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this endless summer

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"Harrington?" Billy said.

Steve had a real dorky sleeping face, mouth slack and his hair disheveled.

He seemed like the kind of person who looked like they could sleep anywhere. That was probably how he'd ended up there in the first place - curled up by his side, and inches from Billy's face.

It had to be an accident. The weight of his hand rested on top of his, fingers warm and hand heavy.

"Steve." Billy tried again, louder.

"Hmn-" Steve hummed, nesting deeper into the pillows. Billy sat upright, slipping his hand from beneath the weight of his. 

Steve's nose twitched and his legs curled up, kicking outwards. His fingers spanned out across the bed-sheets, almost he was reaching for him. Billy shook the thought away: it was a fucking stupid one. Of course, he wasn't.

He leaned over him a little, suddenly irritated. He was half-tempted to flick his nose hard. That ought to wake you up, you little shit.

Steve's cheeks were tinged red from the sun, dotted with little moles. The loose strands of his hair dropped over his forehead like a curtain, hanging over his eyes. Billy brought his hand up, sweeping his ruffled hair back from his face.

The strands were feather light, sliding between the spaces of his wrapped fingers, rustling against the band-aids around the tips of them. Steve let out a sleepy, pleasured moan and the sound barreled through him. Billy pulled his hand away like he'd been burned.

Steve just stirred, turned his head upward slightly from where he'd rested on his side.

The seam of the pillow had printed on the side of his cheek. Overnight, his lips had swelled a little, parted and rosy. Billy's eyes were drawn to them, lids going heavy. They looked soft. For a beat, he let himself wonder what they would feel like. All too quickly - his thoughts escalated. He pictured him responding, arching and moving underneath him, groaning into his mouth.

A sinking sense of shame fell over him. He felt like a real creep, watching him like this. It would disgust Steve, if he knew.

He reminded himself of that, forced himself to imagine that disgust as he sat upright and readjusted himself in his shorts.

With slow, careful movement, Billy lifted himself so as not to wake him. He didn't want to face him, before he left. Not now. Quietly, Billy grabbed the spare clothes and headed straight for the shower, to douse himself in a cold-water.

When he was clean and dressed, he gathered his few belongings and went downstairs. He noticed the stationary set pinned onto the fridge, with a little note plastered on the corner-edge:

Call us if you need anything.

- Mom.

Billy tore away one of the pages and scrawled a brief, scratchy note.

 

King Steve, 

You'll have your stuff back within the week.

I.O.U.

- B. Hargrove

 

When he'd finished, he lingered for a moment, debating with himself to add a bit more. A thanks you, maybe. Steve would probably appreciate that/ Although, he wasn't sure how to word it without sounding weird. Or, where he would start.

Upstairs, he heard movement. Quickly, he capped the lid onto the pen and left, before Harrington could catch him. It was better, that way anyways. Especially, after this morning.

-

 

      "Billy. Back from the dead."

Sam had barely looking up from his college-boy textbook, before he flung the envelope and his locker-key across the desk. Apparently, he'd been expecting him.

Billy had caught them just before they could land on the wet floor. A few loud kids had sprinted by, inflatable floaties strapped around their waists.

"Thanks for the heads up, by the way." Sam had said, as he slumped back in his chair, flipping the page aggressively. "The shittiest month of the year. Now we've all gotta work over-time to cover two people,"

Heat had rushed to the back of Billy's neck, red hot to his head. He'd shot him a searing glare. "Heather's dead."

That had made Sam look up, eyes suddenly wide with outrage. "You think I don't know that? We're all grieving here, man."

Billy had resisted the urge to heave him over the desk by his red-whistle and fucking choke him with it.

Choosing, instead, to head straight for the locker-room. Inside his locker, Billy had found his sun-glasses, white shirt and jeans, his Everlast crop-top and a pack of smokes.

He changed from Steve's clothes and folded them up, tucking them away in the bag. Quick to collect his stuff, he didn't lift his head. Or, look around on anywhere but the task before him. He didn't want to linger. Not in this place.

 

At around ten, he finished up at the library, pockets-stuffed with vacancies from their notice-board. It had given him a few leads: bars, clubs and stores. One that stood out to him was a local bar and restaurant called, Harvey's. The owner was also renting the studio apartment, above the bar where he looking to hire new staff.

