Billy doesn’t know what happened when the kids drugged him and left him there.
All he knows is that he was startled awake by the sounds of Maxine driving his own car and the kids fucking screaming.
Something about Harrington being bitten?
And they dragged Steve out of his car, and he was bloody, and unconscious, and had a big gash in the back of his head.
Billy helped them bring him to the couch, using Steve’s jacket to pillow his head, trying to staunch the bleeding from the wound there.
“Why the fuck didn’t you take him to the hospital?”
Everyone was quiet as Steve groaned, shifting slightly.
His eyes fluttered open.
They were hazy and unfocused, looking slowly around the room.
“Hey, buddy. How are ya feeling?” Steve stared blankly at Dustin.
Steve felt like he was underwater.
The world was moving too slowly around him, everything was hazy and muffled and he didn’t know which way was up, which part of his body hurt more.
He barely remembers being in those tunnels, the ‘dogs rushing them, getting tossed against the cave wall.
And then, nothing.
Nothing but blue eyes and rough hands.
And Dustin asked him something, but he was too far away, or maybe he was being quiet for once in his life, but Steve just heard ay-u are-a ee.
And then Billy said something, and Steve could pick up osital before Billy was picking him up like he weighed nothing and putting him back in that car.
And Steve could sort of make out the sound of the engine through his underwater brain.
But it didn’t sound anything like it did that first day when Billy roared into the high school parking lot, didn’t even sound like when Max was driving earlier.
And Billy fucking knew something was wrong.
Every time he spoke, Steve didn’t acknowledge him. And he would chalk it up to Steve just fucking hating him, but he figured he’d get some kind of response, even if it was just a glare.
He took him to the emergency room, helping him out of the car.
“My friend hit his head. He’s bleeding and he’s really spaced out.”
Steve let the nurses and the doctors examine him.
He felt like he was only going deeper underwater.
“I’m sorry, I can’t, I can’t hear you.”
He couldn’t even hear his own voice.
The nurse’s smile slid right off her face.
And then there was another doctor, and he was wheeled into a new room, and had to lay very still in a large cream-colored tube.
Billy hadn’t been allowed to accompany Steve back. No familial relation, and all that.
But he was getting regular updates as they performed new tests.
Last he heard, Steve was being taken for a scan, which Billy didn’t like the sound of.
“Our imaging has presented us with the cause of his loss of hearing. It appears that-”
“Sorry, loss of hearing?” And it made sense, it really did, but it also sent a fucking chill down Billy’s spine. Moreso than the unexplained animal bite that was oozing blood and puss from Steve’s leg.
“Yes, it appears Mr. Harrington has suffered a severe enough concussion we have classified it as a traumatic brain injury. Due to the location of the blow, his auditory processing has been affected. We believe he has lost approximately 90% of his hearing.”
“But this is like, just temporary, right? He’ll be fine?”
“It’s rare to lose hearing due to damage to the brainstem, so, unfortunately, we don’t know.”
“You don’t, you don’t know? He could be fucking deaf forever, and you don’t know?” She gave him an unimpressed look, stared him down until he deflated, mumbled a sorry.
“Look, his injury is uncommon, not unprecedented. We hope for a full recovery, but at this point, it’s unlikely.” She gave him a half smile as he thanked her, and turned on her heel.
They gave Steve a notepad.
He didn’t like talking.
Felt like he sounded stupid.
Couldn’t hear himself to know otherwise.
And of course, he didn’t know sign language. Never had put much thought into learning it.
The nurses would give him pitying smiles, would write down their questions for him. They mostly kept to yes or no’s, allowing him to nod or shake his head.
Does it still hurt? Has your hearing improved? Do you need more pain killers?
He slept through the rest of the night, but he chalks that up to the morphine they pumped him with, the adrenaline draining from his body.
The next morning he woke up to a sweet-looking nurse, writing him a note that he had visitors, and he was welcome to tell them no.
He sighed, and nodded, giving a vague come in gesture.
It was Joyce and Hop.
And Steve realized he was relieved the kids weren’t there.
Joyce scribbled something on his pad.
They told us everything. I’m so sorry, Honey.
And Steve started crying. Started sobbing, because Joyce’s hugs were warm but her soft voice was gone.
Billy had never left the emergency room.
