him look wholly not like himself. Twisting his world even more, it could break him.

Frowning at the thought, Billy continued onward, his grip on the razor-sledge tense and tight. With his next step, there was a loud dual-voiced roar. The sound shot right through him. Goddamn. It was close; so much closer than Billy would have liked so early on in their search.

Conversation forgotten now, the two boys readied their weapons, naturally moving to stand back-to-back, ready to fight. The roar echoed around them again. It was closer now. The strange echo effect made it hard to tell which way the sound was coming from. For all Billy knew, it could already...

... be here. As both he and Harrington side stepped in a turning motion, Billy locked on to the target. Like yesterday, when it had been stalking Nancy from the side, the Remorhaz was barely visible in between the tall trunks of the surrounding trees.

“Harrington...” Billy breathed and the other boy turned to look. His breath caught in his throat as they both stared at the horrifying creature. Now that he had eyes on it, he could hear its breathing; as broken and jagged as its skin. Billy’s eyes went straight to its ‘head’; its mangled, bloody ‘head’. Sure enough, this was the one that he’d faced last night.

It was watching them, waiting for the perfect moment to strike. Billy and Harrington stood side-by-side, both braced and ready for an attack. For a moment, Billy felt invincible. He and Harrington were gunna do it. They were going to win. The perfect moment wasn’t going to come; not for that fucking thing.

As if it realised this too, the Remorhaz let out a horrible cry and crashed forwards. It was fast and it was strong. The moment it was within reach, Billy drew back the razor-sledge swung it, as hard as he could, in the monster’s direction. He heard Harrington cry out as he also took a swing at the damned thing, both of their hits connecting and sending out sprays of thick, dark blood.

The Remorhaz halted where it was, recoiling from their attacks and both boys took that as their chance to strike again. Almost in sync with one another, they smashed away at it, ignoring the horrible whistles and roars that it was making. Now this was cathartic. This felt like winning; like he was finally doing something.

It felt like they were winning right up until they weren’t. With a horrible cracking sound, Harrington was suddenly sent flying backwards into a tree. He smashed against it with a rather unflattering noise and Billy felt his guts clench. Not again. He looked up and watched as the Remorhaz’s tail lifted back up again. Not the fucking tail again. It seemed to be the main line of attack and defence for this beast.

“Fuck!” he yelled, drawing the razor-sledge back once more. The tail was faster than him, smashing forwards into his guts and sending him sprawling to the floor. The razor-sledge flew upwards and landed too close to Billy’s face for comfort. Fuck.

As Billy forced himself back onto his feet, Harrington was already rushing at the monster again. He was swinging wildly but it seemed pretty effective, causing the Remorhaz to stop in its tracks once again.

“You good?” the brunette shouted, turning his head to look at Billy and, for a horrible, stupid moment, taking his eyes off the creature in front of him. Before Billy could shout a warning, the tail was in the air again, swooping down to crash against Harrington’s head and shoulders. Impulsively, Billy roared at the horrid creature, grabbing at the razor-sledge.

Smashing the hammer down on the Remorhaz with all of his might, Billy felt his arms ripple with pain; it was a wonder that he could still lift the damn thing at this point. Harrington groaned in pain from his position on the ground but, after another strike from Billy’s razor-sledge, the tail lifted off him.

“Harrington move!” Billy shouted as he hit the monster again. This time, it let out a different shriek. It was higher, like the first time it had whistled, but there was something broken about its cries now. They were winning.

Harrington was suddenly back on his feet and wielding the nail-bat at Billy’s side. Out if the corner of his eye, he could see the force that the other boy was putting into every swing. It was so similar and yet so different from when they fought in November. Harrington was fighting with everything he had. It was... really hot.

By now, both of their weapons were coming away caked in... something. If there wasn’t a good weight behind each strike, Billy was convinced they wouldn’t be doing all that much. The nails and razor wire were significantly blunted by their new, fleshy coatings. Fucking gross.

The Remorhaz was madly thrashing about, its tail swinging blindly. Billy ducked and dodged a few close calls and Harrington seemed to be keeping up pretty well. Despite the still very real threat from that appendage, the creature was starting to slow down. It lurched back, perhaps trying to escape, but the two teens pursued it, never relenting in their onslaught.

“Oh shit-!” Harrington suddenly cried out, seeing something that Billy somehow missed. Before he could even begin to move, the Remorhaz made one final lunge towards Billy.

In the blink of an eye, he went from feeling like they were in the endgame -that the battle was all but won- to being crushed underneath the colossal weight of the thing. He tried to scream as he felt the razor-sledge drop onto his leg but he was suddenly being smothered by the broken, putrid flesh of the Remorhaz. The smell of death and blood filled his lungs and he was certain he was going to be sick. Over the weakening sounds from that fucker, Billy could just about hear Harrington yelling his name. He sounded worried; he sounded terrified.

Another grunt of pain forced its way out of Billy as the Remorhaz shifted on top of him. It let out a gargling noise and shuddered as Harrington continued to lay into it. Desperate for air, Billy tried to move but only earned himself a horrid flush of pain when some of the needles scraped against the exposed flesh of his arms. If he’d had enough air to think straight, he’d have panicked about the possibility of possession but, as it was, it was all he could do not to pass out, vomit or both.

After far too long and far too little air, the dying shrieks from the Remorhaz had finally stopped and the great weight above him stilled. It was dead. All the same, the vibrations from Harrington’s blows continued on and Billy could hear him shouting something.

The world started to feel fuzzy. In the blackness of this carcass-shaped tomb, Billy could feel himself slipping away. It had been too long without air. The smell of death had filled his lungs up now and was dragging him down with it. The Remorhaz was dead, sure, but it was taking him with it. Faintly, he felt a pang of disappointment. Yesterday, he’d been ready: he was going to go down fighting. He was going to go down defending Nancy and Harrington. Today was different. Today, he was going to be crushed to death after the fact. It felt small and pathetic; the kind of death that Neil would have always expected from his son.

Billy choked at the lack of air one last time, mentally bidding farewell to all the shit this life had cast on him. Goodbye Neil. Goodbye Hawkins. His chest stilled and his eyes, which had been scrunched closed to keep out the blood, relaxed. Goodbye Harrington.

“Billy!” Harrington panted, his voice suddenly closer. In one moment, the weight above him shifted. Hope fluttered in his heart as the older boy fought to bring him back. “Fuck- Billy!” Harrington continued, his voice ragged and desperate. He gave the Remorhaz’s body one final shove and it finally rolled all the way off him.

Sweet oxygen flooding his lungs and fresh air reviving his senses, the claws of death retracted. Free and exposed, Billy stared up at his saviour. Moonlight framed him in a mesmerising glow and Billy felt the new air catching in his throat, this time for a different reason. Steve fucking Harrington was the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen. As the older boy reached down to offer Billy his hand, it was all Billy could do not to pull him down to his level. To hold him close and kiss those perfect lips. To feel the life that had almost been snatched away from him. Jesus, this was just too much.

“You alright, man?” the dark-eyed boy asked, the furrow of his brow showing the true concern that he felt; the true, platonic concern that he felt for his ally. It was clear as day that was all that the other boy saw him as. After how he’d spoken under the bleachers, perhaps Billy should feel lucky that that seemed to be the case at all. At least they weren’t at each other’s throats anymore. At least, with any luck, Harrington wouldn’t be finding himself on the wrong side of Billy’s red mist; of his rage. With any luck, they were the team that Harrington was treating them like.

“I’m good,” Billy choked, knowing that, with time and sufficient rest, it might be true. He took Harrington’s hand and, between them, he was pulled to his feet.

Keeping Billy’s hand in his for a beat too long, Harrington looked him in the eye, perhaps double checking that he wasn’t concussed or anything. Billy considered saying that he knew he wasn’t -that he knew what it felt like and he was fine- but he found himself speechless. Both breathing heavily, the two boys simply stood and stared for a moment, infinite unspoken questions circling them in the moonlight.

Billy was the one to break the spell, pulling his hand back and turning to look down at the fucker who had cause him so much shit. While it was unclear whether or not this was the bastard who smashed up his shoulder and windscreen last week, Billy could be certain that it was the one who he and Nancy had faced yesterday. A warm pulse spread through his heart at the thought of telling Nancy that they’d done it; that she didn’t need to worry any more.

“We did it...” he murmured, a smile on his lips.

“Yeah... One down, right?” Harrington agreed. One down... how many more to go?

Chapter Text

Exhausted and bloody, the two boys made their way back to out of the woods. With any luck, Billy hoped they’d be able to get back to civilisation without running into any more monsters. While the thrum of victory was still holding the grin on his face, he was under no illusion that another Remorhaz right now would be the end of both of them. Like El before them, both he and Harrington would be needing time to recharge before they headed out here again. Shame really. When all was said and done, he and Harrington had worked supremely well together.

Harrington had wedged himself under Billy’s armpit and was supporting him as they moved onwards. Billy would have resisted this turn of events but the leg that the razor-sledge had fallen on was pretty agonising. While he’d been lucky in that the chunks of Remorhaz flesh had protected him from the blades of the razor wire, the weight of the damned thing had been enough to cause some pretty nasty bruising. Billy hoped that it was simply that and not a break; he really didn’t need to be crippled at this point.

“Where’d you park?” Harrington asked, his voice too breathy and too close for Billy’s liking. He’d looked too damn good fighting off that monster tonight. They’d worked too damn well together. If he hadn’t had it bad before this then he definitely did now.

It all felt so wrong; so backwards. Back in Cali, Alex had been the one to pine; the one who had the big, secret crush. Back in Cali, Billy had been the object of desire. Ingrid not-so-subtly hinting at Alex’s feelings. Jase laughing as they were ‘thrown together’ at social events. He’d been the one to finally make the move; the one fulfilling the other’s fantasies. This way round felt shitty. This way round felt hopeless.

And hopeless it was indeed. California was different; Alex was different. Here in Hawkins, Steve Harrington was still very much still in love with his ex-girlfriend Nancy Wheeler. Billy was just an angry queer who had the hots for the local pretty boy. It was worse than hopeless; it was a done deal.

“Billy?” Harrington pressed and Billy shook his head. He’d taken too long to reply, travelling down mental avenues that needed barricading off at this point. It really sucked how much he’d been thinking about Alex recently. It was really screwing with his head and definitely intensifying whatever was happening with regards to Harrington.

“Didn’t drive. Dad took my keys for being late yesterday,” he explained, knowing that the details wouldn’t matter. Harrington paused for a moment, clearly catching his breath. 

“You live out past Randolph, right?” he asked. Billy didn’t even waste the mental power to consider why the other boy would know that. He was the resident babysitter of the group; it was his duty to know where they lived. Max lived out past Randolph. Billy just happened to live with her.

“Yeah, on Cherry,” he grunted in reply.

“And you plan on walking back there?” Harrington sounded incredulous. Billy turned his head and saw the obvious look of disbelief on the other boy’s face. Yeah, it was going to be a struggle. His leg fucking hurt and he’d only made it this far out of the woods because of Harrington’s help.

“Not gunna have much of a choice, Harrington. Unless you wanna keep this three-legged race shit going on across town?” Billy smirked back because, yeah, it was stupid but there wasn’t much he could do about it. Harrington sighed and tightened his grip around Billy’s ribs.

“The Bimmer’s not far. I’ll drive you,” he said, starting to move again like it was already decided. Billy resisted for a moment and Harrington sighed again. “Don’t be an ass, I’m not leaving you to hop home and I’m too tired to carry you that far.” Billy couldn’t help but chuckled at the ease with which the other boy just called him an ass. Time was, that would have been enough to make his pulse quicken and his fists clench.

“Tired already, Harrington? You’re gunna need to get on a proper workout regime if you wanna keep this monster hunter thing up!” he teased, going along with the other boy when he started walking again. Harrington huffed out a small laugh, head bowing in a way that made some stray strands of hair fall in front of his eyes.

I didn’t get to have a rest in the middle of the fight like you did. Of course I’m tired!” he countered and Billy full-on belly laughed at that one because of course his near death experience was hilarious.

“Yeah, nothing more relaxing than almost being crushed to death!” he grinned as they rounded a corner and the Bimmer came into view. “You should really try it; it works miracles!” he continued and Harrington laughed so easily.

“Maybe next time,” the dark-eyed boy smiled as they came upon the car. He guided Billy to lean against the passenger side and then moved to unlock it.

“Can’t recommend it enough,” Billy huffed as he cautiously lowered himself into the seat. The BMW was annoyingly nice on the inside; more spacious and modern than his Camaro by far. That’s what money can buy you, Billy supposed as Harrington wrapped their weapons up in his jacket and then chucked them across the backseat. Shit. Billy had forgotten to pick up the gym bag. It was old and out of use but it had been Neil’s. Hopefully, he’d just assume it was one of the many things they’d thrown out before the move to Indiana.

The drive back home was quiet but in a strangely comfortable way. Both boys simply sat in a daze in the car, too tired to keep up any semblance of conversation. By the time they were approaching the house, Billy’s eyes were heavy, his forehead resting against the window. His aching body was relaxed into the seat like he was made to fit there.

Relaxed, that is, until he laid eyes on the house. Until he laid eyes on Neil’s car parked on the drive. The lights were on in the front of the house and Billy sat bolt upright. Shit. They were back. Why were they back? Had Max had some kind of crisis? Had the whole thing been a lie? Neil’s fucked-up way of tricking Billy into fucking up.

It didn’t really matter. What mattered was that Neil was home and Billy wasn’t. The time on Harrington’s dash showed that it was gone midnight. Even if he’d been allowed out of the house, Neil never let him have a curfew so late. After their conversation this morning, after all the shit from the past week, this was bad. Pre-emptively, or possibly from the battle he’d just fought, Billy’s whole body throbbed with pain. Shit, shit, shit. His mind raced. He was in the shit. Neil was waiting up for him, probably with a beer in hand.

“Is this you?” Harrington asked, nodding in the direction of his house and, for a moment at least, missing Billy’s sudden alertness entirely.

“No,” he replied without thinking. He mentally cursed himself; his voice sounded so pathetic. He sounded so fucking frightened. Harrington looked at him in confusion, the Bimmer slowing almost to a stop. Frustrated more with himself than the other boy, Billy waved towards the road. “I’m just not feeling it, Harrington. Just keep going.” Now the car did stop.

“‘Not feeling it’?” Harrington repeated. “Wha-? Look, it’s late and I’m tired. Is this your place or not?”

“It is but I’m not going in. Sorry for the wasted drive but you can just leave me round the corner or something,” Billy shrugged, the fear thrumming through his veins already. He just couldn’t do it right now. After the second, intense battle and near-death experience in as many nights, his whole body was tired and a lesson in responsibility was the last thing in the world that he needed.

The silence between them shifted. Harrington stared at Billy, the cogs clearly turning in his mind. Billy knew he should elaborate but, God, he didn’t want to get into that. All he wanted was to have a shower and then crawl into bed. That was what he should have been able to do. Why the fuck was Neil home?

“You’re not going in?” Harrington said at length and Billy shook his head.

“Nope,” he replied, popping his lips on the ‘p’ and not looking at the other boy.

After another short pause, the BMW started to move again. Billy looked over at Harrington and saw the grim determination on his face. They both stayed silent for a good few minutes until Billy deemed it far enough from the house that he should be fine.

“This’ll do, Harrington. I’ll just chill around here until morning,” he said, motioning towards the sidewalk. He knew the area, there was a grassy area nearby where he was sure he could find a bench to camp out on. Just until the morning. Just until his body hurt less and he could mentally bring himself to go home.

The Bimmer didn’t slow down. Harrington was holding the wheel with both hands, his knuckles turning white from how tightly he was gripping it.

“Harrington-”

“You’re covered in blood and god-knows what else, Hargrove,” the older boy snapped, his eyes still on the road. He had started switching between first and second names like he couldn’t make his mind up. It was almost adorable. If it didn’t make his heart beat so hard in his chest, Billy might have made a thing of it. “You’re coming back to mine to shower off at the very least. If you have to sleep outside like a bum, you can at least do it while not looking like a murder victim. Don’t want Hopper to pick you up and figure out that we did exactly what he told us not to.”

He had a point. The Chief would totally be a dick about it and, most likely, drive him back into Neil’s welcoming arms. As much shit was waiting for him at home, there would be so much more if Billy was brought home by the chief of police. For fucking obvious reasons, Neil was very sensitive to the involvement of the cops. A perp-walk up to the front door of the Hargrove house would just as well be a walk to the gallows.

“Your parents gunna be cool with you bringing a guy home for a shower, Harrington?” Billy asked, reaching for the lighter mood that didn’t match the situation. Despite it all, a smirk played in the corner of his mouth at the very thought of Neil’s reaction if he dared to do what Harrington was offering. Harrington bit his lip and hesitated before he answered.

“They’re... away,” he said, sounding shady as fuck. Whatever the reason, Billy pushed down his curiosity. Must be some kind of family drama and, if he didn’t want to share about Neil, he wasn’t going to expect Harrington to fill him in.

“Fine,” Billy agreed, watching Harrington’s grip on the wheel relax. It was almost like he was relieved.

---

Billy approached the Harrington residence with his hands shoved into his pockets. He was still limping on his busted leg but he wasn’t going to force Harrington to carry him for the rest of his life. Might as well get used to it. Besides, it felt a little better already.

Harrington’s house was fucking impressive, not that Billy had expected anything less from the once mighty King of Hawkins High. Tommy had spent far too much time whining about how cool Harrington used to be; how his house parties had been the best. Looking at the size of this house alone, Billy could see that, for once, Tommy may not have been exaggerating. Even from the walkway, he could see the huge, red double doors. Who the fuck had double doors into their house? 

Harrington had gotten the doors open and was leaning on the frame like his body was too exhausted to hold itself up much longer. As Billy approached him, he pushed himself off it was a groan, stepping to one side as if that was needed for Billy to get past. It most definitely wasn’t. The Remorhaz itself could have fit through these fucking doors.

“So this is how the other half live,” Billy drawled, looking around at the pricey décor. From the entrance way alone, Billy could see that things were bought to furnish the house not because they were needed but because they were wanted. Shiny, hardwood flooring stretching out into rooms unseen; paintings and prints decorating every wall like they were in a gallery or something; exposed wooden roofing above the fucking balcony style walkway leading off the top of the stairs. The Harringtons had money and they wanted their visitors to know it. “Nice place you’ve got here, Harrington,” he continued, bending down to untie his boot laces. People with nice houses tended to like shoes off.

“It’s...” Harrington reddened, not stopping Billy as he removed the boots and placed them near the door. He shook his head and closed the double doors, shutting out the night and all the shit that Hawkins had to offer. He looked so done.

“How many bedrooms?” Billy asked, looking up the stairs. God, even the stairs themselves looked fucking decadent; dark, polished wood that Billy could just see Harrington slipping down when he was a kid. Marvellous.

“Technically four...” Harrington replied after a pause for consideration. Billy couldn’t imagine a world in which he’d have to take a moment to calculate how many beds were in his house. The Hargroves were sitting pretty in a three bed; plain and simple. Back in Cali it had only been two; he and Max having to share in the worst roommates setup anyone could imagine.  “But the two spares have been converted. Mom has her ‘art studio’ and dad has his ‘office’. The office never had a bath attached and mom had hers turned into a walk-in for her art supplies so we’ve only got the main and the one off the master.” Ah. Conversions. Things rich people do when they get bored and want to spend money. The layout upstairs sounded like a hot, expensive mess. “Oh, and the one off the utility room but we only use that after using the pool,” Harrington continued, still waffling on about bathrooms. Seriously. By the sounds of it, it wasn’t surprising that he couldn’t figure out how many rooms there were in this place.

Harrington took a step towards the stairs, kicking off his sneakers with a carelessness that didn’t match the tone of house. One hit the ivory-coloured wall and Billy was certain it left a bloody mark.

“I’ll show you,” Harrington continued, not waiting for Billy as he ascended. “You can use the shower from my parents’ room. If you’re staying over, that’s probably your best bet anyway. They won’t notice.”

Billy followed the other boy up the stairs, half listening as Harrington whittled on about the various rooms that they were passing. The floor up here was carpeted, thick and soft. Billy could feel how much better it was than the shit that Hargrove residence was covered with. Harrington stopped outside one of the rooms and ran his hand through his hair.

“Like I said, the master is the first one at the end of the corridor,” he sighed, pointing in the direction that they’d come from. Billy felt a hint of guilt that he hadn’t been listening when this was pointed out but, then again, it did look pretty obvious. “This one’s mine. If-” he caught himself and his brows pulled downwards for half a heartbeat. “-if you need anything just give me a knock. You can use the towels in there - they’re clean.”

Billy tilted his head to one side but, when Harrington hurried into his room, he took the hint and made his way into the room he’d been pointed towards. Unsurprisingly, it looked like a fancy hotel suite rather than anyone’s actual bedroom. Looking around the place, Billy could see they had an actual fucking fire with a shaggy rug in front of it. It was truly insane.

He crossed through the room to the other door, noting how, despite all its grandeur, there were very few personal objects. On the bedside table, there was a small frame that looked like it contained a family photo but, other than that, it seemed totally bland. Perfect and soulless.

Pushing open the heavy wooden door, Billy took in the bathroom. Marble had been the material of choice and the room had a fucking abundance of it. All of the fixtures were either gold-plated or solid gold – by this point, Billy wouldn’t have been surprised if it was the latter. Once again, there was nothing personal about this room and Billy was halfway convinced that this was just a swanky hotel and Harrington had been lying about living here.

He stripped off his bloodied clothes, opting for folding them and putting them on the side rather than just tossing them as Harrington had done with his sneakers. He already felt out of place enough without trashing the joint too. Quickly eyeballing where the towels were kept beforehand, Billy stepped into the shower unit. This was fucking intense.

Before he could reach for the taps, the bathroom door cracked open and Harrington was coming inside.

“Harrington, fuck!” Billy yelped, covering his junk but otherwise remaining where he was. He was sealed inside the unit; there was no hiding now that the other boy had just burst in. “Jesus, man, don’t you knock?”

Harrington went beet-red, his eyes noticeably flicking downwards before he spun around and held up his hands as if to show he wasn’t touching anything.

“Shit! I’m sorry!” he hissed, sounding mortified. “I didn’t hear the water!”

“Yeah, didn’t get round to that yet, Harrington! Jesus!” Billy scolded, not sure why they were both acting like this was the most embarrassing thing in the world. It wasn’t like they hadn’t showered together after gym before.

“I just wanted to say you should go first. The water gets a bit shitty if you try to have two showers going at the same time!” Harrington babbled, sounding truly ridiculous. Billy, satisfied that the other boy wasn’t turning around any time soon, relaxed, moving his hands to cross over his chest instead.

“Yeah, I can see how you needed to come and tell me that, Harrington," he rolled his eyes, tilting his head as he watched the other teen’s body flinch. “Unless you’re here to suggest we share - do you mind fucking off?” Billy snipped, once again saying the wrong thing. Goddamn, what a thought: showering off with King Steve in his own fucking palace. Billy could feel the heat rising to his cheeks and willing it not to spread any further. His filter seemed to be busted at the moment; he couldn’t stop saying suggestive things that, yeah, made Harrington react but had a worse effect on himself.

Harrington seemed to choke at the suggestion, his head half-turning before he started shaking it frantically.

“God, man- No! I-” he stammered, throwing his hands up in the air again. “Jeez, I just meant- Urgh!” And with that unintelligible series of noises, Harrington was out, slamming the door behind him as if that would remove any of the awkwardness.

Billy would have laughed. If he wasn’t desperately trying to shove the thought of hands and skin and water running over them out of his mind, he would have laughed so heartily at the mess he’d made of Harrington. This was possibly the best reaction he’d coaxed out of him so far. Only problem was the familiar swell that he was still cupping between his legs.

Not again, he’d already given in to his Harrington-driven hormones once today. He was not going to rub one out because of him twice in the same day. Things with this crush were already escalating too quickly. He was setting himself up for humiliation. How fucking close had he just gotten to popping a boner right there in front of the other boy?

He stepped under the shower head once again, taking hold of the taps and turning it on full. The water hit him with a pressure that the Hargrove bathroom could only dream of. The hot water blasted away the grime and blood, trickling down his legs in disturbing, black rivers. Billy tried to focus on that; look at the black, bloody water and remember that harrowed feeling of almost dying.

It wasn’t working. His traitorous eyes drifted over to the door as if Harrington was going to come back. As if that brief look that Billy knew he’d stolen before he’d turned away meant something. Frustrated, he reached for the body wash, sniffing it and hating how fucking familiar it smelt. Goddamn.

Eyes closed, Billy poured some of the liquid into his palms. Yep, it was the same shit Harrington used. Sighing a broken, ragged sigh, Billy slowly ran his hands over his arms, lathering up the liquid and sinking deeper into his senses. It felt good; the hot water on his muscles, the smell of Harrington in his lungs. It was so good, so alive. So different from being crushed under the Remorhaz. Blindly reaching out, he poured himself another handful of the sweet nectar, running his hands over his chest now. His fingers gently ghosted over his nipples and Billy couldn’t help but groan. After a couple of days of nothing but pain, it felt so fucking good to feel good.

He was rock hard by the time he’d finished washing away the crap from his torso. His cock was aching, jutting out desperate and insistent. He couldn’t do it. Not again. He was in too deep right now. Another session like before the hunt and he’d be a goner; following Harrington around like a fucking puppy. All the same, his hands betrayed him, wrapping around his hardness and gently tugging.

“Fuck...” he sighed into the spray, bracing himself against the tiled wall as the ripples of pleasure trickled all the way down to his toes. As his head rocked forward, he could practically feel the other boy’s breath by his ear; the slight panting sound that he’d first heard when Harrington had helped him to the BMW. The way it had felt, the way it had sounded; apparently all logged away, ready to be used in his fucking masturbatory sessions.

Billy... Harrington had said his name. Not like this –not in that breathy, desperate voice that Billy was imagining now- but, all the same, he’d said it. The boundary that Billy had drawn up from the very start was being crossed. Sure, Billy was frigging long-jumping it at this point but Harrington was crossing it too. For every bit of progress they made, Billy felt himself falling harder. It was fucking exhausting.

His hand had sped up, slickened by the water and the remaining suds. He groaned under his breath, knees buckling as the feelings swallowed him whole. The beautiful, warm water washed away his seed as he pressed his whole body forward into the wall; exhausted and defeated.

---

He’d wrapped a towel around his waist and exited the bathroom pretty quickly after that. The victory against the Remorhaz tonight felt overshadowed by his loss against his own desires. There was a niggling feeling in the back of his mind that, since last Friday when all of this started, he was more like a leaf on the wind than a conscious person. In the last eight days, he’d lost control to his rage, to El’s power, to the strength of the Remorhaz, to Neil’s will and now to his own fucking hormones. How many more battles could he lose?

Stomping into the hallway with all the attitude machismo of someone who wasn’t just in a cream-coloured, fluffy towel, Billy made his way to Harrington’s door. Offering him the same degree of privacy that he’d been given earlier, he simply opened the door and walked in. With a hilarious ‘Woah!’ sound, Harrington and his desk chair fell backwards, crashing to the ground in the least elegant manner possible. Billy threw his head back and laughed, the palm of his hand resting over his eyes. Yep. This was the guy he couldn’t stop thinking about.

“God, Hargrove, don’t you knock!?” Harrington choked as he tried to untangle his long legs from the furniture, completely missing the irony in that moment.

“What’cha up to, Harrington?” Billy sniggered, watching as the other boy flailed about, almost losing his footing again as he desperately tried to get back to his feet. “Did I disturb a private moment?” Billy continued his meaning plain as day and he wholly aware of the irony there.

Harrington finally made it to his feet, dusting himself off in a way that mocked nonchalance. His hair was all over the place; once again resembling a rooster especially now with the reddish-black crust of Remorhaz blood he seemed to be sporting.

“Don’t be weird, man,” he coughed, turning and bending to pick the chair up. Billy’s breath caught in his throat, thankfully not in any audible way. It was like the asshole was doing it on purpose. His tight jeans hugged his ass in a way that almost made Billy wanna race back down the corridor for round two. Almost. “I’m guessing you’re done with the shower?” he asked and Billy bit back the sarcastic ‘Not yet’ that threatened to snark its way out of him.

“Any chance I could wash my gear? Don’t really fancy getting back into that bloody shit,” he replied and Harrington’s eyes widened like he hadn’t even begun to consider that.

“Oh shit, yeah!” he gasped, turning to pull open a draw from the unit, that stood next to his desk, and rooting around.

While Harrington busied himself, Billy looked around the room. This felt more lived-in. There were clothes strewn around on the floor, products out on the various surfaces and posters up on the wall. The room felt uncharacteristically small as well, the chequered wall paper seeming to shrink it a little. All in all, Harrington’s room didn’t really fit with the mausoleum of a house that his parents had built.

“You can wear these,” Harrington breathed, straightening up and holding out a sweatshirt and matching pair of pants. Billy noted, with and appreciative grin, that the other boy had neglected to offer him boxers, not that he’d have needed them anyway. “I’ll, err, put both of our shit through a quick wash when I’ve showered,” he shrugged as Billy took the offered clothing.

“Sounds good, Harrington,” he grinned wolfishly, slinging them over his shoulder. “I’m gunna go and get changed in your folks' room now. Try not to barge in, yeah? You’ve had enough of an eye-full already!” he finished, backing out the room so that he could watch the other boy roll his eyes.

“Fuck off!” Harrington laughed and it was like fucking music.

Billy had every intention of getting the sweats on and then going for a self-guided tour of the Harrington homestead. The thought of being able to poke around the other boy’s home was an appealing one but apparently not as appealing as the thought of testing out Mr and Mrs Harrington’s mattress. Once he’d laid down on it, his whole body seemed to melt. Jeez, it paid to be rich.

As his muscles truly relaxed for what felt like the first time in years, Billy let out a sigh. It was too fringing good. He’d take forty winks here, then decide what to do about Neil and the fact that he was going to get it when he did return home. Just a couple of minutes. Just until Harrington was finished with his shower.

Chapter Text

It was pitch black when he opened his eyes again. For a brief, irrational moment, Billy worried that Harrington’s parents were home early. That they’d found him in their bed and he was gunna be arrested for breaking in. Or worse. By all accounts, Mr Harrington was a bit of an asshole. Maybe he’d be like Neil, using his fists to show Billy how unwelcome he was.

When he was more awake, however, he realised how stupid all of that was. He was alone, lying on Mr and Mrs Harrington’s bed with a thick, heavy blanket covering him. When had that happened? Sitting up, he could see that the towel, that he’d dropped to the floor with the intention of clearing up after himself eventually, was gone. Harrington. He’d probably come in to sort out the wash and taken them too. Probably tucked him in with the blanket, like he was a chick from some kind of sappy romance novel. That felt weird.

Unsure of the time, Billy clambered off the bed and looked around for a clock. There was a small, gold-rimmed one on the opposite bedside table which mockingly displayed the time of twenty past four in the morning. There was no way Neil would have stayed up that late for him; he should probably head back. Get some rest in his own fucking bed before the inevitable shit show started.

After checking and confirming that Harrington had, indeed, whisked his dirty clothes away, Billy headed out into the corridor. It was much lighter out here, the glow from downstairs flooding out from the balcony area over the stairs. Billy followed the light, wondering why Harrington would leave it on. There was a faint sound coming from somewhere in the house. Billy couldn’t be sure if it was simply the washer or if it was something more sinister.

By the time he reached the bottom of the stairs, he was certain it was coming from downstairs. His escape plan forgotten for now, Billy followed the noise, pushing open the door that, apparently, led into the kitchen. The was a sudden clashing sound and Billy half-jumped as his eyes focused on the sight in front of him.

“Shit!” Harrington gasped, grasping the razor-sledge way too close to the razor wire for Billy’s liking. In front of him, lying on the impossibly expensive-looking counter top, was an assortment of towels, cleaning supplies and the nail-bat. By the looks of all the balled up, blackened rags and bits of Remorhaz flesh, it seemed that he’d been cleaning their weapons. “You fucking- I thought you were one of those things!” Harrington breathed a sigh of relief, letting the razor-sledge drop back down onto the surface with a costly-sounding bang.

Billy took the scene in. Harrington was up at 4am cleaning weapons, the night after a pretty intense battle with an actual monster. From talking to Nancy, he knew that this wasn’t the other boy’s first rodeo but this seemed frigging weird all the same.

“Still assuming they use doors, Harrington?” he smiled, unsure of the other boy’s mood. He was a jumpy fucker but that could be understandable.

“They could,” Harrington smiled back, shifting the razor-sledge and grabbing a rag. He sprayed a random cleaning spray at it and then started wiping at the razor wire.

“You just couldn’t wait to get your hands on it, could you?” Billy smirked after watching the brunette work for a little too long. Harrington grinned but didn’t look up from what he was doing.

“Guess I was feeling a little curious,” he replied, his voice wicked and playful. Goddamn.

“And? Better than what you’re used to, right?” Billy pushed a little further, crossing over to lean up against the counter. This was dangerous. He honestly didn’t know how many times they’d fall into this rhythm. It was like that first time, outside the Chief’s cabin, Billy had kicked them into some strange, protracted game of chicken. Why the hell was this happening?

Harrington looked up and fixed his dark, glinting eyes on Billy’s. His pretty lips were pulled into a sexy smirk and that look alone was definitely going to feature heavily in Billy’s fantasies for the next few days.

“Not sure if I saw enough tonight to call it,” he purred, leaning a little closer. “You did say it’d ‘blow my head off’... not quite sure I got the full effect.” Billy blinked dumbly. Harrington stared him out, dark eyes on Billy’s until the younger boy had to look away. Goddamn. Harrington was due a win but Billy wasn’t going to go down without one last swing.

“Well, next time we go out hunting monsters, I’ll hold yours and you hold mine. Easier to compare that way, don’t you think?” It felt too on the nose, like Harrington’s jaw was gunna hit the floor before he started running away from the raging homo he’d let into his home. Billy heard a small chuckle and had to look back. Harrington had put everything down and was still staring at Billy, his palms flat against the countertop.

“A tempting proposition. I’ll take a long, hard think about it and let you know,” he smirked and Billy choked a little, looking away again in defeat. Damn.

“Er-” Billy heard the defeated sound spluttering from his lips. Harrington was laughing more now, the confidence of his win so fucking evident. Unsure of what else to do with himself, Billy pushed himself off the counter and moved backwards towards the door.

“How come you’re up anyway?” Harrington asked, smile still on his lips but a mild look of concern in his eyes. Like he, rightly, thought Billy was about to leave. Billy shrugged.

“Gotta head home and get some sleep, if that’s alright with you, Harrington,” he said, knowing that Harrington wouldn’t get it. He didn’t know enough to fill in the blanks that Billy was purposely leaving.

“You ‘feeling it’ now then, huh?” Harrington scoffed, picking up the rag he’d been using but making no efforts to resume his task just yet. “At 4am?”

“Yeah,” Billy answered shortly. He should have just left. As titillating as the banter had just been, he’d have been better off without all that extra material for his jerk-off sessions; he’d be better off without this conversation.

“You could just stay here until morning, you know?” Harrington offered, unaware or not caring about the mine field he was straying into. “I could drive you back if you wanted. Bet your leg’s still pretty banged up.” It was but that didn’t matter. As usual, Billy had had worse. After resting it for a few hours in the Harringtons’ master bed, he just about felt able to make the journey home. He just about felt ready for whatever Neil was going to do.

“Nah. Gotta get back,” Billy shook his head. Harrington’s brow furrowed and he tilted to one side. “My dad was up when we drove back. Could probably sneak in now, though,” Billy continued, instantly cursing himself for saying more. He was leaving blanks for a reason, damnit.

“Your dad?”

“Yeah, he’s a hardass,” Billy shrugged, wanting it to be casual; wanting it to not seem like a big deal. Like he wasn’t psyching himself up for the beating of a lifetime. Like he hadn’t been too scared to go home earlier.

“You said so before...” Harrington said thoughtfully. Shit. Billy could feel his arms trembling, his fists balling up. This wasn’t good. Harrington needed to leave it.

“Yeah, well, I should-”

“It’s, what, four in the morning? What’s the difference going now or at, say, a normal hour?” Harrington asked. He had a point -there really was no difference- but still. If he didn’t go back now, Billy wasn’t sure he’d go back at all.

“None, but-”

“What’s the worst he can do?” the question hit him like a fist to the gut. Fuck. His jaw tightened; he had to keep a lid on this. Don’t go down this road, Harrington. Just let me go home. he mentally pleaded with the other boy.

“Harrington-” he tried to warn him. His breaths were coming short and on the verge of panic.

“No, seriously: you’re already out late. Not much you can do about it now, right?” the older boy wasn’t dropping it. “Really: what’s the worst he can do?”

“‘What’s the worst he can do’? You serious, Harrington?” Billy snapped, teetering on the edge. The fear, the rage at what was in store for him, was bubbling under his skin; he felt like he needed to run, fight or scream. Something.

“Yeah, Billy, I’m serious!” Harrington shot back, his voice raised to match Billy’s. He was never one to back down, especially when it came to Billy and all his shit.

“I assume we’re talking about since moving to this fucking hell hole, yeah? Well, how do you want it, Harrington? Alphabetically? Chronologically?” he shouted, toppling over the edge. It was too late; he was too amped up for his return home. Harrington was too fucking much. “Oh no, wait: you wanted to know what’s the worst he can fucking do, right?” Billy continued, the pressure being too much in his mind. Harrington’s face shifted to shock and he took a step back away from the counter that separated them. Billy marched around it; he was going to give Harrington what he wanted. Twist his world in the way he’d held back from before. You wanna see what’s behind the fucking curtain, Harrington?

“Billy-” Harrington spluttered, raising his hands in surrender but Billy simply grabbed him by the wrists, halting any further retreat from the other boy. Gone now was the flirty banter. They were back to this again.

“How about a broken wrist, Harrington, huh? That bad enough for you?” Billy growled, leaning into the other boy’s space. Harrington’s dark eyes were wide but not with fear, not with rage. Something else. Whatever it was, Billy hated it.

“A broken wrist?” he breathed and Billy laughed bitterly.

“That’s good starting point, wouldn’t you say, Harrington?” Billy sneered, tightening his grip on the other boy, meaning for him to feel the fear Billy had done that night.

“Your dad broke your wrist? Was this back in November?” Instead of afraid, Harrington looked so confused, like such a thing couldn’t be. Billy hated him in that moment. The fucking perfection of his life -his fucking bubble- so fucking evident from his reaction.

“Yeah, Harrington, my daddy did that shit. There’s your sweet fucking karma, Harrington!” Billy laughed again, firing the other boy’s idiocy right back at him. Fuck you, Harrington. Fuck you and your perfect life.

“You-” Harrington stammered, wide eyes still fixed on Billy’s. Even now they looked so tempting, so fucking pretty. It made Billy hate him all the more. How dare he. “You weren’t fighting me that night; you were fighting him...” he breathed and Billy stopped laughing. His whole body felt tight; uncomfortable at the suggestion.

“Don’t-”

“You weren’t mad at me, Billy. You were mad at him, You were-” Harrington rambled, speaking as if he was discovering all this shit as he said it. “-You were scared of him.”

“Fuck you, Harrington! Don’t try that psycho-analysis bullshit on me!” Billy snarled, pulling the other boy impossibly close now, practically breathing air directly from his lungs. “I beat the shit out of you because you were in my way that night. You pissed me off and you got beat for it!”

“Billy-”

“Like you said before, Harrington: I’m a fucking monster! I learned it from the fucking best!” Billy spat almost triumphantly. Like that was something to be proud of and not the thing that he hated most about himself. “You think a broken wrist is bad, Harrington? I won’t even start go into all the shit from back in California. While we’re on the subject of poking around each other’s psychoses, I think it’d be a step too far to tell you about all that shit. Don’t wanna give you fucking nightmares or anything!” he snarled, watching a flash of anger at that final sentiment in the other boy’s expression. Harrington’s jaw clenched and his eyes went cold.

“Fuck you, Hargrove,” he breathed, his voice venomous. Billy had hit a nerve. The tiniest hint of guilt blended into his anger. Using that was low. Nancy had mentioned how, in the wake of their multiple encounters with Upside Down shit, she and Harrington had been having problems sleeping; that, for her at least, she’d had night terrors. Mentioning it now, throwing it in Harrington’s face so forcefully, seemed to have been a step too far. 

They stared each other down for a moment, still connected through Billy’s grip. Harrington looked mad. Not the same ‘mad’ that Billy had tried to laugh off in the woods earlier tonight; not that all-consuming anger that had withered Billy down in the creature he was now. He simply looked done; done with Billy and all the shit from the past 24 hours.

This was their dynamic. Awkward, near-friendship always crumbling away to show the truth: they weren’t friends. They couldn’t be friends. Billy’s tongue was too sharp, his anger too near the surface, and Harrington was too inclined to stand up for himself, his own trauma being a minefield in itself. As good as it had felt fighting side by side, it was just pretend. Billy would always be the guy who smashed Harrington’s face in and Harrington would always be the guy to get back up and fight him for it.

Billy let the other boy go and took a step back. His breaths were back to normal, his muscles felt less tense. He was done. Grabbing the razor-sledge, he started towards the door. Harrington could trash his old clothes for all he cared; he needed to get away.

“Billy...” Harrington sighed as Billy reached for the door handle, his exhausted voice sounding like a plea. Why was Harrington still pushing? Couldn’t he just drop it? “... you can still stay. You don’t have to face him right now.”

---

Billy stormed through the streets of Hawkins on pure adrenaline. His bruised leg hurt but it didn’t matter. You don’t have to face him right now. Harrington was too fucking good to be real. Even when Billy had fired off at him like that -had royally pissed him off- he still offered him shelter from the shit that was his life. It was too much.

He made the journey in no time at all and was fucking relieved to see that the lights were all off now. While the adrenaline would have helped a little with whatever pain Neil was saving up for him, he still didn’t fancy the idea of crashing about the house at this time; Max and Susan were bound to wake up and he really didn’t need an audience. He’d had enough pity for one night.

After stashing the razor-sledge under a load of shit in the garage, he snuck in through his bedroom window and looked around his room, heart stilling in his chest. Neil had been in here. The tactically-hung titty poster remained but his band ones had been taken down. His record player and records were removed and several other personal effects were missing too. All ‘confiscated’, no doubt. The punishment had begun even before Neil had seen him. Crossing over to his bed, Billy hoped against hope that everything had just been stashed away and not broken. It wasn’t likely; Neil was definitely going to be pissed on a monumental level.

Billy’s fingers hooked under the bottom of his sweatshirt but he halted at the texture. Harrington: he was wearing Harrington’s sweatshirt and pants. Turning his head towards his shoulder, he breathed in and there it was. Harrington. Even after all that shit, the smell of the other boy did funny things to him; warmed a place inside him that he had assumed was dead and buried with Alex. Goddamn.

Climbing into bed, Billy wrapped his arms around himself. Fear was making him feel weak; weak enough to want. Weak enough to feel sorry. He’d gone too far -lashed out too hard. Harrington’s sweatshirt embraced him with its softness, with its scent, in a way that Harrington never could. Billy breathed in deep and closed his eyes, wishing shit could just be different. He wished things were as easy with Harrington as they had been with Alex. That he wasn’t so damn angry and could just fucking talk to the other boy. As he drifted off into sleep, he imagined that it was Harrington’s arms holding him.

You can still stay... How fucking sweet would that have been?

---

Billy awoke to the feel of his bed dipping under the weight of another person. He opened his eyes blearily but was instantly alert at the sight of Neil sitting watching him like a predator eyeing up its prey. The older man’s eyes narrowed as he watched Billy sit up sharply.

“You’re home,” he said flatly and Billy gulped like a fucking cartoon character. “You weren’t supposed to leave this house, Billy.” There was no point in making excuses. He hadn’t even tried to concoct a lie; Neil wouldn’t believe it even if he did tell the truth. The fact of the matter was that he’d disobeyed him, not that he’d been out.

“I’m sorry, si-” Billy replied, being cut off by the sharp backhand to the face. The thick wedding ring, that Neil wore, caught him on his cheekbone and Billy hissed at the nasty sting of a fresh cut.

“Get up,” Neil ordered as he rose to stand over the bed. He liked to hear himself speak and he’d had plenty of time to plan this performance. Doing as he was instructed, Billy braced himself for the choreography; it was going to be rigorous. “I don’t know what to do with you, Billy,” Neil continued, circling around to stand behind his son. Billy felt his whole body tingle with the uncomfortable feeling of not being able to face his opponent. It was like fucking torture. “This past week, you’ve had no respect at all,” the older man said, punctuating his favourite word with a harsh kick to the back of Billy’s right leg.

Even if it hadn’t been the leg he’d dropped a 10lb sledge hammer on the previous night, it would have hurt. Billy couldn’t stop the pathetic yelp he made: it was agonising. The injured limb buckling underneath him as he crashed down to his hands and knees. His fingers clutched at the shitty carpet as if that would somehow distract him. Fuck.

Neil moved in a predatory circle around him, tutting as if he’d expected better from his son. As if that reaction wasn’t the one he’d wanted. Billy bit his lip; too much noise would only spur Neil on. He was like a wild dog; savage and driven wild but signs of weakness.

“What do you suggest I do, Billy? How do we get you back on the right track?” he asked, moving into position and giving Billy a good kick to the stomach. All the air left his lungs and Billy choked. His vision was starting to blur with red splotches. “You can’t be happy -being like this- this can’t be what you want either, can it Billy?” Another kick, harder than the last. Billy groaned despite himself. He couldn’t breath. One more kick to the gut and he’d be sick everywhere. Neil would not like that either. Billy closed his eyes.

“I’m sorry, sir,” he practically cried out, his voice ragged and breathless. He was braced for the next blow, fingers feeling like they hand carpet burns from how tightly he’d been gripping the ground.

“I think the onus is on you, Billy, wouldn’t you say?” Neil sneered, planting his foot on Billy’s right shoulder and pressing down. Submissively, Billy crumpled forwards, his face and chest hitting the ground with a thud. “What will you do?”

“I’ll be better. I’ll be better, sir,” he gasped. He sounded so pathetic. What would Harrington think of him now? What would Nancy think of her saviour? He was nothing. An angry, impotent mess. In the end, Harrington had been the one to take down the Remorhaz; not Billy. The one victory he had wasn’t even his. In the end, he couldn’t do anything. He was fucking nothing.

Neil came to stand in front of him and, for a terrifying beat, Billy was certain he’d kick him in the face. But then the older man was kneeling down and taking Billy by the chin, forcing him to look up at him.

“You will be better,” Neil hissed, his grip too tight. His cold eyes burned with an icy fire. He was furious. He didn’t care if he left a visible mark. Not today. “From today, you will be the model of respect and responsibility. You will complete every task expected of you, you will help your sister with her homework and you will stay in this house until it’s time to go to school tomorrow. Am I making myself clear?” he ended by leaning in close to Billy’s face. His grip was bruising, Billy could feel it. Goddamn he was going to look a mess.

“Yes sir,” Billy managed to say but he knew it wasn’t enough. At times like these, Neil liked to hear it twice.

“Billy...” he hummed his last warning. Billy met his gaze, feeling the burn of the older man’s hatred.

Yes sir,” he repeated, his voice stronger even though the rest of him felt weaker.

“Good,” Neil snarled, giving Billy’s chin one last squeeze before finally letting him go.

Before Billy even had the chance to regain his breath, the older man was gone, slamming the door closed with a triumphant force. Crumpling onto the carpet, Billy gasped against the tears that forced their way out of him. He choked on a sob as he curled around himself. He was weak. He was nothing.

Tears still stung his eyes when he heard the door creaking open again. He flinched at the sound, half-expecting Neil to be back with more demands, but there was a gentle hand on his shoulder.

“Billy...” Max breathed, sounding infinitely sad and pitying. He hated that.

“Go away Max!” he spat and her hand flinched back away.

“Billy, do you want-?”

“Just get out of here!” Billy barked as loudly as he dared, whirling around to glare at her. The effect was not the usual -the blood and tears on his face probably not making him look as threatening as he’d like- but Max did stand back up. Looking down at him, however, there was still pity in her eyes. “Get out!” Billy said again, desperate for that look to be gone.

Without another word, she hurried out of the room, slamming the door closed with considerably less force than Neil had done. Good.

He curled tighter in on himself, arms around his stomach. He gave in to that broken feeling, if only for a moment. Snivelling on the floor like the pathetic mess he knew he was.

After the tears had finally subsided, Billy gasped and groaned as he managed to force himself back onto the bed. Exhausted both physically and emotionally, he rested his arm over his eyes. It still smelt of him. Whimpering like the wounded animal he was, Billy breathed in deep. Goddamn it.

Billy, a soft, familiar voice called out to him. His skin tingled as he moved to sit up. The room was now a void of blackness, the only real, stable things left being himself and the bed he was sitting on. His chest tightened. The nothingness echoed infinitely. Where the hell was he? Was this the Upside Down? Little Byers had ended up there by mistake, had Billy done the same thing?

Billy! The voice called out again. It seemed to echo around everywhere. Desperate, he looked around and there she was. El. Standing alone in the darkness. She was barefoot but, other than that, actually looked pretty normal for once.

“What’s going on?” Billy asked, his voice a little broken still. Goddamn. “Is this the Upside Down?” El shook her head.

“No. Not there,” she replied, her voice more focused now. She walked closer to the bed, he feet slapping down in a strange black liquid. “Here,” she said as she perched at the end of the bed. He couldn’t tell if she was elaborating on where they were or simply stating her arrival. Everything was so fucked.

“Why-?” he started the question but stopped himself. Her limited speech would make explaining impossible. There was no point.

“Your Papa,” she said, reaching out to touch at his cheek, just as he had done to Harrington last night. Billy shuddered but didn’t move away. Of course she knew.

“Yeah,” he sighed, a sob threatening even now. God, he was such a pussy.

“Hurt you... My Papa; he hurt me,” she spoke softly, her hands moving to either side of her head.

“Why?” Billy heard himself ask. El's eyes fixed on him, intense and dark as always.

“Wanted me to be better,” she said and Billy broke. Tears ran down his cheeks and he doubled over with a pathetic noise. Yes. Exactly yes. He could practically hear his own voice, pathetically promising to better as he had cowered on the floor.

“How?” he asked, almost pleaded. He really didn’t know what he could do. Neil wanted so much that Billy just couldn’t give. He wanted him to be something that, for all his trying, he just couldn’t be.

“You are,” El soothed, her voice so calming, so pure and simple. “You are better.” She didn’t know that. She had no point of reference –no way of knowing the boy he once was. He was a shadow of the boy who used to skate and smile in California. The boy who used to make his friends laugh. The boy who used to press happy kisses to the lips of his favourite person.

“I’m nothing,” Billy whimpered, vocalising the most pathetic, clawing thought that had been circling his mind. “I’m a dirty, useless...” Queer. Even in this crazy, darkened world, he couldn’t say it. El's eyes burned at him in a way totally different from Neil’s. She shook her head and reached out for him again.

“Not dirty,” she said, her fingertips brushing his chin, coaxing him back up to face her. “Pretty,” she smiled and Billy could feel the warmth of it. Goddamn he could feel it.

He sniffed and wiped at his eyes. He needed to stop being quite so pathetic. This was getting too much.

“Thanks,” he sniffed, offering her a small smile in return.

“Not alone,” El said and it sounded like a promise. Billy looked at her and something made him believe it.

Even as he closed his eyes and opened them to his regular, brightly-lit room, he felt it. He wasn’t alone.

Chapter Text

Surviving the weekend seemed easier after talking to El. As fucked up and crazy as it was, her gentle words had really eased something in Billy. Even though Neil wanted him to feel it, ‘Not alone’ had stuck with him. Like all he had to do was reach out and she'd be there.

He knew it was pathetic -that relying on a preteen was pretty fucking low- but that was kind of his shtick at the moment. All he did was mooch around Nancy or pine after Harrington. Why not add ‘become emotionally dependent on El’ to the list? What’s one more dependency, anyway?

He spent Sunday with his head down low, quickly and carefully doing everything Neil demanded of him. He didn’t let the pain of his injuries, from the Remorhaz and from his father, slow him down, showing no outward appearance of pain. He was used to that by now. He was no pussy; he could do it.

 Max, stubborn as she was, even let him sit with her at the dining table so that could very publicly finish her homework together. Frustratingly, that was probably the worst part. The whole time, he could see her eyes drifting to the small cut on his cheek – to the harsh bruising on his chin. Somehow, he got through it without screaming at her. Somehow.

He went to bed early on Sunday, wanting nothing more than to be out of the way and to let his body rest. Neil, Susan and Max were in the lounge watching the Sunday movie together. He didn’t know what was on but didn’t care all that much either. ‘Family movie night’ meant one thing for Billy: Neil didn’t want to see him and he certainly didn’t want to see Neil.

As he lay staring at his bedroom ceiling, he thought back to the shit with Harrington that morning. Things had been... bad. Yeah, Harrington had been playing along with the flirty game but then he’d started asking questions and pushing too far. Billy frowned at the memory of the other boy’s wrists in his hands. He’d overreacted. It was none of Harrington’s business but flying off the handle at him like that... it felt just a couple of steps below how it had been in November. It was fucked up.

 Everything to do with Harrington was getting out of hand. Try as he might, Billy couldn’t stop thinking of him as fucking pretty or fantasizing about him in various ways. He was dangerously into that boy and, really, it had to stop.

Billy glanced over at the sweats that he’d washed and folded up, ready to return to the boy in question. After a spin in the Hargrove washer, they didn’t have that Harrington aroma anymore. It was for the best; he really didn’t need to be the guy who went around sniffing other people’s clothes.

Drifting off to sleep, Billy made two firm resolutions to himself. One: he’d stop antagonising the other boy. It felt shitty now when he gave in to his anger and even worse when he went too far with regards to Harrington. Two: he would get over this crush. Sure, Harrington was hot but he was straight and, as far as Billy could tell, most likely pretty anti-faggot. The first step for this would be him not fucking flirting with Harrington. It was messing with his head and he just couldn’t deal with Harrington beating him at his own game.

The main thing, however, was abundantly clear: if he wanted to have any kind of relationship with the other boy, he would have to stop thinking about him all the fucking time.

---

Breakfast and clean-up had gone without a hitch and Billy was pretty sure Neil was disappointed for it. He did so love to teach Billy a lesson. The past week had probably been a dream come true for him. The older man had left for work, quoting the mileage that he expected to see on the Camaro given that Billy was only to go to and from school. No arcade. No Wheeler’s house. Straight home. Billy just hoped that Max was gunna play ball again today. The last thing he needed was her sneaking off to the arcade and getting him in the shit.

Annoyingly, she was still watching him with her wary, pitying gaze as he drove her to school. She’d been doing it at breakfast, flinching visibly every time Neil so much as reached for his coffee cup. It didn’t go unnoticed. She was the weak link. It was only a matter of time before he’d be having a conversation about how his behaviour affected his sister. That was going to be a joy.

“He’s getting worse again, isn’t he?” she asked when Billy had parked up in front of the Middle School. He sighed deeply. Even that still kind of hurt where Neil had kicked him.

“Max-”

“It’s like it was before we moved. I know he was hitting you back then,” she cut him off, shifting to bring her knees underneath herself. As if talking about this gave her the heebie-jeebies and she couldn’t not take her feet off the floor.

“You don’t know shit,” Billy scoffed because she really didn’t. She still thought it was his fault that they’d moved. Even now, if she was asked why it had happened, she’d start her fucking story about Bobby Day –or whatever the fuck his name was- and how Billy had broken his goddamn arm. She’d whine about how he was one of her friends and that Billy was a jerk for attacking him. What she didn’t care to know was how Bobby had been the prick who’d spray painted Alex’s grave. That he’d been fucking laughing about how Mrs Hayes had cried when she saw the words ‘rot faggot’ scrawled over his headstone. That she didn’t remember; that she didn’t know.

Not to mention the real reason that Neil had decided to uproot the family and move them to the middle of nowhere. Max really and truly didn’t know shit. It was probably for the best. She was too naïve and too innocent by far to deal with the fact that she slept under the same roof as one of the worst monsters. Demodogs and Remorhazes couldn’t prepare her for Neil’s true potential.

“Don’t be an asshole, Billy. You always push me away but... You don’t have to be alone, you know?” she said in a hollow echo of El’s words. Instead of the comfort he’d felt from the near-stranger, he felt only annoyance at Max’s words. Like he didn’t have reason for pushing her away.

“Just get out, Max,” he sighed, turning back to look at the road. She hesitated for a moment but, in the end, did capitulate, pushing the door closed with a lot less force than usual. Goddamn, she really did pity him if she wasn’t storming about like a little ginger tornado.

He pulled up alongside Byers’ Pinto a few minutes later, almost relieved to see him and Nancy leaning against to hood apparently waiting for him.

As he awkwardly climbed out of the car, being careful not to put too much strain on his leg, Nancy turned to greet him but her bright smile faded almost instantly.

“Billy,” she breathed, dramatically rushing to stand in front of him. Without warning, her hands were either side of his face, a gentle thumb ghosting over the cut that Neil’s ring had left. Billy had, for some reason, ducked his head into her touch, allowing the crazily intimate moment to happen. “What happened? Did you-?”

“Me and Harrington killed it, Nancy,” he smiled with the strength that he was drawing directly from her concern and from the memory El’s words. “Smashed it until there was nothing left.”

Nancy took a step back, her hands falling back to her side. A small smile quirked the corner of her mouth upwards. Crazy girl.

“Seriously?” she asked, sounding oddly impressed.

“Y-you smashed it?” Byers chimed in, having quietly moved to stand behind Nancy. Billy tilted his chin up and grinned. He knew they could see the bruising but he was just going to own it. With enough machismo, they’d buy it was from the Remorhaz.

“Yup,” Billy grinned, popping the ‘p’. “Made myself a weapon, didn’t I? Sorry, Byers, it is a little better than your nail-bat.”

“Hey, that was a quick build. I-I'm sure if I spent the weekend-”

“Hey guys,” Harrington interrupted, apparently appearing behind Billy out of nowhere.

Somehow not jumping out of his skin, Billy stiffly turned to face him. To his surprise, Harrington looked like shit. There were dark bags under his eyes and he looked fucking done still. Billy thought back to how he’d been awake at four in the morning, cleaning weapons and getting into fights with his monster-hunting partner. Had he slept at all over the weekend?

“Steve...” Nancy hummed and moved past Billy to give him a hug. She whispered something to him and he nodded dully. When Harrington started to speak back in an equally hushed voice, Billy took a step back to get onto the sidewalk. It felt like a private moment.

“Hargrove! How’re we doing this fine morning?” the annoying sound of Tommy H’s voice caused Billy to turn. The freckled boy was already on him, hand raised for a high-five that, even when they’d been cool, he’d have only gone for sixty percent of the time. With a small roll of the eyes, he gave in, slapping the other boy’s palm with a little more force than needed.

“Not bad, Tommy, not bad,” he smiled, all dominance and ease. Tommy had, quite sensibly, been keeping his distance the past week. Apparently, that was all the respite he was allowed. Tommy was not independent; he was a sheep. He needed someone to follow, someone to tell him what to laugh at and who to make fun of. He also needed someone to distract him from Carol because, for saying how long they had apparently been together, she seemed to drive him crazy.

“You been scrapping, buddy?” the other boy laughed, squinting at Billy’s face. "Who’s on the shit list now?”

Aware that Nancy and Harrington had seemed to have ended their conversation and moved to stand beside him on the sidewalk, Billy laughed non-committally.

“No one who matters,” he replied and he wished that much was true. Neil shouldn’t matter to him. Harrington’s late-night question replayed in his head: What’s the worst that he can do? If only it was nothing. Tommy laughed and looked in Harrington’s direction.

“’Sup Steve?” he grinned, his intentions unclear. Billy felt himself tensing at the interaction. “Nice to see you back in the big leagues.”

Harrington laughed shortly and Billy turned just in time to see him run his hand through his hair. A smile was on his lips but it was a shadow of the King Steve smile that he’d seen Sunday morning in his kitchen. This was all for show – the confidence wasn’t there.

“Never left, man,” Harrington scoffed, folding his arms over his chest. “Just got tired of your shit, is all.”

A brief look of anger flashed over Tommy’s face. From how much he bitched about Harrington, it was clear that him ‘turning bitch’ had actually been a hard blow for the annoying boy. He looked about to escalate; about to lash out and turn that jab into something. Nancy and Byers looked tense like they could see it too. The two brunette boys stared each other out. It was on.

Wanting nothing more than for Tommy just to get lost, Billy barked out a laugh. He moved closer to the freckled boy and clapped him on the back, still laughing, giving him the cue that he so desperately craved.

“Damn, Harrington, you don’t hold back!” he laughed, keeping his arm about Tommy’s shoulders until he felt him relaxing. After a little too long of Billy being the only person laughing, Tommy finally took the hint and joined in, his arm weaving about Billy’s back in a symbol of solidarity that simply wasn’t there.

“That’s the King Steve I remember!” he grinned as Harrington held his fake smile. “How about we call it even? Water under the bridge and all that?”

Harrington’s eyes narrowed for a moment before settling on Billy. As he stared at him, something about his expression shifted. For a moment, he could see the exhaustion in the eyes, plain as day.

“Whatever, Tommy. We’re cool,” Harrington shrugged, finally looking away. It blatantly obvious that he had the same tolerance for Tommy that Billy had. Nancy was standing defensively by his side, her pretty face pulled into an accusing frown. It felt starkly like the old divide was reforming between them. Part of Billy -namely, the part that was set on getting over this Harrington thing- wondered if that was such a bad thing.

He shoved Tommy away, ignoring the stupid way the other boy laughed. God. He just couldn’t go back to that. As tense and shitty things had become, he really didn’t want to go back to Tommy and Carol and all their vapid bullshit. He wanted the thrill of beating the Remorhaz. He wanted the calm of Nancy and the gentleness of El. He wanted to be around people who actually cared about something more than what other people thought of them.

“Hey babe,” Carol was suddenly at Tommy’s side, inane smile plastered over her lips. “You check with Billy about Nicole’s party yet?” she continued, her eyes flitting over him suggestively. Tommy laughed and put his arm around his girl.

“Not yet- But, yeah, Hargrove, Friday night: party?” he grinned idiotically. Billy internally sank. Thinking of how strict shit was with Neil now, there was literally no way. The mere act of asking him could put him in the shit.

“Nicole? Who’s that again?” he asked, stalling for time so he could think of a suitable excuse. Glancing at Harrington’s tired expression, he knew that there would be conclusions drawn it he just put it down to Neil being a ‘hardass’.

Carol laughed as if that question alone was scandalous; like there was a story behind why it was so funny.

“Oh Billy, she’d be so hurt to hear you ask that!” she giggled, her voice simpering and gross. “You know Nicole: she’d got the long, ginger hair. I think you’ve got Lit together.” He knew who Carol meant for sure now. Nicole had been eyeing him up from day one in this shit-hole. She was on the list of girls he’d meant to take out at some point; certainly willing to trade a few kisses for masculinity points.

“I might drop by,” he shrugged, still coming up short for a decent excuse. Keeping things vague would be for the best, he figured.

“You really should go, Billy,” Nancy chimed in and all eyes fell on her. She looked around at the group that she’d somehow stunned into silence. “What?”

“I don’t think anyone took you for much of a party animal is all, Miss Nancy,” Carol sneered and Billy wanted to shove her. Nancy held her ground, her lips and jaw going tight.

“I think we could all do with letting loose, right Steve?” she continued, looking at Harrington who looked anything but willing to go to a party right now.

“Yes! Hargrove versus Harrington: Keg King rematch! I like your thinking, Wheeler!” Tommy exclaimed, making it sound like the most epic thing that would ever happen. Billy rolled his eyes for show, crossing his arms across his chest.

“Like I said: I might drop by,” he nodded. Harrington’s eyes snapped to him, brow a little furrowed. Billy chose to ignore it.

“We all will,” Nancy completed his statement, tying him into something that there was no way he could actually do. Hopefully she’d be okay with him letting her down again. Admittedly, it wasn’t life and death like it had been out in the woods. Surely, she would be cool.

“Can’t wait,” Carol said, her voice openly dripping with disdain. Bitch had a real problem with Nancy and it only served to make Billy hate her more at this point.

His body feeling a little too tense from spending too long with the idiot twins, Billy raised a hand in farewell.

“Right guys. Gotta meet with Trudy to make up for skipping last week!” he announced, trying to ignore the strange way that Harrington was still looking at him as he made a quick escape.

---

Trudy was more than happy to hand over her teacher’s notes from the lesson he’d skipped last week. Despite being a little antsy with the thoughts of Tommy, Harrington and the looming threat of a party that he was going to have to duck out of, he’d actually managed to lay on just the right level of charm so that the econ teacher was putty in his hands. She even waved the assignment that he’d missed, telling him that she ‘knew he was good for it’, whatever she thought that meant in either the actual context or within the realms of flirting.

The rest of the day was not so easy. Between their first few periods, Nancy had been pretty concerned about him, asking about his various wounds from the Remorhaz attack more times than was really necessary. Byers had looked sympathetic as she fussed over Billy but had done little to stop it either. Thankfully, she’d clocked on that it wasn’t going down well and, by lunch, she backed off, instead talking about Friday’s party.

“I just think, after all the nonsense that we’ve been through recently, we should go and enjoy ourselves,” she’d explained as she’d held her hands out as if welcoming any arguments against this. Harrington had given her a pointed look that Billy, and seemingly Byers too, didn’t get but even he didn’t bother arguing. They had been through a lot of shit recently.

In the end, the worst Billy had to deal with was Harrington. When they were with Nancy and Byers, he was blessedly distant; all tired expressions and distant looks. During basketball practise, however, he was a nightmare. The other guys on the team had been bad enough -hissing and questioning him about the pretty epic purple bruise he’d got all down his right shin- but Harrington was relentless.

From the moment Billy had chosen to be on the ‘shirts’ team, the taller boy’s eyes hadn’t left him. He crowded Billy throughout the game even though they were on the same team. It made him a shittier player than usual but also blocked anyone from making use of him. Every time he gotten close enough, he’d tried to start talking and every time Billy backed away. As shitty as he’d ended up feeling about how he’d been with him on Sunday morning, it should have been the catalyst that put that much-needed distance back between them. Talking about it would only undo that.

By the time they all hit the showers, Billy was still pent up with too much energy and irritation. He skipped the shower, barely needing it after all of Harrington’s interference, and headed straight to his next class. If he stank, that was the rest of the world’s problem. He was pretty done.

He’d made a quick escape at the end of the day and was able to pick Max up right away. Perhaps showing her cards of what time she actually finished on a regular day, she’d been standing waiting for him even though he was earlier than usual. They’d not spoken on the ride home or in the house while Billy had busied himself with his chores. They didn’t need to. Max had asked and Billy had refused her an answer. There was nothing more to say.

When he’d come home, Neil had given the house a thorough inspection, pointing out extra tasks for Billy to perform as he went. In the end, however, he’d not been able to find fault with what Billy had done as part of his regular duties and so Billy was spared any talk of respect and responsibility.

---

The week went by in a blur. On Tuesday, Nancy had told them that the Chief had found out what Billy and Harrington had done. In her words: ‘He’s mad but impressed’ which was something more than the bullshit that Billy had had so far from him. El had come to him again that night, sitting at the edge of the bed and just being with him. It was nice, even if he knew it was a little creepy.

Nancy didn’t lose her desire to go to the party at all as the week progressed. Somehow, she’d managed to get Harrington to agree to go and Byers didn’t seem to have a choice in the matter. She spent a lot of time playfully trying to nail Billy down but he stealthily evaded ever giving a clear answer, resorting to many ‘I’ll see how I feel’s and ‘Let’s see how the day goes’.

Harrington had seemed to have given up speaking to Billy about what went down on Sunday morning, if he ever really was in the first place. They fell back into that tentative, superficial place that they’d previously only lingered at for that first Tuesday after Nancy had ‘adopted’ Billy. It sucked but Billy told himself that it was an improvement.

Billy was thinking about Harrington less. Well, that was a lie. He spent a little too much time fretting that the other boy would confront him about Neil or worse: tell Nancy and Byers about it. From the lack of intervention and deep conversations with Nancy, he was pretty certain that he hadn’t yet. The thing was that he wasn’t thinking about Harrington like that all that much anymore.