He'd quickly realized how much of a dive the place was, at the far edge of town. It was probably why he'd never heard of it. He'd thought he'd been to all the bars that Hawkins had to offer.

But, this place wasn't somewhere that anyone would even bother using fake-IDs for.

Billy pushed open the door to find it dark with gloom. The air was musty and coated, translucent with cigarette smoke. On the counter, the radio mumbled about some sports game, fizzling with static.

He would have thought it was closed, if it weren't for the two truckers sat tucked into the bar-stools and one other solitary customer in a booth, surrounded in a cloud.

   "Can I help you, kid?" An older, large man on the other side of the counter said, tucking a greasy napkin into his belt under his swollen belly.

"Heard you were hiring," He said, picking a scrawled advertisement he'd seen taped to the window. The other truckers watched on, eyes judging as they looked him up and down. "And, that you're renting the place upstairs."

The man squinted at him, lifting up the side-plank to leave the bar-area. "How old are you, son?"

"Eighteen." Before he could finish, the man took his resume from his grip. The beady pupils of his grey eyes dragged over his resume, thumb going to rub at his wiry peppering beard. He mumbled as he read it through to himself.

Of course, Billy had bullshitted half of it. Volunteer programs at school, tutoring: he'd figured there was no way they could ever check up on all that shit. The only thing he'd had was his involvement in basketball and he'd milked the hell out of it. Teamwork, co-operation and sportsmanship - all that bullshit.

"Spanish," The man said, raising his head dubiously.

Fuck.

"Yeah." Billy said, tilting his head back confidently. Shit, he'd bombed Spanish 2.

"Yeah, we don't get many Spanish speakers round here." He scoffed, like it was some joke he'd missed and tucked a grease-ridden rag into the back of his jeans. "You have the down payment for the room?"

A little reluctantly, Billy pulled the wad of notes from his pocket, flashing them.

-

"It's not the cleanest." John said, pushing open the door to the studio-apartment. "There's a lotta work to be done." The air carried a moist, earthy scent that Billy knew to be mold. An old orange wallpaper had been half-stripped off the walls to the drywall beneath.

On the floor was an old mattress, covered in a plastic sheet. The kitchen was right in front of him, as they opened the door, tucked away behind a small break-fast bar. The tiles on the floor had started to peel around the counter edges, coated thick with a grainy dirt.

"Needs a new paint-job." John said, wiping at his sweaty forehead.

"It's good." Billy lied through his teeth. He didn't have the time to be picky, nor the means. If he could fix the place up, it might be decent. Once, it was cleaned out, it wouldn't be so bad.

Billy walked up to the window to push it open. It cracked under his pressure, jammed shut with a shitty-paint job. It was hot as Hell - he would have to find a way to get it open.

"Can't say I'm too broken up about that Mall, but it's got me thinking," Billy stopped, turning. John merely scratched back the of his head as he peered up at the ceiling, the cracks through the paint.

"I ought to make the place more family-friendly." He said, a little irritably. "The kind of place moms will wanna bring their kids to, you know?"

"I know exactly what you mean." Billy obliged, smiling tightly.

"S'what my wife always used to go on and on about." He sighed, clearly loathe to admit the woman was right. "For some extra cash, I could use some help with the renovations. If you're interested."

"I can do that." As he handed over his hard-earned cash, he watched it in the other man's hands. The money he had saved since the beginning of the Summer, to get out of this place. He'd meant to save at least $800. Now, he was barely looking at $500. He was back to square one.

John lifted them high, checking the notes in the sun. Then, he stopped short. “You're not in some kind of trouble, are you?"

Billy paused, mouth opening. The large man took another step forward, holding his gaze as he spoke low.

"You bring any trouble back here." He uttered. "Any at all. And you're out on your ass. You understand?"

Billy nodded, before he confirmed it with his voice. "I understand."

The older man's eyes narrowed, before he nodded once. The floor-boards creaked as he headed to the door, stopping just before he reached the handle. "I can help move a few things, nothing too heavy, though."

Billy paused. "It's just me." He said flatly.

The man stopped in the doorway, face falling. The grasp of his hand loose on the handle as his eyes lingered on his face for a beat.

