The night had started out just like any other.
Max had been over at Mike's house with the boys and Eleven playing board games, attempting to teach El how to play Monopoly. Steve and Nancy had been watching them while the Wheeler's had been out on a date night, a sad attempt to fix their failing marriage. It was supposed to be a fun evening, but when Max heard the low rumble of the camero pulling into the drive way an hour earlier than planned, she knew something was wrong.
Billy had told her he would come pick her up after 8, but it was only just after 7?
Max heard Steve and Billy at the front door, her brother's frame filling the doorway as he called to her to grab her stuff. She wasn't too happy about having to leave but the second she locked eyes with Billy and saw the look in his eyes, she knew something must have happened at home.
"Sorry guys, I gotta go." She rushed to grab her things and ran to the door, beating Billy back to the car. Billy said something to Steve before leaving the confused brunet at the front door.
Max could see the boys all gathered at the window to watch her leave, their faces all a mixture of bewilderment and sadness that she had to go.
The ride home was tense with silence, it was driving Max insane with questions but she knew better than to ask. Billy was on edge as it was and she didn't want to test his ire, even if she knew it wasn't caused by her. The white knuckled grip her brother had on the steering wheel was evidence enough that he was stressed, but she didn't know why. He had been fine when he dropped her off at Mike's, the casual bantering back and forth of don't be late and lose the attitude had been normal and Billy had even let her pick the music on the drive over.
So, what the hell happened while she had been with the boys?
By the time they reached their house, Max had come up with a thousand possible reasons for the urgent return, none of them were good. Neil's car was parked in the driveway which meant her step-father was home from work. That had to be the reason for Billy's unease, but why?
Before Max could even touch the door handle, Billy stopped her by grabbing her arm and turning her towards him.
"I want you to go to your room and lock the door, don't come out until I say so," he warned her, letting go of her arm so she could get out.
"Just do what I say, Max. Don't argue with me."
Max wanted to argue, she wanted to scream and shout that she could take care of herself and that he didn't need to protect her, but a larger part of her knew better than to fight Billy's wishes. Her brother may be a dick sometimes, okay most of the time, but she knew he tried his best to keep her out of harms way.
"It's bad, isn't it?" she stammered, already picturing the rage of her step-father. The man was fucking insane and took most of his anger out on Billy, but the bastard had never laid a finger on her. Deep down, she knew Billy was the reason for that.
Billy stared at her for a moment with a resigned look, like he had already accepted his fate that waited behind their front door, murmuring gruffly, "Just lock your door and don't come out, no matter what you hear."
It was happening again.
The sound of glass shattering from the living room had Max trembling in fear, watching her bedroom door with red rimmed eyes just waiting for it to burst open and let the monster in. She tried to block out the screams, just like Billy had told her too, covering her ears while the violent sounds of flesh meeting flesh echoed through the small house.
The second she and Billy had walked in the door, Neil had confronted them both at the threshold, his breath reaking of whiskey to the point Max felt sick just from the smell. Billy had quickly pushed Max towards the hallway and ordered her to go hide in her room, lock the door, don't come out. Of course, Susan was nowhere to be found. The woman was most likely cowering in the kitchen to escape her husbands wrath.
Another loud crash from outside the door made Max jump, biting her lip to keep from crying out. She just wanted it too stop. She wanted the monster to go away. She wanted a normal fucking family that didn't fight or argue or leave blood stains on the carpet!
'Make it stop. Make it stop. Make it stop!' she screamed inside her head, fresh tears blinding her as furious yells filled the silence. Hearing Neil scream things like respect me boy or teaching you manners or the worst, faggot for a son. They all caused a fire to swell inside her belly, like an uncontrollable wildfire of pent up rage building inside her ready to burst, making her think things she wouldn't normally believe herself capable of.
You could get rid of the body. The lake quarry. No one would find him there.
Those dark thoughts made her head spin, but with every clatter of noise and each grunt of pain, Max slowly began to lose the fight with her conscious.
You hunt down monsters.
Now go hunting...
Flinging herself from the floor of her room, Max scrambled to the phone on her nightstand and quickly dialed Hopper's line at the station.
'Pick up! Pick up! Pick up! Come on pick up!' she chanted as the phone rang and rang and rang, the fire continuing to roar inside her.
"Yeah, this is Hop--"
"Hopper! It's Max!"
"Max? What's wron--?"
"You n-need to come to my house! It's Billy! My step dad, h-he's gonna kill him! Please, Hopper, he's--he's g-gonna kill my brother!"
"Stay there, Max, I'm on my way!"
Slamming the phone down, Max felt better now that she knew help was coming.
But that wasn't enough.
Max knew even with Hopper's help that this nightmare wouldn't stop. None of it would stop until the monster was gone.
You know what you have to do...
Throwing the latch open on the bedroom door, Max raced down the hallway to her parents room and riffled through her step-fathers bedside table until she found what she was looking for.
A solid black, colt handgun.
One that Max knew always remained loaded.
You hunt monsters.
Now go hunt down the monster.
Billy could feel the blood pouring from his mouth as he struggled to get up off the floor. The shattered glass mirror his dad had thrown him into was in pieces surrounding his battered body. There was a large splatter of blood on the wall behind him from the last blow, the result of him biting off a small piece of his tongue when his dad's fist clocked him. The asshole hadn't even given him a fighting chance, just started wailing on him the second they were alone.
