‘Steve has a baseball bat with nails in it,’ was not a thought that Billy ever thought he would have and yet it was definitely one that had crossed his mind before.
The nails in it had been hammered in somewhat haphazardly, as if whoever had done the job had been in a rush and the few times Billy had gotten close enough he could see that some of the nails were crusted with some kind of blackish reddish substance.
Now as Billy watches the man on the ledge looking over Sattler Quarry the thought pops into his head.
It was something he’d only been made aware of once they’d started this weird truce of theirs, one which was still rocky on the best of days, but a truce nonetheless.
It had started from one shared cigarette on a late-night, one plaster and an attempt at patching up a bruise on Billy's face and suddenly there was a whole lot less shoving in the hallways. Less burning words and clenched fists.
It helped that Billy was trying, well and truly trying to be better. That he had been trying to collar that temper of his, be a little nicer in general.
It was small steps, and there were still days when that oh so familiar rage burned like dumpster fires in the fists of his hands, when all he wanted was split knuckles and to ram someone's head into a door.
But he was working on reigning it in.
The mark of his progress had been that one day when the sting of his father's fist kept him in his room. He had hands gripped tightly together in front of his face, expression like thunder.
Max had quietly slipped through the door then, almost timidly which was an adjective Billy would never attach to her.
And yet she crept in quietly, taking in his rigid posture from where he was sitting on the bed and hesitating. She held out an ice pack, almost like a peace offering while stubbornly avoiding his gaze.
He’d accepted it, almost gently taking it from her hands, before dipping his head. She’d left and that had been the whole interaction.
It was tiny, an almost minuscule change in behaviour. Max still slammed his car door when he dropped her off at the arcade. She still yelled and he still yelled back but every once in a while she would sit in his room. Sometimes saying nothing, just sitting in silence, and sometimes she would ramble about small things that had happened in her day while Billy fixed his hair in the mirror, giving the occasion grunt of acknowledgement or sharp bark of laughter.
These small changes were everywhere, from Max’s boyfriend, Lucas, finally feeling able to give him a slight nod when he picked up Max from their house to one particularly memorable occasion of that curly-haired kid having the actual balls to ask him for a ride.
He’d said no, with a lot of profanity and colourful language involved before driving off but the fact that he’d asked was still a mark of change.
All this brought him back to the weird… thing going on between him and Harrington. Actually, it wasn't their half-truce which was weird.
No, it was Steve that was weird. The kind of weird born from such a deep level of fucked up-ness unique to a select few people. The kind that hung over your shoulder like a particularly ill-tempered ghost. It was kind of weird that Billy had only started to see recently.
It was an unexpected realisation to have, especially with how much it clashed with the whole ‘King Steve’ reputation which had made itself abundantly clear since stepping foot in this godforsaken town.
Just what kind of skeletons did a guy like that have in his closet?
‘ The kind which warranted the keeping of a bat with nails in it apparently, ’ Billy thought grimly and he took a slow drag from his cigarette. He glanced over at Steve, seeing his eyes flickering over to the forest edge, dragging slowly as if he was scanning for any sign of movement. Billy felt curiosity prickle across his skin.
“Why do you keep that thing in your car?” Billy had asked and Steve’s eye pulled away from the forest edge to look him in the face, a slight quirk in his eyebrow.
“Keep what?” he asked, shifting his weight to his right arm.
“The bat, with those fuckin nails or whatever,” Billy said, briefly gesturing to Steve's car parked further down.
Steve briefly looked surprised, hand coming up to rest on the back of his neck,
“oh,” he said before giving a somewhat halfhearted shrug. “Ya know, just in case,”
Billy raised an eyebrow and Steve's face reddened, because who the fuck keeps a bat with nails in it ‘just in case’?
“Hmm,” was all Billy said, before training his gaze forwards again, “Must be a pretty intense ‘just in case’ huh?”
The only reply was a “ You have no idea,” muttered half under his breath. For a second burning irritation raged through Billy's mind before he forced himself to let it pass.
That was another thing Steve did. Sometimes Billy would do something or say something and his reaction would be…
well, he wasn't sure how to describe it. It was like Steve was clued into this giant cosmic joke that no one else knew about. An inside joke that Billy was never told. It was fucking infuriating sometimes but only because he hadn't the faintest idea as to what it could possibly be.
It was simpler not to think about it, better to just write it off as another weird-Steve-thing than anything worth wasting time on.
There's a period of silence as there often is between them at times like this.
“I actually got it from Jonathan's house,” Steve said and now that was surprising.
“Jonathan Byers? The guy with the camera?” he said incredulously and Steve snorted.