He cleared his throat, dropping his head and rubbing at the back of his neck. "Well. I guess, that makes things easier." He said, as he brought the door to a close.

 

 

For the next few days, Billy allowed himself to settle. On the third day, he'd driven to the session with Dr. Owens.

He'd been stupid enough to expect it to be over. To expect some praise from the man - a jubilant You’re cured!. No more sessions. No more worries.

After all, he'd uprooted himself completely. He'd left his old man's, got a job, found a new place. At the very least, he’d thought he’d be pleased with his progress.

Again - stupid of him, he guessed.

“I'm not convinced you're addressing your…more pressing concerns.” Dr Owen's had sighed, rubbing at his forehead.

Billy had tapped the edge of his cigarette onto the armchair, the ash gathering in a small pile. "Tough crowd,"

"I'm sorry but, I need the full picture. Honesty. Without that, I can't help you.” He’d sighed. “We have limited time here, so permit me to be direct with you. Your case is irregular. And, it goes beyond treating just you."

He’d fixed him with his stare, the dark shadows of his eyes deepening. "I need to know if you've seen it again,"

Billy had always known that was the source of his interest. It was why he was even here, getting free psychobabble sessions and medical care. Still, he disliked the way they spoke of it, the weird level of awe in their voices. The interest.

"No," He'd swallowed, his mouth had gone bone dry. "Just-" He’d paused, his thoughts stuttering. He’d felt his breath catch as he thought about what he’d seen in the trunk, what had happened thereafter. "Just, bad memories."

When he came home that day, he'd tipped the traffic light cylinders onto his open palm. Pinched the little pills between his fingers, before he took them with water, willing them down.

After, he slumped back on the bed, the end of his fingers found a messy pile of clothes on his left, slumped beneath the window. Steve's shirt.

Billy picked it up, feeling it between his fingers. He held it to his face, breathing it in. Only, it just smelled like him now. A small spot of blood had tainted the fabric. On the inside of the neck, he'd noticed the capitalized S.H., written in marker.

He had no idea people actually did that shit in real life. He ran his thumb over it, smiling in spite of himself. As soon as he realized, he threw it away from his face, sighing irritably. He needed to stay on top of all that shit.

"Thoughts like that are unnatural. They are a gateway to sin, put in your mind to test your faith." That was what his church-leader had said to him, once. The day he'd confided in him at ten years old, about his neighbor, Eddie.

If all that were true, then he’d been an early sinner. It seemed like a pretty fucked-up thing for a benevolent God to do - to set some people up for failure while others went Scot-free.

Especially when he'd already dealt him a shitty hand, as it was.

Unnatural? Sure, he’d felt almost sick around Eddie, sometimes. It felt a little scary. Made his stomach flutter and bubble with nerves. But, never unnatural.

It had felt right. As natural as breathing.

The week before he'd left, the two of them had sat together under the dock at low-tide. Billy had acted on that restless, urge and kissed him. He'd felt his heart clench up like a ball in his throat. Until, the other boy had pushed him back, eyes wide.

“Why’d you do that?” He’d said, flushed beet-red.

“What?” Billy had grinned toothily, playing it off as a dumb joke."You shoulda seen your face."

The next week he'd moved away. Billy had choked up as he watched the car disappear from view.

“What are you crying for?!” Neil's hand had whipped around the back of his head.

When Billy had lifted his head to look at him, his face had curled up and flushed redder with rage. He'd seen it in him, then. His old man had known it, somehow. Long before he could even fully understand what it meant.

In Cali, he'd met Warren: one of his old basket-ball team-mates. A tall, stocky guy with messy dark hair and a crooked protruded canine teeth that made his grin look feral.

With him, it was an itch he couldn’t help but scratch. Even if the guy was fucking annoying, most of the time.

In the lunch-hall, Warren would eyeball him, hand worming around in his girlfriend's lap, waiting until Billy looked over. Often, he'd let him wait. It was always better when he did.

Warren would stand, rolled cigarette tucked behind his ear as he'd leaned by his girlfriend, Sarah. "Going for a smoke." He’d say, brushing his lips against her ear, like the words were meant for him.

The routine of it never failed to make Billy hard, like he had some weird switch. They were always quick, panicked. Pressed up against the bathroom-door, sweaty and desperate as they jerked each other off.