To be honest, Billy wasn't even sure what had the old man so pissed off to begin with.
"Get up and face me like a man! Did I teach you to roll over and show your belly like a bitch!" Neil taunted, landing a harsh blow to Billy's bloody back, a scream tearing from his lips as glass embedded itself in his skin.
Billy wanted to laugh at the man.
'How am I supposed to get up when you keep beating me down?' he thought, spitting out a mouth full of blood onto the carpet. There were so many dark splotches of burgundy throughout the living room floor, what was one more stain?
The sound of a door slamming open made him jerk.
Fearing Max left her room like he forbade her from doing, Billy struggled to right himself up off the floor. He couldn't let his dad turn his drunken attention onto Max. The little red haired punk may be a pain in his ass, but she was his pain in the ass to protect, especially from this dark part of their lives. Normally, he wouldn't be too worried, but when whiskey was involved his dad could become unpredictable. The man wouldn't see the difference in either of his children.
Hell would freeze over before Billy let the bastard lay one finger on Max.
"I told you to get up and face me like a man! Get up and face me--!" Neil's roar was cut off by another scream, one Billy knew all too well.
God dammit, Max...
"Get the fuck away from my brother!"
Looking past his stunned father, Billy felt his heart stop at the sight of his little sister pointing his dad's fucking gun at the man, her small hands trembling to hold the weapon steady.
Max stood defiant against her step father, glaring at the man with all the anger she could muster. Neil looked from one child to the other, a sick smile pasting his lips as he looked down at Billy.
"So now you need a little girl to fight for you?" He laughed cruelly, sending a swift kick to Billy's stomach as a warning to stay down, aiming another before a sound made him stop.
It was the sound of a gun being cocked.
"I said. Get. Away. From. Him," Max growled, angry tears rolling down her cheeks as she cocked the gun back, ready to kill the son of a bitch if he dared lay another finger on her brother.
He's a monster.
You hunt monsters.
Kill the monster.
Neil watched her through glazed eyes, the alcohol thrumming through his veins began to show in his movements. He made to take a step towards her and sneered, "You won't shoot me, Maxine. You don't have the guts to shoot your dear old dad, do you?"
"You're not my dad, you piece of shit!" Max screamed, lowering the gun to aim at his manhood, the threat alone was enough to stop him from moving, at least for the moment.
Billy watched the scene with fearful anticipation, torn between wanting to scream at Max for not listening and begging her to run, terrified of what his asshole father would do if he got a hold of her. There was no way Billy could save her in this state.
God, he was barely able to move.
He couldn't save her now.
Damning himself, Billy screamed at his body to obey him and move, no matter the pain, he needed to get up. Max needed him.
'Get up god dammit!' he thought stubbornly, willing his limbs to move off the blood soaked floor. He watched his dad glare daggers at Max's unyielding figure, a small ball of fury with a loaded gun. Fuck, he had to get that gun away from her.
The absolute terror and rage on Max's face was enough to make Billy's chest ache. He'd never seen her so mad before, or so determined, and a small part of him was proud of her. He'd always taught her to stand up for herself and never back down, and if she couldn't win then he'd be there for her. There was a reason no one messed with Billy Hargrove's little sister. Anyone stupid enough to try would either get their ass handed to them by a little spitfire redhead, which was always funny as hell, or they would learn why no one dared to fight Billy Hargrove. You just didn't fuck with Billy, and you sure as hell didn't fuck with Maxine.
However, this was the one battle Billy never wanted Max to face.
It wasn't because he didn't think she would win, he knew she could, but it was because he never wanted her to face the horrors he had to. That had been the one thing he'd tried to shield her from.
Please, not her.
Fighting the pain, Billy managed to get to his knees and lunged for his dad's legs with everything he had, stopping the man from going after Max.
"You little bitch!" Neil growled, kicking Billy off, sending him crashing into the wall again. Billy crumbled back onto the ground with a gasp, his chest flaring with pain as he hit the floor in a heap.
Neil's cry of anger was drowned out by a banshee scream of rage, followed by the deafening sound of a gunshot...
You hunt monsters.
Hunt the monster down.
Kill the monster.
Max glared at the crumpled man bleeding on the floor, the blood pouring from his left knee onto the carpet like red wine from a spilled bottle.
Kill the monster...
Neil's violent screams faded into whimpers as Max continued to aim the gun at him. Her hands shaking as she cocked it back again, the fire unsatisfied within her. In the back of her mind she swore she heard Billy's voice calling out to her but she couldn't hear anything over the roaring fire blazing inside her, telling her to finish the hunt.
Hunt down the monster and destroy it.
Kill the monster, Max.
Distantly, Max heard her mother scream something before a door slammed closed. The only sounds Max could hear were the pained gasps of the fallen man before her and the blood rushing through her ears as she stared him down.
Kill the monster!
The terrified cry from Billy brought her out of the darkness, her wild eyes finding his as he crawled towards her, his broken body dripping blood with every move he made.
Max blinked back fresh tears as she watched her brother crawl to her, his hands reaching out, she could see his mouth moving but couldn't make out the words. Her trembling hands fought to hold onto the gun, the soft wailing of sirens from a distance breaking through the fog inside her mind. She could still hear the voice inside her telling her to kill the monster, but she also heard Billy's voice pushing past the darkness, his bloodied and bruised face appearing in front of hers.