“If you think that's surprising wait till you hear that it might actually have originally been Nancy's bat,” he said and now that had Billy giving a small laugh of disbelief.
“You're fucking with me,” he said and Steve shook his head,
“I wish, “ he said, “Maybe it belonged to the both of them. I'm not really sure to be honest,”
Billy leaned back, “So what's the story? You steal it or some shit?”
Steve made a so and so gesture, “I didn't technically steal it. It's more like I used it and then like, kept using it and never really gave it back,”
Billy wasn't sure what Steve was using a bat with nails in it for. Billy wasn't sure what Steve was continually using said bat for, but Steve didn't usually talk about himself very much like this so maybe Billy would get an answer by the end of it.
“Why did Nancy Wheeler and Jonathan Byers need a Nail bat?” Billy asked and Steve looked pff to the side briefly. Billy couldn't quite decipher whether his posture was tense or forcibly relaxed but either way, Steve seemed to debate with himself for a bit before speaking.
“You know, I never did quite ask,” he said, and there's an element of forced casualty in his tone, which had Billy quirking an eyebrow “Maybe I’ll find out next time I see them,”
It's not hard to tell he's lying, but Billy’s not quite sure he wants to point it out. Steve had a tendency to clam up when pushed for extra questioning, turning extra snarky and defensive until eventually finding some excuse or other to rush off.
Instead, Billy says, “Ok, lemme know what they say,”
And that's the end of that conversation.
They spend maybe 15 more minutes in silence before Steve eventually sits up and makes his way back to his car, sending a tired smile and a half-wave before getting in and driving off, leaving Billy alone.
Billy takes another drag of his cigarette.
There are very few reasons for someone to need a bat with nails in it, and almost all of those reasons include hitting someone (something) with it.
Billy didn't think Steve regularly hit people over the head with bats but it was hard to think of any other explanations. At least, any reasonable explanations that fit with Billy's perception of him. He didn't think he was murdering people and hiding their bodies in the woods for example, but he did think that maybe it was less of an offensive weapon and more of a defensive one.
Steve had mentioned using it in the past, and Billy couldn't help but wonder what in the fresh hell was responsible for making Steve feel like he couldn't leave without a weapon stored in the trunk of his car?
And what he had used it on before?
Billy stood up and ground his cigarette under his heel, before turning and making his way to his car.
Billy's next encounter with Steve's specific brand of weirdness was one of the first times he ever came over to the guy's house.
It had been a casual invitation. A simple ‘hey, wanna come over’ which Billy had accepted with a simple shrug of his shoulder and suddenly he was parking his car on the driveway to Steve's house.
He made his way over to the door raising his hand to knock before realising the door was already skewed open.
Billy frowned. Maybe the guy had been expecting him already and had left the door open?
Despite this he still cautiously pushed the door open, carefully stepping over the boundary and into the house. It was at this point Billy realised that every single light in the house was turned on, along with what looked like Christmas lights strewn here and there.
Billy did not want to see the lighting bill that's for sure.
Perhaps for the first time, Billy started thinking that maybe he should have just stayed outside and knocked like a normal human being instead of waltzing in like he owned the place, but it was a little bit late for that kind of thing.
Billy heard the sound of a faucet running, and the sound of footsteps coming from further down the hall and he made his way towards it.
He rounded the corner and found himself in the kitchen, gaze immediately zeroing in on the figure hunched over the sink and splashing himself in the face with the water from the tap before switching it off and heaving a heavy sigh.
Welp, he found Steve it seems.
Billy picked his way towards him, intending to tap the guy on the back, but as he made his way over his foot snagged on one of the wires which connected to one of the Christmas lights strung up on the wall. His foot tugged, and the connection to the outlet slipped out slightly.
The light very briefly flickered.
Steve’s back went ramrod straight.
Suddenly an oppressive tension filled the room, and Billy felt like he was closing in on some kind of cornered animal. It was in that kind of silence that Billy could almost hear the buzzing coming from each and every light, like millions of eyes looking down at him.
Billy swallowed nervously, “hey Ste-”
There was a rush of movement, the catch of light on metal and the sound of air being displaced and Steve swung round with the fucking bat which Billy had somehow neglected to take note of and it was suddenly a lot closer to the side of his head than he’d ever want it to be and instinctively he screwed his eyes shut, waiting for the impact.
Instead, there was a beat of silence.
“ Billy? What the fuck are you doing here?” The words sounded angry, but a particular strain of unease in them betrayed his nerves.
Billy opened his eyes, glancing to the side to see the goddamn bat two inches away from spraying his brains across Steve's kitchen.
“What am I doing here?” Billy said lowly, eyeing where those nails could have easily embedded themselves into his skull, “ you were the one who told me to come over remember asshole?” he spat out, only because holy shit Steve had been 100% fully prepared to smack him into oblivion .
