It was a perfect day.
It had started fantastically. Steve had been planning the day out all week. He had gotten Hopper to agree to let him have the day off with the promise of helping him plan his and Joyce’s third anniversary. Had also gotten the kids, who weren’t really kids anymore since they were going to be starting their senior years next fall, to promise not to get into any trouble while he was away for the day (which was met with eye rolls and scoffs). Finally, had made sure to pack a cooler full of Billy’s favourite snacks and drinks along with a couple of blankets and an umbrella. It was simple, he would pick up Billy on that Saturday morning and they would begin their one-hour car drive to the nearest beach to Hawkins. He knew how much Billy was missing the sunny beaches of California even more so than usual, so he hoped that it would be a fun day for him and a chance to help quell a bit of his homesickness. It wasn’t the ocean, but it would have to do until Steve saved enough money up to surprise his boyfriend with a road trip to his old stomping grounds in Cali for his birthday.
The word made Steve smile with giddiness as he followed the familiar route through the streets of Hawkins that lead to Billy’s apartment. They hadn’t ‘officially’ talked about what they were yet, but Steve was certain that they were far from just fuck buddies at this point. Fuck buddies didn’t spend countless nights tangled together after amazing sex, whispering sweet words between kisses. Words that made Steve’s face flush, his chest warm and stomach flutter with butterflies. Fuck buddies also didn’t do something as domesticated as making meals for each other or share soft kisses every morning when they went their sperate ways after they ate breakfast together, wishing each other a good day and promising to call or see each other later.
So yeah, even if the words were never said, Steve was certain that ‘boyfriends’ was the best way to describe what this thing with Billy had evolved too. It had freaked him out at first because exactly two and a half months ago when they had first agreed to this arrangement, he had never in a million years even imagined that he would be head over heels in love with Billy Fucking Hargrove, and yet, here he was planning the perfect day to cheer up the homesick man that had so quickly and without warning stolen his heart. To say the least, Steve was anything but mad about it.
As Steve pulled up to Billy’s apartment building, he pursed his lips when he didn’t see the other waiting outside for him like he had said he would yesterday on the phone. Steve shrugged and put the car in park, figuring Billy was just running a bit late. He got out the car, locking it before slamming the door shut and making his way into the building. Steve held the door open when he saw a girl coming towards the exit who seemed to be in a hasty rush. He gave her a friendly smile and said good morning as she walked through the door he was holding only to be repaid with a glare and a huff. He raised a brow as he spent about half a second watching her walk down the street. Someone was not a morning person. Whatever, Steve paid it no mind and went inside and into the elevator that took him right up to Billy’s floor. The brunet knocked on the door and waited maybe ten seconds until it flew open to reveal a wet haired Billy in nothing but a pair of jeans. There was a look of annoyance on his face until it morphed into surprise.
“Steve.” he breathed out.
“Uh, yeah, were you expecting someone else?” Steve smiled as he walked into Billy’s apartment, planting a chaste kiss on to the other man’s cheek and walked past him to sit down at one of the stools at the counter. Billy’s apartment had quickly become something of a second home for Steve, having spent just as much time here if not more than at his apartment. Many fond memories had been made here, not just between the two of them but also with Max and the rest of ‘the party’ as they still called themselves (Steve, having become an honorary member was included under that title). When Billy had first moved in about two years ago, it was kind of a dump. Ugly green walls that Max had compared to the colour of baby shit, grungy kitchen and bathroom tiles and a dingy carpet that probably hadn’t been cleaned in years. It had been Max to first suggest sprucing up the place and had asked the party and the adults for help in the project. Billy was against it, arguing that it didn’t bother him and that he could make do with it, but Max and even Mrs Byers insisted and in just a little under a month the walls were painted a much more appealing light blue, the tiles had been cleaned until you could see the original colour and the carpet shampooed. Once furniture was moved in it really started feeling like a home, and despite Billy’s not so subtle annoyance with having to put up with the rambunctious teens and the others constantly coming over every weekend to help, Steve knew he was touched and grateful that they had gone out of their way to make him more comfortable in his apartment.