By the time Thursday came around, Billy had only given in once to temptation; hastily finishing himself off after a particularly vivid, and arousing, dream about getting it on with Harrington right after they’d taken out the Remorhaz. He’d laid on his back afterwards, breathless and stupid, and hated himself for a good while before going back to sleep.

Things at home had been fine. Even with the extra responsibilities Neil had piled on top of him, Billy had quietly just got on with it. He knew how to stay under the radar and, without any more news about shit from the Upside Down, he was able to do it. Even Max had played her part, accepting that Billy’s non-existent car privileges meant that she was also house-bound. She simply made sure that she was where she was meant to be at the time that she was meant to be there; her antics, for once, not getting Billy in the shit. Neil was never pleased or proud of him -not by a long shot- but, at the very least, he wasn’t mad.

---

When classes finally finished for the week, Billy was itching just to duck out of there. Thinking he’d made it out scot-free, he’d rushed to the Camaro only to find Nancy waiting for him there. She was leaning against the hood in a way that few in Hawkins would dare. She really was lucky he liked her so damn much.

“So, are you coming tonight?” she asked point-blank. No greeting, nothing. She was a woman on a mission right now. Billy scratched at the back of his head. As calm as things had been at home, he knew that asking to go to a party would be the tipping point.

“Nancy...” he breathed, trying to find the right way to explain himself. After two weeks of this suddenly-intense friendship, he felt like they were quite close but telling her about shit with Neil seemed just too much.

She stood up straight at this, moving to stand closer to him. If she were any other girl at Hawkins High, he’d assume this was a come-on; that she was trying to flirt. With Nancy, it felt like she was just... trying to be there. What was with these girls -El and Nancy- making him feel like them being there was all that mattered?

“Mike said something about you being grounded. That Max hasn’t been able to come to the arcade because you’re not allowed out. Is that true?” she asked softly, gently brushing his forearm. That was it. The perfect out. Neil had never been one for referring to his punishments as ‘grounding’; it wasn’t really part of Billy’s vocabulary. He felt like an idiot for not thinking of it sooner.

“Yeah. My dad wasn’t too happy with the late nights last week,” he said, once again sounding so casual.

“Yeah?” Nancy asked, her voice soft and almost motherly. Then she seemed to catch herself and gave a forced smile. “Tell me about it. I know she seemed okay on Saturday when she was talking to you but my mom was pretty mad at me for staying out so late.”

Poor Mrs Wheeler. While Neil’s main issue was the fact that Billy wasn’t obeying him and his law, Mrs Wheeler would have been worried sick. And for good reason: her daughter had almost died that night. Billy felt his guts twist at the mental image of Nancy’s mom sat, waiting up for her daughter to come home.

“Well, there you have it. That’s why I’m probably not coming tonight,” Billy grinned, throwing his hands up as if to say ‘you got me’. After a week of vagueness, he still heard himself slipping in the word ‘probably’. Fucking coward. Nancy wouldn’t mind.

“Well, if your dad changes his mind, I think it’ll be good to let our hair down,” she smiled, taking a single step back in anticipation of him leaving. Billy smiled down at her. The way things were going with her at least, it probably would have.

“See you around, Nance,” he smiled, slipping up and shortening her name in the same way the other two did. A soft flush rose to her cheeks but she didn’t correct him as he circled the Camaro to get to the driver’s side.

“Hopefully, we’ll see you there!” she called to him, waving him off as if he was a soldier going off to war.

---

“You think this is a joke, don’t you?” Neil growled, pacing back and forth in the lounge. Billy held position in the kitchen. He’s just finished washing the dished and had been about to start putting them away when Neil had stomped back into the room.

“No sir,” he answered quickly. This wasn’t what Neil wanted to hear, apparently, as he rushed forwards and gripped Billy by the shirt, pushing him hard into the refrigerator.

“You’ve been hanging around this house like a fucking slob this week. It’s fucking disgusting!” the older man slurred, his breath stinking of booze. Billy had had his suspicions at dinner that his father was drunk; his eyes had been too unfocused, his conversation with Susan and Max too disjointed. Now he was being shoved into the refrigerator for no fucking reason other than the fact that Neil had had one too many.

The silence rang out for too long. There wasn’t much Billy could say to that but, still, silence was not a good option either. Neil backhanded him hard in the face, thankfully not with his ring hand this time.

“I’m sick of the sight of you, boy,” he snarled, leaning in close so that his breath was nauseating. “Get the fuck out of my house.” With that, he hauled Billy over in the direction of the door. Billy stumbled with the motion, not wanting to be seen as putting up a fight. “Get the fuck out. I don’t want to see your fucking face. Sleep on a fucking bench for the weekend or something, I don’t fucking care!”

And then Billy was slammed against the front door. Without a chance to grab a jacket or the keys to the Camaro, he knew he had to make a quick getaway. In the background, he could see Max, watching from the corridor. Scrabbling and stumbling, he rushed out into the mild Hawkins night. Shit… it looked like he was going to Nicole’s party after all.

Chapter Text

While he hadn’t actually taken in where exactly Nicole lived, Billy had been present while Nancy and Byers had been sorting how they’d get there. At the very least, he knew the general area of town. From there, if it was a party worth going to, he should be able to find it. Thankfully, it was on the opposite side of town to Teeny’s place. That was no guarantee but, with his and Harrington’s work last week, there wasn’t likely to be any uninvited guests.

As he marched down the sidewalk, he tried to push Neil’s most recent bout of shit to the back of his mind. He'd been drunk. Simple as. Billy knew he shouldn’t take his shit to heart. It just... sucked because he’d been working so hard to not do the wrong thing this week. Thing was, he’d forgotten that it was rarely the things he did that were wrong: it was him. It was the person he was that Neil couldn’t stand. After spending the week with Billy ‘grounded’, ever there and ever present, the older man was obviously done with seeing him.

Clenching his fists, he shook his head as if that could clear away how it felt. His father couldn’t stand the sight of him, even when he wasn’t fucking up. Even when he was being the model son, he was still an eyesore. God, he needed to get buzzed. This was sticking with him more that it should have.

As he rounded the corner onto the street, he was certain Nancy had mentioned, he saw the tell-tale signs of a high school party. Too many cars parked on the road, too many teenagers milling about on the sidewalk, too much trash on the lawn of, what he assumed was, Nicole’s house. He could already hear the sound of the music and laughter from a couple of doors down. By Hawkins standards, this was a proper rager. Good. This was the kind of shitty distraction he needed right now.

A couple of random kids recognised him as he approached the house, one guy from the football team reaching out and giving him a high five. They weren’t friends -Billy didn’t even know the kid’s name- but it felt good to be recognised. He entered Nicole’s house to the sound of cheers and Tommy instantly joining in and shouting his name in glorious greeting.

“Hargrove, Hargrove, Hargrove!” the freckled boy chanted joyously, pushing through the crowd to sling an arm about his shoulder. A red cup was thrust in his direction by a girl with hot-pink lips and Billy downed it in one. Playing up to the crowd, he roared loudly and triumphantly, earning himself another loud cheer as he crumpled and threw the plastic cup up in the air. As little as these peons meant, as much as he hated Tommy and his bullshit, at least he was welcome here. At least he wasn’t an eyesore to these people. It shouldn’t have meant much but, tonight, it really did.

Pushing back through the crowd towards the door to the backyard, the usual swathe of suggestively-dressed girls gave him the eye. He wasn’t done up the way he’d usually like for a party like this –his hair wasn’t teased to perfection, his shirt was simply the navy, cotton-blend, one he’d worn for school- but it didn’t seem to matter. By this point, it seemed he’d earned enough kudos with the teens of Hawkins that he could pull off any look. Besides, before him, Harrington was king. With all his sweaters, polos and chinos. Anything was a step up from that.

“Billy!” an already-annoying voice shrieked as a girl, who Billy would put the name ‘Nicole’ to at a push, blocked his and Tommy’s path to the back of the house. “Thank you for coming!” she squealed, practically leaping into his arms. Tommy sensibly removed himself from the situation as ‘Nicole’ pushed her face into the hollow of Billy’s neck, her arms tight around his shoulder.

Billy was used to it; drunk girls flinging themselves at him at parties like this. It happened a little back in California but, here in Hawkins, he was viewed as something else entirely. Here he was practically a god to these girls. Like they’d never seen anything so good.

“Thanks for having me, Nicole,” he grinned, dipping his chin so that she could hear him even at his seductive whisper. It never hurt to make the hostess feel special. Never hurt to build that rep of being a ‘lady’s man’. He ran his hands slowly down her back, halting just before he reached her ass. Giving her one final squeeze, he moved his hands to her hips and, as gently as he could while still making his point, guided her back off him.

She took the hint, stepping clumsily backwards but leaving her hands on his forearms. She was wearing a teal dress that was made out of that strange material that seemed to stand up of its own accord. Her red hair was crimped and big and she must have spent a good amount of time perfecting it. Although it was the same colour as Max’s, it looked so fucking different. Max was never one for making an effort on her appearance but, apparently, this was what she could strive for. From Billy’s wholly outside opinion, not really being the target demographic and all, it did look good.

“The keg’s outside, big boy,” she smiled, batting her eyelashes as if she’d said something seductive. Billy offered her another warm smile all the same. He leaned back into her space, putting a hand on the back of her neck to make their conversation feel intimate.

“See you around, Nicole,” he purred, smirking to himself at the small gasp she let out. He was good at this. Bitches like Nicole fucking wanted him.

He finally made it into the backyard and, by some stroke of luck, Tommy hadn’t followed him out yet. He’d probably figured that shit with Nicole would have taken longer. It would take a few more beers before he could actually do much to build up his rep though. Having hair that just looked objectively good wasn’t really enough to get his motor running. Having fucking pretty hair that he couldn’t help but fantasise about tangling his fingers in; that was the ticket.

Nancy and Byers were out here, standing a little apart from the large group of whooping boys who, doubtlessly, were circling the promised keg. Billy approached them and saw the way Nancy’s face lit up when she laid eyes on him. Despite everything, she was happy to see him too. There was no chanting from her -no fluttering of eye lashes or wandering eyes- but, somehow, she made so much more of a welcome than all that shit.

“You got away,” she smiled, stepping into his space and wrapping her arms around him in a brief hug. When they drew back, Byers held his hand out for a brief, albeit a little awkward, handshake.

“G-good you came,” he stammered and it sounded like he might have meant it. Harrington had said that both he and Byers were just putting up with him for Nancy’s sake. Perhaps that was all bullshit after all?

“Early release for good behaviour,” Billy grinned back at them because it was basically true. How the prison system would change if they went by Neil’s rules. ‘You are found guilty and sentenced to thirty years in prison, or until your jailor gets sick of your face’ - what a fucking joke.

After a short while of them chatting shit, Byers took pity on him, going to get Billy a drink from the kitchen so he wouldn’t get cornered Tommy or Nicole again. The music was Top 40 bullshit and he and Byers complained loudly about the selection, both offering entirely different suggestions for what would be better choices. Nancy laughed along, trying to defend some of the more popular selections but, between them, Billy and Byers shot her down every time. It was almost like they were normal kids; not traumatised victims of paranormal bullshit. It felt good. It felt safe.

At some point during their conversation, Billy found himself calling the Byers by his first name. It didn’t mean anything really; not like it did with Nancy. They weren’t that close by a long-shot. It was just so much easier to call him ‘Jon’ than ‘Byers’; there was a whole syllable cut out after all. After all, there were three fucking Byers entrenched in all this shit.

He was on his fourth (or maybe fifth?) beer by the time Tommy found him again. The other boy was so smashed he actually seemed happy to see Nancy and Byers.

“Guys!” he whooped as he came upon them. “Why are you hiding out here? Waiting on the keg?” He moved around to put his arms around Billy and Byers’ shoulders, the latter looked wholly uncomfortable with the turn of events but Nancy giggled at the ridiculousness of it all. “Bet you’re a bit of a dark horse, Byers. Even done a keg-stand?”

“I’m driving,” Byers said, managing for once not to stammer. Tommy laughed and clapped the other boy on his back.

“Driving? What are you, forty?” he turned to Billy for approval but only got a small chuckle in return. It wasn’t funny and Billy was starting to feel the buzz from drinking his beers a little too fast. He couldn’t be arsed enough to pretend if he didn’t have to right now. “You up for one, Billy? Defend your title and all? I hear Harrington’s about!” Tommy slurred, leaning too close to Billy in a way that he could only just tolerate right now.

“Why the fuck not?” Billy grinned, the picture of The New King of Hawkins High. No one had to know how much contempt he had for his subjects. No one had to know that, in Billy’s mind, Tommy was the court jester in their High School-Royal Court metaphor. He was a trifling amusement used to fill silences and be laughed at.

“Hell yeah!” Tommy cheered, releasing Byers and steering Billy over towards the group of guys who were still stood around the keg. “Make way, boy, for the defending Keg King!” A couple of the guys from the basketball team actually bowed down as he passed them and Billy laughed his ass off at the very sight of it. Perhaps contempt was too strong a word after all.

He beat his Hawkins record easily, knowing that, in California, he could go even longer. If it was Jase holding his legs up, if it was Alex, Ingrid, Ryan and Tyson cheering him on, he’d be fucking invincible. This group of random guys, of whom Billy probably only knew half the names, couldn’t bolster that spirit in him. Not nearly enough.

Still he could laugh. He’d got a nice buzz on with Nancy and Byers but now the booze had gone right to his head. He grinned as the world started to feel infinitely better. Neil and all his shit didn’t matter. California was a distant memory. All that mattered now was fun and feeling.

“Harrington!” a voice yelled all of a sudden and there he was, being pulled into the circle of boys. Billy’s eyes were on him the moment he came into view. Yeah, he looked blitzed already -like he’d had a pretty decent head start- but he looked so fine. Eyes a little freer thanks to the beer, Billy admired the tight jeans that the other boy had chosen this evening; he admired the way his pretty hair had been styled to perfection. He wanted to touch; he wanted to feel.

“Harrington! Want a shot at getting your crown back?” Tommy practically yelled, all laughter and idiocy. “Hargrove’s just set the fucking standard!” he continued, using Billy’s surname like his first was a closely guarded thing; like he wanted to keep it safe from Harrington’s use. Tommy really was an idiot.

With slightly-unfocused -but still so pretty- eyes, Harrington looked over at Billy, as if in question, and Billy opened his arms to him.

“Yeah! Let’s see what King Steve can do!” he grinned, his tongue snaking out to lick his lower lip. Like things hadn’t been fucking awkward as hell all week; like he hadn’t practically screamed in the other boy’s face last Sunday. Like none of this mattered, Harrington’s eyes shone with the challenge as the confident smirk spread over his lips. There he was. God Billy loved it.

“Alright, Hargrove. Try not to cream your pants, now!” Harrington drawled and the boys around him erupted into whoops and hollers. They fucking loved the show. Billy threw his head back and laughed because why the hell not?

The older boy moved into position at the keg as Billy stepped closer. It looked predatory; like they were a pair of male lions fighting for dominion over the pride. They both knew how to put on a show. Harrington held eye contact with him as he put the line between his lips, a small flash of a pink tongue making Billy’s pulse quicken. Billy licked his lower lip again; maybe Harrington’s warning was more on the money than he’d thought.

As Brad, or Dean or whatever he was called, and Tommy took hold of Harrington’s legs and lifted him, Billy leaned right down into his face, a smirk plastered his lips.

“Drink deep, Harrington,” he growled as he released the valve.

In the end, Harrington matched Billy’s previous time, not quite managing to reach the heights that he’d reached tonight. As he was brought back to his feet, he was laughing and wrapping his arms around Tommy and ‘Brad’.

“Nice try, Harrington,” Billy grinned wolfishly. “But still coming up a little short.” Harrington sniggered and slid free of the other two boys, reaching out a hand towards Billy.

“Whatever man,” he smiled as Billy clasped his hand in a public show of unity. “The crown’s yours.”

They hung around with the guys a little longer, watching as ‘Brad’ almost drowned himself in the final spurts from the dying keg. Billy was standing beside Harrington the whole time, their bodies close enough that, whenever Harrington drunkenly swayed a little, their arms would touch. It was nothing but everything all at once. Billy didn’t even care that he was thinking this way. He'd been doing well that week with getting over Harrington. He was due a reward. Drunkenly lusting after the other boy was fair game. It wasn’t exactly going to lead anywhere anyway.

When the keg was finally dead, the boys from the basketball team all headed inside. Billy and Harrington hung back, not quite pulled in by the promise of beer pong like the others.

“Wanna go find Jon and Nancy?” Billy asked, suddenly aware that he hadn’t seen the other half of their group in a while. Harrington blinked for a moment then shook his head.

“Smoke first?” he hummed and, to be honest, it was a great idea. Billy nodded and Harrington started in the direction of the side of the house, out of sight out of mind. Billy followed him, reaching into his jeans for the box smokes that he, thankfully, had just happened to have on him when Neil had thrown him out.

When he rounded the corner, Harrington was leaning against the side of the house. His head was leaned back and he looked totally out of it. Between his head start, the keg-stand and the several beers they’d shared with the boys, Harrington was well and truly gone.

“Thanks,” the older boy breathed as Billy reached him, swiping the box and pulling out what looked to be the last cigarette. Damn. Billy hadn’t had a chance to buy more this week. “Light?” Harrington demanded, cigarette between his lips, hand outstretched. Billy laughed and handed it over, moving closer to match his position. The wall of the house was cool and damp, grounding him a little.

Harrington lit up, with far more success than last time they’re shared a smoke, and took a deep drag on the cigarette. Billy watched as his cheeks hollowed out, his neck turned upwards; everything Harrington did was fucking gorgeous. Blowing out a great plume of smoke, Harrington’s eyes closed. He looked so blissed out and calm. Taking the opportunity, Billy snatched the smoke off him and pressed it to his lips, inhaling deeply. Harrington spluttered in argument but Billy ignored him, savouring the taste and the calming feel of the smoke hitting his lungs.

“Don’t take the last smoke if you’re not willing to share, Harrington,” Billy smirked as he handed the cigarette back. Harrington rolled his eyes but took it anyway, popping it back in his mouth without hesitation.

They stood and finished the smoke in silence, passing it back and forth with a comfortable ease. The sounds of the party raged on inside the house, spilling out through the open windows and doors. It was a wonder the neighbours weren’t kicking up a fuss.

After a while, Harrington turned to face Billy, his left arm propping him up on the wall. Still unsteady, he leaned forwards into Billy’s space. Objectively, it wasn’t too close but Billy could already feel his pulse quickening.

Dark brown eyes flittered across his face, starting at his lips and moving upwards. Inhibitions lowered by the booze, Billy’s breath hitched as Harrington gently ran his fingertips under his eye, just where the cut had been at the start of the week.

“This... It wasn’t the Remo... the Rem...” he slurred, his brown creasing a little when he couldn’t quite grasp the name.

“The Remorhaz,” Billy supplied, his voice lower than he’d meant. He sounded hungry and he knew it. Goddamn. Hopefully Harrington missed it. Why did he have to look so damn good?

“Yeah... You didn’t have that cut at my place...” Harrington repeated the point, his hand moving slightly so that it was cupping Billy’s cheek. His palm was soft and warm. It was all Billy could do not to lean into the touch.

“Maybe I did,” Billy hummed. Even shit-faced, he wasn’t going to get into this.

“You didn’t... but you told Nancy-" Harrington stopped himself, looking like he’d remembered something. Slowly, his hand moved away and Billy felt its absence. “Nancy...” the dark-eyed boy breathed, his voice soft and confused. Harrington had it so bad. If Billy wasn’t in the same fucking boat, it would almost be sad.

Billy waited, half wondering if Harrington had a point to make, half entranced by the sight of him. Some of his hair had fallen from the careful quiff he’d clearly spent a while styling before coming here tonight. It hung just in front of his dark, beautiful eyes and, hot-damn, he really looked too fucking good.

As if he’d remembered his train of thought, Harrington suddenly pushed himself off the wall and turned, planting his palms either side of Billy’s head. He leaned in close and looked into the younger boy’s eyes. Billy’s heart was racing, his hands splayed out on the wall to stop himself from reaching out and touching; stop himself from pulling Harrington closer. Stop himself from giving in and ruining everything.

“Do you like Nancy?” Harrington asked, sounding more sober than they both knew he was. His expression was intense, like this was life or death. Like they were talking about the Remorhaz or something else from the Upside Down.

“What’s not to like?” Billy answered with a forced smile. His voice was a breathy whisper; he was too damn obvious. He needed to get himself under control but -fuck- he could feel the heat radiating from the other boy. It was too much. A familiar and dangerous warmth was growing in the pit of his stomach. Harrington was just too much. A small sigh escaped the other boy as he leaned closer, his lips right next to Billy’s ear.

“She just... she’s...” he rambled, unable to find the words. He leaned back a little, looking into Billy’s eyes as if the answers were there. His lips were slightly parted and Billy was mesmerized. Goddamn. They were perfect and pink and so inviting. It was all Billy could do not to lean forward and taste them. 

“Pretty,” he breathed because he was. Harrington was so goddamn pretty it hurt. The older boy let out a small noise; something between a sigh and a whimper. It almost sounded sad.

“Yeah...” he hummed, leaning in so close that their foreheads touched. Submitting to the moment, Billy closed his eyes with a broken sigh. The world was hazy and warm, made more so by Harrington’s very existence.

They held position for a long time, sharing air like it was a normal thing for two boys, who barely liked each other, to do. The feeling was so odd. Once again, Billy was out of his comfort zone.

Back in Cali, things would have been reversed. How many times had he crowded into Alex’s space like this? How many times had he leaned down and kissed him stupid? His whole body tingled with the thought of what could be. It would be so easy. All he’d have to do was tilt his chin up...

“Steve?” Billy flinched at the sound of Byers' voice. Harrington didn’t react at all; he was in another, drunken world. Perhaps a world where Billy was Nancy; a world where he could have the person he wanted.

Using all of his willpower, Billy brought his hands up to press against the other boy’s chest. When he still didn’t move, Billy gave him a gentle shove away from him. Drunken and unbalanced, Harrington stumbled backwards dramatically just as Byers rounded the corner.

“Guys, what are you doing?” he stammered, definitely still sober. “You don’t have to be at each other’s throats all the time, you know.”

Harrington blinked at the other boy, seeming to have just about regained his footing.

“His throat..?” he mumbled, eyes casting back over in Billy’s direction. Billy straightened himself up, his face still flushed and his pulse still fast.

“Just chatting is all, Jon,” he said, trying his best to sound casual. Knowing how much the world was shifting of it’s own accord, he was pretty sure it wasn’t convincing.

Byers shook his head and rolled his eyes, definitely looking like a put-out mother.

“Since when wa-?” Harrington sputtered but his words quickly devolved into unintelligible nonsense. As he stumbled towards them, still yabbering on, he looked like he was going to fall. Byers moved quickly to loop an arm around his shoulders and Harrington stopped talking, head hanging forwards now.

Of course he was that drunk. They would never have gotten so close without alcohol-poisoning levels of drink inside at least one of them. The realisation was a good dampener on the heat that had been stirring inside.

“I’m... giving Steve and Nancy a ride home. She’s... had quite a lot,” Byers explained, looking a little uncomfortable that he’d said so much. “I don’t mind taking you too. Er... I mean, if you promise not to fighting each other?” he added, already starting in the direction of the front of the house. Apparently, there must be a cut-through to the street.

Billy shook his head. There was no home for him to go to; at least not tonight. Showing up, stupid-drunk and unwanted would be a terrible idea. When drunk, Billy could get belligerent. When drunk, he had a nasty habit of fighting back. Or at least trying to.

“I’m good. Gunna head in and see how that beer pong game's going,” he forced a grin and turned to walk in the opposite direction. He wasn’t going to watch them leave; he wasn’t going to watch Harrington leave.

“See you around, Billy,” Byers called after him, again, sounding like he might actually mean it.

The rest of the party was a bit of a blur. With beer running low, Tommy had rooted out Nicole’s parents' good booze. He and Billy made short work of the half bottle of rum he’d taken. Billy had gone from nicely-buzzed to almost messy-drunk. As he and the other guys laughed and joked, he found himself stumbling into the others more often than not.

After whatever that shit was with Harrington, he needed to do something. It really didn’t matter what. When Nicole reared up again, plastering herself to his side and winding her fingers in his hair, he wasn’t about to say no. He watched Tommy nodding in approval as she pressed messy kisses to his neck, his jaw, his collarbone. This was fine. He could do this.

“Have fun, my man,” the freckled boy laughed as Carol beckoned him away with a twisting finger.

When the red-head came up for air, he let her lead him up the stairs and towards the room that he suspected was hers. Partygoers laughed and offered him high fives as he followed; all in on what was happening. Through his smiles and laughs, it felt hollow. Like fucking everything in Hawkins was just a show.

As she closed the door behind them, his body started to tense. This was it. Since coming to this backwater place, he’d had to ‘get with' a few girls to build up his rep. Never much -the odd hand job or blowy seemed enough to get the message across- but the girls seemed to love it. They all seemed so fucking desperate to be able to say that they’d laid hands on him. Never all too interested in who he really was or taking things further.

To be fair to them, Billy was selective in his conquests. Girls who looked needy -like they’d fall and want him to be their boyfriend- he steered clear of. The people of Hawkins were nothing to him -less than nothing- but still, playing with people’s hearts was a dangerous thing. All it took was one jilted lover digging into his past and he could be done in. Ask the right person from his old school in Cali and you’d hear the rumours. That Billy Hargrove and Alex Hayes were far too close to each other. That some people thought they were fags.

“Billy...” Nicole whispered, pulling his mind back into the darkened room. He looked across at her, standing at the foot of her bed. She’d taken off her dress and bra, her tits barely illuminated by the lights that leaked in from between her curtains. He moved closer, hands reaching out to run down her side. He could do this.

With a desperate sigh, she moved in again, pressing kiss after sloppy kiss to his neck, and then she was moving down. Her hands trailed behind her as she kissed her way down towards his crotch. Shit. She moved fast. So fast he was nowhere near hard. A flutter of anxiety just his stomach as she started to fiddle with his fly. How long had she been kissing at him? Was it believable he wouldn’t be hard yet?

Reaching out, he gently touched at her chin, tilting her head up to look at him. He could see the lack of focus in her eyes, could feel how pliable she was. Was she too far gone for this?

“You move fast,” he grinned down at her, trying to sound playful. Nicole swallowed the air she was breathing and offered him a loose smile.

“Because- Because you’re so hot,” she replied was another gulp, her hands continuing their task and popping the first button. “I want you baby,” she breathed heavily, swallowing again in a way that Billy didn’t like. “I’m going- I’m going to make you feel-”

At the last second, Nicole turned her head. With a totally unsexy groan, she doubled over and barfed all over her knees and the carpet beneath her. Billy jumped back, hands up in the air away from her.

“Shit!” he gasped, quickly covering his mouth and nose from the smell.

Nicole tensed up, looking almost like she was done, but then coughed and it carried on. Shit. A little thought flickered in his mind that he should hold her hair back but he just couldn’t do that. That was too much like a boyfriend; too tender and caring.

After three or four bouts of vomiting, Nicole slumped back onto the floor, her head tilted back towards the ceiling, her face slack and exhausted.

“I’m sorry...” she moaned, shuddering with the force of a small sob. Billy hesitated for a moment, the scene on front of him literally everything that he didn’t want. Tears sparkled on Nicole’s cheeks as she turned to look at him. She was a mess.

He moved closer, kneeling down to her level. Gently, he brushed her hair back off her sweaty forehead. She moaned sadly, her eyes closing as she leaned into his touch. Fuck. Too much.

“Come on,” he hummed, scooping her up into his arms.

He put her to bed, making sure that she was lying on her side and tucking her in like she was a little girl. For some reason, unbeknownst to even himself, he even went into her adjoining bath and got some towels to at least start the clean-up. He didn’t owe Nicole anything; he didn’t fucking know her. It was just the way she’d looked at him as she’d sat back on the floor: she’d looked so broken, so pathetic.

He told himself that he just didn’t want to have to smell that shit all night. Thanks to Neil, Billy didn’t have anywhere to sleep so this was as good an opportunity as any. Had she not been sick, he would have totally crashed here so why not?

Once the carpet was as clear as he could get it, he moved to open the windows, the cold air of the night freeing him from the smell. Kicking off his boots, he moved over to the bed. It was a double because of course it was. The rich kids of Hawkins High were all spoilt.

Nicole was already asleep when he climbed onto the bed. She hummed softly as he opted for lying on top of the blankets, moving to lie on his back and stare up at the ceiling. There were hundreds of little glow in the dark stars up there, possibly stuck up when Nicole was younger. Back when she was more innocent. Back when she wasn’t likely to almost puke on a guy’s dick in the middle of her bedroom. Smirking to himself, Billy closed his eyes. Tonight had been pretty fucked up.

Chapter Text

Billy woke the next morning with a splitting head ache and only the slightest grasp of where he was. Rolling to one side, he saw the sleeping form of Nicole, her whole body curled in on itself like a cat. The room had the vague aroma of vomit and Billy could already feel his stomach churning as it hit him.

Trying his best to be quiet, he climbed off the bed. Shit; being vertical did not feel good. Another horrible wave of nausea hit him and he held his jaw tight. The last thing this room needed was another person barfing in it. As he waited for the world to stop spinning, he heard the other person in the room stirring.

“Oh God...” he heard the small whisper. Not having the biggest amount of sympathy for the girl right now, he turned to see that she’d pulled the blankets over her head. Clearly, she hadn’t been so far gone that she couldn’t remember -or at least figure out- the fundamentals of how the previous night had ended.

“Morning,” Billy grunted, wanting to sound more alive than he actually ended up doing. There was a small whimper from under the blankets but nothing more. Blinking as if that would help his hangover, he took a few steps to move around the bed. "You good?” he asked, not wanting just to storm out. The whole idea of building up a rep was in ensuring that the girls he ‘got with’ were happy to tell the tale.

Nicole pulled the blankets down to reveal the toll the night had taken on her makeup. He hadn’t noticed in the dim light before but her mascara had left black tear-streaks down her cheeks and she had major panda eyes. Not the best look, even objectively.

“Did I... barf on you?” she asked tentatively. Billy chuckled at the thought, wincing at the stab of pain this caused him.

“Nah, just on the floor,” he replied. Now that would have been the cherry on top of a pretty crappy day. Nicole ran her hand over her face with a totally unfeminine groan. Billy held position. It didn’t quite feel right to leave just yet.

“Did we-? Did we had sex?” she asked after a few seconds. Billy chuckled again but shook his head. She should be so lucky. “But... I remember...” she continued, sitting up and squinting at the sensation. “Did- Did I blow you?” she asked, looking up at him. The expression on her face was almost hopeful now. Perhaps he wasn’t the only one seeking out kudos with the sheep at school. Billy offered her a flirtatious smile and a wink.

“You were amazing,” he grinned, knowing that would be enough for her to land on the conclusion he wanted her to draw. She blushed and giggled, wiping at her eyes with the back of her hand.

“I’ve been told that before,” she smirked and Billy laughed for real at that one.

“I’m gunna bounce; got shit to do today. You good?” he asked, heading back over to where his boots were. Shoving his feet into them, he heard her lying back down.

“Sure thing Billy,” she said, already sounding sleepy. Boots on, he turned to give her one last look. “Thank you...” she hummed, pulling the covers around herself like a cocoon.

“Later Nicole,” he half-whispered, heading out the door without another look back. All in all, that had been a rather successful night; all the street cred of scoring with one of the chicks at the party with none of the awkwardness of actually having to go through with it. Not to mention the fact that he’d found somewhere to sleep in the wake of Neil kicking him out.

On his way out of the house, he spotted Tommy and Carol curled up together on the couch. Neither of them were wearing much of anything but thankfully Carol’s dress was covering all their gross parts. That was one of the last things he needed to see first thing in the morning. They were usually much more successful with finding a bed to fuck in but this wasn’t wholly irregular. Regardless, he made sure to sneak out quietly past them, thankfully being more successful here than with sneaking past Nicole.

Once he was out in the open air, his stomach twisted and turned. He felt horribly nauseous but in that special way where he knew he wasn’t actually going to be sick; he was just going to feel like shit for a while. He headed in a random direction away from the house, just wanting to make sure that there was enough space between him and it before he set himself down. There was no point in escaping Tommy and Carol’s bullshit if he was just going to wait around for them outside.

He somehow stumbled across a kid’s play park; abandoned in the early, spring morning chill. Did Hawkins ever warm up? He staggered over to a bench and planted himself there, resisting the urge to curl up in the foetal position like Nicole had done; he didn’t want anyone to mistake him for a bum, no matter what Neil had yelled at him the previous evening.

What had happened last night? He knew that nothing had happened with Nicole because of the all too vivid memory of him clearing up sick using what he now hoped were the ‘good’ towels. Not to mention the relief that he felt at the very thought of her; he’d never have that association if he’d had to go through with it. Leaning forwards to rest his elbows on his knees, he exhaled deeply. So, what did happen?

A warm feeling bloomed in his chest. Harrington. Closing his eyes, he remembered. How he and the older boy had shared a cigarette, passing it back and forth like neither of them cared they were basically sharing saliva. How Harrington had crowded him in against the wall. How the taller boy had leaned in so close. The feeling of his forehead against Billy’s. How long had they stood there like that? It was almost cruel that Harrington had done that; supplying Billy with all this new material while talking about his ex. It was beyond confusing: it was goddamn dangerous.

Billy’s heart was beating faster again. Had anyone seen them? Harrington was straight, yeah, but it did look pretty compromising. Some random partygoer could have spotted them and drawn the only logical conclusion. And if people were talking anyway, would Nicole still believe that she’d blown him? Would she remember that he hadn’t even been hard when she went to grab his dick? Would any of that matter anyway? People are good at figuring shit like that out; they would see through his bullshit. They would see him for the faggot he was. Fuck. Last night was too fucking dangerous.

What’s more, if Neil had somehow heard that, after being kicked out of his house, his son had gone and done that with the local pretty boy... Billy shuddered to think. Would that be enough to invoke his old death threat? It wasn’t clear. Goddamn, this shit wasn’t worth it. Being into a straight guy, who apparently was a pretty messy drunk, was just not worth the risks. It wasn’t like Billy was getting anything out of it; nothing except that ugly, guilty feeling every time he touched himself with Harrington in his head. Nope. Definitely not worth it.

Clenching and unclenching his fists, Billy sighed again and closed his eyes tight. He was hanging. He’d drunk too much last night and he couldn’t go home. Not yet. With it being the weekend, Neil would be around the house and he couldn’t deal with the consequences if the old man didn’t want him back yet. Hangover aside, his body was only just feeling relatively normal after all the shit with the various monsters in his life. He didn’t want to risk another pummelling; he really couldn’t handle feeling weak and shitty again.

He exhaled slowly and hunched a little more to rest his face in his hands. It felt shitty, not having anywhere he could go; really shitty. It felt shitty remembering that his father couldn’t stand the sight of him. For all the drunken ego boosts he’d accrued the previous night, he couldn’t shake that shitty feeling. Was he that worthless? Was he that disgusting?

All of a sudden, the ambience around him seemed to stop. Looking up and opening his eyes, he was is that dark place once again, El standing in front of him. Her face was a mixture of mildly surprised and worried.

“Billy?” she asked, stepping closer to him, her bare feet slapping in the water. It was crazy how, after only two of these ‘visits’, this felt so normal. It was anything but normal. Nancy, Byers and Harrington- none of them had ever mentioned anything about El taking them to a black, wet dimension. 

“Hey,” he sighed, a small smile on his lips even though there was nothing to smile about. El moved closer still, continuing her path until she was lowering herself to sit beside him.

“Hey,” she smiled back, the expression not quite reaching her eyes. He watched as her brow creased a little, eyes scanning him all over. “Hurt?” she asked after a while, the concern clearly there. Billy shook his head.

“Nah, kid. Just overdid it last night, is all,” he smiled, letting his arms fall forward, hands clasping together now. El nodded slowly, looking like she understood.

“Hang over?” she said and Billy chuckled. Looks like the Chief was teaching her all the best vocabulary.

“That’s the one!” he grinned.

“Bed?” Shit. From this question, he knew she knew he wasn’t home. The bench, he guessed, was also a giveaway. Annoyingly, she probably knew why as well.

“Not an option,” he shrugged. “My dad wasn’t very happy with me yesterday,” he added because there was no point in trying to hide shit from a girl who could clearly read his mind.

“Were you better?” she asked and it hurt. It hurt because he’d thought he had. He’d thought doing as he was told and keeping his head down would be enough. As always with Neil, however, it wasn’t. Nothing was enough.

“Not better enough.”

“Sorry,” she sounded like she meant it. Poor kid. She didn’t need to involve herself in his shit show of a life. “Did he hurt you?” she asked and Billy shook his head. He had. Being so unwanted hurt. Being so despised hurt. But El wasn’t talking about feelings; she wanted to know if he’d been slapped around again. He shook his head again when she gave him a questioning look. He really needed to grow a pair today.

“How come you’re here?” Billy asked after a short silence. Finally, her eyes left him. She looked out into the blackness and breathed out as if he’d just asked a loaded question; as if the weight of her reply was a lot.

“Remorhaz,” she replied shortly. Billy closed his eyes and mentally cursed. Of course.

“We got it. Me and Harrington; we killed it,” he explained, hoping against hope that she was talking about that one. El shook her head.

“More,” she said simply and Billy gritted his teeth. Of course there were more. Why would there have only been the two that they’d already managed to take out. From the sounds of how shit went down last time monsters snuck out of the Upside Down, there was bound to be more. “Will dreamed. Lots more,” she added.

Will: Little Byers. The one who’d gotten lost in the Upside Down the first place. The one who’d gotten possessed. A cold shudder ran through Billy at the thought. If anyone, besides El herself, was going to know about this shit, it was probably him.

“Why are you telling me?” he had to ask. It didn’t sound like she was here to strategize about what to do. El pulled a face, turning back to look at him again.

The others don’t need to know just yet. We don’t even know what it means,” she said in a voice that sounded like she was imitating someone. Billy couldn’t help but chuckle. It was a shitty impression but his money was on the Chief. It definitely sounded like the kind of shit he’d say. “Friends don’t lie,” she added, now back to her own voice.

“Friends?”

“We are friends?” she asked, sounding uncertain. God. Friends with a fucking child. It should have felt lamer than it was. He’d have to stop giving Harrington shit for his weird-ass friendship with Henderson. Looking at El now, he just couldn’t deny her.

“Yeah, we’re friends. You little rat,” he smiled fondly, reaching up to ruffle her hair without thinking. El froze for a moment, her eyes wide in confusion. Billy retracted his hand. Had he freaked her out?

“Rat?” she asked after a moment’s processing. Ah.

“It means snitch. Someone who tells on someone else,” he explained, uncertain if she’d really get the meaning. A smile spread over her face and she looked on the brink of laughter.

“Rat,” she repeated as if that was locking the new word into her own mental dictionary.

They held eye contact for a second and then both broke, laughter spilling out into the black void all around them. He still felt shitty and hungover but, somehow, El was making things a little less awful. Goddamn he wasn’t himself at the moment.

“So, I’m guessing the Chief isn’t gunna be putting the word out any time soon?” Billy asked after they’d finally gotten a hold of themselves. El shook her head. “And you... want me to tell the others?” he continued, testing the waters of the mini theory he was working on; that, for some reason, he was the only one that she contacted like this.

“Yes,” she replied with a firm nod. Well shit. Either it was a lot of effort for her to do this or he was right on the money. Why the hell was he so goddamn special?

“Can’t exactly hop on the phone and start calling,” Billy shrugged. He didn’t have any change and the home phone wasn’t an option for obvious reasons.

“Go. Steve’s house,” El said like it was the simplest thing ever. Billy felt his blood run cold again. Jesus. After the shit last night, did he really have to face the other boy quite so soon?

“What about the others? If I go to Nancy’s-"

“All there. Steve’s house,” El asserted, her voice firmer now. Christ. Apparently, yes, he did have to go see Harrington.

“Right...” he sighed. He really didn’t need the world throwing him and Harrington together right now. El tilted her head quizzically.

“Fight?” she asked and maybe she wasn’t reading his mind after all.

“Not really,” Billy shrugged. God. How much did she know? It was so unclear.

“Who drew first blood?” What? He didn’t even know how to process that question. Following the path of their conversation, she clearly wasn’t still talking about the Remorhaz.

“Er...”

“Rule of Law. Whoever draws first blood has to shake hands,” El explained. Billy blinked at her. Besides her Chief impression, this was probably the most he’d heard her say in one go. Doubtlessly, she was repeating something she’d heard someone else saying but it was really weird to hear her talking almost normally.

“Yeah...” he agreed. Maybe they weren’t in a fight but she did have a point. Harrington was blissfully unaware of all the shit going on in Billy’s fucked-up head. He probably didn’t think there was an issue with that night; just two dudes chilling, talking about girls. Clearly, it was Billy who had the issue; the onus was on him to reach out and get over it.

El smiled at him as if she could tell he understood. Billy shrugged off the idea of ever knowing whether or not she was reading his mind.

As he blinked, the world lit back up again, the park he’d ended up in came back into view. El was gone from her place on the bench beside him. He was back to reality. He was alone again.

Standing up, he was annoyed to see that the world was still swinging about. Goddamn hangover. He’d better shake it on the way to Harrington’s if he was going to be able to actually fucking explain shit to them. Not that there was all that much to share. It seemed just like a message of frigging doom. He hoped against hope that Harrington wouldn’t go ape shit at him again. Smacking him in the face again, like he’d done under the bleachers, would probably not count as ‘shaking hands’ as El had instructed.

It took him a little longer than it should have to get to Harrington’s place. Fact was, it took him a good ten minutes to figure out just where he’d staggered to before he’d had his little chat with El. By the time he was approaching the imposing building, his head was feeling just the slightest bit clearer.

Hammering on the door was a bad idea. He realised it about half a second after he did it, his head splitting from the sound. Still, it seemed pretty effective as he heard someone fiddling with the lock only a few heartbeats later.

When the door opened, Byers was standing there, proving El's point of them all being there to be true. There was no way Byers would have been cool with an ‘exes sleepover’, especially seeing how desperately not over Nancy Harrington was. Although he was wearing the same clothes he’d been in the previous night, he looked pretty alert and awake. Billy guessed that their slumber party hadn’t actually been planned.

“Billy,” the other boy said, looking mildly surprised to see him. “Are- Are you here to see Steve-?”

“Here to see all of you, Jon,” Billy sniffed, surprising himself with the use of that nickname. He vaguely recalled using it last night but hadn’t really meant for that to continue. Regardless, Byers seemed unaffected.

“Oh, er-" the other boy stammered, moving to one side. As he’d only opened one side of the double doors, this time it was needed. “C- Come in,” he stammered as Billy did as he was told.

Kicking off his boots, Billy looked around the entrance way. It still looked immaculate, all polished and perfect. Looking down where Harrington’s sneakers had hit the wall, even that was clean. Perhaps the Harringtons had a cleaner? Or perhaps Harrington had sorted in one of his late-night cleaning sessions. Either way, it was none of his fucking business.

“The others are in the lounge,” Byers said, leading the way to a room that Billy had not been in before.

As expected of this house, the lounge was something else. Plush, ivory carpet covered the floor. A huge floor to ceiling, mahogany unit was built into the wall on the right-hand side and two huge couches were positioned facing it. Harrington and Nancy were sitting, one each of these, Nancy curled up with her feet under herself. 

“Billy!” she called out when she spotted him, her face lighting up in the way that Billy was growing so fond of. She always looked so genuinely happy to see him. Why, he had no fucking clue.

“Hey Nance,” he smiled back. Harrington turned to face him; dark circles clear under his eyes.

“Hey Hargrove,” he said, voice quiet, probably in an attempt to not exacerbate the headache that he, doubtlessly, was nursing. Billy tilted his head at that one. Apparently, Harrington was using his surname today. At the moment, it did seem like a toss-up; varying from conversation to conversation. After getting too close last night, this was probably just him putting the distance back between them. That was fine. The distance was needed.

“Harrington,” Billy said in stiff acknowledgement, annoyed with himself when he saw Nancy clocking the moment. She tilted her head in question but Byers moved around to sit beside her.

“They almost had a fight last night,” he explained and Harrington turned his head to look at him a little too quickly by the sounds of it. The small hiss of pain he emitted was almost adorable.

“We did?” he sounded utterly confused. Billy snickered. The older boy had been so far gone but now, thanks to Byers' misunderstanding, they were pretty much rewriting anything that he might have actually remembered. Poor guy.

“Yeah, man. You jacked my last smoke,” Billy shrugged. The best lies were based in truth after all. He’d learned that back before everything went to hell in California. Telling Neil that he was going boarding with friends was much more believable than any random lie that he could concoct and, to be fair, he and Alex did occasionally mess about with their skateboards.

Harrington gave him a  deeply confused look but said nothing. He probably did have some memory from the previous night. He’d just have to put that shit down to a dream or something. Billy was going to stick to Byers’ interpretation.

“I thought you two were having a good time with the keg?” Nancy said despairingly, her hands raising briefly in exasperation. “It’s like, for every two steps you guys take forward, you’ve got to take another step backwards!”

“At least with that pattern, Nance, we’re still making progress,” Billy shot back, winking at her and low-key treasuring the smile that brought to her face.

“How come you’re here anyway?” Harrington asked rather bluntly. Ouch. In one fucking question, Harrington had successfully pushed Billy back into the role of ‘outsider’. Nancy was almost fucking right; she just had the numbers wrong. Every two steps forwards with Harrington, Billy could feel them fucking stumbling back around four or five, depending on how shitty one or both of them were feeling.

He looked at the expression on the other boy’s face. He was scowling, quickly turning away from Billy when he noticed him looking. Shit. He definitely had some kind of memories from last night. No wonder he was being so shitty. Billy felt his pulse speeding up in panic. It had been Harrington, though. Harrington had been the one pressing him against the wall. Harrington had been the one to lean too fucking close. If either of them should be suspecting the other of faggotry, it should be Billy suspecting him. Not the other fucking way around. 

Looking at the tension in the other boy’s shoulders, however, that clearly wasn’t how shit was panning out. Harrington was on to him. Fuck.

“Don’t be like that, Steve,” Nancy scolded and Billy forced himself to laugh it off.

“Nah, Harrington’s just grouchy ‘cuz I could have kicked his ass if Jon hadn’t interrupted us,” he grinned at the back of the older boy’s head, using the tone of voice he usually reserved for threats. Let’s keep pushing then, Harrington. Let’s get that distance you fucking want so badly.

Eyes flashing back to Nancy, his desire to piss the other boy of withered away instantly. Gone was her smile. She wasn’t impressed.

“Billy…” she said and it sounded far more convincing than any threat that had just come out of his mouth.

“Aha-” Billy half-laughed, caught between Nancy and Harrington. Once again, he didn’t feel in control. Just a leaf on the wind, now running messages for a fucking 13 year old. Fucking brilliant. “El came to me,” he said with a small shake of the head.

The room felt tense in an instant. Byers straightened up, the frown fell from Nancy’s face and even Harrington turned back to face him.

“‘Came to you’?” Nancy was the first to speak. “Like, in person?”

“Does Hopper know?” Byers added. God, that wasn’t the important part.

“Nah. She does some kind of -I dunno- mental, psychic shit and we can talk like we’re in the same fucking place… except we’re not,” God, he wasn’t explaining this well. Now they all looked confused; not just Harrington.

“Okay…” Nancy breathed. Her face was still tight, like a rubber band pulled too far. Like she, quite rightly, expected there to be more.

“She said that Will had a dream,” he explained and Byers was suddenly gripping his own knees, concern clear in his eyes. God that family was edgy. “About the Remorhaz.”

“Is he okay?” the question practically burst out of Byers; once again, that hidden strength of his coming to the forefront. “Billy!” Obviously he hadn’t answered quickly enough. Billy fought and won the battle with his own eyebrows there. The kid was worried about his brother; a little disrespect could be ignored.

“Cool it Jon! She didn’t say anything about him other than he had a dream; you know what she’s like!” he snapped all the same. Nancy was quick to rest her hand on her boyfriend’s arm.

“I’m sure he’d fine, Jonathan. Eleven would have said-” she started but Byers was on his feet.

“I’ve gotta use your phone, Steve,” he said and started in the direction of the entrance way.

Byers!”

Jonathan-!” both he and Nancy shouted after him at the same time. It didn’t work; he was too focused on his family. Billy wondered what the fuck that felt like. Since his mom died, he didn’t really get the whole thing. Max didn’t count, Susan could disappear tomorrow and Billy’s life wouldn’t change one bit and Neil… he was his own kind of hell. Billy wouldn’t be rushing off to call home if it was Neil having nightmares about the Upside Down.

“What did he dream?” Harrington’s voice was quiet, thoughtful. “Are there more?”

Billy looked back at him and could see that distant quality had returned. Harrington looked hollow, the dark circles from a late night now seeming more extreme. His pretty eyes now looking empty.

“Yeah, Harrington. Lots more,” Billy replied and saw the other boy digesting the truth. Nancy seemed to notice too, now turning her head back and forth between the two boys in her life.

After a minute’s hesitation, she turned and headed after Byers; making the choice that she was always bound to repeat. As much as Billy thought Harrington was hot shit, Nancy seemed to feel that way about Byers. She’d had Harrington and he’d not been enough. Billy remembered Tommy H being a prick about it in the showers after basketball: ‘she’s already running away with the freak’s brother’.

Billy looked at Harrington. He was sitting awkwardly, half-turned to face him from his position on the couch. His brows were knitted together despite the far off look he had in his eyes.

Shifting uncomfortably from foot to foot, Billy had to break the silence, “Hey man-”

“We have to fight them,” Harrington said, eyes not connecting with Billy. It was like he was talking to air, or to himself; not expecting a response. “Tonight.” Shit. Billy froze. The word ‘lots’ was ambiguous. It could mean anything from a couple to hundreds. After all, four didn’t seem like too many on its own but would definitely feel like ‘lots’ if they all went out and got themselves killed tonight.

The rational part of him knew this and didn’t want to risk it; wanted to lock Harrington up in his palace and wait for the Chief to pick a course of action. He was doubtlessly on it and, as a cop, he had guns – plural. Even if Nancy still had that pistol of hers, that wouldn’t be much use between the four of them (or even the two of them if she and Byers weren’t up for the ride).

The part of him that was still clinging to Harrington’s dig –that was still hurt and pissed off that his daddy didn’t like his fucking face- wanted to go out and beat something to death. Screw hiding away; that part of him was ready to throw-down and get nice and messy. It had been a week since he and Harrington had taken one of those bastards out, he was due another therapy session.

“Billy?” Harrington’s voice snapped Billy back into the room. First name again. He tilted his head in acknowledgement. “Are you in?”

Chapter Text

Once he’d gotten a hold of his mom and heard that Little Byers was okay, Byers had chilled out somewhat. Somewhat being the key word there. Apparently, Joyce had been pretty sketchy on the phone -doubtlessly going along with the Chief’s plan to keep them out of this new crop of shit- and Byers still had a slight twitchiness to him; his eyes a little too wide, his voice a little too rushed and high.

By the time he and Nancy had come back into the room and relayed this, Billy had already submitted to his wilder side and agreed that he and Harrington were going to go and hunt the Remorhazes with or without the other two.

It felt fucking crazy how quickly Harrington could yo-yo between distancing himself from Billy with prickly, bitchy comments and sour looks to suddenly dragging him along on a crazy monster hunt when the Upside Down was concerned. Billy supposed it was all tangled up with his trauma; like Nancy, it was his need to act. Nancy and Harrington both seemed incapable of just standing by and doing nothing. In all likelihoods, anyone would have done if it meant that he had help stopping the Remorhaz; Billy just so happened to fit that very loose specification.

“I’m not sure it’s a good idea,” Byers said, hesitantly looking to Nancy for direction when Harrington had informed them of their intentions. “We don’t actually know how many there are. We could be walking into a nest of them for all we know.”

“We’ve gotta do something, Jonathan,” Harrington pressed, pacing up and down now. It seemed the threat of the Upside Down had rid him of his hangover as well as his desire to eschew interactions with Billy.

“Then let’s just go to Hopper’s and-"

“And do what, Jon? Ask him real nice if he’d fill us in on all the shit that he’s definitely hiding from us on purpose?” Billy interrupted the other boy. Now that he’d settled on this course of action, he wasn’t exactly going to back down.

“We could ask Will-" Byers tried again but this time Nancy cut across him.

“Steve and Billy killed one of those things last week. If we all go out, we could see if any more are on the loose and, you know, deal with them if there are,” she explained with a confident shrug that didn’t seem to match up with her last ho-down with one of those things.

With a few more prods, Byers had relented, agreeing to drive them down to the woods near Teeny’s house. They’d even settled on going via the Hargrove residence so that Billy could get the razor-sledge. That much made Billy feel much better about everything. The razor-sledge did make all the difference when fighting those big bastards.

When the sky had started to turn dark, they’d all bundled up into his car, all of them, save Billy, armed and ready with their weapons. Nancy clutched her pistol with a whole box of ammo jammed into her jacket; something which did make Billy wonder if she simply spent her life armed and ready. Harrington, naturally, had his nail-bat, all pristine thanks to his 4am cleaning last weekend. It was a mild relief to see that he hadn’t been using it through the week. Despite whatever shit was going on now between them -real or imagined- the thought of Harrington going out monster hunting alone made Billy feel nauseous. Before they’d left, Byers had disappeared into the shed-thing at the bottom of Harrington’s garden and come back with a slightly-rusted pickaxe. It was heavy and clunky-looking but no more so than the razor-sledge, Billy supposed. It would definitely do the job.  

They pulled up to the Hargrove house with the headlights off at Billy’s request. No one questioned it although Harrington had his fucking thinking face on him when Billy climbed out of the car. Heart in his mouth, Billy had snuck up the drive, hoping against hope that Neil didn’t happen to be looking out any of the windows. He’d slunk into the garage, thankfully managing to get his weapon without making too much noise. After that, they’d been free to drive on to the woods.

“I think we’d be best all sticking together this time,” Nancy suggested as they all climbed out of the car. Byers had parked closer than Harrington had the previous week, even going as far as to turn so that the car was in prime position for a quick getaway. He clearly was expecting the worst but, then again, the last time he saw one of those bastards was that first night when Billy had found him and Nancy in the road. Shit.... that was only a fortnight ago. Time really does fly when your life’s spiralling out of control, he reflected internally with a small roll of the eyes.

“Yeah, more's better. Me and Billy got lucky that the one we killed was already half dead when we found it,” Harrington agreed and, for a brief second, Billy wanted to sock him one. So much for them being a good team. Apparently, it was all luck.

Nancy led the way with Byers by her side. Harrington was close behind them looking like the third wheel that he was. It looked so desperate -so needy- Billy felt himself automatically slowing his pace. He walked behind them all, not keen to be part of the love triangle bullshit. Once again, he was resolved to get over this shit. He shouldn’t have treated this ‘getting over Harrington’ thing as a fad diet where he could ‘cheat’ if he’d had a good week. He seriously needed to back off.

As if they were called there by some fucked-up, otherworldly force, they found themselves back in the clearing where he and Harrington had fought the Remorhaz last week. As they all spilled out into the area, Billy could see the tell-tale signs of their struggle as plain as day, even if he still felt out of his depth with this wilderness shit. The deep trenches in the earth where the monster had stood, the fallen branches that had broken off when Harrington had hit the tree, the dark blood stains on the ground that were still visible even in the night’s gloom; they were all the evidence he needed. This was the place.

The only sign that was missing was the body of the Remorhaz itself. Given that the Chief had been informed of their efforts, Billy tried to convince himself that he’d had a hand in this; that the creature wasn’t, in fact, still roaming about in the woods looking for a round three. That would be... horrifying.

“The body… Where’s the-?” Harrington stammered, putting words to that very fear. He didn’t sound scared, far from it: he just sounded cautious. He was ready for another fight. He was holding the nail-bat tightly; ready to start hitting again at a moment’s notice.

“My mom and Hopper dealt with it,” Byers answered, not needing to hear the rest of the question. “I think they took it and burned it out near Hopper’s place.” Thank fuck. Billy released a breath that he’d been subconsciously holding; he really didn’t fancy seeing that one again. ‘Strike three…’ and all that jazz. He doubted he would have been lucky enough survive it again.

Relief still soothing through his veins, he came up to stand beside Nancy who seemed to be mutely staring down at the darkened ground.

“You really did it,” she breathed, not shifting to look at him as he reached her. Billy sighed and brought the razor-sledge up to rest over his shoulders, being careful to keep the wired end away from his body.

“Yeah, well the Chief made it sound like we’d be in the shit if we didn’t finish it off,” he shrugged, leaning his weight to one side. Nancy nodded distantly and they both just stood and stared for a moment. “Didn’t like the idea of it tearing through town because I failed to kill it in one go,” he added, too honest as he always ended up being with her. Nancy nodded again, her jaw tight. She felt the same way; he could feel it.

Harrington and Byers were poking around the perimeter, not seeming to mind their stillness. With a third, more resolute nod, Nancy turned and looked up at Billy. Turning to meet her gaze, he could see the sudden intensity on her delicate features.

“You didn’t go inside. Back at your house; you didn’t go in to get a change of clothes,” she said and, to be honest, that wasn’t what he was expecting to hear. She reached out and touched the navy-blue shirt that he’d been wearing for a little too long. He blinked dumbly at her, genuinely taken aback.

“Ah- Did we really have time for that shit, Nancy?” he asked, keeping his tone light. It felt decidedly like this was going somewhere.

“You're still wearing what you wore to school yesterday, Billy,” she stated like she knew how loaded that fact was. She let go of his shirt, her eyes coming back up to stare him out. “You always dress up for a party.” Shit, that made him sound like he was a kid in a cowboy costume or something. Since when had they been to enough parties together for her to know what he always did anyhow?

“Decided to go last minute, didn’t I?” he countered. She was fishing for something; something that put him on edge. He glanced back at the other two boys but Harrington was out of sight and Byers was still poking around in the bushes. Shit.

“Billy...” Nancy put her hand on his cheek, turning his head back to face her. Billy internally cursed himself when she noticed him flinch at her touch. He was usually far more guarded that that.

“Nance-" he warned. He couldn’t fire off at her like he did Harrington; he couldn’t live with himself if he did.

“I know,” she whispered and Billy’s heart sank. Please don’t say it… he mentally pleaded but he knew she wasn’t done. “I know about your dad; about those cuts and bruises,” she continued, running her hand down to his chin. Over the week, the damned bruises had faded to practically nothing. Even the cut under his eye was basically non-existent now. Goddamn it, Neil. He’d made a mistake on Sunday: hitting him somewhere it’d show. Shit was different now. People who, for some unknown reason, gave a shit were in his life now. It wasn’t just Tommy, and his inane smile, asking who had made the ‘shit-list’ anymore.

He took a step back away from Nancy, away from her touch. The razor-sledge swung down to rest on the ground beside him and he just blinked at her.

“Nancy...” he said, trying to control that throbbing feeling in the back of his head. That fight instinct that would have unforgivable consequences.

“It’s okay, Billy,” she soothed, perhaps sensing the panic thrumming through his veins. “I won’t say anything to anyone. I won’t even say anything else to you if you don’t want me to.” Her voice was so steady and calm. He looked back over in Byers' direction. He’d straightened up and was looking back at them. Christ. This wasn’t good.

“I-" Billy didn’t know what to say.

He remembered when Alex had asked him about it; how the blonde boy had told him how he’d suspected for a long time. How, when Billy had finally fessed-up, he’d held him and promised that it would all be okay; that they’d run away together. It was a fantasy -he’d known it even back then- but it had been a nice one.

But that had been the Billy of California. That had been the Billy who’d only lost once; the boy who’d dusted himself off and opened his heart back up again. He’d been happier there. He hadn’t been quite so angry; quite so cruel.

Looking back to Nancy, he could see -he could feel- how much she fucking cared. God, it scared him. He didn’t know if he could take that kind of shit now. He didn’t know if he was wired that way anymore. His heart and mind had been closed for too long.

“We should keep moving,” Harrington’s voice actually made him jump, coming right from behind him.

“Fucking hell, Harrington! You don’t fucking sneak up on a guy when he’s out hunting goddamn monsters!” he snapped, some of the tension spilling out in his tone. He forced himself to relax the grip that had tightened around the handle of the razor-sledge. Shit that had been close.

“Sorry, man!” Harrington’s eyes widened a little at the overreaction, half-stepping away from him. Shit, shit, shit. “Just figured that there probably won’t be any more Remorhazes hanging around here, given how we- You know...” and with that he pointed the nail-bat in the direction of the blood stain that Billy and Nancy had been looking at.

“You’re right, Steve,” Nancy smiled. “The lab is kind of South-West from here, right? Perhaps we should start that way?” The suggestion hung between the three of them for a couple of beats before Harrington took the hint, sheepishly starting off in the direction the slight girl was pointing him in. Billy watched Byers send her a questioning glance before following after the other boy.

After a moment’s hesitation, Billy swung the razor-sledge into a ready(ish) hold and started in that direction too, Nancy silently walking beside him. He could still feel it: the tense realisation that Nancy knew about Neil. How had she figured it out from just a few scrapes and one failed outfit change? She was smart -he knew that from their shared classes- but that was still a big fucking leap. There really could be any number of explanations for these things.

“How’d you figure it out?” he asked against his better judgement. He really should have just embraced the silence. Asking this was basically confirming what she’d said. Nancy looked up at him with an immense sadness in her beautiful eyes. They sparkled in the moonlight as if on the verge of brimming up with tears. Goddamn. She really had only been suspecting at that point. She'd probably been hoping he’d tell her she was mad.

“Little things. Nothing obvious,” she said softly, eyes glancing briefly up at Byers. “And...” she stopped, both walking and talking. Cautiously, she looked at the other boys’ backs as if she was checking if they could hear. Billy braced himself. Whatever this was, it wasn’t going to be good. “Please don’t be mad...” she breathed, resting a hand on his forearm.

Mad?” he asked tersely.

“Steve,” she said simply and Billy felt his body tense up all over again. Of course. Of course Harrington squealed. This was the story of the goddamn century: ‘High School asshole gets the shit kicked out of him on the regular by his own father’. ‘Billy Hargrove is such a dick even his own dad can’t help but have a pop at him’. God-fucking-damn. “He called me up on Sunday. He was- He was worried about you,” she added and all the anger and hypothetical scenarios in his head paused for a moment.

“He was worried?” he asked, not really believing that that could be the right word. Pity. Harrington pitied him. That thought was actually worse than the idea of him gleefully spreading the latest gossip. ‘Poor old Billy!’ ‘No wonder he is the way he is!’ ‘His life must be so fucking tough.’ He hated the thought of Harrington seeing him that way; of Nancy seeing him that way. Like he was a victim.

“You told him your dad broke your wrist and then promptly stormed off home to him. Of course Steve was worried. He thought your dad would- that he’d do something to you,” she explained and Billy laughed bitterly at that.

“Well he did do something, didn’t he?” he sneered, briefly forgetting who he was talking to. Nancy’s eyes widened and he felt the fight leave him just as quickly as it had risen up. Shit. “... I’m fine though, Nance. It’s fine, really,” he continued, softening his voice; wanting her to believe it almost as much as he wanted it to be true. Nancy shook her head and moved closer, hand back on his cheek and thumb tracing the small scab under his eye.

“It’s not fine, Billy,” she soothed. “No one deserves that.”

More often than not, he’d agree with her. More often than not, he hated Neil for how he treated him; it made him anger, it fuelled that ball of rage that existed in the core of his being. But other times, the times when he was being a weak, pathetic, little faggot, he’d believe that he deserved it. It was his fault that he was like this. Neil had every right to try and beat this fucking thing out of him. At times like that, he felt he knew the truth: that he was nothing. Nothing but a worthless, disgusting queer.

Right now he felt torn between those two extremes. He was angry. Like he’d told Harrington on their last hunt, he was always pretty angry. But, right now, there was this horrid, unshakable realisation sitting heavily in his chest that hadn’t shifted since Neil had thrown him out. That feeling of knowing that nothing would ever be enough to undo what he was.

He took in a shaky breath and forced himself to nod. Nancy knew the truth about what happened behind closed doors in the Hargrove house; she didn’t need to know just how much of a pussy Billy really was. He needed to keep that from her at the very least. He briefly remembered the look she’d given him when she’d been telling the others how he’d saved her; that look of total awe. He didn’t deserve it -he’d never deserved it- but he didn’t want to lose it forever. He didn’t want the pity to overtake it.

“Thanks,” he said stiffly wanting to be all that she had seemed to think he could be. With a sad smile, she nodded at him. Right now, it seemed enough.

After that, they’d caught up with the other two. As a group, they continued their ‘hunt', a tense energy clouding the air. They found a few more places which looked likely to have held a Remorhaz at some point but no signs of any of the creatures themselves. It almost looked as if the two that they’d killed last week were the only ones.

As they headed away from the last clearing, Billy found himself walking in step with Harrington, who had the nail-bat slung over his shoulder. They walked together for a few paces, both exchanging glances that showed they were aware of the other’s presence.

“So you told Nancy about my dad, huh?” Billy finally broke the silence and Harrington stopped mid-step. His dark eyes looked from the razor-sledge, to Nancy and Byers backs and then back to Billy. Billy rolled his eyes at the drama of it all. Yeah, he’d lost it last time they’d covered this topic but he wasn’t about to kill Harrington over it.

“Yeah, man, I just....” his voice trailed off like he didn’t want to admit to it. Billy rolled his eyes again and huffed.

“She said you were ‘worried’ about me. That true?” he asked, his voice clipped and matter of fact. Harrington cleared his throat and, once again, glanced at the other two, who were almost out of sight now.

“Yeah,” he admitted, running a hand through his hair in his trademarked sigh of stress. “You were so dead-set on not going home when we were in the car... It just felt like you were going back to something bad.”

“Well, you don’t have to worry about me, Harrington. We’re not even friends, right?” Billy shrugged and Harrington’s brows furrowed.

“I don’t care what we are, Hargrove; I’m still gunna worry if you’re going to go and get the crap beaten out of you!” he snapped, his voice sounding so bitter. He ran his hand through his hair again and shifted between his feet. For saying how this was decidedly Billy’s shit they were discussing, Harrington seemed quite het-up about it. “Look, man, I’m sorry I told Nancy but I didn’t know what else to do,” he added, after a short silence. “I just... wanted to help. I know it sounds fucked up but.... Urgh!” he shook his head like he wasn’t saying things the way he meant to.

Billy’s mind whirled. This wasn’t the pity he was expecting. Harrington did just seem to genuinely...care. His heart beat a little faster at the realisation as he studied the look on the other boy’s face. It was so similar to how it had been before they fought in the Byers’ house in November: so determined to protect. He... wanted protect Billy, just as he’d wanted to protect the kids safe from Billy himself back then. He felt like that should piss him off; that Harrington shouldn’t try and be a goddamn hero but… fuck. It was so unfamiliar; someone wanting to keep him safe. It was totally new.

“Well... I’m fine,” Billy spluttered rather lately. He really didn’t have the words for what was happening here. The fuck was he supposed to say to that, anyway?

Harrington shook his head; the second person tonight to assert that Billy wasn’t fine. If he started touching Billy’s face, there’d be real problems.

“You weren’t fine. Your face on Monday morning-" Billy shook his head. He wasn’t going to revisit this again. Although it was questionable whether or not the other boy remembered, they had discussed his fucking face last night.

“It’s all healed up now, Harrington! I’m fi-!”

“Where did you sleep last night? You’re in the same clothes that you wore to school and to Nicole’s party!” Harrington cut through Billy’s second ‘I’m fine' with a tone of absolute certainty; like he’d solved the riddle and there was no doubting his conclusion. Goddamn. It was like the people of Hawkins had never heard of the walk of shame.

While he was actually onto something, Billy grinned. This, he could explain away perfectly.

“At Nicole’s,” he smirked, his tongue flicking out crudely. Harrington’s whole demeanour changed with that bombshell. His eyes went wide and his jaw went slack.