Until one day, Billy had made the mistake of looking at him for too long afterwards, met his eyes in the afterglow. He’d never liked that: to be seen.

Warren's hands had locked around his throat, shoving the back of Billy's head into the stall door until his vision flashed white.

"You run your mouth about this, and I'll kill you."  He'd spat.

He was all talk: he always had been.

That day, Billy had grown tired of it. So, he'd pushed the head of his live cigarette against his Levi's, burning through to the skin. They'd fought and he'd knocked out two of Warren's teeth, his knuckle was still scarred by the ridge of his tooth.

The first time he’d seen Steve Harrington, he’d drawn his attention from across the room.

After hearing the rumors, the doe-eyed pretty boy, glowering at him at Tina's Halloween party had come as a surprise. The move to Hawkins had fucking sucked, yet he'd held his attention.

Golden-boy Steve: King of Hawkins High. He'd fed off the stories Tommy parroted, intrigued.

How he'd once had it all, before he'd thrown it all away for some stuck-up, bitch. It was real pathetic, considering since she'd chewed him up and spat him out: Tommy had had a lot to say about the whole affair.

Billy had shoved and goaded him at practice, irritated. Wanting to rile him up. To see the rare, brief flash of his eyes as he pushed back against him, finally losing it. He'd wanted him to snap. For the old Steve to come through and give him some fucking challenge. Some distraction. He'd needed it.

Of course, even back then. There were other ways he'd played on his mind. Frantic, toe-curling desperate thoughts that made him dizzy and sick with want. Nothing the real Harrington needed to know about. A fantasy was safe: they were his business. The filthy version of him in his mind was as good as he ever was going to get.

Billy lit a cigarette and gave a long sigh, watching the smoke disperse through the air. Absentmindedly, he rubbed at the swell of his dick through his shorts. His other hand reached out, the tips of his fingers finding the edges of Steve's shirt once again.

 

 

A week passed before Billy showed up at Steve's place again. He'd stopped off at the local laundromat to wash his clothes and put them through the longest wash cycle, to wash out any evidence of him borrowing - or wearing it.

Steve had opened the front door with a wide-eyed look. "Oh." He said. "Hey."

He pushed his fingers back through his hair. He looked a little sweaty, like he’d been working out. Wearing a thin white shirt and blue basketball shorts, a grey towel wrapped around his neck. "I wondered where you went."

"Miss me already?"

"Sure," He rolled his eyes and scoffed.

Then, turned on his heels, leaving the door wide for him to follow. The radio in the kitchen was real loud, mumbling some weather update about the humidity.

As Steve passed it by, he turned the dial low. Billy eyed a heap of empty ice-cream pots in the trash-can, heaped up almost to the top.

“Comfort eating?” Billy asked.

"Wasn’t all me," Steve held one in his hands. He scooped at the side, filling his cheek and letting it melt there. The air filled with a sweet-pulp cherry-scent when he spoke.

"They're from Scoops last shipment, the one we actually ordered. El, Max and Dustin have been helping me chip away at their excess stock. Slowly."

Max had been here again - he couldn't say he was surprised to hear that. Everyone came and went at the Harrington's, like it was a fucking half-way house. Although, Steve didn't seem to mind all that much.

Steve twirled the spoon around his fingers, brows raising. "You want in?"

Billy made a face at it.

"Suit yourself," Steve shrugged.

Billy was trying to avoid sugar. He'd already lost too much muscle in recovery, grown small and weaker in the few weeks. Steve looked like the type to keep weight off easily. Billy wasn't so lucky.

He dropped the bag of clothes on top of the counter. "These are yours."

For a moment, Steve looked a little confused, like he'd forgotten."Oh." He reached inside, rustling the plastic as he pulled the shirts and jeans free. "So, where'd you run off to?"

"Went to find work, and a new place."

"Yeah?” He returned to the tub, stirring the ice-cream. “How'd that go?"

"Successfully." Billy shrugged.

At that, Steve's head shot up. "What?" Steve said, mouth full. "Already?"

Billy's eyes narrowed. "Why, the surprise?"

"No, not surprised, just-" He prodded at the inside of the tub, thoughtful. "I've got a job now, too." He said. "At the video store."