"He--h-he...?" Max seemed to be at a total loss, her mind snapping back like she just realized what she had done and what she'd almost done. Billy slowly inched closer to her, keeping his hands raised up so he wouldn't scare her anymore than she already was.
"Max, put the gun down," He pleaded, slowly reaching for it. He would not let her murder a man, even one as worthless as Neil Hargrove, because he knew in the end it would kill her. He would not let her have that guilt on her conscious.
"Please, just put the gun down for me?"
Billy managed to gently pry the gun away from her hands, quickly emptying the bullets and tossing the useless weapon aside. Once he was sure the threat was gone he slowly pulled Max into his arms, her trembling body falling against him easily as they slid down to the floor. Hearing Neil's broken sobs mixed with idle threats, it took everything Billy had not to grab the discarded gun and load one bullet into it just to finish the job.
That's all it would take.
One bullet right between the eyes.
Max leaned her head against Billy's bloody shoulder and closed her eyes, blocking out the images of Neil bleeding on the floor and the chaos the man caused. Billy held her as tight as his broken body would allow, murmuring softly that everything would be okay, keeping her turned away from the carnage surrounding them. The sound of sirens grew closer and before long there was blue and red flashing lights shining in through the windows.
Hopper's frantic calls from outside broke the silence. The chief burst through the front door, gun drawn with his two officers behind him. They all stumbled too a sudden stop at the sight that greeted them.
Neil Hargrove bleeding on the floor, clutching his knee in a white knuckle grip. The mans hands red and swollen across the knuckles. The smell of blood and whiskey in the air.
Billy laid up against the far wall, looking like he went five rounds inside a boxing ring, barely conscious enough to make eye contact with Hopper as he neared them. Max sobbing against Billy's shoulder as he kept her face turned away from the man on the floor. The blood staining the ground and the walls around them, the gun laid out on the floor across the room, it painted an obvious picture.
One that Hopper never wanted to see in his line of work.
One of his officers rushed past to search the rest of the house, a soft cry from the back bedroom verified that Susan Hargrove had been found. Hopper glared at the woman as she was brought out of the bedroom, not a single mark on her.
Had she really left both kids alone to face a drunken man?
As soon as Susan was within reach of them, she tried to reach out and touch her daughter to coax her away from Billy. Hopper fought back a grin as both siblings shied away from her, one glaring at Susan to back off while the other refused to even look at her.
"Maxine, please, come away from there!" Susan ushered, a crazed look in her eyes as she turned from her bleeding husband on the floor to her daughter, locked in the arms of her brother.
Max didn't even acknowledge her, clinging to Billy as Hopper ordered his men to escort Mrs. Hargrove off the premises. EMT's had already begun loading Mr. Hargrove onto a stretcher, the mans pain filled cries sounded like music to Hopper's ears.
Bastard got exactly what he deserved.
Kneeling down, Hop looked from Billy's busted face to Max's shaking form, unwilling to separate them but he knew Billy needed help. The kid looked seconds away from passing out.
"Who shot him?" Hop asked slyly, nodding to Neil's body. He watched Max flinch just slightly, but it was enough to tell him what he needed to know.
He hated to think of the guilt Max would feel after all this passed over. On a positive note, he knew that the law was on Max's side in this situation. Simple self defense.
"We gotta get you to a doctor, Billy." Hop looked to Billy, noting how the boy was fighting to stay awake now. How he hadn't already lost consciousness was a mystery.
Hopper called for another ambulance while his men photographed the scene, taking quick pictures of Billy as he was before he was carted off to the hospital. From what he had gathered from them, he knew the premise of what happened. Neil went after Billy, Max shot Neil when he went after her, Billy disarmed the gun. Since only one bullet had been fired and said bullet was still deep inside Neil Hargrove's kneecap, Hop didn't bother with any tests involving powder burns when his officers asked to run them. Besides, Max was scared enough as it was.
When the second ambulance finally arrived, Hopper had to coax Max into letting go of her brother. That task alone was difficult. Thankfully, Billy was still coherent enough to talk Max into going with Hopper, pushing her into the chief's arms so the EMT's could work on him.
Max didn't want to let go of Billy, fearing she would not see him again if she did. Somewhere in the back of her mind she knew this was not true, but her fear spiked when Hop carried her out the door and settled her in his truck.
She didn't remember following the ambulance.
She didn't remember the nurses questions.
She didn't remember the doctor diagnosing her with traumatic shock.
She didn't remember Hopper's phone call to Joyce.
All she could hear was the voice in her head.
You got the monster.
When Billy awoke to bright white walls, an annoying beeping sound and the harsh smell of chemical antiseptic, his first thought was what the hell happened?
There was a numbness about him that made Billy question whether or not he was high, a feeling he knew but not like this. What happened to him? Racking his brain for answers, Billy almost missed the large body sitting next to bed.
Billy looked over at the man beside him, seeing tired eyes smiling back. Why was Hopper there? Had he done something stupid again?
'Must have dumbass, why else would you be holed up in a hospital?' he thought, watching Hopper slide the chair closer. He had a notepad on his lap with a few sheets of document papers. Billy fought the grogginess within him and forced his body to move. A sharp pain in his side made him gasp.