“What? Why?” he stammered, sounding utterly flabbergasted.

“Well, Nicole kind of insisted,” he replied, his voice descending into a seductive purr. That’s right Harrington, don’t get the wrong idea about last night. That shit in the back yard didn’t happen.

“You and Nicole?” Harrington said, still stunned and confused. “I thought… you were into Nancy?” Billy couldn’t help but laugh at that. Was he still, honestly, on that one?

“What can I say, Harrington? Nicole made me an offer I just couldn’t refuse!” he grinned, his tongue swiping out of his mouth again. Harrington blinked dumbly and Billy laughed again. This guy was too much.

“You slept with her?” he asked and, goddamn, he was persistent tonight. Hadn’t he learned from last weekend not to push?

“Yeah, Harrington: I slept with her!” Billy leered in reply, stupidly letting his eyes roam up and down the other boy’s body. It was a lie but only through Harrington’s interpretation. He did technically sleep in the same bed as Nicole. ‘The best lies’ and all that shit... “You jealous?” he added with a provocative wink.

“Nicole’s not my type,” Harrington replied shortly, looking away from Billy. It looked like he was searching for Nancy but she was totally gone from view now.

The old frustration rose up inside Billy and he stepped into the older boy’s space. Leaning close, he smirked in the way he knew got the girls all hot and bothered. Harrington would keep his attention on him. He would.

“We both know who is your type though, right?” he purred, his tone trying to convey the meaning of: We both know you’re the one who is fucking into Nancy. He watched as Harrington’s eyes went impossibly wide, a blush covering his cheeks and his breath catching in his throat.

“I’m not-” he tried to argue, but cut himself off. His voice was breathless and, once again, too close. Shit; bad move again. Pupils blown in the low light, breaths short and near; he looked so goddamn kissable right now. This was just the kind of dumbass, flirty nonsense that he’d promised himself he wouldn’t be doing anymore. Getting a rise out if Harrington wasn’t worth this shit, especially after last night. Especially after the conversation they’d literally just had.

Harrington made a little choking noise, chin dipping down towards his chest as he looked anywhere but at Billy. His cheeks stayed flushed, confirming that Billy was right on the money. If he hadn’t known before, he was dead certain now: Harrington was near obsessively into Nancy. He couldn’t even think about her without fucking blushing like a nun in a whore house.

Victorious and sensing that the taller boy had nothing more to ask or add, Billy started on again, walking a little faster so that he could catch up with the other two. When Harrington finally caught up with him, they both held their tongues. They’d both said enough at this point. It was done.

They all searched the woods for another hour, no one saying much of anything to each other now. Nancy had offered him a small smile but really, between the talks about parental violence and the search for putrid monsters, no one was in a particularly chatty mood. Even Byers, who hadn’t been privy to any of that shit, seemed content with the silence.

By midnight, Byers called it. No one even thought to argue when he started leading them back to the car. Billy felt oddly calm, given the circumstance. All the anxious energy from his various interactions tonight had seemed to simply fade away over the past couple of hours. It was probably exhaustion; he hadn’t exactly slept well in an unfamiliar bed with the smell of barf in the air. Still, whatever it was, it was definitely for the best. He needed to keep a tighter reign over himself; snapping at Nancy and, once again, provoking Harrington was just not okay.

“We should all stay together. Just in case,” Nancy sighed as they clambered back into the car. The way she said it made it sound as if it was already decided but, then again, it may as well have been; Billy wasn’t going to argue with the idea of not having to try and force his way back into the Hargrove house and the other two were too devoted and done in to give her a fight.

“Let’s just... head back to Steve’s,” Byers sighed, agreeing for the rest of them. “We can... regroup? Get some rest...”

Harrington groaned in approval as he sank into his seat in the back beside Billy. With a deep sigh, he let his head fall back against the headrest and closed his eyes. He really was done.

“Whatever, guys. Do what you want...” he shrugged, running both hands through his hair and down his face in a gesture of utter exhaustion.

They all fell silent again as Byers drove them back. Even as they climbed out of the car and approached the house, no one really talked. Tonight had been a bust; a tiring bust. Nancy closed and locked the double doors behind them and they all simply stood in the entrance way, not really knowing what to do with themselves.

“Right... I’m gunna hit the hay,” Harrington finally piped up, taking a step towards the stairs. “Sorry for dragging you guys out there for nothing.”

“Steve...” Nancy said, her voice like a small objection but he shook his head.

“You and Jonathan should take my parent’s room. Billy-” his tired eyes rested on Billy. He could see the hesitation there, almost like he wanted Billy to just leave. “-I'm sorry... you’ll have to take one of the couches. There’s plenty of pillows and a blanket in the ottoman.”

“Sounds fine,” Billy replied stiffly, not wanting to give the other boy any reason to act on that desire and throw him out. Two nights in a row, he’d managed to luck himself into a place to sleep. He wasn’t gunna argue with anything.

“Good,” Harrington said, his hand gripping onto the banister as if that was all that was left holding him up.

And with that, they all separated, too tired to say anything more than a quick ‘night’. Billy headed back into the lounge, hoping that an ‘ottoman’ was an obvious thing. After a little bit of a search, nothing really stood out so he just curled in on himself on the far couch. He didn’t need a blanket anyway. It was ridiculous how comfortable the thing was; it kinda put his actual bed to shame. Typical.

Chapter Text

For the second time in as many Sundays, Billy awoke in the darkness of the Harrington mansion. For saying how much distance he was trying to create between himself and the other boy, he was having far too many sleepovers at his place; even if they were keeping to separate rooms. In all the time he’d lived in Hawkins, he hadn’t once crashed at Tommy’s and they had supposedly been pretty tight. This was getting farcical.

Stretching out his legs, Billy yawned. The couch was comfy but curling up like a cat in a basket had been a mistake. His legs felt stiff and his spine wasn’t too happy either. He felt a little like an old man, internally groaning about his various ailments. As he shifted into a more comfortable position on his back, he breathed out and closed his eyes. Whatever time it was, it was clearly too early for anyone to be awake.

Or so he thought. His eyes flew open once again at the sound of someone on the stairs. Harrington. He looked over at the large wall clock and saw it was just after three. As good a time as any for the other boy to be up and about, he supposed. He was probably gunna get some cleaning done or some other shit.

Tensing up in the darkness, Billy saw Harrington coming into the lounge, carefully trying to sneak through to the other room that fed off to the left. Despite himself, Billy sat up and cleared his throat, a small twist of glee when he saw the other boy practically jump out of his skin at the noise.

“Jesus!” Harrington spluttered, looking like a thief caught in the act. Billy chuckled and swung his legs down so that he could plant his feet on the plush, ivory carpet.

“Not quite, Harrington. Not quite,” he sniggered and Harrington straightened up.

“Very funny,” he said and Billy could practically hear the eyeroll.

“Why are you up this time, man? No weapons to clean tonight,” Billy asked, having a good idea of the real reason for the other boy being up. It was still interesting to know what imagined chore he was completing. Harrington held something up and gave it a shake. The familiar, light rattling sound and the shape meant only one thing.

“Going for a smoke. You wanna join me?” Harrington offered. “Apparently I owe you one.”

Billy wasn’t going to argue with that. Now that he thought about it, he’d been itching for a smoke. The last one he’d had was that one he’d shared with the other boy. It would feel so good to get that little, calming hit. Take the edge off a night where he’d basically had two mini therapy sessions about Neil and all the shit attached.

They both headed through a second lounge room, this one with an expensive-looking rug covering marble tiles, which had large bay windows that opened up onto a patio area. Billy halted in the doorway and smirked. Of course. Of course, Harrington had a pool. It was so frigging obvious. He vaguely remembered him mentioning it during his bathroom speech but actually seeing it made it fucking real. Pools weren’t uncommon in California, loads of his friends and classmates had them, but here in Indiana they seemed like a real luxury. His parents must have spent a bomb on it and, with Hawkins’ shitty climate, would only be able to use it a few times a year.

“It’s heated,” Harrington said in explanation as he headed over to one of the deck chairs that sat beside it. “In case you were wondering...”

“I wasn’t,” Billy lied, moving over to sit on the neighbouring chair. Harrington tipped himself a cigarette from the carton and then passed it over. They both lit up using their own lighters and inhaled. Billy practically moaned at the feeling, sinking back into the chair and closing his eyes. Goddamn it felt good.

They sat in a comfortable silence together, smoking until the cigarettes were done. Harrington never fully relaxed into his seat, remaining hunched forwards in a way that looked uncomfortable, his eyes never leaving the illuminated water.

In this weird light, Billy let himself just stare. It went against everything he was working on but, with the other boy not looking at him, it felt harmless. There was just something about Steve Harrington. When he wasn’t there, it was so easy for Billy to convince himself that he could do it; that he could get over him and leave him well alone. As soon as it came to being with him, however, Billy was powerless. He turned into a creature of impulse, flittering between wanting to tear his head off and wanting to kiss all the breath from his lungs. It was so damn frustrating.

“So... You can’t sleep?” Billy finally broke the silence. Harrington blinked and turned to him, taking a moment to process what he’d said. Billy chuckled and tilted his head. “It’s probably nearly four again, Harrington. Way past bed time.”

“Yeah...” Harrington sighed, running his hands through his hair and turning to face him. “I don’t sleep well.” Shit. That was an unexpectedly honest response.

“Because of the Upside Down shit?” he asked and Harrington nodded.

“And other things... yeah,” he agreed. “How about you? Why are you up?”

“Some creep was sneaking around my room. Woke me up,” Billy smirked and Harrington actually cracked a smile.

Your room?” he repeated and Billy rolled his eyes.

“If I’m sleeping in it, yeah, it’s my room,” he grinned and Harrington half-laughed, his face lighting up a little. Fuck. That was pretty.

They chatted shit for a little longer keeping it surface level and superficial. Things had been deep enough already tonight; they didn’t need any more of that. As the conversation had gone on, Harrington had eased up a little, never quite leaning back into his deckchair but definitely relaxing out of that hunched, gargoyle-like position he’d started in. Billy couldn’t help but smile at that. It was nice when they could find this level. When they talked like this, he could almost convince himself that they were friends. That they were two normal boys just hanging out by the pool.

After a while, the night’s chill got to them both. At Billy’s suggestion, they headed back into ‘his room’ and Harrington moved over to the large, padded bench that, in all honesty, Billy had overlooked. When he lifted the seat to reveal it was actually a box, Billy felt a little bit foolish. The ottoman.

“Can’t believe you’d rather freeze your balls off than just come and ask where the ottoman was,” Harrington sniggered, throwing a woollen blanket in his direction. Billy caught it and gave the other boy the finger.

“Whatever, man. Who uses the fucking word ‘ottoman’, anyway?”

“People who have ottomans... ottomen?” Harrington shot back, suddenly sounding ponderous. Billy laughed. Having not really heard the word before, he couldn’t really help with the plural even if he cared. All the same, it was quite hilarious watching as Harrington repeated the two versions a couple of times, testing out which sounded better.

After finally deciding that it should be ‘ottomen’, Harrington had grabbed himself a matching blanket and moved round to open up one of the doors of the mahogany monstrosity. Inside, there were a couple of shelves worth of neatly-organised VHS tapes, which Harrington started to sift through. Most of them appeared to be home movies but there was the occasional one with box-art. Who the heck bought VHS releases?

“We watching a movie, Harrington?” Billy smiled, returning to the couch that he’d been sleeping on about an hour ago. Harrington stopped short and turned around, a look of mild embarrassment on his face.

“Ah, sorry- Did you wanna get back to sleep? I can-”

“Don’t worry about it, Harrington. I’m up now. Just don’t pick anything too shitty,” Billy interrupted before the other boy could convince himself to fuck off. Watching a movie was harmless and it really didn’t seem like Harrington was about to fall asleep any time soon.

“Yeah? Yeah...” Harrington smiled, turning back to close the door and open up another. This one was also full of tapes but one was lying outside of the organised rows. “Aha! Dustin’s been nagging me to watch this for a while now!” he gasped, grabbing the loose VHS and holding it up for Billy to see. It was a Warner Home Video with some kind of white dog on a navy background.

“The Neverending Story?” Billy read, squinting at the text as Harrington nodded.

“Yeah. It looks shit but I figure it’ll be good to laugh at. Plus, it’ll get Dustin off my back,” he shrugged, closing the cupboard door and then opening the double doors in the centre of the unit. Inside was the biggest TV Billy had ever seen. It must have been around 30 inches. While Harrington fussed with the VHS player, Billy had to stand up and stare in awe at the goliath in front of him. The Harringtons really were rich.

“Of course, he didn’t rewind it,” Harrington huffed under his breath as Billy came up close and rested his palm on the top of the TV. Goddamn. It was intense.

“Harrington... This is...” he breathed, knowing his mouth must be hanging open. Harrington glanced over at him and raised an eyebrow.

“Yeah... Dad’s thinking of getting a projector instead. Said that they can go to about 40 inches. Mom says that the screen wouldn’t fit and they’d have to redecorate the whole room. Not to mention that we’d have to get all our movies on reels instead of VHS... It’s a whole thing...” he explained and Billy blinked stupidly. As if any normal person had the money to redecorate a whole room around a new TV. As if anyone had the money for a 40-inch screen! Surely, that was the kind of shit reserved for the super-rich and famous like Madonna or Michael Jackson.

“That’s fucking insane, you know that, right?” Billy observed and Harrington laughed, shaking his head.

“You have no idea, man. They’re hardly even here to watch stuff on it,” he smiled as the cassette made the familiar clunking sound as it had finally rewound back to the start. “Shit...” he quickly cursed, turning his attentions back to the VHS player. The tape clunked its way out of the player a Harrington simply pushed it back in. “Why do they make some players automatically eject? The last one didn’t do it!” he complained and Billy grinned, moving back over to his seat.

“I wouldn’t know. We don’t have a VHS,” Billy said casually with a small shrug.

“Oh, Betamax, then?”

“Nah. Just a dinky little TV that Susan brought with her. Apparently, she got it in the divorce,” he shrugged again. It was pretty hilarious how different their lives were.

“Oh...” Harrington said, sounding awkward. He seemed to be clocking on to their differences too. Biting his lip, he pressed a few buttons and the TV came to life. The FBI warning came on screen and Harrington moved back to sit on the other couch.

As the WB logo showed, Harrington turned to Billy. He gave the space next to him a little pat and Billy raised an eyebrow.

“You should sit here you know. You can never see the picture right from that couch,” he observed as the music started. Rolling his eyes, Billy moved over, making sure to sit in a way that meant they weren’t too close.

An effeminate voice started to sing out and something clicked in Billy. Max had definitely sung this at some point around the house. As the music continued, he found he knew most of the words. Harrington seemed to know it too, softly humming along with the tune. Billy rolled his eyes but could help smiling at the other boy. Goddamn.

They spent the first half of the movie chuckling and poking fun at it. The moment they first saw the Racing Snail, Billy had laughed and congratulated Harrington for his role in the film. The brunette had laughed along with him, being sure to make it clear that, if he was the racing Snail, then Billy was the Night Hob.

“That’s totally your hair!” he’d laughed when Billy had swatted at him.

This started a stupid running joke in which, whenever a strange-looking creature popped up on screen, it was a race to see who could say it was the other boy first. Billy wasn’t entirely sure what was happening in the movie but he was having a great time. He’d never felt this relaxed watching a movie before; family movie night was never a fun experience when he was expected to attend.

When Atreyu said the line ‘It’s good to have a friend again’ to the big, white dog-dragon, Billy felt his stomach clench. It really would be. He turned to Harrington and couldn’t stop himself from grinning. The older boy had sunk back into the couch, his head lolling to one side and his eyes closed. Thank god he was asleep; he really had looked like he needed it.

Smile still on his face, Billy turned his attention back to the movie, focusing on that and not the slight increase in his heart beat.

---

Billy awoke with a crick in his neck and a heavy weight on his left-hand side. At some point, he’d clearly half-flopped onto the right arm of the couch, his head propped up on his arm that, now that he thought about it, was also aching. Shit. He couldn’t remember the movie ending. He most have dozed off. The light from the windows confirmed that it was morning.

Shifting a little, he heard Harrington groaning. Finally opening his eyes, he realised, with an uncomfortable jolt of nerves, that the weight that had been resting on his was, in fact, the other boy. Harrington seemed to have snuggled up to him in his sleep, his cheek plastered to Billy’s shoulder. Billy’s whole body tensed up as his eyes took everything; matched everything to each sensation he was feeling. Not only was he nuzzled up to Billy, Harrington had also wrapped an arm around his waist. All in all, it was a very intimate way for them to find themselves.

Taking stock of himself, Billy was thankful that, at the very least, he wasn’t sporting any kind of morning wood. Given their proximity, there was no way that would have gone unnoticed. He now needed to stop looking at Harrington’s sleeping face. Too much of that shit and he might end up hard anyway. Jesus, when did he become such a goddamn creep?

The real issue was how to get out of this position. From the small movements he’d made already, he knew that simply extracting himself from the other boy’s hold would wake him. His mind raced with different get out scenarios but they all seemed to hopelessly end with Harrington waking up and realising they were in this position.

As if the act of thinking about it was enough, Harrington groaned again, his whole body tensing up in a stretch. Coward that he was, Billy closed his eyes and simply pretended to be asleep. Harrington could figure out how to deal with this shit. He was the one lying on Billy, not the other way around.

With a yawn, Harrington shifted, pushing a hand down behind Billy’s back against the couch so that he could push himself up. Billy tried to stay relaxed, maintaining the look of someone who was asleep. He felt the weight lift off him and the shifting of the couch beneath him. Harington was up.

“Shit...” the other boy breathed, his voice groggy and hoarse. Although his eyes were closed, Billy could almost see the other boy running his hand through his hair. It was all he could do not to grin at that thought.

Suddenly, there was a sharp slapping sensation on his shoulder, the one that Harrington had just been resting on so fucking peacefully.

“Hargrove,” he said, still croaky. Billy frowned but made a big show of ‘waking up’, first opening his eyes only a little and then blinking himself ‘awake’.

“Did we fall asleep?” he hummed, mentally awarding himself an Oscar for his performance. Harrington seemed to be buying it, hook, line and sinker.

“Looks like it. Dustin’s gunna be pissed. Did you catch the end?” Harrington asked, sounding like he was trying to sound normal. No Oscar buzz about that performance, Billy smirked.

“Nah. There was that dog thing from the cover and then he went to see some yellow statues with their tits out.... and then some blue sparkling ones with tits as well...” Billy trailed off. He really had lost the plot at that point. He vaguely remembered the main character seeing the kid reading the book in a mirror but it was all a blur now.

Harrington looked puzzled but shook his head, standing up with a small, irritated noise.

“Guess I’ll have to try and watch it again then,” he shrugged. “Dustin would be more annoying if I’d not finished than if I’d not started,” he reasoned and Billy laughed. “Don’t sell me out, Hargrove!” he warned, pointing a stern finger in Billy’s direction.

“Hey! I don’t tend to hang out with children!” he scoffed, hating that that was now a lie. “No risk of me chatting up Henderson any time soon.” Harrington rolled his eyes and moved over to shut off the TV. Billy shuddered at the thought of the electricity bill from having that big-ass thing showing static all night.

After a little more awkwardness, Harrington had led Billy back up to his bedroom and fished out the gear that Billy had left at his house last weekend. Billy had felt fucking stupid that he hadn’t remembered that shit was here but at least that would stop anyone else turning Sherlock based on him not getting changed.

He took a quick shower in the main bath, rather than the one off the master bedroom, ignoring the familiar pulses of arousal that Harrington’s fucking shampoo sent through him. Once he was all cleaned up, he headed back down to the kitchen where the rest of the Scooby Gang were already waiting.

“Are those... your clothes Steve?” Nancy asked with a raised eyebrow. Billy laughed and Harrington went beet red.

“I left them here last week,” Billy grinned with a small wink in her direction and Nancy rolled her eyes. He held up the cursed outfit from the past two days and waved them in Harrington’s direction. “Should I leave these here, just in case?” he laughed and Harrington groaned, running his hands down his face.

They all ate the pancakes that Harrington had apparently made while Billy had been in the shower and Byers basically put his foot down about them all heading to his place to confront the Chief and his mom. Billy sat and nodded along, pretty eager to not have this new crock of Remorhaz shit sneaking up on him. Being informed about it was so much better than running into that shit by accident.

After some discussion, Harrington drove his car separately, not wanting to be stranded at the Byers’ place needing a ride home. After battling his inner pettiness, Billy agreed to ride with him. It would have looked weirder if he had refused and made him drive alone. Sitting up front in the Bimmer again, he felt the seat hugging his back as if in apology for how the couch had treated him last night.

Harrington turned the radio on, wincing as Eddie Mayer’s abrasive laugh filled the car. Thankfully, whatever anecdote he was regaling his listeners with had just come to an end and the first few notes of the next song started playing. Now it was Billy’s turn to wince as Freddie Mercury’s voice filled the car. Harrington’s face stiffened as the lyrics started to exuberantly profess Mercury’s love. Jesus Christ.

By the time Harrington had pulled up, they’d listened to that awkward mess, some god-forsaken Chaka Khan and Mayers had just started up DeBarge’s ‘Rhythm of the Night’. It was like both Harrington and the radio host were conspiring against him. Billy was certain that, if they’d taken much longer to arrive, he would have willingly inserted something into his ears so that he’d never have to listen to that shit again. He practically leapt out of the car while it was still moving, causing Harrington to really laugh. Byers had already parked-up and he and Nancy were looking at the two of them with wide, questioning eyes.

All laughter and silliness died when the Byers’ front door opened and the Chief stepped out. His trademark frown was firmly in place and he folded his arms across his chest. Billy stood up straight, balling up his fists unconsciously at his side. Nancy, Byers and Harrington all got out of their respective cars, coming to stand beside Billy.

“So... you’re all here,” the Chief said solemnly. They all stared at him and he breathed out a deep sigh. Jabbing a thumb in the direction of the door, he rolled his eyes. “Get in, then. Let's do this.”

Obediently, the four teens headed in. All except Billy, who the Chief halted with a firm hand to his chest. Nancy stopped and turned to argue but the older man shook his head.

“We won’t be long, Nancy. You get inside now,” he said in that authoritative manner that she couldn’t question. Billy froze in place. This guy wasn’t Neil. He wasn’t -he didn’t even have the same aura as him- but all the same that familiar, creeping feeling of anxiety started gnawing in the back of his mind. Chief Hopper looked him up and down before lowering his hand to rest on the gun that he still wore holstered at his side.

“Sir-”

“Jane had told me about you,” the older man said gruffly, his gravelly voice sounding so unimpressed Billy just wanted to last out. “She told me... some stuff,” his voice sounded hesitant now. Goddamn it, at this point there might as well be a newsletter. Everyone seemed to know about Neil now. This was the worst person to know, though. Neil would not be happy to know that the Chief of Police knew about how he chose to discipline his son.

What’s worse; El had told him. He shouldn’t have made the word ‘rat’ sound like a good thing. She probably had thought she was doing the right thing!

“I-” he tried but was once again cut off.

“It sounds like you have really helped those guys out. I don’t know why you’d want to get tangled up in all this mess but-” his hand moved from his gun to scratch at the back of his head. “- I'm... sorry. For, you know, being an ass. For trying to force you out...”

Billy breathed a sigh of relief. El hadn’t sold him out; she hadn’t betrayed him. Stupidly, that gave him more relief than the idea that the Chief didn’t know. El was still someone he could trust. Thank fuck.

The Chief looked at him expectantly but then sighed and shook his head.

“Look, kid, you’re welcome to come in and talk shop, alright? As long as you don’t start anything with Harrington or Sinclair, I won’t, you know, get in your way,” he rushed, waving his hand dismissively like this whole thing made him uncomfortable. He turned to go back inside, not waiting to see if Billy would follow.

Sinclair? Why was Sinclair here? As Billy stepped into the house, he was met with the sight of the whole party. El, Max, Sinclair himself, Little Wheeler and Little Byers and Henderson were all squished in around the lounge area, while the older teens had stayed standing. Joyce was sitting with her arms around Little Byers’ shoulders and Byers had made his way to stand near them.

Like the last time they’d all met like this, all eyes briefly fell on Billy but this time they only remained for a single heartbeat.

“I can’t believe you kept this from us, Mike! We’ve talked about keeping secrets!” Nancy scolded and Little Wheeler’s face scrunched up. “Will had his dream on Wednesday, Billy! They’ve all known for five days!” she continued, filling him in like the doll she was. Joyce held up her hand in protest.

“Now, Will only told me and Hopper on Friday-” she started.

“Which we all agreed he wasn’t going to do!” Henderson lisped to which Little Wheeler punched his arm.

“We weren’t getting anywhere, Dustin! El even said she couldn’t-”

“The party made a decision, Mike! It’s Rule of Law!” the curly-haired boy objected, quoting that stupid shit that El had been talking about yesterday. So that was where she got it from. Billy rolled his eyes.

“The dreams were getting worse, idiot. We needed backup!” Sinclair chimed in and Little Wheeler nodded enthusiastically.

“See? Hands up if you think Will did the right thing,” he shouted to which all of the little dweebs, and Harrington, put their hands up. “See?!” the little gremlin exclaimed triumphantly.

Et tu, Steven?” Henderson said, looking at Harrington with puppy eyes to which Harrington simply looked confused.

“Alright, enough!” the Chief snapped, clearly having reached the limits of his patience. “The fact is, you kids screwed up. How the hell are we supposed to help you with this stuff if you’re going to sneak around with your Walkie Talkies and your little sleepovers?” he ranted, turning on El who looked a little shocked. “Oh yes, Missy! I know you snuck out on Thursday! Don’t think you can pull the wool over this old man’s-”

“I think what Hopper means is, we all know now so we should all work together,” Joyce interrupted, her voice calm and controlled.

Billy just stood there bemused. He felt like he’d stepped into a fucking sitcom or some shit. They all seemed to have their own running storylines that he hadn’t been following. He’d have to get Nancy to catch him up at some point.

Through the mess of squabbling from the kids, outbursts from the Chief and quiet revelations from Little Byers, Billy managed to get a slight grip on what had gone down and what was going to happen moving forwards. Little Byers had had a dream about the Remorhaz ‘nest’, as he called it, on Wednesday and had told ‘The Party’ right away. They had all skipped school on Thursday and had tried to get El to find where it was in ‘the void’. From the sounds of it, that was probably where she took him when she was talking to him. That answered a question he’d never thought he’d have answered.

From the sounds of it, El had managed to confirm that there were ‘lots’ of them but not where they were. After another dream about them on Thursday night, and maybe another during school which was unclear as it had been part of the conversation where all of the kids had bickered particularly loudly, Little Byers had gone home and told his mom. With Byers out at Nicole’s party, they had quite easily kept him and the others out of the loop.

There was some, hastily-silenced, rumbles that sounded like the kids had been planning to go to ‘The Lab’ but that was also unclear. Nancy confessed about their fruitless monster hunt the previous night and the Chief had looked about ready to pop a blood-vessel.

“What I don’t get is how you knew to go out looking?” he said, pointedly looking in El’s direction. Her dark eyes locked onto Billy and she gave him a mischievous smile.

“I’m a rat,” she grinned and Billy laughed while the Chief cursed under his breath.

In the end, they had all agreed that they had to work together from this point onwards. The Chief assured them that there had been no reports of missing pets, damaged property or mysterious disappearances and so they could assume that the creatures weren’t currently venturing out of the nest. After promising to keep them informed of any developments, they all settled on the plan that Will and El would work on trying to figure out the nest’s location remotely and everyone else would wait for news.

By the time they’d hashed it all out, it was close to seven and Nancy was itching to get herself and Little Wheeler home. She, and subsequently Billy, had another chem assignment due and she really needed to work on it. The Chief agreed to drive the Wheelers, Henderson and Sinclair home and Harrington was going to drive Billy and Max back. It wasn’t ideal but a hell of a lot better than them turning up in the back of the Chief of Police’s truck.

Billy and Max sat in the back of the Bimmer while Harrington hummed along with the Tears for Fears track that was playing on the radio.

“You skipped school? How did I not know this?” Billy asked and Max smirked at him.

“I made sure I was back in time for you to get me,” she answered like she was a super spy.

“But... didn’t they call home?” he pressed and she shook her head.

“I disconnected the phone and brought in a note the next day,” she grinned and Billy couldn’t help being impressed. Smart girl.

They sat and listened to Harrington’s shitty music until they reached the road before Cherry. Billy leaned forward into the front of the car and waved towards the sidewalk.

“Here’s good, Harrington. You don’t get to come home to meet my folks just yet,” he winked, keeping it light but making his meaning plain. Wide-eyed, Harrington pulled over without argument. They both clambered out and were about head off when Harrington leaned out of his window.

“You guys gunna be okay?” he asked, his eyes only on Billy. There it was again; that look of wanting to protect. Billy smiled down at the other boy, tongue licking out at his lower lip.

“Always are, Harrington, right Max?” he grinned and Max gave a short nod.

“Later Steve,” she waved, already marching off down towards their street.

“Billy-”

“Harrington, I will be fine. He wanted me out of the house this weekend. Not expecting a shit show tonight,” Billy sighed. As much as he didn’t want it to be true, he hated the idea of Harrington sitting around worrying about him. That boy didn’t need any more reason to be up at night. “Now get on home and finish that flick. I’m expecting to find out how that Atreyu kid stopped The Nothing tomorrow!” he grinned and, before he could say anything else stupid, he raced after Max.

“Your stuff was in the attic,” Max said when he’d caught up. That was a sudden turn of conversation but perhaps she felt it necessary as the Hargrove house became visible in the distance. “I asked my mom and she said you could have it back. I put it back the best I could but the Metallica and the Tank posters were a little ripped. I’ve taped them up but... that wasn’t me.” She wasn’t looking at him, her eyes were fixed on the sidewalk like she was afraid of his reaction.

“Does he know?” Billy asked as he clenched his fists a couple of times. 

“He saw it this morning. Said my mom was too soft but he hasn’t taken it back,” she nodded. Billy bit his lower lip. That could mean anything. “It’s good you’re coming back, though. He was talking about you helping me with my math homework tonight. I think he’s expecting you.” That was even more ambiguous.

As they came up the drive to the house, Billy had no idea what to expect. His assurance to Harrington, which had been so genuine, now seemed like a line. What was waiting for him on the other side of the door. Max reached out for the handle but Billy caught her hand, holding her still for a moment. Instinctively, she flinched, obviously used to the worst. He let go as quickly as he’d grabbed her, not meaning to scare her.

“Look...” he breathed, sounding just as uncomfortable as the Chief when he’d been ‘apologising’. “I just wanna say thanks. Even if he takes all my shit back again, thanks for trying,” he said, watching her face change. Her eyes looked so full of emotion in the moment before she turned away from him.

“Don’t worry about it,” she half-laughed, blindly punching at his arm and keeping her fist there for a moment. Billy smiled down at his sister before he reached out and opened the door.

Chapter Text

The sickening moment Billy and Max stepped into the house, Neil had risen up from his usual position on the couch. It was truly pathetic how fucking frightened Billy was by the simple act of the older man staring at him. He tried to look unaffected, with his hands shoved into his back pockets, but he knew he was holding his stance a little too rigidly. Neil would see through it.

With a confidence that, at this moment, Billy could only dream of faking, Max stepped around him and offered her step-father a small, controlled smile.

“Billy walked me back from Nancy’s house,” she said as if there wasn’t a horrible tension filling the whole room. Neil’s eyes narrowed but he didn’t say anything. “I told him about my math homework and he thinks he can help me out,” the little redhead continued and Billy’s chest tightened at the way she was trying to protect him. Just like Harrington. When did all of this start to happen?

“He can do that after he’s mowed the back yard. It’ll be dark soon,” Neil said pointedly and Billy clocked onto his meaning. Just because he’d been thrown out of the house this weekend, it didn’t mean he was excused from his usual chores. Billy nodded stiffly, showing his understanding and submission and Neil’s lips pursed. “Go on then,” he snapped and Billy made his way through the house, thanking his lucky stars that he’d somehow got through the encounter unscathed.

He spent the rest of the evening catching up on all the tasks he’d missed over the past two days. Neil didn’t speak to him again; seemingly content to sit with his beer in front of their 15-inch box of a TV. The ‘family’ ate their dinner around the TV set, watching the Sunday Night Movie but Billy was happy to use that as extra time with his chores.

Tired but relieved, he went to bed at eleven. The only loose end was the chemistry assignment that he hadn’t even looked at but he figured it would be nothing he couldn’t fit into the free that he had before lunch.

Closing his eyes, Billy couldn’t stop himself from going over the past few days in his head. Between that strange shit at Nicole’s house, the quasi-argument-thing in the woods, the smoking together by the pool, the ridiculous jokes while watching a movie together capped off by them falling asleep all cuddled up together, Billy was at a loss as to where he and Harrington stood. Not to mention the huge revelation in the fact that Harrington seemed so deeply invested in his safety now. If he was a normal guy and this was a chick, if this was a drama on daytime TV, he’d swear they were on the cusp of… something. There was a static feeling in the air, like that charged feeling before a thunderstorm.

Huffing to himself, he rolled onto his side and hugged his arms around his chest. That was ridiculous. Most of the shit he’d experienced this weekend with Harrington had the running narrative of Harrington being totally hung up on Nancy and fixated on the idea that Billy was too. Not only was Harrington straight and not interested, he also saw Billy as a rival. As far as the brunette knew, Billy was as straight as him and they were both after the same chick.

The feeling of something brewing was inevitably more sinister than all that shit. After Billy’s outburst only a fucking week ago, it was doubtlessly more a precursor to a big fight. Flashes of Harrington’s busted-up face came to mind and Billy squirmed at the thought. His knuckles felt sore, his arms ached. Not again. Please, not again.

“Goddamn…” he breathed into the quiet of his room, rolling back onto his back to look up at the ceiling.

---

Billy met with the other three on Monday morning in the parking lot. This was definitely looking to be the new status quo as they all greeted each other and simply hung around at the front of Harrington’s Bimmer. There was a short discussion of The Nest and how Little Byers was doing but, with some encouragement from Byers, they didn’t make any plans for future monster hunts. Harrington and Nancy had both seemed a little on edge about the whole thing but not enough to full-on revolt.

As soon as they’d all parted ways to go to first period, Harrington rushed to catch up with Billy, walking in step with him as if he didn’t have class in the opposite direction. The brunette gave him a small nudge with his elbow, half-smile on his lips.

“So, the kid -Bastian?- screamed into a storm and gave the Child-like Empress a new name and The Nothing just kinda stopped,” he said and Billy almost did a double-take right there in the corridor. Harrington, clearly seeing his confusion laughed and tapped at his temple. “The movie? Bastian gave the Empress-girl a new name and Fantasia was saved.”

Billy had to stop at that. He vaguely remembered the characters talking about an empress and her name or some shit like that but he really didn’t get what Harrington was talking about. Hadn’t Bastian been the one reading the book? What the hell happened in that movie?

“I literally have no idea what that means...” he said slowly and Harrington laughed again.

“Yeah, me neither and I watched the damn thing,” he admitted, running a hand through his hair in a way that didn’t look stressed for once. He seemed so relaxed, so unguarded and safe. Billy’s mind flicked back to the fear from that night. The older boy would never look at him that way again if he lost control like he did in November; it was a wonder that he seemed so comfortable now. “I’m sure Dustin will try to explain it but, yeah, it was pretty random,” Harrington added with a fond roll of his eyes.

“Probably best I slept through it, then,” Billy shrugged as the second bell went. Only a minute to get to class. Already the corridor was starting to empty. If something was brewing between them, Billy should probably go; limit their exposure to one another.

“Was...” Harrington’s voice trailed off as he looked around suspiciously. Stepping closer, he put a hand next to his mouth. “Was everything cool when you got home?” he stage-whispered and Billy rolled his eyes.

“It was fine, you doofus,” he said, using a word that sounded like it was better suited to Max than to him. He gave the other boy a light push away from him and rolled his eyes again, making more of a show of it this time. “Didn’t I tell you not to worry?” he grinned and Harrington blinked at him.

No? You didn’t. You just said you’d be fine,” he replied. Ah. Billy thought back to the previous night. Maybe he didn’t....

“Well you shouldn’t have. I was fine. I am fine,” he shrugged and Harrington shook his head.

He looked like he had more to say but the final bell went and now they were both officially late for class. With an awkward, shuffling ‘bye’, Harrington finally backed off and they went their separate ways.

---

The next few days settled into a typical high school routine. Tommy H and Carol floated around the four of them more than Billy would have liked but, with the exception of the occasional bitchy comment from Carol, they didn’t cause too much angst. Tommy initially seemed torn between whose ass he wanted to kiss more but, sadly, did seem to land on Billy over Harrington in the end. Annoying but pretty predictable. Billy was the safer bet.

By now the rest of his class had heard about him and Nicole, earning him quite a few high-fives from various nobodies. Nicole had collared him between classes on Tuesday and had ‘apologised’ for telling, blaming her friend Sindy for spreading it around. Billy had been all smiles and light, fleeting touches with her; she had played her part so well for him after all.

El didn’t visit him; not since Saturday. It was strange how alone it made him feel, especially on Tuesday when Neil chewed him out for breaking the handle off a coffee cup he’d been washing. He hadn’t roughed him up at all but his tongue was particularly sharp that night. It would have been nice to have had someone to bitch about it to. It would have been nice to hear El’s simple rejections of all the shit Neil called him.

He supposed it was because she was searching. That’s what they’d agreed with the Chief: that she and Byers would be trying to find out where The Nest was without actually running around in the woods and getting themselves killed. She probably was only using her void time for that. She didn’t have time to come and listen to Billy bitch about being called a ‘fucking faggot’ just because he’d broken a cup.

---

By the time he’d gone to collect Max on Wednesday, Billy was starting to think that there wasn’t going to be any further news about the Upside Down. El hadn’t been able to say where The Nest had been; maybe it had just been a dream? Maybe she and Little Byers were just too traumatised to know the difference at this point?

Max got into the car, normal as anything. Things had been good between them the last few days. Not so good that either would choose the other’s company over anything else but good in that they were able to have semi-pleasant conversations when they were together.

“Less grumpy now?” she asked as he waited for her to belt up. Billy rolled his eyes. He had been a little sour that morning after Neil’s comment the previous night but it wasn’t anything like how he used to be with her when he was pissed.

“All good,” he rolled his eyes, turning off the handbrake and pulling away from the curb. “Any news from the Geek Squad?” he asked as she shuffled to get comfortable in her seat.

“Stop calling them that,” she frowned. “And no. Will hasn’t had any more dreams and Mike says that El hasn’t found anything. It’s weird; like they’re hiding or something.”

Billy didn’t like the sound of that. El’s powers were supposed to be their ace against those things. While he and Harrington had proved that they could bash one Remorhaz’ brains in, it wasn’t a guarantee that they could take out more than one. He hated the idea that they could hide from her; that, maybe, they could resist her powers.

“Any of you consider the idea that there might not be more of them?” Billy asked, genuinely wondering why that idea wasn’t on the table. Max gave him a look of disbelief and folded her arms over her chest.

Will’s dream were the reason we knew about the Remorhaz in the first place, Billy!” she said sternly. “That night you found Nancy and Jonathan, they were out there because Will dreamt that the Remorhaz was going to kill some people at the Quarry. El ran off to kill it and Hopper, Will’s mom and Mike went to find her. So, yeah, we trust Will’s dreams!”

Billy’s grip on the steering wheel tightened at that, previously undisclosed, part of the story. He was supposed to be at the quarry that night; smoking weed with Tommy, Carol and her fucking cousin. He shuddered at the thought of meeting a Remorhaz in that situation: high and surrounded by idiots. If Little Byers hadn’t had his dream -if Nancy and Jonathan hadn’t been out looking for Little Wheeler- he very well could have died. That was... fucked up.

“Shit...” he breathed.

“Yeah. Shit,” Max agreed almost as if she knew what he’d been thinking.

They pulled up to the house having fallen into a stilted silence. Billy felt shaken all over again and it was fucking annoying. He was going to have to get used to the idea that he should have died multiple times by now; they were dealing with honest-to-goodness monsters after all. And in the grand scheme of things, hadn’t he had quite a few narrow misses with Neil over the years? How many times had he almost hit a piece of furniture in the wrong way? How many times had Neil almost hit him too hard? All things fucking considered, Billy was a survivor.

Neil’s car wasn’t on the drive but, as they opened the door, Billy could hear Susan bustling about down the corridor. Wanting to be done early, Billy made his way to his room right away, grabbing the laundry basket and loading it up with stuff from Max’s room, much to her annoyance, and Neil and Susan’s room. He ignored the pathetic little ‘thank you Billy’ that the older woman gave him as he continued into the kitchen. Susan could eat it.

He made short work of sorting the lights from the darks and put the first load into the washer, knowing that he could get it all done before half five if he was hot on the timings.

While he waited for the first load to finish, he retrieved his copy of Neuromancer and settled onto one of the kitchen chairs. He’d been finding it hard to focus on reading recently and today was no different. Thinking about how he could have died before knowing everything that he knew now... it was really fucking with his head.

So much so that he practically leapt out of his seat when Max burst into the kitchen.

“Billy!” she gasped, slamming her hands flat down on the kitchen table in front of him.

“What the fu-?” he spluttered, dropping his book and losing his place. Fuck. Given how distracted he’d been, he’d never find it again. He’d have to just put Neuromancer in the pile of ‘books I need to start over’ in his mind. Goddamn.

“Lucas just radioed me! El found The Nest!” Max exclaimed loudly, her voice definitely at a volume where Susan would hear her. Hopefully she wouldn’t be able to make out the words. “She’s run off again. The Chief is losing his mind but is still at Will’s place! We’ve gotta get over there!”

Damn it El! This sounded too much like the situation that Max had just explained to him. Were they gunna pull some other shmuck into this mess, like they had with him that first time? Maybe it was time Tommy came along on a monster hunt?

As ridiculous as that thought was, Billy still stood up. El was in danger. As powerful as she was, it had sounded like she barely managed to kill that one Remorhaz and there was still that niggling thought that they had been able to hide from her. She could be running into a trap. They had to get out there; they had to help.

Billy pushed past Max without a word, ignoring her splutter of protest. He’d have to think of his feet but Susan was a much easier sell than Neil. Thank fuck he was out.

“Susan?” he called, marching into the master bedroom to find her fiddling with the bedspread.

“Is everything okay, Billy?” she asked and Billy tried to pretend he hadn’t noticed her small flinch at his sudden appearance. As far as he knew, Neil had never treated her the way he did Billy. What the fuck did she have to be scared of?

“Max just heard from her friend Lu-ucy,” he corrected himself before he said a boy’s name. Neil would be hearing this story second-hand, gotta keep it appropriate for all audiences. “Her grandma’s been taken to hospital and her mom can’t get a sitter. I’m gunna head over to watch her,” he said, the bullshit sounding pretty convincing for saying he was making it up on the spot. It was better just to tell Susan than to ask her, he’d learned. If he asked, there would be a lot of worried noises which would always end with some form of ‘If Neil says it’s okay’. Telling her was so much easier.

Susan’s eyes darted to just behind him and his gut twisted with the fear that Neil was home and was behind him.

“Do I know Lucy?” the older woman asked in a soft, motherly voice and Billy turned to see that Max had followed him in.

“She’s the one that Dustin has a crush on. We’ve been hanging out a lot recently because he’s going to ask her out,” she shrugged as if this was a real person. Billy couldn’t help but be impressed with how quickly she was able to play along. “Can I go with Billy? She sounded really upset and I don’t think she’ll want to talk to him about it.” Nice one.

Susan’s eyes were wide as she looked between the two of them. Billy huffed out a sigh and she fucking flinched again. Ridiculous. What had he ever done to her?

“I suppose that’s okay,” she finally answered, able to give a straight response because it was Max and not Billy. “Did she say when her mom would be back?”

“Her grandma lives in Holton. She’s not going to be back until real early,” Billy answered. “Getting a pretty penny for stopping overnight.” Biting her lip anxiously, Susan nodded.

It took a good, few minutes of fussing before they were able to pile into the Camaro, Max weighed down with the overnight bag that Susan had packed for her. Billy had taken advantage of the time; changing into the leather trousers that he’d always regretted buying until this very moment, a black wife-beater and his leather jacket. The thick material would hopefully keep him safe from those fucking needles. He was certain that he’d been supremely lucky when nothing bad had come from him getting scratched up by them last time. He’d also had time to grab a change of clothes just in case he ended up covered in blood again. He’d almost got himself into a panic about the razor-sledge's whereabouts until he remembered it being loaded into Byers’ Ford. Doubtlessly, it would still be there.

By the time they’d made it to the Byers’ place, it was clear everyone else had gotten the call. Billy and Max weaved through the various vehicles and quickly headed straight inside the increasingly-familiar house. Everyone was gathered in the kitchen area, Joyce pacing back and forth, frantic eyes shooting in their direction. Upon seeing them, her shoulders sagged a little but she still rushed over.

“Good...” she breathed, resting her hands on their shoulders. “Good, we’re all here.” And, with that, she ushered them into the kitchen.

Max quickly darted over to stand with the other dweebs and Billy took up position next to Nancy.  He looked over in Harrington’s direction and noted the other boy’s eyes taking in his getup. There was a small, inappropriate to the moment, glint of amusement in the older boy’s eyes and Billy felt himself prickling. Yeah, he looked a little cheesy, but it was better than getting scratched up to shit. Bikers wear all leather for a fucking reason, Harrington! He wanted to snap at him.

“I was just saying to the others,” Joyce began, folding her an arm around herself while gnawing on a thumb nail. “Hopper has gone to the lab to look for her. It’s a shot in the dark but it’s really all we have at the moment.”

“We’re going to go too, right?” Little Wheeler piped up, sounding remarkably like his sister in that moment. “El could be in real danger! We’ve gotta help her!”

Nancy shifted, a frown marring her pretty face.

“Mike, I don’t think-"

“You don’t seriously think that we’re going to just sit and wait for you guys to come back, do you?” the lispy boy hissed, his voice deadpan. “At this point, it’s almost insulting!”

“Yeah, there’s no way I’m not coming with you!” Little Wheeler chimed in.

Billy had to give it to these kids: they had balls. He looked over to Max and saw the expected reaction. Her usually pale face looked a little paler, her eyes a little wider than usual. He knew that expression well; she was scared.

“Look, whoever’s coming, we should probably get going now,” Byers said, putting his hands on the kitchen island in a less forceful reminder of how Max had done earlier. Billy watched as the red-head's jaw tightened and her brows pulled down towards the centre of her face. She looked resolute. Shit. She was going to come too.  

In the end, they all bundled into Byers’ Ford and Billy’s Camaro. Billy ended up with Harrington in the front and Max, Henderson and Sinclair in the back. Given the situation, the whole atmosphere should have been one of unease; a building dread for shit to come. As it was, the kids in the back were squabbling and fidgeting from the word go.

“Dustin, seriously man- Get your elbow out of my ribs!” Sinclair said through gritted teeth. Billy didn’t even need to turn to know that he was elbowing the lispy boy as he spoke.

“Ow! Lucas-! My elbow was-”

“Lucas!! Your butt is crushing me!” Max interrupted, half sounding like she was going to laugh and half sounding like she might have a bitch fit. Billy would put money on it being totally dependent on his reaction.

“Blame Dustin and his stupid elbows!” Sinclair argued, his voice cracking a little. Billy gripped the wheel tightly, keeping his eyes on the road. He had a good idea of where the lab was but, being the faster driver, he was taking the lead. He couldn’t focus on the brats and their nonsense.

“You know I have issues with small spaces, Lucas! I’m just trying to deal!” Henderson argued back and suddenly there was the sound of several frantic slaps. “Lucas!” Henderson squealed and Billy was close to the breaking point. Why were they so loud?

“Don’t mind me, Dustin, I’m just trying to deal!” Sinclair shouted, sarcasm so clear in his tone.

Before Billy could yell at them, Harrington was turning and leaning into the back.

“Look, Shitbags, we're all stuck together in a small space! Keep your hands to your damn selves and keep the noise down!” he warned in the most mom-ish voice Billy had ever heard. The kids all fell silent and Harrington slowly returned to his original position, keeping his finger pointed into the back for longer then it needed to be. “Besides, it’s your fault for all insisting we go in Billy’s car. My Bimmer is way bigger,” he added sourly and Billy cackled. Bitter bitch Harrington.

Before he could say something to that effect, there was another bout of squabbling in the back, Sinclair hissing at Henderson over and over.

“Steve, my man, I don’t disagree,” Henderson said, his voice suddenly all too close.

“Stay in the back, Curly,” Billy warned, glancing to his right to see the kid leaning over Sinclair to stick his face next to Harrington. It was a truly stupid sight.

“Yeah, in a second-”

“Now!” Billy insisted but Henderson was only looking at Harrington. He was like his little disciple or something.

“Yeah, Steve, look: the Bimmer is awesome. We all love the Bimmer! There was a reason I let you drive me to the Snow Ball and it wasn’t just your sparkling personality,” Henderson carried on, ignoring Billy’s insistence as well as the squawks from Sinclair in the back. “The thing is... Hargrove here drives like a crazy person when he’s not being chased by a monster. If things go south at the lab, I know who I want driving us out of there.”

“Yeah,” Max agreed shortly, her voice sounding like she’d landed on amused rather than pissed at Sinclair.

“As much as I hate to say it, Steve, Dustin’s is right,” Sinclair chimed in.

Billy couldn’t help but smirk at that one. Yeah, the kid had called him crazy but he had a pretty damn good point. He was the obvious choice for getaway driver. It was nice to see that the nerds could at least understand the fucking obvious.

“Just- Get in the back!” Harrington snapped, giving Henderson a light shove.

The kids seemed to settle after that, muttering and whispering between themselves. Billy had the horrible feeling that they were plotting their own mini-adventure but at the same time he couldn’t bring himself to care too much. Harrington was the baby-sitter; it was his problem.

He glanced over in the other boy’s direction and saw the stupid grin on his face. What the hell? Dark eyes ran down his body and stayed fixed on his lap. Making a small noise of discomfort, Billy forced his eyes back on the road.

“The hell are you staring at, Harrington?” he huffed, feeling the blush rising to his cheeks. Thank god the sun was already setting. Hopefully no one would notice.

“What’s with the leather getup?” Harrington grinned, his voice impish and annoying. Didn’t anyone in this car care about the situation they were in?

“S’cuse me?” Billy spluttered.

“You look like Danny from Grease,” the other boy said, still pointedly looking at Billy’s legs. Goddamn man. Billy gripped the wheel tighter.

“Travolta didn’t wear leather pants, Harrington. That was the chick,” he corrected, hating that he knew that. Harrington laughed out loud at that and Billy had the sinking feeling that he’d mis-stepped.

“Fine. Why are you dressed up as Sandy from Grease?” the older boy asked gleefully and the kids in the back fell silent, clearly tuning in to their conversation.

“Jesus,” Billy murmured to himself, fighting the smile that was threatening to creep out from the corner of his mouth. Someone had to take tonight seriously.

“I think he looks real good! Dead sexy, you know?” the curly-haired boy piped up and it was unclear if he was being sincere or taking the piss. What was clear, however, was that his voice was, once again, way too close to Billy’s ear for him to have stayed in the back.

“Henderson, I will end you!” Billy barked, giving the kid a blind shove and taking no small pleasure in the small ‘oof’ he let out. “And I’ll have you know that I got scratched up something fierce last time we fought one of those bastards. Don’t wanna take any chances,” he added, explaining himself even though he shouldn’t fucking have to. Henderson and Sinclair were in for a world of pain if they did go on whatever side quest they’d set themselves; they were only wearing shitty, little shorts.

The kids started to chatter away again and Billy knew he could hear slapping and shoving again. He rolled his eyes at their fucking nonsense. The lab was, thankfully, not too much further away. His suffering would end soon.

“I agree with Dustin, man,” Harrington smirked, eyes finally flashing up to meet Billy’s as he glanced back to look at the older boy. “Dead sexy,” he grinned, the King Steve glint flashing in his eyes. Shit. Holy fucking shit. Clearing his throat with the most awkwardly uncool noise ever, Billy turned back to the road for the last time. Harrington was definitely baiting him into another round of their shitty game of chicken and -goddamn it- he wasn’t going to join in.

The rest of the journey was uneventful. Billy was the picture of a perfect driver, albeit a little fast, watching the road and his mirrors like his life depended on it. Harrington had sniggered away to himself at his perceived win but hadn’t twisted the knife any further, which was definitely for the best. Too much pushing and who knew what would happen. That static feeling between them wasn’t going anywhere fast. Billy just hoped he wouldn’t do anything he’d regret.

Chapter Text

The wide-open entrance gate was proof enough that the Chief hadn’t changed his plans to start from the lab. As Billy pulled up to the front of the building, he could see the Chief’s car had been left abandoned. The old man must have been in such a fucking state; he’d left the door wide open with the cab light shining away in the growing darkness. Climbing out of the Camaro, Billy moved over to turn off the ignition and slam the door. Last thing they needed was for one of the cars needing a jump because the old fart had let his battery die.

Byers pulled up moments later and everyone piled out. Billy trudged over to the rear of the car, meeting Byers there.

“Please tell me it’s still in there, Jon,” he breathed as the other boy opened the trunk.

“Right here,” Byers said nervously, stating the obvious as the razor-sledge came into view. Fucking gorgeous. “And your bat, Steve,” the nervy boy added, reaching in and grabbing the nail-bat. Billy turned and saw Harrington standing behind him just before Byers chucked him the aforementioned weapon.

Once they were all armed, Billy took a second look at Byers’ pickaxe. It looked like he’d somehow attached a weight to the centre-point where the handle met the axe head; probably would add some force to any swing. Billy liked it. It was a simple solution but would definitely do the trick.

“Billy, I’m gunna need you to pop the truck for me,” Henderson’s voice was behind him, far too close as always. Did this kid have any sense of personal space? And since when were they on first name terms?

Billy turned to him, razor-sledge draped over his shoulders. He tilted his head at the younger boy in question and, with a half-laugh, the kid took a step back away from him.

“My -er- backpack-?” he started, his voice squeaking a little. Billy sneered. “My -ah- backpack is in your trunk.” When the hell had that happened? Billy tried to think back to loading up the kids in the cars but it was such a blur of movement and mini-arguments. Sinclair had not been impressed with being in the Camaro and, admittedly, for good reason. They hadn’t really had much to do with each other since that night in November. At least Harrington had gotten that shitty apology out in the woods last weekend.

“Why’d you need a backpack?” he asked, starting in the direction of the Camaro all the same. There wasn’t much point in starting a fight over something so simple. “If you wanted to get your homework done, you shouldn’t have insisted on coming.”

Ha ha, very funny,” Henderson snarked as they reached the car. Billy leaned into the front and popped the trunk. “I’ll have you know, I brought-” he paused, making a real show of pulling the backpack out of the trunk slowly and carefully. It made a clunking sound that sounded so much like beer bottles Billy was half-convinced the kid had packed for a party. “-supplies,” the lispy boy finished suspiciously as he struggled to put the backpack on his shoulders.

“Dr Pepper and Ding Dongs isn’t going to be all too helpful, Henderson,” Billy said flatly, watching as the struggle continued. Somehow the younger boy had gotten the strap twisted around his wrist, forcing him to stick his elbow up in the air.

“Again -uh- we get it: you’re hilarious, Billy,” Henderson grunted with all the wit and sarcasm he could muster while still entwined with the backpack. “You’ll be thanking me later when you realise what it is!” he promised but it didn’t seem all too likely at that moment. With every move he made, the backpack clunked again and again. Billy leant back on the Camaro and watched. Despite the dire situation, it was quite funny. “Urgh-! Are you- Are you going to help or just watch me struggle?” he finally snapped, having done a 360-turn back to face Billy again during his efforts. Billy chuckled and shook his head.

“I’m just gunna watch,” he grinned as Henderson completely stopped to stare at him with a whole-body look of ‘what the fuck?’.

Sighing like a long-suffering mother hen, Harrington appeared behind him and wordlessly helped him ease the damned thing onto his back, eyes widening a little as he felt the weight of it. When the ordeal was over, he put his hands on his hips and looked down at the little dweeb.

“Seriously, what they hell did you bring, man?” the brunette asked and Henderson pressed a chubby finger to his mouth. Billy felt his body tense up at that. How fucking dangerous would it be if he went around touching Harrington like that? With all the atmosphere between them, that would definitely be the final straw.

“Shhh! All in good time, Steven,” the curly-haired freak hushed even as Harrington shoved his hand away. “All in good time.”

“God, you’re such a freak, Henderson,” Billy sighed, stomping off to join the others. Whatever the kid had brought with him, be it something actually useful or actually just fucking booze, he really didn’t care. They weren’t here to play around.

They all grouped up together, the rest of the kids looking less giddy than they’d been in the car. Thankfully, they seemed to have clicked back into crisis mode, although it was debatable how useful kids would be in this situation even if they were in the right frame of mind.

“We need to figure out where Hopper went,” Joyce was explaining. Like Nancy before her, she was holding a small pistol and Billy made the point not to make any judgement on that fact; Nancy had saved his ass with hers after all.

“We’ll cover more ground if we split up,” Nancy added as she checked her bullets. “But we can’t be stupid; we’ll meet back here every twenty minutes.”

It sounded fair enough. That is until he clocked Sinclair testing out his slingshot like that thing was worth a damn against a Remorhaz. Looking at the rest of the dweebs, he suddenly realised they were all holding some kind of weapon, even Max was holding a large kitchen knife that he knew Neil would have noticed was missing.

“The kids are staying with the cars, right?” he asked pointedly causing Henderson and Little Wheeler to groan annoyingly.

“Billy, you’re new to this so I’ll clue you in-” the curly-haired boy started but Billy shook his head vehemently.

“Don’t even fucking try it, Henderson. You guys are waiting with the cars. There’s no way that Max is getting any closer to those big bastards than she already is!” he barked, advancing on the lispy kid until he felt a hand on his bicep. Everyone visibly tensed up as Billy turned to see Harrington holding him back. Unlike so many times before, Harrington’s intervention didn’t piss him off the way it usually did. His hold was softer now too; like he knew how close they were to breaking again.

“We’ll split the kids between us,” Harrington said, his voice calm and in control, his hand still on Billy.

“I-” Joyce started, her dark eyes wide and fixed on the point of contact between the two boys. Even she could see the proverbial precipice that they were heading towards. “You’re right, Steve. We should buddy-up: Will, you’re with me; Mike you’re with Nancy; Lucas with Jonathan; Dustin with Steve; and Max with Billy. Sound fair enough, Billy?” she said, pointing to each of the kids in turn. Billy could see it wasn’t what the kids wanted but they all still seemed to focused on how Harrington was still holding onto Billy’s arm to argue.

Rolling his shoulder so that Harrington would finally let go, Billy nodded his assent. It wasn’t great but at least he could make Max his main priority. If shit went south -if it was a matter of life and death- he knew he could do enough with his razor-sledge to keep her alive. It fucking sucked how, once again, he was mentally preparing for the idea that he might die; this time for Max of all the fucking people. It would be so fucking ironic if that was how he bought it.

They all agreed on where they would be searching, swapping watches around so that each team had one between them at the very least. Henderson had pouted horribly as he’d handed his watch over to Max but the look on Harrington’s face had been one of ‘no fucking way’ when Billy had playfully suggested that he hand over his, quite expensive-looking, one.

The two of them had headed off together, bickering like an old, married couple and Billy had, once again, wondered what the hell he saw in the other boy.  While he was developing his own creepy, little friendship with El, she definitely was less of a pain in the ass than Henderson was. That kid was high maintenance of the highest order. Billy’s eyes remained on them for a little longer than necessary, watching as Harrington fussed with the kid’s fucking backpack again. He would have started to wonder what the kid had actually brought, if he wasn’t so determined not to give a shit about it.

All-in-all, it all looked like the plan was going be a slow but steady success as he and Max headed out to the east of the building. He wasn’t afraid to admit that the lab itself gave him the heebie-jeebies and he wasn’t about to volunteer to go inside those gloomy halls.

“That thing’s insane by the way,” Max said as they walked. Billy looked down at her to see her eyes fixed on the razor-sledge that he had slung over his shoulders. He smirked and swung it down to hold in both hands in front of him.

“She’s something, isn’t she?” he grinned.

“Ergh! You didn’t name it, did you?” Max spat sounding as grossed out as if he’d said that he was fucking the damn thing. Billy considered saying something inflammatory like how he’d named it after Max herself because of how much of a bitch it was, but thought better of it. The last thing he needed was Max storming off and getting herself killed because he’d been a jackass.

“Nah,” he replied, still smiling.

“Good. That would be creepy,” she rolled her eyes as if he had, all the same. They continued to walk in silence. It was too quiet. He didn’t like it. “Isn’t a sledge hammer a bit too heavy to be a good weapon?” she asked with a roll of her eyes.

“Oh she’s plenty good, Max. Don’t you worry,” Billy grinned, the hand closest to the head of the hammer smoothing up and down in what could be seen as a bit of a crude gesture. Good thing Harrington wasn’t around. Billy would definitely be drawn back into some kind of banter once again. “Bet you couldn’t even lift her,” he added after a brief pause, mainly to fill the silence.

Max stopped walking and frowned at the accusation. Her blue eyes locked onto the razor-sledge and a look of pure determination set itself in her features. Without a word, she quickly bent down and jabbed the knife into the earth then straightened up.

“Give me a go, then,” she instructed, holding her hands out. She really thought she was a badass, didn’t she? He grinned and held the thing out at her.

Before she could even start to take it, however, there was a terrible shout and three gunshots coming from the direction they’d literally only just walked away from. It had barely been five minutes! Heart in his throat, Billy whirled around. It was definitely coming from the direction that Nancy and Little Wheeler had gone in.

“Max-!” he started but she had already retrieved her knife.

“Let’s go!” she said, already taking off at a run. Clutching onto the razor-sledge, Billy sprinted back towards the cars, easily overtaking his sister. He didn’t slow to let her catch up. Badass or no, she was still a little kid. As long as she was close behind him, she’d be fine. Nancy was the one in danger right now; he couldn’t shield them both at the same time.

Even from a distance, Billy could see it. A Remorhaz was flailing about and Nancy was in front of it, arms outstretched, aiming her pistol at the monster. Harrington and Byers were also running in their direction, just a few strides ahead of Billy. As they got closer, Billy could see that Little Wheeler was tangled up in the horrible creature’s limbs. Both he and Nancy were screaming and the creature itself was letting out its horrible dual-roars. Shit.

They all converged on the creature at the same time, Byers taking point at the front beside Nancy, Billy and Harrington instinctively circling around to flank it.

“Mike!” Nancy was screaming over and over and Billy couldn’t take it. She sounded so fucking terrified. Little Wheeler seemed like a bit of a prick but he was her brother. There was no way Billy was going to let this monstrosity take him away from her.

Rushing forward, he swung the razor-sledge down onto the tail of the beast as Harrington started to wail on its side. Blood splattered upwards from the first blow and coated both Billy and Harrington. The Remorhaz roared and tried to turn towards them, dropping Little Wheeler as it moved. That freed Byers up, however, and he wasted no time in striking out with his axe.

The three of them started a relentless attack, each one striking again and again, as Nancy rushed in to scoop her brother up. Blinded by the blood and adrenaline, Billy could only guess that Max was hanging back. He had to trust that she was safe; all he could do now was fight. He hit at the tail again and again. There was no way he’d forget about the tail like last time. That bastard part of the creature was always the worst part. Disabling it was his main priority.

It wasn’t too long before the Remorhaz started to make those whistling sounds that Billy suspected were a sign that it was dying. As he fought, his heart was racing and a crazy smile was on his face. He’d really needed this; he’d needed the release. Neil’s bullshit last weekend, Neil’s bullshit the weekend before that; he needed to vent all the fucked-up feelings that had been stagnating inside him. Maybe now the tension with Harrington could dissipate. Maybe now they wouldn’t be so close to oblivion.

With a shrieking roar of agony, the Remorhaz collapsed forwards. Unlike Billy before him, Byers was quick enough to dodge out of the way. As it lay, dying on the ground, Harrington continued to wail on it again and again.

“Steve!! Steve! It’s dead!” Henderson yelled over to him but Harrington didn’t stop.

“Not yet! It-” Harrington gasped but a sudden roar cut him off. With that, the Remorhaz jerked forwards in Nancy and the kid’s direction and Billy instinctively smashed the razor-sledge down on it again. Byers was fast to act too and even Joyce, who had arrived at some point in the chaos, fired off a few rounds at its head.

When Harrington finally stopped, when the creature was more of a bloody-mush than an actual corpse, Billy straightened up, panting and exhausted. Goddamn. While it hadn’t taken too long, it had taken a lot of manpower to kill just one of these fuckers at full strength. He looked at Byers and Harrington and saw that they were just as done in by the whole thing as he was.

“Billy look out!” Max suddenly screamed and Billy turned 180 just in time to see another Remorhaz charging in his direction. He wasn’t ready; his feet weren’t planted. He wasn’t gripping the razor-sledge right. No one was gunna help him. Closing his eyes, he braced himself as best he could. Fuck.

The beautiful sound of a shotgun firing rang out in the darkness twice in quick succession. Unlike the last time, the creature’s head remained intact, the shells probably hitting it in the back or tail, but it still let out a whistling shriek, rearing up to its full height before turning to face its attacker.

“Yeah, come at me, you bastard!” Hopper bellowed as he reloaded his shotgun, marching out of the darkness like a goddamn action hero. The Remorhaz roared again but started to scrabble off away from them all. Both of the adults emptied their guns at its retreating form but it didn’t stop; whistling and screaming off into the night.

Max was on Billy within seconds, her arms wrapping around his waist so tightly he could barely breathe. Looking around, the others were all similarly engaged, Henderson fussing over Harrington and Joyce and Byers huddling around Nancy and the little brothers. Billy looked back down at his little red-head to see that she’d buried her head against his chest. When the fuck had they ever hugged like this?

“You alright down there, kiddo?” he asked, trying to sound as casual as he could for saying how, once again, he’d narrowly avoided being done in. Max laughed and shook her head, face still mashed up against him.

“It’s so much worse than the demodogs...” she said, her voice muffled by Billy’s, now filthy, vest. He chuckled and found himself stroking her hair with his bloodied hand. Why the fuck not?

“Worse than Neil?” he joked about something that wasn’t funny. She laughed all the same, nodding as she finally drew back away from him.

“Not as ugly though,” she grinned and Billy almost loved her again. Almost. Instead he ruffled her hair and took a step away.

Hopper stomped past them, nodding in Billy’s direction as he reloaded his shotgun again. Without another word to on another, he and Max followed the old man’s lead, all of them grouping around the Wheelers in a tight-knit circle. Little Wheeler was pretty banged-up and terrified but otherwise okay, sitting beside his sister with a broken look on his face. Nancy, however, was beside herself. Tears were staining her cheeks and she seemed to be hyperventilating as she clutched her knees. Byers was rubbing at her back and whispering to her.

With a sinking feeling in his heart, Billy recognised it: a panic attack. Back in California, Jason’s mom had been a lot like Neil; especially in middle school. She used to slap him around something nasty if he got anything lower than an A-. Along with Ingrid and Alex, Billy had borne witness to many of these panic attacks brought on by pop-quizzes and unexpected assignments. That terrified, wild look in Nancy’s eyes, it was just like Jason’s back then.

“She needs space,” he said, channelling Ingrid’s commanding tone whenever this had happened in the past. He moved over to kneel in front of her. “Back up guys!” he snapped, sharper now, when no one moved.

As the others finally started to move back from her, Billy reached out and took her hands in his own, giving them a gentle squeeze.

“Nancy,” he breathed softly, ignoring the feeling of everyone’s eyes on him. They all faded into the background as he kept his eyes trained on the panicked girl before him. “Nancy look at me,” he said, his voice almost sounding like Ingrid’s now - at least in his head.

Nancy’s wild eyes, flashed all around -frantically taking stock- until they finally locked onto him. Her hands shifted and now she was gripping his, the fear making her grip tight. Billy breathed slowly and pointedly, making sure she could see it.