"Congratulations." Billy scoffed, narrowing his eyes at the weird way he'd said it. He walked over towards the open glass door.

"You started on the pool.” He stated, noting the pool-net on the edge, filled with wet green and brown leaves.

"Getting one chore out of the way, before my parents come back," Steve sighed. "Plus, Dustin and the kids keep wanting to use it, since Hawkins pool is so grody, so-" He stopped, catching his eyes. "No offense."

"None taken." He'd seen numerous brats piss in there. He knew what they were doing when they gone into the shallow part, treading water. He'd blown the whistle at them so hard that if it weren't attached to his neck, it would have taken flight.

Billy slipped through the gap in the door. At side of the pool, his eyes fell to the basketball, sat by the side of one of the deck-chairs. Steve stopped in the door-way, ice-cream in hand. He watched as Billy turned the basketball on his finger, spinning it in circles.

"How about it, Harrington?" He grinned.

Steve's eyes flashed with interest, a look he'd seen often in practice: an all too rare sight. He liked to win. It made for a good game with him.

"You trying to break a rib?" Steve said, cocky. "You're still fucked up."

“Even fucked up, I can still thrash you."

Steve rolled his eyes. “Sure,” He scoffed.

Billy started to dribble it, shooting for the hoop mounted on the wall of the house. It slipped through with a whoosh.

"Sounds to me like you're chicken-shit." Billy pushed when he retrieved it, dribbling it on the patio. "Too much of a bitch to go one on one?"

Steve's eyebrows shot up. He put down the tub by the door, before he walked out into the sun. Smirking, he stalked towards him slowly.

"Best out of five." Steve shot forward. Billy ducked and dodged his grasp as he dribbled the ball, head ducked to his.

 

The game ended as a 3:2 - in Harrington’s favor.

Painstakingly, they’d duked it out for the last win. Steve had whooped as he reached the final number, flipped back his sweaty bangs out from his face.

Billy had fallen in a slump on the floor, his side splitting with pain.

“What was that, something about...thrashing me?” Steve panted, bouncing the ball near his head as he dribbled it.

Billy pushed his tongue hard against the side of his cheek, resisting the urge not to Powerslam him into the pool.

“You worn out, Hargrove?” Steve asked, looming over him, cocky. However, his smile fell the longer he looked him over, head tilting to one side. "Wait…are you really bleeding?"

 

 Steve hauled him up and they'd returned to the kitchen, leaving the basket-ball to roll into the pool.

"Quit bitching," Billy grumbled. "It's only a little." It had left a mark on his shirt, a wine-stain. One of his wounds had taken longer to heal, had grown puffy and gross-looking. From time to time, it still bled.

Steve pushed him back, so his back hit the kitchen counter. When he returned, he held a small first-aid kit. He stopped expectantly, lifting his eyebrows.

"Take it off."

For a beat, Billy couldn't talk, throat closing.

"Told you it's fine," He scoffed, tried to move past him. Steve's hand pressed at the center of his chest, easing him back in place. Too close to his face.

"Would you just do it?" He held his gaze, firm.

Billy dropped his eyes as he peeled off his shirt. A tenseness falling over him as it fell to the floor, his chest bare. He'd been shirtless in front of him plenty of times but, this felt very different.

Cornered up against the counter, with Steve's hands pressed his skin, maneuvering him where he wanted him. Steve tapped at the side of his bicep. "Lift your arm,"

He said as he bent forward, down by his flank to clean away dribble of blood from his skin. Billy hated how fucking nervous he felt. It was real pathetic.

The heat of Steve's breath fanned hot over his skin. "Quit mouth-breathin'," He grumbled, turning his head. Steve gave his skin a slight pinch.

"You know you're at my mercy, right now." He warned, voice steady with focus. The words made Billy's cock twitch with interest. He instantly flushed with shame, throwing his head back to stare at the ceiling incredulously. Of all the times to get a chub.

Quickly, he cast his eyes to the wholesome family portrait on the mantelpiece.

It was some Stepford shit at Casa Harrington. There were tons of pictures of all of them all together. Seemingly, a happy family. At events, graduations, competitions. Yet, they were never around to be seen.Robots. Or, Aliens. In Hawkins - nothing was impossible.