Of course, Billy had to put his own touches on things though. He had many posters hung on the walls of his favourite bands and a shelf that lined one of them next to the tv was stacked full of classic vinyl records and tapes of rock bands that Steve admits he mostly hadn’t heard of. There weren’t any photos other than a picture of Max and Billy that was taken on Max’s 16th birthday and an old photo of Billy’s mother.
The project had been something of a bonding experience for Billy and the others, he was by no means close to them at the time except for the mutual respect that had developed after what happened years ago with the Mindflayer and the upside-down bullshit that took place in Starcourt mall so long ago. Billy had saved them all with what he had done, finding just enough strength and clarity to fight back and take control of his body to protect El from the grotesque beast. It was a sacrifice that nearly killed Billy but somehow he had miraculously survived with severe damage to his torso that had left him recovering for nearly a year along with gnarly scars that scattered around his abdomen. Shared trauma did seem to have a way of bringing people together.
“No, I hadn’t realized the time sorry. Uh, I’ll be quick just have to finish getting dressed.” Billy responded voice sounding a bit tight, his shoulders also looked tense and he had his brows furrowed like he was thinking about something too hard. Steve frowned and thought that the blonde was acting a bit strange this morning. He brushed it off and chalked it up to the homesickness.
“You plan on swimming in your jeans?” Steve teased gesturing to the denim that hung low from the other man’s hips, showing just a bit of the happy trail it disappeared beneath the piece of clothing. Steve leaned back on the counter as he looked Billy’s form up and down fondly “Not that I’m complaining about the view.”
Billy finally cracked a smile and Steve felt some relief at seeing that beautiful display on his face. “Oh, you like what you see Pretty Boy?” Billy flirted as he walked over to Steve’s place at the counter and stood between his legs while he rested his hands on the brunet’s hips grip firm but gentle. He looked up at Billy and brought a hand up to cup his jaw, the familiar butterflies stirring as he leaned into his hand. “Very much so.” Steve hummed as Billy turned his head slightly to kiss the heel of his palm and now the butterflies were going crazy. He pulled Billy forward and brought his face down for a proper kiss right on the lips, smiling as Billy kissed him back and just slightly squeezed his hips. They pulled apart after a moment, Billy running his tongue over his top lip as he looked down at Steve with his blue eyes twinkling. It was moments like this Steve felt that he meant more to Billy than just friends that had sex from time to time. When Billy looked at him completely unguarded and vulnerable like Steve was the most precious thing to him. It made Steve wonder what he could have done to deserve this.
The comfortable silence was broken when Billy cleared his throat and took a step back, making the skin where his hands had been on Steve’s hips feel suddenly cold. “We should get going, you said it was a bit of a drive, right? I’ll change quickly.” Steve nodded and watched as Billy retreated to his bedroom, the fond smile never leaving his face once.
It wasn’t long until Billy returned, now wearing a pair of dark navy swim trunks (that looked absolutely sinful in Steve’s honest opinion.) and a white muscle tank top. They soon found themselves on their way out of Hawkins, speeding down the highway as Metallica blasted through the speakers of Steve’s car since it was Billy’s turn to pick the music for the ride. If Steve was honest, he would have never listened to them on his own but being with Billy had opened him up to appreciating more rock music. Watching Billy sing along so passionately also had a thing to do with his change in music taste.
They got to the lake by 11:00 AM and Steve was relieved to see that the tension had pretty much completely melted away from Billy’s shoulders and he was now acting like he normally did. Kind of an asshole, but in a more endearing way compared to when they were still in high school. They spent nearly seven hours out in the bright sun on the beach, swimming, snacking, drinking and lounging. The place had somehow been completely vacant, no sign of any other visitors anywhere to be seen. This suited them just fine as it gave them the rare opportunity to share kisses and affection outside of the privacy of either of their homes.