“It’s okay, Nance. We got it,” he said in that same calm tone. Her breathing was still too shallow; too fast. This felt so fucking scary. How the fuck had Ingrid always seemed so chill about it?

“Mike...”  she gasped, tears still falling from her eyes. Billy shook his head once.

“He’s fine, Nance. Everyone is fine,” he reassured her, squeezing her hands again even through her tight hold on him. “Now let’s get you breathing normally, yeah? Can you copy me?”

“I didn’t see it coming Billy-!” she spluttered, her voice wheezing and weak. It killed him to hear her like that. She forced herself to be so strong all the time; it was horrible to see her breaking apart like this. “I couldn’t stop it- It-!”

“It’s dead, Nancy. We got it. Everyone is fine,” Billy repeated, still breathing in his pointed manner. It usually helped Jason to watch someone else breathing normally; like it subconsciously made him get back to normal. “Try to copy my breathing, Nance...” Billy whispered, offering her a small smile.

“I- I couldn’t-” she whimpered again.

“I’m okay Nancy,” Littler Wheeler whispered, moving to kneel beside Billy. Billy looked briefly at the younger boy and saw the scratches all over him; the torn fabric of his bomber jacket. Karen was going to have questions. “I’m fine, see?”

“Everyone’s fine,” Billy agreed, watching as Little Wheeler copied his pointed breaths. Goddamn. Every now and then, these kids really surprised him: El with her therapy shit; Max with her posters and record player; and Little Wheeler with his calming breaths.

It took a few more minutes, and a lot more encouragement, before she started to breathe normally again. As her body finally started to relax Byers shuffled up behind her and pulled her in close.

“Thanks Billy,” the other boy said as Nancy finally let go of Billy’s hands to clutch at her boyfriend instead. Billy smiled at the other boy and gave him a small nod. Anything for Nancy.

The others had grouped up separately from the scene, all standing about awkwardly. There was an atmosphere of impatience and concern, like they were all torn between their desire to help Nancy and their desire to save El. Billy approached them and Hopper gave him another short nod.

“Good work kid,” he said gruffly and Billy shook his head, reaching to pick up the razor-sledge which he’d left leaning up against Byers’ Ford.

“A friend back home used to get like that. It’s nothing,” he shrugged and Hopper nodded again.

“Well... Before you guys showed up, I did a quick sweep of the main building. There’s no sign of them on the top levels and the basement is completely closed off,” the old man explained, adjusting his belt like he was mentally trying to force himself back into the right mindset. “There’s a separate compound in that direction,” he continued, pointing in the direction that he had come from and the Remorhaz had fled to. “Four or five buildings that I haven’t had a chance to search. Betting that’s where they’re hiding out.”

It sounded as good a theory as any. With Hopper along for the ride, they could easily split and search each one.

“I... I want to wait with the cars,” Max spoke up.

Billy turned and could see how pale she was. She’d clung so tightly to him just after the second Remorhaz had run away. It was too much for her. He put a hand on her shoulder and squeezed. Joyce gave her a soft look and glanced back to Byers and Nancy.

“Me and Hopper will go alone. You guys stay with the kids; keep them safe,” she suggested and Billy shook his head. Before he could put forward and argument, however, Harrington was stepping forwards.

“You two don’t stand a chance on your own. You need backup,” he said firmly, his grip on the bloodied nail-bat tight enough to turn his knuckles white. His face was almost black with the splatter from the Remorhaz’ blood but, even so, the look of strong determination was so damn hot. “Besides... The two of you won’t be able to check out four or five buildings on your own. We don’t have that kind of time to waste!”

Billy bit his jaw tight and looked back to the adults. He couldn’t get distracted right now. This was life or death. His crush was too fucking dangerous.

“You’re right kid; we will need backup,” Hopper nodded gruffly. “But, as far as searching the buildings goes, I think we’re set.” He jabbed a thumb in the direction that then Remorhaz had fled in. “What’s the bet that one I shot up’s gunna have left us a nice trail to follow?”

It was decided pretty quickly after that. Byers and Nancy were going to wait with the kids and Billy, Harrington, Joyce and Hopper were going to go and get El. Max had plopped herself in the driver’s seat of the Camaro claiming it was ‘just in case’ while Sinclair and Henderson moped about looking mutinous. Hopper had given them a stern warning to stay with the cars but it was anyone’s guess whether or not they would actually fall to heel.

Billy had put his head in Byers’ car to check on Nancy and she seemed through the worst of it, albeit still huddled up in Byers’ arms.

“Take this,” she’d urged, handing over her pistol and Billy had held it reverently. He knew the basic principles -point and shoot- but he wasn’t entirely sure he’d be able to use it properly.

“Won’t you-?”

“I’ll feel better knowing that you have it, Billy,” she smiled softly, reaching out to close his fingers around in. “You and Steve better stay safe.”

As they set off for the compound, Hopper and Joyce took the lead while Billy and Harrington walked together a few steps behind. Billy had shoved the small pistol through the back of his belt, hoping against hope that it wouldn’t go off into his ass. That would be fucking humiliating and a half.

They walked in silence together, both picking at the bits of flesh stuck to their weapons. It was fucking gross but Billy figured it was probably worth doing.

“You were good...” Harrington observed as they walked. “With Nancy, I mean. You were really good.” Billy turned to look at the other boy. At some point he’d managed to clean his face up from the worst of the blood and gore. His pretty eyes were focused on the nail-bat but there was a clear tension in his shoulders that screamed that he wanted to look at Billy. He wanted to gage his reaction.

“Like I said, my friend in Cali-”

“You really like her, don’t you?” the other boy interrupted her, sounding bitter. Not this shit again. “Like... really like her,” he repeated as if it was so fucking obvious.

“Harrington...” he breathed. He knew he hadn’t exactly put the other boy off the idea but it was getting silly now. Harrington was clearly getting jealous of his and Nancy’s relationship and it didn’t feel funny anymore. It didn’t feel funny to be the rival any more.

“She’s still with Jonathan, you know? Please don’t tell me you’re the kind of guy to steal someone else’s girl,” he grumbled, his eyes looking up in a glinting plea.

“What, like he did to you?” Billy pressed and Harrington stopped in his tracks.

“Yeah. Like that,” he said flatly. “Speaking from experience of being that someone else: it really sucks. Don’t be that guy.” Billy stared at the other boy and saw the sincerity there. Goddamn. He had to put this shit to rest. Scratching at the back of his head, he clicked his tongue against the back of his teeth.

“Well,” he sighed, starting in the direction of the adults again. “It’s a good job I’m not into her, then, isn’t it?” he admitted as Harrington rushed to catch up with him. Harrington grabbed his arm and stopped him again, turning him to look him in the eye.

“You’re- What?” he asked, his voice sounding so full of disbelief.

“I’m not into Nancy,” Billy shrugged. “She’s amazing -and I’ll kick your ass if you hurt her- but, no, she’s not my type.” Harrington’s eyes were wide, the light from the moon lighting them up in a way that made him look so fucking cute Billy could hardly believe they were talking about the girl he liked.

“But-” the older boy stammered, looking utterly confused. “But you said-”

“You’re adorable when you’re confused, Harrington,” Billy smirked, trying to lighten shit back up as he took a step away. Thankfully, Harrington’s grip relaxed as he moved, the other boy apparently so surprised he’d forgotten how to close his mouth. Fucking adorable. “Come on, man. Don’t wanna leave the old folks without their backup,” he added, moving onwards in the direction of Hopper’s compound.

Chapter Text

True to Hopper’s prediction, it was obvious which building the Remorhaz had fled to. A sickening, bloody trail led right up to the first building they came across. The double doors, that Billy could only assume were once intact and firmly closed, were reduced to shards of glass and twisted metal skeletons. The red-black path of the injured Remorhaz ran right into the darkness and the four of them halted for a moment.

“Right,” Hopper breathed, adjusting his grip on the shotgun that he had pointed at the unblinking dark of the doorway. “It’s as good a guess as any...” he continued, taking a step forward.

Billy could feel his heart starting to beat faster. El had said that there were lots of them; enough for the word nest to be how they described it. He couldn’t stop visions of Harrison Ford surrounded by snakes in that tomb place in Raiders of the Lost Ark. If it was that many Remorhazes... There would be no way, with or without El’s help, they’d survive that shit. Were they walking into a death-trap? God-fucking-damn. It was a scary thought.

“You two keep to the back,” Hopper ordered as he headed inside. “Don’t let anything creep up on us.”

Billy looked to Harrington. The older boy had paused for a moment, eyes wide and locked on the darkness before them. He had the paled face of someone who was having the same realisation as he was; they were utterly screwed.

Why the hell had he insisted on being involved in this shit? He could be off living his own shitty life right now. He could be hanging around with Tommy H and Carol, only caring about what party was next and whether he’d screwed with enough girls that no one would question him. He wouldn’t be worrying about the possibility of dying. He wouldn't be making his peace with it quite so fucking regularly. He was only goddamn 18; not fucking 81! It shouldn’t be something that he even considered at this point in his life!

Will dreamt that the Remorhaz was going to kill some people at the Quarry...’ Max’s voice echoed in his head. And, shit, yeah... Even if he had avoided all this shit, he would have just been killed anyway. There would be no hanging out with those two losers: they’d all be dead. He wouldn’t be making his peace with death because it would have already stolen him away unawares. Wasn’t it better to go down fighting? At least this way he might be able to help someone before he died. Maybe that way, he’d be remembered as something more than the asshole who drove a Camaro and beat up Steve Harrington that one time. Maybe that way, he’d be remembered as someone a little closer to the boy he’d been back before he’d come to this hell hole.

Once he was inside, Billy became aware just how fucking dark the night had gotten. Without electricity, they were relying only on the moonlight from the entrance way and the small torch that Hopper had pulled off his belt. The beam of light led the way, illuminating the blood-stained walls every now and then. It wasn’t massively reassuring. Billy gripped the razor-sledge tightly, braced for whatever was coming.

Despite the signs of age and abandonment, the place looked clinical - like this had been a hospital before everyone had fled. As part of a ‘lab’, Billy supposed that was the right vibe but, at the end of the day, he’d honestly have no clue either way. What kind of shit had they been doing here before all hell broke loose? He couldn’t imagine that a ‘light and power’ company would need quite so much laboratory space but, then again, what the hell did he know?

Hopper kept them to the corridor, briefly shining the light into each open door they passed. Harrington gently pushed some of the doors further open as he passed them but, really, there was no need. If a Remorhaz was inside, it wasn’t likely to have shut the door behind itself. Harrington was far to hooked on the idea of these monstrosities have social graces when it came to doorways.

A whistling, broken roar echoed through the halls, causing all of them to jump. Joyce’s arms started to tremble as she let her pistol lead her way, letting Hopper walk a little ahead of her. Goddamn, it was fucking tense. No one spoke a word as Hopper led them onwards, the only sounds, besides their footsteps, being those from the Remorhaz.

After what felt like too long, they came upon a flight of stairs leading downwards into pitch blackness. Hopper hesitated, shining the torch light at the walls. Shit. The blood was going in two directions. One led further into the building while the other led down. Billy unconsciously shook his head at the stairs. Once again, the fucking pit of snakes from Indiana Jones came to mind. He really didn’t want to get trapped down in a hole full of those things.

“It must have doubled back...” Hopper breathed, looking between their two options in confusion.

“The gate was below ground level, wasn’t it?” Joyce whispered.

“Yeah...” the old man grumbled, still looking undecided.

A roar resounded through the building again, this time sounding much closer. Hopper turned suddenly to face the second option: the way that lead further in the building, not down. It sounded like the Remorhaz was still at ground level.

“It’s down there,” he said quietly, pointing down the corridor with both his shotgun and the torch. Harrington shifted where he stood.

“Billy and I can take it,” he said, his voice stiff and ever so slightly higher than Billy was used to. In any other situation, Billy would have pointed it out; made a jab about puberty finally setting in or something similar. As it was, however, he just felt his whole body react to the suggestion. “You two need to get El,” the older boy added as if that was all the reason he needed to volunteer them for this potential kamikaze move. Shit, shit, shit.

Hopper turned to shine the torch in their direction, briefly dazzling the two of them before he angled it downwards. Billy couldn’t make out his face but, from the grumpy exhalation, it seemed likely that he wasn’t thrilled with the idea.

“There’s no guarantee that there actually is anything down those stairs,” he started in his rumbling voice. “But down there-” he pointed the light in the direction where yet another roar came from. “-Down there we know there’s at least one of those bastards.”

“An injured one. We can take it; we did before,” Harrington explained. But that one had a huge chunk of its head missing. This one had just taken a couple of blasts to the back. There was no guarantee that it would be the only one either. “The Nest will probably be closer to the gate, right? Like, down those stairs close? They probably tunnelled out to here like the Demodogs did before. Could have already had the tunnels there.”

Billy blinked. For Harrington, that was pretty sound reasoning. By all accounts, the older boy wasn’t much of an intellect at school but, apparently, in this situation he was able to focus in. In this situation, he was able to be downright smart about shit. Then again, he remembered Nancy’ brief explanation of what the other boy had gone through after Billy had bashed his face in. Maybe he was hinging too much on those tunnels because they were all wrapped up in his own trauma? God; Billy had missed too much. He was always a couple of steps behind.

“What’cha thinking, Hargrove?” Hopper asked, directing the light at Billy’s feet. Billy clenched his hands tightly around the razor-sledge. Harrington thought they could do this. Should he trust him? The last place in the world he wanted to go right now was down those stairs but what if Harrington was wrong? What if the nest was up here and he and Harrington had to face a swarm of those bastards on their own without Hopper and his shotgun? It’d really suck to die right now.

“We already took two down on our own, Billy! We can do this!” Harrington said firmly, his voice adopting that confident King Steve tone. Billy’s heart raced. Maybe. Maybe they could.  

“We’ve got this,” he finally said, looking Hopped dead in the eye. He adjusted his grip on the razor-sledge and gave the old man a short nod. Hopper frowned and shook his head. He didn’t like it. Billy could see him stalling for time; desperately wracking his mind for some other solution.

A scream, that made all their decisions for them, rang out from the direction of the stairs; a scream that stole away all the time that Hopper had so desperately wanted. There was no mistaking it, even through the fear and rage in her voice: El. She was down there and now nothing else mattered to the chief. Billy felt his guts lurch as Hopper lunged towards the stairs.

“Jane!” he shouted as he took two steps at a time, taking their light with him.

Hopper was halfway down the first flight of steps when all hell truly broke loose. Like a nightmarish version of the Kool Aid man, the injured Remorhaz smashed through the wall with a horrible, whistling roar of rage and pain, thankfully missing both Billy and Harrington. Joyce, who had already started to follow the old man down the stairs, let out a cry of shock but Harrington was on it. Without even a second’s hesitation, he was swinging the nail-bat through the air, smashing it hard against the side of its head.

“Go get El!” Billy shouted over the noise and mayhem. “We’ve got this!” and he punctuated the last sentiment with a swing of the razor-sledge. The Remorhaz screamed and rushed forwards at him, barging him forcefully back into the open room that they had just walked through. He yelped as his feet threatened to go from under him. It was all he could do to stay upright and not get crushed under the fucking thing again.

“Billy!” Harrington called out desperation clear in his voice.

“I’m good!” Billy yelled back to him, finally managing to dig his heels in. He gripped onto both ends of the sledge’s handle, using it as a shield to keep the damned thing away from his body. With a hoarse shout of exertion, he shoved back at the advancing weight, feeling the resistance lessen as the Remorhaz took another couple of blows from Harrington’s bat. It shrieked and thrashed but Harrington didn’t relent, blood spraying in all directions. “Watch the tail!” he somehow managed to shout the warning through his gritted teeth as Harrington swung the bat again and again.

The Remorhaz roared again in the darkness and Billy was finally able to duck out from in front of it, turning a full circle to swing the sledge into its side. The whistles were higher now as Billy tugged but the razor-sledge remained wedged in the flesh of the beast. Shit. He gave it a few more pulls but it wasn’t budging and now the monster was turning to face him.

Without thinking, Billy reached behind himself and grabbed Nancy’s pistol. Holding it out at arm’s length he fired, point-blank, into the monster’s face. It screeched and jerked back but Billy continued to shoot, wrist straining from the fight against the recoil from each shot.

“Shit!” Harrington shouted and there was another roar. “Oh shit- Billy there’s anoth-”

But the other boy was cut off by a horrendous crashing sound. Billy felt his heart stop as the sounds continued. Harrington was shouting but his voice was too far away now. Where the hell was he? Not thinking, Billy dodged around the fuck-off monster standing in front of him, rushing in the direction of the other boy’s voice.

“Steve!” he practically screamed, not caring how fucking terrified he sounded. Stumbling on the rubble, he could just about make out the huge hole in the wall. Unthinking, he rushed through it, coughing and spluttering with the dust from the busted drywall. “Steve!” he shouted again as the other boy’s shouts turned to fucking terrifyingly broken-sounding grunts. No. God no.

Half blind from the darkness and dust, Billy’s bleary eyes fell on the second Remorhaz. It was doubled over, its hideous limbs scratching and tearing at the other boy who was pinned beneath it. Harrington cried out, his voice full of blood and agony, and Billy’s mind went blank. One moment, he was standing on the ruins of the wall, taking in the sight of Harrington losing his fight, the next he was on the Remorhaz.

A guttural roar tore through his body as he put all his strength into pushing that big bastard off the other boy. He was vaguely aware of the spines tearing through his leather jacket and his hands but he didn’t give a shit about himself. Harrington was the only thing that mattered; not his jacket, not his hands, not himself -goddammit- not even Nancy, Max or El. Only Steve fucking Harrington mattered.

All the anger, all the hatred, that he’d ever felt, he channelled it into his body as he pushed. Every time he’d been knocked to the ground by Neil, every time he’d been called faggot, every time he’d been made to feel like an intruder in the Hargrove house; he brought them all to the front of his mind. He let the rage consume, like it had done the time it had been him pinning Harrington to the ground; when he’d been the monster. That monster was what he needed to be now.

With another roar of effort, Billy pushed harder; harder than he’d ever pushed before. He pushed with a strength that he could only have dreamed of tapping into that time when he’d defended Nancy. Slowly, surely, the weight of the Remorhaz shifting and toppling away from Harrington. Billy moved with it, pushing on and on. His whole body was burning but he wouldn’t stop; not until Harrington was clear and safe. The Remorhaz was screeching and roaring, its legs unstable as it continued to move with the force Billy was putting on it. Fuck you.

“Billy!” Harrington’s broken voice cried out but Billy barely heard it. This was it. His muscles were straining; his body losing strength. The monster inside him was losing to the monster in front of him, as it was always bound to. He screamed again, ready to push his body beyond, but suddenly there were arms around his waist, pulling him away from the creature.

Harrington was pulling him back just as the Remorhaz’ tail smashed against the ground where his feet had been planted. Harrington’s heavy, panting breaths were so close now as he held onto him a little longer than needed. He was here and he was alive. Billy could cry if everything was so close to the surface.

“You’re insane!” the other boy gasped in an awed voice, letting him go as the Remorhaz seemed to right itself. There was a whistling shriek from behind them and Billy whirled around to see the first creature had finally followed him in. Its movements were slow and clumsy; it was on its last legs. Good.

The razor-sledge was still buried in its side and Billy made a dash for it, dodging the swipe it made at him with one of its fucked-up limbs. Adrenaline coursing through him, he gripped the sledge’s handle and pulled it free of the beast’s flesh, tearing off a huge chunk with it.

The creature wailed and swiped at Billy but it was too slow; it was too close to the end. Billy smashed the sledge into its head and flinched as pieces if the fucker splattered to the floor. Fucking gross. With a gargling whistle, the Remorhaz collapsed sideways but, from their previous battles, Billy knew that wasn’t it. As it shuddered out another jolt of activity, Billy moved quickly to stand over its head. Screaming out the last of his hatred, he smashed the sledge down again and again until there was nothing but chunks of gore left on the ground in front of him.

“A little help please!” Harrington grunted and Billy turned to see he was back to swinging the nail-bat wildly at the other Remorhaz. His clothes were torn beyond recognition and he was covered in scratches and bruises but he still fought on. He’d survived. Billy was going to make sure this stayed the case. That monster wasn’t going to have him. No fucking way. 

Breath ragged, Billy crossed the room to help him, putting whatever strength he had left into every swing of the razor-sledge. They both smashed away at it, dodging what strikes they could and recovering from the rest. The second time Billy had been sent sprawling to the floor he hit his chin hard on the concrete, splitting it open in a way he knew would need stitches. Still he fought. If he survived this, he’d worry about the damage done. Right now, killing that bastard was the priority.

By the time the Remorhaz finally crumpled to the floor, Billy had lost all sense of how long they’d been going at it. His body was still thrumming with energy even as he and Harrington smashed it over and over. Side by side, it once again felt like they were unstoppable. There was no way it was getting up again.

Wiping the sweat, and probably blood, from his brow, Billy straightened up, leaving the razor-sledge in the last place he’d crashed it down.

“I think it’s-”

“Move!” Harrington shouted, lunging forwards to crash Billy against the nearest wall.

Barely half a second after they hit the concrete, a long, horribly familiar-looking spear thunked into the wall mere inches from Billy’s head. Heart pounding, he looked past Harrington to where that goddamn tail crumpled back down one final time.

“Goddamn...” Billy breathed, relaxing a little against the cold hardness of the wall.

Harrington’s breaths were shallow and ragged, his dark eyes slowly trailing up to meet Billy’s. His hands fisted Billy’s ruined jacket as he held him in place even now the danger had passed. Shit, there it was again: the static. Billy could feel it now, so real and tangible between them.

His breath caught in his throat as Harrington’s eyes trailed down to his lips. Somehow nervous, Billy snaked his tongue out to wet his lips, his own eyes drifting to Harrington’s mouth. Goddamn he was so close. It was just like at Nicole’s party all over again. It wouldn’t take much.

“You... alright there, Harrington?” Billy asked, close enough that he knew Harrington could feel the question against his lips.

And then it happened. Harrington leaned in, crossing the distance between them, covering Billy’s lips with his own. Billy moaned at the contact, eyes closing in submission the moment it started. God damn... Steve Harrington was kissing him; Steve fucking Harrington was kissing Billy fucking Hargrove. The feeling of his lips on Billy’s was so fucking wrong -so stupid and so fucking dangerous- and yet it was everything. It was so right and perfect and fucking everything. Billy melted into it.

The older boy made a small, beautiful whimpering noise and Billy pulled him deeper into the kiss, both of their mouths opening to the other. Of their own accord, Billy’s hands came up and finally he ran his fingers through that chocolatey hair. It felt so fucking perfect; like his hands were finally home. Steve Harrington was perfect. He was everything.

Goddamn. How long had he been dreaming of this shit? He could feel the self-assured sweep of the other boy’s tongue against his lips and -goddamn- he tasted like heaven. The leather pants, which had felt like such a good idea before, now felt all too tight. His body was all too hot all too quickly. How could just a fucking kiss get him so turned on?

Harrington pressed himself impossibly close, his hands shifting to grasp desperately at Billy’s hips. The confident hum of arousal from the other boy -the way he pressed harder- Billy knew he could feel it. Harrington could feel what this was doing to him and he wasn’t stopping. If anything, he was into it; pushing closer and closer.

Goddamn, Billy could get lost in this. As Harrington tilted his head, the kiss deepened even more. The older boy was losing himself too. Good. In this fucking hellscape, they’d lose themselves together. In Steve fucking Harrington, Billy was transported. Taken somewhere away from this bullshit. Away from the monsters. Away from the blood. He was somewhere warm and good and every nerve in his body was singing out for the one who’d brought him there. 

The rumbling sounds of many Remorhazes’ roars tried to tear them back into the here and now. With a small, discontented moan, Harrington moved back, breaking the kiss; breaking that connection that Billy had barely let himself hope for. They were both breathless, standing stupid and silent even as the sounds of chaos grew closer. Goddamn. Billy couldn’t bring himself to let Harrington move too far away, his hands still buried deep in the other boy’s silky, perfect hair. This was too much. He couldn’t let go. Not yet.

Run! El's voice was suddenly there, weakly urging inside Billy’s head like a slap to the face. As he blinked in this reality, Hopper and Joyce’s shouts and sporadic gunfire disentangled from the cries of the monsters. Shit. They were being chased.

“We’ve gotta run!” Billy hissed, repeating El's instruction aloud for Harrington to hear. The older boy nodded, his hands leaving Billy to seek out the nail bat. Feeling the loss of that contact deeper than he could put words to, Billy rushed back to the Remorhaz’ body and lifted up the razor-sledge. Without any further bullshit, they both ran through the hole in the wall.

Hopper and Joyce were at the top of the stairs, El in the Chief’s arms looking worse than Billy had ever seen her. Eyes widening, Billy’s legs stalled at the sight behind them. It was so much worse than Raiders of the Lost Ark. A tide of Remorhazes filled the space behind them, scrambling and shrieking over each other. They were on the walls, on the ceiling; they were a literal torrent of monsters. It was like a scene out of a goddamn nightmare. Harrington’s strong hand on his arm caused Billy to take up running again, through the blackened building towards the hint of moonlight.

Harrington was out first; almost slipping in a strange liquid that nearly took Billy down too. After a few more awkward strides, Billy turned back to look at what had almost been the end of him even as the momentum kept him going.

“Now!” came a commanding shout from Billy’s left as Hopper and Joyce cleared the exit. Suddenly there was a flood of light and heat and a smashing of glass as the whole entrance was set ablaze.

Slowing down, Billy turned and saw Max, Sinclair and Henderson throwing bottles towards the building. It looked like they’d fashioned some kind of fucked-up, home-made Molotov cocktails or something. The monsters beyond the flames all shrieked and receded, seeming unwilling to pursue them through the fire.

Billy, Harrington, Joyce and Hopper all hung awkwardly for a moment, the raging fires near-blinding compared to the darkness that had only just been surrounding them. Once the final bottle was thrown, the three kids took off in the direction of the cars.

“Run!” Max yelled as she dashed past him and Billy mindlessly followed her, his feet carrying him on instinct alone.

Everything happened in a blur once they reached the main buildings. The three kids hurled themselves into the back of Byers' Ford which screeched off the moment the door was closed. Joyce and Hopper sprinted for the Wrangler which Billy was relieved to see had been left running, ready to go.

The Camaro had been manoeuvred so that it was facing away from the building, its headlights shining out into the night. As they came upon it, Billy could see that Nancy was seated behind the wheel.

“Get in!” she yelled as Hopper sped off away from the lab. Neither boy needed telling twice, clearing the final distance and both piling into the back of the Camaro. Clunking heavily into gear, she pulled off with a roar from the engines and a screech of tires that Billy couldn’t bring himself to worry about. She hadn’t even waited for the passenger door to be closed, instead letting gravity do the job as she sped around the corner to join the main road. They were getting away. They were alive.

Heart pounding, Billy looked down at Harrington, who had ended up underneath him. The older boy was sprawled out on the backseat of the Camaro; breaths coming short, eyes hooded and beautiful. Even with his cuts and scrapes, he looked like a fucking wet dream come to life. Their eyes met and, for a little too long, Billy was almost drawn back in. He absently drew his lower lip between his teeth, watching as the older boy mirrored the action. Jesus Christ. They’d kissed. He and Steve fucking Harrington had kissed.

Nancy drove over a bump in the road and Billy was jolted back into his senses. He pushed himself up into a sitting position and moved away from the other boy. What the hell was he doing? Nancy was right fucking there.

Chapter Text

The ride back to the Byers’ was a strange one. Harrington had shifted from looking like a wounded puppy once Billy had clambered off of him to leaning forward to chat animatedly to Nancy about the night’s exploits. Well, the monster side of the night’s exploits. Unsurprisingly, locking lips with the local faggot wasn’t one of the things that the dark-haired boy was babbling about.

Billy sagged into the leather of the back seat. It was strange being in the back of his own car but, with Nancy at the wheel, he didn’t feel too antsy about it. He remembered back when he first got the Camaro, back in California. How Alex and Jason had begged him to let them have a drive; how only Alex had been afforded the privilege. Even then, Billy had been in the passenger seat. The only times he’d been back here were when he and Alex had needed somewhere to mess around. And now he was back here with Steve fucking Harrington. Goddamn.

Nancy maintained a healthy speed throughout the journey. Billy shuddered at the thought of what would happen when those things managed to break out of the building again. Perhaps they already had. There were enough windows on the exterior walls that they wouldn’t have to move far to escape without being too close to the fire. The fire… Billy thought back to Henderson and his sketchy as fuck backpack. How the bottles had rattled away and how he’d just assumed the little weirdo had brought booze. When the hell did he have a chance to make Molotovs? How the hell did he know how to make them? It was pretty disturbing to think that that was how Max had been spending her time with her little nerdy friends. Goddamn. Tonight was a fucking revelation all around.

As Nancy pulled up to the house, Harrington finally shifted back into his seat. Nancy clambered out of the car, leaving the keys in the ignition but the two boys made no move to get out.

“Billy…” Harrington breathed after a long quiet. Eyes clocking Max approaching the Camaro, Billy shook his head softly.

“Not now Harrington,” he huffed, pushing the passenger seat down so he could open the door. He could feel the tension -the air of rejection- from the other boy straight away. Hand on the door, Billy turned back to face him. “Later,” he promised and the pretty, brown eyes came up to meet his. “Yeah?”

“Yeah,” Harrington breathed, following as Billy climbed out of the car.

Once again, Max was on him, her arms wrapping around his waist in a tight squeeze. Billy groaned, apparently his body was just one big bruise right now. It was going to take some explaining should Neil notice but that was a problem for another time. Forcing a smile, he held Max close for a moment.

“You didn’t die!” Max was saying as she pulled away from him. “No one died!” Billy looked around the various members of the monster squad. He and Harrington seemed to be the only older members who hadn’t gone back inside yet.

“Yeah... Thanks to you and your little pyromaniac stunt,” he agreed, turning back to face his sister. She looked so fucking pumped and relieved. “Where’d you get those things anyway?”

“It was Dustin’s idea. We actually made them last week but...” she looked about guiltily.

“But Little Byers sold you out?”

“Yeah. It was for the best, I guess,” she admitted. “I don’t know what would have happened if we’d gone through with that plan.” She cast a look in the other kids’ direction. Billy tilted his head to one side in question but she shook her head. “Like you said: Will told his mom. We didn’t end up going to the lab on our own,” she explained and Billy could feel his heart tighten at the thought.

Yeah, the kids were annoying and he didn’t know them all that well but he really didn’t like the idea of them in the situation that he and Harrington had barely survived. Molotov cocktails or no, they would have been fucked.

“Sounds like a stupid plan,” he observed, trying to sound casual when that shit was anything but. “You’d have all been torn apart.” Max made a sour face and took a step away from him.

“Look, we we’re just trying to help!” she snapped, her tone not as angry as he knew it could be. “Remember that we’ve dealt with things like these before!”

“Those dog things were how big again?” he asked pointedly.

“Shut up, Billy,” she snipped, folding her arms over her chest defensively. Billy grinned. Little brat. At least she was alive; at least she was able to still be a brat about shit.

“Any news on El?” he asked after a short lull between them. Max’s face shifted, her brow creasing with worry. Her eyes flicked over to the house.

“Hopper carried her inside as soon as he pulled up. I think she was awake but...” her voice trailed off. It seemed like the kids were waiting outside for a reason.

“Right…” Billy breathed, stomach dipping at the insinuation. How long was had El been in there with those things? As strong as he knew her to be, two Remorhazes had almost been the end of him and Harrington. From the shit he’d seen chasing them out, there must have been at least a hundred of the things. That was another thought to keep him up at night. “Well… let’s see what the others have to say for themselves,” he finished, moving away from the little red-head. Max gave him a nod and turned to re-join her friends.

Harrington had already made his way over to Henderson and Sinclair who had been standing awkwardly in the clearing between all the cars. They appeared to all be laughing together albeit with that slight nervous tension in the air. Max scampered up to Sinclair’s side and boldly linked arms with him. Apparently, that wasn’t a thing she was going to hide from him anymore. Fair enough. He was done being Neil’s mouthpiece on that subject; especially now when his body felt so close to dropping from exhaustion where he stood.

Laboriously, he moved to join the group, pulling the tatters of his leather jacket off as he walked. After a bona fide wrestling match with a monster, he knew there was no saving it. It was a shame, really. He’d bought it in this shitty, little pawn shop with Alex. They’d both had their eye on it but Billy had managed to save enough for it first, promising to share with the pouting blonde in exchange for special favours.

“I’m just saying that this Mr Clarke sounds a bit iffy,” Harrington was saying as Billy reached the group. “Billy, do you think a middle school teacher should be telling his students how to make a bottle bomb?”

“Like I told you, Steve, Mr Clarke is a sound guy. He was just helping us open our curiosity doors,” Henderson explained and everyone made a grimacing face.

“Yeah, that’s not fucking creepy at all, Henderson,” Billy rolled his eyes and Sinclair gave the curly-haired boy a smack on the arm.

“Idiot, you made Mr Clarke look ten times worse now!” he squawked as the other boy dramatically rubbed at where he’d been hit. God they were hard work.

“It’s what he calls it! There’s nothing ‘creepy’ about it!” Henderson exclaimed, wildly swinging his backpack in retaliation. Unfortunately for him, Sinclair was ready and took a step back, forcing Max into the path of the backpack’s swing. It smacked her in the face with a small ‘oof’ from her and everyone froze and looked at Billy. “Oh… Billy, I’m so sorry-” he started but was cut off as Max lashed out, punching him hard in the arm.

Billy rolled his eyes and took a couple of steps forward, snatching the backpack away from the lispy dweeb.

“Yeah, you’re done with this damn thing,” he snipped as he slung it over his shoulder.

“Hey-!” Henderson tried to protest but Harrington clapped him on the back.

“Give it a rest, Dustin. You’ll get it back,” he said, his voice tired but so obviously fond it almost pissed Billy off. Almost. As he looked over at the other boy, he realised that he could probably get away with just about anything right now. Unconsciously, he drew his lower lip into his mouth. Goddamn, he could still taste him. That was fucking amazing and terrifying in itself.

The door to the Byers’ house opened and Nancy stepped out into the night. She looked at the rag-tag group assembled there with a serious expression.

“It’s... probably not a good idea... being outside,” she said in a voice that sounded nervous to even be suggesting it.

Still holding onto Henderson’s bag, Billy was the first to move, apparently unable to not do what Nancy told him to. On reflection, it was no wonder Harrington had gotten it in his head that he was into her. Without anything even remotely sexual between them, he was still totally whipped and didn’t give a shit.

The others followed Billy in, all dropping down in the lounge with an air of exhaustion lingering around them. Max slung her legs over Sinclair’s lap and Billy had to look away not to have an opinion.

“How are they?” Henderson asked, his voice sounding totally different from how it had done outside. Apparently, this was his ‘serious’ voice.

Nancy, who looked like she had been about to disappear back into the rest of the house, turned back to face the curly-haired boy.

“Mike’s freaked out but okay. El... she’s...” Nancy frowned as she struggled to find the words. Billy’s guts churned at that. He half-stepped towards Nancy, wanting to help, but then stopped himself. What the hell could he do?

“Is she awake?” he asked lamely and Nancy gave a small nod.

“Yeah, just exhausted. She’s not saying much,” she replied as if that wasn’t normal for El. Billy clenched his fists, savouring the dull ache in his right wrist from where he’d fired her pistol.

Before they could speculate further, Byers shuffled into the room with a tray of mugs and the scent of hot cocoa.

“Yes, Jonathan!” Henderson exclaimed and suddenly he was back to that stupid, childish voice from outside. Apparently, a mug of cocoa was all it took for him to shrug off the seriousness of the situation.

All of the kids’ eyes all seemed to light up as Byers handed the mugs out. Little Byers also came out of the kitchen area, holding two mugs out to Billy and Harrington. Theirs were filled with coffee and, once he’d tossed Henderson’s backpack behind the couch, Billy breathed it in.

As the kids descended into chatter about the night’s events, Billy found himself thinking about his experience of it all. Monsters and near-death experiences aside, all he could really think about was that goddamn kiss. Steve fucking Harrington had kissed him. Sure, it had been in the heat of the moment -just after killing two fucking giant-ass monsters- but it wasn’t like a quick kiss. It wasn’t like the older boy had quickly jumped back and realised what he’d been doing. If anything, Harrington had pushed for more; had crushed Billy against the wall and devoured him.

His grip on the mug tightened at the very thought of it. Goddamn, it had been so fucking hot. Even now, Billy’s whole body felt warm and fuzzy. Taking a sip of the slightly-too-weak coffee, Billy chanced a glance over in Harrington’s direction. The other boy looked a little out of it; his pretty eyes staring off into the middle-distance in that way that always worried Billy. He was probably going over the night in his own head too.

The small crease between his brows wasn’t massively encouraging. Shit.  Taking a big gulp of his drink, Billy tried not to freak. He’d been feeling that fucking tension in the air between them for so long -always assuming it was leading to violence- but now here they were. Maybe Harrington had gotten carried away? The look on his face now wasn’t the look of a guy who was smugly thinking about how good it had felt to kiss his old enemy.

A shudder of anxiety ran through him. Had it been a mistake? Not just for Harrington but for Billy himself? Despite himself, he could hear Neil’s words in his head once again. ‘...I’ll kill you both’. They’d survived the Remorhaz -they’d survived The Nest- but Neil was a different kettle of fish. He was a different kind of monster altogether.

“I’m gunna go get a smoke,” Billy huffed, setting his mug down on the small coffee table and heading for the door. He needed air. He needed to think. He needed to get away from Harrington and that distant look of doubt. Jesus.

No one really reacted as he left the room. Quickly retrieving his smokes from the glove compartment in the Camaro, Billy sat down on the step leading onto the porch. His hands shaking, he fumbled with his zippo, cursing to himself under his breath as he repeatedly failed to light the damned thing. Goddamn. This was too fucking much. Mistake or not, it had only been a kiss. Finally managing to light up, he took a long drag from his smoke, breathing in deep and closing his eyes.

That kiss though. His lips tingled at the memory of their dance with Harrington’s. His tongue swept over his lower lip to taste at the ghost of their forbidden meeting. How long had it been? When did he last savour the taste of someone like this? Alex had died at the start of July and any kisses he’d had since then hadn’t been the type you held on to. Goddamn, ten months wasn’t long enough to turn him into such a fucking sap. He needed to snap out  of it so that he could face the inevitable bullshit that would come when he actually spoke to Harrington.

As if on cue, the Byers' door opened and Billy didn’t have to turn to know that it was Harrington who’d followed him out. Wordlessly, he fished out another cigarette and held it out for the other boy to take. Sighing deeply, Harrington lowered himself down to sit beside Billy, plucking the smoke from his hand as he did. Not wanting to be the first to break the silence, Billy took another drag, tossing his lighter  to the older boy.

“Thanks,” Harrington said, his voice an awkward half-whisper.

They sat and smoked in a silence so different from that time by Harrington’s pool. The brunette had sat close enough that the outside of their thighs were touching and Billy’s fucking stupid brain couldn’t help but fixate of how fucking warm and there he felt. Goddamn, it this was gunna be a let-down then it was gunna suck.

“So...” Harrington exhaled as he stubbed out the last of his cigarette. Billy had crushed his beneath his boot a while back. He couldn’t look at the brunette; he still wasn’t ready. Not for this shit. Like Neil always used to say: he was too fucking soft. “...I guess we’ve both saved the other’s ass from one of those things,” the other boy said, his tone sounding like he’d changed his mind. Huh. It seemed Harrington was just as soft. “Seriously... if you’d told me six months ago that Billy Hargrove would literally save my life from a monster from the Upside Down, I would’ve thought you were mad.”

“Same, Harrington,” Billy had to agree. Six months ago he was still in that goddamn wrist support and still so pissed at that impotent feeling Max and the nail-bat had left him with. The simple act of seeing Harrington had wound him up back then. Now it was a whole different ball game. Now he was wound up in a different way; infinitely more dangerous and stupid.

“I guess we’re even now,” Harrington sighed, shifting a little. There was something in his voice -a little hint of sadness- that made Billy turn to look at him. Like he had been, the older boy was looking off at the cars as if it was them he was speaking to.

“I didn’t save you because I owed you, Harrington,” he said, nudging his elbow into the other boy’s arm. Harrington turned and their eyes met. Shit. It was too real again. Looking into those dark pools as they glinted in the starlight, Billy could feel himself being drawn back in. God no. He couldn’t risk that. “Besides,” he smirked, shifting where he sat so that he could face the other boy. Their knees stayed touching and it wasn’t not on purpose. “We’re still not even. You saved me again from the spear, right?”

The question hung between them for a moment. Goddamn. It hadn’t meant to be a loaded thing.

“Yeah...” Harrington sighed and turned his gaze back to the cars. Shit. Billy felt totally out of his depth. Were they supposed to be talking about the kiss? Were they supposed to be pretending it didn’t happen? Were they supposed to be having a fight? All the possibilities sounded horrible right now.

“How’d you know about it?” he asked, grasping onto anything that could delay the inevitable. His body was tired. He didn’t want to fight again tonight; especially not Harrington. Not after that.

“The spear?” Harrington asked shortly as if his mind was drifting somewhere else. Shit, shit, shit.

“Yeah, man. You seemed to know the Remorhaz was gunna shoot that thing at me before it actually did,” Billy elaborated, his voice on autopilot. Anything to fill the silence. “What’s up with that?”

“I don’t know what you-?”

“The only one of those bastards I’ve seen shooting spears out of their asses was the one that was chasing Nancy and Jon that first night,” Billy pushed. Finally, Harrington turned back to face him again. His face was a picture of confusion: one eyebrow raised and eyes glinting.

"Except for that big one at the front of the lab, literally every one of those things we’ve taken out has fired off a spear at the end?” the older boy sounded fucking baffled. Now it was Billy’s turn. The hell did that mean? Every Remorhaz had shot out a spear at the end? That was news to him.

“They-? What?” he heard himself stammering like an idiot. Harrington stared at him for a moment as if trying to figured out if he was bullshitting or not.

“I guess you were a little busy when that first one fired off,” he finally shrugged. Busy? “Being squashed under its body and all...” he continued as if he knew Billy’s thoughts. As if El wasn’t the only psychic in Hawkins. “But didn’t you notice the one you took down in the lab? The spear damn near hit me!” he finished, his voice still tinged with disbelief.

Billy felt fucking stupid. Like the first time he’d faced down a Remorhaz and he’d not clocked the tail. How the fuck had he gotten away with being so goddamn unobservant? By all rights, that kinda shit should have gotten him killed.

“Right,” Harrington sighed, standing like they’d agreed to something. “Come with me,” he said offering Billy his hand to help him up.

Goddamn. Billy wanted to take it. He wanted to drag him back down and get back to what they’d started back in that smashed up room. But now wasn’t the fucking time. Now they were back into Upside Down mode and all kissing and feelings didn’t matter.

Leaving the other boy’s hand, Billy got up. Harrington nodded shortly, fingers clenching around nothing as he pulled his arm back and started off at a march. Obediently, Billy followed him round to the back of the Byers’ house. The yard was just a plain patch of grass with a rickety, old shed at the edge of the trees. Harrington crossed the lawn and pulled the door open as if this was his home, not Byers’.

Stomach clenching, Billy followed him still. The thought of following Harrington into such a sectioned-off, private place made him feel fucking stupid again. Frowning at his inability to focus on the here and now, Billy held position in the doorway, propping the door open like some chicken-shit doorstop. Harrington had turned on the dim light but the shed remained gloomy. Various garden tools crowded the space and Billy was certain that too much time even in the doorway of this place would result in him getting tetanus.

“Yeah, Jonathan said they’d brought it here...” Harrington muttered to himself as he reached the far side of the shed. The tools there were long and thin, like a set of stakes for supporting tree growth or some shit.

When the brunette turned around, however, it was clear that those things were not stakes at all.

“Shit,” Billy breathed at the sight of three Remorhaz spears.

“This one must be the one I pulled out of you,” Harrington explained, holding out one that had a nasty red tinge to it. Was that his blood? The sight of it gave him the heebie-jeebies. Fucking gross. “And these are the ones from the two in the woods near Teeny’s place. Not sure which is from our one but...”

The dark-eyed boy shrugged as Billy moved closer, eyes fixed on the one that had dragged him into all of this shit. A distant memory of pain in his shoulder reminded him of how it had felt. How much it had fucking hurt to drive while pinned to the Camaro. How Harrington had practically had to climb into his lap to pull it out of him. How the other boy had pinned him to the floor in Byers’ lounge to burn whatever that black smoke had been out of the wound. Goddamn. He hadn’t stood a chance, had he? The world had seemed to be mashing them together from the very start of this bullshit.

“Why’d they keep ‘em?” he asked because, goddamn, it was too quiet. Harrington turned and set them back where he’d got them.

“Think Hopper was going to study them or something? I’m not sure...” he shrugged as he turned back to face Billy.

Billy nodded numbly. He’d run out of shit to say; run out of fucking questions. His mind was still circling the kiss. His eyes were still drawn back down to look at the other boy’s lips. Goddamn, he was totally gone. They both stood in a tense silence as the static started to build back up again. Their breaths were the only sound.

“We gunna talk about it now?” Harrington finally broke the silence, his voice barely above a whisper. Billy blinked himself into the moment. How goddamn long had he been staring at the other boy’s mouth like that?

“Suppose so...” he shrugged, heart pounding in his chest. Harrington ran a hand through his hair and Billy could practically feel it sliding between his fingers now. God, he wanted to touch. “Probably should...” Billy added stupidly. Goddamn. What the hell was there to say? The ball was totally in Harrington’s court right now; there was no way Billy was suddenly going to announce his creepy obsession with him. Not when it felt so obvious that Harrington was regretting it. Shit.

“Yeah...” Harrington nodded, taking a half-step closer. His dark eyes flicked downwards and his lips parted. “Or...” his voice trailed off and Billy’s heart skipped a beat.

Or?” he asked. The static between them felt like a thunderstorm now; lighting crackling and making everything feel so fucking close.

“Or we could not talk?” the older boy suggested, a wry smile playing on his lips, and Billy’s breath caught.

In an instant, they were on each other. It wasn’t clear who started it but, all of a sudden, they were crashing together with desperate, open-mouthed kisses. Harrington crowded forwards against Billy, forcing him back several steps until he was backed up against a creaky workbench. Groaning obscenely, Billy fisted big handfuls of the other boy’s hair, wantonly pulling him closer. Goddamn, it felt so good.

Harrington gasped as he took hold of Billy’s vest, pulling at the stained fabric like he didn’t know what to do with himself. Jesus it was so hot. Billy’s body was alight almost instantly, his cock swelling up uncomfortably in his leather pants; the pants that Harrington had described as sexy. Goddamn.

The older boy pushed forwards even more, a strong thigh slipping between Billy’s. The sudden pressure -the sudden friction- against his dick was so good. A hard, meaningful grind from the other boy’s hips was all the proof Billy needed that he was into it too; that this was fucking with Harrington just as much as it was him. As plain as day, he could feel the other boy’s hardness against his thigh. It practically burned against him with all its solid weight. Jesus fucking Christ.

Billy tore his mouth away from Harrington’s and fucking moaned. He sounded so fucked up and raw and all they’d fucking done was kiss. It was moving too fast; Billy was going to lose it. Too much of this shit and he’d be on his knees in front of Steve fucking Harrington in the Byers’ fucking shed.

Harrington dipped his head like he was going to claim Billy’s mouth again but, with his body and his cock screaming at him not to, Billy dodged his head back. Big, brown eyes opened up and looked at him in a mixture of arousal, confusion and the slightest tinge of hurt. Shit, not again.

“I-” Billy panted through his tingling, kiss-swollen lips. “We should-” Goddamn. He sounded like a fucking idiot. Harrington took a step back away almost drawing a whine from Billy at the loss of that fucking pressure.

“Yeah- Uh-” the other boy breathed just as eloquently. As he took another step back, Billy couldn’t stop himself from looking down. A small hum rumbled out of him at the obvious hard-on that Harrington was sporting. God-fucking-damn, he was hung. Billy could feel his mouth practically watering at the sight of it.

“Fuck...” he gasped, shaking his head and looking away. “We shouldn’t... I think we need to-” God, he really couldn’t string a cohesive thought together. What the hell was wrong with him? He’d fucking kissed people before. This was getting pathetic.

“Billy-”

“Look- It’s like you said earlier.... Six months ago -no- six fucking weeks ago we couldn’t stand each other, right?” Billy managed, ignoring the painful throb between his legs. Harrington blinked, Billy’s words seeming to get through to him, albeit only slightly.

“Yeah,” he exhaled his agreement.

“This- This is a lot,” Billy pressed on, his voice ragged and desperate and still fucking wanting. “You’ve gotta, you know, think about it.” The other boy’s eyes had drifted down to his mouth again. God, they were so fucked. “Maybe see how you feel about sucking face with Billy Hargrove a little more than a couple of hours after almost dying, yeah?”

It sounded like a sensible thing to say. It sounded like the cautious thing to say. Steve Harrington was a fucking straight, preppy boy from Hawkins Indiana. He was the former King of his high school; a ladies’ man by all accounts. He was Nancy Wheeler’s ex-boyfriend; someone who he was still obsessed with. Making out with Billy Hargrove was more than out of character for him; it was fucking stupid.

“Do you need to think about it?” Harrington asked after a short pause. Billy blinked at him.

“Harrington-”

“Well?” he asked and Billy could feel a frown forming on his face. Goddamn. Even now, laying all his cards on the table seemed too fucking risky. “Because I’m just gunna say it, Billy: I have been thinking about it. Pretty damn hard actually.” Any thoughts of snarky comments were destroyed by the honesty of that statement. Harrington had been thinking about it? With Billy? When the fuck had that been happening? Billy shook his head. No. Surely not.

“Harrington-” he tried again but the other boy was stepping back into his space again.

“Billy...” he breathed, hands coming up to either side of his face.

With a gentle pull, he reconnected their broken kiss. This time it was softer. This time it was fucking tender and sweet. Billy closed his eyes and felt something inside himself breaking. Harrington’s hands were warm, his lips were soft. He pressed Billy back against the workbench with a gentle force that Billy couldn’t help but go along with. Goddamn.

The sound of the back door opening snapped Billy back into the moment. With a small shove, Harrington was moving away again as Billy wiped his lips with the back of his hand.

“Just-” he hissed, voice desperate and pathetic. “Just think about it, Harrington!” he repeated because –goddamn- he had no idea what else to say.

Heart pounding and cock screaming at him to go back, Billy rushed out into the open air, hand still covering his mouth. The cold was grounding; he let it embrace him, suddenly glad that his jacket was gone.

“Billy! Is Steve with you?” Joyce asked from the back porch. Her voice was worried and Billy couldn’t tell if it was because Harrington was in danger from him or a Remorhaz. Breaths still coming short and shallow, Billy nodded.

“Yeah. He was just showing me-” Billy hesitated. Shit: ‘showing me his spear’ wasn’t just inaccurate, it was fucking stupid.

“Just filling Billy in about the tail-spears, Joyce,” Harrington’s voice came from behind him, sounding so much more composed and normal than Billy. Billy held firm, refusing to let himself turn to look at the other boy. Thanks to the night’s chill, his fucking boner was just starting to wilt; the last thing he needed to see was Harrington’s pretty mouth looking all red and kiss-swollen. It would fuck him up all over again.

“Well, get back inside boys,” the older woman said stiffly. “Hopper wants to talk to us.”

As she disappeared back into the house, Harrington made a move, elbowing Billy playfully as he passed him. Billy flinched, expecting something more but Harrington was already halfway towards the house. Jesus Christ.

By the time he and Harrington had reached the lounge, the others had all assembled with the exception of Little Wheeler and El. Subconsciously, Billy gnawed on his lower lip, almost certain that they could all tell what he’d been doing. Goddamn, if Max found out -if she said something to Neil again....

“We’re in over our heads,” Hopper was saying, his gruff voice sounding so fucking defeated that any bubbling feelings in Billy’s mind from making out with Steve Harrington died. “The Nest is- It's bad. Joyce and I are lucky to have gotten out of there.” The old man’s eyes fell on Max, Henderson and Sinclair. “I don’t know where you got those Molotovs, kids-” he started and Henderson looked about ready to chime in with more Mr Clarke bullshit. “-and I don’t want to know. The point is that you saved our asses. Thank you.” The three kids reacted in their own ways: Max scowled in that self-conscious way she always did when someone praised her; Sinclair scratched awkwardly behind his ear, a goofy grin on his face; and Henderson puffed out his chest like he was goddamn Superman or something.

“Yeah, thanks guys,” Harrington added, his arms folded over his chest. He was leaning against a wall, hunched over in a way that suggested, on some level, he was trying to hide the erection that, from Billy’s fucking risky glance, had actually already gone away.

“I think the best thing we can do now is go home. Get some rest and make sure we’re all in one piece,” Hopper continued. For once, there seemed to be no argument from anyone; no dissent or grumbling. Tonight had really fucked everyone up. “I’m gunna try and get a hold of Doc Owens; see if he can get his goons to sort this shit out.” Doc Owens? Another blank that Billy would need filling in later.

They all remained silent for a little too long after that. Each person’s face had the shadow of the night’s events written into their expression; Harrington included. After a few minutes, Hopper sighed and retreated back into the back of the house, supposedly to check on El. Max got to her feet and moved to stand in front of Billy.

“Can we go home?” she asked in a voice that made her sound so much younger than she was. Billy looked down at her and gave a short nod. The time on the wall clock was past two; getting up for school tomorrow was going to be a nightmare.

Shooting Harrington a look, Billy nodded his farewell. It felt a little impotent, leaving the Upside Down shit like this, but, right now, all he wanted to do was sleep. Even showering off the blood and dust and shit of the night wasn’t a priority.

He and Max drove home in an exhausted silence, neither able to even attempt a conversation. By the time they’d reached the Hargrove house, Max’s head was lolling to one side, her eyes closed. Being as quiet and careful as he could, Billy climbed out of the Camaro and opened the passenger side for her. When she still didn’t stir, Billy leaned in, unbuckled her seatbelt, and lifted her up. Despite her rapidly increasing height, she weighed barely anything; especially compared to the Remorhaz from earlier. Goddamn, she must have been tired.

Heartrate increasing just a little, Billy carried her into the house, hoping against hope that Neil hadn’t waited up for him again. When he had placed her down on her bed, he breathed a sigh of relief. He had told Susan that they’d be staying at whatever friend he’d made up’s house; Neil had probably not seen the need to wait up for him.

Once he was safely in his own room, Billy turned the lock. Consequences be damned; he did not need to wake up to Neil on his bed again. That had been the worst. He quickly stripped off his ruined clothes, dumping them straight in the trash where they belonged. Now that he was free of them, he could feel the dull ache in his nether regions. Fuck, he’d really been sending mixed messaged down there tonight. If he hadn’t been quite so shattered, there would be an intense session with his hand and his memories of Harrington’s everything when they’d been going at it. As it was, all he could bring himself to do was pull on a t-shirt and some boxers before he flopped on the bed. Goddamn... what a night.

Chapter Text

Heavy rain battered the windows as Billy awoke to an even louder thumping on his door. Neil. Even in his sleep-addled state, he knew it was him. He’d known that locking the damned door last night would lead to trouble but, in his exhaustion, he just hadn’t cared. Now he’d have to face the consequences.

Forcing his aching body to rise up from the bed, he moved over to the door. His hand hesitated over the lock for just a moment before he opened it. The pounding stopped the instant the lock made its tell-tale clicking sound. Billy held his breath and pulled the door open; Neil’s tight fists the first thing he laid eyes on.

“Morning dad,” he tried to act the innocent, knowing it wasn’t a good idea. His eyes travelled up to meet his old man’s and he could see the steely coldness there. Yep. He was screwed. Neil took a step closer to him, invading his space, daring him to move away. Stupidly, Billy held position, chin tilting up a little to save face.

“Where were you last night?” was the cold question. Billy’s mind retraced the previous night’s lie for Susan. Who the hell had he said he was babysitting? Lucy? Yeah, he’d almost said Sinclair’s name and had had to change tack on the fly.

“Max’s little friend Lucy’s place. Her mom had to go out of town to-”

“And you took your sister with you?” Neil interrupted; the irritation so evident in every part of him.

Billy could feel the tension in the other man; he could feel the want. So different from the want he’d felt when he was pressed up against that workbench last night; this was the want to hurt, the want to cause pain. Sadly, Billy knew that want all too well, himself - had only just stopped feeling it on the daily. After all, how much hurt had he wanted to cause after Alex had died? When they moved out here to Hickville, Indiana? How much hurt had he wanted to cause last night when the Remorhaz had Steve pinned to the ground?

Steve.... Since when..?

The sharp slap to the face brought Billy crashing back into the moment. Shit. He’d taken too long to reply. Any fucking excuse. It could be worse. Billy gritted his teeth just in case.

“You put Susan in a very uncomfortable position last night, Billy,” Neil growled, jabbing a finger into Billy’s stinging face. “Stealing away into the night with your fourteen-year-old sister, not coming back until the early morning; it doesn’t look very good, does it now?” the old man continued with a tone that turned Billy’s stomach.

“I-” he breathed but Neil was having none of it.

“We both know you’re a pervert, Billy, but I would have thought there were lines even a dirty queer like you wouldn’t cross,” he continued, stabbing his finger at Billy’s collar. Shit.

This was new. Neil was always one for using Billy as a caregiver for Max; expecting him to be the taxi and live-in babysitter. Why was he now making it all feel so fucking dirty? His implication was so plain, so disgusting, Billy wanted to retch.

“I wouldn’t-”

“You won’t,” Neil concluded firmly. “If I hear you’ve been putting your filthy hands on her, you’re dead. Do you hear me?” his voice was lowered. If anyone had been listening in, they would have missed it. That one was just for him. Fucking hell.

“Yes sir,” Billy forced it out and Neil nodded his victory.

The older man took a step back and his spiteful eyes flashed up and down Billy; taking him in like he was an animal at auction. His nose crinkled with a look of absolute disgust.

“You fucking stink. Get yourself cleaned up before you come anywhere near my family,” he snarled and, with that, he turned and stormed off down the corridor. Ouch. It wasn’t the first time Neil had referred to Max and Susan as ‘his family’ but it still smarted every time. Especially now. Like Billy just wasn’t a part of it. Like he was a pervert; a risk to the others.

Billy felt a hollowness inside him as he rushed into the bathroom. His head was hurting and his stomach felt all twisted and gross. He reached into the shower and turned it on, hands trembling with the strange feeling inside. As he waited for the water to heat up, he paced back and forth. Fuck.

Neil didn’t actually think he’d do anything to Max did he? Was the term ‘faggot’ now just a catch-all for any kind of perversion? Catch your son with another guy’s dick in his mouth one time and anything’s fucking possible? Billy leaned over the sink, hands gripping onto the porcelain with a force that spread a grounding ache up his arms. His wrist hurt again and he tried to focus on that.

Billy closed his eyes and pushed off the sink. Stripping off his clothes, he stepped into the spray of the shower and grunted at the slightly-too-high temperature that the previous user had left it on. Body already adapting, Billy reached for the soap, lathering it up between his hands and scrubbing away at the grime that seemed to have sunk right into his skin. Hissing slightly, he used his nails to scratch away the worst parts, leaving his skin raw and pink.

Once he was finally rid of it all, once the water was running clear again, he looked down at his reddened palms. There was a disturbing number of cuts and scratches there, supposedly from when he’d tackled the Remorhaz off of Steve, the worst of which being a particularly deep gash running from the base of his ring finger right down to the top of wrist on his left hand. He winced as he poked at the edge of it. Shit, how had he not noticed that? The shower had apparently opened it back up and Billy watched as fresh, red blood, seeped from within.

Wrapping a towel around himself, he hurried back into his room and retrieved the kit that he had stashed for times when Neil went too far. Stifling any pained noises that threatened to come out of his mouth, he cleaned it up with the hydrogen peroxide and then wrapped it up, making sure to cover up his knuckles so that it could look like something he’d have gotten in a fight. Tommy was bound to comment and he just couldn’t be bothered to think of an excuse for him.

Once that was done, he got himself dressed, wincing again in the mirror when he saw the state of his chin. While he’d been wrong last night in his assumption that it’d need stitches, the cut was pretty gnarly looking. As he teased his hair into as close to perfection as he could managed with one busted hand, he hoped against hope that it wouldn’t scar. Didn’t fancy any more war wounds. The shoulder was bad enough.

In the end he took too long getting ready to have much of anything for breakfast. Neil snarled something about tarting-up like a ‘fucking faggot’ but Billy shrugged it off as he snatched the toast straight from the toaster and made his way outside. Holding his denim jacket over his head as a make-shift umbrella, he made a dash for the car.

Max was already waiting in the Camaro, her dripping skateboard nestled between her knees and dark circles under her eyes. Getting into the car, Billy could barely bring himself to look at her. Goddamn Neil. He took hold of the wheel and closed his eyes to the sting in his left palm. Fuck. That was going to take a while to heal up if he kept using it.

“I can’t believe we’re just going to school,” the red-head sighed as Billy pulled away from the house. He’d been just about to reach for the radio but, apparently, they were talking about monsters today.

“Gotta do something, I suppose,” he forced himself to shrug even though it did seem pretty messed up. This Upside Down shit ought to be kept to weekends only. Even without the aches and pains from his tango with the Remorhaz, he just felt exhausted. It was too much.

“Well, shouldn’t it be something to help stop them?” she asked, shaking her head in frustration. “Shouldn’t we all be meeting up to find a way to kill them? I doubt the fire’s still going. They’re going to come looking for us,” she continued, her voice full of fear.

“You don’t know that,” Billy said, forcing the calm in his voice. “I doubt they’re sophisticated enough to-” he started, unsure if he believed the bullshit even as he tried to spread it.

“The Mind Flayer was smart, Billy!” she protested. “It was able to hide that it was inside Will for a long time. I bet these guys are able to remember who tried to set them on fire.”

Billy shuddered at that thought. The Remorhaz that he’d fought with Nancy, hadn’t it been right there when he and Steve had gone on their first monster hunt together? Had it been looking for him? Shit. Maybe that was why the one outside the lab didn’t fire off a spear. Could that have been the first one he’d seen in the road? It had attacked Nancy, out of all of them. Had that one been looking for her? Wanting to finish her off?

He shook his head to himself. That was too big a leap. After all, even if Steve insisted that they all fired those spears when they died, Billy had only seen one do it.  And, God, thank you for doing it, the pathetic thought ran through his mind. That tail spear had been the reason Steve had pressed him into that wall. That tail spear had been the reason they’d kissed. Fucking hell.

“There’s lots of shit between the school and the lab,” Billy tried to reason, pushing down those memories for another time. He was not going to get himself all hot and bothered with Max around; especially not when Neil’s accusation was still twisting around in his head, making him feel like a different kind of monster altogether. “We’ll know if shit’s going down.” As if that was the important thing. As if being ready and aware was what Max was worrying about.

“What if they hurt someone?” Max asked and, yeah, that was the important shit. While Billy didn’t care for Hawkins -hell, he hated this place- he didn’t wanna see the innocent shlubs, that were more than likely stuck living here, get torn to pieces.

“Hopper’s calling that guy, right? Surely, they’ll stop that from happening,” Billy tried, unsure of who Doc Owens even was. The way the chief had said it, however, had suggested he was the one to call. Shit. There was still so much that he didn’t understand.

“When have those guys ever stopped someone from getting hurt? Owens was there when Bob died. He’s useless,” Max countered and Billy couldn’t argue with that. Who the hell was Bob? Now more than ever, he felt like he’d barely scraped the surface of this monster shit. There was already so much history that he’d missed out on; so much shit, that even Max had experienced, that he just didn’t know.

They pulled up at the Middle School with no clear conclusion. Billy shot his sister a glance but even that felt slightly dirty now. Tightening his jaw, he pushed that icky feeling down. Goddamn, he hoped it would pass. Things were just starting to feel okay with her again.

“Got basketball practice after school but, after that, it’ll probably be best to get straight back, yeah?” he coughed, looking back at the road. By now, he knew she’d understand. At the very least, she must have heard the banging on his door this morning. She must know the thin line he was walking right now.

“Yeah. I’ll get Lucas to help me with my History essay in the library. Be out by quarter to?” she said and there it was: the understanding. Good girl.

Still not looking at her, he gave a short nod and, after a beat, he heard the door open and close; the force and rage all gone from the red-head. A small smile played on his lips as he pulled away from the curb. A hidden bonus of getting Max back on side: the Camaro wasn’t being treated like a punching bag anymore.

He was the last to arrive out of the usual foursome. Nancy and Byers were cuddled up together under a large umbrella and Steve was standing slightly apart from them holding one of his own. Despite the foul weather, there were all waiting out in the space next to Byers’ car, rudely blocking it so that no one but Billy could park there. Even as he pulled into the spot, Billy’s eyes were drawn over to Steve. He was wearing light jeans today that fucking hugged his ass as he stepped up onto the sidewalk. Goddamn. Billy was a mess and first period hadn’t even begun.

As he climbed out of the Camaro, he could see Steve’s hand running through his hair. It was subtly different now; not anxious and worried but confident. Like he was a fucking peacock fanning out its feathers. Even with all the small grazes and cuts on his face, Steve fucking Harrington still looked amazing. No peacocking fucking required. Billy fought the smile that wanted to burst onto his lips; this wasn’t the time to be grinning like an idiot.

“Billy,” Nancy smiled as he joined them. Stepping out from under the protection of The umbrella, she wrapped her arms around his shoulders and pulled him into a warm hug that he couldn’t resist leaning into. “Thank you for last night,” she breathed, holding him close for a beat longer than maybe was necessary.

Drawing back, Billy shook his head, hands resting on her elbows so that she didn’t think he was pushing her away. The cut on his palm stung again but he knew he was going to have to just deal.

“Thank you, Nancy. You showed my girl a good time,” he grinned, head tilting back in the direction of the Camaro.

“I mean it,” she said, her big blues locked onto him. “Thank you.” They were still standing there, getting pissed on by the clouds, but she didn’t seem to mind at all. This was more important.

“It was nothing,” Billy repeated what he’d said last night. If it helped her, it was nothing. Nancy bowed her head with a small blush rising to her cheeks, her hands squeezing at his shoulders before she stepped back out of his space. Her hands ran down his arms and halted at his, both moving to cover the bandages.

“Is this from..?” she started, sounding unsure. Her eyes flicked over in Byers’ direction and Billy knew she was questioning which monster had hurt him; which world had left its mark on him now?

“Don’t worry, Nance. Got ‘em on our little outing,” he forced a smile. Yeah, Neil had been a prick that morning but Nancy didn’t need to worry about that. “I guess I just can’t keep my hands to myself when it comes to those bad boys!” he laughed, trying to make it feel light. He could feel the tingle of Steve’s gaze on him.

“He saved me,” Steve chimed in, his voice far more serious than Billy’s had been. “A Remorhaz smashed me through a wall and had me on the ground. I thought I was a goner but... Billy fought it off with his bare hands.” His voice was too loud, they were in too public a place. Billy felt himself stiffen but Nancy still smiled.

“Sounds about right,” she smiled, her hands soft and gentle. Goddamn, if he was going to fall for a girl it would so easily be her. No wonder Steve and Byers were so devoted. Although... was Steve still devoted? ‘I have been thinking about it’; wasn’t that what he’d said? How long had Steve been thinking about ‘it’ with Billy?

When he and Nancy properly separated, the first bell rang out. Goddamn, they were running late today. Nancy’s eyes widened as she gripped the strap of her bag. She started wittering anxiously about being late for class even as they all started in the direction of the building. Byers chuckled and put a comforting hand on her lower back as they walked.

Billy fell in step with Steve, walking close enough to share in the shelter the other boy’s umbrella provided. It was goddamn pathetic how aware he was that their arms brushed with every other step. Even so, a smile played on his lips at the small contact. Goddamn, Steve was everything. He felt fucking giddy just being near to him right now. It truly was pathetic -real desperate- and yet Billy couldn’t bring himself to care right now. Steve was smiling too. Neither of them commented until they reached the waypoint where they had to separate.