"Easy, kid. You've been through hell already, let's not tear those stitches out, huh?" Hop slowly helped Billy raise himself up enough to sit somewhat upright. His body was alight with pain, even with the pain killers he could see he was hooked up to, it was almost too much.
With the sudden flare of fire from his ribs, Billy could feel a stinging pain across his back like he'd been cut. Glass, maybe? Did he wreck his car?
"Billy? Do you remember what happened to you?" Hopper asked quietly, watching the confusion race across Billy's face as he struggled to recall what happened. The doctors told Hop that Billy would most likely be confused when he woke up due to the mild concussion.
Billy closed his eyes and willed himself to relax, trying to understand why he was in a hospital and why the chief of Hawkins was sitting at his bedside. After the brief fog began to dissipate, flashes of memories came at him. Neil's furious face sneering down at him from above, searing pain in his back from the broken glass.
'Get up and face me like a man! Did I teach you to roll over and show your belly like a bitch!'
A sudden bang from a door opening, footsteps rushing towards them in the living room. Max staring Neil down with a gun pointed at him.
'Get the fuck away from my brother!'
Seeing that uneasy look flash across her face after Neil hit the ground, blood pouring from his leg where she shot him. Billy calling her name and begging her to drop the gun! Feeling his heart break as tears streamed down her cheeks, terrified eyes turning to him for help.
'Please, just put the gun down for me?'
"Billy? You okay?"
"Where is she?" he rumbled, fearing what could have happened to Max while he was passed out in a hospital. After everything that happened he was afraid to have her out of his sight. No way would Hopper arrest a 13 year old kid but he wouldn't put it past either of those idiots Hopper called deputies.
He needed to find Max.
He had to get out of there so he could find his sister.
He had to find...
"Hey, ease up, she's okay. Joyce came by and took her to get cleaned up. She'll be back soon." The ease of Hopper's voice made Billy relax a little, believing the man to be telling the truth. As long as he knew Maxine was safe he could rest easy.
"I take it you remember?" Hop asked, taking out his pen. Billy just nodded and fought off the wave of nausea when he recalled the whole thing. It was beyond fucked up. Not only had his dad been angry enough to try and kill him, but Max had come bursting in like a pissed off banshee and shot the man, all to save Billy.
All that, too save her brother.
"Billy? I need you to tell me what happened."
Thinking back to the fight, Billy remembered only brief flashes of the argument between him and his dad, but he can't recall what actually started it.
"I--I took Max to the Wheeler's'...s-something about a game I think?" he began, thinking back to when he had driven Max to the house, their banter back and forth, him telling her not to be late.
"Okay, then what happened?"
"I drove home."
"Was Neil already there?"
"No...no, he didn't come back until--until after 6," Billy recalled, remembering his dad storming into the house around the usual time he got home. That wasn't strange.
"Had he been drinking?" Hop asked, hoping he could add that to the list of Neil Hargrove fuck-ups.
Billy shook his head, unable to remember that part, "I don't know. It's hard to tell sometimes, but I don't think he--he's not stupid enough to get wasted and drive home."
What had happened after that?
Racking his memories, Billy could remember hearing his dad come home while he was in his room, he'd been listening to music while he waited to go pick Max up.
"I heard him come inside. I was in my room...music? I remember listening to music..."
Arguing. He could remember the sounds of arguing from the kitchen between his dad and Susan. The tone of his fathers voice had been enough to warn him off.
"I could hear him talking to Susan, not sure what it was about, but he was pissed. I could tell it from his voice, he was angry about something. They argued over--something--he yelled and I heard a door slam. Bedroom?"
Was it the bedroom door slamming that he'd heard? It had to have been if his dad had been drinking.
"You think he went to the bedroom?" Hop made a note, trying to keep all the facts straight.
"That's where he keeps his whiskey, makes sense."
Then what? Billy tried to think, what had he been doing? He'd been doing something, reading!
"I was--was reading something. Skin-mag I think? Killing time, had to pick Max up later...I don't remember how much time passed, but he--came--bedroom. My room. Loud."
There had been a loud banging noise from the bedroom door slamming open. Billy remembers jumping when his dad stormed into his room, the smell of whiskey flooding off the man in waves.
"Neil was loud?" Hopper asked, trying to understand. Billy nodded and explained, "Busted my door. Loud bang against the wall. Reeked like whiskey."
Scribbling that part down, Hopper made sure he understood so far.
"So Neil was drunk when he came into your room?
"Yeah, could smell it on him."
"What did he want?"
"He asked where Max was, so I--told him she was over with her friends...he asked who, l-like he was--was--asking for a name?" Billy vividly remembered that part. His dad had been acting strange, when he asked Billy where Max was, asking for the name of her friend. It had scared him.
"Did you tell him it was Wheeler?" Hop asked.
Fuck no, Billy wasn't that stupid.
"No...no, I wouldn't tell him. Thought he would try somethin', you know?"
"You think he would have tried to go find Max himself?"
"He's done worse things when he's that far gone."
Hopper continued to write down the account, ignoring the rage in his gut at the thought of Neil Hargrove laying his hands on a child. It made him sick.
"What happened next?"
Billy thought back to his room, hearing the door slam, his dad questioning him about Max, and then...
"He-he grabbed my arm and pushed me against the door. Told me to go find her, go find Max, but he--wouldn't say why. I asked him. He wouldn't answer me."