On the walls, they had mounted Steve's sports medals and trophies with pride. Billy had gone through almost every sport in school: soccer, baseball, wrestling. Neil had come to his basketball games, for a while. In the stands, he would stand up and clap loudly when Billy scored.

It was never a smile but, for a while, it was enough. Great, even.

Billy had played his heart out, just to see that. Looking back, he wanted to scream at that dumb fucking kid.

As soon as their team lost a game, it had all changed.

"You shouldn't have passed."  Neil had told him on their way home, his hands clenched tight onto the steering-wheel.

"It was your shot. You should have taken it. Drawn a charge." Through his nose, he exhaled sharply like he had more to say, more to curse: Billy hated the sound. It was often coupled with the biting snap of the belt.

Billy had let it go, curled up in the passenger seat and apologized. He didn't want to bring it home to Mom. She would defend him. Then, they would fight. It was a routine that he had learned, and tried to avoid. Next time, I'll do better, he'd think.

Stupid.

It didn't matter what he did.

Steve applied some anti-septic to the wound, distracting him from his thoughts. It stung as it made contact.

"There." Steve turned his head, squinting.

Billy let himself watch him. Letting out a small scoff, when he noticed the idiot still had ice cream smeared on the right side of his cheek. He reached up, thumb slowly dragging over it, inches from his lip.

Steve eyes lifted, warm-brown eyes going wide.

If he were a girl, it would be all too easy. To keep hold of their gaze as he brought his thumb in his mouth. To get them flustered, until they would lean in closer.

But, Steve was no girl. And, Steve wasn't like him.

"You're a fucking toddler, Harrington." Was all he said, as he smeared it down the front of Steve's shirt.

"Ugh-" Steve took a step back. "You're welcome, by the way." Steve's voice followed him down the hall, as he went to put the kit away.

That should have been the end of it. Billy knew that it was time to leave.

Instead, Billy slowed his steps by a pile of cassettes, heaped up on the chest of drawers, his fingers dragged along the spines. He grabbed one from the middle, carefully easing it out of the pile.

"Steve," He called. "Think fast," He threw the cassette and Steve caught it, inspecting the cover of First Blood with a frown.

"You watched that one yet?" 

 


 

Steve rooted in the glass display cabinets, fingers straining to reach inside the porcelain bowls and dishes. He knew he'd stashed it somewhere in the cabinet.

Sure, it had been a long time since then. But, all of the ornaments were decorative, barely ever touched by his parents. It wouldn't have been moved.

“All this homework,” Billy said from the couch, peering at the covers of the cassettes that Robin brought over.

"Yeah. Turns out, I need to know more movies by name to work for $3 an hour."

"Guess, there's less to memorize with ice-cream,"

 "Actually, not really.” The names of the specials were pretty long, always some nautical pun thrown in there for an extra sprinkle more humiliation. “The outfit was a trip."

Billy let out a bark of laughter. "Oh, I know."

Steve turned slowly over his shoulder, horrified. "...You saw?"

Billy met his eyes, brows raised. "No," He sighed as he picked up a cassette, turned it in hand. "'I only heard rumors of Sailor-Steve."

Thank you God. Now, I know you're up there, Steve thought.

Billy lifted his head, smirking darkly. "Maybe you could reprise it, for me?"

"Uh, yeah, no," Steve laughed. "You can bet your ass I threw it out," Except for the hat - for sentimental purposes. It's not like he'd ever wear the thing again.

"Shame." Billy smirked. 

Steve returned to his search. Finally, he found it: wrapped in some ornamental, dusty teapot they'd picked up on a trip to Scotland. He pulled out the little saran-wrap bag from the spout, still wrapped tight.

They’d rolled the joint while the ads played and Steve grabbed some chips from his cabinets and a few beers, dropping them onto the table. The movie was okay. It wasn't really Steve's thing, per se.

The protagonist's threatening, strong-man speeches rolled over him and the fight-scenes didn't grab his attention. The loud, explosions in the movie functioned as an mildly interesting background noise as Steve nestled into the cushions.The high bled through his body like he was sinking into hot-water, easing all of his muscles.

Steve noted that Billy was lighter on the beer than usual. He wet his lips as he dumped his hand onto the bowl in Billy's lap, crunching loudly on the chips.