“See you at lunch,” Steve smiled and Billy couldn’t stop himself from smiling back.

“Yep,” he replied, at least being able to stop himself from saying anything too stupid.

---

The morning went by in a blur of assignments and fucking boring-ass lectures. For saying what was brewing up in that compound at the lab, school was still as fucking dull as ever. By the time he and Nancy plopped down next to one another in bio, he was pretty much done in. He spent that period dozing with a pen in his hand, his head resting on his arm in a position that just about looked like he was writing if you didn’t look too closely. Nancy’s elbow and quiet whisper let him know that it was time for lunch. She was a saint.

Nancy led the way for them to meet Steve and Byers somewhere Billy had never been before; the photography lab. In all honesty, he hadn’t even known that it was a thing but, apparently, it was and Byers had unlimited access. The new venue provided a level of privacy that was more critical now than ever before, given how tired they all were. The last thing they needed was Tommy and Carol fluttering around them like a pair of noisy seagulls. When they entered the red-lit room, Billy could see that Byers was sitting at one of the tables on a rickety old desk. Steve, however, was sitting on the ground; Steve with his back up against the concrete wall, his head lolling back like he was on the brink of falling asleep himself.

Desperate, needy, little bitch that he was, Billy felt himself pulled over to sit beside Steve, giving him a small nudge as he settled himself. Pretty eyes opening, Steve tilted his head to give Billy a genuine smile that, low-key, made his heart flutter. For fuck’s sake.

“Not long now, Steve,” Nancy chirped as she perched next to Byers on the only other stool in the room. For her, it was so fucking natural; no desperation or clinginess. She simply sat next to the person she wanted to.

“Too long, Nance,” the brunette whined, closing his eyes again and pointedly putting his head back into position. “Why did all that have to happen on a school night?” he moaned and Billy couldn’t stop himself from chuckling.

“Upside Down needs to keep its shit for weekends and holidays,” Billy smirked, vocalising the inane shit that had been circling his mind all day. The others all laughed appreciatively, albeit only for a moment. Goddamn, they were too fucking tired to even laugh.

The conversation was very limited, none of them really able to fully grasp what the others were saying. Billy smiled as Nancy tried and failed to explain what they’d been doing in bio four times before she gave up. Hopefully there wouldn’t be a test on that one: neither of them were going to do well if there was.

“So, Coach grabbed me earlier,” Steve said after Billy had finished his smoke.

“Yeah?” he asked, leaning his head back against the wall again. There was about fifteen minutes until next period – he might be able to get another cat-nap in.

“He -er- said he wanted us to come help him with the-” Steve stammered and Billy brought his head back up. This wasn’t tired Steve forgetting what he was saying; this was Steve fucking lying. What’s more, it was Steve lying badly. Anyone with half a brain call would be able to tell he was making this shit up on the fly. “-with the nets. I said we’d go help him at one,” he finished and Billy didn’t need to look at the other boy’s watch to know that was probably the time. Was he for real?

“And you’re waiting until now to tell me, Harrington?” Billy asked, giving the other boy a hard time because he could. Steve gave him a loaded look and nodded his head.

“Because I forgot?” he said, punctuating each word with a nod. Nancy and Byers were looking now. Billy shook his head. Ridiculous boy.

“Should have told me sooner, Harrington. I’m busy now,” he grinned, leaning his head back again and closing his eyes. The other boy wasn’t done, jabbing his elbow in Billy’s side.

“Billy-!” he hissed and Billy smirked.

“Sorry Harrington. I’m sure you can handle it on your own!”

They bickered like that for the next fifteen minutes, eating away at the time that Steve had seemed to want to spend alone with Billy. It wasn’t that Billy was against being alone with the other boy -far from it- but it just felt too reckless; too dangerous. One: They were at school – literally anyone could find them and then it’d be end of days. Two: For all his talk of having thought about it, Billy couldn’t trust that Steve really knew what he was getting into. They really should have actually talked about that shit last night; not just doubled down on what could have been a big mistake.

Nancy and Byers seemed amused by their back and forth. If they had any suspicions, they were hiding them pretty damn well. By the time the bell rang, Steve was pretty much pouting and Billy knew he had the dumbest smile plastered on his face.

“Catch you at practice, Harrington!” Billy grinned as he headed off for next period.

---

While he didn’t see the older boy until they were on the court for basketball, Steve definitely played heavily on Billy’s mind for the rest of the afternoon. Trudy was downright gagging for attention all through econ but he could only muster up the bare minimum for her. Damn. This Steve shit was going to cost him dearly as far as grades were concerned.

By the time he’d changed and was standing facing the other boy, Billy was a total mess. There was a nervous, pumped-up energy thrumming through him that his sleep-deprived mind and body just couldn’t sustain. He felt antsy and tired all at once; possibly on the verge of some kind of hysteria. He’d just have to keep it in.

Returning to the norm, Billy was on the ‘skins’ team and Steve was ‘shirts’. It was definitely for the best as he just wouldn’t have been able to deal right now with a topless Steve running about the place. Although, running was probably not the right word. The rest of the boys on the opposing team quickly cottoned on to the fact that Steve was tired and a little off his game, avoiding passing to him like the plague. Thankfully, Billy was able to channel his mania into some kind of ability; annoyingly missing a couple of three-pointers that, by all rights, he shouldn’t have missed.

Coach kept both him and Steve back after practice finished. As he approached the older man, sweat dripped from Billy’s brow and ran down to sting at the cut on his chin. He wiped at it with the back of his good hand, flinching a little when that seemed to do more harm than good.

“What the hell was that out there, Harrington?” the coach started, waving his hands towards the court dramatically. Panting and clearly just done Steve leaned forwards and braced himself against his knees.

“Sorry Coach,” the brunette gasped, head hanging low.

“It’s like watching an eighty-year-old woman playing, Harrington!” the coach continued, his hands coming to rest on his hips. The look on his reddening face was one of disbelief. “And today’s not the first time. Not by a long shot!”

“Sorry Coach,” Steve said again and now he just sounded defeated. Billy couldn’t help but look over at the other boy. The sheer exhaustion there wasn’t just the result of last night; not by a long way. Steve hadn’t been sleeping right for a while, if Billy’s little sleepovers were anything to go by. From how he’d spoken that night by the pool, it had probably been bad ever since the first Remorhaz showed up; maybe even longer.

“Hargrove, you’re gunna act as captain leading up to the match against the Jayhawkes on the 14th. Give Harrington some time to recoup,” the red-faced man announced, turning his back on the older boy as if he was done with him. Billy gritted his teeth at that; Steve’s head simply hung down. He wasn’t even going to fight it. “You up to it, son?” Coach asked and Billy gave him a stiff nod.

“Yes sir,” he answered instinctively.

“You’re a hot-shot and a wise-ass but you’re the best we’ve got since Harrington’s been taking lessons from his grandma,” the older man continued. Steve was still just panting behind him; there was no fight left in him. He was just going to take it. “Just make sure you keep your hands to yourself when you’re on my court, you hear me?”

“Yes sir,” Billy repeated because Coach was one of those older men who liked to feel like they could order him around.

“Good. Now, both of you hit the showers,” Coach concluded turning his back on them without hesitation.

Steve was straightened up and off before the coach was even half way to his little office. Billy hesitantly followed the other boy, certain that the rest of the team would be gone by now. It really wasn’t a good idea for them to shower alone together right now. As he approached the lockers, Steve was already shirtless in front of his, rubbing a towel over his face.

“Hey, man, sorry about that,” Billy tried, crossing over to open his own locker. As giddy and needy as he’d been at lunch, now was not the time to be ogling the other boy.

“Don’t sweat it, man. I’ve not been good for a while now,” Steve sighed, pulled the towel off his face and turning to face him. “It’s actually kind of a relief. The others will probably listen more to you anyways.” There was a small shrug.

“Harrington-”

“Seriously!” Steve said, swinging his towel so that it rested on his shoulder. “I’m good. It’s one less thing I need to worry about.”

Billy regarded him for a moment. It was hard to tell whether or not he was fine. After all the shit with the Upside Down, he was used to being able to read the other boy better than this. It was kind of a testament to the fact that they’d only been one speaking terms for three or so weeks. It stung.

“Right,” Billy agreed, turning back to his locker.

He started to dig around for the bodywash that he knew was buried in there somewhere. Goddamn, he really needed to clear this thing out. Just as he laid hands on the half-empty bottle, he heard Steve shutting his locker.

“You free tonight?” the question seemed to echo through the empty locker room. Billy’s whole body froze. Well, that was a switch. He turned around to see that Steve was stepping round the bench that separated the two rows of lockers.

“What?” he asked, goosebumps prickling on his skin. With that one question, the tone had totally shifted. He could instantly feel the static building back up in the air. His pulse started to race with the mere anticipation of what could be.

“I-” Steve began as he halted half a step in front of Billy. Glancing down at his hand, Billy could see them clutching at the air; like they were desperate to hold. His mind went back to last night - back to how those hands had felt gripping onto his hips. Goddamn. That would be so fucking good. “I figured we should... talk...You know?” Steve continued, his eyes tracing the lines of Billy’s torso. Holy shit. He really wasn’t trying to hide it, was he? Had he always looked at him like this?

“Sorry, amigo, can’t swing it,” Billy sniffed stiffly. No way Neil would be cool with him heading out after yesterday. It was touch and go whether or not this practice would get him in the shit as it was.

“Oh,” the older boy sounded disappointed. He shifted where he stood, hands curling into fists, like he was amping up for something. “Yesterday, you- You told me to think but....” he stopped himself, shaking his head slightly. “Look. Cards on the table-”

“Is this really the place for this, Harrington?” he interrupted, perhaps a little too sharply. But -goddamn- this was still school. Anyone could come back in having forgotten their sneakers or books or anything. If they were going to talk about this in any real detail, it couldn’t be here.

“Well, seeing as how you ‘can’t swing’ hanging out tonight...” the brunette shrugged with the slightest quirk in the corner of his mouth. “Last night- It was-”

“It was what, Harrington?” Billy asked, unable to stop himself from advancing. It was magnetic, the need to be closer to the other boy. It was as if Steve had simply smashed all the barricades that Billy had spent so much fucking time and effort building up over the last few weeks. Steve took a side-step back, allowing Billy to crowd him against the locker. Now this Billy was more accustomed to. With Alex, he’d been the one in the driver’s seat; he’d been the one in control.

“I don’t know. ‘Really freaking hot’ springs to mind,” King Steve replied, eyes glinting with that sexy confidence that Billy so loved to see. Goddamn. It was almost too much. He wanted to move away again; the brief bubble of confidence bursting and leaving him full of doubt again.

“Harrington-”

“I’m just gunna put it out there, Billy. I’m in. Whatever this is: I’m in,” Steve said, taking hold of Billy’s bicep, holding him in the moment. Goddamn, even when Billy was supposedly ‘taking the lead’, Steve was right there to keep things going.

“You’re in?” Billy said dumbly. He couldn’t excuse that one away. Steve was in. He wanted this, whatever it was. Hot damn.

“Yeah,” Steve said firmly, his thumb slowly circling on Billy’s arm. Goddamn, it felt good. Billy was being a needy bitch again. “I don’t need to think about it anymore, Billy. Overthinking shit is how I ended up losing Nancy. I don’t wanna think any more. I just... need to know if you’re ‘in’ too.”

It sounded too good to be true. But, then again, everything up to this moment had felt that way too. After a few weeks of basically obsessing over the other boy, it was fucking incredible to think that Steve might have been thinking the same way. All those fucking games of chicken; had they messed with his head too? That time Steve had walked in on him in the shower; had that turned him on just as much as it had Billy? Goddamn. It was wild to even think about.

But, then again, was it? Steve being into Billy added a new dangerous dimension to life in Hawkins. Neil could smell perversion a fucking mile away. After all, hadn’t he somehow sensed that something had been off yesterday? Yeah, he’d been fucking wrong -so fucking wrong- about the ‘what’ but he’d definitely known that something had gone down. How long would Billy really be able to keep this shit from him? How long could he keep Steve safe from all that bullshit?

Steve tensed as if he’d heard Billy’s inner thoughts. Looking the other boy in the eye, he could see a growing doubt there. Shit. He’d taken too long to respond.

“Oh,” Steve breathed, misreading the silence. Shit. His hand dropped to his side and he looked a little like an animal ready to flee. “I should-”

“I’m in, Harrington,” Billy said quickly, not wanting to fuck this up any further.

It was stupid. It was so fucking stupid. Hawkins was not California. Nancy and Byers were not Ingrid and Jason. Fags and fag relationships weren’t gunna go down quite so ‘easily’ here; not that it had ever felt easy even back then.

The thing was, though: Billy wasn’t the same either. Until this very moment, he’d always seen that as a negative. He’d lost the softness, the simple joy that he’d once had. With Alex, back in California, he’d been soft. He’d been too weak to keep him safe; to keep them safe. The Billy that lived here in Hawkins was a different person. He was stronger. He fought his monsters head-on. Looking into Steve’s pretty eyes, he knew it: he could be strong enough. He could keep him safe.

Maybe, for once, he would be enough.

“Ah-! Yeah? Good,” Steve stammered, a grin spreading over his plush lips. Goddamn, Billy wanted to kiss him. He wanted to taste him again. “So... not tonight?” the other boy asked, scratching at the back of his head.

“Not tonight,” Billy repeated, disappointed. Revelations aside, there was still no point in poking the bear.

“Tomorrow?” Steve asked and suddenly his hand was back on Billy’s arm. Every time they touched, it felt like a small bristle of electricity. It was incredible and stupid and perfect. God, he was such a sap already.

“It’s up to Neil. Apparently, he okayed Max hanging with the nerds for their Friday night ‘game night’ at some point over the weekend. If that’s still on, she’ll need a ride,” Billy figured aloud. In all honesty, those plans were made before yesterday’s bullshit. Who knew if the nerds were even up for games at a time like this? In all honesty, he shouldn’t be thinking about potential hook-ups right now. It was still a miracle that all of Hawkins wasn’t swarmed with those things from the lab.

“Dustin’ll probably need one too,” Steve nodded along, seeming similarly focused on the wrong things. His eyes were back on Billy’s mouth and it was clear that they were going to sink back into the same shit from last night if they weren’t too careful. “We could probably go back to mine while they play their little games?”

“Well...” Billy said, moving back away to his locker despite himself. “We’ll have to wait and see then, won’t we?”

Chapter Text

On Friday morning, Billy woke early, keeping his shower short and sweet so he could use the extra time to wrap his busted hand back up. With a day between now and actually receiving the damned thing, the wound had closed up some. It already stung less when Billy cleansed it. He fumbled with the few buttons that he did do up on his shirt and, as they had been yesterday, his jeans were a fucking nightmare but he was able to put himself together pretty well.

As he prepped himself in the mirror, he could see that the cut on his chin looked better too. Goddamn. Over the last few years of getting cuts and scrapes from his various fights, it seemed like his body was finally learning to heal up quickly. Good. He winked at himself in the mirror, glad to see that the boy looking back at him wasn’t quite such a busted mess anymore.

---

School literally flew by that day, all lessons and interactions outside of those with Steve Harrington washing over Billy like water off a duck’s back. He wasn’t mentally there at all. Even when Nancy tried to fill him in about who ‘Doc Owens’ was supposed to be, Billy couldn’t keep his mind focused enough to take it in. Steve. Tonight, he and Steve were going to... Jesus, he didn’t even know. Talk? Make out some more? Fuck? Fight? Maybe some kind of messed up combination of all of the above? He really had no idea.

What’s more, Steve was being a living nightmare and wet dream all in one. Every opportunity he got, he’d be touching Billy. Whether it was a shoulder bump in the corridors, a playful elbow in his ribs when they were talking or just him sitting close enough for their bodies to be pressed against each other; Steve Harrington was all over Billy.

It was a confusing mix of wonderful and terrifying. On the one hand, it was Steve; Steve was touching him. The boy, who Billy had been fantasising about way too much, was touching him. A big part of Billy couldn’t actually believe his luck. How the hell, in Hawkins of all fucking places, he had managed to stumble across someone so fucking perfect, he had no idea.

But, on the other hand, they were at school. Tommy H and all the rest of the morons were literally everywhere. For saying how new Steve and Billy’s friendship was to the rest of their classmates, this was another huge development to an outsider. Time was, a shoulder check from one of them could have led to an all-out fight. Steve was being too open with his physicality and Billy wasn’t sure if he was strong enough to stop him.

But, somehow, he managed to navigate the day. Somehow, he made it through without dragging Steve away to some dark corner so that they could replicate Wednesday night’s fun. Somehow, he’d managed to get home without completely outing himself to all of Hawkins High. Goddamn, it had barely been two days since they’d kissed and Billy was already a hair’s-breadth away from looking like the biggest queer to have ever lived.

---

“Susan and I want the house to ourselves while you’re out tonight,” Neil’s voice jolted Billy back into the here and now. Carefully putting the plate he’d been washing onto the drying rack, Billy turned to face his father. “Don’t come back until Max needs bringing. Her curfew is ten.”

“Yes sir,” Billy agreed, locking that time in his memory. For Neil, that was pretty late; Max must have done some major negotiating. Not that he was complaining. More time having to be out of the house meant he could spend more time with Steve, whatever that time entailed.

Once clean-up was done with, he primped in his room the way that he would for a ‘date’ or a party. By the time he was finished, his hair was coiffed and styled to perfection and he’d forced his way into the tightest jeans he owned. Winking at himself in the mirror for the second time that day, he grinned. It felt good to look good. It felt good to feel good. How long had it been?

He ignored the pointed look Max gave him when they settled into the Camaro together. She was in her usual shlubby skater getup, hunched in the passenger seat like a little hobgoblin. She clearly didn’t care about getting dolled up for Sinclair. Billy’s mind went back to Nicole and her pretty hair. Max could look so much better. Then again, she was fourteen. It was probably for the best that she dressed like a dude. If I hear you’ve been putting your filthy hands on her, you’re dead.’ Neil’s words echoed in his head and he closed his eyes for a second. Shit. Not that again.

“Why’d you get all dressed up?” Max asked, seeming to miss Billy’s flinch. “Got a date?”

“Nah. Me and Harrington are gunna try and get into a bar a couple of towns over,” Billy lied, making a mental note to fill Steve in on his cover. Last thing he needed was Steve saying the wrong thing and Max getting suspicious.

“You and Steve?” she asked, raising an eyebrow.

“Yeah,” Billy shrugged as he turned a corner. He could sense Max staring at him. Shit.

“You two are friends now?” she pressed and Billy sighed.

“Yeah. Turns out he’s not so bad when he’s not stealing you away into the night,” Billy snipped and Max’s nose crinkled at the suggestion.

“You know it wasn’t like that,” she sniffed and Billy nodded.

“Yeah, now I do,” he shrugged. It was true.

Gross... Steve’s like...” she stammered, pausing as if searching for the words. “He’s like a mom... You should see the way he fusses over Dustin. There’s no way I’d like that,” she explained, the outrage clear in her voice. A smile played on Billy’s lips as he enjoyed the visual. Momma Steve, huh? He’d have to give the other boy shit about that later.

“Some folks are into that shit. There’s a reason I like Karen Wheeler so much,” Billy grinned with a wink. Max made a retching noise and he laughed.

“You’re so gross, Billy,” she said, her voice lacking the bite that it once had.

---

Steve was already at the Wheeler’s when Billy pulled up. He was leaning against the Bimmer, arms folded over his chest and Billy had to force himself not to grin at the very sight of him. Max was leaping from the car and racing up the path before he even had a chance to remind her of pick up time but he didn’t really care. With the full swagger of someone who had been ‘King’ of his high school, Steve approached the Camaro, coming up to tap of the driver’s window like he was a cop or something. Billy rolled it down and grinned out at him.

“Can I help you with something, Officer?” he smirked and Steve grinned back.

“Just checking you’re still up for tonight?” the older boy replied, leaning on the window sill in a full imitation of a cop now.

“Yeah, I’m up for it,” Billy winked and Steve chuckled, a small flush rising in his cheeks.

“Good to hear,” he replied, stepping away from the window. “Meet you there?”

“Beat you there, more like,” Billy grinned, revving the Camaro in a provocative manner. A glimmer shone in the other boy’s eyes for a second and the he was dashing back to his car. Goddamn, what a fucking dork. Billy waited until the Bimmer’s door was closed before he took off, tyres screeching as he pulled away from the curb.

In the end, Steve somehow beat Billy to his house. Billy’d be damned if he knew how but he assumed that the other boy was privy to short cuts that he had yet to learn. Well shit. Taking a deep breath, Billy climbed out of the Camaro. Clenching and unclenching his hands, he leaned back on the car, turning his gaze up to the front of the house.

After a stupidly over the top victory pose in front of Billy, Steve had already made his way up to the front door and was fiddling with the locks. There was a nervous energy to the other boy that Billy could sense even at their current distance. He knew he should find it hilarious -that Steve fucking Harrington was nervous about taking someone home- but, shit, if Billy didn’t have butterflies too. Holy shit. It was like they were middle schoolers or something. Pathetic.

Seeing that the other boy had finally gotten the door open, Billy pushed off the Camaro and made his way up the path. He kicked off his boots the as he passed the threshold and followed the brunette as he led him, surprisingly, into the kitchen. Oh. He’d half-expected to be heading into the lounge or maybe even up to Steve’s room.

“Can I get you anything?” Steve asked, heading straight for the monolithic refrigerator. The nervous energy from the other boy was catching as Billy found himself moving over to the island counter in the middle of the room and drumming his fingers on the marble surface.

“Beer?” he shrugged, hating how uncool they were both being.

“Beer,” Steve nodded, cracking the monstrosity open and pulling a couple of cans out. He slid Billy one across the counter and they both put their fidgeting hands to use, popping their cans and taking a swig.

Goddamn. This was awkward. The room was unnaturally silent; so different from the last time Billy had been in here. Last time, Nancy and Byers had been there too, laughing and joking and unaware of all the shit that they were going to stumble into. Steve exhaled loudly, moving into the corner of the room.

“I’ll just-” Steve started, reaching to turn on the radio. Both boys visibly jumped when the loud ‘woahs’ of Billy Joel’s Uptown Girl filled the room. “Ah-!” Steve stammered, briefly flustered as he searched for the volume.

Billy chuckled despite himself even as his namesake’s voice suddenly blasted to an almost deafening volume, the speakers crackling under the strain. Steve leapt back almost like he’d been zapped, his face scrunching up in shock and confusion. After a few more failed attempts from the other boy, Billy finally crossed over to Steve’s side, reaching across him to lower the volume.

“Thanks,” Steve breathed, not moving away.

“They tend to put labels on these things,” Billy grinned, nodding the in the direction of the radio. “I find the one with ‘volume’ written on it tends to control how loud you want shit to be.”

“Yeah,” Steve snorted with a roll of the eyes. They were still so close.

“Unless you wanna have Billy Joel screaming at us?” Billy smiled, a warm feeling blooming in his gut. God, even when he was being an unmitigated dork, Steve Harrington was everything.

He’s not the ‘Billy’ I wanna make scream tonight,” Steve shot back in a flirtatious tone. Billy blinked dumbly, hardly believing what he just heard, as he watched a look of mortification spread over the boy’s face. “I mean- Ah-!” the older boy took a step back into the counter behind him his hands flailing in protest. “That was-” Billy couldn’t hold it in any longer.

Throwing his head back, Billy cackled with laughter. He laughed until his sides were sore; until Steve was laughing along with him and they were both clutching at their ribs. Jesus Christ. How the hell had Steve ever been considered a player? If he was honest, some of the lines Billy had come out with in the past were bad but this was a whole new level. It took the two of them a little too long to recover, the hysteria probably amplified by the nervous tension that had been stifling them up to that point.

“Jesus Harrington...” Billy laughed, clapping the other boy on the shoulder before moving back over to the island counter to take another swig of his beer. “You’re too much.”

“It was supposed to be witty?” Steve grinned sheepishly, holding his beer in both hands.

“It was something. Not sure if ‘witty’ is the right word,” Billy grinned, loving watching the other boy squirm.

“Sorry, I’m not all that used to coming on to guys,” Steve shrugged, his tone half way between light and defensive. Billy bit his lip. This was it; an in. As horrible and awkward as it was, they needed to have this conversation.

“So...” he started, cursing himself for stalling even when he’d resolved to do it. Fucking pussy. “You’ve never been with a guy before?” he asked like it wasn’t the most obvious thing in the world.

Steve stiffened, his eyes on Billy for a moment before hitting the floor, his whole posture changing to one of discomfort. Yeah, Steve, this is happening, Billy mentally coaxed him. Let’s just get it all over and done with.

“I...” the other boy said, his head already shaking with his answer. “No.”

“Ever even thought about it before?” Billy pressed, draining the last of his beer. Steve’s hands gripped his can so tightly. Goddamn, he was anxious.

“No. Not before... all of this,” the answer was quiet. The fade-out of Uptown Girl was almost enough to cover it. Billy nodded shortly.

“So, one look at me and you turn fag, is that it?” Billy asked, watching as Steve’s eyes snapped up to meet his at the word ‘fag’. A small frown formed between the older boy’s brows and his jaw tensed.

“Don’t use that word,” he said firmly.

“What? ‘Fag’?” Billy chuckled, the tension shifting in the wrong direction. Shit. “Hate to break it to you, Harrington, but guys dicking other guys? They’re called faggots.”

He remembered the first time he’d heard it. He, his mom and Neil had been out. Some kind of shitty day trip or whatever. He was seven or something like it; must have been for his mom to still be there. The weather had turned cold stupidly quick and his mom had wrapped Billy up in her pink bomber for all of five seconds before Neil had torn it away from them both. Billy had protested; had said something stupid about how it was pretty. And that’s when the word ‘faggot’ came into his life. Neil had clipped him round the ear and declared that no son of his would dress like a fucking faggot.

It was only when he was older, when his mom was already dead and buried, that he figured out what the word really meant. How, despite her protestations to the contrary, Neil had actually had the right of it. His son was a fucking faggot. How fucking disappointed would she have been?

Homosexuals,” Steve said pointedly and Billy rolled his eyes.

“No one fucking says that, Harrington,” he snarled derisively. What a fucking joke.

“‘Gays’, then! I don’t care! Just... Don’t use that fucking word!” Steve snapped back. “And, no. I’m not gay!” he ended and, for a brief moment, Billy wanted to break something. Instead, he opted for slamming his empty beer can down on the counter top.

“Then what the fuck are we doing here, Harrington?” he barked, throwing his hands up in the air.

Steve’s eyes were wide, his body so fucking tense. This had been a bad idea. The older boy clearly had no idea what he was doing; he didn’t know what he fucking wanted. For all his talk of ‘having thought about it’ and ‘being in’, he was fucking clueless. He really had just got himself caught up in the moment. He was probably just thinking of Billy as a girl, not coming to terms with the reality of what he was getting himself into. God, this had been so goddamn stupid.

Shame and humiliation twisting around in his gut, Billy stormed towards the door, wanting nothing more than to fuck off somewhere and never look at the other boy again. This had been such a fucking mistake. Goddamn. Why the fuck had Billy expected anything else? It was all just a fucking fantasy. And now Steve knew that Billy was queer; he knew that he was a fucking pervert. How long would it be until the whole fucking school knew? How long would it be until Neil knew that it was out? Would they move again? Or would Neil just fucking do the job that the Remorazes couldn’t? Fuck.

Steve lunged around the island counter, rushing forward to block Billy’s way. His face was desperate now but Billy didn’t care.

“Billy stop-!”

“No, Harrington! I’m out! This was a fucking mistake!” Billy continued, just wanting to be gone. He felt like such a fucking idiot. Steve stood firm, hands reaching out and grasping at Billy’s biceps, trying to keep him still. “Get your hands off me, Harrington. We’re done here!”

“Just calm down and fucking talk to me, goddamn it!” Steve shouted back, giving Billy a shove backward further into the kitchen. Incensed, Billy shoved back, slamming Steve against the white kitchen door. Blindly, he rushed forwards, pressing the other boy firmly into the solid wood behind him. Their breaths were hot and heavy and, once again, so close.

Just like that, the anger was gone again. In spite of it all, Billy didn’t want to hurt Steve. Not again. Never again. Goddamn. This was pathetic.

“I’m not a girl, Harrington. There’s no two ways about it,” he breathed and Steve nodded.

“I know, man...” he whispered, hands coming up to rest against his chest. “Just... what do you call yourself when you’ve only ever been with girls but then you can stop thinking about a guy?”

“Confused? Harrington, this is just a phase. We’ve clearly just spent too much time-”

“I’m not confused!” Steve interrupted with a shake of the head. “I mean- I am but not about you!” he added and Billy tilted his head. Goddamn, it made no sense. From the crinkle between the other boy’s brows, he could see it wasn’t any clearer to him either.

“Harrington...” Billy breathed, his hands making their own way to gently hold the other boy’s hips. Goddamn, his body was on autopilot. That magnetism -that static- was driving everything; nothing else seemed to matter. “I have a dick,” he said plainly. It sounded just as stupid out loud as it did in his head but he needed to say it. Steve needed to hear it; he needed to understand that ‘not being a girl’ meant something.

“I know,” Steve whispered, his voice tinged with the smallest chuckle. “Believe me, I know.”

What the hell did that mean? This was all too much again. Billy took a step back away from the other boy, getting some distance so that his fucking brain had a chance at working normally again.

“Harrington-”

“I think the word’s ‘bisexual’. Like... I like both?” Steve continued.

“Look that up, did you?” Billy half smirked. Steve, shook his head, looking about to say something, but then shook his head again as if deciding against it.

“Yeah,” he answered and it sounded like the most suspicious answer ever. Before Billy could press him on it, the taller boy continued, “What about you? You’ve been with plenty of girls since you moved here so... are you? Bisexual too, I mean?” Shit.

Heart racing, Billy heard himself laugh. It sounded bitter and hateful again. Goddamn. This was a horrible conversation. Weren’t they supposed to be just hooking up? Where the fuck had the light-hearted tone gone? Where had the shitty pickup lines gone? Why the fuck had he done this to them?

“No,” Billy replied before he had a real answer to give. Shit. What was he supposed to say? Steve wasn’t ‘gay’; he wasn’t like Billy at all. This was just a passing fancy to him. He could be normal. He didn’t need to be like this.

The answer hung between them for a long pause, Steve still standing in front of Billy’s only escape. Eyes taking in the rest of the kitchen, there was another door but he couldn’t tell where it led. Running through there, he could find himself just jumping into a literal closet. All the same, Billy felt himself backing up a little more. He was so soft. Fuck.

“Billy...” Steve breathed, his voice imploring, his face so fucking pretty and so fucking soft. Goddamn, Billy was weak. This was all too much.

“I-” he started, still unsure whether or not he could do it. Had he ever said it out loud? He couldn’t remember even saying it to Alex, Ingrid or Jason; the ambiguity always there as his shield. In their eyes, Billy could be bisexual; he could be a normal guy. The whole ‘boyfriend’ thing could be a phase. Fuck it. Steve wasn’t Alex. This wasn’t the same. Fuck it. “I don’t... like girls...” he said, all the volume and strength gone from his voice.

“But... you got with Nicole...” Steve sounded confused. Billy leaned back against the island counter, his forearms propping him up.

“No. I didn’t,” he admitted, sagging into the moment. Fuck. Might as well go with it. “I didn’t get with any of them. Not really.”

“None of them?” the older boy asked and Billy sighed. Why did this have to be so hard?

Harrington...” Billy said pointedly. Don’t make me say it, asshole, he mentally begged the other boy. The silence was horrible; the worst yet. Billy watched as the other boy took him in. It was like fucking torture.

“Oh,” Steve breathed as it finally clicked.

Oh,” Billy repeated with a small, broken chuckle, his whole body feeling numb.

“Holy shit...” the brunette breathed as if he was going over all of their previous interactions in his head. That’s right, Steve. All that time, you were talking to a real-life faggot, Billy heard the bitterness swirling in his head.

“Yeah... ‘Holy shit’...” was all that made its way out of his mouth and it was probably for the best. Things had already turned sour once this evening.

He watched Steve nod to himself, as if he was taking in the new information; adding it to the file he had on record for one Billy Hargrove. Now he could put that file in the section reserved for queers. Shit. Billy looked away from the other boy, half tempted to go and get another beer from his gigantic fridge.

“Well, now I really know you’re not into Nancy,” Steve smiled after a short quiet and Billy looked back at him. His voice sounded so casual -so fucking normal- as if Billy had just confessed to preferring Ho Hos to Twinkies.

“Yeah?” he said, unsure of what was happening.

“Feel a bit stupid, actually,” the other boy continued, taking a step away from the door. “I spent way too long thinking that I didn’t stand a chance with you because you were so obsessed with her,” he added, running his hand through his hair in a gesture that was part way between confidence and embarrassment.

Billy had to laugh at that, despite the squicky feeling still sitting in his gut. It was as if the other boy was vocalising all the shit that had been swirling around in his own head the past few weeks. How long had they both been thinking the same dumbass thing?

“Seriously, Harrington? I’ve been sat here like a jackass, certain that you weren’t over her,” Billy admitted with a laugh in his voice and in his heart. Goddamn, they were both frigging idiots.

Beautiful smile lighting up his whole face, Steve moved closer, hands reaching out to hold Billy’s hips the moment he was close enough. Billy’s whole body tingled at their sudden closeness, his own hands taking fistfuls of the other boy’s jacket. Now this was more like it.

“Were you crushing on me, Billy Hargrove?” the older boy grinned, leaning in to ghost his breath against Billy’s collar bone.

“Were you crushing on me, King Steve?” Billy countered, tilting his head to allow the other boy more access. A small sound of amusement escaped the brunette’s mouth as he leaned in and pressed one, teasing kiss to Billy’s neck.

“I asked first,” he whispered against his flesh, the feeling sending goosebumps all over Billy’s body.

“But I’m not gunna answer first,” Billy grinned, trailing his hands up Steve’s chest and round to the back of his neck, pulling him closer. “So? You got a little crush, Harrington?” he asked again, the cocktail of uncertainty and vanity making him need to hear it. He needed to hear it; that Steve fucking Harrington wanted this – wanted him.

“What do you think?” Steve murmured, his lips on Billy’s skin but not kissing. His breath was so hot. Billy’s eyes fluttered closed as he breathed out a sigh. Yes. Fucking yes.

“Not sure, Harrington... You might have to fill me in,” Billy sighed, fingers tangling in the other boy’s hair. Fucking yes. It was so fucking good. Whatever this teasing, not-kissing shit was, it felt fucking good.

Steve chuckled against his neck and the small vibrations plucked another gasp from Billy as he leaned into the contact. He wanted to get lost again; like they had in the lab. He wanted to touch, to taste, to feel. Fuck the conversation. Fuck hearing it. Feeling was enough. God, he was so flighty at the moment. ‘Leaf on the wind’ and all that bullshit.

“Goddamn it, Billy,” Steve breathed, lightly kissing the spot he’d been mouthing at. “I’m so into you; you have no idea.”

Billy’s breath hitched as they both instinctively tilted their chins; Billy’s down and Steve’s up. Their lips came together like they were made to do it, hands pulling them impossibly close. It was slow, fucking slow, but so sweet that Billy could feel himself going lightheaded.

They made out for what felt like eternity, pressed up against the island counter in the Harringtons’ overpriced kitchen. In Steve’s kisses, Billy once again found himself utterly lost. It didn’t matter now that Steve knew he was a queer. It didn’t matter that Neil would kill him for this. What mattered was Steve; Steve’s hands, Steve’s lips, Steve’s tongue. Billy savoured it all, fucking desperate and needy even as Steve was giving him everything.

After a while, they separated long enough to make their way to the lounge, Steve making a quick pit-stop by the huge mahogany unit to reveal a sound system that, under normal circumstances, would make Billy drool. As it was, Billy was sitting on the very couch they’d slept on, waiting desperately for more. Steve fussed with the huge collection of records in one of the lowered cupboards before finally straightening up with one. As the deck started to spin, Steve made his way over to the couch.

Billy was all up for resuming where they’d left off until his mind recognised what he was hearing. The soft tones were slow and so familiar. As soon as the harmonies came in Billy couldn’t stop the snort of amusement.

“Did you seriously put the fucking Bee Gees on?” he laughed and Steve flushed.

“I-”

“You wanna make out to the fucking Bee Gees?” Billy laughed. “You gunna ‘come to me on a summer breeze’? ‘Touch me in the pouring rain’ and all that shit?” And with that Steve slapped at his arm.

“It’s just a chill song, Hargrove. Don’t be an ass,” he snipped, shifting as if he was going to stand up again. Billy laughed and sat up. In one move, he slung his right leg over Steve’s and rested his weight onto his knees so that he was straddling the other boy. Steve’s eyes went wide, his pupils huge as his hands instinctively returned to their place on Billy’s hips.

“You’re an idiot, Steve Harrington,” Billy grinned, leaning so close their lips were almost touching again. Steve smiled softly, his head tilting in readiness.

“You’re an asshole, Billy Hargrove,” he replied so fucking fondly that Billy couldn’t stop himself from being drawn back in to kiss the other boy again. Bee Gees be damned, he was going to enjoy the moment for all that it was.

---

Billy was a fucking mess. His whole body was on fucking fire and it felt like he’d never been so hard in his life. When he and Steve finally came up for air, however, any question of them taking shit further was out the window. The wall clock warned them that it was half nine and if that wasn’t enough to put Billy off, nothing would be.

“Right then,” Billy panted, his voice sounding more resolved than he actually felt. Steve looked up at him in confusion. His hands were on the exposed part of Billy’s chest, thumbs just a short distance from his nipples. God. That had felt good.

“Huh?” he breathed and Billy had to laugh.

“Gotta go pick up Max,” he smiled, shifting a little as if he was going to get up.

In an instant, Steve’s hands were back on his hips, holding him in place, his dark eyes desperate.

“Now?” he said and Billy laughed again, dipping down to kiss him again. Goddamn, he’d kissed what little sense the other boy had right out of him.

“Curfew’s ten tonight, I’m afraid,” he smiled against the older boy’s lips. “Can’t keep Neil waiting.”

Taking a gulp of air, Steve nodded his understanding. His grip on Billy’s hips loosened and, finally, Billy rose to his feet. He winced as the blood flow returned to his calves, pins and needles almost causing him to fall back down again.

“You gunna be okay?” Steve asked as he also got to his feet. Billy chuckled and pulled the other boy to him, pressing yet another kiss to his lips.

“I’ll be fine. Believe it or not, he doesn’t hit me every day,” he smiled and started to move away. Steve held him still, a hand coming to cup his cheek, thumb drawing gentle circles on his jawline.

“He shouldn’t hit you at all,” the older boy sighed and -goddamn- there was that protectiveness again. Billy felt his heart swell as he leaned in to kiss Steve again and again. Their lips were swollen and sensitive now but it still felt so good.

“Let’s go get the kids, Momma Steve,” he smirked when they finally separated. Instead of the expected confusion on the other boy’s face, Billy saw a look of utter resignation and exhaustion at the new nickname.

“Not you too,” he groaned, giving Billy a small shove. “Max and Lucas got to you, didn’t they?”

---

“Hello Billy... and Steve,” Karen Wheeler greeted them both at the door, flashing all of her when her eyes met Billy’s. Billy shot her a smile right back, leaning on the doorframe in his usual, relaxed pose.

“Hey Karen, sorry I missed you earlier,” he purred, adding a small wink that he could practically feel Steve rolling his eyes at. Karen flushed, tilting her head and fluttering her eyelashes at him. She was so easy; it was nice flirting with her.

“I hear the two of you were out on the town. Did you manage to get in anywhere?” the older woman smiled, her voice quieter now like she was in on their secret. Billy laughed at the irony of the question, pointedly licking at his bottom lip as a show for both her and Steve.

“Nah. Billy looks too young,” Steve cut in, a smug-ass expression on his face. Billy rolled his eyes but laughed along. It was nice to see him getting possessive; even in this miniscule sense. “He kept getting ID’d.”

“What can I say? Too youthful and pretty for my own good,” Billy grinned, pushing off the doorframe to open his arms wide at Steve. Might as well play along with the bullshit. “Better that than to be 18 going on 40 like you, Harrington. Is that a grey I can see?” he sniped, reaching up into Steve’s hairline as the older boy gave him a light shove.

“Oh you boys,” Karen tittered, taking a step back away from the door. “Do you want to come in? The kids have been locked away in the basement all evening.”

Steve crossed the threshold first, making his way towards the basement stairs like he owned the place. Billy was a little more hesitant. He’d only been inside the Wheeler house once before: the night he’d laid into Steve back in November. It felt so fucking weird that tonight was the next time he was going into Nancy’s home. How much shit had changed since then? It was fucking madness.

Shooting Karen one last smile and wink combination, he followed Steve down into the basement. Unsurprisingly, it was bigger than his and Max’s rooms combined, possibly with nicer furnishings. Goddamn, did everyone in Hawkins have nicer houses than the Hargroves. As he reached the bottom of the stairs, his eyes caught those of Little Byers and he mentally corrected himself: did everyone in Hawkins, besides the Byers, have nicer houses than the Hargroves?

“Game’s over, shitbags. Time I get you home, Dustin,” Steve was saying, ruffling Henderson’s hair in a way that seemed a little more dadish than momish. Billy looked across the table to see Max nestled comfily next to Sinclair. When their eyes met, she gave him a short nod, moving to get to her feet right away.

“Seriously guys? We’ve only just started the campaign!” Little Wheeler groused, apparently fully recovered from the shit he’d gone through on Wednesday. Billy rolled his eyes.

“You guys have been doing this shit since six. How have you only just started?” he snapped and Wheeler threw up his hands.

“Have to set up, duh!” he shot back and Billy was actually impressed at the stones on this kid. He looked to the other dweebs, who apparently didn’t share in his bravery. Little Byers looked just about ready to hide under the table. Billy rolled his eyes but, apparently, Max was on side, already collecting up the shit that Billy didn’t remember her bringing with her.

It took a good ten minutes to force them all out of the basement. After far too little pestering, Steve agreed to give Sinclair and Little Byers a lift home as well as Henderson and Billy had to roll his eyes at how easy the other boy was. They loaded up their charges and then met in the space between where their two cars had parked.

“So...” Steve breathed and Billy had to chuckle. Nope. He wasn’t going to go back to that awkward shit. Not after all the crap that they’d been through tonight.

“Might be able to swing some free time on Sunday. Seem to remember Max’s mom is taking her shopping. Neil might be going with,” he shrugged. It was a long shot but totally worth mentioning. Steve smiled and nodded.

“Cool...” he said, fishing about in his jacket pocket for a moment before producing a small piece of paper. “My number. Give me a call if you’re free. Don’t worry, my folks won’t be back for a week or so,” he explained, handing the paper over with a shrug. Billy made a point of running his fingertips over the other boy’s palm as he took the scrap from him, savouring the electricity of their touch. “Shit...” Steve breathed and Billy laughed again.

“I had a good time tonight, Harrington,” he grinned, turning to walk back to his car. “See you around,” he grinned. The smile only widened as he heard the soft hum of the chorus to How Deep is Your Love coming from the other boy’s direction. Goddamn. He was falling hard right now.

Chapter Text

Billy woke at 2AM on Saturday morning, his body covered in a thin layer of sweat, his breathing fast and ragged and his cock as hard as it had ever been. He didn’t even have to think to know what he’d been dreaming about: Steve fucking Harrington. Memories of his lips, his hands, his everything had flowed all together in Billy’s sleeping mind; a fucking hard-on was the only natural reaction to such shit.

Shoving a hand down into his underwear, his cock practically jumped up in readiness. Jesus. Whether it was from sheer exhaustion or stubbornness, he really had been abstaining recently. It was ridiculous how turned on he’d been over the past few days and how little he’d actually been dealing with it. Outside of the very quick jerk-off he’d had before bed on Thursday, he hadn’t touched himself and, honestly, even that hadn’t been anything special.

As his hand wrapped around the base of his dick, he sank his teeth into his lower lip and groaned. The sting there, combined with the memories of Steve’s kisses, felt fucking awesome. God... he really had let himself forget how good it felt to just fucking kiss. The messy, mindless encounters he’d used to mask the pain after Alex had died had all been lacking that; the feeling of someone else’s lips against his own. Humming low in his throat, he ran his tongue over the lip he’d been biting on. Yes. Steve had kissed him so fucking good.

Slowly moving his hand up in a pumping motion, however, he could vaguely feel something hollowing out his chest: this wasn’t enough. His body was singing with desire but he just wanted more. Fuck.

Sitting up briefly, he reached for the top drawer of his bedside table, pushing the magazines out of the way. Fishing out the bottle of KY he kept there, Billy yanked his briefs down and kicked them across the room. Sighing deeply, he lay back onto the pillows, flicking off the cap and squirting some of the lube onto his fingers. He shuffled a little, planting his feet on the bed so that his legs were spread and open.

Slowly, tantalisingly, Billy ran a wet finger over his entrance, eyes closing at the familiar ripples of pleasure. How long had it been since he’d let himself do this? It had definitely been on the ‘hell no’ list since he’d clocked how he was looking at Steve. Goddamn, he’d been so scared to like the other boy. It felt so fucking dumb now.

A muted moan escaped him as he dipped the very tip of his index finger inside. God, he loved how it felt. Not wanting the feeling to pass, he pushed further and further, his finger slipping in right up to the knuckle. He could feel his hole quivering, clutching onto his digit in a way that felt fucking amazing. As he started to slowly fuck himself with his finger, his free hand took hold of his dick and started to slowly, lazily pump in time.

Steve. Could things go this far with him? Would the other boy want to do this with him? Billy knew that some guys did anal with their girlfriends but, with Steve, he wasn’t sure. There was no way Nancy was that freaky, right? According to Tommy, Steve had fucked before Nancy, though. Before Nancy, Steve had been a player. Who knew what he was capable of?

Holy shit, though. As Billy added a second finger, all he could think was how it would feel to have Steve opening him up like this; how it would feel to have Steve’s fingers buried deep inside of him. That and more. Billy hummed another quiet moan of pleasure as he remembered the feel of the other boy’s erection pressing against him only a few hours ago. Goddamn, why had they stopped at making out? Why hadn’t they gone further? How hadn’t they?

By the time he added his third finger, Billy's hips were already bucking up from the bed. His eyes were screwed shut and all he could think of was Steve fucking into him with his monster cock. Twisting with every thrust of his hand, his fingertips brushed up against his prostate. He couldn’t stop himself from groaning at the blinding flood of desire washing over him again and again. How would Steve do it? Would he take him from behind and pound him into the mattress or lie him sweetly down and slowly drive him wild? Holy shit. The possibilities were endless and so fucking amazing.

Turning his head to bite down on his pillow, Billy came, spurting hot streaks of cum over his chest and onto his sheets. He fucked himself through it, both hands moving harshly, never letting up until every nerve felt raw.

When he was finally done, his hands flew away as if touching himself any more would restart the whole fucking process. He melted into the mattress, panting heavily; his body completely done in. Old aches from Wednesday’s battles throbbed at him, even the scar from Steve’s burn twinged, but Billy didn’t care. He hadn’t felt so fucking complete in so long.

---

Thursday’s rain returned with a vengeance, the lashing it was giving the windows being enough to wake Billy up earlier than he’d like for a Saturday. For the longest time, he lay on his back staring at the ceiling, mind retracing the last night’s events. Holy fuck. He’d basically admitted that he was a fag. Actually, there was no ‘basically’ about it; he’d full-on outed himself. It felt weird. It felt fucking weird. His body felt a little numb at the very thought of someone else knowing what he was, even if it actually worked to his advantage and -goddamn- was it working to his advantage.

Even now, all the shit that was going on with Steve felt so fucking unreal. The fact that, on three separate occasions, they’d made out was mind-blowing enough but Steve admitting to being ‘into’ him -saying that he’d been worrying that he ‘didn’t stand a chance’ with him- it was out of this world. It sounded like the shit from a bad romance movie; two morons being so stupid that they couldn’t see that they wanted each other.

Giving up on going back to sleep, Billy resolved himself to make use of the deserted lounge. Since Wednesday, he hadn’t really done anything too physically strenuous; he was due a good work out. He quickly pulled on some scruffy gear and started to ferry his weights into the lounge.

By the time he heard the others moving about in their respective rooms, Billy had had a good hour’s lifting session and his arms were alight with the familiar strain. It felt good. It felt real good to not have nearly died to feel this burn.

He cleared his equipment away quickly, knowing too well that Neil would have opinions of him leaving his weights around the lounge, and jumped into the shower before anyone could use up the hot water. As the water cascaded over his tensed muscles, it was all he could do not to reach down and relive the night before once again. Goddamn, Steve had wrecked him and literally nothing had happened between them yet.

‘Yet’... The fact that he was thinking like that was enough for fill his cock our just that little bit. Humming into the spray, he washed the last of the soap away, still ignoring the growing need between his legs.

---

“Susan will take you to Nancy’s house, Max,” Neil said, suddenly breaking the silence at the breakfast table. Before he could stop himself, Billy looked up at the older man whose eyes were coldly staring back at him. “Billy’s going to have a look at my car today. The engine’s making that noise again even though he supposedly sorted it in April.” Shit.

Billy could feel his brow creasing at this. Neil’s old Ford was pretty much ready for the scrapyard. Billy regularly had to mess about with it to keep it going but, at this point, it was pretty much like throwing buckets of water over the side of the Titanic as she sank. Telling Neil this, however, was definitely not worth the consequences. He’d just keep filling the bucket and throwing it until Neil decided it was time to abandon ship.

“Is it just when you start up or-?”

“Just look at it, Billy,” Neil cut him off. Of course. Explaining the problem in full was clearly too much effort. Billy nodded his head and looked down at his cereal in order to stop himself from rolling his eyes. That would be fucking stupid.

“I think the campaign’s gunna go on for a while,” Max started, her voice sounding a little nervous like she was edging around the truth. Billy glanced up at her. Yep; that was the face of someone testing out a lie. What were the nerds up to today? “Is it okay if I stay until ten again?” she finished, focusing her question on her mother and not on the bastard at the head of the table.

Susan made a pathetic little noise and wobbled like a fucking bobble-head or something. Billy couldn’t even bear to look at her. His mother was better than that. She would have her own opinions; not simply surrender to Neil’s every demand. For all the times Neil said she’d been soft and weak, she simply was not. She was so much more than Susan ever could hope to be.

“Eight thirty, Little Lady,” Neil said in a tone that was midway between a joke and a warning. Even that was so unlike how he spoke to Billy. Even that showed the vaguest hint of fondness. Whether or not it was actually sincere was regardless; he still felt the need to pretend if that was what he was doing.

Max pulled a sour face and folded her arms over her chest. Goddamn, that kid could get away with so much shit. She knew what he was like with Billy and yet she still couldn’t give a rat’s ass. Billy wasn’t sure if it was bravery or naivety at this point.

“Everyone will be there until ten, Dad,” she huffed, calling him ‘Dad’ so pointedly that no one could mistake it as anything but manipulation. All the same, Susan’s stupid eyes seemed to well up with pride as her daughter gave the appearance of accepting her husband. Pathetic woman. No wonder she married Neil. “Please? I promise I’ll wear whatever you guys pick for me tomorrow?” she continued, bargaining with the brick wall which was Neil Hargrove. How many times had a younger Billy been foolish enough to think he could sway that man?

“I should hope you’d wear what we buy you regardless, Missy,” Neil replied, his voice straying ever closer to that warning. “It’s for your grandfather, after all.” Billy tilted his head at that one. He’d been certain that Susan’s mother was a widow. Who fucking knew anyway? He never knew what was going on in this house until he was getting shit for it.

“But now you’ll know that I’ve promised to wear it!” Max continued like she had him on the ropes. “You can buy me anything that way!” she turned back to her mom. “Pink? Frilly? Loads of ribbons and bows? I promise I’ll wear it.” From the stupid, choked-up look on Susan’s face, Billy knew that that fucking ridiculous argument was the winner. It was like a fucking farce.

Neil clearly clocked the look too, his face hardening as he stroked his chin in the pretence of ‘thinking’.

“Nine,” he said shortly.

“Nine thirty?” Max pressed, pushing it way too far. There was a heavy silence in the room and Billy braced himself. The rain pattered on the windows, making everything feel a little more dramatic.

“Oh, go on then,” Neil nodded, a big smile on his lips in an expression so foreign that Billy could barely recognise him. Jesus. Max didn’t know how lucky she was.

After they’d all eaten and Billy had cleared the table, Neil came back into the room with a small note pad. Slamming it down on the table, he remained silent, waiting for Billy to take the hint. Missing the cue by a split-second, Billy grabbed the pad and skimmed through the list of household jobs that he assumed were for him. Fixing the Ford was at the top of the list but then there was painting the front and back doors. He didn’t relish the idea of doing those in the rain; he’d probably have to take them off the hinges and paint them in the garage. Weatherproof paint fucking stank; he was in for a shitty afternoon.

“Is there a problem, Billy?”

“Might wanna see if the rain lets up before doing the doors...” Billy hummed to himself, forgetting his audience for a moment.

His heart froze when he heard the cracking of knuckles. Shit. Looking back up at his father, he could see the balled-up fists and tight jaw. Shit, shit, shit. The doors were on the list on purpose. Neil wanted a reason for a bust-up. Max really had wound him up. Shit.

“Excuse me?” the older man asked, his voice as tense as Billy felt. He crossed around the table to stand dangerously close to Billy. Oh well.

“The rain will get to them if I don’t paint in the garage and the paint smells like shit,” he replied, knowing it was a bad idea.

Two hands shoved harshly at Billy’s chest, forcing his tired body back against the fridge. Billy moved with the force, knowing it was better than to resist. It would hurt less this way. Neil moved in, face inches from Billy’s own, a snarl on his lips.

“You’ve been slacking off around this house far too much, Billy,” the old man growled. “It’s about time that you actually contribute something of worth.” Fuck that. Billy did nothing but chores around this fucking place. Since moving out here to Hawkins, especially since November time, he’d basically become a glorified house-keeper; a real-life fucking Cinderella. Bullshit did he not ‘contribute’.

Instead of saying any of that -instead of fighting- Billy simply breathed out the fucking pathetic agreement: “Yes sir.” He lowered his eyes and turned his head. He was a fucking coward.

A look of contempt on his face, Neil took a step away and kicked the notepad back over in Billy’s direction.

“Get it done,” he spat, turning to leave the room.

Breathing heavily, Billy wiped at his eyes. No fucking way he’d cry over that shit.

---

Neil spent the rest of the day sitting around in the lounge drinking and watching the TV. Starting with the job that he was dreading the most, Billy took both the doors off their hinges and brought them into the garage, getting them drenched in the process. While he was wiping down the front door, Max scampered into the garage, her coat lifted over her head as cover from the deluge.

For a second, they both stared at each other, Max’s breathing heavy from her little dash from the house. Rolling his eyes, Billy continued his work. He didn’t have time to chat; the list Neil had given him wasn’t going to finish itself.

“Lucas says that El is coming over,” the red-head explained, still standing awkwardly over where Billy had opted for kneeling with the doors. “I’m not sure -Hopper isn’t keen on her being seen by other adults- but... it sounds like she’s up and about at least?”

As he finished up drying the door, Billy could feel a warm relief booming in his chest; darkened only by the guilt he felt about being too caught up his and Steve’s shit to actually give the stilted girl too much thought. God, he was a rotten guy; not much of a ‘friend’ at all.

“That’s good,” he said stiffly, the conflicting feelings inside making him sound less happy than he ought to. Max rolled her eyes but, when Billy stood up to start drying the back door, helped him to lean the front door against the wall away from Neil’s car. The last thing Billy needed was one of them falling and denting the Ford’s body. Explaining that would be a fucking nightmare.

“You’re... getting on quite well with everyone...” Max said, her voice trailing off in that way people do when they want you to add to what they’ve said. Swapping for a different, dryer, rag, Billy simply grunted in response. “You, Nancy, Jonathan and Steve... Dustin says you hang out at school all the time,” she continued, still fishing. Billy shook his head at her fucking ridiculousness.

“You wanna ask me something or what?” he snapped, voice not harsh but definitely pissed.

“Not asking... Just think it’s...” she trailed off again and now Billy really was losing his patience.

“What? Still pissed I’m butting in to your monster crew?”

“No,” she shook her head, her voice turning to exasperation. Jesus, they never could stay civil with each other for too long, could they? They seemed to be naturally annoying to on another. Perhaps it was a sibling thing? Maybe this was how brothers and sisters were supposed to be? Except for when she thought the Remorhaz was going to kill him, Nancy and Mike never seemed all too close. “I think it’s nice, is all. You were... so angry when we moved here,” she paused, the look on her face almost fearful. She wasn’t fucking wrong. “You seem happier; like when we lived back home.”

Home. Even Max still didn’t feel like Hawkins was home. To be fair to her, she’d been caught up in the monster shit pretty much from the get-go. It must be hard to get the warm and fuzzies from a place that has done nothing except try to kill you.

“Yeah, well... They're alright,” Billy shrugged, underselling them completely. They were so much more than that. Nancy was amazing; so fucking good and pure and loving. He was amazed, every time they hung out, how he could have ever not known that about her. Byers... Jonathan was pretty cool too. He had a quiet sense of humour about him and was so fucking loyal that Billy knew he could trust him to keep Nancy safe. And Steve...

“Do you miss them? Ingrid and Jason? Alex?” Max asked and Billy felt all the warmth drain from his body.

After all the shit he and Max had been through recently, it still sounded so fucking wrong to hear her saying his name. Alex. Fucking Alex. Biting his lip, Billy turned his attention back to his work. There was nothing he could say that wouldn’t cause shit.

“I miss them...” Max continued, missing the warning signs that she was stepping onto thin ice. “God... It’s almost been a year since Alex died, right?”

“Max!” Billy snapped throwing his rag down like a fucking drama queen. They weren’t going to talk about this. No fucking way.

“What?” she snapped back, her voice instantly on the defensive.

“Don’t fucking talk about him!” Billy spat back. She had no fucking right after all.

“Wha-? He was my friend too!” she stammered, her face scrunching up in a mixture of confusion and anger. Heaving himself up onto his feet, Billy shook his head.

“No. You were a fucking tag-along,” he said flatly.

“Screw you!”

“They only put up with you because I asked them to,” he continued his bullshit. That desire to hurt was creeping up inside him, taking the reins. Fucking let it. Max had no fucking right talking about Alex. None. “Alex was my fucking friend and-” he stopped himself before he said too much. ‘He fucking died because you couldn’t keep your fucking mouth shut’ would hurt too much; both him and Max.

“Screw you Billy!” Max repeated, her little fists balled up at her sides. “You haven’t changed at all.”

And with that, she was gone; storming out in the rain with any attempt to cover herself now. Fucking hell.

---

The rest of the day was a blur of tiring chore after tiring chore. The decision to paint the doors first had been a blessing and a curse in the end. Because they ended up needing three coats, it meant he was able to pop out to the garage every few hours to paint the next coat; something he’d have not been able to do if he’d left it. His head, however, was fucking throbbing all day from the continued exposure to the fumes.

Messing about with Neil’s car had been a horrible task with a headache. With the old man’s explicit, grumbling permission, he’d had to give it a spin around the block to hear what the problem was. The temptation to wrap it round a street lamp was fucking there but he somehow resisted. In the end, he was able to simply repeat the fix he’d tried the last time. As before, it wasn’t going to last but hopefully Captain Hargrove would call out the ‘abandon ship’ command soon.

By the time he’d hung both doors again, he was just about ready to go to bed and it wasn’t even Max’s curfew yet. His list was mostly complete, the rest of the tasks being shit that he could get done the next day.

Covered in paint and oil, he very quickly scrubbed up in the shower and then, deciding against rifling through the fridge for food, Billy simply took himself off to bed. He closed his eyes as soon as his throbbing head hit the pillow. Sighing deeply, he pushed out the horrible images in his head; the little recurring scene that he always imagined when he thought of Alex’s death. When he thought about it, it was always so fucking dramatic, like it was the murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne or some shit; near pitch-black, raining and totally silent in an abandoned alleyway.

He knew it wouldn’t have been like that really. The sky was probably lit up with fireworks, the streets were probably buzzing with celebrations, and Alex’s cries for help would probably have been only heard by the men who were beating him.

Tears slid from his eyes as he rolled onto his side, wrapping his arms around himself. He should have been there. If it wasn’t for Max, he would have been.

---

The next morning, the rain had faded away and it took Billy’s bad mood with it. While Max had pissed him off with her talk of Alex the previous day, she had been right about something. Strangely, things were better now. Nancy, Jonathan and Steve were the healing balm that Billy hadn’t even realised he’d been applying. And Steve... Goddamn. After how horribly everything had ended with Alex, Billy hadn’t thought himself capable of wanting someone as much as he did that fucking boy. Despite everything, Billy knew he was recovering.

Although his arms had the old tingle from yesterday’s workout, he got an early start on the last of the chores from Neil’s list. The ground was wet but Billy knew the expectation would still be there for him to mow the backyard anyway. With the grass sticking to the blades more often than not, it took him almost three times longer than usual but, in the end, he was able to get it done to a standard that Neil couldn’t argue with.

As he made himself lunch, Neil came into the kitchen. For once, his posture and fucking aura wasn’t one of someone looking for a fight. Billy needed to play his cards right; he might get through this one unharmed.

“We’re off out,” the elder Hargrove said shortly. “Max has an English paper to write later. You’re gunna help her when we get back,” he continued, his cold eyes scanning the countertop that Billy had been using. His nose crinkled in disgust as if Billy had smeared it with fucking dog shit or something. “Make sure you clear this place up before then.”

Once ‘the family’ were out of the house, it took Billy literally a minute to wipe the counter down and make it look like he’d never been there. He rolled his eyes as he sank into the couch for what felt like the first time in years, taking a big bite of his jelly sandwich. As he looked over at the TV, a thought suddenly struck him. Steve. He was supposed to be letting him know if he was free or not; he had his fucking number and everything. What the fuck was he doing just sitting around?

Slipping on his boots, he grabbed the piece of paper the older boy had given him and some change from his room and then he was off marching off down the road at a good fucking speed. The nearest payphone was a good ten-minute walk away but it was better than having Steve’s number show up on the phone bill, even if it was just for the minute or whatever it would take him to give the other boy the number to call back on.

As he punched in the digits, Billy felt a fucking dorky-ass smile teasing at his lips. For saying how shitty yesterday was, today was definitely feeling better. The phone rang four times before he heard the other end connect. Slipping the change into the slot, Billy knew he was full on grinning at the sound of the other boy’s voice.

“Harrington residence. You’ve got Steve?” Billy had to laugh at how fucking close that was to the ‘polite’ shit that Neil insisted on from his son. Maybe Steve’s dad really was a hardass like Neil?

“Harrington,” Billy purred, holding the receiver with both hands. Goddamn, it did feel good to hear him. There was a pause before the other boy spoke again.

“Billy?” he asked and Billy licked his teeth.

“The one and the same,” he smiled, shifting his weight to his other foot.

“Oh... Hey,” the other boy sounded almost shy. Billy could practically see him tilting his head down towards his chest, a small blush dusting his cheeks. “Your dad’s out then?”

“Yeah but I’ve got shit on,” Billy shrugged. With Max having brought memories of Alex back to forefront of his mind yesterday, now was not the time to risk sneaking around with Steve. Neil and the rest could be back at any time, especially if Max had promised to not fight them on what they were buying her. It was probably gunna be a quicker than average shopping trip for ‘the family’.

“Oh,” Steve sounded disappointed. Billy wondered if the other boy had been counting on him.

“Figured it wouldn’t hurt to -I dunno- have a chat or something, though?” Billy suggested with another unseen shrug. It sounded desperate and fucking dumb but, apparently, that’s what he was right now.

There was a small sound of someone clearing their throat and he turned to see an old woman waiting behind him, her beady eyes narrowed pointedly. Fucking hell, Hawkins. Billy turned back to the phone as if that would make a goddamn difference.

“Yeah?” Billy could hear the smile return to the other boy’s voice.

“Yeah? Cool,” he said, sounding a little lame as he heard the old bitch coughing again. “Look. Could you call me back in, like, fifteen? I’m kinda on a payphone here...”

“Oh- Yeah, sure...” Steve stammered and Billy grinned again.

After giving the other boy his home number, he hung up the phone and turned around to give the old bat a charming grin.

“Thanks, Hun,” he smarmed and she tutted as she barged past him to get to the phone. Fucking bitch.

Apparently, the promise of a phone call with Steve Harrington made Billy walk extra quickly on the way home. By the time the Hargrove house sang with the phone’s ring, Billy had had enough time to grab himself a beer and stretch himself out on his bed. Taking a deep breath, he reached for the phone on his nightstand and pulled it close.

“Harrington,” he grinned into the receiver, heartrate speeding up at the tiny possibility that it could be Neil calling to check up on him.

“Hargrove,” Steve’s voice replied and Billy grinned wider. The other boy sounded more confident now; King Steve was back in the driver’s seat. “You got any plans for Memorial Day?”

Billy blinked. Of course, tomorrow was Memorial Day; Neil and Susan were out buying Max a dress, for fuck’s sake. The last three years since they’d been married, Neil had taken ‘the family’ off to Susan’s mom’s place so that they could all visit her husband’s grave for Memorial Day. Killed in ‘Nam and all that shit. How the fuck could he have forgotten that? Monster bullshit had really fucked his head up. Goddamn. Everything made so much more sense.

“None. One of the few holidays that I’m free as a fucking bird, Harrington,” he grinned. This was interesting. A whole day off school -no Neil, no chores- and Steve Harrington asking about his plans. Steve Harrington who he’d just started making out with on a semi-regular basis. Very interesting.

“Cool. Nancy and Jonathan were thinking we could all hang out at mine. Watch movies, drink beers, you know?” Steve explained and Billy felt the bubble of excitement shrink a little. Ah. Hanging out as a group? Not quite what he’d been expecting.

“Sounds good,” he replied, not wanting to sound as desperate as he was. “We can all listen to some ‘chill’ music. Still got that Bee Gees record?” he smirked and revelled in the sound of the other boy laughing.

“Look, it worked didn’t it?” Steve sniggered. “Set a good mood and all...”

“Nah, Harrington, that was all me,” Billy smiled, taking a cautious sip of his beer and almost spilling it on himself. Lying on his back wasn’t really the ideal position for drinking. “You were all set to have a hissy fit and storm off!”

“Fuck off!” the other boy laughed and Billy couldn’t help but join him. Goddamn, this was so fucking nice. “If you wanna come round a little early... Nancy said she and Jonathan would try to get here for around noon? We could...” the other boy trailed off and Billy smiled even broader. By now, his cheeks were already starting to ache from how much he’d been fucking smiling. Fucking ridiculous.

“‘We could…’ what, exactly, Harrington?” Billy pressed, taking another swig of his beer.

“Listen to the Bee Gees again?” Steve said and Billy laughed again.

Chapter Text

Billy had had to hang up on Steve pretty promptly when he heard the familiar sound of Neil’s fucking Ford crawling up the drive. It really sucked because, apparently, he was a fucking sap for Steve right now and just hearing him on the other end of the phone was enough to get him all gooey and fruity. They’d both danced around the topic of making out but the underlying conversation was, for once, clear as day. It seemed that they both had fucking loved Friday night. As Steve had talked, Billy was certain he could hear the flush in the other boy’s voice. It was fucking adorable.

Sadly, with Neil back, Billy had to return to skulking around the house like an unwanted guest. Max was in a particularly bitchy mood -potentially still from yesterday- so there wasn’t even a slight ally here today. The rest of the day was spent keeping out of Neil’s way and finishing up the few assignments that he’d actually brought home with him.

Actually doing as Neil had instructed and helping Max with her work was out of the question. She wasn’t speaking and he wasn’t massively motivated to get through to her. Instead, they both worked in the kitchen, maintaining the appearance of working together even when there was an invisible wall between them. It was tense as anything but seemed enough to keep the old man off his back.

---

The next morning broke with no sight or sound of rainfall. Neil, Susan and Max were all set to leave early and Billy made a point of being up to see them off. Neil wouldn’t appreciate it but not doing it would definitely be noticed.