It really was a perfect day.
By the time they were on their way back to Hawkins Steve and Billy both felt lighter than they had in a while with their skin warm and most definitely tanned by their day in the sun, they sat side-by-side with the music turned on low and their fingers laced together as Steve drove them back to Billy’s apartment.
Once in the door, they had quite quickly found themselves on the couch kissing slow and passionately. Their hands running over the other’s body and their fingers carding through their hair as they held each other closely. When they pulled apart with their foreheads pressed together and their breaths mingling between their lips, the room had been painted in an orange hue of the setting sun coming in through the window. The shadows being cast made Billy look so beautiful, highlighting his strong jaw and gorgeous eyes. Steve wasn’t sure if it was the kisses or Billy that had him breathless.
“Thank you for today. You were right, princess; it did make me feel better.”
Steve’s smile widened, more butterflies erupting at the pet name he’s heard roll off Billy’s tongue so many times before. “Good, that was the goal.” He murmured and pressed another kiss to Billy’s mouth before pulling away and sitting up on the couch. “we should order pizza, I’m starved” he suggested, “Wanna order it while I shower? Lake water is not a friend to my hair.” Billy chucked as Steve stood and watched him as he combed his fingers through his hair, grimacing at the texture that the lake water had left his hair.
“On it, the usual?” Steve heard Billy ask as he walked towards the bathroom. “You know it.” He called back before closing the door behind himself. He stripped down and got into the shower, humming as the warm water washed over his skin. Steve grabbed the bottle of shampoo that he had left here so long ago, making him smile knowing there were traces of his presence all over Billy’s apartment from the hair products in the shower and the bathroom cabinet, to the drawer in Billy’s dresser that held some clothing and other possessions he’d brought over the course of the two months they’ve been together.
That made Steve stop and think back to earlier when he called Billy his boyfriend in his head. They still hadn’t talked about it. So were they really ‘together’, so to speak? Steve was certain they were, but perhaps they should take the formality of talking about it. His relationship with Nancy had taught him how important communication was. When she had broken up with him and called their relationship bullshit, called him bullshit, it had hurt, a lot. He’d felt betrayed, and abandoned it left a scar over his heart and made him wary of entering serious relationships since then. Now, he thought he might love Billy even more and it was scary but exciting, and Steve couldn’t think about what he’d do if he lost Billy to the same mistakes. So that settles it he thought, they’re going to have ‘the talk’. Maybe tomorrow, over a pancake breakfast.
With that final decision to officially ask Billy Hargrove to be his boyfriend, Steve turned off the faucet and opened the curtain to get out of the shower. He grabbed his towel and dried his face before turning to look towards the mirror, the message he saw staring back at him made those damn butterflies flutter and his chest fill with warmth. Drawn in the fog of the mirror was a heart and in the centre of the heart were the words;
‘Looking good handsome.'
Steve smiled brightly and his chest filled with warmth at the corny message Billy must have snuck in to leave. It amazed Steve how sweet and corny he could be when they were alone together sometimes, how much Billy had opened up to him and let down his guard to be able to show this side of him. It made him melt and fall for him even harder than he already did.
God this was a perfect day.
Until it wasn’t.
Steve looked closer at the letters inside the heart and noticed something that made his smile drop and skin crawl as his heart fell into his stomach.
That wasn’t Billy’s handwriting.
He’s seen Billy’s handwriting more times than he could count, could pick it out of a line up if he had too, and it definitely did not look like this. This was elegant looping letters, Billy never wrote in cursive, preferred to neatly print or hastily scrawl when he wrote. This was famine and definitely NOT Billy’s. Steve’s breath hitched and his heart began beating a faster and faster as he felt his eyes prickling, making him blink them quickly. Billy wouldn’t do this, he wouldn’t, not to Steve…
He just wouldn’t.