“Also get that fucking thing out of my face,” Billy said, pushing the bat away with two fingers. Steve let him push it, before dropping his arm and letting rest against the kitchen cupboards. It made a light scraping sound against the tiled floors.
“Right,” Steve said, releasing the bat almost sheepishly, “I invited you over,”
“Yeah you did, and what do I get but nearly fucking murdered. Christ Harrington,” Billy burst out, trying to distract himself from his heart that was stubbornly trying to beat its way out of his chest.
“Also why the fuck do you keep that thing in your house ,” Billy asked and again, Steve got that stupid fucking expression on his face, the one that Billy had no semblance of context for and he shrugged.
“Uh, ya know. Just in case.”
Holy fucking shit Billy was this close to beating the shit out of this guy again-
He didn't though. No, instead they both ended up watching shitty movies on Steve's couch. It was certainly a stark change from nearly getting murdered that's for sure, and that familiar prickle of curiosity buzzed under his skin like it usually did whenever Billy was confronted with Steves Weirdness ™
Ok, last time Billy played it casual he got some semblance of an answer. He just had to act like he didn't really care whether he answered or not and then maybe Steve would start talking. Start with low hanging fruit, something easy to start the conversation.
“What's up with all the lights?” Billy asked casually and almost immediately he noticed Steve tensing up in the corner of his vision.
Shit, fall back fall back.
“I mean it’s bold decoration I’ll give you that,” he added on, “very….Christmassy,” Billy almost held his breath as he waited for Steve to give his reply.
“Yeah, um. The uh, the kids usually hang around here and they…really…like… Christmas.” Steve trailed off and winced, his lie sounding hollow even to his own ears.
At least he's self-aware of his own bullshit, Billy mused to himself and he sighed.
“It's uh, nice. Definitely makes the place well lit,” Billy offers halfheartedly.
To be fair, it wasn't exactly a lie, the sheer amount of light in this household made it feel like lasers were searing themselves into his eyes.
That being said, given the reaction the last time Billy messed with those lights, he felt a lot less inclined to ask Steve to turn a few off.
Billy could feel the prickling curiosity turn into small sharp stabs of irritation. This dude seriously invites him over to his house, nearly swipes his head clean off and thinks he can get out of an explanation with shitty movies and lying about Christmas lights.
Billy pinched the bridge of his nose, hard.
“Ok, listen, Harrington, I've been pretty chill so far but I think it’s well within my rights to oh so polity inquire as to why you keep your fucking baseball bat in your house and why you seem so ready to swing it round like that,”
Steve winced, “Yeah, sorry about nearly hitting you and all that..”
Steve looks guilty for a second, turning to glance next to the couch and it was only then Billy noticed and oh my fucking-
“WHY IS IT NEXT TO THE COUCH-” Billy cut himself off, exhaling sharply through his nose, “ok fuck this Harrington, explanation, now.”
“I'm just…really… cautious?” Steve said, tone slipping the sentence into more of a question than an actual statement.
“Right, do you regularly hit people with nail-studded baseball bats then,” Billy said flatly
“I mean, I’ve never hit someone I didn't want to be hit. My control is steller ,” Steve said, crossing his arms and sinking into the couch
“Your control doesn't explain why your bat was two inches away from bashing my face in,” Billy said sharply and Steve frowns.
“Look, I can't give you an explanation that’ll satisfy you,” Steve says a matter of factly, “so I’d recommend just dropping it.”
Billy growls to himself in frustration.
“You seriously expect me to-”
“Yes,” Steve says sharply, “I do, so drop it ,” the stare Steve levelled was intense, it spoke of a quiet warning, a clear ‘ back down’.
It was similar to the look he’d levelled him with all those months ago, when he’d stormed into that house and shoved that kid against a bookshelf, when Steve had pulled him off and tapped two fingers against his chest, pushing lightly.
“Get out,” he’d said, voice low and gravely. Back then Billy had been burning with anger, the stuff running through his veins, buzzing through his head, making him want to hurt things, destroy them.
He’d swung his fist at Steve that day. He’d swung a fist in response to that look.
Today he reseats himself and turns to face the tv that was still playing.
“Ok,” Billy says, because that's all he can say.
Next to him Steve’s gaze lingers on him for a second, before turning away as well. They sit in silence as they so often do and Billy just knows that by the time he leaves this house his eyes will ache from the strain of being surrounded by so many lights.
But Billy will sit through it, and he’ll hold both his questions and his urges to beat the answers out of Steve tightly to his chest.