"Never got the appeal of these movies," He huffed.

"What's not to like?" Billy said, just a huge explosion erupted on the T.V.

"I dunno, man." Steve said, slumping deep shoulder to shoulder by Billy. "It's just shirtless, sweaty dudes shooting at shit for an hour." He laughed, giddy. Honestly, that was most action movies, in his eyes.

"Body like that takes work and discipline." Billy replied, a little defensively. "Why not show it off?" He rested the heels of feet on the coffee table. "Stalone's a tank,"

"I guess." Steve said. Billy would notice something like that, he knew that the guy was pretty built himself. "You care more about that shit than I do."

Billy rubbed his hands together, dusting them off of crumbs. "So, you noticed."

"Half the girls at school noticed." Steve laughed. "Wouldn't shut up about those stupid jeans you had."

Billy smiled like a wolf, tongue pressed against his canine. "Half?"

"Okay, fine. All." Steve rolled his eyes. He got that he was popular but the fact that he knew that was a little nauseating.

Steve had seen him Billy out in passing, an arm around a girl's shoulder, hand brazenly beneath her shirt. Making out in the open at the Halloween party when they'd first met. He was pretty prolific. Each time, a different girl. Going through all of them with very little care.

Yet - to Steve - he'd always seemed off, somehow. Almost...bored.

Maybe Hawkins girls were just too tame. Maybe, he'd had a real specific type or some weird, kinky out-there fetish. Or, maybe it was because he'd never had any real feelings for any of them.

With great focus, Steve tried to perch his empty can on the edge of the coffee table. Billy adjusted it for him, mumbling an amused: "..Keg King, my ass."

Steve grabbed another beer and snapped it open, blowing at the top where the bubbles had gathered as he took another loud slurp.

"Well, it's not like your heart's really in it." He said, finally vocalizing his thoughts.

"What?" Billy frowned, confused.

"All those girls. It's just a game to you," He'd been the same, for a while. Until, Nancy. "You like moving the pieces around more than you like winning," For a moment, Steve paused, worried. Maybe, he’d crossed a line there.

Only, Billy's mouth just curved upwards into a sharp, smile. "I like winning just fine. It's the best part,"

Steve rolled his eyes. "Is it really winning when you hurt people in the process?"

Billy's mouth curled upwards, like he'd hocked a loogie at his feet. "Not all girls want you to put a ring on it, Harrington."

Steve remembered hearing about Amy Laughlan. Apparently, he'd promised they'd talked non-stop about sunny California.

He'd promised he'd drive them there for the Summer, to spend the weekend. Only to brutally dump her a day after she gave him her V-card. It all sounded pretty shitty. Steve wasn't sure how true it all was, though.

"You'd be surprised what people are willing to put up with, if they like someone enough." Steve shrugged. "I've heard some pretty brutal rumors."

Billy turned and held his gaze. "Thought you were above all that shit." He said, slow. "King Steve,"

Touché.

"Anyways, it's not like I held a gun to their head," Billy continued, suddenly seeming a bit irritated by the topic. "They know what they're getting when they get with me,"

"Oh, yeah?" Steve scoffed. "And, what's that?"

Billy chewed, eyes lazy as he turned to him. "A guilt-free fuck."

The sharpness of the word, and the way he said it, made Steve pause. He felt his tongue swell in his dry-mouth before he turned back to the screen. Something was one fire and there was more shooting.

"I don't know. I've always thought that stuffs a little better when you at least, care about the person, you know?" Steve said.

Billy gave a long dramatic groan. "I am not gonna listen to you bitch about Nancy fuckin' Wheeler,"

"What? I wasn't talking about her," Well, not completely anyway. She was his example, but he wasn't going to complain about her. He was pretty much over all that - mostly.

"Although, she was the first person who made me realize what all that shit was really about, you know?"

Steve wondered if Billy had even cared about any of those girls that much to know what that was like. He doubted it.

Billy just shot him a strange look. A twitchy, flighty expression flashing over his face. "You hard up or something?" He said. "Lonely?”

At this point, he'd be stupid to deny that. Ever since he'd lost Nancy: his confidence had been shot. Dates were a pretty rare occurrence nowadays. It seemed his silence was enough of an answer.