Steve swallowed his tears and looked away from the mirror trying to calm his breathing. He glanced back up and quickly looking away once again, couldn’t even bear to look at the message anymore. Instead, he kept his head down and like running on autopilot he got dressed in the most mechanical movements and with a blank expression. He turned to the door, feeling like the message on the mirror behind him was stabbing a knife over and over into his back directly into his heart. Steve turned the knob and opened the door.
Standing there was Billy, the man Steve loved so much, the man he would go get the moon for if he simply asked for it. Billy looked up at him and flashed a playful smile which quickly seemed to fade once he noticed the change in Steve’s mood. His smile was replaced with a frown and he turned to face him properly.
“Baby? Is something wrong? You alright Pretty Boy?” He asked his voice thick with concern. Steve looked up at him and he winced when he saw a tear streak running down his left cheek. “Steve, what’s wrong?” He asked again and crossed the small distance to stand directly in front of him. His brows scrunched together as he placed his hands on to Steve’s shoulders begging him to talk to him, only to be met with more suffocating silence and Steve’s pained stare. Until finally he spoke.
“Did you sleep with someone else last night?”
Billy’s frown deepened, “What? Why would you-” He stopped his sentence when he looked behind Steve and spotted the writing on the mirror, his eyes widening in realization and terror. “Shit.” With that one word, Steve’s breath hitched and his heart broke.
“How could you?” Steve panted tears rapidly starting to stream down his face as he looked away from Billy, this wasn't happening. “What the- What the fuck Billy?!” He grabbed the man’s wrists and tore his hands off of his shoulders as if they had burned him. Steve stormed passed him before turning to look at him once more with white-hot rage replacing the caring fondness, he usually looked at Billy with. “I thought I meant more to you than that?! I thought- I thought we- fuck!” He covered his eyes with his hands as a sob tore from his throat. He was shaking from his tears and with boiling anger.
Billy looked at Steve helplessly with desperation, “Steve! Please, I-I’m sorry. You mean the world to me. I’m so sorry, it didn’t mean anything I swear”
“Didn’t mean anything?!” Steve snarled, taking his hands away from his face. Billy curled back, looking away unable to meet Steve’s venomous glare. Steve almost felt bad, yelling like this when he knew how Billy’s past made him feel about yelling. Almost. “Is that supposed to make it better?!"
“I-I ran into Neil last night, the fucker started spouting his normal bullshit. He pissed me off and I got drunk, next thing I knew I was waking up here, with- her.” He choked out fists clenching by his sides and his own eyes getting glassy. “The moment I realized what I’d done I felt terrible and kicked her out as soon as possible.”
Steve breathed in deeply, he didn’t want to hear this, didn’t want to know the who, what, when, or where he just needed to get out. He felt like he was going to vomit when a sickening thought ran through his mind as more tears rolled down his face. “Oh my god… I- I ran into her… this morning, on my way up. Holy fuck, I held the door open for her.”
“I’m so sorry Steve.”
“‘Sorry’ doesn’t make things better Billy I can’t fucking believe-“ Steve threw his hands up and groaned, he was so angry he didn’t know what to say. He was humiliated, hurt, devastated even. “Why didn’t you just call me if you were feeling so down?! You know I’d be there for you.”
“I- I didn’t want to be a burden! I didn’t want to have to rely on you every time I got upset!”
“Oh no, you just wanted to fuck some random broad to make you feel better?! Is that it?! Because that’s what functioning adults do? Right? Goddamn it, Billy! I thought you’d grown up!”
Billy’s eyes snapped up to Steve and he narrowed them clenching his teeth nearly as hard as he did his fists. “I. Didn’t. Mean. to. Do. It.” He gritted out, his own defences starting to rise to the surface. “Whys it even matter?” He spoke, not thinking as the words left his mouth and regretting them instantly, “It’s not technically cheating! We never said we were dating!”