He had been worried at the state his dad was in, not just from the alcohol, but his mental state. Neil had been angry before he started drinking, which Billy knew only added fuel to the fire. But why had his dad been so mad?
God, did he even get an answer to that question?
"I left the house, went and picked up Max. She wasn't happy, I was an hour early. Didn't tell her why--why I was early," he murmured, remembering how frustrated Max had been when he came to get her, but she didn't argue with him.
Billy didn't remember much of the car ride back to the house, but he does remember Max's silence, which was odd. He knew that she had to have known something was wrong. Kid was smart like that.
"We got home, an' I told Max to go to her bedroom and lock the door. Don't come out 'til I come get you--no matter what. Told her not to listen."
That part he did remember clearly, only because of the sad look Max had sent him after he ordered her to stay in her room. She wasn't stupid. His baby sister knew all about the horrors of the Hargrove household, but he'd be damned if she was going to witness it first hand.
"Dad was at the door, could tell he was worse. Smelled worse. Max went to her room and shut the door, I checked."
Hopper makes another note, following along, "So, Max goes to her room, you and Neil are still in the living room?"
"Yeah, that's when he started raving. Somethin'--about school? I think?" Billy was still unsure on the reasoning for his dad's ire that night. He remembers brief slurs of school and something else, but that part was too fuzzy.
"I didn't know what he was talking about, I couldn't follow it. I didn't know whether he was talking about me or--or Max. I tried to walk to my room, thought maybe he would cool off 'til later, but he grabbed my arm and I lost my balance. He slapped me first, nothin' I ain't used too...but then he--shoved me? Shoved."
"He shoved you?" Hop asked, clarifying.
Billy nodded, looking distant as he replayed the fight in his head, "Shoved me backwards. Hit the coffee table. Knees went out from under me. I remember hitting the ground and feeling him on top of me, pushing on my chest. He went for my face--eye socket broke. Felt it."
God, he fucking remembers hearing the crack of the bone. It had hurt so bad, worse than any shiner he'd ever had.
"I pushed him off, tried too anyway. He started yelling, he knew Max would hear him, knows she could hear him wailin' on me. Susan too...she was in the kitchen."
The bitch had just fuckin' stood in the next room quietly like everything was peachy! Billy seriously couldn't stand the woman, wondering what exactly it was that his dad found so appealing.
Sure as shit wasn't her cooking skills, that's for damn sure.
"Susan was in the kitchen when Neil did this too you?" Hop questioned, needing confirmation for his case against Susan Hargrove as well.
"She hides, every time. Thought she would grow a spine for Max, but--didn't think she would protect Max from him. Not like I would. Not like-not like me." Billy couldn't stand the woman. He never liked her, she never really liked him, case closed.
"Okay, so Susan was in the kitchen, Max was in her bedroom, you and Neil were in the living room. You got up off the floor and he was yelling at you?" Hop wrote everything down and made sure the story was straight.
This whole thing was just one big fucking mess...
Billy tried to think back to the shit his dad was saying to him. He couldn't recall all of it, but he did remember the worst.
"He was screaming, things he knows I hate. Calls me names, shit like that. Shit I don't want him sayin' around Max. Bastard wouldn't let up."
Hadn't even given him a chance.
"I got up, an' he pushed me again, into a mirror this time. I felt the glass--my back--when I lost my footing I hit my back. He started kicking my stomach--could feel my ribs cracking. Hit my face again, bit down on my tongue---splattered blood on the wall."
Thankfully, Billy didn't remember that part completely. He would have hated to think of how much biting off a part of his fucking tongue hurt!
"He started yelling again, but I heard Max's door open. She--she was just there, screaming at him to get away. Then I saw the gun in her hands---she's never held a gun before..."
God, she had looked so small just then. Max was shaking with anger, he'd never seen her so angry before, not even when the assholes back in California would call her names at school and tease her in the parking lot for riding a skateboard. Billy had watched her take down a student twice her size for calling her a dyke. Same punk had been missing a few teeth after Billy had finished with him, but that's neither here nor there.
Bottom line, Max had been furious with Neil and Billy had been terrified for her safety, and her sanity.
"Dad didn't think she'd shoot him, taunted her, she was shaking. I tried to get up but my stomach hurt so much...and I could feel the glass in my back...but Max--she was so angry," he uttered softly, still picturing the fury dancing in Max's eyes as she aimed that gun at Neil.
"I got to my knees and grabbed his legs, had to keep him away from Max, but he didn't fall. Turned--turned around and kicked my ribs again. I heard Max scream...then the gunshot."
His heart may have stopped beating for a second or more in that moment too.
"Max fired the gun after Neil kicked you off of him?"
"Yeah, I remember watching him fall to the floor, blood pooling around his leg. Think--think I heard Susan scream? Don't remember...Max still had the gun pointed at him, like she was gonna kill him, and I--I crawled over to her."
That look on Max's face, that blank look in her eyes when she wouldn't look at him when he called her name. It had scared the shit out of him. It was like she'd been empty.
"She wouldn't look at me? It was like she--like she wasn't even there?" he explained, unable to describe it. "I begged her to put the gun down. Just put the gun down--please put it down--"
Please, just put the gun down for me? Please, Max, put the gun down.
Billy had been so afraid of watching her pull the trigger again, but it hadn't been because of his dad, it would have been because of her. The last thing he wanted was for Max to live with something so horrible on her hands, and with her mind it would eat at her, consuming her with guilt. His sister may be a bad ass, but she was still young.
