After school they go the quarry. Billy leads Steve in his Camaro, the Scorpions blasting loud enough that Steve can hear them through his windows, even on the backroads, when Billy goes forty over the speed limit and leaves Steve behind. It’s almost like Billy’s music is a ghost, the raging guitar riffs and heavy-handed drums hovering in the air for Steve to scoop up and take in. When he arrives, Billy is parked, the keys still in the ignition and the tape still in, the end of a song finishing as Steve pulls up. He’s on the hood, a cigarette in between his fingers, looking at the lake like he always is.
The quarry is a hangout spot that became Steve and Billy’s after Billy showed up at his door, bruised and looking like he was going to collapse. Billy left Steve’s house at 4 am, after a solid two hours of them arguing as Billy iced his face with a bag of frozen peas. At school the next day, Billy was his usual dickish self, going out of his way to hip-check and body-slam Steve at any opportunity, including the halls. After the incident at the Byers’, Billy had left Steve alone mostly, except in basketball, when he could get away with juvenile moves like tripping Steve to grab the ball from him. Steve had confronted him in the locker room after, staring him down until Billy agreed to go somewhere more private. Steve had driven both of them in his BMW, because he didn’t trust Billy behind the wheel of a car right then, and after that it had been the designated spot for impromptu meetings.
Steve climbs out of his car and walks over to Billy, breathing in the scent of cigarette smoke. That was another thing about Billy—he could be quiet when he wanted to. You wouldn’t think it from the way he acts at school, but he didn’t always fill silences with bravado and innuendo. In fact, after he had mostly gotten used to Steve, he had stopped with the trash talk almost altogether. The only time he fell back into being an asshole was when Steve prodded, or he was feeling particularly vulnerable.
Steve leans against the Camaro, his side by Billy’s feet, and holds out his fingers. Billy deposits the cigarette in between them, and they share a comfortable silence as Steve takes a few puffs.
“I heard a kid drowned here,” Billy says, suddenly.
Steve twists to look at his face, frowning slightly. He tries to think about who it would be and then remembers, Will.
He shakes his head. “No, it was a fake. Will didn’t drown.”
He can feel Billy’s eyes on him. “But didn’t they find a body?”
Steve lifts one shoulder in a shrug, wondering where Billy was going with this. He didn’t like it when Billy prodded him about it, didn’t like the feeling of lying to him. Billy was entirely too smart for his own good. He knew something was up with Steve, but he didn’t pry because he knew just how much he hated people prying into his own business.
Steve nods, “Yeah, but it wasn’t his.”
“Well, they must’ve got the body from somewhere.”
Chills run over Steve’s shoulders and he wonders if Billy is right. He didn’t know how Hopper could tell that it wasn’t Will’s body, just that one day they were holding a funeral, and then next, Nancy was pointing a gun at him and Christmas lights were flashing and then there was a Demogorgon jumping out of the walls.
He shifts against the car and doesn’t answer. Billy clambers down until he’s leaning like Steve is, 6 inches away and Steve can still feel his heat, burning like some kind of furnace.
Billy plucks the cigarette out of his fingers. “Don’t hog it, asshole.”
Steve makes a face at him, exhaling smoke in his face. Instead of freaking out about it like Nancy would, all Billy does in inhale, eyes going half-lidded and lips parting. Steve tries to drag his eyes away from the sight, from Billy looking like a model in one of Steve’s mother’s magazines, and can’t. Billy locks eyes with him, something in his expression that’s hidden and special and just for Steve.
Steve’s heartbeat picks up. He shifts, hearing the blood beginning to rush in his ears, feeling a little breathless and a lot high on adrenaline. Billy puts the cigarette to his lips, sucking in slowly, without looking away. Steve automatically sucks in with him, shuddering slightly around his breath. Billy holds the smoke in his lungs for a minute, before slowly exhaling. The smoke clouds around Steve’s face, obscuring Billy’s mouth as it puckers slightly, eyes going hazy.
Steve wrenches his gaze away, feeling like he’s floating, trying not to do something incredibly stupid. Like admit that he wants to kiss Billy Hargrove. ‘Cause that would just be suicide. Steve was pretty sure that Billy would lay him out good if he ever admitted that he had—dreams—about him, but it was just…Billy was doing that thing again. That thing where his eyes go all half-lidded and his tongue sneaks out to skim over his bottom lip and it feels like Steve is going to combust and—
Steve drags his eyes away from Billy, who is putting out the cigarette on the sole of his shoe. His silence feels heavy to Steve. Billy isn’t—contrary to popular belief—that much of a motormouth around people he actually likes. He usually only runs his mouth when he is deliberately trying to get a rise out of someone—fighting or flirting. When he’s just in his neutral state, he knows how to let silence rest, heavy and cool, over his companions. But this quiet is not like that quiet, Steve thinks, trying to study Billy’s face without getting caught up in it. This silence feels—bitter. Like thick syrup on his tongue.
Steve opens his mouth to ask—something. He doesn’t know what, because he knows the words, “are you okay?” set Billy off like nothing else, but Billy doesn’t give him a chance, just pushing off the hood of the Camaro and saying, “See you tomorrow, pretty boy.”
He stalks past Steve, his shoulder brushing his chest, and opens the driver side door. Steve stands, weight off the car, because Billy is just enough of an asshole to reverse with Steve still leaning on the hood. Billy’s eyes are shadowed, face dark and mouth set through the windshield, as he cranks the key and throws his arm over the passenger seat. Steve watches him drive off, belly twisting unpleasantly.
It’s Hawkin’s worst-kept secret that Neil Hargrove is a little too mean a little too often. But Billy is stupidly resistant to any attempts to interfere with his home life, to the point that Callahan got a split lip for asking the wrong question. It’s only because Hopper seems to have a bit of a soft spot for him that Billy didn’t get arrested for assaulting a police officer.
And Steve knows better to hope that he can help Billy—it's one thing to want him, to hope for him, and it’s entirely another thing to fantasize about a life with him. ‘Cause as much as he is practical, Steve is also a romantic. And he can't help the wishes in his head that paint him a picture of a coast and surfboards and waking up together and lazy breakfasts before daytime dates and movie nights and all the rest of that sappy shit that Steve has wanted for so long. And just ‘cause it’s Billy doesn’t mean that Steve’s brain has caught on to the fact that happy endings like that don’t happen to people like them.
So maybe it’s better that Billy would never let any of that ever happen in the first place.