He had curled in one of the uncomfortable chairs, and dozed off until morning, when the Police Chief rolled in with the gaggle of kids and a short woman that gave him a shockingly tight hug, and thanked him for taking care of Steve.
“He’s deaf.” Billy’s throat felt raw. “They told me last night. Scanned his brain and the injury was real bad. They don’t know if he’ll ever hear again.”
“But they, there’s nothing they can do?” Dustin was pale.
“Not really. They said, it’s rare for how he was injured to result in hearing loss, so they just don’t know.”
The chief took that woman back to see Steve, told the kids they didn’t know if he was up for visitors just yet.
Dustin had an odd look on his face.
He set his jaw, rolled his shoulders back, planted himself in front of Billy.
“Take me to the library.” Billy raised an eyebrow.
“Not a chance.”
“Take me to the library.”
“Yes! I need to do research! If I learn sign language, I can help Steve so we can communicate!” Lucas stood behind him.
“Take us to the library.” When Maxine stood as well, Billy sighed.
“Fine. Get in the car.”
Apparently Nancy and Jonathan broke into his house.
Nancy still remembered where he kept the spare key.
She had an odd look on her face as she passed Steve some sweats, a clean shirt. Jonathan scribbled a note and gestured to the bag he placed on one of the chairs.
We brought more clothes, didn’t know how long you’re staying.
He didn’t know either.
He told them thanks. One word was easy enough, and he’s pretty sure he saw Nancy’s eyes go a little teary at the sound of his voice.
Billy ushered the kids into the building, going over to chat with the librarian.
He had spent a decent amount of time here since moving to Hawkins. They had a decent selection, and plenty of the classics he liked to read.
He was too tired to flirt, but kept polite conversation as the kids rushed around.
“We need all the books you have on American Sign Language, deafness, and anything else on the subject.” She gave Dustin a pointed look.
“Mr. Henderson, you have five books checked out, as well as five you stole-”
“I’ll bring those back. This is urgent.” Billy put on his best tragic look.
“Marissa, the kid’s best friend has a, well he’s just gone deaf. Had a terrible accident. They just wanna be there for him, you know?” She looked at him. Her resolve was slipping. “You know, use my card for ‘em. You know I’m reliable.”
He checked out very few books, opted to read them in the library instead.
“I’ll show you what we’ve got.” And she grumbled all the way to the stack.
Steve was staring out the window when he received a note about more visitors.
He knew he’d have to face the kids at some point, he was just hoping to put it off.
He smiled as warmly as he could when they came in, his eyes going wide when Billy trailed in behind them.
He looked like shit.
Dustin scribbled something on the notepad.
Billy took us to the library and we got books on sign language and we’re all going to learn together so that we can all still communicate.
He wrote like he talked, run-on sentences with rushed, sloppy, handwriting.
Everyone was staring at him weirdly, and he realized he had laughed. He took notepad scribbling on it quickly.
Thank you, guys. Means a lot. Dustin smiled at him, nodding. He cast a glance over to Billy, leaning against the wall, staring out the window. Dustin took the pad.
He hasn’t left since he brought you here he slept out in the waiting room and took us to the library to get all the books AND let us check them out on his library card.
Steve nodded, clearing his throat. Billy’s jaw tightened at the sound.
“Billy.” His head whipped around, his eyes wide at Steve’s voice. Not too loud. He held up what Dustin had written down. “Thank you.” Billy just nodded at him.
The kids were picked up one by one, giving Steve tight hugs before they left.
Until it was Max asleep in a chair, Billy sitting in the other.
Steve watched as Billy took off his jacket, draping it over Max like a blanket.
He gave Steve a tight smile. Steve picked up the pad.
Why have you stayed? You didn’t have to.
Billy shrugged. Worried about you.
Billy gave him a look.
Well, I will be. Billy gave him a little half-smile. You really took them to the library?
The little mouthy one bullied me into it.
Steve laughed. Billy tried to stifle his own smile.
Love the image of Dustin bullying you into doing something.
Yeah well, it was humiliating. Steve smiled at him again.
So, are you learning sign language too?
Just the important shit. Princess, Pretty Boy, pain in my ass. The three P’s. Steve laughed again.
Right. Important shit. Remind me to learn asshole and piece of trash.