What if he hadn't taken the gun from her?
"You got the gun away from her, Billy. You got it. What happened after you took the gun from Max?" Hopper brought him back from being consumed by his dark thoughts.
"I--I took the gun and emptied it, threw it away, away from us...away from Max. She was shaking so bad--crying--I remember telling her it would be okay, that everything would be okay...heard sirens...heard you..." he murmured, drifting back into his thoughts as Hopper continued to write everything down. Billy didn't want to think about that night anymore, nor did he want to remember anything else about it, once was plenty.
Hopper finished writing everything down on his pad, filling in any blanks he had for his report. Billy's recount of that night was far more disturbing than Max's, but Hop knew the kid had gotten the worst of Neil's anger. He couldn't imagine what horror scene he would have found if the roles had been reversed and Neil attacked Max instead.
Actually, he could imagine it...
It would have ended with Neil needing a coroner instead of an ambulance. There was no doubt in Hopper's mind that Billy would have killed his father if the asshole put his hands on Max. A soft knock at the door announced the doctors arrival, ending their conversation. A doctor poked his head into the room and smiled at the two men, signaling Hopper that he wanted to speak to Billy. After a brief exchange between Hopper and the doc, Billy was told just how badly he'd been hurt.
Along with a lovely head injury, Billy was told he'd broken three of his ribs, had a cracked jawbone, his left eye socket was broken which explained the weird vision, a broken nose, multiple lacerations across his back from the broken glass, a few cracked knuckles, a shit load of bruises and the best part was that he'd bitten off a piece of his tongue.
Billy knew that he probably looked like hell in a hand-basket, he certainly felt like it anyway. The bruises alone were painful enough. Throw on all the other bullshit on top of that? Let's just say, he was super happy they had him on some seriously strong pain medicine.
Hopper spoke with the doctor about how long they planned on keeping him. Billy hated hospitals more than he hated his own home, the last place he wanted to be right then was stuck in a hospital bed for god knows how long. All he really wanted was to have his own clothes, a pack of smokes, some awesome tunes, grab Max and hit the road in his baby. Max would sit shotgun and pretend not to sing the songs playing on the radio, but when one of their favorites came on it would be the two of them belting the words like rock-stars, racing down the highway.
Maybe drive all the way back to California.
But was it really?
Where the fuck was home for them anymore?
Fucking pain meds were makin' him think too much.
Groaning, Billy turned to Hop as the doctor left the room, the door clicking shut. Now that Hopper had gotten answers, Billy wanted answers, specifically on one Neil Hargrove.
"Is he here?" he asked darkly, hating the idea of his dad being anywhere close to them. Hop gave a short nod before sitting back down, crossing his arms.
"He's in surgery now. Bullet was still lodged inside the bone, apparently it shattered on impact."
"How long has it been?"
"Since the fight? Ya' been out 28 hours, kid."
That wasn't too shocking. Billy remembers one incident with his old man that ended with him missing over two days worth of memories and lost time. The asshole could pack one hell of a punch, that was no lie.
Exhibit A; cracked jawbone.
"So, what happens now?" Billy asked, wondering just how screwed up his life was going to get after this nightmare.
"Let me walk you through it, pretty simple. Neil Hargrove is being charged with assault and battery, drunk and disorderly conduct, attempted assault on a minor, child abuse, ownership of an unregistered firearm and attempted homicide...he's goin' away, kid." Hopper explained gently, crossing his arms.
Billy knew his dad was in deep shit, but normally the man could talk his way out of anything. With Hopper on the case, Neil wasn't getting out of this unscathed. A part of him wondered if he should be upset about all the charges, but he honestly couldn't give two shits about it. The son of a bitch tried to attack Maxine, Neil could rot in hell for all Billy cared.
"Anything else you wanna throw on that list?"
"Plates on his car are expired, I'm sure I can toss that in somewhere."
They stared at each other for a moment before snorting in laughter, relishing in the idea of Neil Hargrove being read his rights as he's escorted to federal prison. Billy gripped his side painfully as he fought back laughter, he couldn't help it. For years he'd imagined his dad going to prison for hurting him and now he was, and Hop was making jokes about expired tags?
It was fucking funny.
"If you testify, there's not a damn thing he can do. Max already agreed to it, and she wants you to be with her. I know it's a lot to ask, Billy, but--"
"I'll do it."
Hop could only nod his head because there was nothing else to say. The conviction in Billy's voice was enough to assure him that the kid was tired of his dad's abuse, and would do anything to see the man get put away. They sat in silence for a few minutes, each lost in their own thoughts. Billy eventually broke the silence, "I wanna see Max. Can you find her for me?"
The second Max pushed the door to her brothers room open she was filled with a mixture of relief, guilt and overwhelming happiness.
She felt relieved that Billy was going to be okay. According to the doctors he would be free to leave by the next day, meaning they could go home.
The guilt was due to her shooting Neil, which hit her like a train after the fact. She still can't believe she shot her step-father. Sure, it was just the knee, but still. She fucking shot someone! How messed up was that?
The happiness, however, hit her the moment she saw Hopper talking to Billy who was wide awake and even sitting up.