By some kind of neglectful blessing, the older man didn’t bother to speak to Billy before he left, simply giving him a deadpan look that basically promised repercussions if Billy stepped out of line while he was away. Fuck him.

For her part, Max simply scowled. Through their limited interactions on Sunday night and that morning, Billy could practically feel the bad blood that was still sitting of the surface. It felt unpleasant; like an itch just below the skin that he just couldn’t scratch. Things had only just started to feel better with her. With every monster attack and little act of kindness, he’d been feeling more and more like he could forgive her; like he could move on from the shit in California and put it all into perspective. Sadly, with the shit that went down on Saturday, it apparently all meant nothing at the end of the day. Just the simple act of her saying Alex’s name had been enough to dredge it all back up.

As the little red-head stepped out of the front door, she didn’t even look at him. She didn’t say a word. Billy knew that the small, fragile thing that had been reforming between them had broken when he’d lashed out at her; like a sapling being knocked down before it had properly taken root. Shit. He clenched his fists as she climbed into the car, pissed at himself and her and the whole fucked up mess.

As he took his morning shower, when the Ford had carried Neil and his new family away, Billy kept his eyes closed and his mind clear. Ironically, today wasn’t about mourning for the past. He and Steve had agreed on him getting to his around ten; today was about the future. He still didn’t know what to expect from this shit with the older boy but it felt bright. It felt better than what had come before. Maybe this time Billy Hargrove had something good that he could fucking hold onto for a while. Maybe this time everything would be okay.

---

Leaning over the handbrake, Billy gave himself one last check in his rear-view mirror outside the Harrington residence. His hair had been particularly well behaved that day, allowing him to style it to perfection with little to no resistance. Even the cut on his chin seemed to have faded away so that it was barely noticeable. Despite the shitty feeling between him and Max, the fumes and headaches from painting the doors and the constant bullshit that was Neil Hargrove, Billy was looking good. He grinned and winked at his reflection. Steve wasn’t going to be able to resist.

As he climbed out of the car, he watched the double doors opening up to him. Steve smirked down at him, hips cocked to one side and hands confidently planted on them. There he was. Even now, Billy just wanted to sprint up and grab him; give up on looking cool and just take. Resisting that pathetic neediness, Billy strode slowly up the path to the door, his smile broadening as he heard the familiar tune drifting out from the older boy’s house. We belong to you and me. As if he was playing that shit again.

“Seriously Harrington?” he smiled when he finally stood face to face with the other boy. Steve didn’t move, pretty, dark eyes locking onto Billy’s with that fucking King Steve attitude. In spite of the hilarious return of their ‘mood’ music, King Steve was always something that got Billy’s engine running right away. No wonder he’d been the top dog. The girls of Hawkins didn’t stand a chance. “I didn’t think you’d actually put them on again!” Billy continued, tilting his head like he was listening.

“I thought it was your favourite?” Steve grinned hands reaching out so that he could hook his fingers into the belt loops on Billy’s jeans. A jolt of awareness surged through Billy as he felt the small tug from the other boy. His body resisted the intimate gesture and he looked around behind himself. While it was set back from the street a ways, they were still pretty fucking exposed standing there in the door way.

“Hands to yourself, Big Boy!" he said, tongue licking out at his bottom lip. “At least until we’re inside,” he added quickly with a lower voice, not wanting the taller boy to misinterpret the move. Steve nodded and moved aside so that Billy could cross the threshold and kick off his boots.

“Sorry man,” the brunette said as he pushed the doors closed. “I didn’t-”

 Billy didn’t give him a chance to finish. As soon as the doors were firmly shut, he grabbed Steve and spun him round to slam his back prone against them. The older boy’s eyes lit up as he let out a little chuckle of surprise but Billy was on a mission. Friday night was so long ago and his resolve was only so strong. He needed more. He needed to taste him again; fuck it if he looked desperate.

Steve offered no resistance at all when Billy crashed their lips together, instead bringing his hands up to clutch at the back of his denim jacket. The kiss was filthy from the word go: all tongue and teeth and spit. It was fucking nasty and wonderful all at the same time. Billy let his hands roam up and down the other boy’s body as they saw fit.

Steve felt so fucking good. Billy felt like his head was spinning already; it was like Steve was a drug and simply touching him was enough to get him high. Feverish heat was ebbing out from every point of contact with the older boy, leaving Billy feeling flush and hot all over.

Billy pressed closer, increasing the contact. He needed more; more of Steve, more heat. Their hips lined up and Billy groaned into the brunette’s mouth. His cock was already starting to swell up in the jeans that Billy knew were too tight for this kind of shit but also knew made his ass look like a million bucks.

Pulling back away so that his head make a small thumping sound against the door, Steve was panting, his pupils huge and dark. Goddamn, he was so fucking beautiful. Billy grinned stupidly, keeping them close. He needed to be close.

“You... Wanna take this upstairs?” Steve gasped, eyes flicking in the appropriate direction. Billy opened his mouth to answer but then the opening notes of 10cc’s ‘I’m not in Love’ started playing and he couldn’t supress the laugh. Jesus, Steve had really picked some shit for today, hadn’t he?

“Oh, Harrington. What decade do you think we’re in?” he grinned and Steve rolled his eyes fondly.

“Oh, so you don’t like 10cc now?” he asked softly and Billy scoffed. Had the other boy ever paid attention to the shit he played in the Camaro? It wasn’t like he played it quietly or anything. Instead of annoying, however, Billy found it endlessly endearing that Steve thought he’d enjoy this crooning, smooth shit.

“Dunno... Might have liked ‘em when I was, like, eight and didn’t know any better?” Billy smiled, leaning closer so that the tips of their noses were touching. Steve hummed out a small, contented noise that made his heart skip a beat and he couldn’t stop himself from nuzzling the other boy for a second. “You really have shit taste in music, Harrington,” he breathed as Eric Stewart sang out the track title. Steve laughed with another roll of his eyes.

“Just get upstairs, Hargrove,” he smiled, hands shifting to Billy’s front to give him a little shove. Billy laughed, stepping back with the force, hands up in an over exaggerated sign of surrender.

“You’re the boss, King Steve,” Billy smirked, turning and heading up the stairs.

It felt a little odd, leading the other boy up to his own bedroom, but at least this way, Steve could have a good fucking look at how he looked in his jeans. Grinning from ear to ear, he heard the other boy’s ascent falter after only a few steps.

“Jesus Christ, Billy,” the other boy breathed and Billy felt a flush of pride.

Damn straight, Steve. You enjoy the fucking view, he thought as he added a little more sway to his hips than came naturally. Never being one not to react to Billy’s provocations, Steve caught up with him and grabbed him. Billy turned into the other boy’s hold, gasping at the feeling of the other boy’s hands palming his ass.

Seemingly lost in the moment, Steve backed Billy up against the wall, knocking one of the family photos askew. Not giving him time to catch his breath, he crushed his mouth over Billy’s, tongue sweeping in to mark its territory. Yes. This was fucking everything. The heat inside was now like a burning furnace and Billy could feel it radiating from Steve too.

Steve’s hands were grasping his ass with all the lust-filled enthusiasm a fucking 19-year-old boy could muster. It was toeing at the boundary between painful and amazing and Billy was loving every second. Steve could touch, grab or fucking squeeze anything he wanted. Right now, Billy was all his. His desperation reaching new fucking heights.

 As their bodies ground closer together, he could feel the impressive hardness growing between them. It was fucking unbelievable how much of a turn-on just knowing that Steve was into it was right now. Goddamn. 10cc and tight jeans be damned; they needed to get to the bedroom, like, right now. It would be such a fucking waste for him to cum in his pants right here when there was a perfectly good bed only a few feet away.

Pulling his way out of the kiss, he smiled blearily at the other boy. Steve’s lips were red, his eyes glaze, as he gasped for the air that they’d both been denying themselves.

“Almost there...” he half-purred, half wheezed. Goddamn, he sounded like an idiot. Steve smiled lopsidedly moving away from Billy, his hands finally letting go. For a split-second, Billy wanted nothing more than to grab him and pull him back in. The loss of contact felt fucking shitty. But, no; there was more on the way. The heated tension in the air was spiking in a way that could only mean one thing: this was on. Shit. Yes. “Just down the way, right?” he laughed weakly and Steve nodded, turning to lead the way to his chequered room.

Following the older boy into his room was so different now to how it had felt only a couple of weeks ago. Back then, their budding friendship seemed like the least certain thing in the world. Everything had been up in the air and Billy had barely come to terms with the fact that he had a crush on the other boy; on ‘Harrington’.

Now here they were, a hot, close air sitting heavily between them as Steve turned back to face him. Their eyes met and Billy felt the slightest twinge of awkwardness. Shit. They were too far apart. Their bodies needed to touch again.

“We made it,” Steve chuckled in a breathless voice and Billy’s smile widened. God, they were both so fucking stupid for each other right now. If Steve was Billy’s drug, perhaps the same was working in reverse.

“Damn straight, Harrington,” he grinned even though this was anything but.

The two strides between them were nothing as Billy moved to reclaim those fucking beautiful lips. For the first time today, he allowed his hands to run through the other boy’s hair, crushing them both so close that the heat, the fire, returned with a vengeance. God, it felt so fucking good. Steve’s mouth was so fucking wonderful. 

They took a few, stumbling, steps backwards, Steve submitting totally to the move as Billy pushed him closer and closer to the bed. In a sudden tangle of limbs and breathy laughter, they both fell back onto the mattress. Under different circumstances, Billy would have reflected on just how fucking comfortable the bed was; how fucking typical it was that this, too, was something Steve had that was just better. Right now, however, it really served his purposes.

Planting his hands either side of the other boy’s shoulders, Billy caged him in, lapping at his lips until he opened himself up to him. Jesus. His cock was fucking aching in his pants; as desperate and needy as Billy was himself. He ground his hips downwards, eliciting the most beautiful sound from the older boy when they lined up just so.

Possibly because he was embarrassed -or possibly because he was close to passing out from the continued lack of air- Steve turned his head out of the kiss, his cheek pressing into the quilt beneath him.

“God...” he panted, his hands clutching at the front of Billy’s jacket. Smirking, Billy interpreted the desperate, little movements there. Pushing himself up into a kneeling position for a moment, he tugged off the denim, throwing it behind him to land wherever. Steve looked up at him with his big, hooded eyes. Goddamn. He was so fucking beautiful.

“Happy?” Billy smiled, his voice so low and wrecked that he barely sounded like himself. Steve’s smile broadened as he ran a hand across Billy’s abdomen.

“Not quite,” he smiled, teasingly pulling at the fabric of his shirt, causing part of it to become untucked from his jeans. Fuck it, was all the thought Billy could come to as he tore away that layer too.

“Tit for tat, Harrington,” he grinned as he sent the shirt flying in the same direction his jacket had gone. Hastily sitting up and scooting back for room, Steve removed both the jumper and whatever he’d been wearing under it in one quick pull.

Billy’s eyes widened and the heat in his gut flared up tenfold as he took in the sight of a topless Steve Harrington. He was all lean lines and gorgeous fucking freckles. Goddamn, he wanted to kiss every fucking one of them. Placing a hand on the other boy’s shoulder, Billy lightly guided him back down to lie on his back so that he could start his task.

“Billy...” Steve breathed as he pressed open-mouthed kiss after open-mouthed kiss against the freckles around his collar bones. “Jesus...”

“Been wanting to do this since Friday...” Billy breathed against the other boy’s skin, loving the sight of the small tremor that ran through him.

“Yeah...?” he gasped, a hand stroking its way to rest at the back of Billy’s neck.

“Yeah...” Billy hummed, kissing his way downwards so that he could assault the freckles around his pecs. “Goddamn it... you’re so fucking hot...You’re driving me fucking crazy.” It wasn’t just bullshit. As his lips explored the other boy’s body, his dick was fucking straining against his jeans. Goddamn. They really had been a poor choice in the long run. Hopefully he wouldn’t end up creaming himself like a goddamn loser.

You drive me crazy...” Steve corrected and gave out a fucking sexy whimper as Billy trailed his tongue over a pert nipple. “Jesus-” he hissed and his hand was gone, flying up to shield his eyes. Smirking to himself, Billy clamped his lips over the sensitive area, swirling his tongue until Steve was arching into it; slack-jawed and moaning. “Oh God- Billy... Jesus-” Steve whined as Billy teased delicately at the other nipple with his fingertips.

“Tell me...” Billy breathed when he finally moved his head away from the hardened flesh. “Tell me about it...”

“Tell you...?” Steve panted as Billy continued his oral journey further down his body.

“Friday night,” Billy said against skin, loving the way Steve’s abs tensed at the feeling. He wasn’t quite sure what he was saying right now; his mouth simply acting of its own accord. “Did you touch yourself?” Steve moaned at the question, his head turning to the other side as if he didn’t quite know what to do with himself. God. The idea of Steve being all hot and bothered after Friday night’s activities was an intoxicating one.

“Oh god...” the other boy moaned. Clearly, he agreed.

“Tell me,” Billy pushed, finding yet another dark freckle to press his lips to. This time he gave the area gentle suck and Steve’s breath hitched again.

“Yes!” he gasped and Billy looked up at him victoriously.

Goddamn. He looked so fucking wrecked. His head was turned all the way to the right and he’d draped his arm over his eyes. The lower of his bright, red lips was pulled into his mouth as if he was trying desperately to stop the sounds that, thus far, he’d been letting out. He was fucking perfect.

Billy pushed up and leaned over the other boy. He wanted to see. He wanted to see Steve; wanted to see his desire.

“Show me,” he growled and Steve’s arm moved away, near-black eyes looking up at him in wide, heavy confusion. Billy ran a hand across his pretty cheek, savouring the heat he could feel even there, and smiled. “What did you do?”

“I-” Steve stammered.

“Where did you do it? Were you in here?” Billy whispered. “Tell me...” and with that he moved back down to press more kisses against the other boy’s neck. He would never get over how fucking good Steve tasted; fucking never. Especially now that he was covered with the thinnest layer of perspiration. It was fucking sick how good that made him taste.

“Here... right here...” Steve whimpered, hips coming off the bed in search of contact. Billy kept himself out of reach. Too much friction and he’d be gone. Just the act of kissing the other boy’s torso was driving him closer and closer to oblivion on its own.

“Pants on or off?” Billy continued. Multiple choice questions were probably the best bet right now.

“Off...I took them off...” Steve replied and Billy drew back to lick at his own lips. Goddamn. He moved further back, eyes heading straight down to the tented material at Steve’s crotch. Goddamn, would he let him...?

“Show me...” he breathed, his voice breaking a little in a way that would be embarrassing if either of them gave a shit at that moment.

“Oh shit...” Steve exhaled but his hips were  already arching off the bed again. His hands moved quickly down to his fly and Billy felt his whole body trembling in anticipation. Sitting back on his knees, he watched the other boy. Holy shit...

It wasn’t like he hadn’t seen Steve naked before. Both of then being on the basketball team, they’d had many a shower together in the same room. Thing is, though, in a public setting like that you just don’t look. Billy had spent every shower since he’d joined Hawkins High not looking at Steve Harrington in the showers. Even the other day when Steve had told him he was ‘in’ in the locker room; Billy had actually gone as far as to skip his post-practise shower to stop himself from looking.

Now here he was, drooling over Steve as he unzipped his pants, slowly revealing the navy fabric of his boxers. Here he was looking and seeing fucking everything. They were fully open now, the bulge that had been tenting them now jutting out against his undies. Billy’s mouth felt dry and yet full of saliva at the same time. Was this actually happening?

“Billy...” Steve sighed and Billy’s hands moved of their own accord. Hooking his fingers into the waistband of the other boy’s boxers, he gave a small tug. Steve’s breath hitched and his head lolled back, hands falling to his sides. Encouraged, Billy pulled further, biting down on his bottom lip as he revealed the neat, dark hairs. Shit. This was it.

“Fuck sweetheart...” he groaned as he pulled them all the way, Steve’s dick practically leaping up from its confines. God-fucking-damn, it was beautiful. Flushed red and already leaking, Steve’s cock jutted upwards towards his naval. From the bullshit Tommy had gone on and on about only a few months ago, he’d been expecting him to be hung -hell, he’d felt that it was larger than average on several occasions recently- but seeing it in person was a whole other thing. It was like a piece of fucking art and Billy couldn’t stop himself from licking his lips at the very sight of it. Jesus fucking Christ.

With a nervous breathiness, Steve laughed, wriggling a little to force his boxers all the way off as Billy simply stared. From downstairs, he was vaguely aware that Billy Joel’s ‘Just the Way You Are’ was paying to itself but he couldn’t bring himself to comment. Steve was naked and hard and here just for him. Forget Billy Joel and 10cc and all the bullshit; this was all that mattered.

Tit for tat, right?” Steve panted, the smile on his lips so clear in his voice. Eyes flicking back up to the other boy’s face, Billy felt a little pang of embarrassment. How fucking needy had he just looked? Staring at the other boy’s dick like it was the holy grail or some shit like that. He really was ridiculous. And what had Steve just been saying? Dark eyes looked downwards pointedly and, after a missed beat, Billy finally registered what the other boy had said. Ah. Yes.

“Fair enough...” he smiled and reached for the buttons of his jeans. Holding the other boy’s gaze, Billy popped each button with a pointed flick of his thumbs, hopefully achieving the ‘sexy’ look he was going for. Steve’s cheeks were already flushed from their kisses but, as Billy’s dick freed itself from its denim prison, he turned practically crimson.

“Holy shit...” Steve breathed and his cock gave a little kick.

Breath heavy, Billy clambered off the bed so that be could fully remove his jeans. Not wanting to be that guy, he toed off his socks for good measure before crawling back to sit before Steve once again.

“Billy-" Steve gasped in a desperate voice and Billy chuckled.

“Show me,” he instructed, using all of his willpower not to lower himself onto the other boy. Goddamn, that much contact all at once would be the end of it. Precum was already beading at the head of his dick; he, realistically, wasn’t going to last long. “Show me...” he said again and Steve nodded, drawing his bottom lip into his mouth.

The older boy’s hands moved to the base of his cock, his right forming a tight circle around it while his left dipped lower to cup his balls. Billy’s breath caught in his throat as be watched the other boy start to slowly pump his hand up and down his considerable length. Holy fucking shit.

“What did you think about?” Billy started, watching as Steve built himself into a steady rhythm. Steve let out a hoarse moan, scrunching his eyes closed. “Friday night... What were you thinking of?”

“You...” the older boy gasped, his hand moving faster now. Jesus how was he lasting so long? Billy felt all shades of inadequate and impressed. “Your face... your mouth...”

“My mouth?” Billy choked as a thought hit him. Jesus.... Could he?

“Yeah...” Steve said with a hum. “Yeah... Oh shit, yeah...” His hips were slowly thrusting up in time with the stroke of his hand and Billy couldn’t resist any longer.

Breathing in deep, he leaned down so that he was face to face with the other boy’s crotch, his legs and hips being forced over the edge of the bed. Unaware, Steve’s hand kept moving until Billy’s moved to cover it. Although he wasn’t directly touching him, he could feel the fucking heat of it. It was fucking incredible. Breathing in again, he could smell the other boy’s want. He could practically taste it; the air was so thick with it.

Holding the other boy still, Billy leaned closer and breathed his hot breath out against his straining erection. Whining loudly, Steve craned his back to look down at him.

“Oh fuck...” Steve practically sobbed and Billy exhaled again.

“Can I-?” Billy started, unsure of how to ask to go about asking someone to let you suck them off but, thankfully, Steve cut him off.

“Yes! Oh fuck-! Yes, Billy, yes! Please just- Shit-!” he babbled, head falling back again.

Not needing to be asked twice, Billy moved in and gave the head of Steve’s cock a gentle lick. Steve made a strangled sound at while Billy, in turn, let out a deep groan of pleasure. Licking again and again, he swallowed the beads of precum that had been slicking up the tip. Like every other part of Steve Harrington, it tasted so fucking good.

Billy moaned again as he took Steve further into his mouth. It had been a while since he’d done this but he was confident that he could do enough to make the older boy forget all about the girls of Hawkins, Indiana. He knew he could ruin the older boy for anyone else. As he rolled his tongue along the underside of his length, he unconsciously ground his own dick against the mattress, humping it like a rutting animal.

“Jesus... Billy you’re- God-!” Steve continued to babble senselessly throughout, his hips stuttering upwards as Billy built himself into a good rhythm. If he wasn’t so fucking turned on, Billy would have found the constant stream of sounds adorable. As it was, his mind was just zeroed in on his cock; how it felt, how it tasted. Even if they went their separate ways after today, he would still never forget this. It was fucking everything.

It wasn’t long before Steve’s voice pitched up a little. His words devolved into ‘shit's and ‘fuck's and his hips started to thrust with more force. Billy went along with it, his free hand teasing at the older boy’s balls. He could feel them tightening in his palm. Steve was so fucking close.

“Oh- Shit-" Steve mewled and Billy never wanted to forget sound out of it. Taking him as deep as his out of practise throat would allow, he felt the other boy tumble over the edge. He moaned obscenely as hot cum filled his throat, swallowing as much as he could. Fucking yes, it was so good.

By the time Steve was finished, Billy had pulled off his dick and was kneeling in front of him now. Desperate and aching, he wrapped his hand around himself and tugged. Within seconds, the white-hot feeling was exploding from him, shooting ropes of his seed over Steve’s still-shuddering form.

Billy stroked himself through to the end, right to the cusp of oversensitivity and then finally let himself flop down beside the other boy.

They both lay panting side by side, naked and sated for now. Somewhere down the line, Billy’s brain had clearly short-circuited and, for once, he simply lay there in thoughtless bliss. No overthinking shit. No worrying about Neil or being found out or anything. Just blissful nothingness.

Chapter Text

“Holy shit...” Steve breathed into the quiet of his room. His voice was soft and ragged in a way that had Billy torn between wanting that to be the only way he ever talked from now on and wanting to keep it all for himself. He sounded so fucking good.

“Yeah...” Billy agreed, his whole body feeling relaxed.

How long had they been like this? It seemed totally unreal that they were here; lying on Steve’s bed stark fucking naked. Even now, his skin was tingling from his recent orgasm. Holy shit indeed. Even now, despite what had just gone down, Billy could feel a gentle warmth emanating from points where his arm was resting against Steve’s. He was so far gone.

“Did that really just happen?” Steve asked on his next exhale and Billy chuckled.

“Nah. It was all in your head,” he grinned and Steve swatted at him with an exhausted swipe.

“Shut up,” he sighed, the smile so fucking clear in his voice. Goddamn.

“I’m serious,” Billy continued, not at all serious. “This is all a dream. You hit your head at the lab and have been dreaming all this shit.” How much shit had changed in less than a week? If he wasn’t currently where he was -body still sticky from sweat and, let’s face it, his own cum- it would be pretty hard to believe.

Am I dreaming or is that you, Hargrove?” Steve drawled in a pretty good impression of Billy, if he did say so himself. Snickering at their ridiculousness, Billy rolled onto his side and pressed his face into the gap between Steve’s shoulder and the mattress. Steve laughed happily and it was fucking music.

They giggled together like fucking idiots for a while, Billy savouring every second of it. It felt so fucking nice; so fucking warm. It was so different from all the shit back home. Neil, Max, chores and homework; they all meant fucking nothing now.

“To be fair, it would make a lot of sense...” Steve said through his final few chuckles. Billy drew his head back and looked at the other boy. There was still a smile on his face but his eyes were on the ceiling above them in a way like he was drifting off into thought. “It all being in my head, you know?”

It sucked but he was right. This shit was so new; barely whole even now. Like a newly formed chrysalis, it felt delicate; fragile. A hint of fear prickled at the hairs on Billy’s arms. It wouldn’t take much to break this. Like the tiny bonds that he’d just smashed with Max, would he break this too? Would he say the wrong fucking thing -react in the wrong fucking way- and knock them back down to zero? Could this be the one and only time he and Steve lay together like this?

He didn’t want that.

“Yeah... S’not like we got on all that well before all this monster shit went down,” he shrugged because voicing all of that would be stupid. Putting words to that fear would scare Steve away; it would be enough to break them.

“But you were always there,” Steve sighed, eyes still fixed above them. His voice was starting to sound wistful, like all the shit that had come before this was actually good. Like they hadn’t been enemies. Like Billy hadn’t beaten the shit out of him. “For a while, back then, you were the only person that was looking at me. Good or bad, it was... something.” That hurt Billy in a way he wasn’t sure how to comprehend. With that one breath, Steve had sounded so small; just as fragile as the thing that was blossoming between them.

“Yeah?”

“Yeah...” Steve hummed and it hung between them. How could Steve Harrington ever feel overlooked? How could anyone resist the urge to look and to see him? The hollowing that Billy felt in his chest was only expanding. Fucking Hawkins. It had no idea what to do with something so fucking good. “I thought I hated you,” the older boy said after a while, rolling onto his side and bending his arm under his head as a pillow.

Billy let out a small half-laugh. It wasn’t a surprise. He’d pulled those pig-tails pretty damn hard over the first few weeks he’d been living in Hawkins.

“I knew I hated you,” he admitted, watching as a single, dark brow rose.

“Yeah?” Steve asked, looking torn between disappointment and amusement. Nodding, Billy pushed on.

“Yeah,” he sighed. He might as well be honest now. Their chrysalis was new and weak but, perhaps, honesty was the best way to give it strength. Fuck it. “Hawkins was supposed to be this shit hole that I had to rot in until I turned eighteen, you know? I was just gunna get through school and then high-tail it back to Cali as soon as I could.” Steve’s eyes never left him even as Billy lost his nerve and looked away. He was here. He was listening. Fucking hell. “I guess... With this being a hick-town, I figured that no one here would take my fancy. That everyone would be... I dunno, inbred yokels or something. I guess, I figured I could take some time off from- From being a...” Nope. Calling himself ‘faggot’ right now could break it.

“Yeah?” Steve nodded, his voice understanding. It didn’t need to be said. Steve knew. Billy nodded again, his eyes fixing on the other boy’s chin. Anything but the eyes.

“Yeah. But then I went to Tina’s Halloween party and fucking Tommy H kept going on and on about this ‘King Steve’. God, he really didn’t shut up about how awesome you were; how you’d turned bitch and how much of a waste it was,” he continued and Steve scoffed a little. “Even before I met you, I knew you’d be trouble.”

“You came over to us. At the party...” Steve supplied and Billy nodded again.

“Yeah I did. I came over, I saw you…and that was it. From the moment I saw you, I fucking hated you,” he explained the unexplainable tangle of his brain back then. Goddamn, he’d been so angry. He’d been so pissed at the world, at Hawkins, at Max. Steve had been the right thing at the wrong fucking time.

“Goddamn. That’s pretty damn romantic, Billy Hargrove,” the older boy snarked and Billy finally forced himself to look up. Steve was rolling his eyes but there was still a soft smile on his lips.

“I mean, I hated you because you were so fucking perfect,” Billy blurted, using the word that had been circling his mind for weeks now but was probably too much for right now. He saw the weight of it hit Steve’s face. Perfect. Billy knew it was a lot. “There wasn’t supposed to be anyone like you here in Hawkins. I wasn’t supposed to like anyone. I hated you because you were there and you were perfect and you were straight. You were something to remind me how fucked up I was... You know?”

There was silence as Steve absorbed all the shit that Billy had thrown his way. A new tingle spiked at Billy’s skin as he worried it was too much; that he’d grasped the chrysalis too tight and crushed it. Shit.

“I’m not perfect, Billy...” Steve sighed after a while, rolling back onto his back and running a hand through his bed hair. Billy watched the pain blooming over his brows as he took in a shuddering breath. “God... That party was the party that Nancy-” his voice cut off and Billy could feel it. The night that Nancy had left him. Tommy had been so gleeful when he’d told Billy about it. The freckled boy had been all grins and jokes and Billy hadn’t even known Steve yet; didn’t know Nancy. He didn’t know how much it had devastated him. How much it still devastated him even now. “I was a shitty boyfriend. I was a shitty person...” Steve breathed, shaking his head as if the very concept of someone thinking otherwise was incomprehensible.

“Look who you’re talking to,” Billy tried to smile but he could see the pain was still there. Angel that she was, Nancy had hurt Steve. Badly. Even as he lay next to Billy in his bed, even when they’d just done what they’d done, it still hurt him.

“Billy...” Steve sighed and Billy couldn’t stop himself from moving. Shifting up onto his hands and knees, he crawled over the older boy, leaning down to gently press their lips together. Steve whimpered into the kiss, hands coming up to hold Billy with him.

It was soft and breathy as they kissed. Billy’s one aim was to chase away the sadness that Nancy had left behind; to fix the boy that had been broken. He knew he was hardly the one to do it -that he was just as broken if not more so- but it was all he could do. It was all he wanted right now.

Steve Harrington should never feel overlooked. He should never feel unloved. He should never feel less than the perfection that Billy couldn’t help but be drawn into.

“You are perfect,” Billy whispered when their lips parted. “You struggle. You fight. You fucking care. You’re fucking perfect, Steve Harrington. These past few weeks have only made me hate you more,” he smiled and he knew they could both hear the reality of it.

“Yeah?” Steve breathed out a sad laugh. Billy smiled and kissed him once again.

“Yeah. I fucking hate your perfect ass.”

---

“You know...” Billy said between kisses. At some point, Steve had sat up and moved back to lean against the headboard and Billy had found himself sitting in the other boy’s lap as they traded increasingly deep kisses. Despite the sombre tone of their conversation before, skin against skin was always fucking incredible and they were both well on their way to being hard again.  “...you’re gunna have to take a shower before the others arrive.”

“Shut up,” Steve purred as he licked into Billy’s mouth. It was amazing how awesome their kisses still felt. Steve kissed like someone who was born to kiss. His lips were a wonderful contradiction of rough and gentle; of hard and soft. Billy stood by his earlier comment: Steve Harrington was perfect.

He drew away from those perfect lips, leaning back as far as he could so that he could eyeball the wall clock that was foolishly positioned over the bed. Eleven twenty. Nancy, prompt and eager girl she was, would be arriving with Jonathan pretty soon.

Steve tried to pull Billy back in, his hands cupping at the younger boy’s cheeks like he couldn’t stop touching him. Billy laughed but resisted.

“Unless you’re wanting them to join us, we should probably quit while we’re ahead,” he grinned and Steve pulled a face.

“What time is it?”

“Almost half past,” Billy overexaggerated. It was self-preservation. If they continued for much longer, he’d need more. He’d already had that perfect dick in his mouth once today. There wasn’t time for a round two. No matter how much he wanted it. 

“Shit...” Steve hummed, leaning in as if Billy had given them more time. Unwilling to resist any longer, Billy let him reconnect their lips, savouring the sensations once again. Goddamn. Steve fucking Harrington.

They made out for a few more minutes, Billy feeling the swelling between them becoming harder and harder to ignore. After a while, however, he just had to pull back for air.

“Seriously, Harrington, time to clean you up!” he gasped in a voice that wasn’t as stern as he’d been aiming for. Steve looked like a wounded animal but it didn’t stop Billy from climbing off the bed and heading for the door. “Get a move on!” he snipped, a little closer to the desired tone.

“I’ve got a semi!” Steve protested even though, when he turned back to look at him, Billy could see he was getting up regardless. Billy couldn’t help but snigger at that.

“Well that much is pretty fucking clear, Harrington,” he grinned, licking at his bottom lip which felt a couple sizes bigger than it usually did. Goddamn, he had been kissing a lot today.

“You’ve got one too!” Steve continued, moving over with his eyes fixed on the aforementioned area. Billy laughed again.

“Two for two there, Harrington, but sadly besides the point,” he grinned, stepping back out of the other boy’s reach the moment he was close enough to touch. Steve frowned in reaction and made another move which Billy, again, dodged out of, this time moving himself out of the bedroom door and into the Harringtons’ corridor. The music from downstairs had stopped at some point during proceedings. “I don’t particularly fancy greeting Nancy and Jonathan at the door with this bad boy, now, do I?”

Steve followed him through the door, rolling his eyes at the very idea.

“That’s why we’ve gotta deal with it,” he shrugged. “Don’t want you reverting to your old asshole ways because you gave yourself blue-balls.” Ha! If Billy wasn’t quite so aware of the time they were wasting, he would totally have let that be the argument that won it.

“I’ll be fine, sweetheart. I was sweet as anything after that shit on Friday and we didn’t even have a round one to let the lid off the pot,” he smirked, stepping backwards in the direction of the main bath.

It would be pretty sweet, he thought, to get Steve in the gigantic thing in Mr and Mrs Harrington’s connecting bath that he’d used way back when -fulfil that little fantasy for himself- but they probably wouldn’t hear the door from there. Goddamn, why had Steve invited the others? As much as he loved Nancy and liked Jonathan, things would have been so much better if they just weren’t coming today.

"You’re gunna be a worse tease than any girlfriend I ever had, aren’t you?” Steve finally laughed as he started to plod down the corridor of his own accord, seemingly giving up on grabbing at Billy.

“You know it, Harrington!” Billy smirked as they finally passed through the door into the bathroom. Not waiting for the other boy, Billy stepped into the tub and turned on the spray, arching his body away at the last second when it blasted out cold.

“You’re gunna drive me mad, aren’t you?” Steve sighed, watching as Billy stepped forward and let the droplets fire off him in all directions. Maintaining eye contact, Billy reached for the body wash and poured a little too much into his palms, making a real show of himself.

“Oh yeah! I’m gunna hold out on you like the most frigid of bitches, Harrington!” he laughed, running his hands up and down his chest. Steve’s cock gave a visible kick of interest and Billy could feel his smile broadening. “And to make it worse, I’m a guy; I know what’s gunna get your engine running,” he grinned, wrapping his hand briefly around himself to give one, long tug before continuing to soap himself up.

“Shit,” Steve groaned, eyes now transfixed.

“Now get in here,” Billy ordered and the other boy obeyed without question, stepping in behind him and pulling the shower curtain closed. It was a little late -spray had pretty much already soaked the place- but whatever.

For the first few minutes, Steve just stood there; breath heavy, body emitting a warmth that rivalled the water. Billy grinned to himself as he continued to show off; massaging the body wash into his ass cheeks for longer than any normal person would deem necessary.

Seeming to have reached his breaking point, Steve moved closer, hands reaching past Billy to take hold of the bottle and pour out some of the liquid. Goddamn. Billy could already feel the stiffness of the other boy’s cock gently grazing his ass. Holy shit.

Billy felt himself tense up as those beautiful hands didn’t simply go back to start washing himself but instead started to run up and down Billy's chest. Breath hitching in his throat, he leaned back into the wall of strength behind him as Steve’s fingers ghosted over his nipples.

“You’re all talk, you know?” Steve’s voice was husky and perfect in his ear. Billy leaned further back, turning his face towards the sound.

“Yeah?” he gasped as those hands edged closer and closer to his groin. The embers that had simply been glowing in his gut since the bedroom were being stoked into a full-on fire. Holy shit.

“Yeah. You’re a guy,” Steve chuckled, hands moving past Billy’s swelling cock and teasing at the tops of his thighs. Billy’s hands guided themselves to rest on the other boy’s forearms just so he had some part of him to hold onto.

“Think that’s pretty fucking clear right now, don’t you?” Billy tried to snark, his voice a little to breathy to really pull it off. His cock was so fucking hard and heavy between his legs and Steve’s hands were so fucking close.

“Yeah. You’re a guy; you’re just as horny and easy as I am,” Steve observed and pressed a kiss to his shoulder. Yes. Fucking yes.

“You think?” Billy gasped, not caring how much of a pussy he sounded like. This was fucking everything.

Think that’s pretty clear right now, don’t you?” the older boy said in his ‘Billy’ voice again, his lips still touching Billy’s skin.

“Very clever, sweetheart,” Billy breathed, his eyes closing into the moment. 

“You’re not going to hold out at all are you?”

“Harrington-!” Billy tried to cry out but Steve quickly covered his mouth with his own, tongue delving deep. Goddamn. For saying how he’d never been with a guy before -how he’d never even considered it- Steve was a fucking glorious tease.

It took an embarrassingly short time for Billy to come all the way undone. With Steve’s mouth on his own, the hot spray of the shower slicking them up so fucking good and the constant movement of the older boy’s hand, he was gone in no time. Turning his head away from the kiss and moaning loudly, his legs trembled and he damn-near slipped over as the pleasure overtook him; the ropes of cum washing away as he simply tried to regain his breath. Steve held him up, his mouth moving back to press insistent kisses at his neck and shoulders.

When he could finally breathe right again, when his body wasn’t quite so likely to simply drop down to the bottom of the tub, Billy turned around and pulled Steve close. Their lips crashed together in open-mouthed desperation and Steve kept moving forward, crashing Billy back against the tiles. Billy grunted at the feeling of the bath’s taps knocking the top of his left calf but didn’t resist the other boy’s hold. He’d had worse injuries from sexual encounters back in Cali, a little bruise on the leg was fucking nothing.

Threading his right arm between their dripping bodies, Billy wrapped his hand around Steve’s cock, jerking him with a speed that he knew the other boy needed right now. Steve whimpered out a sound of relief into the kiss, his hips moving in time with Billy’s hand. It was an awkward angle but apparently that didn’t matter, Steve huffing out his release even faster than Billy.

They held each other under the water for longer than was sensible. Billy could only guess what the time was now; doubtless Nancy and Jonathan were on the way already. It didn’t matter. They could wait outside. It felt too fucking good to want and be wanted. It felt too good to have and be had.

“Billy...” the brunette breathed, his voice all fucked up and perfect again. Yes, Billy decided, this was his; just his.

“Harrington...” he purred, mouth wet and pressed against skin.

“I think I hate you too,” the older boy exhaled and Billy couldn’t help but laugh. Goddamn. He was gone.

---

“Switch!”

“One second.”

“No. I’m freezing my balls off Harrington. Switch!”

“My hair won’t be perfect if I leave shampoo in it,” Steve grinned as he tilted his head back and let the suds wash away. Billy pursed his lips, a small flush of embarrassment blossoming in in his gut. Yeah, he had totally overdone it earlier. Steve knew just how desperate he was now. Fucking brilliant.

“You’re not gunna forget that shit, are you?” he asked and Steve grinned, shaking his head even as he combed his hands through his hair.

“Nope,” he laughed, popping the ‘p’ sound as if he was the first guy to ever do that shit. Billy rolled his eyes but couldn’t help smiling. The older boy was such a perfect dork. It was incredibly adorable. “Me and my perfect ass are gunna remember all of it!”

“I mean figurative ass not-” he started, meaning to snipe more at the other boy. He meant to say something mean, something petty that would distract from how fucking sappy he’d been up to this point. Any childish insults were forgotten, however, when Steve turned and bent down to pick up the conditioner. Jesus fucking Christ. Billy had admired the older boy’s ass before -more times than he could count if he was honest- but seeing it naked and fucking there was something else. “Although, damn Harrington, that is a perfect ass!” he managed to splutter, returning to his role as fucking Steve Harrington’s number one fan once again.

“Ah-!” Steve spluttered, having jerked up at Billy’s last observation and inhaling a butt-ton of shower water.

“Cough over there!” Billy insisted, manhandling the coughing boy so that he could step back under the warmth of the shower head.

“Urgh!” Steve groaned but Billy simply grinned victoriously back at him.

---

“It’s a good job we took our gear off,” Billy observed when they were finally back in Steve’s room, towels around their hips. He reached down to grab the jeans that had really done their fucking job today. “Gets real messy when two dudes are going at it in their clothes. Would have had to break out the spares again.”

Somehow, it was only five to the hour. Somehow, Nancy and Jonathan hadn’t forced their way into Steve’s house in some weird attempt to save them from a rogue Remorhaz only to find them jerking each other off like Billy had been half-certain they would. For now, at least, they were probably in the clear.

“You’ve done that before?” Steve asked as he ruffled his hair with the smaller towel he’d carried through.

“Hmm?” Billy tilted his head, uncertain of what he was being asked. Had he ever what? Cum in his pants? Taken his clothes off to get down and dirty?

“Been with other guys, I mean?” Steve asked, holding his towel still and looking over at Billy with real question in his expression. Billy chuckled.

“Did I suck dick like a novice, Harrington?” he asked, licking at his lower lip to make it sound as dirty as it was.

“Well no... You could be naturally gifted?” the other boy offered with a shrug that wasn’t as casual as Billy could tell he’d wanted. This wasn’t a comfortable conversation, clearly.

Steve had said he’d thought about it; that he’d been thinking about being with Billy. While the evidence would suggest that this was true, it was also pretty likely that Steve hadn’t thought too deeply on the subject of Billy’s sexuality as a whole. Even after their conversation on Friday, Billy guessed it would have been pretty easy for Steve to simply not think about it.

He internally winced at the implication. It wasn’t nice to think about. Being into guys –and, unlike Steve, only guys- was the thing Billy hated most about himself. How many times had he thought that life would be easier if he could just switch? If he could just make himself normal? Alex would still be alive. The Hargroves would still be in California. Billy would never have found out that real monsters actually exist. Hell, Neil might have actually liked his son although, admittedly, that was the biggest stretch.

“Ha!” he forced himself to laugh it off. Today was good. Today was fucking good. Today, it was good to be into guys because it meant that he could have Steve Harrington; he could have him and taste him and savour every fucking minute. “Don’t get me wrong, I probably am but, no, this wasn’t my first rodeo. Not by a long shot,” he added because, hell, Steve needed to know.

Not the sordid details; he didn’t need to know about the last weeks before the big move. He didn’t need to know about the empty alleyways, the dark corners and the seedy motel rooms. He didn’t need to know about the strangers; the good, the bad and the ugly. No. Steve only needed to know that Billy knew what he was doing; that this wasn’t just a phase, as much as he wished it was.

“Ah.”

“Yeah, really honed my craft before moving out here, you know?” Billy said, making all the dark and gritty shit sound like nothing. It was nothing. He was here now; here with Steve.

“Gross,” the older boy pulled a face and Billy forced himself to laugh. It came out a little hollow but Steve didn’t react.

“Yeah,” Billy agreed because, yeah, it really was. Bending down, he put his feet into his jeans and yanked them up, hopping a little until they sat right on his hips. “How about you, Harrington? According to Tommy, you got around a lot, yourself, before Nancy. You get any good at eating chicks out?”

“Uh-” a single dark brow raised in question and Billy laughed.

“Come on, Harrington. I showed you mine,” he grinned, moving over to the bed so that he could pull on his socks. Steve coughed once and pulled his shirt on over his head.

“Not before Nancy,” he said quietly and Billy winced at the thought.

“Gross,” he said before he could stop himself because it really was. Nancy was... well, Nancy. He knew that she and Steve had been a thing -that at some point Steve had probably laid her down on this very bed and made sweet fucking love to her missionary-style- but the thought of them doing anything else made him feel a strange and stupid twist of jealousy.

“Yeah. Thing is, we only did it a couple of times. She never really liked doing it so... yeah,” Steve started and Billy stared at him. Only a couple of times? How long had they been going out? If Ingrid was anything to go by, over-sexed and total over-sharer that she was, girls fucking loved getting head just as much as guys did. Steve looked back at him, obviously not understanding his expression. “What? She got embarrassed!”

Embarrassed? Seriously? That was the line she’d given? Billy couldn’t hide the half-chuckle in his voice now.

“Oh damn!” he sniggered and Steve put his hands on his hips.

“What?” he snapped in his Momma Steve voice.

“You sure she was embarrassed?” Billy grinned, narrowing his eyes at the older boy. Come on, Steve, he though at him, you can’t be that naïve.

“What?!” Momma Steve snapped again, hip cocking to the side. He really did look a fucking sight, standing there in his polo shirt and boxers with his hands on his hips. If he wasn’t so amused about the current topic of conversation, Billy would still be pissing himself at their current situation in general.

“You sure it wasn’t just that you weren’t all that good?” he asked with a small, encouraging nod. “I mean... You’ve never been with a guy before but were you embarrassed when I was sucking you off? Did you have time to be embarrassed?” he pressed, watching the other boy’s expression change.

“Oh God-! I don’t know now!” Steve moaned, running his hands over his face dramatically.

“Amazing!” Billy grinned, clapping his hands together as if he’d just solved the mystery of the week. Fucking brilliant. King Steve had been shit at giving the girls head. Absolutely brilliant.

“Jesus... I was shit, wasn’t I?” the older boy moaned and Billy belly-laughed. “Shut up, man!” the brunette groused, moving over to shove Billy’s shoulder. Billy didn’t stop but did fall back onto the bed, pulling Steve with him so that the older boy was leaning over him.

After a second or two, Steve join in with a tentative chuckle, leaning closer to press a couple of messy kisses to the corner of Billy’s lips. Yes. Fucking yes. Steve couldn’t help himself; neither of them could. No matter what the conversation, no matter what the time was, they couldn’t stop being drawn back in. This was fucking everything.

“I was pretty shit at giving head the first few times I tried it and I actually have a dick, man,” Billy breathed as Steve drew back and shifted to rest his elbows either side of his head. “Vaginas are a world unto themselves. They’re fucking weird and mysterious things!” he smirked and Steve rolled his eyes.

“Don’t suppose you’ve got much experience in that area,” he drawled and Billy shrugged.

“I dunno. Fingered a couple of girls when I first got here,” he admitted. Apparently, today was just the day he told Steve everything. When the hell was that decided?

“What?!” the older boy’s eyes were wide with disbelief and his head snapped back away.

“Well, had to get a rep going. Didn’t want folks figuring out Billy Hargrove’s dirty little secret,” Billy shrugged again.

“You said you hadn’t got with anyone,” Steve said, his voice a perfect mix of confused and... disappointed?

“Not properly. Haven’t ever fucked a girl,” Billy shrugged a third time. Another fucking truth bomb there. Yep, Steve, he internalised. For all intents and purposes, Billy Hargrove is a fucking virgin. At least in the conventional sense.

“But... You’ve gone to third base?”

“Yeah, Harrington, I’ve gone to third base. It’s easy enough,” Billy continued, placing his hands on the other boy’s hips in an effort to stop himself from shrugging again.

“Now that I can do,” Steve grinned, the confident King Steve tone back in his voice for a moment.

“Yeah?” Billy smiled back, admiring the glint in the other boy’s eyes. Yeah, Steve. Tell me what a fucking stud you were.

“Yeah. When I was a junior, one of the seniors on the team told me about the alphabet thing,” the older boy explained and Billy felt his brow creasing in confusion.

“Alphabet thing?” he asked. Surely not...?

“You know? Writing the alphabet with your fingers? Worked every time.”

“Oh God, Harrington! You’re too much!” Billy laughed, head coming off the mattress to plant a small kiss on the end of the older boy’s nose. He really was too much. This was fucking gold.

“What now?” Steve groaned.

“I’m not really a regular but, as far as I know, you gotta build a good, consistent rhythm, like...” he brought up his hand and made the vague motion with his index and middle fingers. Steve’s eyes locked onto the movement, a small flush rising in his cheeks. “Get ‘em nice and wet and use that shit to help, you know, lube it all up.”

Seriously?” the former king of Hawkins High asked and Billy laughed again. Jesus Christ. The poor girls of Hawkins. Poor Nancy. And poor fucking Steve for listening to whatever fucking idiot told him about that goddamn ‘trick’.

“Yeah. None of that alphabet crap! Not sure what that’d do except chafe ‘em,” Billy explained and Steve looked so fucking disappointed.

“You mean-? Jesus....” he pushed off the bed but, thankfully, didn’t get up.

“This is amazing!” Billy laughed, moving his hands up to Steve’s shoulders and tugging him back down to kiss him. King Steve: biggest fucking dork in Indiana. It was so fucking funny and perfect. Billy kissed him again and again even when Steve barely responded.

You can’t be better at fingering girls than me! You don’t even like them!” he snipped as he wrenched himself free from Billy’s mouth.

“That’s neither here nor there,” Billy shrugged with a cocky grin. It really wasn’t. Skill is skill.

“But I actually like girls! I should be at least okay at it,” Steve continued. This had really hit him hard. Billy couldn’t wipe the grin off his face. This devastation was funny. This devastation was an easy fix. It was nothing like the devastation Steve still clearly felt with regards to how shit went down with Nancy; that would be a longer fix.

“A hundred percent, there are plenty of guys who actually like girls and don’t know how to make ‘em cum,” he grinned, stroking at the older boy’s cheek and admiring the flush there.

“How do you?”

“Jesus Harrington! You’ve just gotta ask ‘em,” Billy laugh again and now his cheeks were starting to hurt. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d smiled this much for this long. Steve Harrington was a literally perfect; proficiency with the female anatomy be damned. “Whisper all nice and quiet while you’re doing it. Make it hot. ‘Yeah, baby, you like that?’ and ‘Tell me how you like it, baby.' That kind of shit, you know?”

“Kinda like you did earlier?” Steve asked and Billy laughed. “Were you trying to find out what I liked?”

“Not exactly, Harrington,” Billy smirked. “I think I’ve got a pretty good handle of how to get you off already.”

“Jesus Christ,” Steve breathed, head falling forwards to rest against Billy’s shoulder. Absentmindedly, Billy’s hands started to run through the damp mess of hair, savouring the softness that couldn’t even be deterred by the addition of moisture. “You know I’m now doubting whether or not I ever actually made a girl cum, right?” the older boy lamented against Billy’s skin.

“Maybe you didn’t,” Billy smiled and Steve sighed forlornly.

“Thanks,” he groaned and Billy chuckled.

They held position for a moment, Billy’s eyes glancing up and noting that it was now almost five past. Nancy and Jonathan were late but could be here any moment. The part of him that cared -the part that had shrivelled away while they had enjoyed their shower together- made his whole body start to feel a little tense. Shit. What if they were here? What if they hadn’t heard the door?

Before Billy could spiral any further, Steve’s head snapped up, a look of realisation on his face.

“Wait a second! I made you cum! Just now in the shower; I made you cum! That counts!” he said proudly and, suddenly, Billy was back to not caring. Goddamn, Steve was too much. The laughter belted out of him now; sore cheeks and ribs be damned.

“You did indeed. Congratulations,” he chuckled, sarcasm clear even through the laughter.

“Shut up!” Steve growled, crashing down to silence Billy with a kiss.

Instinctively, Billy fisted the hair that was already in his hands, pulling Steve impossibly close. He breathed in deep through his nose and pushed his tongue past the other boy’s lips. Fucking yes. Propping himself up with his left forearm, Steve’s right hand brushed down Billy’s still-exposed chest in a trail of red-hot fire.

Billy moaned into the older boy’s mouth, loving the thought that none of the cows in Hawkins had ever been made to feel quite so fucking good as he did right now. All this shit; it was all for him. It was all for Billy and Billy alone. At least for now.

Suddenly, Steve’s body froze above Billy. Before he could even begin to complain at this, a sound rang out from downstairs. Someone was knocking at the door.

Chapter Text

Nancy’s big baby-blues went wide for a moment when Billy flung the double doors open; clearly either not expecting him or not expecting the suddenness of the action or both in combination. Billy offered her and Jonathan a lazy smile, holding the doors open as if it was only natural for him to be there.

“Welcome, amigos,” he grinned, sounding as goofy as he still felt.

Nancy was wearing a pretty dress and looked a little like she’d dressed up for the occasion. If things hadn’t gone quite so well before her arrival, it might have made Billy feel a little out of place. As it was, he knew his outfit of choice had been a winner. ‘Jesus Christ Billy...’ Steve had sounded so fucking turned on when he’d been checking his ass out as they’d climbed the stairs. Yep; the outfit, while less swanky than Nancy’s, was a winner. Besides, Jonathan was simply wearing a band tee and jeans. Maybe he was just imagining the ‘dressy’ feel of her outfit. 

Steve was still upstairs, probably frantically trying to set his hair right, and Billy was more than happy to keep the other half of their monster fighting quartet busy. If they had to be here today, then -fuck it- Billy would play along.

“You beat us,” Nancy smiled, already looking calm and collected. The smile that played on her lips was an interesting one. It was somehow new; somehow, it was different.

“That I did. Empty house today with the family heading off to see Susan’s mom. Figured I might as well just head straight over,” he shrugged, moving to one side so that the other two teens could come into the house.

Billy’s smile broadened as he clocked the six pack that Jonathan was carrying. Nice. As unwelcome as they were, given what the day could have held in store for him and Steve, at least they’d brought some fun with them.

“I’m just gunna dump these in the fridge,” the stammering boy said, his voice carrying that faltering edge to it that always made him sound like he was doubting whether or not he was welcome. Billy nodded his acknowledgement and, after kicking off his sneakers, into the kitchen the other boy went.

“And Steve is...?” Nancy asked as her eyes fixed on the dampness around the base of Billy’s neck. Shit. Self-consciously, he brought a hand up to ruffle the curls there.

“Idiot managed to open a soda all over himself,” he casually shrugged out the lie that he’d thought up on his descent of the stairs. It was feasible that, maybe, some of the drink had sprayed on Billy too, right? Nancy wouldn’t question it. “Had to go up and deal. You know how prissy he is about his hair,” he added an extra layer of humour for distraction.

Seeming to accept the excuse, Nancy giggled behind her hand and started in the direction of the lounge. Billy walked with her, eyes glancing up the stairs in a quick check to see if the older boy was ready.

“Well, what’s Memorial Day if Steve’s hair isn’t right?” she asked wryly and Billy chuckled.

“It might as well be cancelled!” he joined in and the laughter continued.

The mahogany unit was open when they got into the lounge, presumably from when Steve had left his crooning bullshit playing. A tad curious, Billy headed for it, heart skipping a beat at the sight of the sound system the Harringtons had going on. Not only was there a fucking beautiful vinyl player but sitting under it was a cassette deck that put anything Billy had even dreamed of saving for to shame. It was a three-head and just as big as everything else in this goddamn house.

Peering at it, Billy could see that there was a tape loaded up. Licking his lower lip, he pressed eject and out it popped. As expected, it was a blank C46 that Steve had recorded himself, ‘Steve’s Mix’ written in permanent marker on the label.

“Looks like Harrington prepped some tunes,” Billy grinned and he turned the cassette over in his hands and placed it back into its reservoir. As it clunked back into the machine, Nancy dropped down onto the couch that Billy and Steve had made good use of on Friday night.

“Hmm...” the noise she made gave off such a familiar feeling. Steve had dated her, after all; she probably had first-hand experience with the brunette’s idea of ‘mood music’ as well. Frowning only briefly, Billy shook it off. It didn’t matter who ‘Steve’s Mix’ was made for – it really didn’t. The fact was that the older boy had put it on for him. Right?

Sure as shit, after a few crackles that Billy could only assume Steve hadn’t meant to record, more fucking Bee Gees started to play. Billy didn’t know this one so well but the voices were too distinct to be anyone else.

“Did... Billy Hargrove just put on the Bee Gees?” Jonathan’s voice was a perfect blend of confused and disappointed as he seemed to just materialise in the room.

Billy felt a flush of embarrassment but stood tall. This was Steve’s shit; Steve’s adorable, dorky shit.

“I get the feeling Steve didn’t make that for today,” Nancy chimed in as the Gibbs all squeaked away in their high-pitched voices. Whatever the song was, it was definitely in the same vein as How Deep is Your Love.

“Not a relic from the good old days?” Billy couldn’t stop himself from prying, shooting Nancy a wink as if that made it less petty of him. The blue-eyed angel smiled and shook her head.

“Not that I remember. We always listened to Top 40 if he wanted-”

“Mood music?” Billy grinned with another wink and Nancy rolled her eyes.

“Exactly!” she agreed, curling her feet up under herself even though her shoes were still on.

Well, that was something. If he thought about it, Bee Gees had been their little inside joke, after all. It would be so fucking weird -and pretty damn lame- if this had been the soundtrack to Steve and Nancy’s make-out sessions. Billy felt the knot of jealousy unwinding as he moved over to sit on the opposite couch. Yeah. It wasn’t for Nancy. ‘Steve’s Mix’, just like all of the shit from this morning, was just for Billy. Goddamn.

“This... is really bad...” Jonathan said after a moment of quiet where the three of them had simply been listening to the music. It really was. Elton John’s Your Song was now playing and, honestly, Billy couldn’t wipe the goofy grin off his face at the idea that Steve had made this for him. It was nothing like the stuff that Billy would have used for a ‘Billy’s Mix’ tape and certainly nothing like what would be on a ‘Jonathan’s Mix’ either. All the same, he fully intended to steal the cassette before he went home tonight.

“What’s really bad?” Steve’s voice made them all turn. There was a slight edge to his voice that reminded Billy quite starkly that things still weren’t normal. For all their laughter and silliness about Steve’s musical choices, there was still a lab full of monsters only a couple of miles down the road. It was a sobering thought. Or at least it would be.

While his cheeks were flushed from the rush, Steve had actually managed to do something with his hair. It wasn’t at its full glory but Billy doubted he would have been able to do much better if he’d full-on washed his like he had. The thing that was distracting Billy from the potentially world-ending threat was the simple fact that, as always, Steve looked good; damn good. A warmth swirled in Billy’s gut at the thought that the older boy was all flushed and rushed because of him; because of what they’d been up to not ten minutes ago. I think I hate you too. Goddamn. It was stupid and to opposite of cute but it felt so fucking important.

“Your music, Harrington,” Billy grinned simply as if he wasn’t just losing himself in thoughts of how good the other boy looked. “Got a chick coming over later or something? Don’t you know its rude to invite friends over when you’ve got a date?” he continued, chancing a wink and loving the sight of Steve’s eyes rolling.

“Yeah, Billy, we all know you’re hilarious,” he snarked, moving round to throw himself down next to Billy just that little bit too close. “And, no. No chick. Just you guys.” He turned his head and his dark eyes were on Billy in a way that made him need to look away. Goddamn. Today was going to be risky. He was feeling too gooey and close. It wouldn’t take much for Nancy and Jonathan to realise something was up.

“Move your ass, Harrington! The couch is big enough that you don’t have to sit on me!” Billy forced himself to laugh, giving the other boy an over-the-top shove.

Steve laughed impishly but resisted the move, stubbornly fighting back until they were basically rolling about on each other. After probably a little too long horsing around, Billy was finally able to roll Steve off the couch entirely, the brunette landing on the floor with a small ‘oof’ sound. Billy cackled maniacally and stretched his legs out to take up the whole couch.

“Dick head!” Steve grinned and Billy shot him another wink.

“To the victor go the spoils, Harrington. You flew too close to the sun and got burned,” he smirked, folding his arms over his chest in a victory pose.

Steve, doing an excellent impression of someone who had never been the king of his high school, scrambled to his feet and looked around the lounge. At some point during their epic battle, Jonathan had moved to sit beside Nancy meaning that sitting there would mean a lot of awkward squashing and elbowing between exes and Billy was definitely not budging from his new position.

“Where am I supposed to sit now?”

“The ottoman?” Billy grinned with a small wiggle of his eyebrows and Steve exhaled dramatically.

“Nice to see you two getting on for once,” Nancy smiled sweetly as Steve defeatedly pulled to ottoman into the middle of the room and perched on the edge of it.

---

After a while, one thing became horribly clear; the mood was a little off today. It felt strangely like the other two knew that they’d been interrupting. Everyone seemed so fucking tentative to speak. Trying to strike up some kind of conversation, Jonathan told them how Joyce liked to remember Bob on days like this but this only made the mood descend further. Nancy, eyes in the direction that Billy knew the pool lay in, sighed and breathed out the name ‘Barb’. Shit.

Shaking her head, Nancy stood up. Holding her hand out at Jonathan expectantly.

“I think it’s about time we break those out, don’t you?” she asked and he looked a little scandalised.

“It’s only just past one, Nance,” the stammering boy objected and Billy raised an eyebrow.

“Gives us plenty of time to sober up before we go home then, doesn’t it?” Nancy countered with a tilt of her head. If she was talking about the beers then why wasn’t she just heading out to the kitchen to get them herself? Billy glanced over in Steve’s direction and he looked equally puzzled.  

“Fine-!” Jonathan huffed, fumbling around in his pocket and pulling out a little ziploc bag with three, neatly-rolled, blunts inside. Steve sat up like a dog watching food falling from a plate.

“Is that-?” he started but Nancy cut across him.

“I figured, after Wednesday, we all need a bit of a relaxation,” she shrugged, snatching the bag from her boyfriend and heading in the direction of the backyard. “You boys coming?” she asked over her shoulder.

Grinning from ear to ear, Billy got up to follow her. Honestly, every time he spent time with her, she only made herself seem more and more awesome to him. How had Tommy ever thought she was a priss? How had Carol not included her in the ‘popular’ crowd? Was it just fucking jealousy? It must have been.

---

Somehow, Billy found himself lying on his back on the floor in the lounge again. Normally, he would question it. Normally, it would be because he’d been in some kind of fight; either with Neil or something a little more balanced. Right now, some time after the four of them had smoked their way through all three of Jonathan’s joints, he was quite content with moving his bare feet back and forth on the carpet. His nerve endings were so fucking sensitive, he could feel every goddamn fibre.

“The carpet feels amazing!” he laughed, turning his head to see that Steve was also lying on his back. The older boy’s dark eyes roamed down to look at Billy’s feet and Billy moved them again and again in demonstration. “Do this, Harrington! It feels awesome!”

“Woah...” Steve breathed before he’d even started. Billy laughed again, basking in the feeling of the carpet against his soles. “How did I not know about this?” Steve sounded genuinely outraged that he hadn’t spent quality time lying on his lounge carpet. To be honest, in that moment Billy was a little outraged too. If the Hargroves had carpet this awesome, Billy definitely wouldn’t let it go to waste... Right?

Nancy stumbled into the room, a small frown on her face. Billy wasn’t sure where she’d been but, then again, he wasn’t sure of anything right now.

“Nance! Feel the carpet!” Steve called to her, his arms raised like a toddler grasping at its mother. Nancy giggled, the frown fading away in and instant, and she wobbled over in their direction.

“You guys are so high!” she laughed and Billy joined her. Whatever the carpet was doing to his feet, it was making him so fucking giggly too. Crazy.

“Come lie down, Angel Face,” he grinned, patting the space next to him. Goddamn. The carpet felt great on his palms too. Planting his hands at his sides, he started to make carpet angels as Nancy lowered herself to lie with them. Her shoes were still on. Billy couldn’t help but wonder if that made a difference right now? His feet felt sensitive enough that he’d be able to feel the carpet through his shoes. Maybe Nancy would too?

Angel Face?” she asked and Billy laughed again.

“You’re an angel, Nancy,” he breathed, telling her something that should probably stay in his head. Oh well. “Like... a beautiful angel...” he said again and suddenly there was a totally uncool feeling against his chest. Billy turned to look at Steve’s scrunched-up face. What-?

“Oi!” Steve groused stupidly, bringing his hand back like he’d just slapped at him.

Thinking about it, the uncool feeling had been a lot like getting hit. Holy shit. He had just slapped at him! Billy wasn’t sure how to feel about it. He frowned, feeling certain he should be cross about it, but then there was a cough from above them.

“Is this a match box?” Jonathan whispered worriedly from the doorway and the three on the floor burst out laughing. Billy was pretty sure that they were laughing at how ridiculous Jonathan sounded but, then again, he was standing up. Maybe he could see something that they couldn’t? The carpet had been very distracting.

“What?” Nancy was the first to get herself under control enough to speak, her voice gasping and full of joy. Jonathan looked like he was having a bad trip; his usually narrow eyes wider than Billy had ever seen them.

“You’re all lying in a line. You’re like matches!” Jonathan said and, suddenly, it sounded like it made sense. “How did this happen? How did I get in here?” How did this happen? Jonathan was definitely asking the important questions right now.

“Come, Jonathan! Join us matches!!” Nancy cooed, her arms outstretched in the same way Steve’s had been only moments ago. Well, if Nancy thought it was okay, then it probably was. Matches were fine anyways.

“Be a match with us!” Billy joined in, copying Nancy’s tone almost perfectly if he did say so himself. Jonathan looked horrified at the idea but still took a couple of tentative steps in the right direction.

“Yeah, Jonathan! Be a match!” Steve whooped.

There wasn’t room. Jonathan was standing above them in a way that would usually make Billy need to stand up; need to even the playing field. Right now, however, it didn’t seem terribly important. Being a matchstick and enjoying the carpet were the priorities.

“Move up, Stevie,” Billy instructed, log-rolling into the other boy before he had a chance to move. Steve laughed, wrapping his arms around Billy for a moment. God it felt good. “We’ve gotta make room in the match box!” he cried out as he tried to roll more. Steve was a wall, one that was shaking with laughter now.

God, Steve smelt good. Billy knew he smelled much the same; they had used the same body wash after all. The smell of the older boy, though; it seemed to have an image to go along with it. Closing his eyes for a moment, Billy could see the colours: swirls of burgundy and chocolate and Steve. He breathed it all in again, laughing at fucking nothing at all.

“We’re all matches now!” Jonathan called out and it was the loudest thing the other boy had ever said.

Opening his eyes, Billy turned to see that there actually had been room for Jonathan and he had now joined their line-up.

“Feel the carpet!” Billy ordered, rolling his body away from Steve because he wasn’t supposed to be lying on him in front of the others. “Harrington’s got the best carpet ever!”

“Woah!” Jonathan said and it sounded just like how Steve had said it. Strangely so.

There was a small twinge of worry in Billy’s gut. Steve and Jonathan has sounded exactly the same when they felt the carpet… What if the carpet was controlling them? What if the carpet was from the Upside Down? No wonder it felt so good; it was a trap!

“Let’s play a game!” Nancy said, completely unaware of how much trouble they were currently in. Billy looked at her face -her lovely, angelic face- and saw she truly had no idea.

“Yes!” Steve cheered and Billy turned to look at him. Goddamn. As angelic as Nancy was, Steve was something else. He had to warn him. This was all his fault; he’d been the one to tell them about the carpet.

“The carpet-” he started but Steve just laughed over him.

“Truth or dare!” the older boy demanded and nothing else mattered anymore. Yes. This was a good game. Carpet be damned.

“Nancy to start!” Billy grinned, rolling yet again to face her. Nancy rolled onto her side and met his eye with all the intensity she could muster.

“Go for it,” she challenged and Billy grinned back at her.

“Truth or Dare, Miss Wheeler?” he asked, watching the corner of her mouth turning up.

“Truth!” she said confidently.

“Who’s the better kisser: Harrington or Byers?” Billy asked before he could stop himself. Nancy didn’t blink, her smile simply quirking upwards even more. Fearless girl.

“Jonathan,” she answered simply and Billy heard the outraged exhalation from behind him.

“Yes!” Jonathan hissed, a single fist raising from behind Nancy in a victory pump.

“And you, Billy: Truth or Dare?” Nancy shot back at him.

“Dare,” Billy winked, wanting to see how dirty his angel would play. Nancy’s grin turned wicked as her baby blues flickered around the room.

“Use someone here as a pillow,” she commanded and Billy smirked at the minor challenge. Sitting in a way that made the room pleasantly twirl, Billy made a show of choosing who to ‘use’. There was no doubt in his mind who it’d be but leaping on Steve right away might be a little too obvious.

“Right, Harrington, get ready!”

“Why me?” Steve moaned and, if he didn’t know better, Billy would have bought it.

“You look the softest!” he grinned, patting the older boy’s stomach a couple of times before he got swiped at.

“Prick!” Steve huffed but didn’t resist as Billy scooted round and lay back down with his head on his stomach. Goddamn, it felt nice.

Billy closed his eyes for a moment, savouring the feeling of the other boy’s heat against him once again. Goddamn, he wanted to get him naked again. He wanted to feel him -skin to skin- while his nerves were so sensitive. Goddamn. What would a hand job feel like right now?

“Billy, your turn to pick!” Nancy prompted and Billy opened his eyes.

“Oh yeah- Jonathan! You know the drill,” he stammered. That was close. If the others weren’t as far gone as him, they might have picked up on that little absence.

“Let’s go for a dare,” the other boy said, his voice coming from some unseen place. Billy assumed he was still part of their matchbox although did it count anymore? Had Billy ruined everything now? No. Matches moved around. He could still be a match.

“I dunno...” Billy said, he really hadn’t thought of anything. Looking over at the mahogany unit, inspiration struck. “Ah-! Rewind ‘Steve’s Mix’ and serenade us with your favourite track!” he laughed and Nancy clapped her hands in delight.