Steve’s jaw dropped and he stared at Billy with wide eyes in disbelief. He did not just say that. There’s no way. But he had, and Steve’s heart broke all over again. Steve snapped his mouth closed and the enraged glare graced his features once again, but this time when he spoke it was steady and smooth, like as if he was asking for the specials at a restaurant. “You’re right. We never said we were. So, it’s technically not cheating.” He clenched his jaw and forced himself to stay composed, his cold stare never leaving the eyes of the man he loved so fucking much, the man that tore out his heart and shredded it to pieces. “Which technically doesn’t make this a breakup."
Billy swore he felt his heart stop when he heard those words and just as quickly as he put hem up, his defences crumbled as tears began falling from his eyes. “What?” he exclaimed in disbelief as he took a step toward, chest tightening when Steve took a step back. “Steve no, this- this can’t be the end. Please, not like this.”
Steve ignored him, turning towards the door and taking long strides toward it. He just had to get out of here, away from this goddamn place, away from him. He had his hand on the doorknob and was just about to open it and walk away from all of this. “Goodbye Billy.”
Billy jumped into action, nearly sprinting as he beat Steve to the door slamming his right hand on it to keep Steve from opening it, his left coming to hold the other’s hip and keep him in place as he stood behind the brunet. “Steve… Please.” He didn’t dear speak above a whisper. He didn’t know what to say, what he could to make Steve just stay and work this out. Billy couldn’t lose him; he couldn’t lose the best thing that happened to him. So, he said all that he could, hoping and praying to any God that was out there to show him some mercy and let it be enough.
“I love you.”
Steve’s eyes widened and his resolve almost broke. He almost turned around and kissed that stupid jerk face until his lips were swollen. How long had he waited to hear those words? How long had he imagined the feeling he would get when he finally had his feelings returned? How it would feel to finally know how Billy felt about him? His resolve would have broken. If he hadn’t remembered it took Billy to ‘technically not cheat’ for him to finally say those words. He couldn’t forgive this. God he wished he could forgive this.
With so much more strength than Steve thought he had, he weakly muttered. “It’s too late.” His lips quivered and he felt a whole new wave of tears come rushing forward. He felt the way Billy deflated behind him. Defeated. “How… how could you have missed it? Why couldn’t you have just wiped it away?” He croaked as he fought to hold back tears, he didn’t get a response. He didn’t really expect or want one. “Now, please… Billy, just let me go.” The other man just stepped back without saying another word and Steve slipped through the door as quickly as possible and shut it behind him.
Billy stepped forward once the door closed and pressed his forehead against the cold wood as he allowed tears to freely run down his face. He wanted to hit something. Wanted to kick, punch, yell, and scream until his voice was raw and his knuckles were bloody from punching the walls. But he didn’t he just cried and cried until he didn’t know if only a few minutes had passed or hours. When there was a sudden knock on the door he had been leaning on. His eyes widened and he gasped, grabbing the knob and throwing it open.
“Steve! I-” It wasn’t Steve, just a surprised teenager holding a pizza box and wearing a hat with the logo of his and Steve’s regular pizza place. Billy leaned forward and looked down the hall towards the elevator with, no one in sight. He was gone.
Billy had lost him.
Steve had climbed into his car and slammed the door with more force than he needed, he started it and just started driving. Not even thinking of a seat belt, he just drove. Trying to get as far away from Billy as possible. He didn’t have a destination in mind, but he wasn’t at all surprised when he realized he had stopped at the quarry a place that held just as many memories as Billy’s apartment. He cut the engine and just sat for a moment counting his breaths and letting the exhaustion finally hit him before the flood gates opened and he sobbed. Hard and violently, using what was left of his strength by slamming his hands on the wheel and screaming at the top of his lungs before reducing into a shaking mess of tears and ruins.
What did he do to deserve this?