Steve had never really taken much notice to the way Billy laughed. But now that he couldn’t hear it, he studied Billy’s face. His eyes scrunched up, and had his teeth always been that white, and that straight? His Adam’s apple bobbed when he laughed and Steve didn’t even think, reached out and pressed his fingers softly against his throat, his palm flat on his chest.
Billy went still. Steve recoiled.
Sorry. Wanted to see if I could feel your laugh. Billy smiled sheepishly at him, taking his hand and bringing it back to his throat.
Steve could feel the vibrations in his throat, the way the air made his neck shift, his Adam’s apple moving.
He didn’t know what Billy was saying, just liked the way his lips moved, the way he could feel the words in his fingertips.
Steve’s face was soft as Billy spoke, his eyes big, his fingers soft against Billy’s throat.
“I guess I can say this now. Since you’re not ever gonna hear me say it, but I’m sorry. I’m sorry for everything I said to you, did to you. You just, you scare the shit outta me, Pretty Boy. I’m not, not allowed to feel this way about you. About, about any boy. Neil’s made that really fucking clear. But I saw you, and I wanted to be near you, to hear you laugh, be the, the cause of all your damn smiles, and I’ve made you laugh twice today. And that’s the best damn feelin’ in the world.”
Steve’s eyes flicked up to his face when he couldn’t feel words anymore, and those soft fingers retreated again.
Steve took the notepad.
Billy liked his handwriting.
I like the way it feels when you talk. He smiled all bright and Steve Harrington pretty. Never thought about feeling someone speaking like that before. And then Billy’s heart sank. What did you say?
Talkin’ shit on you.
That’s rude. I’m a deaf person now. That’s bigamy.
I’m going to assume you meant bigotry. Steve flushed.
Yeah, whatever. Steve was all huffy. It was adorable.
Sorry, I’ll only talk shit in sign once we all earn it.
Thank you. I appreciate it. Steve reached out, slapping playfully at Billy’s chest. Billy had the overwhelming urge to take his hand, kiss his knuckles.
He was too scared.
When do you get out of here? I got an idea.
Billy was there to pick him and take him home.
Steve had been in the hospital for over two weeks, as they wanted to monitor the injury.
He had completely lost his hearing, and had given up hope of it returning.
But Billy had been by every day, usually bringing Dustin and some of the library books, and they had all mastered the sign language alphabet, and had all learned a few words.
Steve had a few bags of things people had brought to him, everything fitting nicely in the trunk of the Camaro.
Billy had offered to drive him own, wanted to see something.
He made a beeline to the quarry, finding a spot overlooking the water.
He took the pad from Steve’s lap, writing I have an idea, tell me when you can feel it.
He rifled through the cardboard box in the backseat, holding up the tape for Steve to see.
It was KISS, Dynasty.
Steve made a face.
Billy rolled his eyes, pushing the tape in. He turned up the bass, cranking the volume.
The first song, I Was Made For Lovin’ You, had one of Billy’s favorite bass lines ever.
He turned up the bass some more, until his speakers sounded like shit, the song completely distorted.
But Steve’s eyes were wide, his hand on his chest. Billy stole the pad.
At concerts, sometimes you can feel the bass in your body. I thought that might work for you. Can still listen to music. I got a lot of bass heavy stuff.
Steve’s bottom lip trembled.
He sniffed, wiping at his eyes.
Billy doesn’t know what he had done wrong, if maybe it was insensitive, this whole music thing.
He went to turn down the music, but Steve grabbed his wrist. He took the notepad.
Thank you, Billy. You’re really nice. Not listening to music anymore was really making me sad. This was a good idea.
Steve smiled at him, his eyes still wide and gooey wet.
Billy didn’t think about it.
Just put one hand on the back of Steve’s neck, and pulled him forward, pressing a soft kiss to his lips.
Steve was stiff against him, and Billy was about to pull back, scribble an apology on the pad, put then Steve sighed, and melted against Billy.
They pulled away from one another, and Steve was biting his lip, made Billy kiss him again.
Been wanting to do that for a while. Billy had tossed the pad onto his lap. Steve scoffed at it.
Why didn’t you?
Too scared. Steve just looked at him. The song clicked to the next, the steady kick drum of 2,000 Man made Steve’s hand flutter back to his chest. You like this one?
This album is good. Now that I can’t actually hear it. Billy shoved him. Steve huffed a little laugh.