“Yes! Do it, Jonathan!” she giggled and Jonathan was on his feet already.

“You’re a jerk,” he huffed and Billy grinned. He was pretty certain that was the first time Jonathan had ever insulted him to his face. It felt good; like they were getting to a nice, friendly level.

“I’ve been told,” he replied with a knowing grin.

Tilting his head to look up at Steve, he could see that the older boy had bent his right arm under his head as a pillow, dark eyes already fixed on him. Billy smiled and felt his heart leap at the smile that the older boy shot back at him. A gentle hand crept up to stroke at the curls on the top of Billy’s head and Billy hummed out a happy noise. That felt so fucking good. Goddamn, Jonathan’s weed was good. He’d have to insist that they use again.

After some rewinding and fast forwarding -and more than a couple of muttered curse words- Jonathan finally settled on, arguably, the best track on the whole tape: Frankie Valli’s ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off You’. The first time it had played, Billy had smiled softly to himself, head full of memories of holding hands with his mom and dancing around the kitchen while Neil was at work. Now that he was high and listening to it, he could stop himself from humming along to the opening notes.

Jonathan’s voice was definitely not a singer’s voice -he was too quiet and didn’t open his mouth enough to let the sounds out- but he did hit the notes pretty well. By the time they reached the chorus, all four teens were singing raucously along at full volume.

Nancy scrambled to her feet and grabbed Jonathan’s hands, pulling him into an uncoordinated, but still pretty fucking cute, dance. Billy couldn’t help but sing along with them all, his hand reaching up to where Steve’s was still in his hair. Their fingers interlocked and Billy felt his heart swelling up. Goddamn, this was too fucking nice.

Steve sang the chorus with all the confidence and skill of someone who actually was a singer. Billy couldn’t help but tune into the other boy’s voice, marvelling at the fact that, yes, this was another thing he was perfect at. While Billy knew he could sing well enough, it was nothing like Steve. Goddamn.

They belted out the song until the end, holding hands like the song was meant for them.

When the music finally faded out, the other two dropped down to sit on the carpet again, all laughter and love. Slightly unwilling to end the moment, Billy finally let go of Steve’s hand and sat up to face them, feeling Steve do the same once he was off him.

“Right! After that dick-head go, I think it’s only fair that Billy goes again!” Jonathan laughed, pointing at Billy like there was any one else he could have been talking about.

“Goes-?”

“Truth or dare?!” the other three shouted almost in unison and Billy had to laugh.

“Truth!” he blurted and Jonathan grinned.

“Who are you taking to the June Queen Dance?” he asked.

“The what?” Billy spluttered, unsure if he’d heard the other boy properly.

“The June Queen Dance?” Steve said, sounding as confused as Billy was.

“Hawkins High used to do a May Day Dance years ago but people complained that it was a pagan thing or some other nonsense. Instead of cancelling it, they just moved it a month on: the June Queen Dance,” Nancy explained pretty concisely for saying how giddy she was right now. Billy shook his head.

“Didn’t even know it was a thing. Probably gunna go stag,” he shrugged and Jonathan nodded.

“That’s a boring one!” Nancy pouted, elbowing her boyfriend and Billy shot her a wicked smile.

“Alright, Nance: Truth or Dare!”

“Dare!” she said, again without hesitation.

“Lick something in this room. It can be anything except Jon!” he added with a wink in the other boy’s direction. Chuckling, Jonathan gave him the finger as Nancy looked around for something to lick.

“Anything?” she asked as if the instruction had been unclear.

“Except your boyfriend, yeah!” Billy grinned and the slight girl got to her feet. Looking around a few more times, she opened the double doors of the unit and revealed the gigantic TV. “Hot damn, I’ve wanted to lick that since I first saw it!” Billy laughed and Steve slapped at his arm.

Nancy closed the doors again and turned to face the three boys again, a look of concentration on her face.

“I don’t know what to lick!” she finally said, sounding way more upset about it than really needed. Billy cackled with laughter and the other two joined in.  

“Just lick the carpet!” Steve suggested and Billy remembered his concerns from before.

“No! The carpet’s banned too!” he said hastily. Nancy looked upset all over again.

“But I’ve got to lick something!” she pouted but Billy shook his head firmly.

“It’s banned. It’s from the Upside Down!” he said, deadly serious.

“Oh shit!” Steve breathed, equally serious.

Nancy and Jonathan looked at each other and burst out laughing. Apparently, they weren’t taking it seriously at all. Billy frowned and folded his arms over his chest.

“It’s banned,” he said again and Nancy came to kneel in front of him.

“Fine,” she giggled and grabbed his head, turning it to the side and licking a sloppy stripe from his jaw to his cheekbone.

“Blergh!” Billy cried out, pushing her away on instinct. Nancy fell onto Jonathan, practically wetting herself from how much she was laughing. Billy’s eyes flicked up to the other boy, expecting him to be pissed but, nope, he was fucking laughing too.

As one final attempt to find an ally, he turned to look at Steve but, again, the older boy was beside himself laughing. Goddamn. He was surrounded by traitors! And, worst of all, he himself was the biggest traitor as he joined in with the laughter.

“Steve-!” Nancy said between gasps for air. She was holding her sides like it hurt to laugh. “Truth or Dare?”

“Err.... Dare!” Steve laughed and Nancy nodded happily.

“I dare you to get the phone, call up Johnny’s Place and order us all pizza!” she announced and, goddamn, it was an amazing idea.

---

Hand stroking through the silken threads of Steve’s hair, Billy breathed in deep. The smell that filled his lungs was all Steve again. It was just so Steve it made his mouth water.

They were on the floor again, the carpet, which Nancy had proven wasn’t from the Upside Down, acting as a soft place where they could wrap themselves up in each other. Billy smiled as he tightened his arms around the older boy.

“You smell like you,” he observed stupidly and Steve huffed out a small laugh.

“Who else would I smell of?”

Not you,” Billy shrugged, breathing him in again. Goddamn. It was so fucking good. He really couldn’t get enough. The images that whirled through his mind were so fucking soothing as well. Everything about Steve’s scent was intoxicating. It had been too long since he’d known someone else’s smell like this.

“How long?” Steve asked and Billy had to question whether or not he’d just spoken aloud or not.

“How long what?” he breathed and Steve laughed again.

“Since you’ve known someone’s smell?”

“Oh...” He had spoken out loud. “Not since Alex,” he replied and it sounded wrong saying that name out loud. Billy wondered why but it didn’t seem too important right now.

“Alex?” Steve asked and Billy nodded.

“Yeah,” he breathed. “But you don’t know about him.” He didn’t. Steve didn’t know about Alex. That was probably why he shouldn’t have said it. Oh well. The smell of Steve was too good for him to regret speaking. It all felt too nice for him to spoil it with worrying or getting angry.

“I don’t...” Steve breathed, his voice soft and accepting. “Will I ever know about him?”

“Probably not,” Billy replied because why would he? Why would Steve want to know about his dead ex-boyfriend? “It’s too sad.” That he did say aloud, not that he meant to. Goddamn weed.

“Yeah?”

“Yeah,” Billy sighed, pressing closer to the older boy’s chest. The collar of his polo was open enough that Billy could press a gentle kiss to the exposed skin and -God- it felt good to kiss while being high. That something else he hadn’t done in a while. Goddamn. The carpet on his feet was nothing next to Steve’s skin on his lips. “Can we just be happy? I just wanna be happy,” he heard himself whispering against the other boy’s skin and it sounded messy; it sounded pathetic. Steve hummed and ran his hands up and down Billy’s spine. Goddamn, that felt nice too.

“Yeah, let’s be happy,” he sighed, pressing a kiss to Billy’s head.

“I just want us to be happy... That’s all I want...” Billy said again because, as lame as it was, it felt important.

“Can I make you happy?” Steve asked and it was so soft, so full of doubt. Another insecurity from his past with Nancy. Another echo of hurt.

“Yeah. Yeah you can,” Billy replied without hesitation. Steve was perfection. There was no way he couldn’t make him happy. “And me? Can I make you happy?”

“God yes,” Steve replied just as fast. Billy hoped he could make himself believe it.

“Let’s just be happy,” he said again, pressing as close as he could to the other boy. “I haven’t been happy in such a long time.”

“I’d like that,” he hummed, nuzzling Billy’s hair and breathing in deep. Was he learning Billy’s smell too? What the hell were they even doing? “It’s been a while since I was happy too.”

They lay together a little longer, just breathing each other in and being happy. It felt nice, in its own strange way. Billy’s mind fleetingly wondered about where Nancy and Jonathan had taken themselves off to but he couldn’t bring himself to think too hard on it. After being ‘friends’ with Tommy and Carol for a little too long, he was used to couples sneaking off to hook up. While it was unlikely that Nancy would be up for fucking in her ex-boyfriend's house, Billy didn’t doubt that she wouldn’t be opposed to making out there. Especially given how high they all were after that third blunt. The pizza hadn’t really done much to sober them up in the end.

“I think we should put a movie on,” Nancy’s voice cut through the quiet, causing Billy to roll away from the warm, happy smell that was Steve Harrington. “It’s been too long since I’ve watched something on that TV of yours, Steve.”

Steve climbed awkwardly to his feet and moved over to the unit, meeting Nancy there to look at the selection. Billy sat up on his ass, shuffling back until he was propped up against the couch. Goddamn. He just wanted more; more Steve, more contact, more everything. If only Neil and the rest weren’t getting back tonight. If only this could be a sleepover.

---

By the time The Karate Kid seemed to be in the final throws, Billy was completely somewhere else. Much like when they’d watched Neverending Story together, he and Steve had ended up sharing a couch and, just like that time, Steve was asleep before they were even half way through. Over the past few minutes, the older boy had been slumping closer and closer until he had finally ended up resting on Billy’s shoulder.

Nancy and Jonathan were fixated on the screen in front of them so Billy didn’t feel the need to push him off. He simply sat and enjoyed the little closeness that he could. His hand was running through Steve’s hair, enjoying the texture of silk between his fingers. He was still a little high; this was still excusable.

When the credits finally started to roll, Billy gave the other boy a small nudge. Steve’s pretty eyes opened and blinked around the room a few times before looking up and fixing on Billy. The smile that spread over his lips at that moment fucked Billy up in a special way, causing him to look away.

“You missed nearly the whole goddamn movie, Harrington,” he teased, tousling Steve’s hair a little before taking his hand back. Now that the movie was over, Nancy and Jonathan were back to paying attention to the other people in the room.

“I’ve seen it anyway,” the older boy smirked, give Billy a gentle shove in retaliation. Billy scoffed and shoved back, the two of them going full circle as they rassled on the couch once again.

“Okay, boys, that’s enough!” Nancy smiled as she got to her feet. “Me and Jonathan are going to head off. It’s getting late.” Billy looked up at the clock and could barely believe the time it was showing: quarter past nine. How long had they been lying around, stoned out of their minds?

“Shit, yeah... me too,” he said, disentangling himself from the older boy’s impossibly long limbs and clambering to his feet.

“Yeah?” Steve asked, looking a little deflated.

“Yeah. Wanna beat the family home,” Billy shrugged, trying to pretend it was for normal reasons even though at least two thirds of the people present knew it wasn’t. Hell, Jonathan almost definitely knew. There was no way that Nancy wouldn’t have told him.

They all moved into the entrance way, Billy and Jonathan ducking down to put their shoes back on. Nancy pulled Steve in for a tight hug, holding him close and whispering into his ear in that way that they seemed to do every so often. Straightening up, Billy pushed down the small flush of jealousy at their closeness; he and Steve had been through that already. Steve wasn’t into Nancy; not anymore. He was into Billy and Billy was into him. Yeah, they’d been through this.

 “See you boys tomorrow,” Nancy smiled as she pulled away from Steve and moved to wrap Billy up in a warm hug. “Thanks for today,” she breathed, more for him than for the others. Billy squeezed her close before they both moved out of the embrace.

“See you, Nance. Jon,” he nodded in the other boy’s direction even as he was opening to door to leave.

“Bye guys!” Jonathan waved and then he and Nancy were off, walking hand-in-hand towards his car.

Billy watched, the smallest trace of envy prickling at his skin.

“Do you really have to go?” Steve asked as Jonathan’s pulled away from the curb and drove off into the night.

Billy turned back to face the other boy. His hair was a fucking mess, partially from sleeping at an odd angle and partially from Billy’s own interference. He looked fucking adorable. Pulling the door closed again, Billy leaned closer.

Not missing a beat, Steve wrapped his arms around Billy’s shoulders and slotted their mouths together, his hot tongue probing at Billy’s lips with a desperate insistency that spoke volumes. Smiling into the kiss, Billy opened his mouth, granting the other boy the access that he was so desperate for. Steve whimpered into the kiss, his tongue delving deeper as if it was trying to make up for lost time.

Billy was breathless in seconds, Steve stealing the air from his lungs as he devoured him. Goddamn. As pent-up and frustrated as Billy had felt at various points during the day, Steve had clearly been right there with him. This was fucking awesome.

“Goddamn...” Billy breathed when Steve finally came up for air.

“Don’t go... not yet,” the brunette practically begged, rubbing the tips of their noses together in a fucking adorable eskimo kiss. If it were up to him, Billy would throw his hands up and say a big fuck it to going home. He’d stay and kiss and submit himself to anything Steve wanted from him. But it wasn’t up to him. Neil would be home within the hour and, while no specific chores were set for today, he would not take kindly to Billy being out when he returned.

“I’ve gotta,” he breathed against Steve’s lips, hating that it was true. Steve whimpered but nodded his head.

“Yeah...” he sighed, arms loosening and closeness fading. Billy held him firm.

“Free tomorrow evening?” he asked, grasping for something that they could hold onto. Steve’s eyes glinted as he smiled at the question.

“Yeah. Yeah, I’m free,” he replied and Billy pressed a soft kiss to those beautiful lips.

“Then it’s a date,” he smiled, finally moving away.

Chapter Text

Billy was home well before Neil and the others. Apparently, traffic had been hell on the return journey and they all came barging into the Hargrove well past eleven. Had he not still had the hazy buzz of Jonathan’s weed in his system, Billy would have been pretty sore about rushing home for no reason. As it was, he simply sat up to turn his meagre one-head cassette player off so that Neil couldn’t find issue with his choice or volume of tunes. Today had been too good for the old man to barge in a ruin it.

Breath held despite it all, Billy waited for the tell-tale sounds of bedroom doors closing. Frustrated as he’d sounded as he hissed at Susan outside Billy’s door, Neil clearly wasn’t in the mood to lay into his son. Clearly there were some limitations to what he could blame Billy for. Good.

Smile returning to his lips, Billy shifted on the bed. His body felt loose and relaxed in a way that it hadn’t done in well over a year; perhaps ever. The weed had been good -really good- but the day of laughing, singing and just Steve had all been too good. He felt gooey and blissed out. It was almost too good to be true.

Billy... The familiar voice echoed in his mind.

Blinking once, his bedroom was shrouded in an instantaneous and oh-so-familiar blackness. He sat up on the bed, eyes scanning the darkness until he spotted her. El.

Somehow, she looked smaller than he remembered. She was wearing an oversized, plaid shirt that he could only assume belonged to Hopper, acid-wash jeans that were overly baggy and too short all at once and, as always, her feet were bare. Her curly hair was a mess, all tangled around her ears and the nape of her neck. As she padded closer and closer to him, Billy could see the darkness beneath her eyes. Her face was a little gaunt; paler than her remembered. Goddamn.

Even through the warm memory of weed in his system, he felt a stab of guilt at her altered appearance. It had almost been a whole week since they’d gone to the lab; almost a whole week since she’d been down there, fighting hundreds of those things on her own. Billy had been so caught up in Steve and whatever was building up between them he’d completely forgotten all about his little psychic friend. He really was a piece of shit sometimes.

“El,” he said, pushing himself up off the bed and taking a few steps to meet her halfway.

Stopping barely a foot away from him, she looked up at him, eyes warm and mouth pulled into a smile.

“Billy,” she said and she sounded so goddamn happy to see him it hurt. Opening her arms up to him, she moved closer still, wrapping herself around him in an embrace that Billy wasn’t sure should be possible in this weird void. Regardless, he couldn’t stop himself from wrapping her up in his own arms, returning the hug with full force. If a gesture to convey how sorry he was for his neglectful ways, he hoped this would be it.

“You okay, kiddo?” he asked when she finally pulled back to look up at him. “Sorry I’ve been AWOL recently. Shoulda come to see you,” he added, knowing that he sounded as guilty as he felt. Somehow, it never felt like it mattered when he was talking to El. Somehow, he never felt like he had to be strong in front of her. Her being psychic probably had something to do with it.

“Getting better. I am here,” she smiled and she had a point; if she had been too weak, she wouldn’t be able to set up this weirdo connection of theirs.

“That’s good...” Billy smiled, not even flinching as she took hold of his hand and lead him back to his bed. Whatever she wanted was good.

“Look happy,” she said, lowering herself to perch on the edge of the bed. Staying on his feet before her, Billy looked down at the hand that she was still holding onto. Did physical contact give her a better read of his mind? Did it make any difference at all when they were here? Did he even care?

“I...” he started, thinking back to the babbling conversation he’d had with Steve on the lounge carpet. Goddamn, that was more than a little embarrassing. He wondered if El could see it? Did that even matter. “I think I am...” he admitted, his free hand coming up to run his thumb over his lower lip.

“Steve,” El said with such a warm confidence that Billy knew she knew. He looked into her eyes and they hadn’t changed. They were as open and warm as ever. Even though it really should, this didn’t gross her out one bit; she wasn’t put off at all.

“Yeah. Steve,” he smiled with a small nod. El brought her other hand up to clutch at Billy’s and she squeezed in an excited little gesture.

“Knew it,” she smiled triumphantly. “Knew he would care. I said so.”

Breath catching in his throat, Billy remembered it. ‘He will. Be calm. He will care.’ Way back when -before any of the shit out in the woods, before the lab, before Harrington became Steve- she'd said those exact fucking words. Right into his mind while she’d been holding him back from smashing the Byers door down and gunning for the older boy like the monster that, at the time, Billy truly was. Goddamn. What did that shit mean?

“Can you see the future?” he asked, feeling stupid like that could just be an accepted fact that he’d missed out on. Thinking back, he couldn’t remember anyone saying anything about her knowing shit like that. But, then again, he knew that she didn’t visit the others in the void either. Was this just more of the random shot that only he shared with her?

“No!” she laughed, finally dropping his hand so she could cover her mouth. “Just feel. Like Mike. You and Steve. Special. Love.”

Billy felt his body flush cold at that word. Love. It was a bit early for that kind of weighty word to be thrown around, right? Not to mention the others who’d fallen into that category in his life: his mother... Alex. Was he really ready to put Steve alongside those two? Was he really ready to risk that? The trend for the people he loved wasn’t exactly one of pleasant endings.

“Not sure about that...” he tried to laugh it off, hand scratching at the back of his head in an awkward gesture. El shook her head, eyes still intense and knowing.

“Not like them. More,” she said and Bill took a half-step back.

She was definitely tapped into his brain right now, physical contact or no. Hearing her talk so confidently about shit he hadn’t even figured out for himself yet was a little more than unnerving. His stomach was twisting and turning and his breaths were coming just a little faster than usual.

“How can you know that?” he heard himself asking, despite the growing fear inside him. El smiled and closed her eyes for a moment, looking so much older than she was. Goddamn, this was a lot.

“You fit. You and Steve: meant to fit,” she said as if that made sense.

Strangely, though, the more Billy considered it, the more it kind of did. Once they’d broken through the bullshit of not knowing what they wanted from each other, he and Steve had seemed to just click into place. Like a pair of gears that had been grinding out of sync for a little too long; they’d finally locked into the same rhythm and things were just fucking working. Maybe El had a point after all?

“Like you and Mike?” he asked, wanting to move away from this deep conversation. Regardless of how much sense what El was saying actually made, it was still too much. Love was just too strong a word to describe the guy that you’ve only been making out with for six days, no matter how fucking good it was.

“Like me and Mike,” El nodded and Billy could hear the certainty in her voice. Goddamn. Did Little Wheeler know how in she was? Did Hopper know about it?

The conversation swayed back into something a little more normal after that. At Billy’s asking, El had, in her own stilted manner, explained what had gone down on Wednesday night. Apparently, she’d managed to lock on to where the Remorhazes were after searching here in the void; a thought that gave Billy the willies to say the least. She explained how there had been more than she’d expected and that Hopper and Joyce had saved her.

“Only saw some,” she explained like that meant something. “There were lots.” That was confusing in itself but Billy would be damned if he knew the rules for this Upside Down shit. The fact of the matter was that she had taken this long to get even some of her powers back; Wednesday had taken that much out of her.

By the time the conversation was over -by the time the other objects in his bedroom had returned to view- Billy was feeling a new wave of guilt. One thing was clear from this conversation; they relied too heavily on El’s powers when battling the shit from the Upside Down. She couldn’t have been more than Max’s age; she was just a fucking kid. If Hopper’s dodgy contacts didn’t manage to sort this shit out, he would be damned if he’d let them get away with just pointing her at the nest like some kind of weapon. No fucking way.

---

The school day started like most others with the small exception being that Max had opted for making her own way to school. Neil grumbled about her having a test or some other bullshit when Billy had looked around for her at the breakfast table. It was probably just an excuse but Billy wasn’t going to argue. Today had too much potential. Even though it was only a matter of hours since he’d last seen him, Billy felt fucking giddy at the thought that Steve would be there too. Goddamn he was so far gone. Maybe El wasn’t too far off the money last night.

Earlier than he could really excuse on a regular day of school, he pulled up in the parking lot beside the only other car outside the staff area: the Bimmer. Climbing out of the Camaro, Billy quickly opened up the passenger side door and let himself in. Steve was still sitting in the driver’s seat, fucking beautiful smile on his lips as Billy settled in.

“Good morning,” he smiled softly, half-leaning forwards as if they could just greet one another with a kiss. Goddamn, that boy was too used to dating chicks. His instincts all told him that this was okay; that no one would take issue with a good morning kiss between him and his sweetheart.

Looking around the deserted lot, Billy toyed with the idea. There was no one here and he did so want to kiss those pretty lips again. Closing his eyes with an internal fuck it, Billy leaned over the hand-brake and offered the older boy the briefest of kisses.

“Morning,” he sniffed as he pulled quickly back into his own space. Steve chuckled and leaned back into his seat.

“What was that?” the older boy teased and Billy looked away. Fucking hell.

“What?”

That- what was that?” Steve continued, the laughter intricately threaded into his words. Fighting the smile in the corners of his mouth, Billy folded his arms over his chest.

“Look, if you’re gunna get fucking stupid over one good morning kiss, Harrington, I won’t bother,” he replied, the pouty tone not really matching up with his persona but totally in line with the embarrassment he was feeling. Steve full-on laughed at that one, hand clapping on the steering wheel a couple of times.

“That wasn’t much of a kiss, was it? I’ve kissed my mom for longer,” he continued.

I’ve kissed your mom longer too. She really gets around,” Billy countered, looking back up at the other boy with a lude wink. Steve’s smile only broadened at the jab, eyes glinting in a way that just made him look perfect.

“What can I say? She’s always been into her charity work. Guess we both have a soft spot for the underprivileged types,” Steve shot back and Billy couldn’t stop himself from sniggering at that one.

“Planning on making another donation tonight then, Harrington?” he grinned, eyes pointedly trailing up and down the other boy’s body. He was wearing his letterman jacket over a teal tee and the colours simply made his skin look like porcelain. He was too fucking perfect. Goddamn.

“I suppose if there’s a worthy cause,” Steve smiled back, his gaze just as wanting.

“I could make sure Max is home and then come straight over after school?” Billy suggested, keeping his tone in the same flirtatious area even without the protection of their banter. Steve nodded happily.

“The Harrington doors are always open to the poor and needy,” Steve laughed and Billy had to swipe at him for that one. The older boy caught Billy’s wrist and pulled him closer. Billy moved with the tug, hoping against hope that they were still the only people here.

Steve’s lips felt perfect against his own, even here in this exposed place. What El had said last night made a frightening amount of sense; the two of them just fit. He’d thought as much of the group right from the start; that he, Steve, Nancy and Jonathan simply had the right dynamic- but this felt more than that somehow. Closing his eyes, Billy let himself savour the kiss, knowing that it couldn’t last too long. The gentle caress of the older boy’s tongue against his lips was almost enough to make him forget where they were; almost.

After too long –but, goddamn, not long enough- they separated, a familiar stirring in Billy’s pants. Today was gunna be a long one; Billy could feel it.

Nancy and Jonathan arrived after around five more minutes. By this point the parking lot was slowly filling up and Steve had had the sense to make no further moves to reignite any kisses between the two of them.

As they both climbed out of the Bimmer, Nancy offered them a beautiful smile and a wave. She was wearing a pretty, brightly coloured dress that, once again, had Billy questioning his choices. Perhaps that was just the style she was going for at the moment. It wasn’t as if he kept track of things like girl’s fashion trends.

“Morning boys!” Nancy chirruped cheerfully while Jonathan simply offered them a half wave. Following her lead, they all made it to the sidewalk, fitting together as well as they always did.

“Hey Nance!” Steve smiled with such ease. He looked so fucking relaxed and beautiful, Billy found himself matching him with the same air. Goddamn. Hopefully it wasn’t too obvious how fucking hard he was falling for the him with every single move he made.

“I slept so well last night!” Nancy beamed and she really looked it. Her face was so bright and fresh.

“Me too. Thanks, Jonathan,” Steve replied and Jonathan nodded at him as they all fell in step with one another.

That perked up Billy’s interest: Steve slept well. Knowing how much the other boy struggled with that shit, it felt really stupidly good to know he’d had a good sleep. Goddamn, Billy was turning into a total mom-type. Move over Momma Steve; Momma Billy is in town.

“Oh! I grabbed us all something,” the blue-eyed angel suddenly exclaimed, her voice sounding like she surprised herself with the memory as she reached into her bag. After a couple of seconds worth of fumbling, she had to stop mid-step to have a proper delve.

“Baited breath over here, Nance,” Billy grinned and she shot him a look before diving back into the bag.

Billy never understood chicks and their purses. They always seemed to have a mixture of everything and nothing inside them. Even Ingrid, with her tomboy attitude, struggled to find shit when she was rummaging through the patched-up backpack that she brought everywhere.

When Nancy finally straightened up, victorious, she had a flustered look of irritation. Yep. Purses were more trouble than they were worth. Billy couldn’t understand why chicks didn’t just shove shit in their pockets like guys did.

“One each,” Nancy huffed, holding her palm out. Piled awkwardly were four, travel-sized match boxes. Jonathan and Steve took one without question, the latter holding it up and eyeballing it as if there was some mystery to be solved there. Waiting his turn, Billy picked up the small box. It had enough weight to it that he knew it was full. What the..?

“Matches!” Steve laughed. “We were matches!” And it shouldn’t have made any sense but the memory of the four of them lying on the carpet came flooding back into Billy’s mind all at once. Jesus, they’d been so out of it. Grinning from ear to ear, Billy wrapped his fingers around the stupid fucking momento.

“Matches for life!” Nancy smiled back, her voice sounding like sweet laughter. “The kids all have their little board game thing; I figured it was only fair we have something!” she explained, clutching the last box to her chest like it was something precious.

And, stupid as it was, it did feel precious; like this was a symbol of them as a group. For the first time in the past nine-odd months, he didn’t long for California. For the first time in the past nine-odd months, he felt like Hawkins wasn’t so bad after all. Alex, Ingrid and Jason were awesome -nothing could take away the times that he’d shared with them- but this felt deeper somehow. Mentally shrugging, Billy figured that fighting monsters and risking your life for one another might have a little something to do with it.

“God. Not one of my finest moments,” Jonathan despaired and Billy had to laugh.

“Yeah, but probably one of your funniest,” he grinned, winking at the other boy and laughing again when he gave him the finger. Goddamn, Jonathan was getting real comfortable with him.

Before they could remember any more embarrassing shit from the previous day, the bell rang out. The four of them made their way into the building, Nancy and Jonathan taking the lead while Billy and Steve followed behind, elbows bumping against one another with every step they took. Glancing down, Billy could see the older boy had his hands jammed firmly in his back pockets as if that was the only way to keep them to himself. He had to smile. Maybe he did have some sense after all.

Or so he thought. When he went to dump his shit in his locker, Billy couldn’t help but spot the scrap of paper that was resting on top of his books. Taking a step closer to the locker, he unfolded the note and couldn’t stop himself from rolling his eyes.

MEET ME IN THE LOCKER ROOM

There wasn’t a designated time or a signed name but who the fuck else would write this? Rolling his eyes a second time, Billy slammed his locker shut and dutifully made his way to the locker room. Goddamn, Steve was definitely gunna be the death of him.  This was decidedly not sensible.

“You in here, Harrington?” Billy called out as he stepped into the room. If there was anyone else lurking about after a morning gym session, he figured this would be a good way of wheedling them out.

Stepping round the corner, his eyes fixed on the tall figure leaning up against the locker that Billy always used; the locker that was basically his.

“Yeah, I’m here. Don’t cream your pants,” the older boy drawled and Billy chuckled at the inside joke. Arms folded across his chest and long legs criss-crossed, Steve looked the picture of cool, or at least like he thought he did. Billy smirked. So long as they were alone, he’d happily play along with this game. If King Steve wanted the flirty back and forth, Billy would happily go a round.  

Adding a little more swagger than usual to his walk, he approached the other boy, enjoying the feeling of those dark eyes roaming up and down his body.

“Like what you see, Harrington?” he grinned, tongue licking out to caress his bottom lip. Already betraying him a little, Steve’s breath caught in his throat in just the faintest hitching sound as he unconsciously mimicked the action. A faint flush was already starting to pink his cheeks. Nice. This was going to be an easy win. “Strange venue for lunch, isn’t it? And on a day when I forgot mine, too!” Billy continued in a voice that feigned innocence, coming to halt a step away from the other boy. Enjoying the fleeting widening of the older boy’s eyes, Billy planted his right hand on the locker just beside his head, leaning in closer. “Got any ideas what I could put in my mouth?” he pushed further, the lame line doing the trick as Steve’s face finally went full crimson. Fucking yes. Leaning closer still, Billy smiled at his victory, licking at his lower lip a second time.  “You’re blushing, Harrington. Was it something I said?” Billy purred, nice and close.

That was enough, apparently. Today at least, King Steve was definitely on the side of getting some rather than winning some kind of battle of wills. Grabbing Billy roughly by the back of his neck, the older boy yanked him closer, forcing their lips together in a crushing kiss. Eyes closing on instinct, Billy pushed forwards into the kiss, his body crashing up against Steve’s like waves against a cliff.

It was stupid kissing in the locker room like this. Fucking stupid. The rational part of Billy’s brain knew this damn well. The animal part of his brain -the more dominant part of his brain- however, was so into this that there was nothing he could do to stop himself. Free hand fumbling its way under Steve’s shirt, Billy groped at the soft skin that lay beneath. Goddamn, he’d never get used to how fucking good Steve felt.

A loud, unmistakable moan echoed throughout the room and Billy couldn’t be sure which of them had made it. His lips felt like they were on fire, the heat spreading through his whole body again and again with every movement, every touch of tongue or tooth. Fuck. Billy ground forward, hissing into Steve’s mouth as he felt the hard outline of the other boy’s erection against his own. Goddamn, this was a lot.

It was Steve who broke the kiss, turning his head to the side, hands relaxing. Breathing heavily, Billy leaned down to press his lips against the exposed skin of the other boy’s neck, desperate for more contact.

“Shit… Billy…” Steve gasped, a hand running up the back on his neck and twisting into his hair. Billy hummed into his kisses, sucking gently on the spot he’d been toying with up to this point. “Shit-!” Steve breathed again, giving Billy’s curls a gentle tug.

And that was it. The heat was gone. Billy felt his whole body freeze as he was suddenly back in California; as he was suddenly back with Alex in the back of the Camaro. Neil’s voice shouting furiously. Neil’s hand in his hair. One harsh, endless tug. Billy falling backwards, Alex shouting out in surprise and fear. Fuck.

Back in the locker room, Billy practically jumped back away from Steve. Fuck. His breaths were coming short but for a totally new reason. He felt all kinds of terrified and stupid and embarrassed all at once. Steve’s eyes were wide and on him, his hands hovering in the space that, until just now, Billy had been occupying. Fuck.

“Billy-?” he asked and Billy tried to force out a laugh. His hand was rubbing at the back of his head, at the spot where Steve had pulled. Goddamn, it had only been the smallest tug. It was nothing like back in California. It was nothing like Neil.

“I-” he didn’t know what to say. What could he say? He felt like a fucking moron. Steve was looking at him with all the concern and caring those big, beautiful eyes could muster and Billy just felt pathetic. Jesus Christ.

“Are you- Did I-?” the older boy’s voice was still breathy but so fucking worried. Goddamn. This wasn’t supposed to be deep and shit. This was supposed to be two horny guys not being able to wait until the end of the school day to suck face. This wasn’t supposed to be like this.

“I’m sorry,” Billy said, sounding as stupid as he felt. He felt himself taking another step back but Steve caught his hands in his own, holding him from moving out of arm’s reach.

“Talk to me,” he breathed and it sounded like a plea. “Did I do something wrong?”

“My hair…” Billy replied without thinking. Steve’s eyes went wider still as he digested those two words.

“Your hair?” he asked softly, tilting his head. Goddamn. Billy felt too fucking stupid for words right now. He just wanted the ground to swallow him up. Stupid fucking brain. Stupid fucking Neil. Why’d he have to go and remember that shit? This was nothing like that. That was a far off nightmare; barely real now in the light of day.

“Yeah… Neil,” Billy heard the words coming out of him but he felt strangely detached from them. “He- Back in California…” Goddamn he couldn’t get into this. Not now. Not today. Not when Steve was looking so fucking beautiful. Not when things between them were feeling so sweet and good. Not yet.

Steve bowed his head for a moment but then his hands were squeezing and he was looking back up at him, the softest smile on his lips.

“Okay,” he said and it almost felt like it was. Billy felt like breaking right then and there but instead let the older boy pull him closer in a considerably less heated embrace. Tender, gentle arms encircled Billy’s waist and held him so close that breaking definitely felt like an option. “Okay. I’m sorry,” Steve breathed and Billy leaned into his hold. Fucking hell.

---

The rest of the school day went by without any further humiliations. With the mood utterly ruined by Billy’s little freak out, the two boys had simply headed out to eat their lunch with Nancy and Jonathan under the bleachers only marginally later than they usually would. Steve had met Billy by their cars at the end of the day; the two of them confirming in hushed voices that, freak out aside, tonight was still on.

“See you there, sweetheart,” Billy smiled with all the charm he could muster with the self-inflicted wound to his pride he was sporting. As humiliated as he felt by how he’d behaved at lunch, he needed to see Steve tonight. He needed to show the older boy that he wasn’t the fucking basket case that he’d made himself look like. Things needed to get back on track.

Much like that morning, Max had already made her way home by the time Billy walked up to the Hargrove house. Billy felt tweaked, having waited a good twenty minutes outside the middle school before Little Byers had awkwardly approached the Camaro and told him that she was gone. He was tweaked but not enough to make a thing of it. Shit was sour enough with the little red head without him making an issue out of her not scamming rides off him.

Sniffing to himself, he opened the front door. He’d take a quick shower and head right on over to Steve’s - give no one the opportunity to stop him.

“Your sister had to skate home today,” the cold voice froze Billy into position the moment he stepped over the threshold. Shit. 

Billy felt so fucking stupid. He’d been far too relaxed, his mind somewhere else. He hadn’t clocked his dad’s car; hadn’t put two and two together. As always, the old man was keeping his unpredictable work hours. Billy was never sure if that was because he wanted to keep Billy on his toes or just because his jobs sucked. Either way, it didn’t matter. Right now, what mattered was he was here and he seemed pissed. Fuck. He should have just gone straight to Steve’s.

Neil stood up, rolling his shoulders like a boxer getting ready for a fight. Billy’s blood ran cold. Goddamn. He’d wanted to make himself look hot for tonight, not broken and defeated.

“I said,” the old man started, crossing the room in only a couple of threatening strides, “Your sister had to skate home today.”

“I waited outside the school, Dad. She went on her own on purpose!” Billy replied, his voice sounding more argumentative than it should have.

Steel eyes glinting as if that was what he’d been waiting for, Neil grabbed the front of Billy’s shirt and pulled him close. There he held him, his hot, putrid breath hitting his face, for way too long; long enough to make Billy really worried. How far was this going to go? Would he be able to meet up with Steve?

“Max is going to see her friends at the arcade tonight,” Neil started, his voice clipped and to the point. “You are going to drive her and be the responsible big brother that you should have been all day.”

And ain’t that charming? Max was auditioning for bitch of the year and Billy was getting in the shit for it. At least, for now, he was still in one piece.

“Okay...” he replied and earned himself a sharp slap for his trouble. Shit. “Shit- I mean-” Another slap cut him off. His cheek stung but he knew Neil could do worse.

“Billy...” Neil growled and Billy knew he knew better than to swear in front of the old bastard. What the hell was wrong with him today? He just wasn’t reading things right; he wasn’t reacting to things right.

“Yes sir,” he corrected himself and Neil’s nose crinkled into an ugly sneer. Looking at the old man’s face, Billy couldn’t help but wonder if that was how he looked when he was mad. Was that what Max saw when he fired off at her? Was that what Steve saw back in November?

No. There was no way they would be where they were now if that was the case. There was no way anyone could want someone who had that face. No one with half a backbone at the very least.

“Have her back by nine,” Neil snarled and Billy could feel the weight of it. There was no leeway with this curfew. He was already walking a thin line as it was.

Chapter Text

He and Max didn’t speak. It seemed like this was the new way of things for them. She sat, eyes looking pointedly out the window, for the whole journey, never once even making an attempt at starting any form of interaction. Billy could feel the tension but he’d be damned if he was going to do anything about it. If she had a problem then let her keep it to herself. He hadn’t been that harsh on Saturday. She needed to get a grip.

Once they arrived at the arcade, she opened the Camaro door with a cool, calm hatred that was so different from her normal manner. Max was all about explosive displays of emotion -the shouted words, the slammed doors- this really was different. Billy would have had a twinge of concern at that, had he not seen the way that she stormed off. Once again, the dramatic stomp was powering her gait. Drama was that girl’s default; she couldn’t avoid it for long. Whatever. He had more important things on his mind right now.

Feeling like a bit of an idiot, Billy sat and waited. Henderson and Sinclair used Steve as a ride more often than not when they wanted to get around; he really hoped that Steve would be able to connect the dots when he hadn’t shown right after school and they put in a request for him to play cabbie. Drumming along with Rarebell to ‘Hurricane’ on the steering wheel, Billy watched the small parking lot outside the arcade. Goddamn, he looked like such a creeper.

After around five minutes, the Bimmer finally pulled into the lot, parking alongside the Camaro just as it had done that morning at school. Relieved more than he could say, Billy glanced through the window and could see Steve deep in an animated conversation with Henderson, Sinclair nowhere to be seen. Cocking his head to one side, he watched Steve’s hands gesturing pointedly and Henderson seeming to be arguing with him. The fuck? As far as Billy knew, the two of them were like freaky, little besties. What the hell could Steve find to argue with a kid about?

As if they could hear his confusion through both cars' doors, they both looked over at him and the argument seemed to come to an abrupt halt. Billy raised an eyebrow in question as his eyes met Steve’s but suddenly Henderson was getting out of the car and walking around the front of the Camaro.

Clearly agitated, Steve leapt out of the Bimmer and Billy could hear him barking at the kid to stop but it didn’t seem to have an effect at all. Without so much as a ‘by your leave’, Henderson was yanking open the passenger side door and plonking himself into the seat beside Billy.

“Hello?” Billy stammered, genuinely shocked by this behaviour. While Henderson had been a touch overly-familiar on Wednesday night, there had still been some kind of boundaries, right? What the hell was this kid thinking? Henderson calmly closed the door and turned to face Billy, his hands lying flat over his knees.

“Good evening, William - can I call you William?” the kid started, his voice farcically serious like some kind of spoof of a lawyer addressing one of his colleagues over a board room table.

“No. You can’t,” Billy shot back. No one called him William. Ingrid had been the only person to use it and she had only done so in jest; reserving it for when she was scolding him and the others. ‘William! Alexander! You know better than this!’ Even then, through the laughter and the inevitable nonsense, it had sounded so fucking wrong.

“Billy then,” Henderson nodded, his voice still so fucking stupidly serious. “We need to talk about our mutual friend Steven.”

Good god, what was this kid on? Billy looked out the window and could see Steve folded, head down, over the roof of the Bimmer in a pose of utter defeat. Whatever the kid was about to say, Steve knew it was coming and wasn’t going to come to Billy’s rescue. Fucking perfect.

“Right...” Billy said warily.

“Billy-” Henderson started, pausing as if for some kind of dramatic tension,“-over the past few weeks, you have proved to be a valuable member of the adolescent faction of our monster-fighting team. If Wednesday night is anything to go by, you even show the potential to be a pretty fine Barbarian,” he continued and Billy couldn’t stop himself from rolling his eyes. Barbarian was doubtlessly some kind of dumb reference to their nerdy, little game.

“If you’ve got a point to make, do it quick, Henderson. I’ve got places to be,” he snapped. This shit was really eating into the limited time that he could be spending with Steve’s dick. He really didn’t fancy wasting any more than was absolutely necessary.

“Fair enough,” Henderson shrugged. “My point is that you have potential. Steve and Nancy and Jonathan can all attest to that much.”

“Ain’t that nice? You making plans for my formal initiation or some shit?” Billy snarked and Henderson huffed in an exaggerated manner, taking off his cap so that he could run his hand through his hair. The gesture was so fucking Steve that Billy could only assume the boy had copied it on purpose. Goddamn, of all the people to model yourself after...

“Sadly, no. There’s still one -no- two problems standing between you and the rest of us Junior members, Billy,” the lispy boy said as he replaced his hat. Two glaring problems.”

“Yeah? And what are they?”

“Yes. Problem one: you beat up Steve back in November,” Henderson said gravely, tilting his chin downwards and eyeballing Billy in a way that an elderly school mistress might do to a naughty child. Goddamn this was ridiculous. “Now, Steve assures me that you have apologised for this but-”

“Isn’t that shit between me and Harrington anyways, Henderson?” Billy asked, annoyed at how fucking defensive his voice sounded. Yeah, Henderson had the right of it; he had apologised for that shit. Thing was, it really didn’t feel enough. Especially now. He really didn’t need this kid pointing that shit out to him.

“Steve is my best friend!” Henderson said firmly and Billy believed it. “I need to know that you’re not gunna hurt him again! We all saw you that night, Billy. You would have killed him if Max hadn’t stopped you!” The silly voice was gone now. Henderson was speaking from the heart and it fucking showed.

Billy felt like he’d been kicked in the gut. It was true: he really could have killed him. His heart felt strange in his chest. He thought of Alex; thought of the thugs who had punched and punched until he’d lost consciousness. How could he have done that to Steve? After what happened back in Cali, how could he?

The red mist had fully taken over; Billy had totally lost control that night in a way he never had before. For all his excuses of Neil being an ass and Max being too free for her own good, the fact of the matter was that he’d hurt Steve. It wasn’t okay. He had become one of the monsters who had beaten the life, the love, the light, out of Alex.

 “I’m not going to hurt him,” Billy said quietly and it sounded like a promise. Fuck it; it was a promise. “Never again.” Goddamn he hoped it could be true. He needed it to be true; he doubted he could bare it if he did hurt Steve again now. He held the younger boy’s gaze for a few seconds until he blinked and nodded his acceptance.

“Good,” Henderson sighed, his hands clenching and unclenching once, twice, three times before he exhaled.

“Do I get to hear problem number two?” Billy asked after a brief silence. As sincere as the moment before had become, it was still an unwanted barrier to the rest of his and Steve’s evening. Right now, he kind of needed to hold the older boy. He needed to feel  that he was okay; that he’d survived Billy at his worst. Come on, Henderson. Fuck off to play games with your dorky, little friends, he mentally willed the other kid.

“Lucas,” Henderson said simply and Billy couldn’t help but tense up again.

“What about him?”

“You targeted him just because he was black. We don’t need a racist on our team. It’s 1985, for God’s sake!” the younger boy ended with a dramatic flap of the hands.

“Fuck off. I’m not a racist,” Billy snapped. Sure, he’d been a little rough but it hardly made him racist. Was Sinclair a homophobe because he’d kicked Billy in the balls?

“I’m afraid attacking someone just because of the colour of their skin-”

“I’m not a fucking racist, Henderson!” Billy said again, brows pulled into a deep frown now. It hung between them and Billy sighed. Goddamn, Henderson wasn’t going to let it go. “I’m not. But my dad is.”

“I don’t see what-”

“No, you don’t fucking see!” Billy snapped, raising his hands and gesturing angrily. “You think I was hard on Sinclair? You should see what my dad would do to him! What he’d do to Max if he knew she was fooling around with someone like him?!”

“But that’s-!”

“I’m not gunna pretend that I’m cool with seeing anyone putting their hands on her. She’s only fucking 14 and doesn’t need to be messing around with that dating shit yet,” Billy explained, knowing how fucking prudish he sounded right now. “But, if she’s gotta do that, then I figured she should at least be fucking smart about it. Sorry for trying to help her out!”

“Yeah, some help you were!” Henderson shot back. “All you did was terrify Lucas and actually push them closer together!”

If Billy didn’t know better, he’d be sure that  Henderson was bitter. Had the lispy weirdo had a thing for Max? Good fucking god, the people of Hawkins needed to get better taste. From Steve’s apparent fall into obscurity to Max’s weirdo popularity with boys, everything felt topsy-turvy here.

“Fuck off, Henderson!” Billy spat, turning to look out of the window at Steve. The older boy was still leaning on the roof of his car, eyes now focused in on the two of them. Noticing Billy’s expression, he tilted his head in a silent question. Sighing, Billy shook his head. He could handle this.

“My question is this: Are you planning on apologising to him? Like you did with Steve?” the younger boy pressed on. Billy scoffed at the idea and shook his head.

Yeah, he’d spooked the kid -shook him about a bit- but that was hardly as bad as what he’d done to Steve. What’s more, he didn’t exactly care how his and Sinclair’s relationship could develop. What was there to gain from a poxy, forced apology? Sinclair would probably reject it and he probably wouldn’t mean it either. There was literally no point to it.

“Probably not,” he shrugged and Henderson looked genuinely affronted.

“Seriously?”

“Seriously,” Billy confirmed and the younger boy sat back in his seat with a sigh of disbelief. A beat passed and Billy thought that might be it. As if.

“Not even if Steve asked you to?” Henderson lisped, emphasising Steve’s name as if it was the ace that he’d been holding onto. Billy rolled his eyes.

“Is he likely to?” he countered and Henderson shrugged noncommittally.

“If I asked him to, he would,” he said with all the confidence that a fourteen-year-old, who thinks he’s best friends with a former high school heart-throb, could muster.

“I probably still wouldn’t,” Billy lied. Goddamn, if Steve genuinely asked him right now, he’d probably do just about anything. “Not sure what good that kind of apology would be anyhow. Coercion rarely makes for genuine sentiments, now, does it, Henderson?”

The younger boy narrowed his eyes and there was another silence between them. Billy watched as the cogs seemed to be turning in Henderson’s brain.

“You’re not going to apologise to Lucas?” the curly-haired boy asked as if he was making sure; as if Billy’s stance up to this point couldn’t possibly be true.

“Nope,” Billy answered shortly.

“Why not?”

“I’m not sorry,” he shrugged again. Goddamn, wasn’t Henderson listening? What was it going to take for him to drop this one? In his own, fucked-up way, he was trying to keep Max safe. If what happened to Alex was anything to go by, he was keeping fucking Sinclair safe too. He had nothing to apologise for.

“But you were racist!” Henderson stressed and Billy shook his head dismissively.

“We’ve been over this: I wasn’t-” Billy started but the younger boy cut across him.

Lucas felt like you were targeting him because of his race! You attacked him and you terrified him!” Henderson explained vehemently and Billy bit his lip. Shit. “Whether you meant it that way or not, Lucas was fucking scared that you would come after his family! After his little sister! You’re not the first asshole to target him like this, Billy! You’re just the first one to make him genuinely scared because of something he can’t change about himself!”

And -shit- did that hit him square in the chest. Goddamn. How was he any different from Neil? Billy had spent his childhood terrified that he’d step out of line; that he’d get a beating for the smallest thing. As he’d grown older, as he’d realised that he actually was that terrible thing that Neil had always warned him about, hadn’t he felt genuinely scared like that? When Neil had found him and Alex together, hadn’t he been, rightfully, scared that he would come for Alex too? Goddamn.

Once again, Billy was reminded just what kind of monster he’d let himself become last year. It had been far too easy to slip into that role; he’d been so fucking angry. It had been far too easy to become his father.

It was a sobering thought. While he’d never given a shit about Sinclair’s race, it was the reason that he’d been warning Max off him, albeit because of Neil’s prejudice. Goddamn. Sinclair could sense it; he’d been through shit like it before. Billy was just the newest in a long line of racist asshole making his life harder.

And he’d thought Billy would come for his family? His little sister? Goddamn. He’d wanted to spook the kid; he’d wanted to do enough to keep him away from Max. He hadn’t wanted to terrorise him. Jesus. He really was a piece of shit.

“I didn’t mean to-” he tried to explain but Henderson interrupted him again.

“Well you did,” he said firmly, decidedly. Goddamn. He was being lectured by a kid and, what’s more, it was making him feel about an inch tall. “So... I’ll ask you again: Are you going to apologise to Lucas?”

Billy bit his lower lip. He really hadn’t been expecting this. His feelings on Lucas Sinclair had been pretty much a closed case: he’d been an ass but it wasn’t the worst thing he’d done since moving to Hawkins, not by a long shot. This new take on the whole thing was a lot to absorb.

“I guess...” he said, his voice small and pathetic. Henderson blinked at him once and then nodded.

“Well,” he said, reaching for the passenger side door. “No time like the present.”

“What-?” Billy started but the younger boy was already out of the car.

“We’re just gunna pop inside so Billy can chat with Lucas!” the curly-haired dweeb was already calling across to Steve who, unsurprisingly, looked totally confused.

“You’re- What?” he asked as Billy defeatedly clambered out of the Camaro. “Billy-?”

“I won’t be long, Harrington,” Billy sighed, waving the other boy off as he followed Henderson in the direction of the arcade.

Goddamn. Not only was he about to apologise to someone he’d never even considered apologising to but he was also going to go into the fucking Hawkins Arcade. He remembered the local arcade back in California; the afternoons that he, Alex, Ingrid and Jason had wasted there together before bumming about on their skateboards. Goddamn, he’d been so free. Neil had been a lot more relaxed -although that never felt like the right word for that man- about where he went before that night. As he neared the doors, Billy tried to remember if he ever went back into the arcade after Neil had found out about him. Probably not.

Talking to Sinclair was gunna be all kinds of uncomfortable, made worse by the fact that he was already on one of the games when Billy and Henderson found him. With Max giving him evils, Billy stood and watched as the kid continued his game of Dig Dug.

There were so many fucking kids in here. The noise of all the machines combined with their inane chatter and whooping was a real headache. Billy looked around and wasn’t at all surprised to see that Max was one of the only girls here. Goddamn. This really was where all the nerds of Hawkins came to hide from the sun and general outdoor activities.

Only after he’d died and Little Byers had called next, did Sinclair finally turn to acknowledge him.

“Oh, you’re here? Looking for Mike’s sister or something? Mike’s not arrived yet. If you wait in the parking lot you might get to creep on her there,” he sneered and, under different circumstances, Billy would have found it funny that here was yet another person who thought he liked Nancy.

“I’m here to apologise, Sinclair,” Billy sniffed, tilting his chin up in a façade of confidence. Goddamn, this wasn’t what he’d thought he’d be doing right now.

Sinclair’s face went from irritated, to confused and finally swung back around to where it started. A deep frown was resting on his brows and he crossed his arms over his chest, looking up at Billy like he would ever stand a chance if it came to a physical altercation.

“Alright,” he challenged, his voice showing just how fucking unimpressed he was. Goddamn, this was horrible.

“I’m sorry,” Billy said, noting Max as she rolled her eyes behind her boyfriend. Goddamn.

“Okay,” Sinclair said and, with that, he turned to watch Little Byers’ game.

Billy stood awe-struck for a moment as Henderson shifted from foot to foot. He turned to look at the curly-haired boy but he only shrugged and gestured as if Billy was to try again. Billy sighed and shook his head once. He did feel like shit. He had to hold onto that feeling from back in the Camaro.

“Sinclair!” he barked and, with the smallest flinch, the other boy turned back around.

“What?” he snapped back with a bravery that his earlier flinch only slightly undermined.

“I said I’m sorry,” Billy said pointedly. He wasn’t sure what he was expecting but this... this stoic acceptance felt wrong. It didn’t sit right with Billy.

“Yeah, you did,” Sinclair replied evenly.

“So... I apologised,” Billy said, hands waving

“You did indeed,” the younger boy replied again in that fucking blank voice. Billy could feel his blood starting to pump. How dare this kid act like such an asshole when all he was trying to do was apologise?

“Are we good?” he asked, wanting this to be the end of it.

Sadly, this wasn’t meant to be. A dark anger suddenly flared up in the other boy’s eyes and the scowl on his face deepened.

‘Are we good?’ Are you serious?” Sinclair repeated his voice full disbelief. Billy recognised the look on the other boys face now. The distain, the hatred; it was just how he felt about Neil. He really was like the old man, wasn’t he? “You attacked me! No! No, we’re not good!”

Billy tilted his chin in annoyance. Goddamn, he’d known this was a mistake. But he was here now. There was no backing down; he had to see this through. Neil would never apologise. He wasn’t Neil.

“Look, man, I was just looking out for Max-”

“No you weren’t! You were being an asshole, just like always!” the little punk herself interrupted, stepping to Sinclair’s side so that they could be a united front against him and -fuck- if that didn’t rile Billy up all over again.

Fists balling up at his sides, he tried to ignore that old, familiar feeling that was bubbling just under the surface. He wasn’t Neil. He wouldn’t be that monster again. After Wednesday night, he’d learned that that monster could be used to help not hurt. That was how he was going to let it out from now on; he’d promised himself as much.

“Max-” he started but she wasn’t listening. Around them, the various nerdy strangers were starting to take notice of them, turning around from their games so that they could watch what was going down.

“Just because no one can put up with you long enough to go out with you, you can’t stand to see anyone else being happy! You weren’t trying to help me! You just wanted me to be alone and miserable just like you!” Max shouted, missing the point entirely as per usual. How fucking ignorant can one person really be?

“Goddamn it, Maxine! You really don’t understand a goddamn thing, do you?” Billy shot back and his voice was definitely a shout now.

“Guys-” Henderson tried but no one was listening to him.

“Fuck you, Billy!” Max yelled, stomping her foot like a fucking toddler. That dramatic, explosive rage was back and worse than ever. Billy shouldn’t have even considered worrying earlier. “I’ve tried to be nice to you -I really thought we might be getting closer again, like we were back home- but no! You’re just the same asshole you’ve always been!”

“Guys-” Henderson’s voice was a squeak. Billy ignored him.

“Goddamn it!” he shouted, eyes raising to the ceiling for a brief second, fists raising to be level with his ribs. Goddamn he wanted to break something. His blood felt too hot. The red mist was fucking back. No. Please no. “I’m here trying to apologise to your little boyfriend!! Isn’t that something?”

“Too little, too late, I'm afraid, Hargrove!” Sinclair sneered and Billy fucking hated him all over again. Screw feeling bad. Screw worrying that he was his father. This kid was a fucking asshole; he deserved everything he got.

“Sinclair, I swear to God-” he growled, stepping into the younger boy’s space.

“Ha! Some kind of apology this is!” Sinclair spat, taking a step back all the same. For all his talk, he was still fucking afraid of Billy. Good. Get the fuck back, kid. “You gunna grab me again? You gunna hit me? Racist asshole!”

Giving in, Billy grabbed at the front of the little dweeb’s shirt, yanking him closer. He was losing. In the battle between him and the Neil-shaped monster that lived inside him, he was losing. It was never an even fight to begin with; Max and all her bullshit always put him on the back pedal. Ever since Alex, he had never been able to keep a level head about the red-head and her bullshit.

“GUYS!” Henderson shouted but it was fucking pointless. The whole arcade had come to a complete stand-still, all eyes fixed on Billy and Sinclair. Goddamn it. Goddamn it!! Tonight wasn’t supposed to be like this. He wasn’t supposed to be like this!

“Hey, hey, hey! What are you guys all yelling for?” Steve’s voice suddenly cut through the throbbing in Billy’s brain and he instantly let go of the younger boy. His whole body was shaking with angry heat and shameful chill all at once. Goddamn it. He was supposed to be better.

“Steve-” Henderson breathed but Max was still pushing.

“Stay away from him, Billy! I mean it!” she snarled, stepping between him and her boyfriend. Her eyes were so defiant, so ready for him to fight her. She looked like someone facing up against a true monster; that monster that Billy was so desperate to not be.

“For fuck’s sake-!” Billy snarled, taking a step backwards despite himself. Everything was so fucked up. His head was fucking pounding. Neil... Monsters... Max and Sinclair... Steve.... He felt like he was going fucking mad.

“Billy...”  Steve’s voice again. Billy turned and saw it; a look of disbelief, of disappointment. Goddamn it. He was everything that Steve had hated back at the beginning.

Clenching his teeth, he looked frantically around at all the fucking kids staring at him. An immensely tall and immensely unthreatening teenager was lurking in the crowd, the nametag suggesting he worked here. For fuck’s sake. This really was a fucking scene.

“Well?! What the fuck are you all looking at, huh? Fucking nerds never see people having an argument or something?!” he yelled, arms outstretched in a welcoming gesture. If any of these fucking nerds had the balls to come at him then he’d have them. Let Lurch come over and throw him out.

“Jesus Billy-!” the little bitch of a red-head spat and Billy whirled around to face her.

“Fuck off Maxine!” he growled, point his finger right in her smug little fucking face.

“Steve-" Henderson was chiming in again. Fuck him too. This was all his fault.

“Jesus Christ, Dustin, I told you to leave it!” Steve snapped, taking a step to put his hands on Billy’s shoulders. No. He couldn’t do that. Not fucking here. Not fucking now. Everything was to fucked up. He was too angry. “Come on Billy, let’s go.”

“Get the fuck off me, Harrington! I’m going,” Billy snarled, shrugging off the other boy’s hold and rounding on him. Steve flinched back away and Billy felt something inside him break. Fuck. He was still scared of him. He still thought that Billy could hurt him; that he would hurt him. Jesus fucking Christ, this was all too much.

Blunt fingernails digging harshly into the flesh of his palms, Billy forced himself to move. He stormed past all the eye-balling tweens hating every last one of them. God-fucking-damn them all. This had been such a fucking mistake.

Once they were back outside, in the Indiana Spring evening air, Billy blindly headed for the biggest thing he could take a shot at: a dumpster. Channelling his frustration, he kicked at it hard, the hollow, metallic clang echoing throughout the parking lot.

“Fuck!” he shouted, kicking the thing a couple more times for good measure. His leg hurt with each impact but that didn’t seem to matter. God-fucking-damn Sinclair! God-fucking-damn Max! God damn Henderson for taking him in there. It had been a fucking stupid idea. When did he become so fucking weak and pliable?

“Billy...” Steve’s voice was soft and concerned.

It was too much. That visible flinch had been too much. Steve was scared of him; scared that Billy would hurt him. It hurt. It hurt so fucking much. Billy kicked the dumpster again and again, half-hoping that the next kick would provide some respite from all these fucking feelings.

“Billy!” Steve said again, this time his voice nearing a shout.

Still too raw, Billy turned on him. Everything was too fucking much. He wanted to break something, even if it was himself. Anything would do just not Steve. Never again.

“What, Harrington?” he yelled, anger still pouring out of him in every direction. He kept his distance, unsure of how far the red mist’s reach extended. “You gunna chew me out for scaring your kids again? Fuck!”

Steve shifted between his feet like he didn’t know what to say; didn’t know what to do. Billy laughed like a lunatic, throwing his head back to the sky. This was a fucking joke. They would always come back round to this. He was too fucked up. For all his delicate thoughts of wanting to help Steve -wanting to unbreak the broken boy in front of him- he was too fucked up to even start. He would never be the person Steve needed.

“Billy...” Steve said a third time, his voice controlled, his eyes focused on him.

“Sorry to fucking disappoint you but I’m afraid this is me, Harrington! This is what you get!” Billy continued, rolling his neck so that he could look at the other boy again. Goddamn he felt insane. This was all too much. “Sorry if you thought anything different!”

Steve didn’t say anything, simply drawing his lower lip into his mouth. There was a small crease between his brows and Billy hated that he was ruining it all. Goddamn it all. This wasn’t supposed to be happening.

Slowly, the older boy took a step closer. Billy could feel the proximity and he wasn’t sure if he could handle it. Goddamn, what if he lashed out again? What if he did hurt Steve again? Unaware of his internal struggle, Steve reached out to trail his hands across his cheek and behind his ear.

With a small, stupid, little noise, Billy felt some of the tension sagging out of him. Goddamn. He wasn’t that guy anymore. He wasn’t going to hurt Steve. He wasn’t going to be Neil. He wasn’t. No.

“I was just... Fuck...” he panted and Steve moved closer. Dangerously close.

The brunette gave Billy a gentle tug and pulled him into a soft embrace. Goddamn, this was risky. Billy felt all kinds of tense again as he let Steve hold him in the Hawkins Arcade parking lot.

“I know...” Steve breathed as he rested his temple against Billy’s, his free hand trailing up to gently rest between his shoulder blades. The touch was gentle -tentative- as if Steve was side-stepping on of the many eggshells that Billy had littered about himself. “Just... calm down, yeah?”

Heart pounding in his chest far worse than any kind of rage could induce, Billy let Steve hold him a while longer. Just until his hands weren’t fixed into angry fists anymore. Just until his jaw wasn’t quite so tightly clenched. Goddamn. Tonight wasn’t what he’d thought it’d be. It was supposed to be so good.

“Come back to mine,” Steve whispered and Billy felt a stirring in his gut.

“You still want me to?” he asked, too tired and weak to care how pathetic it made him sound. “You not worried I’ll get mad again? You not worried I’ll hurt you?”

“I don’t think you will?” Steve said on an exhale, his voice so unsure that Billy’s heart ached. Fuck.

“I don’t want to,” he sighed, leaning into the other boy so much more than he ever should allow himself to in a public place. “Never again.”

“Then, yeah: I still want you to come back to mine,” Steve breathed and Billy hummed out a sad sound. Fucking hell. Steve Harrington was too much; he was far too forgiving, far too open. Goddamn. Billy was falling so fucking deep nothing was going to be able to pull him out.

“Yeah?” he asked, finally stepping back out of the older boy’s arms.

“Yeah. I’ll even promise not to play any Bee Gees this time,” Steve half-grinned stupidly and the levity was so fucking welcome.

“I dunno... I’m not sure I’ll be able to get it up without the Gibbs brothers now, Harrington,” Billy chuckled, loving the small flush of red that hit the other boy’s cheeks.

“We’ll have to test that out, then, won’t we?” Steve laughed, lightly pushing Billy away from him.

Chapter Text

Billy’s whole body had felt numb on the drive back to Steve’s place. The shit at the arcade wasn’t good; not at all. Poorly timed jokes about the Bee Gees aside, he still felt like his brain was a fucking jumble of anger, disappointment and confusion. He really was messed up. He really was dangerous.

And then there was the matter of Steve.

Steve was just too good for him. Even after witnessing him basically attacking a fucking fourteen-year-old kid for the second time in too few months, he was willing to keep trying. He was willing to protect that fucking chrysalis of theirs in the hopes that something beautiful was going to emerge from it. At this point, Billy felt pretty certain that, if anything came out at all, it wasn’t going to be anything good: a hornet or something else ugly and dangerous. That was just how Billy’s life was meant to be. Steve would be better without.

By the time he’d reached Harrington Manor, Billy had pretty much made up his mind to put an end to all of this. Steve was too good and he was too broken; there was no escaping it. As desperate as he was to not hurt the other boy, he was hardly in control of himself when he got like that. Perhaps he was crazy. Perhaps all the years with Neil -all the combined losses of his mom, Alex and California- had added up to him just losing it. Perhaps he was better off just being alone. At any rate, one thing was plain: he was too dangerous for Steve.

Sitting in the Camaro, Billy saw the older boy approaching him, presumably having parked the Bimmer in a garage somewhere unseen. His face was serious, hands rammed into the pockets of his jacket as if May had any business being chilly. Steve paused on the sidewalk, eyes meeting Billy’s expectantly. Fuck. He was weak.

Getting out of the car, Billy sighed defeatedly. Things had felt so fucking good. The promise of what could have been felt so bittersweet right now. El’s fucking words ringing in his head: ‘You and Steve. Special. Love.’ Could it have gone that far? It terrified Billy to think how close he was already after only few days. Yes. It was better this way. It’d hurt less in the long run.

“Harrington-” he started but Steve interrupted him.

“I’m not as fragile as you think, Billy,” he said bluntly. Blinking, Billy stared at the other boy. “I’m pretty sure you’ve spent the drive here convincing yourself that this isn’t going to work -that you’re going to break me or something- but you need to realise I’m not made of glass.” The silence of Loch Nora in the late evening surrounded them. Billy felt all kinds of confused and he didn’t know how to counter the other boy. Steve sighed and ran a hand through his hair.  “Look, shit with Nancy...all the things from the Upside Down.... They’ve messed me up a little. I don’t sleep all that well and I’m like a damn five-year-old girl when it comes to the dark but don’t count me out just yet. I’m stronger than you think I am.”

Billy looked at the old boy’s stance. He’d relaxed his weight to one side in a pose that looked so fucking resigned already. His shoulders were down, his head tilted. He looked like someone who knew they were fighting a losing battle but was still willing to give it a try.

The confusion swirled in Billy’s head so much it hurt. Why the hell was Steve fighting for this? Yeah, the past few days had been good -really fucking good- but Billy wasn’t worth it. Surely, Steve must know that.

“Look, Harrington-”

“No, Billy,” Steve interrupted again, this time stepping closer. “One thing is clear from tonight: You fucked up. You scared the kids again. You put your hands on Lucas again. You fucked up,” he continued and Billy felt the shame and frustration coiling inside him like a serpent. Fucking hell. “I’m not gunna make excuses for you. I’m not gunna tell you that it’s okay because it’s not.”

“You’re fucking right, Harrington!” Billy snapped, voice harsh and attacking; all reaction and fear. This time Steve didn’t flinch. Maybe he should. Maybe he was right to in the first place. Billy was his father’s son after all. “I’m a fuck-up! You’d do well to keep your distance.”

“Fuck off with that,” Steve scoffed and Billy felt his nostrils flaring at that. Fuck, he needed a smoke. As he fished his carton out of his jacket pocket, Steve continued, stepping closer to him, “You’re not going to play the martyr card on me now.”

“Fucking hell, Harrington!” Billy growled, ramming the smoke between his lips and lighting up. “I’m not being a martyr, I’m being fucking realistic!”

“I don’t accept that. Yesterday, Friday... things have been good. Things can be good between us!” Steve argued and Billy had to stop and look around.

Goddamn, they shouldn’t be talking like this out in the open. What if a fucking bored housewife, out walking her pampered mutt or whatever, happened across them? Steve fucking Harrington having a lover’s quarrel with a ne'er-do-well from the wrong side of the tracks? Wouldn’t take long for that to spread around. People in small towns were good at spreading shit like that.

“Do you wanna keep your voice down?” he warned, stepping closer.

“Do you wanna stop being an ass and admit that, whatever this is, it could be fucking amazing?” Steve asked exasperatedly and Billy felt butterflies fluttering in his stomach.

Steve was really fighting for this; really fighting for him. After they’d been caught, in the brief window when Billy had toyed with the idea of following Neil’s rules, Alex had simply capitulated. He’d let Billy leave him and, with all his sad, longing looks, he’d never actually fought for them. It was Billy who’d brought them back together. It was Billy who’d pulled him back into the firing line. Having someone fight for him now was fucking new and fucking scary.