Because Billy was trying to be better, and if Steve didn't think he was deserving of knowing things about him, if he didn't think he was deserving of knowing why he was so jumpy or why his first instinct when faced with flickering lights was to swing first and ask questions later, then Obviously Billy still had a ways to go.
“Ok,” Billy said one more, time, with more finality, and Steve drops his shoulders. There was a beat of silence, and then Steve was standing up, grabbing the bat and disappearing off into the direction of his bedroom.
When he came back he was empty-handed, and he spread his arms in a ‘are you happy now’ kind of gesture before reseating himself on the couch. Billy gave a huff of amusement.
Steve Harrington was a weird guy.
Another weird thing about Steve was that he was just constantly surrounded by kids. Like, all the time. Apparently, there was only one babysitter located in the entirety of Hawkins and it was frequent that some brat would turn up to bother Steve over something.
Like now for example.
“Steeeveeeee,” the curly-haired one saddled up to the side of Steve’s car, leaning against it casually.
Steve narrowed his eyes, “What do you want Dustin?” he asked suspiciously and the kid gave an affronted gasp.
“Steve, I am your best friend,” Steve raised an eyebrow at this, “Can I not just come and find you unprompted with no ulterior motives?”
“No,” Steve said flatly, “Now what is it. Do you need a ride to the arcade or something? Or is it relationship advice cause I swear to god-
“It's not either of those things,” the kid cut in, and then his eyes flickered over to Billy, “I uh, I need your bat ,” he said, rubbing the back of his neck.
Steve immediately snapped to attention, “My bat? Hold on is this another.” his voice turned pointed, “a rabid dog situation? Should I call Hopper?” There was a certain kind of urgency in his tone and the kid was immediately backtracking.
“NO, no nothing like that.” The kid reassured waving his hands.
“So no code red?” He asked, scanning the kid's face with barely masked concern and the kid shook his head.
Billy thought back to all those times where he’d thought about Steve being clued into some giant cosmic joke and realised that ah, maybe it wasn't just Steve clued into it, maybe it was just everyone but Billy . Because the kid and Steve knew something, some sort of shared history that ran deep.
He turned away as they continued talking, trying to give them the semblance of privacy.
“What do you need my bat for then?” He heard Steve ask and the kid lit up with excitement.
“We’re having a competition to see who can smash a pumpkin the best but El keep cheating and blowing it up so I was going to bring out the big guns,” the kid grinned, “like a bat with nails in it.”
Billy briefly wondered to himself how this El kid was blowing up pumpkins, which was then followed by the even better question of who the fuck let these kids have explosives but his thoughts were interrupted by Steve's response.
“Right,” he said, resigned in the way that only babysitters could be after a long day of dealing with children. “Ok, fine , hold on,”
Steve got out of the car and clicked open the trunk and rummaged around for a second. Billy had long gotten used to the idea of perpetually being around the guy who always carries a weapon around.
What he hadn't quite gotten used to was the idea of said guy casually handing said weapon off to…little kids who wanted to smash pumpkins…
Why did he hang out with this guy?
Steve handed the bat over,
“I want this back by the end of the day no later you hear me Henderson?” he said sternly.
“Yes sir,” the kid started running off before Steve stopped him.
“Also, be careful with that thing. You're gonna take someone's eye out if you swing it round like that,” Steve admonished and the kid rolled his eyes.
“Yeah yeah, I’ll be fine.” and then he was running off towards the group of kids gathered in the distance, holding up his prize as they all gave a cheer.
Steve cupped his hand to his mouth, “You better win that competition Henderson.”
“Only if you don't tell Hopper,” the kid yelled back and Steve rolled his eyes before making his way back into the car.
There was a fond crinkle in Steve's eye and shook his head.
“Sorry bout that. Those kids are insane.” that same fondness leaked into his words and Billy grunted in response.
“What's a code red?” Billy asked, because he’d tried subtlety before and it hadn't really worked in his favour so now he was just going to ask whatever questions he had and hope for the best.
“A code red? Oh, it's just a thing the kids made up,” Steve said, “it's like, if they're in an emergency or something you signal a code red and anyone available comes running,”
Billy thought this might well have been one of the only times that Steve had well and truly been somewhat honest with him with these kinds of questions. That being said, Billy had his suspicions that a Code red wasn't as trivial as Steve was making it out to be.
For a split second, after the kid had asked for the bat, there had been a flash of panic that flittered across Steve's face, an intense mixture of fear and worry that was entirely disproportionate to the simple question of asking to borrow a bat.
Granted, it was a bat with nails in it, but It was the same expression Billy had seen that same day Steve had swung the bat at him, that intense concoction of pure terror and the grating edge of the will to survive .
There was history. There was so much history and so many pieces that Billy wasn't quite sure how to put everything together.