Rushing in, Max had to restrain herself from launching herself onto her brother's broken body. The image of his blood soaked clothes still wouldn't leave her head. Instead, she slowly climbed her way up onto the hospital bed to gently lay against Billy's wrapped chest, the soft thumping of his heartbeat easing her fears. She'd been terrified seeing him lie so still before, even though she'd been told he'd most likely sleep for at least a day or more, she couldn't help but fear he wouldn't wake up.
Normally, when she forced her way into Billy's space, he would shove her off or tell her to stop smothering him. Max expected to be told off or at least shoved, but all Billy did was slowly bring his arms up to hug her back.
Maybe he missed her just as much as she'd missed him.
"I thought he was gonna kill you," she whispered brokenly, knowing she would start crying again if she had any tears left. She could feel the sharp intake of breath before he answered, his voice just as broken as hers.
"You 'n me both, kid..."
Max didn't want to think about what would have happened to Billy had she not acted when she did. If Neil had kicked him again, even one more time, Billy could have punctured his lung of ruptured something. The doctor had mentioned it to Hopper when they didn't think Max was listening. She didn't feel bad for listening, not when Billy's life was at stake.
A part of her still wished she'd aimed for the head.
Billy seemed to sense her growing distress and calmly brushed his fingers through her wild mane, grabbing her attention.
"Don't gotta worry anymore, Max. Stuck with me, remember?"
Not wanting to question the sudden generous affection, Max snuggled closer until she was settled across him with her head resting above his heart. She knew he'd most likely tease her for it later but it didn't matter. In that moment, all she wanted was her big brother.
And, she decided, this was now her new spot.
Hopper watched the siblings with fondness, standing up to give them privacy. He grabbed his paperwork and headed for the door. He needed to get back to the station and deal with Maxine's mother.
He had quite a bit he wanted to get off his chest...
At the station, Hopper has Susan Hargrove and her lawyer waiting for him.
It hadn't even been 5 minutes and already Hopper was gearing up to destroy the woman across from him.
"So, just to clarify your statement, you called 911 at exactly 8:19 pm according to the call logs, to report that your daughter Maxine Mayfield had a gun and had shot your husband, Neil Hargrove? Is that correct?" Hopp asked, waiting for Susan to fall into her own trap.
"That's right." Susan replied, practically vibrating in the chair with her lawyer next to her. It was obvious the woman was on edge, but Hopper didn't give two shits about her. He was ready to lock the woman up and toss away the key.
"And why did you not think to call 911 sooner, Mrs. Hargrove?"
"I-I'm sorry, I don't--?"
"If you don't mind, you know since we have time, I'd like you to listen to something for me real quick. Just take a sec." Hop pulled out his recorder and set it up on the table, pushing a tape in and pressing play. Static filled the silence before Hopper's own voice flooded the speakers.
"Yeah, this is Hop--"
" Hopper! It's Max!"
Susan's eyes went wide as she listened to the phone call, her lawyer eyeing the recorder sourly. The man already knew what Hopper was up to.
"Max? What's wron--?"
"You n-need to come to my house! It's Billy! My step dad, h-he's gonna kill him! Please, Hopper, he's--he's g-gonna kill my brother!"
"Stay there, Max, I'm on my way!"
Hopper shut the recording off and smiled at Mrs. Hargrove, gesturing to the recorder.
"You see, the reason I ask, is because Max called me personally at 7:43 pm that same night. Now why is it, that a 13 year old child, who was across the house during the attack, called me 36 minutes before you thought to call 911? You, who gave a statement saying you were in the kitchen, the room next to the living room where your husband was assaulting his own son. Can you answer that for me?"
Susan stared at him blankly, her eyes wide in shock that she'd been so careless. Her lawyer covered his eyes and sighed, knowing his client had just backed herself into a corner with no chance of escape.
"Why is it that Max called me from across the house, while you were one wall away, knowing that your husband could have easily killed Billy?" Hopper asked condescendingly, waiting to see what Susan's next excuse would be, continuing, "Mrs. Hargrove, you understand that you have admitted to not only bluntly ignoring an assault crime, but also child endangerment?"
"Billy is not a child, he's 18 years old!" Susan argued, looking to her lawyer for help.
"I'm not talking about Billy Hargrove, I'm talking about your daughter. You deliberately allowed your child to be housed under the roof of a known child abuser, which the law tends to frown upon. You put Max's life at stake, Mrs. Hargrove, all for the sake of pleasing a man who beat his own kid half to death...does that sound about right to you?"
Susan stared at Hopper before turning to her lawyer, unable to accept what Hopper had just told her. In her mind she was not guilty of anything.
Hopper sighed and knew this was by far the quickest case he'd closed in awhile.
"I've seen plenty of cases like yours. I know Stockholm Syndrome when I see it. Under different circumstances, I'd offer to get you help and even suggest therapy, but you not only hid behind a wall of silence, you put your own daughter at risk...how long do you think Neil would have waited before turning his anger on Max? See, people like your husband don't change. They don't get better. They don't change for the better. They put on a mask and hide behind a smile, act like the perfect model citizen. You may have thought you could change him for the better, but men like Neil Hargrove don't change. They just find new targets."
With that, Hopper stood from his chair and left the frightened woman to her lawyer. He should feel bad for snapping at the woman, but honestly he couldn't care less. When he was done with this case, if everything worked out, Max would never be forced to see her mother again unless she chose it.
Which knowing that girl, would be when hell freezes over.