"You're not even denying it," Billy's laugh was cruel. "That's pathetic,"

Steve swallowed a lump in his throat. Never mind.

Man, he'd forgotten what an ass he could be sometimes. He should've known better than to talk about something like that, with someone like him.

The two of them sat in silence for a while, whilst the thunder and explosions blew out the colors on the screen.

"I take it, she wasn't your first." Billy cut the silence, stuffing more chips into his mouth.

"No, that was freshman year of high-school." Steve sighed, rubbing at his eyes again. It had been an awkward, forgettable fumble with Jackie that he'd sooner forget.

"Got you beat." Billy grinned. "Eighth grade."

"...Congrats." Steve rolled his eyes. It wasn't a contest. "Guess the girls do move a little faster in Cali,"

Billy stopped, brows raising. "Like you hicks have any room to judge,"

"Fuck off." Steve scoffed and nudged him with his knee.

By the time they reached the end of the movie, Steve was stoned. He smacked his dry tongue to the roof of his mouth, as the movie-credits rolled down the T.V. screen. At his side, Billy stretched, chest heaving before he fell back on the cushions. The low-light caught the glint of his necklace.

Steve's eyes trailed along his profile, the side of his lashes and the swell of his lips. He'd always looked a little out of place in Hawkins. They way he’d looked and dressed, like he should be in some movie. Or, on the cover of something - not that he needed to hear that. The fact that he knew how he looked was a little irritating. Maybe, a lot irritating.

Steve's eyes fell to that same flash of gold, resting against the middle of his chest.

"Can I ask you something?" Steve mumbled, smacking his tongue to the roof of his mouth as he moved a little closer.

Billy looked worried: like he'd been caught red-handed in a lie. "What?"

His lashes were long - pretty, even. It was an odd combination for someone like him. Yet, it was hard not to notice - especially not this close.

Steve reached forward to lift the small medallion between his thumb and finger, the chain sliding against the skin of Billy's neck with a quiet hiss.

"Do you always wear this?" He knew the answer, but he'd wanted to know why. A Catholic Saint necklace, pressed close to his heart. He'd always wondered if it meant he was religious, or something. It had always seemed so unlikely.

"Was a gift," Billy told him. "From my mom,"

Steve's thumb ran over the coin-face, feeling the difference in texture. He brought his head up and Billy looked him over. Mouth parted, the blue of his eyes swallowed by black. Something in that look made Steve feel dazed, his breath catching.

The weed had really fucked him up: he felt slow. He snapped his head down to the coin again. The air felt thick between them. He didn't want to lift his head again - afraid of what might happen. Or, what he might let happen.

"So, uh. Where is she now?"

Billy grasped the coin from Steve's fingers, breaking the spell.

"Fuck if I know," He said, he tucked it away under his shirt out of sight. "She left a long time ago," He shuffled on the couch, turning his body away from him.

"Sorry." Steve mumbled.

"What're you sorry for?" He spat. "You're not the guy she ran off with."

Shit. Steve chewed at his bottom lip. He wondered if he should apologize again, for even bringing it up in the first place.

That was when Billy stood up, adjusting his jacket. "I should head off," He said, turning away.

Oh.

Steve sat upright. "Okay, yeah," Steve ran his hand through his hair, setting it right. "Sure,"

Billy moved around the room as he collected his stuff. Steve watched him with a strange deflated, sinking feeling. Oddly dissatisfied. He rubbed at the back of his neck, pinching the skin.

"Hey, uh. Maybe I'll drop by, at some point." He blurted out. "At your new place, I mean."

"Why?" Billy adjusted his shirt to tuck it back into his jeans, broad chest puffing out. "To see how the other-other half live?" He asked.

"No, that's-"

"I'm just fuckin' with you," Billy said, mouth curving up into a grin as he tugged on his shoes.

It was a good look, Steve thought. It was a pretty rare to see him smile like that. In his hands, Billy's keys clicked against the rings on his fingers as he mulled over something, eyes lingering on Steve's face.

"You know it's a fuckin' dive, right?" He said. "Not like the palace you've got up here."

Steve frowned. "I don't care about that,"

"If you say so," Billy huffed a small laugh, looking back down at his hands, fiddling with his keys again. Before he finally lifted his head and spoke.

"14 Elm Street."