“Also why the hell are you handing off weapons to kids?” Billy asked because yeah, he was reckless, he probably would be able to do the same without blinking but this was Steve, resident mother hen and babysitter as much as he tried to deny it.
Steve waved him off, “They can handle it, those kids have dealt with way worse, trust me,” the last bit was said half to himself, and he started up the car and started pulling out of the parking lot.
“You know I didn't expect you to give it to them,” Bily remarked casually, “thought you were pretty attached to that thing.” He said and Steve frowned.
“I’m not that attached to it,” Steve said defensively and Billy snorted.
“Oh yeah, cause carrying it around every waking moment is ‘ not attached ’. I think there's a little thing called ‘overkill’, pretty boy.”
Steve rolled his eyes, “ I can assure you I'm not the worst out there. I’m pretty sure Hopper had a trip wire around his cabin for a solid year. That’s Overkill .” Steve said and Billy briefly wondered how he was familiar enough with the chief of police to not only know where he lives but know the fact that he had a trip wire around his house.
“Yeah, well, he’s chief of police, he doesn’t count,” Billy said, “Name one person who’s more overkill than you, I dare you,”
Steve thought for a second, “I mean, Nancy Wheeler has a handgun in her purse,” he frowned, “Actually I’m pretty sure she’s got a shotgun lying around somewhere too,”
The more time Billy spent around Steve the more he learned about Nancy wheeler. Apparently, she was a little bit terrifying and owned multiple weapons.
“Didn’t you get your bat from Nancy,” Billy asked because he was beginning to wonder if maybe Steve was in an underground weapons trading ring. It would certainly explain the jumpy ness.
Holy shit was Steve part of the mafia?
“Kinda. Again, I don’t really know if it was her bat. I just walked in and there it was.” Steve said and Billy hummed.
“Your kids don’t have access to explosives do they?” because Max usually hung out with that group and it was probably within his interests as an older brother to make sure she wasn't running around with sticks of dynamite or something.
Steve coughed, “Well, I wouldn’t exactly call them my kids ya know it’s more like I.. look after them… sometimes” Billy raised an eyebrow and Steve continued speaking.
“Whatever, what do you mean by explosives?” He asked and that twinge of concern that usually crept into his voice when it came to those kids had Billy tilting his head.
“The uh, the curly-haired kid-
“Yeah him. Mentioned somethin bout El blowing up pumpkins,”
Steve gave an amused laugh, worry dispersed, “oh yeah, don't worry about that. El’s a bit of a special case.” he then seemed to realise something and suddenly he was tense again, “special because uhhhhh, she’s really good at smashing pumpkins Yep, That's it, she has this uncanny knack for smashing pumpkins that uhhh it’s almost as if they exploded…” he trailed off weakly.
Steve was lying again, but Billy really couldn't figure out why he was lying about kids exploding pumpkins of all things.
“Right, pumpkins ,” Billy said half to himself and Steve refocused his attention to the road ahead, tapping his fingers lightly on the steering wheel. Billy wanted to point out that he knew he was lying, he wanted to push the topic, get him to confess to whatever the hell it was he was keeping secret.
God , Steve was infuriating sometimes, with his dumb secrets and dumb kids and dumb mother fucking nail-studded bats. It was all dumb and irritating and above all concerning.
Because Steve had changed a lot over the past few months. He’d gone from dating Nancy Wheeler and still being somewhat high on the social hierarchy to completely falling off. Steve didn't really go to parties all too often, didn't really stick around after basketball practice either.
No, nowadays Steve seemed to be completely uninterested in all of that, spending his time ferrying kids to the arcade or off on his own somewhere. There were times when Billy would find him wandering the woods alone, with that damn baseball bat clutched tightly in his hands as he scanned through the trees.
That was certainly something Billy didn't think he'd ever et the balls to ask about.
Either way, the case in point was that Steve had undergone some sort of pivotal change, and sure, whatever it was made him cautious enough to carry a baseball bat everywhere but Steve also had this newfound aura of protectiveness around him. The kind that strained for the survival of others and tore and howled at anyone threatening it.
He’d seen it come through that night, when they’d had their fight. Back then it had pissed him off, but now he looked back at that attitude with a certain kind of appreciation.
And by god was Billy curious to know where it came from. But at the current moment, his only hints were in the form of lies about exploding pumpkins and Christmas lights.
Steve was well aware that he was weird. He was a former popular high school jock who now primarily hung out with a group of 13-year-olds, his ex-girlfriend and her current boyfriend, and the guy who had attempted to beat him to death that one time.
The last one was a newer addition to the list, and as Steve started spending more and more time with the guy he resigned himself to his fate.