After he finished his report he could head back over to the hospital and share the good news with Billy and Max.
Max had been dosing on and off in her spot for the last few hours when a loud racket from the hallway tore her awake. Billy glared at the door when the noise got closer, both of them wondering what the hell was going on out there? There was a sudden knock at the door and Hopper popped his head in, but he wasn't alone apparently. There was multiple voices pouring in and Hopper's annoyed eye roll told them exactly who it was.
She'd know those voices anywhere.
"Come on, open the door already so we can see them!"
"Is Billy awake? Is Max there?"
"Are we all supposed to be here at once? I thought it was only two at a time?"
"Dude, who cares? Come on open up!"
"Hey! Hands off the snacks asshole, these aren't for us!"
"Why do you have so many anyway?"
"Because Billy is gonna be starving when he wakes up and the food here sucks balls!"
"Dude that's like pure sugar!"
"Come on Hop, move it!"
Hopper gave Max and Billy a tight smile before getting shoved out of the way for six more bodies to pile through!
Dustin and Mike were in the lead, Dustin's arms loaded with candy and snacks from the vending machines no doubt. Behind them followed Eleven, Will, Lucas and Steve. The kids all crowded around the bed firing off questions all at once.
Billy sent a mild glare at Steve, silently asking why the brat brigade was crowding his room.
Steve just smiled and shrugged, "They were worried and wouldn't leave me alone until I brought them, deal with it."
Max couldn't hold back her laughter as the boys gushed over Billy's awesome stitches! Snuggling back down, she threw El a grateful look when the other girl handed her a walkman, music already coming through the headset. With the boys tossing around questions and irritating Billy just for the hell of it, Max put the headphones on and let the sounds of Def Leppard drown out the noise.
She really loved her friends.
The next few months pass in a flurry of non-stop movement. Court dates, social workers, school, more court dates, more social workers, lawsuits, lawyers, house hunting, moving, job hunting, more fucking court dates!
Max will happily live the rest of her life if she never sees the inside of a court house again!
Between the lawsuit against Neil, the custody battle for Max between Susan and Billy and the constant visits from social workers asking if everything's okay and how's life been for you or, her favorite line, it gets better.
What none of those idiots realized was that life was fucking awesome now that Neil Hargrove was behind bars and Max didn't have to deal with her mother anymore.
It was finally over.
Hopper had made some calls to a friend of his, a man named Owens, and had the process sped up for Max's case. Within a couple months, Billy had full custody over Max and they were free to be on their own.
Max had never been happier.
With the help of Joyce and Hop, Billy and Max moved into a small house big enough for the both of them and cheap enough Billy could provide for them both. The Party helped out any way they could, which seemed to involve arguing over how to decorate the new house and who the best painter was.
In the end, everything seemed to work out for them.
Who would have guessed that a band of snot nosed brats that liked to moonlight as monster hunters, a small town chief of police and a glorified babysitter would be the family that Max and Billy needed most?
Oh well, welcome to Hawkins!
6 months later...
"Hey, Zoomer you're gonna be late for game night if we don't leave!" Billy yelled down the hall to get Max moving. They were expected over at Steve's so Max could play Dungeons and Dragons with the Party. Just as he grabbed his car keys a flash of red hair rushed past him towards the door, the static of that damn walkie blaring as Max cried out, "Yes, I know, we're coming! Just set up the board assholes!"
At Harrington's, Billy and Steve spend the evening on the couch watching horror movies while listening to the kids play their game in the next room. Had someone told Billy a year ago that this was how he'd be spending his Friday night, he would have laughed it off as a joke, but now, he can't think of a better way to spend the weekend.
When it gets to be too late, Billy calls for Max to grab her shit so they can go home. Of course, he's met with six grumbles of "Five more minutes!"
Billy leaned against the door frame to find all six kids sprawled out on the floor with their game in the center. Steve came up behind him and smirked at the distraught faces, even though they'd been playing D&D for over five hours, you'd think they had barely spent any time together.
"Just a few more minutes?" Max begged, giving her brother the classic puppy dog eyes.
Billy rolled his eyes at her antics, knowing in the end he'd just end up giving into her wants, "You said that two hours ago, kid."
"Why can't we all just stay here tonight? We could have a sleepover and keep playing?" Dustin suggested, looking up at Steve for approval.
"It's cool with me so long as you little shits call your parents and ask," Steve said shrugging, not caring either way. The boys all shared a look before they all scrambled for the phone at the same time, arguing over who got to call first.
"Can we?" Max asked, Eleven coming up beside her to help with the dreaded puppy eyes, even going so far as to pout. The girls had learned quickly that they had both boys wrapped around their fingers, and when they got together they were unstoppable. Billy sighed, hating that he couldn't say no to her, or El for that matter, and the little shit knew it too. Max smiled at her victory before running out to the camero to grab her overnight bag, specifically for random occasions like this.
Hearing the boys continue to argue over the phone, Steve grabbed an armful of blankets and tossed them onto the couch.
"They'll figure it out," he smirked, nodding towards the stairs.
"You know they aren't gonna sleep, right?" Billy warned, already anticipating the all nighter ahead of them as he followed Steve towards his bedroom.
"Yeah, well, neither are we." Steve grinned, wiggling his eyebrows like a dork. Billy practically purred as they slipped into the dark bedroom, locking the door behind them.
"I like the way you think, pretty boy."