“Steve...” Billy breathed, forgetting himself for a second. Shit. Steve’s eyes widened at the sound of his first name. It wasn’t the first time Billy had slipped up but, right now, it felt heavy.

Steve took one final step closer, hands reaching out and taking hold of Billy’s free one. Gently, his thumbs made small circles over the knuckles and Billy sighed at the feeling. Goddamn it.

“Come inside, Billy...” Steve pleaded, his voice barely above a whisper now. He pulled Billy’s hand up for a second as if he was considering pressing a kiss to it but, presumably after feeling the slight resistance in Billy’s arm, he let go. “Please. Let’s just start this night over. It wasn’t supposed to be like this.” And -fuck- if he wasn’t just putting words to Billy’s thoughts all over again.

Doubts still rife in his mind, Billy nodded his ascent all the same. He couldn’t resist Steve all that long. In the end, he wasn’t strong enough to do the right thing. Not with Alex back in Cali and not now with Steve.

Stomping out the half-finished smoke on the sidewalk, Billy followed Steve up the pathway to the double doors that were growing oh-so-familiar now. Neither boy said anything as Steve made short work of the lock and let them in. As per usual, Billy kicked off his boots while Steve did the same.

There was a clock somewhere unseen from the doorway. Of the handful of times Billy had been here, its ticking had never registered. Now they sounded all too loud as the two boys simply stood and stared. Everything was ruined. Billy had ruined it all.

“Should I-”

“Do you-” they both started at the same time Steve bowed his head with a small huff of a laugh, hand running anxiously through his hair.

“You first,” the older boy offered but Billy shook his head.

“No, you go ahead,” he insisted and Steve smiled lightly.

“I was gunna ask if you wanted to go upstairs?” he asked and it was so much more hesitant than it had been yesterday.

Yesterday, it had been a desperate command. Yesterday, they had been all over each other. Nothing could have stopped Billy from climbing those stairs. Right now, however, it all felt off. Maybe Billy should have gone first; the suggestion of him leaving seemed more fitting to the mood between them.

“Harrington-”

“Billy,” Steve interrupted, moving closer and putting his hands on his shoulders. Goddamn, Billy was weak. Although using his first name was nothing new, it always felt so fucking intimate when he breathed it out like that. He was powerless against the other boy. “Let’s go upstairs,” Steve breathed, hands running down Billy’s arms to intertwine their fingers.

With only the gentlest of tugs, Billy was manoeuvred from the entrance way to the bottom of the stairs. He let the taller boy guide him, trailing behind like some broken, pathetic mess. Goddamn, what did Steve see in him right now? He was barely half the person that he deserved. Fuck.

They made their way, unhindered, to Steve’s room, the familiar warmth surrounding Billy from the moment he stepped inside. Steve led him straight across to the bed, sitting down on the edge and looking up at him with those big brown eyes. The pose was all too reminiscent of how he and El had ended up in the void the night before. How fucking different had he been feeling then? A little high on Jonathan’s weed, a little high on Steve. Now he was low; low on himself and low on what he could do. Fuck.

Letting go on the older boy’s hand, Billy moved to sit beside him. For a moment they both simply sat, the only sounds in the room being their breathing and the ticking of the wall clock. Like the one in the entrance way, it was so much louder than it had been 24 hours ago. Billy was just about ready to suggest that they just call it again. This was too awkward. It had been ruined.

“Harrington-”

“Look-!” Steve started, pausing for a beat when he realised that they’d both spoken at once again. Fuck they were awkward. “Look, I think we should just start kissing,” he suggested and Billy covered his face with his hands. The fuck kind of suggestion was that? “Look, I know it’s, like, not the most natural way to start things but-” Billy was laughing now. Goddamn, Steve never failed to make him laugh at the moment. He was too fucking earnest and dorky for his own good. “Just hear me out!” the older boy scolded, a tell-tale smile in his voice. “If we just push through, the boulder will roll on its own, right?” He was using some kind of metaphor. Billy laughed all the more for the peculiar imagery.

He could hear Steve joining him after a while. Goddamn. After all the bullshit at the arcade, it felt good to really laugh. As he leant back, Steve moved, swinging a long leg over Billy’s lap so that he could straddle him. Warm hands cupped Billy’s cheeks and guided him to look up at the beautiful sight which was Steve Harrington.

“You’re an idiot, Steve Harrington,” Billy grinned fondly, knowing it wasn’t the first time he’d said it.

“And you’re not the monster you think you are, Billy Hargrove,” Steve replied and it was so fucking sincere Billy could have broken right there. Instead simply leant upwards and pressed his lips to Steve’s.

There it was. That fucking beautiful feeling that made all the bullshit worth it. Henderson, Sinclair and Max; none of them really mattered when Billy and Steve had this. As their lips moved together, Billy cursed himself for almost giving this up. He could control himself. He would control himself. Steve Harrington never needed to be scared of him again. He’d die first.

Rising up onto his knees for a moment, Steve pulled at Billy’s jacket, freeing him of the unwanted clothing while keeping the kiss going. Billy hummed into the older boy’s mouth, savouring the taste of him, the feel of him. As always, he was lost in the world that was Steve.

Before too long, they were both shirtless again, Steve’s beautiful, freckled skin all spread out for Billy to devour. They had rolled about some before settling in a similar position to yesterday; Steve on his back with Billy lying over him. Billy tongued at the small bruise just above the brunette’s right nipple that he hadn’t realised he’d made the previous day. It was so fucking hot to think that Steve had been walking around school all day with that under his shirt. Anyone could have seen. Fucking hell.

Billy groaned as he felt Steve’s nails gently scraping down his spine. While Billy’s head was too low for Steve to have anything to kiss, the older boy was still in the game, bringing his thigh up between Billy’s legs to give him some much-needed pressure. Fuck that felt good. Billy groaned again as he tongued at the darkened skin, his hips grinding a little of their own accord. His body was tingling in the special way that only Steve Harrington could bring about. It was everything.

Billy ran his hands down Steve’s torso, teasing at the fly of his jeans. Goddamn. Where were they going to take this tonight? He was more than willing to simply repeat yesterday’s activities -Steve's cock was beautiful and he’d suck it every day if he could- but perhaps they could do more? Grinding his hips down on the other boy’s thigh once again, Billy couldn’t hold back the wanton moan that erupted from his lips.

“Billy-!” Steve breathed as the younger boy moved to graze his teeth over his pert nipple. God, the sound of his voice was so fucking thick with want. “Please- Shit-!” he continued, his hips rising off the bed as Billy gave the hardened flesh a gentle suck.

“What do you want, beautiful?” Billy purred, too far gone to be embarrassed by the unbidden nickname, Steve wasn’t exactly paying all that much attention anyway.

“Holy shit-” the brunette hissed as Billy lapped again at his nipple, hands unbuttoning his jeans excruciatingly slow. “Billy...” he was whining. He needed more. Fuck it. Billy smiled and brought his face up to where Steve’s was.

“You got any lube? Any oils or shit like that?” he asked, daring the question. Brown, beautiful eyes went wide as Steve looked uncertain. His breath caught in his throat as his mouth simply hung open. Fucking adorable. Billy leaned in and pressed a kiss to those reddened lips, bringing him back into reality. “Well? Got any slick in here?” he asked again, pressing his next kiss to the corner of the older boy’s mouth.

Steve gasped, a hand coming briefly up to tangle in Billy’s hair before quickly moving away again as if he’d thought better of it. Goddamn, today had been a lot. Billy had half-forgotten about the bullshit in the locker room.

“I- I don’t- What?” Steve stammered and Billy could hear the worry in his voice. Ah. He was definitely misunderstanding Billy’s intentions here. Smiling gently, Billy leaned back to look down at the older boy. Despite the mild panic in those big brown eyes, he really did look all het up and ready.

“I’m not like a girl, Harrington. As fun as this is, it doesn’t get me wet down there,” he smiled as if the other boy wasn’t currently freaking out about the idea of being fucked.

It was pretty understandable, he told himself. Steve was basically straight after all; his ideas of being ‘bisexual’ be damned. In practise, disregarding any recent blow jobs he’d received, Steve Harrington had only ever been with girls. He’d probably never put anything anywhere near his ass before; tonight wasn’t going to be the night that that changed.

“We don’t have to if you’re not up for it?” he offered when the other boy hadn’t replied. Shit. Maybe it was too much. Letting a guy blow you was one thing but having sex with him? That was quite the commitment. Steve was definitely the type to see sex as a big step. “I’m happy sticking to third base if that’s what you want?” he continued, using the terminology that he’d mocked the other boy for not too long ago.

You want to- You're okay with being the girl?” Steve finally spoke and Billy moved back away a little too quickly not to look dramatic.

“There isn’t really a girl here, is there?” he snarked, grinding down against Steve’s thigh in demonstration. The older boy hummed and closed his eyes for a second, a small flush gracing his cheeks.

“Yeah, no- I'm sorry, you’re right,” he exhaled, eyes opening up again so that he could stare into Billy’s. They were still so unsure. If this went on, Billy hoped they would look more certain. “I just never thought you’d be into it that way round.” And wasn’t that just adorably honest? Billy grinned down at the brunette, reaching out to stroke his pinked cheek. Goddamn, he was so pretty.

“I’m good with either. Just figured it’s be easier this way,” Billy shrugged as he let his thumb brush over Steve’s bottom lip. The older boy hummed in appreciation, mouth instinctively kissing his digit. Fuck. “So... you up for it?” he asked again. There was literally no way he was going to go through with this without hearing Steve’s agreement right now. He’d looked too panicked at the thought of their roles being reversed; the flinch from the arcade was too vivid in his memory. No fucking way.

“Yeah!” Steve blurted, his voice surprisingly certain, given the circumstances. “I want to, yeah.”

Billy chuckled and bowed his head. Fucking hell. They were really going to do this. Not half an hour ago, Billy had been all up and ready to end this; let Steve be rid of him. Now, here they were; about to fuck for the first time. It was a lot. It was everything.

“So, have we got anything? Ever treat yourself to a fancy jerk-off?” Billy asked, pushing up so that he was now kneeling above the other boy.

“Err- I sometimes use hand cream?” Steve offered and Billy shook his head.

“No thanks. Knowing you, Harrington, it’ll be some kind of froufrou Fabergé shit and my ass will smell like roses for a fucking month,” Billy grinned, eyes scanning the surfaces in the room for anything more suitable.

“Fuck off! I don’t jerk-off with rose-scented hand cream!” Steve chuckled, slapping Billy’s pec as he sat up to join the search.

“I really don’t fancy using spit, man,” Billy sighed when it was starting to look a little hopeless. That would be too reminiscent of those fumbling, rushed affairs in Cali. Those times where there was no time to ask the other person’s name, let alone be picky about what lubricant to use.

“Got some Vaseline in the bathroom?” the brunette suggested and Billy pulled a face. Not his favourite but it was an option. “Or... oh!” he stopped mid thought, scrambling from under Billy.

“Harrington-?” Billy started but the other boy was on his feet and rushing out of the room.

“One sec-!” he called out from the corridor.

Billy could hear the thudding of the older boy’s steps as he dashed down the stairs. He could only assume that there was something in the kitchen that he thought would work. Images of Steve Harrington returning with a big knob of butter filled Billy’s mind and he could help but laugh to himself as he lay back on the bed. Goddamn it was cosy. He brought his arms up to rest under his head as an extra pillow, eyes still trained on the door.

Goddamn. They were really going to do it. He tried to think back to the first time with Alex but he was drawing a blank. They were together for a good seven or eight months before Alex died and friends long before that. All of the lines were blurred now when he looked back. And wasn’t that a fucking tragedy in itself? It hadn’t been that long. He really should remember.

Before he could delve further into his own mind, Steve came crashing back into the room, panting a little from the return journey which Billy could only assume he’d done at some kind of a sprint. In his hands, he clutched a large, green glass bottle and for half a second Billy was certain the idiot had brought wine.

“Olive oil! I think it should be okay. My Gram-Gram always used to say it’s good for your body: inside and out!” Steve gasped, looking at the bottle as if that slogan would be written somewhere on it.

Billy blinked at the other boy, unsure what to unpick first. From the use of the name ‘Gram-Gram’ to the quite literal take on her advice, it was too fucking much. The thought of an elderly Gram-Gram Harrington’s sincere advice being used in the aid of her grandson’s introduction to sex with a guy was just too much. He held it in as long as he could, desperately trying to verbalise some kind of response. He could feel his mouth turning upwards, the laughter brewing up inside.

“What? You think it won’t work?” the older boy asked. “It says it’s ‘extra virgin’, dunno if that makes a difference?”

And, with that, Billy lost it. Howling with laughter, he rolled onto his side, arms wrapping around himself. Steve was too fucking adorable and ridiculous.

“Billy!” Steve tried but Billy was gone.

“Fucking hell, Harrington!” he laughed, opening his eyes for a second only to lose it again. The older boy was still clutching the bottle of olive oil. It was too fucking funny.

“For fuck’s sake- Will this do or not?” Steve asked, one hand on his hip and the other jabbing the bottle in Billy’s direction. Fucking brilliant.

“Yeah, Harrington. It’ll do just fine,” Billy chuckled, only just able to force the words out. Steve rolled his eyes and cocked his hips to one side.

“You done?” he asked and Billy grinned back at him.

“Just about,” he winked.

“You laughing at me is hardly a turn on.”

“Sorry, sweetheart. The thought of you drizzling olive oil over me like I’m a fucking salad is just too priceless,” Billy chortled and that got Steve. A smile came unbidden at the corners of the other boy’s mouth until he finally broke and joined in with the laughter.

“Fucking hell...” he laughed as he crossed the room and clambered up onto the bed to meet Billy who’d already brought himself back up onto his knees. “You’re fucking ridiculous!” Steve grinned as he pulled Billy in for a smiling kiss.

God it was sweet. Billy couldn’t get enough of laughing with Steve. It felt so fucking good to be happy with someone, especially given how shitty today had been so far.

Between the childish giggling and needy kisses, the two of them stripped away the rest of their clothes. Unsure of what position would be best, Billy simply guided them so that he could at least prep himself. Lying on his back, he savoured the feeling of the older boy leaning over him; the scalding heat spreading out from where his cock pressed against his own. Goddamn, it would almost be enough for them to just do this. Billy was certain it wouldn’t take long for him to cum from just making out and grinding like this.

But no. There was so much more to enjoy; olive oil and all.

“Harrington-” Billy breathed into their kiss after a little too long. “We carry on like this and we won’t be able to test old Gram-Gram's advice out...” he chuckled and Steve scoffed.

“Asshole,” he said but he was smiling as he pulled back away from him.

“That’s what I’m trying to get at!” Billy grinned and Steve rolled his eyes. “Now move!”

Bottom lip drawn into his mouth, Steve obliged, eyes wide as Billy reached for the glass bottle. It was brand new, the seal still tight on the cap. Rolling his eyes, he snapped it open and poured a generous amount onto the fingers of his right hand. The scent was nice enough but kind of weird for the current setting. It made him think of fancy restaurants and fine cuisine; definitely not fingering himself in front of Steve fucking Harrington.

Sighing to himself, Billy brought his feet up near his ass, spreading his legs as he did so. Steve sat back onto him knees, eyes travelling downwards as Billy tried not to think about it. It wasn’t that he was embarrassed per se, just that this was a pretty fucking intimate exercise and, now that he thought about it, he wasn’t sure if he’d ever let someone watch him doing it. Alex had always preferred to bottom when they fucked, so it wasn’t like he’d done it with him, and the guys he’d been with afterwards never exactly focused on the preparation stage.

Fuck, yeah. This was intimate. As he reached down between his legs, he heard the older boy’s breath catch in his throat. Looking up at him, he was totally transfixed. His dark eyes were made infinitely darker by how big and blown his pupils were. His pretty mouth was hanging open. Fuck. All that and he hadn’t even touched himself yet.

Tracing his index finger over his hole, he could feel the power of it. Smirking to himself, he swirled the digit in a teasing circle, coating his rim with a thin layer of oil. It was a tease but it was more for Steve than himself. Already unable to keep his hands to himself, the older boy had reached out to stroke at Billy’s shins. An odd choice but he was clearly only concerned with the show in front of him, his hands moving on instinct rather than thought.

“Fuck…” Steve breathed as Billy dipped his finger inside himself. It was only a shallow, testing push -barely making it up to the first knuckle- but, fuck, did it feel good. Apparently, being under someone else’s gaze was intense in all the right ways. Billy exhaled softly as he drew his finger all the way out before plunging it back inside himself, making sure to go all the way this time.

“Like what you see, sweetheart?” he panted, loving the desperate look in the other boy’s eyes when he looked up at him.

“Yeah…” Steve breathed, licking at his lips as Billy started up a slow rhythm with that single digit. “Can I- Can I try?” he asked and Billy froze in position.

“Seriously?”

“Yeah… It- It looks…I want...” Steve didn’t sound like he could put it into words and Billy could relate. Fuck he could relate.

Pulling his finger from himself, he passed the other boy the bottle of oil, trying to ignore the way his hand shook as he handed it over. Fuck. He was like a jittery virgin on her wedding night or something. This was nothing. And yet, it felt like everything because it was Steve. Fuck. Steve was about to put his fingers inside him. It didn’t feel real.

“Go on then...” he breathed, sounding a little more confident than he felt.

“What do I-?” Steve asked, his brows creasing as he looked from Billy to the bottle and back again. Billy offered him a smile. Steve was nervous too. It was okay.

“Just-” Billy sighed, shifting a little so that his hips were at a better angle. “Just start with one. See how it feels.” God, this was embarrassing.

Steve’s face was saturating with a deep blush but he gave a short nod. Unscrewing the oil bottle again, he cursed as he poured a little too much on his hand, a few drops trickling down onto the bed sheets between Billy’s legs. Billy chuckled lightly, sounding a little tense and forced as the weight of the moment rested on both of their shoulders.

“Sorry. I’ve just... I’ve never-” he cut himself off, his voice stammering and so unsure.

“Yeah,” Billy breathed, soft and unfamiliar. He didn’t sound like himself. Maybe that was a good thing. “I know...”

“Yeah...” Steve sighed, his voice basically a whisper. Billy shifter up to rest on his elbows so that he could properly look at the older boy. He was practically scarlet and his hand was dripping with his mother’s olive oil. Maybe this was too much after all.

“Maybe we should-”

“Can you-?” they both spoke at the same time again and Steve laughed, running the clean hand through his hair before continuing. “Show me,” he said, eyes fixing on Billy’s with a sudden surge of certainty. Fuck.

Billy sat up for a moment, grabbing all the pillows Steve’s bed had to offer and shoving them into a little pile behind himself. Leaning back down on them, he could properly see Steve while still having use of his hands. Fuck.

“Right...” he breathed, reaching out to take Steve’s hand in his own. “Just...” he started, pulling the other boy closer to his ass.

With Billy’s hand gently guiding him, Steve breathed out a stuttering breath as he brushed his middle finger against his hole. There had barely been any contact and yet Billy couldn’t help but shudder from it. Holy shit. Steve was really going to do it. He was really going to touch him there. Fuck.

“Fuck...” Steve breathed as he tried again, his finger drawing a feather-light circle around Billy’s rim.

God, it was almost torturous. It was so fucking good and, at the same time, nowhere near enough. The torture continued as Steve’s finger continued its tentative exploration. Billy looked up and saw the focus and awe written on the other boy’s face. Holy shit, it was really something to behold. He suddenly felt all kinds of fucked. His cock was hard and heavy against his stomach even though it hadn’t been the focus of either boys’ attention for a while. Fuck.

“I’m going to-” Steve started but stopped himself, drawing his bottom lip into his mouth. His cheeks darkened again briefly before he looked up to meet Billy’s eyes. “Okay?” he asked and Billy simply nodded. Whatever he wanted right now, it was fine.

The first time Steve’s finger breached him was fucking everything. It was barely the tip but Billy breathed in a sharp breath and the older boy held still like he’d hurt him.

“Billy-?”

“I’m fine, Steve,” Billy soothed, not caring which name he used right now. Catching his eye again, Steve hesitated for only a second before nodding.

“Okay,” he breathed and his finger was back at Billy’s entrance.

As if this had been all he’d needed to hear, Steve dipped his finger back inside with a little more confidence than before and -goddamn- did it feel good. With his hand still guiding him, Billy let the other boy slowly move his digit in and out of him, building up a slow rhythm that felt so fucking good even though it was barely enough.

After that, it wasn’t long before, with Billy’s quiet urging, Steve pulled his finger all the way out so that he could add a second. This time, Billy could feel the familiar stretch and he couldn’t stop the soft groan of pleasure that rumbled out of him. Steve’s eyes visibly glinted at the sound, his hand moving again as if searching for more.

“Fuck, sweetheart...” Billy moaned when the older boy pushed his fingers all the way inside. He’d twisted them a little as he’d done it and it felt amazing.

His mouth twitched into a smile as he continued to work his hand back into the rhythm that he’d previously set. Billy could feel his hips moving a little with him, seeking more. Fuck.

“There’s...” he breathed, feeling fucking stupid but desperate enough not to care. “There’s a... spot or something...” Hand stilling for a moment, Steve looked up at him in question and Billy moaned at the interruption. “It’s- Fuck- It's, like, really good. If you hit it.... Urgh-” Billy knew he wasn’t explaining it all that well. Then again, it wasn’t like saying the word ‘prostate’ would mean all that much to Steve. It was pretty much a given that he’d never paid enough attention in Bio.

However, that garbled nonsense was apparently all the instruction the other boy needed. On the next inward push, he twisted his fingers, searching for that spot. Billy groaned at the change in sensation, his cock giving a small kick. Mouth curling up into a wicked smile, Steve set about his search in earnest, hand moving faster and deeper than before.

Billy closed his eyes as the waves of pleasure pounded through him. Even with only two fingers, even without actually finding the prostate, this was fucking incredible. His mouth was hanging open and he knew he was making a lot of fucking noise. Once again, though, he wasn’t in a position to care how fucking desperate he sounded.

On the next thrust of Steve’s hand, Billy’s world shattered. A jolt of electricity ran through his body and his dick basically leapt up in the air. Holy shit it was intense.

“Fuck-!” he cried out and Steve’s eyes went wide as saucers.

“Holy shit-”

“Fuck, Steve- Keep- Fuck-” Billy heard himself begging, his voice suddenly ragged and broken. Goddamn, it was a total reversal of yesterday. Steve was totally in control here.

 Now that he’d found it, Steve was fucking his fingers directly into Billy’s prostate like some kind of sadist and Billy was moaning like a fucking bitch in heat. His eyes closed and his hands moved to clutch at the bedsheets beneath him. Fucking hell, it felt so fucking good.

Steve shifted onto his knees, crawling up Billy’s body to crash their lips together. Billy moaned into the older boy’s mouth, almost totally overwhelmed by how fucking good everything felt right now. Steve’s tongue licked at Billy’s, coaxing him deeper into the heated kiss. All the while, his fingers continued to move. Even though this new angle prevented him from hitting Billy’s prostate, it still felt fucking incredible.

So fucking incredible that Billy could feel a familiar heat coiling up in his stomach. Fuck. He was too close. It took all his willpower to move and hold the older boy’s hand still.

Steve’s face was a picture of confusion as he pulled back to look down at him. Opening his mouth, he wanted to explain but -fuck- if all of that hadn’t taken his breath away. Gasping for air, he simply held the brunette’s hand still. His whole body was on fire; his whole lower half was tingling and on the edge. Fucking hell. He was far too close.

“As big an improvement on your alphabet trick as that is...” he finally panted once there was enough air in his lungs; once he could summon up some kind of coherent thought. Steve’s face flushed deeper at the mention of his trick.

“Really?” he exhaled, looking amazed that Billy still had the wherewithal to snark him. The younger boy simply nodded with a grin

“Really, sweetheart. Before I-" he took another deeper gulp of air. Damn. This was totally ruining his teasing. “We should probably move on to...”

“Ah-” Steve breathed, pulling his hand back and leaving Billy feeling fucking empty and all the more desperate. Holy shit. He needed more. Wiping the sheen from his brow with the back of his clean hand, he looked down at Billy. “Yeah? You still wanna?” he asked as if he was in any position to say no.

“Yeah... Fuck yeah...” Billy huffed out a laugh at the very idea that he didn’t want this. Fuck. This was everything.

“Can we do it like this?” Steve asked, looking down again at Billy’s junk like he was trying to figure out the mechanics of it all. “Or do we have to do it doggy style?” Billy laughed again at that. Or, at least, he made a series of noises that were the closest approximation to a laugh that he could currently manage.

“Whatever you want, beautiful... both work...” he breathed and Steve nodded his understanding. Fuck, even after pushing Billy right to the edge of sanity, he was adorable.

Steve nodded again and shifted his position a little. Still a little too desperately horny and wanting more, Billy moved with his guidance; rolling his hips for a better angle and bringing his spread knees up towards his chest.

“Fuck... Billy...” Steve breathed as he reached for the oil one final time, the awe and softness still lingering in his voice. This was so fucking much.

Billy watched, breathless, as the older boy quickly slicked up his cock and then moved to line their hips up. Holy shit. Just as neglected as his own, Steve’s impressive length was still as hard as anything. The simple knowledge that he’d liked fingering Billy open too was a whole world of pleasure in itself.

As he felt the other boy’s cockhead brush against his hole, Billy let out yet another loud, low groan. He could feel the shudder running through the other boy; he knew it felt good for him too.

“Right... I’m going to...” Steve breathlessly whispered as he placed a burning-hot hand on the back of Billy’s left knee.

“Yeah...” Billy practically begged. “Shit- Do it, Steve!”

The first push was so much more than Billy was ready for. What little air he’d had left in him was forced out in a desperate, keening sound as he felt the other boy pushing inside him. Holy fucking shit. Eyes screwed shut, he tried to force his body to relax; this was so much more than Steve’s fingers. This was definitely the most he’d expected of himself in a long while; perhaps ever. Steve was fucking hung and Billy could now feel the weighty reality of it. Holy shit.

Even as Steve doubled over and held still for a moment, it burned; the stretch of it was so fucking intense. It burned in that fucking special way that never seemed to put Billy off; that special way that promised future dividends. As if remembering this, the pain seemed to ebb away. His body would remember; it would obey.

Billy opened his eyes and felt a tremor of pleasure run down to the base of his spine at the sight of the other boy. Steve’s face, obscured a little by the hair that had fallen forwards, was gritted in concentration. His eyes were closed and he looked like he was forcing himself to control his breathing. Fuck. It was a lot for him too. It was so fucking clearly written over him.

“Come on, sweetheart…” Billy breathed, feeling a smile playing in the corner of his mouth.

“Mmm…” Steve moaned as he obediently started to move forwards again.

Holy fuck did that feel good. Billy felt the smile break all across his face as Steve sank deeper and deeper inside him. Jesus fucking Christ; they were really doing it. Billy could feel every inch of the older boy; slowly but surely, he was filling him up. It was fucking intense and fucking amazing.

By the time Steve was fully buried inside him, Billy’s hands were aching from how tightly they’d been gripping the bedsheets.

 “Holy shit-” Steve grunted, pushing the chocolatey hair from his face as he rose back up again. The flush on his cheeks was fucking perfect; the way he filled Billy up felt so fucking perfect; everything was fucking perfect.

“Come here,” Billy smiled, unable to supress the needy side of himself. Steve Harrington looked too fucking good and Billy was too greedy: he needed more.

Steve leaned in and Billy wrapped his arms around his neck, drawing him into a hot, open-mouthed kiss. Hot, soft lips pressed against Billy’s; his tongue licking out to taste them. Everything felt amazing. Billy felt like he was going mad all over again. Fuck.

As instinct started to take over, Steve’s hips started to move. The kiss evolved from intimate and needy to simply hot and messy. Billy moaned and whined into the older boy’s mouth with every deepening thrust. His whole body was trembling with the floods of pleasure that were sweeping through him. Holy shit.

In the end, neither of them really stood a chance at lasting all that long. The build-up, the heat that already fucking lingered between them; they were never going to be setting any records. All too soon, Billy could feel it all building up inside him. Steve’s dick was fucking huge and, now that he knew it existed, he was doing a fucking spectacular job at hitting Billy right in the spot where it counted.

Pulling him even closer, Billy could hear his voice getting louder and louder. The pressure inside grew and grew until he knew it was time.

“Steve-” he groaned against the other boy’s open mouth.

“Billy-” Steve replied, his voice that wrecked, ragged voice that Billy loved so fucking much.

With the next, particularly well-aimed, thrust, Billy’s vision went white. He felt his whole body tense up as the pleasure took over. His cock bucked violently up between them, shooting his hot load up across both of their chests. Steve let out a beautiful sound and Billy could feel him toppling over edge right after him, his hips fucking them both through their climax.

Dazed and wanting, Billy pulled Steve in close again, pressing their lips together in slowing kisses. Steve moved with him, both boys rolling onto their sides, still entangled. Their hands were everywhere; touching, holding, feeling. Billy could feel the other boy softening inside him but it didn’t fucking matter. They were here and they’d done it. This was fucking everything.

Chapter Text

The sound of the phone ringing was slightly off. While still annoying as fuck, it sounded a little further off -a little more distant- than he was used to. Fucking weird but, in his hazy, half-asleep state, he wasn’t about to question it. Neil or Susan would pick up soon; it was probably Susan’s mom again.

The ringing didn’t stop. Eyes closed, Billy groaned at the rude intrusion into his rest.  He tried to curl in on himself but was halted by the feeling of an arm draped around his waist. What..? The foreignness of the sensation was enough to startle him alert as his eyes opened to reveal that he wasn’t in his room at all. No. This was Steve’s room.

And around him was Steve’s arm. Somehow sleeping through the incessant ringing, the older boy was pressed close against Billy’s naked back. Naked… They were both naked. Billy felt his skin tingle as the memories from earlier flooded back to him. Holy shit; they’d had sex. Steve Harrington and Billy Hargrove had had fucking sex! It didn’t feel real and yet here it was.

Obviously at least a little disturbed by the ringing combined with Billy’s movements, Steve’s arm tightened around him. Warm breath washed over the back of his neck and Billy felt the brief, sleepy press of lips against the skin there.

“...Mmm... Not yet, baby...” Steve’s voice so fucking adorable as he breathed out against him. And ‘baby’? Even with hazy, sleep-muddled memories of Ingrid’s many rants about how it was an ‘infantilising’ term of endearment, it made Billy feel fucking giddy.

“Your house, sweetheart; your phone,” Billy grinned, lacing his fingers with Steve’s as he let himself enjoy the older boy’s hold on him. There was another sleepy moaning sound from the other boy and Billy could feel him shaking his head.

“No...” Steve groaned and Billy smiled all the more. Goddamn, he was fucking adorable.

The ringing stopped and Billy snuggled back down, eyes closing. Who ever it was could fuck off. They lay together: entwined in the warm, comfortable quiet of the bed. Billy’s whole body felt more relaxed than it had done in forever. The comfort of Steve’s bed -the fuzzy feelings from being in his arms- was the best thing ever.

When the phone started up again, Billy felt a little more awake. Who the fuck was calling the Harrington house so persistently? He sat up, hating the sound of tired disappointment that this forced out of the other boy. He looked around the room for the offending appliance, spotting it on Steve’s writing desk.

Steve’s room was pretty dark. In all their awkwardness, they hadn’t taken the time to hit the lights before. Billy glanced at the window and saw, through the open curtains, that the Loch Nora sky had turned midnight blue. There was a faint, haunting glow from the pool below but other than that it was pretty damn dark.

Wait...

Heart starting to thump in time with each piercing ring from the phone, Billy turned to squint up at the wall clock. What was the time? The room was too dark, the angle too poor; what the fuck was the time? As Billy leapt from the bed, Steve finally sat up, the small hum of semi-consciousness now less adorable and more annoying. How long had they been lying there sleeping?

Billy rushed over to the door, hitting the lights the moment the switch was within reach.

“Urgh! Billy!” Steve gasped, dramatically shielding his eyes from the sudden brightness. Billy, however, let the light sting his eyes; there was something far worse than that for him to worry about. Still ignoring the ringing, Billy could only see one thing: the clock above the bed proudly showing the time. 9:05.

His whole body went numb; frozen in spot like a deer in headlights. How could he be so fucking stupid. Neil had been deathly clear about tonight’s curfew. Nine o’clock. Even if he was in a position to set off now, he was fucked all the same. How the fuck could he be so fucking stupid? What the fuck was he supposed to do?

Yawning and totally missing Billy’s panic, Steve clambered out of the bed and made his way over to the phone.

“Hello?” he said as he held the receiver to his ear, all the pleasantries that he’d used when Billy had called forgotten. Willing his body to move, Billy rushed over to grab the pair of jeans that he’d stripped off way too fucking long ago. Goddamn, this had been such a fucking mistake. “Dustin? What-?” Steve was saying, sounding a lot more alert even as he was cut off by the voice on the other end of the line.

As Billy yanked his jeans on, wincing at the fucking horrible sticky feeling between his legs, he saw Steve turn and finally clock the time. Fucking yeah, sweetheart, we’ve really screwed the pooch here, he thought bitterly and he scrambled for his shirt next.

“I’m fine, Dustin- Hang on-” Steve stammered, putting a hand over the receiver, his dark eyes looking appropriately shit-up. “We overslept!” he half-whispered and Billy wanted to shake him.

“No shit, Harrington!” he snapped, as he tugged the damned material over his shoulders. There was no time for buttons; he could fix them on the way out.

“Billy-” Steve started but clearly the dweeb on the other end of the phone was squawking at him and he pressed the receiver back to his ear. “Dustin, I said hang on- No, he didn’t beat me up again!”

If Billy wasn’t currently shitting himself over the fact that his fucking jacket had decided to fucking hide from him, he’d be pretty pissed that, even after their little heart-to-fucking-heart in his Camaro, Henderson’s little mind instantly went to the idea of him hurting Steve again. Fucking hell. There was no fucking point with those fucking kids.

But no; there was no time to lament how those fucking nerds perceived him. He needed to get his fucking jacket and get Max home before Neil had too much time to stew on how pissed he was at him. Maybe, if he got her back by half past, he’d get away with just a tongue lashing. Maybe he’d get away with it?

“What do you mean: ‘Max left’?” Steve’s words made Billy’s heart stop. No.

“Where the fuck is she?” he demanded, not caring if Henderson heard him over the line or not. Steve looked up at him and Billy could see the fucking worry on his face. The creased brow, the big Bambi eyes; Steve and his bleeding heart were all fucked up for him.

“Where is she, Dustin?” he asked, eyes never leaving Billy’s face. There was a tense silence in the room, Billy’s muscles all engaged and ready to flee at a moment’s notice. Fucking hell, they were so fucking stupid; this was so fucking stupid. “She’s walking home,” Steve finally supplied, hand over the phone again like Billy gave a damn. Fuck.

Fists clenching tighter than they had done in a long while, Billy’s eyes scanned the room one last time. The weight in his pockets told him that his keys were in his pants, the jacket would have to just go fuck itself.

“How long?” he asked shortly, yes still searching despite himself.

“Huh-?”

How long, Harrington? How long since she fucking set off! Fuck!” Billy shouted and, once again, Steve visibly flinched. Fuck. He looked so fucking vulnerable, standing there totally naked and exposed with his big, fucking sad eyes fixed on Billy. Fuck, fuck, fuck!

“Billy...” Steve breathed but Billy couldn’t waste any more fucking time trying to coax an answer from either of the boys currently on the phone. He needed to get back as soon as possible. If Max was already home, it wasn’t much of a fucking stretch for her to think he was with Steve. They’d left the arcade together after all. And if she could figure that out then it was only a matter of time until she blabbed to Neil.

The thought fucking added a whole new layer of fear to everything. Neil would know; he’d know about Steve. His bitter, prejudiced little mind would, for once, be right on the money; he’d know that they were fucking. Shit. ‘If I ever so much as think you’ve been bending over like a fucking faggot again...’ Shit. Billy’s body was trembling now. It would be all too easy for him to figure out where the Harrington’s lived. This fucking town was too small for that shit not to be common knowledge. Fuck.

It was California all over again.

But no. In California, Billy had been in the fucking dark. He’d not known that he was supposed to be bringing Max home; hadn’t known that she was selling him and Alex out. Unlike in California, Billy had the small advantage of knowing. He had to get home. He had to get ahead of this. Fuck.

Stomping out of the room, Billy tuned out the cries of protest from the other boy. He couldn’t waste any time; not one fucking second. Taking two steps at a time, he hurtled down the stairs, making good on his plans to fix his shirt as he went. He practically kicked his way into his boots that were waiting patiently for him at the foot of the stairs. Goddamn, driving without fucking socks was going to chafe something fierce.

“Billy!” he heard Steve shouting but there was no time. They’d already wasted too fucking much.

Slamming the front door behind him, Billy made a beeline for the Camaro, fishing the keys from his pockets as he moved. Goddamn, May had no business being this chilly but, then again, the adrenaline currently coursing through his system would keep him just fine. As he wrenched the driver’s side door open, Steve appeared in the doorway, the few clothes he’d managed to pull on totally dishevelled.

“Billy-!”

“Fuck off, Harrington!” Billy barked, ducking into the Camaro and jabbing the keys into the ignition. This had been such a fucking mistake. He should have known that it was too good to be true. Fuck.

---

Billy made the drive between Steve’s house and his own in literally half the time it ought to have taken. The roaring of the Camaro matched the fear pounding through his veins the whole way. Luckily, the route he took was mostly clear, both of random Hawkins citizens and fucking cops. The last thing he needed right now would be Hopper pulling him over and booking him for fucking speeding.

He pulled up in front of the house, anxiety twisting his insides as he saw all the lights were on. Looking at the time on his dash, it was just past nine thirty. He was barely late. Maybe he’d even beaten Max here?

That was a fucking stupid thought. If she’d left, it wouldn’t have been long after when he was supposed to get her an hour ago. No matter how slowly she’d gone, it wouldn’t have taken her an hour. Fuck.

Knowing that this was likely the last time he’d be driving her, he pulled the keys from the ignition and climbed out of the Camaro. Fuck. He hadn’t even thought up an excuse. Tommy, maybe? No. Neil didn’t know Tommy; didn’t know how fucking far Billy was from wanting that guy’s dick. He’d just make the same old assumption and then Tommy’d be in the firing line. As fucking irritating as that guy was, Billy wasn’t about the sic Neil on him or anyone else. Fuck.

He quickly moved onto the sidewalk, mind still drawing a blank for what he could say he was doing. Maybe he could stick to his old mantra: keep it close to the fucking truth. Maybe he’d fallen asleep in the Camaro somewhere? Would that be believable?

He flexed his hands in front of himself as he started up the path towards the house. He was fucked. There was no escaping it. Max had fucked him all over again. He could only pray that she’d left Steve out of it.

“Billy!” a hushed voice came from the treeline.

Halting immediately, Billy looked in that direction. He’d know that fucking voice anywhere. Max stepped forwards into the dim lights from the street, arms crossed over her front, scowl written on her little face.

“Max,” he said, his voice low and more controlled than he felt. His heart was still beating too fast. He was still too fucking scared. What the fuck was she doing out here?

“Where were you? I waited for you!” she snapped, advancing on him with all the anger and bitterness that she’d clearly been holding onto since they’d last seen each other at the arcade.

“You didn’t fucking wait at all; you’re fucking here!”

“Yeah! Because curfew was at nine, Billy!” she argued back, getting all up in his face again. Billy tightened his jaw, planting his feet firmly on the ground. “Sorry if I don’t wanna get in the shit with your dad!” she snapped like it was his fault that Neil was such an asshole. Didn’t she realise how fucking easy she had it with him? Didn’t she know how much she fucking got away with? Hadn’t she seen what Billy had to take from that asshole?

He fucking hated her all over again.

“Fuck off! I was busy! You should have waited at the arcade!” he growled, the hatred burning in the pit of his stomach. It was all swirling up together into a perfect fucking storm once again. Today had been too fucking much. There was only so much he could fucking take.

“Waited for how long, Billy? After you went all psycho on Lucas, I wasn’t even sure if you were coming back at all!” she fired back, her voice rising to a shout. Goddamn, the neighbours were gunna hear at this rate, not that Billy gave two shits what they thought.

“Then how come you’re out here? Get lost or something?” he sneered, tilting his head in the way that he knew made him look as mean as he fucking felt right now.

“Screw you, Billy!” the red-headed bitch spat at him, her face scrunched up in hatred and anger. “Sorry if I remembered how much shit you got into last time you didn’t come get me. Guess I shouldn’t feel sorry for you next time!”

Last time. Bringing that up was too fucking much.

Even now, Billy could still feel the sharp pull in his hair; the humiliating drag out of the Camaro. He could hear Alex’s cries of shock and horror; could feel the brutal, indiscriminate kicks to his body. He could still remember thinking that he was going to die. Barely conscious as Alex simply fled.

Blinded by all the fucked-up feelings surrounding that shit, he reached out and grabbed Max’s arm, pulling her closer. Her blue eyes went wide with fear and she started to struggle, her free hand pounding at Billy’s arm.

“You don’t fucking talk about that shit, Max,” he growled, leaning close so that she’d know how fucking serious he was.

“Get off me!” she yelled, hitting and kicking at him now. Her eyes were closed with the effort as she did everything in her power to get him to let go. It was fucking nothing. The little bitch was far too weak and he was far too strong. How fucking dare she bring that shit up?

“Neil!” the shriek from the direction of the house snapped Billy back to his senses.

Standing, illuminated, in the doorway was fucking Susan, her hands over her mouth in a look of utter horror. She looked like someone who’d stumbled across a dead body or some shit. And she was calling for Neil. He was well and truly fucked now.

Before he could react at all, Neil was barging past the ridiculous woman, gunning right for Billy. With barely any time to react, Billy simply dropped Max’s arm and braced himself for the tidal wave of hatred that was crashing his way.

“You animal! You fucking animal!” Neil was raging, grabbing Billy harshly by the hair in an attack that was too fucking familiar and too close to the mark for Billy to take right now. As if it was California all over again –as if he was almost a year younger, as if he wasn’t someone who had held their own against actual fucking monsters from another dimension- Billy simply moved with the harsh pull as Neil dragged him back towards the house. Fuck. His scalp burned and all he could bring himself to do was clutch at his head to try and ease the pain as Neil yanked him up the steps and past Susan into the lounge.

The moment they’d crossed the threshold, Neil practically threw Billy into the room, his breath ragged and full of rage. Fuck. He might actually do it. Fuck any memories of him finding him and Alex together -fuck any fears of him finding out about Steve- Billy laying his hands on Max in front of him and Susan might actually be the thing that pushed the old man over the edge. Tonight might actually be the night Neil killed him.

Catching himself on the coffee table, Billy quickly turned and faced his attacker. Neil’s face was practically purple with rage, his usually cold eyes burning with true hatred. Holy shit. This might actually be it.

“You fucking animal! How fucking dare you lay your goddamn hands on that little girl?!” and, goddamn, did Neil sound just like Billy when he was all riled up. The realisation from the arcade was too fresh in his mind: he was his father’s son.

Billy threw his head back and laughed at the farce of it all. The person he hated most in this world -the person who’d caused him the most pain- was actually the person he’d become. Even now, after all of Steve’s softness -after all his caring and comfort- Billy was just his father. It was a fucking joke.

Neil’s eyes blazed brighter at Billy’s laughter. Billy had always had a talent for winding the old man up, even without meaning to.

“You think this is funny?” Neil growled, the barely-restrained anger practically leaking from every pore.

In his periphery, Billy could see Susan and Max ducking through the lounge, like civilians fleeing from a war zone. It was a fucking joke. All of this was a fucking joke.

“Yeah, Dad, I do!” Billy laughed, sounding as hysterical as he felt right now. “Who do you think I fucking take after, huh? If I’m a fucking animal, what the fuck does that make you?” he spat, opening up his arms as if he was gesturing at something; as if he was gesturing at everything. Their fucking life -their fucking home- was all a fucking joke.

He and Neil; they were just a pair of monsters, just a pair of animals, constantly lashing out and hurting anyone who was unfortunate enough to come into contact with them. Alex and his mom; they’d both paid the ultimate price for loving him. Steve would do well to let this be the end of it. He’d been right all along; tonight had been a fucking mistake.

“You disrespectful little shit!” Neil shouted advancing on him but Billy was strong. He’d fought off bigger monsters than Neil Hargrove.

Before the old man could react, Billy balled up his fist and swung, landing a good right-hook to the old man’s jaw. Neil stumbled back with a strange, surprised yelp, hand flying up to cover his face. Body trembling, Billy looked down at his fist. Holy shit.

He’d expected himself to feel victorious if he ever fought back; thought that it would be the start of him taking a stand. Whenever he’d dreamt of this moment, he’d been the righteous hero, standing up to the terrible monster. He’d always imagined that he’d feel proud; that he’d feel free.

He didn’t.

His entire being felt like it had been plunged into icy water. The fear totally consumed him. the overwhelming feeling of being in trouble was so fucking much. Holy shit. He was such a fucking pussy.

“Dad- I’m sorry-” he heard himself desperately cry out as the elder Hargrove came for him once again.

Before Billy could move, Neil’s hands were harshly pulling his hair again, dragging him over to the nearest wall. Billy didn’t fight it, this time; the pain was what he deserved. Roaring with rage, Neil shifted his grip so that his hands were either side of Billy’s head, holding him in a crushing grip. Billy cried out but Neil simply pulled his head forward before sharply smashing it back against the hard, unforgiving wall.

The first blow was an explosion of pain. As his skull cracked against the solid surface, Billy’s vision burst into a light. It was as if someone had suddenly turned on a fuck-ton of flood-lights and aimed them right at him. Billy scrunched his eyes closed even as Neil pulled his head forwards again. Before he could do anything to stop him, his father was smashing his head back against the wall again and again and again.

After what Billy guessed to be the fifth hit, when he finally let go, Billy simply slid down the wall. He absently wondered if he’d left a trail of blood or not. He couldn’t be sure if Neil had hit him hard enough to crack his head open or not. It certainly felt like he had.

“You’re a fucking animal, Billy,” Neil spat, sounding breathless and disgusted. “A rabid, disrespectful animal!” he continued, kicking harshly at Billy’s chest, causing him the flop forward. Holy hell that fucking hurt. Billy opened his eyes and it was still so goddamn bright, like it was the middle of the day or some shit. What the fuck? “And you know what we have to do with rabid animals, don’t you Billy?” Neil continued, kicking again, his boot connecting with Billy’s right shoulder this time. Shit.

Pardon the way that I stare. There’s nothing else to compare... Billy was almost confused at the sound of Valli’s voice but, honestly, right now he could only focus on the pain in his head, his chest, his shoulder. The sight of you leaves me weak. There are no words left to speak. Billy lost count of all the times Neil kicked him; lost track of all the places that hurt.

But, if you feel like I feel, please let me know that it’s real. With the song as his backing, Neil’s breaths were harsh pants now. Billy vaguely heard Susan whimpering something about killing him but he couldn’t be sure if she was egging the old man on or begging him to stop. Regardless, she could go to hell. She didn’t matter. You’re just too good to be true. Can’t take my eyes off of you.

A harsh hand was tugging his head up by the hair again. Billy was pretty certain that the older man had pulled at least one big chunk out by now. Fuck him. He could hear himself chuckling again. What had been so funny?

“Touch her again and you’re dead. You hear me?” Neil snarled, his ragged voice so close to Billy’s face that he must have been leaning down to speak to him. That tickled Billy all the more, the chuckles causing his whole body to tremble. Neil made a disgusted noise and threw Billy back on the ground. It was so hard, so solid; it fucking hurt. Everything hurt.

Frankie Valli had stopped singing and Billy had to wonder if he ever had been at all. Silence consuming him, Billy lay face down on the lounge floor for the longest time. He had no idea of telling how long he lay there, chuckling to himself. At least, he thought he was laughing. Tears were pouring from his eyes, dampening the cheap-ass carpet that was so much less than the stuff in Steve’s house.

Steve...

What would he think of Billy now? In the confrontation with Neil, he had been the ultimate pussy. He’d got a punch in, hadn’t he? He’d tried to fight back. But it was all for nothing. He was nothing. He couldn’t stand up to Neil. He would always be the little, soft boy who never learned how to fight back. He was fucking weak.

And at the same time, he was dangerous. Not where it counted -not where he could protect himself- no. He was only a danger to the people who didn’t deserve it. For all her shit, for all their history, Max was just a kid. Even though they’d fought at the arcade, in her own way, she’d tried to help him out by waiting in the trees. She knew he’d be in worse shit if he arrived alone. But how did Billy repay her? He lashed out. He hurt her. He really was an animal. He really was a danger to those around him.

---

At last, after god-knows how long, Billy found the strength to crawl into his bedroom; crawl being the operative word. One attempt to get upright had cause his stomach to lurch in a way that he could only liken how it did when he had a bad hangover. Shit. Did that mean he had a concussion? Neil had hit his head a lot. The only other time he’d gotten one, there had only been one blow to the head. He’d puked and felt like shit but had been okay in the end. Would he be okay now?

Fear vibrated through his skin again at the thought. This was one of the worst beatings he’d had in recent memory. Through the various throbs and burns, Billy was struggling to unpick just what was damaged. For all he knew, he could have a fractured skull and several broken bones? His body started to feel shaky and cold. Panic started to stagnate in the back of his throat. Shit.

He moved to lie on his back, hissing as the back of his head tentatively rested on the floor before turning to the side. A vague memory of Nancy putting his feet in her lap that first night when Steve’s Exorcist act had made him go into shock. He feebly reached for a discarded, oversized vest that he’d worn for lifting the other day. It smelled a little ripe but that was hardly important as he covered his arms and chest with it. Fuck.

Focusing on his breathing, Billy tried to keep himself awake. He didn’t know all that much about first aid but he was pretty sure that falling asleep with a concussion was a big no-no. He tried to mentally recite the periodic table before realising that, even without a concussion, he wouldn’t be able to do that. He settled for his times tables, whispering them to himself as his fingers twitched in time. Fuck.

After a frighteningly long time, his body stopped shaking quite so badly. Groaning loudly, Billy sat up and pulled himself up onto the bed. It felt nothing like Steve’s bed. His eyes flicked to the clock on the wall. 11:15. It was barely two hours ago. Two hours ago, he’d been wrapped up in Steve’s arms. Steve had kissed him and called him ‘baby’. It had all been so light and lovely. Billy had been so fucking peaceful and happy.

Stupidly, Billy reached for the phone on his bedside table. He dialled all but the last two digits before he dropped the receiver back down again. He wasn’t Steve’s baby; he was an animal. He’d lashed out again and frightened the other boy. He’d run away and told him to fuck off. He’d ruined it all. The chrysalis had been crushed under his heavy boots. Their peace and happiness had been a fucking lie.

Covering his face with his hands, Billy realised that tears were still streaming down his cheeks. How fucking long had he been crying? He couldn’t tell. He really was such a pussy. Neil was right to hit him. If he saw his son being this pathetic, wouldn’t he do the same thing?

No. He could never do that. Could he?

He really didn’t know what he was capable of anymore. He didn’t know what was the ‘red mist’, what was Neil and what was just another of his own pathetic excuses. Hating everything, especially himself, Billy curled in on himself and sobbed. Today had been too much. He was broken.

---

“El...” he breathed weakly into the darkness.

Somehow, he’d managed to keep himself from giving in to the increasingly strong urge to fall asleep. It was now 2AM and he needed something. Weak and broken, he needed someone.

“El?” he whispered again, closing his eyes as if that would cause the furniture to disappear; as if that would be enough to cast him into the void and bring El to his side. Not alone. Wasn’t that what she'd sad to him? She was only a kid, yeah, but there was something so special about her. She would make everything feel less... just less. Even hours after the beating, Billy felt broken in every way possible. He didn’t know what to do with himself.

“El!” he called out as loudly as he dared. His voice was a sob, he sounded as destroyed as he felt.

Goddamn, he was so fucking pathetic. Of course, El wasn’t coming. Most likely, she’d heard about how he’d been at the arcade. She’d finally got wise to was a piece of shit he really was. His behaviour with Max would only secure her new abhorrence of him.

And Steve. He’d said it himself: it wasn’t okay that he’d put his hands on Sinclair again. Once he heard about Max, that’d be it, if it wasn’t already after how Billy had treated him before he’d left. Goddamn. He really was alone.

Chapter Text

The hammering on his bedroom door startled Billy awake. In all honesty, he didn’t remember falling asleep. He’d seen 4AM while he’d been making a mess of his Lit paper -honestly, why did he think that was a good way to keep himself awake with a concussion- but beyond that he couldn’t remember. His head hurt too fucking much to think let alone remember. Whatever had gone down, most of last night simply felt like a fucked-up blur of fear, anger and regret.

Forcing himself to stand, he limped over to the door. He didn’t remember locking it but, again, he remembered so little. Opening the door, he was face to face with Neil. The old man was frowning, his jaw set tight and his eyes steel fortresses.

There was a dark shadow on the elder Hargrove’s jawline; a distinct purpling that Billy could only label as a bruise. Holy shit. His brain was feeling a little too big for his head -more than a little muddled up and confused- but one thing rang true: he’d done that. Somehow, last night, he’d built up the nerve to fight back. The fact that he had woken up at all was probably a miracle in itself.

Neil’s expression darkened as he noticed where Billy was looking and a shudder of fear went down the teen’s spine. Biting his lower lip, he forced himself to look away. Fucking hell; he’d hit Neil. This wasn’t good. How fucking stupid was he?

“Susan will be taking Maxine to school for the time being. You will walk. No car. Understood?” Neil explained, his voice clipped and to the point.

“Yes sir,” Billy said, his voice quiet, croaky and broken. How much had he cried last night? He stupidly wondered if Neil could tell. Stupid because Neil could always tell. Billy was too fucking soft.

“Keys,” Neil growled, holding out his hand in the expectant way that he always did when he was taking from him.

“Yes sir,” Billy repeated as he reached into his back pocket on instinct and handed them over. Damn.

The whole action of surrendering the Camaro felt hollow; like it had already happened somehow. Brow furrowing, Billy tried to think back to how long ago it had been since they’d last danced this particular dance. It didn’t feel too long ago. He knew he’d been without the Camaro in recent memory but the fuzziness in his head was preventing him from locking the incident down.

He felt certain that he’d not been without for all that long at the very least. This time felt different somehow. This time would be different. From what the old man had just said, Billy couldn’t wait for Neil’s neglect and need for Max to have a chauffeur to bring an end to his punishment. This felt a lot more permanent.

Hand curling around the keys, Neil’s eyes narrowed and he put his hands on his hips, making himself look bigger; more imposing. He needn’t have bothered. Mangled mind aside, Billy was still feeling all kinds of shit-up just from his very presence. Whatever fighting spirit he’d had last night was totally gone.

“Because you’re not bringing Maxine home after school, I don’t expect you in this house before I’m back from work. Feed yourself, do homework at the library, get a damn job; I don’t care. Just don’t come in my house without me in it. Eight o’clock at the earliest; that way I’ll definitely be home. Understood?” he continued and Billy shuddered. This sounded almost like he was being thrown out. He wondered what on earth stopped the old man from going all the way. Surely, he’d be doing them both a favour at this point.

“Yes sir,” he repeated, still not missing a beat. The icy calm felt too tentative to risk any hesitation.

Neil’s arms moved again to cross over his chest as he added one final addendum, “If you are here then you are to stay in your room. You’re not to go anywhere near my family. I don’t want to see you or hear from you at all. Until I’m certain you’re not a danger to them, they won’t even know you exist anymore. Am I understood?”

“Yes sir,” Billy said again and, goddamn, did he feel vile. All of these rules made it sound as if he was some kind of beast that Susan and Max needed protecting from.

Given all the vaguely-remembered, vaguely-forgotten, shit that he knew had been happening recently, he wasn’t so certain Neil didn’t have the right of it. He could feel the scream that had ripped out of him when he’d been fighting the Remorhaz in the lab. The feral memory of giving in to the monster.... It felt closer than he knew that time had been. Was that from yesterday? What the hell was wrong with his head?

“You are on your last chance, Billy,” Neil said, leaning closer. Despite himself, Billy flinched away. Everything hurt so much. He couldn’t take any more today. His head was throbbing. “I don’t know what you were thinking last night but the whole situation was unforgivable. You hurt that little girl and you attacked me. By all rights I should have called the cops and had them deal with you.” Billy’s heart clenched at the old man’s words. He hurt Max? What-? “It’s going to take a lot to earn back my trust.”

“Yes sir,” he said one final time and Neil’s nose crinkled with disgust.

“Your mother would be ashamed of you,” he sneered before turning his back and walking back through to the kitchen.

The weight of that final sentiment rested heavily on Billy. Numbly, he closed the door, stepping back and simply standing there in his room. Head pounding, he tried to think back to last night. Embers from the blaze of fear and rage that had taken control of him flickered with renewed life. At the centre of it all was Max…

Max; had he hurt her? Fingers curling in on themselves, he could feel the ghost of her skin in his hand. He had grabbed her. Closing his eyes, he could clearly see the fear that had been screaming out from hers. Holy shit. He had hurt her. Billy balled up his fists tighter and tighter until his arms ached. He couldn’t pin why he’d done it. Had the red mist taken over again? Why?

And -goddamn- what would his mother think? Him beating on a little girl. That wasn’t the soft, sweet boy that she’d danced around the kitchen with. That wasn’t the boy that she’d held and hushed and loved. Neil was right; she would have been ashamed.

---

In the end, Billy stayed in his room until the family had all left. His body was gross and he needed to shower and, with him having to walk, he already knew he’d be late for school. There was no reason to provoke the old man’s ire by existing right after having had the instruction to do anything but.

Once he was certain that they were all gone, Billy made his way to the bathroom. Taking one look in the mirror, he winced at his reflection. Although he didn’t remember any blows to the face, there was nasty, purple bruising around both his eye sockets, presumably from the smacks to the back of his head. As he stripped away his shirt and jeans, he could see a whole landscape of bruising across his body. He looked like he’d been hit by a bus. Even after going head to head with a Remorhaz, he hadn’t looked this shitty.

Frowning in disgust, Billy turned away from the messed-up person in the mirror. Whoever that was, Billy hated him. He hated everything about him. Stepping into the shower, he reached for the faucet, hissing when the water came cold.

As he washed himself, he became aware of a very different kind of ache between his cheeks. That’s right… he thought defeatedly to himself. He and Steve had fucked. Billy frowned as he took the flannel and roughly cleansed himself down there. Despite all the shit that had clearly gone down the previous night, Billy still couldn’t believe himself. He was fucking repulsive; leaving it so long before cleaning himself up. He was no fucking better than a two-bit whore. He was fucking dirty and disgusting, just like Neil always said.

Holy shit. It wasn’t just disgusting; it was fucking stupid. If Neil had known that that, as he beat on him, Billy had been leaking fucking cum into his jeans -that he’d let another guy fuck him- he really would have killed him.

It had been fucking stupid; Billy had been fucking stupid. He felt like he’d come to this realisation before but the whole situation was a big fucking mistake. He was fucking stupid to think that, just because he wanted to, he actually could be with Steve. It was all so fucking stupid.

---

It took too long to get dressed. Between the various aches and pains, the simple act of pulling on jeans was a lot. Feeling defeated and shitty, he ended up pulling on a simple, white wife-beater and one of the hoodies, that he’d used to wear in the winter months when he used to go skating with the gang in California, from the bottom of his drawer.  Looking in the mirror, he knew he looked fucked-up. He didn’t look like the new king of Hawkins High; he looked as broken as he felt. Fuck it.

When he was finally out of the house, he started in the direction of the school. He knew there would be faster routes on foot but, having never had to walk it, he didn’t have the energy to discover them. Hands shoved deep into the front pocket of his maroon hoodie, he stalked the route that he would usually drive. It felt stupid but he was so beyond caring at this point it was unreal.

Every step he took brought about a new memory from the beating he took. Every sharp stab of pain, from every impact of his feet on the concrete, coding what had happened to his body. His brain was still fucking useless but at least now he was starting to remember why. The feeling of Neil’s hands either side of his head, the crack of his skull against the wall. God-fucking-damn; he really was lucky to be up and about right now.

As Hawkins High gradually came into sight, Billy felt all kinds of fucked-up in the head. Doubtlessly, Steve, Nancy and Jonathan would all be inside, carrying on with their lives as if he hadn’t been missing that morning. For all their act of caring and being his friends, he hadn’t exactly seen them driving over to his place to check on him. He hadn’t exactly heard the phone ringing before he’d set off. When shit hit the fan, he was all alone and none of them really gave a shite about it. Resentment burned in the back of his throat at the thought of it.

Everything was fucking bullshit. They were all bullshit and Steve was the worst offender. Where the fuck had he been when Billy had been down on the floor in his father’s lounge? Billy was done with hating on himself; it was a foregone conclusion that he was a piece of shit. No. The real take-away from last night was that Steve Harrington was an asshole. That he was a bullshit liar and that nothing meant a damn thing anymore. It was all fucking bullshit.

As he walked through the parking lot, the anger burned a little brighter. The familiar pair of cars were side-by-side as always; Harrington’s Bimmer and Byers’ shitty little LTD. Either side of the pairing were unfamiliar rust-buckets belonging to random Hawkins slobs. Sneering to himself, Billy marched onwards. Wheeler, Byers and Harrington were such fucking bullshit; they hadn’t saved him a spot. They were all such fucking fakes. They were all fucking bullshit.

He didn’t waste time trying to go to second period when he finally found himself inside the fucking building. By now, he’d missed too much and it wasn’t worth the explanation. Instead, he headed right for the main office. He had an idea of telling the old bitch behind the desk about how his car had broken down, hopefully earning himself a note to flap in the faces of any teachers when he had to deal with them later in the week.

What he hadn’t been expecting was for Trudy to be standing there, chatting away with Gladys the clerk. As he approached, the Econ teacher turned and her amber eyes widened and her whole posture went stiff. Not her usual reaction but he did look like shit today. Goddamn, he was just too fucking tired to turn on his usual level of charm for her.

“Billy?” she asked, tilting her head and taking a half-step towards him.

Billy forced himself to chuckle as if she’d told some kind of joke. His mouth felt tight and wrong as he forced it to curl into his usual, wolfish grin.

“Morning, Miss Hannagan,” he smiled his forced smile, saying her surname like it was some kind of dirty secret that she let him use her first. Little subtleties like that always worked with her. Or , at least, they usually did. The expression on Trudy’s face wasn’t the usual one of thinly concealed desire. Right now she was staring at him in a way that looked almost afraid.

“Your face...” she breathed, that small hint of fear in undertone of her voice. Shit. He’d forgotten about the bruises.

“Oh- Gosh, yeah. Took a basketball to the face yesterday,” he lied, forcing the smile to stay on his lips. Goddamn his head hurt. Smiling was only making it worse. “Wasn’t really expecting it to bruise so bad but I guess it’s just bad luck!” Goddamn, it wasn’t his best lie; far from it.

Trudy, eyes still wide and fixed on his face, seemed to visibly absorb what he’d told her. Despite the increase in his heartrate, Billy tried to maintain the air of calm, gentle flirtiness that was their status quo. Come on, Trudy. Don’t try to be a good person right now, he willed her.

After another painful moment of staring, she gave her head a small shake and her whole body seemed to relax. Atta girl.

“Shouldn’t you be in class?” she asked, her voice soft and almost how he was used to hearing. Her eyes were scanning down the rest of his body in a way that could either be checking him for further injury or simply checking him out. Billy seriously hoped it was the latter. The last thing he needed was this little trip to the office being counted as some kind of cry for fucking help.

Neil would not be pleased with that.

“I was just dropping by the office to let Gladys here know that my engine started smoking on the way to school this morning,” Billy started his excuse loud enough that, hopefully, old Gladys would listen in and he wouldn’t have to repeat the performance. With all the covering-up of injuries and worrying about Trudy’s reactions, he really was struggling to hide how fucking done he was already.

Trudy covered her mouth and gave a little gasp.

“Oh Billy! That sounds scary! You really have had a run of bad luck!” she cooed and, apparently even when he battered and bruised and feeling like just throwing his head back and screaming, she was putty in his hands all over again.

“Oh man, Tru- Miss Hannagan, you have no idea,” Billy continued, almost saying her first name on purpose. A small flush rose in her already cosmetically blushed cheeks and she took a step closer to rest a gentle hand on his shoulder. It hurt. Even a fucking feather-light touch from an overly-familiar teacher earned him a dull throb of pain. Fuck. “So, obviously there was something badly wrong. I’m just glad my sister went to school early with her mom,” he said, making sure to add the shit about Max because Gladys had been known to be a bitch and cross-reference with the middle school before deciding whether to issue a tardy note or not.

“Definitely!” Trudy nodded, her hand giving what she probably thought was a comforting squeeze but was actually just another layer of pain. Billy kept his reactions inside, his fucking stupid smile on his face.

“So, after basically rolling the car back home so it wasn’t just abandoned on the side of the road, I’ve finally made it,” he said through his teeth, fingernails digging into the palm of his hand in an attempt to distract his body from the pain that was still radiating out from where Trudy’s hand was.

“Well. It’s nice to see that you’re so dedicated to your education, Billy,” Trudy smiled and Billy felt like he might have gotten away with it.

“Why didn’t you call the school, Mr Hargrove?” Gladys chimed in, leaning in a way that Billy could see her round Trudy. Shit. The old bird was a real stickler for shit like that. “When you got home; why didn’t you call and let us know what had happened?”

Smiling, Billy stepped around Trudy, thanking God that she let go of his shoulder. He moved up close to the desk and shot the old lady his bedroom eyes. While it never had quite the same effect as it did on Trudy, he had previously been able to soften the crusty old bitch by laying it on her.

“I know, Gladys: I really should have called. Annoyingly, I only realised that when I’d already made it to the parking lot. I guess I was in such a rush with getting the car home and then trying to get back here…” he let his voice trail off and held the old woman’s gaze.

After half a beat, Gladys’ face broke into a small smile, nervous hands adjusting the gold and teal brooch that she had pinned at the neck of her shirt. Without saying anything, she reached into one of her desk drawers, pulled out a sheet of office paper and loaded it into her typewriter.

“Make sure you call next time, Mr Hargrove. If your second period teacher’s attendance register had come back with you marked as absent before I’d spoken to you, I’d have had no choice but to put you down as truant,” she scolded lightly, foolishly giving Billy a goalpost for future forays into tardiness.

With a grating clacking sound, she started to furiously type something onto the paper and Billy turned back to face Trudy.

“I’m just glad I made it back in time for fourth period,” he smiled, watching the colour deepen on the older woman’s face. “Got something fun lined up for us today, Miss Hannagan?” Trudy brushed a stray hair from her messy up-do back behind her ear and drew her lower lip inside her mouth for a moment.

“Because I don’t want you to have any more unexpected surprises,” she started, eyes warm and pupils wide, “I’m going to let you know that we’re having a pop quiz based on the in-class assignment from last week. It’s only going to be twenty-five multiple choice questions but I didn’t want to make your day worse.”

“Thank you, Tr- Miss Hannagan,” Billy ‘slipped up’ again, earning himself a nervous little giggle from the Econ teacher. Goddamn, that really would have pissed him off. Flirting with the faculty was always fucking worth it. No matter how shitty he felt.

---

By the time he’d gotten away from the two women, the bell was ringing to signal the end of second period and Billy was totally and utterly done with pretending he was a normal person. Trudy’s lesson later would be interesting to say the least if he didn’t find the energy from somewhere to keep up his little act.

Goddamn. Everything still hurt so fucking much; his head worst of all. Even after leaving the office, it felt like the clacks from the typewriter were resounding inside his skull; chipping away at the already damaged bone. Rubbing at the back of his head and then regretting it instantly, Billy made his way over to his locker.

When he saw who was standing beside it, he almost turned and walked the other way.

“Billy!” Nancy -Wheeler- called out down the corridor as if she wasn’t surrounded by other kids with their own shit going on. Billy froze in place as she marched over to him.

The fuck did she want? Why the hell was she waiting at his locker