‘At this point, I might as well .’ Was the driving thought behind befriending Billy. There hadn't really been much to it, they just started hanging out one day and before Steve knew it the guy came over to his house, regularly.
Yeah, it was kinda weird, but Steve was beginning to see that the guy was trying, and lord knows that he'd been one hell of an asshole before he got a harsh reality check in the form of nearly dying.
That being said, Billy asked a lot of questions. The kind of questions which Steve found difficult to answer nor legally could, thanks to the many many NDA’s the government had him sign.
The point was that Billy was surprisingly observant, and Steve was shit at lying. His only saving grace was that he’d stop asking if Steve told him to. Or, heavily implied for him to stop by changing the topic and such.
Steve's current issue was that it was currently half past midnight and Dustin still hadn't returned his goddamn bat yet and it was driving him a little bit crazy.
Sure, he’d just have to track the guy down tomorrow and get it back but that would mean sleeping, at home, alone, without a weapon.
It left ants crawling up his back, and Steve tapped the top of his knee rapidly in an attempt to quell his nerves. It was irrational. El closed the gate, El definitely closed the gate there was nothing waiting for him in the walls or in the forest or in his fucking pool he was just being dramatic.
It would be at this point that Steve would get up and turn on every light in the house but Billy was sitting next to him and Steve had noticed how much he squinted last time he was over to watch a movie.
No lights it is , Steve thought to himself grimly and he continued tapping his hands, trying to focus on the movie ahead of him.
He noticed Billy's eyes flick over to him from the corner of his eyes.
“You good there Harrington?” He asked and Steve forced his shoulders to relax.
“Never been better,” Steve replied dismissively.
He was just overreacting. He was fine , there was nothing to worry about.
All of a sudden there was a flicker of movement from the corner of Steve's vision and His muscles tensed up. He stopped his tapping and strained his ears.
There was a slight shuffling sound, like something scampering around outside.
Steve's brain clouded over and sharpened down to a single point and he was standing up silently, ignoring the confused look Billy sent him. He grabbed the closet thing to him, which ended up being the stem of a long lamp and held it ou in front of him as he slowly walked out towards the patio.
Slow steps so that sound doesn't carry, eyes up, stay low, on the balls of your feet, check behind you.
Steve glanced back seeing only Billy close behind, with a concerned furrow on his brow.
Steve kept walking, keeping his breathing shallow because if they hear you you're dead if you drop your guard you're dead and everyone dies with you.
“-eve, Steve you alright man?”
Billy's voice briefly filtered in and he lifted a hand for silence. There was a scampering sound again, and it was coming from the trash can, small rattles and shakes as something inside clawed at the walls to get out.
Steve swallowed, sinking further into that floating feeling of nothing. Good, be scared later, panic later, deal with this now and break down later.
Steve edged forwards, Billy sticking close by his right shoulder, looking at the trash can with an expression akin to morbid curiosity, rather than the stone-cold serious expression Steve was sure his face harboured.
He gripped the pole of the lamp tightly and slowly, ever so slowly used it to slide the lid of the garbage can off.
It fell to the ground with a clatter and for a second the scrabbling stopped and all Steve could hear was the roaring of his ears. He exhaled.
Then a dark shape sprung out and suddenly it was a demodog with rows upon rows of teeth lunging directly for Billy with its hackles raised and Steve couldn't think couldn't breath could only make a fist in Billy's Shirt and yank as hard as he could because Steve had gotten this fucking far he wasn't going let this be the first person to die on his watch and the lamp in his hands slipped as they both fell back and the sound of the bulb breaking was that ungodly screech heralding death and pain and then Steve was back in the tunnels trying his best shield Dustin from the hoards of monsters rushing them and-
The creature, no, the racoon, scampered off into the woods and Billy, briefly stunned by being yanked out of the way blinked.
“Fuckin raccoons” Billy spits, “nice reaction timing you got there Harrington,” it was said lightly, as if Billy didn't feel like he’d brushed with death, as if the roaring in Steve's ears wasn't drowning him, as if his body wasn't pumped full of adrenalin and shaking .
Steve eyed the broken glass of the light bulb.
“Yeah,” he said, half present, “Good reaction time,”
Billy's grin slid off his face as he took in the tremors lining Steve's body, the shaking hand that swept through his hair in an action that looked almost painful. Steve tried to get a handle on himself, tried to reign in the residual bits of skittering panic which had sent his brain into overdrive.
“I think I'm going to bed,” Steve choked out, turning on his head and walking back to the couch. He practically collapsed, his legs falling out from under him and he stubbornly closed his eyes.
He didn't think he could quite handle having to explain what happened, he couldn't quite bear to check what expression was on Billy's face.
For a second Billy didn't say anything, just watched where Steve had simply upped and laid down. Then there was the sound of footsteps stepping away from the couch and Steve heard the light sound of glass being picked up. This was then followed by the sound of said glass being tossed into the bin. At least Steve didn't have to worry about trying up that smashed lightbulb anymore.
The couch then dipped, near where Steve had picked up a pillow to lay his head Steve became aware of Bily sitting next to where he lay. And as they usually did when Steve couldn’t find the words to explain to Billy, they sat in silence.
Steve hadn't really expected to fall asleep. He was more expecting to just lie on the couch until the sun rose or he gave up and went o get something to eat. His heart was still pounding and he just wanted to curl up forever, forget the mortification of nearly having a panic attack over a racoon in his trash can in front of Billy-Fucking-Hargrove.
In fact, he’d fully expected Billy to leave. To either get frustrated at his lack of explaining or ruthlessly make fun of him. Neither of those things happened, and instead, he felt the tentative touch of someone's hand in his hair.
He would have sat up in shock, but Steve was pretty sure that Billy thought he was actually asleep, and it would probably be pretty awkward for the both of them if this interaction were to be addressed.
So he lay there, honing in on the hand softly combing through his hair, and almost unwillingly he felt his muscles untense, his heart stop pounding quite so much, and the fog in his brain gave way to genuine sleepiness.
He was about to genuinely drift off when he heard Billy's voice.
“You know I worry about you huh, Harrington?” there was a deep sigh, “I do wish you'd tell me shit you know that?”
Steve didn't know that, nor did he really process the information. Just like how he didn't process that there was a reason he would stay up after encounters like this, a reason why he’d made a strict rule avoiding it.
And for better or for worse, when the nightmares came that night he wouldn't be alone when he woke up.
Billy woke up to the sounds of shuffling and he groaned, attempting to roll over and go back to sleep when he abruptly realised that oh, he was not in a bed. He cracked an eye open, groaning slightly at the crick in his neck. He groggily realised that they'd left the Tv on and he rubbed his eyes to adjust to the light.
Billy froze at the sound of a whimper and the sound of a strangled intake of breath. He frowned and look to his side.
It took a second for Billy to really process what he was seeing, and then an oh shit dropped out of his mouth and suddenly he was wide awake.
Steve was curled up tightly, griping onto the couch cushions tight enough that Billy could see the tendons in his hand flexing. It took a second for him to realise what was happening, but between the pinched expression and strangled noises, it didn't take a genius to deduct that Steve was having a nightmare.
He frantically wracked through his brain for any kind of knowledge that could apply to this situation. Are you meant to wake someone up from a nightmare or does that make it worse? Should he back off or try and nudge him?
Steve curled up further, mumbling frantically with half cut off words. Before Billy could come to a decision, he started thrashing, trying to escape some unseen threat.
“Fuck, please leave me alone please please, FUCK-,” with one last lurch Steve toppled off the couch, scrambling back until the back of his head connected with the back wall with an audible thunk.
Steve didn't seem to notice only hunching in and stealing large lungfuls of air that sounded shuddery and stilted.
It was all silent for a second, and then Steve opened his eyes a crack.
“Fuck,” was all he croaked out and yeah, that was pretty appropriate for the situation. Billy cautiously made his way over, holding his hands out in what he hoped was a somewhat non-threatening gesture.
“Steve? You ok there buddy?” Billy tried to soften his voice like he'd seen people do when approaching a wild animal or something. Comfort wasn't his strong suit, and Steve winced anyway closing his eyes and leaning his head against the wall, this time making sure to rest it gently.
Billy hesitated. He felt like he was floundering, trying to decipher what the hell was going on and more importantly how he could help because this wasn't an area he had much expertise in. Sure, Max had started having a few nightmares recently but when she woke up she usually just took a shower and distanced herself.
She didn't, for example, stare vacantly into the distance.
He lowered himself next to Steve, slowly until he was just shy of touching him, and he did what he usually did when neither of them knew how to speak to each other.
He stayed silent and waited, until the heavy breathing evened out and Steve's eyes slid open again. Billy was almost startled when he heard Steve's voice cut through the quiet,
“You know, I never thought my life was gonna end up like this,” Steve said, almost bitterly,
And Billy dipped his head.
Steve blinked slowly “I thought I was gonna, date Nancy, breeze through high school, maybe win a few basketball games,” he laughed to himself, “I didn't think I was gonna end up on the floor next to Billy fucking Hargrove after having a…” he trailed off but Billy filled in the gaps. Nightmare, panic attack, not really something anyone expected from Steve of all people.
“Hey don't sound too sad about me being here,” Billy said, and Steve gave a snort.
“Oh get off your high horse Hargrove,” Steve said lightly, his smile seeming almost genuine before he sobered up again. He tipped his head to the side, looking at Billy directly in the eye,
“I didn't ask for this,” he said, voice wavering dangerously, “I didn't ask for any of it to happen, Billy, I just, I just wish…”
Wishes couldn’t change things, Bily was aware of that. Sure he could wish that he was a better person, that he hadn’t spat and hissed and hurt the people around him, but that didn't change the fact that he did . He did and no lucky star in the sky was going to be responsible for changing any of that.
Billy swallowed, hard, “yeah, I don't think anyone ever does.”
There was another silence, and Steve scanned his face carefully. Billy wasn't sure if he found what he was looking for but Steve turned his face forwards nonetheless.
“The bat,” Steve says, “You wanna know about the bat?”
Billy most certainly wanted to know about the bat, he was itching to know about the bat actually, but he didn’t want to force Steve into telling him something he doesn't want to say so he gives a shrug.
“Only if you're willing to talk.”
Steve leans his cheek against his knees and exhales.
“I’ve nearly died, quite a few times. A lot more times than I ever expected if I'm being perfectly honest and…” he trails off before shaking his head and trying again.
“The first time I used it was in Jonathan's house.” he gave a snort, “I’m gonna be honest with you I was shitting my pants like, the entire time. Was 100% ready to turn tail and book it.” his face softens.“I'm glad I didn't.”
Steve wrings his hands, “After that, I thought that was going to be the end of it. I mean, I kept the bat, it saved my life so of course I was gonna keep it but I didn't expect to use it again.”
“I take it that didn't hold up then,” Billy prompted and Steve smiled sadly and shook his head.
“No,” he said quietly. And he fiddled with his hands a second longer.
“I remember bringing it out the second time and thinking shit, here I go again . Because apparently, this is a recurring thing in my life now. And, and every time I swung the damn thing, every time I used it I couldn't help but hope, pray that this would be the last time. That this would be the time where I put it in the trunk of my car and forget about it.” he swallowed.
“And then I was in that fucking tunnel with those dumb fucking kids and I just remember realising that, as long as these kids needed me, as long as I needed to protect those fuckers then I'm holding onto the bat even if it fucking kills me. And I did. I fuckin did and I swear to god Billy I was ready to die there.” at this he gave a painful laugh, scraping the inside of his lungs.
“I was ready to die, I wasn't even a legal adult and I was ready to die down there,”
Billy notices him furiously scrub at his eyes, like trying to get rid of an itch that lay right under the skin. Unreachable.
“I'm glad you didn't,” Billy says, and god the amount of truth that dripped from that sentence was pathetic. To be fair Billy could think of many people who would call this situation pathetic. Two guys sat propped up against the wall at an ungodly hour of the morning, dishevelled and unkempt.
Billy guessed it didn't matter. This moment was only for the two of them anyway.
“I'm glad I didn't either.” was Steve's only reply.
They sat in a bit more silence after that, and Billy exhaled and worked up the courage to brush his hand against Steve's shoulder, to slowly wind it round the span of his back and gently pull him in till his weight rested against his side. He both heard and felt when Steve gave a huff of amusement.
“We’re certainly a pair huh,” Steve said, and Billy gave a tired grin.
“Sure are,”, and then Billy glanced down at Steve, and a realisation took hold in the back of his mind. He turned it over in his brain before thinking fuck it might as well ask now.
“Steve,” Billy suddenly said, and Steve looked up at him.
“Are you part of the mafia?”
Steve tipped his head back and gave a bark of laughter.
“God I fucking wish . That would be so much cooler than all of this bullshit that's for sure,” he said and now Billy was really lost. Steve took one look at his face before sighing deeply, and patting his knee.
“Alright, listen, as much as I would like to… to tell you everything. I like, I legally can’t,”
Billy frowned and Steve continued, “I've signed like, 10 stacks of NDA’s and I don't really wanna see what the US government will do to me if start breaking those contracts.”
Billy mulled this new information around his mind
“Are you telling me you're part of a government conspiracy?”
“Trust me, some days I don't believe it either,” Steve said, and that searching look was back. Billy briefly realised that Steve could be lying again. Could be spouting some actual bullshit about NDA’s and such.
Billy didn't think that was true, and instead, he said. “Well….the bat makes sense at least then,”
“Yeah, the bat makes sense.”
All of a sudden Billy couldn't help but chuckle to himself, “You're really weird you know that?”
“Yeah, I'm well aware Hargrove. But at least I'm not the one who keeps hanging out with me.”
“Yeah, I guess I do.”